August 13, 2019

How to Be An Influencer: What it Really Takes

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How to Be An Influencer: What it Really Takes


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Spoiler alert: it’s hella hard and time consuming.

LifeByMJ Rent the Runway Dress Cornrows Braids

Welcome to my latest blog series, The Influencer Diaries, where I’ll be sharing some deets on what it took for me to become a social media influencer, the reality of staying one, the books and podcasts that help, as well as some insight on how to know if you are ready to be an influencer. This whole social media world is something I genuinely love talking about and doing so I plan to share a LOT, especially with this leading up to the launch of my e-course, For Da Gram on September 4, 2019 (more about that later, promise!). If you ever wanted some transparency about this whole Instagram and blogging world, well my friend, grab some tea (or wine), get a snack, and enjoy.

Most of my friends and family think that being an influencer in addition to my main job is just easy. And honestly I had this misconception before I actually became one. I thought, oh for Instagram I’ll just take some pictures, throw on some hashtags and people should like my photo. WRONG.

Me working on my poses. Gotta get variety!

The Anatomy of an Instagram Post

Curating a single Instagram post takes SO MUCH TIME when you are operating your social media presence as a business as opposed to leisurely just showing up. For example, just posting one photo requires the following at a minimum:

  1. Brainstorming photo ideas including location, wardrobe, lighting, aura and how it will potentially appear on your feed. You just don’t simply slap any photo on, it needs to be curated. And curation takes time.
  2. Take said photo by doing various poses and angles so you have options. Because there’s nothing worst than only having one photo as an option to post unless it truly is THE photo.
  3. Edit photo with mobile or desktop apps including Adobe Lightroom (did you snag my presets yet?), VSCO, Snapseed, etc. Fix the lighting, contrast, color grade etc. to match your feed otherwise it will just look…off. You may even need to whip out FaceTune, the crazy good yet scary app that can rid of any imperfection but also make you look artificial if over used (don’t use that “smooth” option so much my friend).
  4. Now it’s caption time! What do you say? Describe the photo? Witty caption? Tie it into something else? Tell a joke? Ask a question? So many options!
  5. Before you hit that “Share” to post your photo but don’t forget to:
    1. Tag products and people in photo
    2. Add Location of photo
    3. Share on Facebook and Twitter – gotta cross promote!
  6. Hashtags: add them within your caption or in the comments but add them either way! It’ll help get you exposed to others outside of your followers.
  7. So now you’ve shared…Time to share some more on your Instagram Stories: share your post on stories to get people’s attention to go to your post.
  8. Engage: Always, always, ALWAYS respond to comments on your post. The more comments, the more IG will put your post into your followers’ feed.

And guys, this isn’t even all the steps I do each time I post a photo. This doesn’t take into consideration the work I do when curating a sponsored post, perhaps getting a photographer or begging my husband Zell to take and usually retake 100s of photos. Plus, I typically post 4-6 times a week at minimum so doing this over and over again, you can see it just takes SO MUCH TIME.

LifeByMJ Rent the Runway Dress Cornrows Braids
Some photos turn out blurry unfortunately.

Instagram Influencer Tips & Tricks

With that said, being a social media influencer is not for those without patience. Sure, you can simply just throw a photo and see what happens. But if you want to be intentional, show you are serious, and expand yourself beyond just posting a photo, you can’t treat it as a leisure activity. You’ve got to be willing to put in the work to show up not only for your followers who look forward to your content but also for yourself as a business.


When attempting to do this with a 9 to 5, family, and other obligations, it can get even harder which is why I have work smarter not harder (check out my blog post all about that!). What really helps me do this is to batch and plan my content. Batching really isn’t a revolutionary thing, it’s basically planning content ahead of time and then distributing it out in a timely fashion. There are apps and services you can purchase to help you schedule your posts like Later and Tailwind but I do it the easy – and FREE – way of just saving post drafts in my Instagram. I literally put the photo, filters, location, tags, etc all in and then instead of sharing right away, I save it for later.

Candids can also be fun and unique photos.

ALWAYS Ask for Photos

Additionally, to combat ensuring you have photos, i.e. content, you should just get used to asking every and anyone to take photos for you. It will feel weird at first and many will even question you, why do you need to take so many photos? As you start asking more, you will know how to get your best shot from anyone. A lot of times I will simply take the photo myself, using them or someone else to pose, show them the photo and ask them to take the same thing. And typically I get the photo I want by doing this.

And if it still feels weird asking for photos, especially when people reply, “why” know this: once you start getting your brand checks rolling in they’ll switch from asking “why are you doing this” to “how are you doing this”.

Getting different perspectives and angles gives variety.

The Truth About Working with Brands

Working with brands isn’t as easy as it looks. Over the course of the past two years I’ve found two things: brands who get influencer marketing and those who have no idea what they are doing. The latter typically think an influencer is a full suite marketing powerhouse with a significantly less price tag – which there is some truth to – BUT in reality we are just one human being with an influence. Due to that, brands need to understand a sponsored post should remain authentic to my brand, not to theirs. If it were the other way around, they should produce the marketing themselves. Certainly they can have some oversight but producing my entire caption is a big no-no for me and I highly discourage it.

In all, this is just a small fraction of what us influencers need to handle while operating our businesses. It may seem so simple and “fun” but best believe it’s not all pretty pictures and free stuff. In actuality, it’s a whole lot of work.

LifeByMJ Rent the Runway Dress Cornrows Braids
A solid straight on pose. Kudos to my IG Hubby.

For Da Gram

Are you an influencer that just can seem to get any traction in terms of gaining followers or working with brands? Or perhaps you wanted to enter this social media game and have no idea where to start? Well my course, For Da Gram, is definitely for you! Launching September 4, you can sign up for upcoming details all about the course down below. I can’t wait!!!

Comments +

  1. Thatsabryant says:

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️, love this! Way to keep it real MJ!

  2. Tyler Chanel says:

    This blog post was super informative. Thanks for sharing MJ!


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