The founding fathers of early social media from AOL to MySpace likely had no idea that it would be possible to make a substantial living off of creating an internet profile.

My, how times have changed in such a short period of time. In fact, the influencer marketing industry is expected to reach a whopping $15 billion in just two years. Currently, music labels are paying thousands for influencers to use a snippet of their song in their TikTok. 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio has over 70 million followers and 5 billion likes on the platform, and can reportedly charge $40,000 per post.

Want to be a part of this rapidly growing industry? Look no further. Very Good Light has pulled together everything you need to know about becoming an influencer. Get ready to bust out that ring light, Lighters.

SEE ALSO: Are influencers going extinct?

We spoke with experts Ernest B. James, founder and chief management officer of Noire Management, an agency that specifically works with Black creators, and Jane Lim, co-founder of Foundation, an agency that specializes in the beauty and wellness space. They answer all of the burning questions about influencer culture on how to nab deals and build your very own platform. Below, we’ve laid out a step-by-step guide to becoming an influencer that will help you turn your passion for social media into a full-fledged career.

1. Find your niche

The first—and arguably most important—thing you need to do to kickstart your influencer is to define your image and understand your audience. “The barrier to entry for the influencer market is very low nowadays, more than ever. Brands aren’t paying too much attention to following count/reach and rather to engagement,” Jane tells Very Good Light.

“The market is now very saturated,” Jane explains. “It is much harder for talent to stand out, and it now requires a lot more strategy for talent to create long-lasting sustainable businesses.”

So two important questions to ask are: what do you intend on posting, and what do your followers respond best to? Knowing the answers to these two questions can set you on a path towards success as an influencer.

2. Experiment thoughtfully with content

Ernest describes growing your base and image as “trial and error.” He explains that when your account is under 10k followers, you have more creative freedom to try out different topics. “Most people throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks,” he tells Very Good Light. “You gotta know your audience because from there you’ll know what the right brand partners and content are. Because if you’re talking about plants you can’t necessarily transition to shoes next week.”

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

After you figure out what your audience responds best to, and as your follower number goes up, you may consider seeking out management. Both Jane and Ernest stress the importance of reaching out to your influencer peers to inquire about their experiences and obtain feedback to see if a certain agency is the right fit for you.

“Managers help you with all the influx of business that you’re doing,” Ernest explains. “All the projects you’re working on, and [they also] help craft your career.” He describes their role as the co-pilot to your captain.

“They’re helping you say, ‘Okay, what are all these projects and jobs? What do these lead to? How do these lead to that offline brand? How does this lead to larger partnerships?’”

4. Charge wisely

If you don’t have representation, it can be somewhat tricky to determine how much you should charge a brand for sponsored content. Ernest warns novice influencers to consider the overhead costs when it comes to creating content.

“An influencer with 1,000 followers may not have a photographer, an editor, etc. You’re doing all the work inhouse. Your time costs a certain amount of money,” Ernest says.

He recommends novice influencers build their brand and partnerships by reaching out to brands explaining that you’d love to create content in exchange for the product.

This builds proof of concept and your brand, which Ernest also believes is important. When it comes to money, he says that you should break down how much time it takes to produce your content, along with any additional costs—whether that comes from hiring a makeup artist or a photographer—and settle on a rate that’s a fair reflection of your time and money.

And yes, Jane confirms that depending on the type of content, the price should vary. “Talent should be charging different rates for different types of content and on different platforms depending on their audience size, their engagement, and the overall industry standard of rates.”

5. Protect yourself and your business

The influencer industry is still fairly new and changing rapidly. This means there’s still confusion among what “industry standard” really means. Influencers without representation (or poor representation) can often underestimate their worth and charge rates far below what other influencers with comparable followers and engagement are charging.

The Instagram account @influencerpaygap showcases just how disproportionate the industry can be, but with the proper management, influencers can protect themselves and their income. Another resource is the American Influencer Council, which is a not-for-profit invite-only membership trade association led by career creators with the goal of sharing knowledge and developing solutions that drive influencer success through advocacy, standardization, digital economic growth, and goodwill trade events.

6. Build your presence on multiple platforms

One of the final steps in our guide is knowing which platform can be the most promising. “All social platforms serve different purposes and appeal to different audiences,” Jane stresses. But from a monetary perspective, one reigns supreme.

“YouTube will bring the most revenue because YouTube shows personality. Most people will drop previews on Instagram but then transition or move their audience over to YouTube,” Ernest explains. “This also gives networks the opportunity to offer partnerships or request product placement within your videos.”

An up-and-coming platform Jane suggests to look out for is Triller, which is “An AI-powered video editing app that allows users to film multiple takes of themselves and. The app will automatically compile together the best clips to create a music video.”

7. Be authentically you

When it comes to becoming an influencer, there are a few key pieces of advice that you need to follow in order to be successful. Work hard, be authentic, and know your dreams as an influencer are achievable because everyone is already an influencer in some way.

“You have to put in the work to know what your audience responds to, not what everyone else’s audience responds to,” Ernest says. “As long as you come from a place that is authentic and to the audience that you’re serving, they’ll know that every brand partnership is authentic as well.”

“Lastly, don’t forget that everyone is an influencer,” he closes with. “The only difference is the size of the platform that you are influencing because everyone is influencing the decision and opinions of someone else.”

Photo via Levi Elizaga on UnSplash

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