The 5 Stages You Go Through Before Becoming an Influencer

J.Q. Louise

We all know that ‘influencing’ is quickly becoming a reputable career choice that many recent grads and twenty-somethings are choosing. And there is good reason for that. According to a 2019 Influencer Marketing Hub survey, businesses are making $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. This ROI tells us that businesses are not only investing in influencer marketing, but that they are also getting a sizable return, which should lead to continuing those investments.

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Surely, you follow at least a few influencers on Instagram or Youtube and their lives probably look quite glamourous. However, what does it really take to turn a life of travel, photoshoots and brand collabs into a career?

It all starts with attitude. I’ve worked with top tier brands all over the world, gone on dream trips and have even published a book thanks to my blog and social channels. My journey to becoming a full-time influencer has been a long road, but being able to turn my passion into a career is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. Let’s check out the five stages you must go through before you have the right attitude to become a full-time influencer.

1. ‘I want to be an influencer’

‘Influencing’, as a profession, can be hard to explain to someone outside of our world. It’s creative, technical, structured, fluid, longterm, shortsighted, difficult, and easy all at once. And that’s all before we even get to the making-money part!

We’ve all been there, when you tell someone you ‘want to be an influencer,’ the best case scenario is usually a half-hearted, ‘Well you are so creative!’ to the worse case, ‘Can you really make money doing that?’. The first step into turning a social channel or a blog into a business is saying it out loud that you want to do so. Shout it from the mountaintops, ‘I want to be an influencer!’.

2. Protect your hopes and dreams

All of us in the creative world have to protect our hopes and dreams because no one else will. Ask any professional influencer, writer, or content creator and surely they will tell you about all the well-meaning mansplainers they have encountered along the way.

My journey towards turning my blog and social channels into a business reminds me of the time when I was applying to colleges. I was fortunate to have attended Phillips Exeter Academy, a prestigious New England boarding school. And at an institution like this, competition is fierce when college application time comes around. I, like so many of my classmates, put several Ivy League and other top schools on my list. But when it came time to meet with my college counselor, he questioned many of my choices.

“Are you sure?” “Why don’t you swap in a few more NESCACs?” “You should really add in a few more ‘safeties’.”

Those comments were a shock. Being a student who was used to being the top pupil during my previous life at public school, I thought I was a shoe in for most of these schools. Today, as a full-time influencer, I get that feeling all the time when I tell people what I do for a living — it is shocking to hear people question something that you are so sure of.

I didn’t change my list at all. And a few months later I got into Cornell, Duke and Georgetown. I’m so pleased at how I handled that day back in the college counselor’s office; I smiled and did what I wanted to on my own regardless of his opinion. Keep this in mind as you build your digital business. There will be people who will say, “Do you really think you can turn that into a career?” or “Why don’t you just get a real job?”

Think about it, how many times have you run an idea by someone, and they’ve shot it done even before you’ve had the chance to give it a try? Well you’re the only one who knows what your hopes and dreams are and what it will take to get there so stick to your guns and build your business.

3) ‘Go it alone’

Don’t get me wrong, your loved ones can have both your best interest at heart and think your time would be “better spent on something else” or “it’s not worth the hassle” or “that’s too risky.” They are just projecting their own insecurities onto you. Psychologists call this “Psychological Projection”, where rather than admitting to or dealing with unwanted feelings, they push those feelings onto those around them. So perhaps that family-member is bitter about a long lost dream when they are telling you that yours is not worth pursuing.

Unfortunately, the best way to be adventurous is to sometimes go it alone.

Society teaches us to be cautious, but if you have a big idea or a strong feeling towards something you should just do it! I would not be an Ivy League graduate or a published author, if I had always done only what others approved of. And when we are in the pursuit of followers, you have to just go for it! And trust me, 100,000 followers later I’ve had to silence more than a few doubters!

People want you to stay at a 9-to-5, stay in your lane and stay mediocre because that is all they are comfortable with. Trust me, they still love you and they are honestly telling you what they think is best for you, but if deep down you know there is another path out there, you’re the only one who is going to make it happen.

Tell people you are ‘just doing this on the side’ or ‘don’t worry I can get a marketing job with my degree’, when deep down you know you want this to be your life and not just a side-hustle.

4) Be brave

Creating content for a living is not easy. There is a lot of competition, the pay can be low and the critics are a plenty. However, for those of us who are drawn to it, it can be the most rewarding thing we ever do.

There are many paths to success as an influencer, but we must first all believe ourselves when we say ‘I want to be an influencer’ and smile right past anyone who gets in our way.

5) Get started

Finally, once you have decided that you want to make a go for it, you have to actually get started. Buy a domain, start an Instagram account, film that first Youtube video. I’ve been at this for over 5 years and I am still learning, growing and developing my brand. But I wouldn't have any of it if I didn't just start JQLouise.com all those years ago!

There is no catchall roadmap to becoming an influencer, but with a little persistence and self assurance, anyone can do it. Pour passion into your content and the followers will come. But all good things take time, so remember that it all starts with the right attitude so press on!

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I cover food, drink and travel to and from all over the world.

Boston, MA
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