I am an influencer.
What does that word conjure in your mind’s eye? Leisurely stretches on a beach, effortless perched musings on a windowsill – coffee mug tenderly clutched between sweatered hands, in bed with a laptop, strolling down a boutique laden street with not a care in the world. Right?
Great. Then we’ve done our jobs exquisitely.
Today I did something I don’t often do – I took to my instagram stories and asked if anyone would care to trade a hair color service in exchange for a static instagram post.
A hair colorist messaged me and confessed that she would never take the trade because hair services are her livelihood. Feeling like I offended her, I apologized. I felt guilty. How dare I ask for a fun freebie when I so often speak about how no one values my own work as a blogger, content creator and photographer. We are all artists and we all deserve money for our efforts. Period.
Then, as I am prone to do: I sat and overanalyzed the situation. Feeling slightly disgruntled by the conversation myself.
Is a social post advertising a service useless?
My work has value too.
I was reminded of a fantastic article by Corissa Enneking of Fat Girl Flow. In it, she asserts that the workload of influencers is highly overlooked because it is traditionally female and therefore oftentimes seen as shallow, amateur and vapid. This is plainly not the case.
After working for over a year in this industry and watching the growth and strategy of some of my favorite role models in the biz, I can tell you this work takes a considerable amount of effort, commitment and work ethic.
Most influencers are one stop shops; meaning they do most of these activities ON THE DAILY.
- Creatively pitch ad campaigns to brands via email, phone or skype. (Sometimes an email leads to a phone call leads to a skype sesh, you get it).
- Fill out paperwork, read contracts, sign contracts, communicate with personal assistants, social media managers, brand reps etc.
- Charge batteries, maintain & clean camera equipment, purchase camera equipment, research camera equipment, lighting, software etc.
- Spend time creative directing: this could be anything from selecting clothing, scouting locations, creating a color story, making a prop-list, shopping for props, gathering props. Courtney of Color Me Courtney spends an entire day location scouting for her whimsical content.
- If these content creators are on multiple platforms, workload increases. Youtube requires filming – generally a half hour to two hours depending on the content. And maybe five to six hours of editing (that last time reference could be me, I’m a newbie to the YouTube post-production world – and I LOVE it).
- Reselling clothing on Poshmark/Depop/ebay : cleaning the clothing, wrapping the clothing and taking items to the post office.
- Researching industry trends – this can be anything from reading a book about social media marketing, watching trending YouTube videos, getting advice from the pros, listening to a podcast. Whenever I drive ANYWHERE I am listening to podcasts about SEO, marketing, female entrepreneurs, financial development, photography, public relations and witchcraft (can’t hurt, right?)
- Personal grooming and photoshoot hair and makeup. I usually want my hair fresh AF, styled, and my makeup done perfectly before I leave the house to shoot. I still look busted sometimes despite my best efforts, so you know I spent more then 2 hours on myself when I actually look cute.
- Photoshoots: driving to a location, working with a photographer (or in my case a boyfriend) to communicate the needs/vibe of a shoot. Shooting. Changing clothing/hair/makeup/accessories. Going to a new location. Shooting.
- Transferring files, selecting photos, editing photos. This can take anywhere from ten minutes (for those fun impromptu iphone photos) or two hours (for significant campaigns shot RAW on DSLR).
- Posting to social media and engaging with an audience. If you don’t CARE about your audience – YOU SHOULD NOT BE DOING THIS JOB. If you don’t personally communicate with people who comment, DM, chat with you – what are you even doing? I personally like to take a note from Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential and spend an hour in the morning and an hour at night communicating with my audience. It’s fun and I’ve made real-world friendships doing this. I still don’t get to answer every single comment/dm – BUT THAT’S A 2019 RESOLUTION BABY!
This is all a teensy chunk of what goes into the world of an influencer. It’s labor intensive – that’s for sure. Influencing is also emotionally intense. So many of us are documenting our lives and therefore opening ourselves up to criticism about ourselves. It’s easy to say “well that’s the trade in” – but it shouldn’t be. Constructive criticism and dialogue is always always wonderful and I myself have grown immensely this year because of the individuals who have taken the time to critique my work (and viral tweets). However, helpful feedback can quickly escalate to cruel trolling. We all like to think that we’ve been called “Fat disgusting whores” enough to be immune to it. We’re not. Some of us receive death threats – just from looking pretty in a dress and profiting from it.
Yeah, I get boxes of free makeup. That’s amazing. I am so grateful to receive these items and to benefit from the generosity of many companies. At the beginning, receiving PR packages felt like Christmas morning in the middle of May. Now, although I still squee when I receive a particularly pink lipstick – I see these items as tools.
I come from a retail background. I was on the management team of an Anthropologie and also created social media for my store location. If there is anything I can compare social media work to – it’s retail. Long hours, funky schedule, showing up to work looking polished only to do the goofiest shit you could ever do in a dress, wearing a million hats and communicating with all kinds of people.
This is a wonderful job. I personally would love to see it grow as an industry. I don’t think my job is any easier or any harder than anyone else’s. I don’t want anyone to pity me, or listen to my tiny violin play the tiniest sad song in the world.
I just want people to acknowledge that this is a career, and it has value.