How to become a full time Influencer

The world of being a social media influencer is growing by leaps and bounds every day, creating both more space to participate and, with that space, more competition in the field.  If you’re a new influencer just starting your journey and want to learn How To Become A Full-Time Influencer who makes a living by creating digital content, read on! If you need some inspiration on the grit and determination you’ll need, peep this TED talk by Angela Duckworth.

With over 7 years of experience, a roster of 6 full-time influencing clients who are making at least $80-100k per year, and over $4 million in negotiated brand deals for said clients, I know a thing or two about what it takes to become a full-fledged member of the emerging and ever-changing influencer industry.

While it might be hard to imagine, the influencing marketing industry has grown from *just* $1.7 billion in 2016 to $13.8 billion in 2021. In fact, current projections indicate that the global market for influencers will surpass $69 billion by 2029

How do people become full time influencers?

Discern A Hobby From A Business

Whether you are new to this business or are a veteran of the industry, it is important to figure out a strategic approach for what you do on social media and on your website to grow in 2023 and beyond.

So, the first questions to ask yourself are:

How am I approaching what I’m doing when posting content? Is it my hobby or my business?

Don’t think of these questions as analyzing of whether you are “good” at being an influencer, taking pretty pictures, or writing creatively. Rather, think of them as a way of determining a.) where you are on your influencer journey, and b.) your roadmap for moving forward as a paid brand partner if that’s your plan.

We all know that success doesn’t happen overnight; in fact, growing your brand on the internet to become a full-time social media maven is a slow burn. The metrics of success can vary widely depending on who you’re talking to. Your idea of success might be earning a few bucks on the side while having fun, or it may mean becoming a full-time influencer. 

There’s no wrong answer here! And both are okay, so long as they align with what you want it to be. Let’s chat more about that, shall we?

I should note that “just” being an influencer on the side, posting on social,
as and when you want isn’t a bad thing.

It just means you’re approaching your role a little differently than someone who depends on this to pay their mortgage or rent, utility bills, car payments, and put food on the table. Posting on the side as and when you want comes without all the stress, worries, and expectations that are part and parcel of being paid for your content creation.

Also, I think it’s important to note here that being an influencer is not glamorous (well, unless you’re a Kardashian, maybe). It’s a hustle. To be successful, you need to have drive, stamina, and the ability to rise above a whole lotta rejection. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as an Influencer Talent Manager, it’s that the people who consistently show up and are married to their business that will rise to the top and have the longevity to be successful in this industry.

How to become a full time influencer
How to become a full time influencer

So, how do you determine if your work as an influencer is a full-time business or something you do for fun on the side? 

Below are a couple of thoughts that differentiate the two for me. I’d love to know what you think and how you would define the differences. Let me know in the comments below!

One of the biggest things to note here is the word business when we talk about the influencer business. The unspoken part of being a business is that there’s money involved. In the influencer’s case, money is exchanged for content created. 

If you’re not receiving any sort of financial compensation yet, what you do on social isn’t yet a business for you. It can be in the future, but you’re not quite there yet. Make sense?

How to know if social media is a hobby

You may be an influencer on the side, more as a hobbyist, if:

  • You have another job that pays the majority of your bills.
  • You take what’s offered (e.g. promotional freebies) instead of negotiating a set rate for your work. 
  • Brand partnerships and content creation take the back burner when life happens.
  • You have no larger plan or schedule for content posting or creation.
  • You often say yes often to opportunities because they seem fun before considering if the partnerships are strategic for your brand and can help you to grow & leverage your business.

How to know if being a social media influencer is a full time gig for you

You may be a full time influencer if:

  • Brand partnerships and content creation pay your bills.
  • You earn monetary payment for your work.
  • You regularly and consistently post new (or updated) content.
  • You have a schedule for your work, and/or you strategically plan your daily/weekly/monthly content.
  • You regularly seek out brand partnerships that align with your long-term growth goals.

What does it mean if I am doing this on the side vs. treating it as a business?

Once you are clear where you are on your influencer path, you can determine:

  1. If whatever path you’re on is the right path for you, then carry on doing what you’re doing. If it’s not the right path, good to know! Spend some time thinking about what your hopes and desires are. Give yourself a future financial milestone for an amount of money earned from a brand partnership. Give yourself a goal for a set number of paid brand partners. TL;DR? Start with a quantifiable goal.
  2. What is your brand? If you’re looking to make content creation a full-time business, take a long, hard look at your brand and figure out who and how you serve. What do you do here – “here” being the internet – that provides value to others? What type of content do you create? What do people take away from your page? Why do they visit and hang out with you online? Do an audit of all your channels and your website, running every piece of content thru that tight filter, answering the questions posed above. Remember the words of Josh Steimle, “If you try to influence everyone, you won’t influence anyone.”
  3. On that note, what *kind* of content do you want to create? Is it educational? Inspirational? Aspirational? Also, nail down what your “zone of genius” is. Maybe you take incredible photos and videos, but your writing game is a little lacking. Or maybe you can write like a modern-day Jane Austin, but you’re super shy and don’t love having your face splashed around the internet. Once you know what your personal superpowers are, you can figure out…
  4. How to fill the gaps. This might look like hiring some team members to help flesh out your portfolio. Or, it might mean taking some courses and spending time up-skilling until you can afford to make the right hires.
  5. What is your posting capacity? If you’re still mired in a 9-to-5 gig while you make the transition to being a Girl Boss, you might not have the ability, stamina, or chutzpah to post to the socials every day or crank out a blog post every week. And you know what? THAT’S OKAY. Once you know what your limitations are, implement a regular cadence. Social media channels reward consistency, even if your schedule only allows for a single Insta post per week, or only one blog post per month.
  6. What are your future goals and what are the steps you need to take to achieve them? Posting on social media might only be a fun thing on the side at the moment, but you want to go full-time. Or maybe you’re already a full-time influencer, but you want to grow your reach, rates + brand. Or maybe you’re happy doing this for fun — there’s no shame in that game! The key here is that once you can define what kind of influencer you are, it becomes easier to determine your path forward.

How to make the leap from posting for fun to making a viable business out of content creation

If you are someone who has not yet secured your first paid brand partner, but are regularly and consistently posting content, spending time on your business, and seeking out paid brand partnerships, you are already making significant steps towards becoming an influencer as a business.  Below are next steps to becoming a successful, profitable, full-time influencer.

8 steps on how to become a full time influencer

1. Keep meticulous records for your business. 

Begin tracking every inbound request. This will help you determine who you need to follow up with and where to begin building relationships. Note who is from an agency and connect with those people. Invest in getting to know them.

2. Determine your rates and make yourself competitive in the field. 

While there is no cut-and-dry method of determining your rates, I suggest chatting with others to see if your rates are competitive. I know it’s tricky for almost everyone to talk about money so instead of asking someone who has a similar profile (e.g. # of social followers, website content, field of expertise) what they charge, ask them for a range for a single IG in feed post. Or their range for a blog post with social media promo. How do you stack up against them in terms of experience and quality? Will your rates be able to support your lifestyle as a full-time job?

3. Strategize your growth roadmap and determine how and where you can provide value to your clients and your followers. 

The simplest way to do this is to niche down. For example, instead of being a “food influencer,” consider focusing on a particular diet (e.g. gluten-free, vegan) or cuisine (e.g. Greek, Peruvian). You might also be able to create a hybrid brand that combines your passions (e.g. Mommy Blogging + Food Blogging) in a unique way.

4. Implement standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

The point here is to work smarter, not harder. Don’t build each campaign from the ground up! Instead, create a framework. This includes figuring out how to block your time, set up your photo shoots, record your voice overs, and outline your blog posts so you can be consistently fabulous.

5. Being picky about your partners and begin sharing your rates the next time a brand reaches out. 

Once you have determined your niche, start working only with brands that support your larger mission. Remember those Q’s I mentioned a few paragraphs up? Make sure the brands you want to say yes to align with your brand/platform. Think of it like an interview: why would you say yes to them? For example, if you’re a health food influencer, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to work with McDonald’s….or find a way that it would. IDK! There’s more than one way to be creative and stand out from the crowded field. That’s for you to figure out.

6. Build your online community. 

This doesn’t just mean amassing more followers. It means being present and engaged with them. Talk to them in the comments. Like things they’re doing. Above all, BE AUTHENTIC.

7. Build a support system. 

Your BFF’s, parents, sibling, and romantic partner may all be super gung-ho and cheering you on from the sidelines, but I strongly urge you to find a group (or several groups) of likeminded career influencers. Trust me, even though my clients have built amazing businesses that support their families with 6-figure incomes, many people still don’t understand what being a professional influencer means. You’re gonna get tired of hearing “how’s your little blog thing coming?” if you don’t have people in your corner who actually know the struggle. And once you find that group? SHOW UP FOR THEM THE WAY THEY SHOW UP FOR YOU. Relationships are a two way street.

8. Consider investing in a team. 

(Click here to read if you’re ready for a manager.) Being a solopreneur is not easy! If you’re able to invest in help, it’s single-handedly one of the best things you can do. It may be cliché, but we DO go further together. Maybe it is time to bring on a virtual assistant, a social media manager, a ghostwriter, or a talent manager. Determine where your strengths are and where your struggles are and then start thinking of creative ways to fill the gaps. 

How to become a full time influencer
Who and how do you serve your community?

If you want to earn more money from brand collaborations and perhaps go full time with being an Influencer yet aren’t sure how or what to do next, I have a one day Influencer Coaching Session for you. Learn more about how to negotiate with a brand, pitch yourself, upsell from a no and more. Click here to read more and schedule your Influencer Coaching Session Intensive.

Pro tip : If you’ve loved this article, sign up for my weekly newsletter HERE. It’s full of industry insights, brand negotiation tips and scripts, events I’m attending, perspective on how to grow your Influencer business and more. I keep it pretty scrappy and real – would love you to join us over there! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

How to become a full time influencer FAQs

What makes an influencer successful?

A successful influencer is someone who actually influences people. Put another way, a successful influencer is someone whose content resonates with their followers, be it 1 follower, 100 followers or 1 million followers. They’re sharing quality content that is educational or aspirational, inspirational or funny (or whatever form of entertainment you’re looking for). 

That engagement, having people liking, commenting, and saving their content can translate to brand deals by way of sponsored content on their blog or social media platforms. Brands will pay an influencer to “host” brand content on their platform by way of writing a blog post or creating  an instagram post or set of instagram stories, for example. 

If you measure success by influence and how big a social media influencer’s audience is, the size of their follower count is one way to determine a successful influencer. Another way to measure success is by the quality of their content. Is it helpful? Useful? Inspiring?

I believe what gets an influencer to the level of being considered “successful,” however you measure success, is what they’ve done to build their brand, to grow their audience and all the hard work they’ve put in behind the scenes, when no one is looking. 

It truly takes time to become successful at anything (you’ve heard of the 10,000 hours rule right?) and that’s no different here. Real influencers take their business seriously, being married to it vs treating it like a hobby, considering it the full time job that it is. Don’t quit your day job as you work to being a full time influencer! Wait until you’ve got at a minimum, one year’s worth salary + 25%.

What makes an effective influencer?

An effective influencer is made by their habits. They have: 

  • social media accounts that consistently produce relevant content. 
  • a content strategy that makes sense and resonates with their audience. 
  • figured out their niche, the little corner of the internet that they want to hang out in on their social media accounts & speak to their target audience. 
  • discovered the pain points of their followers and what people are looking for when they come to their social media profiles. 

From my perspective as a talent manager, the most effective, successful influencers are the ones who understand that being a full-time influencer or content creator means being committed to taking the marathon approach. They have a strategy, can handle rejection well, and are great at building relationships. 

Most importantly, they understand that content creation is hard work that requires patience, discipline, and much more than just snapping a photo with your fancy iphone. 

Are personal blogs successful?

Yes! Blogs can definitely be successful once they build a loyal following and are able to monetize that following via sponsored posts, affiliate links, and/or ad revenue. (I’m assuming that’s what you mean by successful.)  

I absolutely believe that as you build your personal brand, it HAS to include a website. That’s your digital home where you can always control and access what’s going on. You can create online courses and digital products to sell via your website. 

And don’t overlook your email list, because they’re your superfans! A newsletter is a great way to be able to connect with your people and post whatever you want, whenever you want, regardless of the fickle social media algorithms. 

What percentage of bloggers are successful?

Goodness, I have absolutely no idea! This would be a hard number to quantify as everyone has a different definition of success. And just think of how many blogs are out there! 

Will influencers ever go away?

Hmm, this question sounds like it’s coming from someone who isn’t convinced of the power of influencers or influencer marketing. That’s a bummer because I think you’re perhaps conflating the definition of an influencer with solely an Instagram Influencer or someone who posts sponsored content on their social media platforms. 

Whenever people ask this question, I pivot to a really strong marketing memory from growing up. I was born in the 70’s (proud Gen X-er over here!) Anyone here remember Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm and Nike? Or Michael Jordan and Gatorade? Or Bo Jackson and Nike? Some of my earliest and strongest marketing memories are of athletes, who were also….you guessed it — Influencers! 

One important thing is that now the medium, or the platform, in which we consume marketing has expanded. So no, I don’t think Influencers or brand spokespeople will ever go away. And you don’t have to take my word for it — business journals tend to agree that the influencer industry reach is only gonna get bigger from here on out. 

Who was the first ever influencer?

I don’t know but I think if I had to say, perhaps an athlete or a moviestar? Someone famous who wore a particular piece of clothing from a particular designer, or used (or even inspired the development of) a particular ingredient, or drove a certain kind of car… People tend to aspire to having what the people who inspire them have, ya know? It’s kinda the human condition.

What makes a reliable influencer?

A reliable influencer from the perspective of a brand collaboration is someone who turns in their content on time for approval & does what they say they’re going to do. 

I think a reliable influencer for “we the people” who are consuming their content is someone who is consistently authentic and honest, who we can trust will keep it real and share the truth about a product or experience. 

What are the most productive habits of highly successful people?

Lucky you, I’ve got a longer post on this with my thoughts but a couple to share here and now are : 

  • Knowing the best times to do different tasks. When do you do your best creative work vs. when do you do better at crunching out the grunt work?
  • Batching their work. Or, better said, NOT multitasking. As Susan Cain so brilliantly put it, “What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent.” 
  • Building in white space/downtime to their schedule to allow for their best thinking or creativity to pop up.

Do successful people follow a timetable?

Absolutely. I believe the most successful business people are ones who schedule the important, priority things to ensure that they happen. Be it content creation in this world of digital marketing, a doctor’s appointment, or even scheduled “play” time (there’s that white space I was referring to), what’s important goes on the calendar. 

And that the projects they are working on have a plan, some sort of timetable to keep them progressing forward. They’ve got milestones to reach — be it an income goal or membership # or completing certain elements of a project before it launches. Timetables to me are a form of a plan and we all know what happens if you fail to plan……..amiright?!

What are the most important attributes of a successful person?

To me the most important attributes of a successful person is that they are kind, hungry to learn, understand that failure or rejection isn’t personal or the end but in fact a great lesson. In short, a successful person takes risks, surrounds themselves with smart people, is open to feedback and has a long term perspective. 

How to become a full time influencer
How to become a full time influencer