Life as a full-time influencer – And tips to get you started.
10 years ago, you may have daydreamed about quitting your job to become an astronaut, a ballerina or a figure skater. In today’s era of social media, that dream has likely been replaced with a desire to take to your phone and influence the masses for money.
It may seem like a questionable career path, but social media influencers represent the new generation of advertising. From Tik Tok stars to Instagram models, these modern-day Mad Men (and women) are single-handedly garnering the attention of the world’s biggest brands, with many making a killing while they do it.
Whether you aspire to build a fashion empire, motivate your followers with fitness routines or simply record your everyday life for your following, social media has proven to be a successful platform for monetizing your brand online.
As more brands pivot away from traditional advertising and turn to smaller creators, like “nano” or “micro” influencers with under 100,000 followers, establishing a full-time career as a creator is no longer a pipe dream.
But how does one get started?
Successful Influencer, Soheila Hakimi, shared how she turned her dream into a reality.
The 34-year-old content creator and native Torontonian began her career as an influencer back in 2015. Admittedly, Hakimi notes that her real dream was to become an equestrian horseback rider as she adored horses growing up. Hakimi took that passion and channelled it into content creation.
“Almost like a Tumblr or Pinterest, it was a catalogue of images I found online and uploaded to my site,” Hakimi said.
“[When I started my current blog, IsthatSoh] I had experience blogging and knew it was a good place to start because it meant developing my piece of real estate on the world wide web. At the same time as I started the blog, I also started my Instagram, which grew very quickly and propelled me into the influencer world.”
As of this month, Hakimi’s Instagram account has close to 30,000 followers. Her Instagram account and blog focus on lifestyle, her recent travels, design and fashion, beauty, recipes, and most recently, the renovation of her Victorian-style Toronto home.
Hakimi explains that she initially started growing her following on Instagram by “posting every day about the places I was going, the products I was loving and the things that I was doing.”
“I look back now and laugh at some of the posts. There were definitely a lot of selfies with no real rhyme or reason to what I was posting – but we all have to start somewhere, right?” she shared.
After a while, Hakimi started harnessing her content and monetizing it.
“It didn’t take long after I started my blog [that I was invited to] attend events and brands started sending me PR packages. After filming and posting a few reviews on YouTube and images on Instagram, those brands asked me to take part in campaigns, which helped me turn my content into a lucrative career. I knew influencers were getting paid, so it was always my goal to monetize what I was building.”
So how does influencing work?
Hakimi acknowledges that many people may be confused about how influencers make money, as there can be many streams of revenue.
Business Insider notes that “some influencers rely on formulas like charging brands $100 for every 10,000 followers.” However, each deal has to also account for an influencer’s following, engagement metrics and niche.
Hakimi discussed a few ways she and other influencers make money. “You can use affiliate links, partner with brands on campaigns, place ads on your website, sell things like merchandise with your own designs or even host events. Some bigger influencers get paid just to show up to an event! Although I have received a DM from a brand once or twice, most contact me via email [to reach out for brand deals],” she said.
If you want to be bold, you can also reach out to brands directly. Try finding the brand’s PR email or messaging them on social media.
Hakimi recalls that one of the coolest campaigns she has worked on to date has been with Booking.com in Greece.
“We stayed in the most amazing luxury cave hotel in Santorini called ‘Iconic Santorini’ and a bohemian boutique design hotel in Mykonos by the name of San Giorgio (now the Soho ‘Roc’ House). It was my first time visiting both islands and I still reminisce about my time there! Booking.com was also so easy to work with and just let me do my thing, so creatively I felt completely uninhibited, which is not always the case.”
Hakimi shared that she also enjoys attending events locally in Ontario.
“I love how cool some of the events are these days. I went to one in Toronto for Garnier at a super modern glass house in a lush ravine. The house had multiple levels, a massive open concept kitchen, an internal garden, a large outdoor patio area and multiple rooms to explore. Each room had a theme and activation that went hand in hand with their new product. It was such a fun afternoon, and the food was also amazing. Not to mention the swag bag they sent you home with at the end!”
However, while the influencer world may seem like it’s all glitz and glam, Hakimi shares that the career path does have its challenges.
“I definitely think separating myself from my numbers was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome as well as prioritizing my mental health. It’s a lot of work to run a blog, constantly be creating and uploading content, and managing a personal brand all at the same time. Burnout is very common in this industry and many influencers take breaks from social media sometimes. [I also think that] if people showed each other more compassion and gave kindness generously, it would make using social media a more pleasant experience.”Hakimi is all about maintaining mental health and recently launched a podcast focused on the subject matter to share her experiences and bring awareness to the issue.
What’s next for Soheila?
“I just bought a house, and it has obviously heightened my interest in interior design. I have always been more fashion and travel-focused, whereas now, I think I will naturally be staying in more and focusing on building a beautiful home. I am currently in the middle of filming a YouTube series around my Victorian home renovations. It’s been really fun and challenging for me. I’m super involved, demoing walls and getting my hands dirty, so you get to see all the behind the scenes, progress vlogs and action shots that come with rebuilding a beautiful home.”
What tips would you give those wanting to pursue influencing?
“I would just tell them to do it! Start! That’s the hardest part. Putting yourself out there. It’s not going to be perfect, but you’ll learn to be more intentional as you find your footing. Finding your own style, whether through clothes, style of filming or edits, having a unique style or creative concept can really help you stand out.”
Hakimi continued, “Video content is king right now. Every platform is hungry for it and you always get way better insights than a photo. Also, anything that feels different and creative or highlights current events will always do well.”
Hakimi maintains that staying true to yourself is most important. “I think feeling like you need to ‘stay relevant’ is toxic. People may follow me or unfollow me depending on the season, but I try not to think about it too much. I just try to be myself and create content that is naturally relevant to me!”