Six social media stars reveal the work that goes into a perfect feed

It’s not easy being an influencer! Five social media stars reveal how it takes round-the-clock work and claim you have to be an ‘entrepreneur, make-up artist, CEO stylist and chef’ to succeed

  • Influencers reveal to Femail how they have full-time jobs in social media
  • They share the secrets to a perfectly curated feed – including lots of planning  
  • They say patience, two-way communication and being authentic is key 
  • Some take up to a week planning a single post and spend all day online   

Gaining a large social media following can seem like an easy way to make a quick buck, but what does life as an influencer really involve? 

Ahead of the Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards, FEMAIL spoke to several Insta-famous figures find out how you turn social media into a bona-fide career, and if you can really pay the bills with it. 

Beth Sandland, 23, from London graduated with a degree in law and anthropology, but has never had to embrace the 9-5 by turning her travel blog into a full-time income within just 18 months. 

However, Jessica Megan, 25, from Portsmouth warns that there’s more to it than just taking selfies and admits that she works day and evenings to balance being a model, writer and social media star.  

Jessica Megan, 25, from Portsmouth has 135,000 followers on Instagram. She works full-time as a curve model, writer and influencer

A day in the life of an influencer: Nominees for the Cosmpolitan Influencer Awards explain how they became successful 

Jessica Megan: ‘It’s so much more than selfie taking’

Jessica Megan, 25, from Portsmouth has 135,000 followers on Instagram. She works full-time as a curve model, writer and influencer.  

She told Femail how she stumbled into becoming an influencer. 

She said: ‘I accumulated over 30,000 followers online before I told someone I had a large following. 

‘They whipped out their phone and said ‘Oh you’re one of those influencers.’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry, what?’ I’d never heard the term before. It seemed a little insidious to me, isn’t all marketing ‘influencing’?’ 

Jessica Megan said there’s more to being an influencer than just taking selfies, and admitted that she’s had to put up with a lot of backlash for her body positive posts  

‘I model and manage my social media accounts alongside each other, usually all my social media admin is done while travelling between meetings and shoots. 

‘I often work well into the evening to ensure my accounts are up to speed and my work is being constantly updated. A lot of what you see on my account is self-directed, styled and edited. It takes a lot of work to continually keep an archive of fresh content.

‘I’m a body image activist, so I think by using Instagram as a platform to shout from, people tended to notice and stop by. Using my platform in this way invites a lot of positivity but also a lot of backlash.

‘At least four hours of my day is dedicated to social media and its upkeep.

‘I wake up and go online immediately to check the demographics and numbers for posts, such as likes, comments and engagement. I determine whether the numbers are consistent with previous days or whether there has been an improvement. 

‘If numbers have dropped, this could be down to a number of things, such as the image itself, time of day or algorithms not working in my favour. 

‘Then I check constantly throughout the day to ensure I haven’t received new work through my direct messages, responding to followers and answering questions. These hours are usually interweaved between jobs and meetings but also first thing in the morning right up until bedtime. 

‘Sadly, it’s incredibly addictive and I have to make sure I keep looking up and around and focusing on external tasks rather than keeping my head in my phone and laptop. 

‘From the moment I receive the job, I start planning. Depending on when the brand wants the content to go live, this could be anything from 24 hours to a week. 

‘From the moment I receive the job, I start planning. Depending on when the brand wants the content to go live, this could be anything from 24 hours to a week’ Jessica said

‘However my feed is fairly ‘organic’ as most clients like to call it, so my social media isn’t as well coordinated as others. My stories and posts are supposed to be reflective of me and who I am. I try to be as real as I can, even though being real through a screen is contradictory in itself. 

‘I don’t really see myself as an influencer, I just know I am one. But I think it was probably when I hit 100,000 followers and I thought wow, that’s the O2 arena multiplied five times. That’s a lot of people!

‘I think my first paid post was with a vegan skincare brand two years ago. They were absolutely lovely and its still one of my favourite jobs to date. I think they paid me £325 for a post. I couldn’t believe it!

‘Being nominated for a Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards is absolutely no doubt a highlight for my career. 

‘I never thought blogging and social media would be the method in which I make money, but the world is ever changing and methods of work are evolving so quickly. 

‘Influencers get a lot of bad press because they’re seen as narcissists and self-obsessed, but this is just new age marketing. 

‘It’s another form of selling, no different from posters, billboards and Television commercials. 

‘We are entrepreneurs, makeup-artists, CEOs, stylists and chefs. Many people boil it down to ‘selfie taking’ but it’s so much more than that’

Beth Sandland: It only took 18 months for Instagram to be my full-time income 

Beth Sandland, 23, from London has 54.2k followers and works full time as a travel influencer. She graduated with a Law & Anthropology degree from LSE.  

‘I became an influencer absolutely by accident!’ she said.

‘I started my blog whilst at university as a creative outlet and a place to document the struggles I was experiencing with my mental health; I found writing cathartic but never actually expected anyone to read it. 

‘Photography was a big passion of mine and it married naturally with my writing to produce an adjoining Instagram account. I never particularly planned to grow a following and genuinely had no idea blogging/influencing was even a career. 

Beth Sandland, 23, from London has 54.2k followers and works fulltime as a travel influencer. She graduated with a Law & Anthropology degree from LSE

‘I began to immerse myself more in the industry and find joy in connecting with like-minded individuals online. I began to see the value in it (in every respect) relatively early on but hadn’t ever anticipated it would become my career.

‘I blog full time. I also do some travel writing; my blog has been a great way to gain more exposure.

‘I found connecting and engaging with other bloggers allowed me to feel part of something whilst simultaneously slowly growing a following. Support from within the industry is invaluable; I was incredibly grateful to be spotted by a much bigger influencer who I really admired (and still do!) who chose to recommend me to her audience.

‘I create, take and edit all my own images and then structure them in a planning app. 

‘I found connecting and engaging with other bloggers allowed me to feel part of something whilst simultaneously slowly growing a following. Support from within the industry is invaluable; I was incredibly grateful to be spotted by a much bigger influencer who I really admired (and still do!) who chose to recommend me to her audience’ 

‘This helps to ensure I’m happy with my feed aesthetically, that there’s nice variety and allows me to know what I’m posting next. 

‘I don’t often plan captions ahead as I prefer to just write whatever comes into my head as I’m ready to hit post! 

‘I’m usually active on Instagram stories throughout the day and like to use the function to share my day-to-day; it’s a valuable way to include followers in the behind the scenes rather than getting too caught up in just having a pretty feed! 

‘If I’m working with a brand a lot more planning is involved; often there will be a brief pitch, occasionally a story board and the copy will be written ahead of time. 

Often my most successful posts though are actual ‘instant’ grams! A rare breed now, I know, but I do love it when I can snap a photo and share my thoughts in the very same moment with no planning at all.

‘I started my blog whilst at university as a creative outlet and a place to document the struggles I was experiencing with my mental health; I found writing cathartic but never actually expected anyone to read it’ Beth said

‘I genuinely love my online space and fundamentally do it out of a love for creativity and a passion for what I’m sharing, however I’d totally be lying if I said that to receive such recognition within the industry isn’t really, really lovely!’ Beth added

‘Honestly, I still don’t like the term influencer! To me having ‘influence’ is a bi-product of the relationship I’ve built with my audience through the content I create and the words that I write. 

‘I’d rather inspire people, particular women who are scared to travel and to put themselves out of their comfort zones. Measurably, I realised I had ‘influence’ when people were buying things I’d recommended or were visiting places that I’d shared.

‘At the point that I realised my content had worth and that I deserved to be paid for  – is when I started to be paid for it!

‘I don’t think it’s right to put a specific follower count on that; it’s usually relatively easy to track based on engagement, conversions and most importantly for me, feedback from followers. I began earning money about a year in and it became my full-time income after about 18 months. 

‘I genuinely love my online space and fundamentally do it out of a love for creativity and a passion for what I’m sharing, however I’d totally be lying if I said that to receive such recognition within the industry isn’t really, really lovely!’. 

 Callie Thorpe: I want women to be braver, bolder, and happier with themselves

Callie Thorpe, 30, a digital creative originally from South Wales but now living in London has 214,000 Instagram followers

Callie Thorpe, 30, a digital creative originally from South Wales but now living in London has 214,000 Instagram followers. 

She told Femail: ‘Becoming an influencer  was entirely accidental, what started as an online diary on a journey to confidence and exploring fashion as a plus size woman turned into much more than I could ever imagine.

‘Since starting my blog and social media channels I have done everything from plus size modelling on brand shoots, panel speaking, presenting, travelling and even being the first ever plus size fashion columnist in the UK a position I was in for one year. I’ve even written a few times for Cosmopolitan! 

‘I do this completely full time but just recently, for many years I juggled another job which I loved!

She told Femail: ‘Becoming an influencer was entirely accidental, what started as an online diary on a journey to confidence and exploring fashion as a plus size woman turned into much more than I could ever imagine’

‘I’m such a people person that loves being around others. But at one point it felt like I had to take the leap and focus solely on my creative passions in this career. 

‘I think my willingness to share and be honest has helped me to create a wonderful supporting community of women. I speak on all sorts of subjects, fashion, travel, body image, and life in general, the ups and downs because life is not all sunshine and rainbows.

‘I’m not afraid to speak out on subjects that are important to me such as inclusivity in fashion/blogging (or the lack of) body image issues, cyber bullying and mental health, it’s important to me to use my platform in a positive way. 

‘Day-to-day I try to answer as many DMs as I can, then usually I have meetings in town with brands on upcoming projects. When I have a campaign I’m working on I will go shoot with my photographer. Then there’s the general upkeep of my emails and writing blog posts.

More than often I try and let what I am feeling or what I am thinking guide me in the direction of what I want to write. I like to speak from the heart.

‘I’m not afraid to speak out on subjects that are important to me such as inclusivity in fashion/blogging (or the lack of) body image issues, cyber bullying and mental health, it’s important to me to use my platform in a positive way’ Callie said

‘For collaborations I usually have a creative vision in mind of how I want the images to look but I try to just go with that flow. 

‘I use the term influencer lightly because my message is much more about female empowerment and encouraging others to figure out what they are about and what they love rather than ‘influencing’ in that respect.

‘But if I have to describe myself that way I strongly believe in the message of ‘influence with purpose’.

‘If I’m influencing others it’s to be braver, bolder, and happier within themselves and live life on their own terms regardless of shape or size.

‘Day-to-day I try to answer as many DM’s as I can, then usually I have meetings in town with brands on upcoming projects. When I have a campaign I’m working on I will go shoot with my photographer. Then there’s the general upkeep of my emails and writing blog posts’

‘Ultimately, I don’t want people to leave my page wishing they could be more or have more but instead to feel inspired and uplifted. 

‘I remember one of my first ever paid collaborations was a photoshoot I did with Evans seven years ago and I was so overwhelmed and grateful for such an amazing opportunity I had never done anything like that before.

‘I now have a management team that help with working with the right brands and partners that align with my message. There is not a day that goes by I’m not grateful for the opportunities available to me.  

Zanna Van Dijk: ‘Building up a following takes time’

Zanna Van Dijk, 26, from London, boasts 271,000 Instagram followers. She says told Femail building an Instagram following was deliberate.

Zanna Van Dijk, 26, from London, boasts 271,000 Instagram followers. She says told Femail building an Instagram following was deliberate.

‘It was kind of deliberate, kind of by accident! I started my Instagram page out of pure interest in fitness, but as soon as it started to grow, I realised it could become something bigger. 

‘In that moment I started to consciously push it, with the intention of making it part of my career one day. Here I am seven years later with it as my full-time job!

‘I produce one blog post a week, two YouTube videos a week, fortnightly newsletter and daily posts across other platforms. I also co-founded and run Stay Wild Swim, a sustainable swimwear brand, and run an eco-conscious support group called the Living Consciously Crew. 

‘I produce one blog post a week, two YouTube videos a week, fortnightly newsletter and daily posts across other platforms. I also co-founded and run Stay Wild Swim, a sustainable swimwear brand, and run an eco-conscious support group called the Living Consciously Crew’ Zanna said

‘I also have my own products – reusable water bottles and sustainable jumpers/clothing, I support various ocean charities and I do retreats every couple of months in different countries from Kenya to Sri Lanka! It is quite busy – understatement of the year!

‘Building up a social media following takes time, time, time.  

‘I am an old school blogger, I have been around for eight years now so I have been a slow and steady grower. Consistency is key. 

‘I am pretty strict with myself. I have all notifications turned off and try not to spend much time scrolling.’

‘I produce one blog post a week, two YouTube videos a week, fortnightly newsletter and daily posts across other platforms. I also co-founded and run Stay Wild Swim, a sustainable swimwear brand, and run an eco-conscious support group called the Living Consciously Crew’ Zanna continued

‘Not very much planning goes into a post. I am more of a capture and post kind of girl. I respond to what has happened that day, a comment I received or a message I was sent. I keep things topical and relevant, but most importantly authentic’

‘I tend to go on social media, post my content and leave – well most of the time, ’cause lets be real sometimes you’re bored and indulge in a browse! 

‘I post stories throughout the day, maybe one tweet a day, one Instagram main feed post a day, and then I try and designate time to respond to comments everyday. 

‘I also reply to every single DM I get, which maybe takes 20-30 minutes a day, because I think that is super important. 

‘Not very much planning goes into a post. I am more of a capture and post kind of girl. I respond to what has happened that day, a comment I received or a message I was sent. I keep things topical and relevant, but most importantly authentic.

‘I started to see myself as an influencer maybe two years ago when I started to do this full time and was able to quit my part-time job personal training! 

‘I got my first paid job about four years ago, I remember being SO excited and also having some serious imposter syndrome! 

Sisters: Ailbhe Keane and Izzy Keane: We do a big photoshoot every couple of weeks 

Sisters Ailbhe, 26,(right) and Izzy, 22, (left) from Galway in Ireland, have 44,000 followers on the page they run together, Izzy Wheels, brand which creates stylish wheel covers for wheelchairs.

Sisters Ailbhe, 26, and Izzy, 22,  from Galway in Ireland, have 44,000 followers on the page they run together, Izzy Wheels, brand which creates stylish wheel covers for wheelchairs.

They told Femail:  ‘Our motto is ‘If you can’t stand up, stand out!’. We collaborate with artists from all over to the world to create wheel covers which transform medical devices into pieces of fashion and self-expression. 

The pair have collaborated with 60 designers who are selling the designs in 35 counties. 

Ailbhe has a degree in Visual Communications from the National College of Art and Design Dublin, while Izzy is currently studying a degree in Sociology, Politics and French in NUIG. 

They told Femail: ‘Our motto is ‘If you can’t stand up, stand out!’. We collaborate with artists from all over to the world to create wheel covers which transform medical devices into pieces of fashion and self-expression.

Ailbhe, added: ‘We still don’t really see ourselves as influencers. Izzy Wheels started as a passion project for me when I was in my final year in art college. I created a range of colourful wheel covers for my sister’s wheelchair so she could match her chair to her outfits and express her personality. 

‘I created an Instagram account and uploaded little funny videos of Izzy modeling the designs. The page went totally viral and a video we made got 3 million views in one day and 16 million views in a week. It all happened very organically and we never could have planned it would become such a success. 

‘I work full time on Izzy Wheels. We collaborate with artists and fashion designers from all over the world to create our designs and have had over a thousand applications to date. 

‘Most of my time is spent art directing the collections, creating beautiful content for our social channels, doing photo shoots, sending emails and managing orders. Customer experience is very important to us, so a huge amount of time, care and love go into fulfilling each order. 

‘We have been very authentic with our content from the beginning and not tried to copy anyone else’s style. Having a background in art and design has been really beneficial because I understand how to build a brand visually.   

‘I work full time on Izzy Wheels. We collaborate with artists and fashion designers from all over the world to create our designs and have had over a thousand applications to date’

‘We try and do a big photo shoot every couple of weeks and build up a bank of photos. We can then slowly disperse the photos and videos out over the next few weeks.

‘I am really particular about how our feed looks as a whole, so I try and make sure our posts on Instagram are complimentary of each other in terms of colour scheme. 

‘I use an app called Planoly which allows you to order your photos before you post them and it’s such a time saver. On Facebook, we share more of our customer’s stories, so we don’t need to be as particular of the running order. 

‘We still don’t really see ourselves as influencers, in fact, that word scares us a bit! I would more describe us as passionate designers who have built a loyal following from doing what we love. 

‘We get a lot of requests from brands regarding endorsements, but we are very protective of our personal brand and don’t want to dilute our mission by promoting other products too much. If a brand approaches us who we feel really compliments what we do, we are happy to work with them but we are very selective.’

Pip Stewart: Two way communication is essential 

  • The Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards in association with PANDORA, took place on Tuesday 28th May. The awards are an annual recognition and celebration of the game-changing individuals who have taken social media by storm and changed the way brands market to their audiences

 

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