This blog post was inspired by a Q&A I sent out yesterday on Instagram- one of the questions I received, was how to stay motivated as a micro-influencer (or micro-blogger), especially at the beginning.
Many websites, including this one, suggest that a micro-influencer is someone with less than 10,000 followers on Instagram. But there are also many web searches that suggest that a micro-influencer is someone with between 2,000 and 100,000 followers. As with all social media, the lines are quite blurry.
This blog post is inspired by the girl who messaged me, saying she has about 500 followers, but 200 of them are friends and family: it's still very early on, and growth feels impossible.
I've been there- I was there roughly a year and a half ago. At the beginning of 2017, I had about 700 followers. Every 100 followers felt like a milestone- it was slow, and tedious, and I was growing at 100 followers a month. The first 1,000 followers were the hardest.
The beginning can feel impossible, because it is an incredible amount of work, without a lot of pay-off. Your numbers are too small to work with brands, so it is entirely a one-woman (or man) show. It can be hard to imagine what your blog / Instagram is going to look like in a year, or two years, or five years.
But the only way to genuinely grow, is to consistently create your best work. Even if you only have a few hundred followers, you should be working as if you have thousands, or hundreds of thousands. Develop a good work ethic early, and keep the quality of your work consistent. You are like a business- you have to invest in yourself, before anyone else is going to invest in you.
This is also a great time to develop an aesthetic- invest in a better camera, teach your self how to edit, improve the quality of your work. By nature, our work tends to improve as our numbers increase, but there is nothing wrong with getting it right at the beginning! People are visual creatures- if you create a beautiful feed, more people will be drawn to it.
So, how do you stay motivated during this time? First, and most important, you have to love the work. If you are genuinely trying to grow, you have to treat your blog / Instagram like a business, even if it's not making any money yet. The only way to stay motivated doing that much work (with little payoff) is to love the work. Social media can seem like a dream job- this can attract a lot of people who only see blogging as $$$$$. If you're drawn to it because it sounds easy, and makes money, and allows you to travel around the world taking photos and getting paid, you're likely not going to stay motivated, and more importantly, you likely won't enjoy the work. At the beginning, blogging will feel like a full-time job (on top of your actual full-time job // school)- you are basically a full-time, unpaid intern for yourself. You have to love the work.
You also need to be a self-motivated person. You don't have a boss, you don't have a professor, you don't have someone who is going to yell at you about a deadline. If you decide not to shoot, or not to write a blog post, there are no consequences, because you are in charge. (And yet, there are consequences, because you won't grow if you're not creating consistent content.) You have to make your own deadlines, and follow through with them. It doesn't matter if 10 people read your blog post, or 10,000 people do. It doesn't matter if 100 people like your photo, or 50,000 people do. Build a consistent work ethic.
I've stayed motivated to grow my blog, because I am in love with every creative aspect of the work. I am a perfectionist, and often throw out entire photoshoots, because they are not up to my standards. I'm picky, because if my feed doesn't bring me pride and joy in my work, I don't care who else likes it. But I feel an indescribable amount of happiness when I get the shot right. I love the process of editing. I love sitting down in the morning with a cup of coffee (as I'm doing right now) and writing. I've stayed motivated to grow my blog because it's never truly felt like work- I find the creativity involved in building your own brand to be the most fun and challenging thing in the world, and I thrive under this sort of pressure.
If you love the work, keep yourself motivated, practice consistency, and be patient. If you are creating quality work, that work will eventually pay off. Growth can feel tedious at first, but followers are like cells- the more you have, the quicker they multiply. Developing a following at the beginning is the hardest part. As you grow, those numbers will begin to sustain themselves, but you have to work like crazy at the beginning, without a lot of payoff.
If it gives you any sense of comfort, I started 2017 with roughly 700 followers, and ended the year with over 7,000 followers. In the last six months, it's nearly doubled at 13.3K. I broke 10k in the middle of May (I remember because Sam and I were in New York!) and since then, I've been growing about 1,500 followers a month. A year and a half ago, I was growing at barely 100 followers a month. As I continue, those numbers will likely grow faster and faster.
I am not trying to flex- I am still a microblogger, and know that I have a long, long way to go. But I wanted to share this information, for those who want an idea of how exponentially numbers can grow.
That being said, being motivated by numbers will not be enough to grow a following- there is so much time and work that goes into it, and you have to love that process.
Are you interested in how I edit my Instagram photos? Click here for a blog post on that.
Do you want to know how I maintain a curated Instagram feed? Click here for a blog post on that too!
Building a following is a long, time-consuming process: trust that process. You will grow in more ways than just numbers.
Thank you always for reading my posts, and I hope that this was useful for someone. If you are passionate about the work and creativity that goes into blogging, absolutely pursue it. I wish you luck, and hard work.