Episode #217: Our Social Media Influencer Experiences

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By Sohaib

This week, we are sharing our experiences as social media influencers from the past 10 years. We’re sharing how we grew our Instagram, how we earned money influencing, our tips for anyone who wants to get into social media influencing and lastly—why we are taking a bit of a pause from it in 2024.

You can find the podcast posts archive here.

A big thank you to our sponsors! Check out the offers from LMNT, BetterHelp, Wildgrain, and Athletic Greens.

And if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!

Show Notes:

Nova’s Girl Scout Cookies

How we grew our IG to over 600K:

  • We posted daily for more than 10 years
  • To be successful you MUST post whatever the algorithm is prioritizing
  • Viral content is key to growth

Why we are taking a pause from social media influencing:

  • Brands only want video now
  • Not enough time to do full-time blogging and full-time influencing
  • Can’t earn money on posts—only sponsorships and affiliate links

Sponsorship Pros:

  • Can be lucrative
  • Fun to work with brands you love
  • Variety of work
  • Forming relationships with great people

Sponsorship Cons:

  • They can dry up due to economy or changing trends
  • You have to always be evolving to keep attracting sponsors
  • They are mainly asking for one thing: videos.
  • They can cancel your post after you have already done ALL the work
  • They can make you reshoot content for minuscule details
  • Quick turnarounds

Affiliate Link Pros:

  • You can promote anything you want or use
  • You don’t have to have a lot of followers to earn money
  • You have complete creative control over how you share links
  • You can be on your own schedule

Affiliate Link Cons:

  • It takes a LOT of quantity and repetition to grow an affiliate link business
  • Earnings are usually not consistent
  • The longevity of affiliate links isn’t good

Our advice for people who want to earn money influencing in 2024:

  • Go hard with video (or whatever the next new feature/trend becomes)
  • Choose wisely if you want to do high production or low production style
  • Choose sustainable content you enjoy making and can do over and over
  • Don’t take yourself TOO seriously

Tips for creating healthy boundaries:

  • Therapy is great
  • Have a plan for when you come across toxic people
  • Have a support system
  • Have conversations about your boundaries

Biggest advice—big sister to little sister:

  • Create a backup income … build something that is TRULY yours
  • Social media earnings can vary greatly from year to year. Always be planning your next move!

Voicemail question from Kate in South Florida: If we are to go with a sofa, is a velvet green sofa a solid choice?

  • Velvet is washable and more forgiving but does get imperfections texture wise
  • Put a dark couch in a dark room and a light couch in a light room

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Episode 217 Transcript:

Emma: You’re listening to the Beautiful Mess Podcast, your cozy comfort listen, and this week we are sharing our experiences as social media influencers from the past 10 years. We’re sharing how we grew our Instagram, how we earned money influencing, our tips for anyone who wants to get into social media influencing, and lastly, why we are taking a little bit of a pause from it in 2024. Should be interesting, so let’s talk about it.

Elsie: Yes, should be an interesting episode, but before we get into that, Girl Scout Cookies. So, the reason we’re all still here is the real reason behind this podcast. So little Nova has been selling Girl Scout cookies, so thank you to everyone who’s ordered. I’m gonna put the link in this week’s show notes again in case you missed it. Or in case you’ve already eaten all the boxes. Just kidding. Yeah, I have to put it out there. I’m supporting my kid. You understand, right? 

Emma: I think it’s fair. I’d mentioned to someone that Nova was gonna have a link on our show notes and stuff. They’re like, oh, it’s so unfair. Like they were kidding, of course, you know. But I was like, you know, though, she has kind of built a little platform here because she’s been providing some a plus jokes, facts, and meditations for quite some time to our listeners. So I think, yeah, buy those cookies, people. 

Elsie: I think her tip jar is well-earned.

Emma: Yes, I think so too. 

Elsie: Yeah. And I have to say, she’s so proud of being a part of the podcast. And she always asks people if they hear her part. If we ever meet someone who says they listen, so it’s magical and I love it. Yeah, it’s awesome. Okay, so in this episode, we’re going to cover how we grew our Instagram to over 600k followers, why we’re taking a social media pause, and why we’re posting less than we used to this year. And the pros and cons of social media sponsorships and affiliate links. We’ll share all kinds of everything we know about that and our advice for people who want to earn money influencing in 2024. Like I’m going to share the advice of how I would say it. If my own kid wanted to be an influencer. In this current era, yeah, social media, as you probably know, isn’t our biggest passion, but it’s something that we fell into. It became a successful part of our career for more than 10 years. We were early adopters of Instagram. We posted there daily for more than 10 years. Let’s start with like what we learned, and how we grew our Instagram to over 600K followers. So we posted daily for more than 10 years. The most important key element is to post whatever the algorithm is prioritizing at that time. So in the very beginning, I don’t know if there like wasn’t an algorithm or if it was just like you couldn’t see it and feel it as much. In the beginning, it was a chronological feed, and so at that point, the main driver is quantity. So you want to post like every hour, as much as you can to always be at the top of, you know, people’s scroll. So posting a lot was the thing, and you know, that has changed. And now currently on Instagram, viral videos are, are the whole, like, universe of that app and you can grow. Last year I had a viral video that grew more than 100, 000 followers from one video and that does happen. It’s so worth it. If your main goal is trying to grow on Instagram, then posting lots of videos that have a chance to be viral, so, you know, like, go with a certain format. 

Emma: Yeah, I’d also say, like, if you don’t know what the algorithm’s favoring, you can often, like, kind of pick it up just from what it’s serving you. But also go on the Discover page, and there are certain boxes on the Discover page that are bigger than others. Those are getting more emphasis they’re almost always videos. So, you know that the algorithm is favoring videos, you know. Also, follow people who seem to be growing and see what they’re doing obviously don’t copy their exact content but if you notice that they’re doing a lot of stories and just want you to know whatever you can kind of look at strategies in that way.

Elsie: Yeah I mean, obviously you never want to copy someone’s exact content, but you can easily copy the formula that people use for making good videos, and I think you should, if your goal is to grow, then I think you should get your Information from people who are doing just that. Yeah, I think I took a little course, actually, about how to make a viral video. And I had a viral video, like, in a couple of weeks. And it was basically like, give the beginning a hook, where you see what you’re about to see more of, and make all of your cuts way shorter and it worked, you know, so I think that making video content is an amazing opportunity if you love it and you’re good at it, and it’s something you’re interested in, then it’s your moment for sure. And yeah, of course, the same with TikTok. I also got all this, all the followers I have on TikTok from one or two videos. It was a very interesting experiment for me. I’m glad that I experienced it. It’s not something that I, at this point in planning to put a lot more energy and focus into, but it’s fun and I get it. If you’re a person who’s just like attracted to the idea of making videos, then finding ways to make, you know, a lot of videos at once, make your workflow faster, find content that, you know, is like easy and simple and sustainable for you to make. I think those are all things to think about for sure.

Emma: Yeah. And I mean, I also think like, we’re gonna talk about monetizing mostly from sponsorships and affiliate links as those are the two main ways, but I also think like social media is a really cool place to market whatever it is you do as a creative person, as a small business owner, it really is a cool opportunity that didn’t exist before social media was really a thing. So I put that on the list of pros. So if you are a writer who wants to promote their books, like me. Great place to be doing it. If you have, you know, a ceramics business and you want to be selling more ceramics in your Etsy shop, this is a place where you can kind of work on that. I don’t know if you need to be as worried about growing, growing, growing if you’re not going to be getting sponsorships or utilizing affiliate links. But I do think it’s a cool place to be marketing and it’s worth some effort.

Elsie: I completely agree. If you’re like an author or an artist, for example, don’t worry about how many followers you have. Just worry about like, making videos that have reach, where you’re reaching new people. I’ve bought so many books from scrolling TikTok. BookTok is one of my favorite things about TikTok that like, keeps me on there. It’s just better than Instagram. And it’s, like, really entertaining, the videos that people make as authors and as readers. 

Emma: Some of my favorite Etsy shops I found on Instagram. I saw them making this stained glass thing, and then I bought one, and, you know. So it’s a really cool place for that. But I wouldn’t worry so much about big numbers unless you’re gonna be going after sponsorships. Just take that pressure off your plate if you’re just using it to market. whatever work it is that you do. 

Elsie: I completely agree. Kind of the only reason I can think of why it matters to have a lot of followers is to gain sponsorships. And if you’re not doing that, then just like, try not to care because it’s not going to matter. So this is actually like an outline point, mini-rant, Elsie wants to defend influencers. So this is like one of my things, it’s one of my hills to die on. And one of the reasons why I’m like cautious, I haven’t even wanted to say. Like we’re not doing social media as much anymore or where it’s not a big deal to us because I feel like if I say that I’m going to get so many messages affirming that social media is not good and like I’m glad you’re not going to be an influencer anymore because I don’t like them. Yeah. Like just this kind of hateful vibe and also the way that influencers are portrayed in books. And movies, but mostly books are alarming. 

Emma: Not my book.

Elsie: Not in Emma’s book. I will say Emma’s book, I feel like you portrayed them as normal and almost boring, which I find to be very true. 

Emma: Thank you.

Elsie: And yeah, like, you know, they’re just like, they’re chill. They’re just people they’re doing a job. And the way that a lot of authors portray influencers is like I noticed that they have to give them some other thing as proof that they’re a good person, which kind of pisses me off. That sucks. It sucks that influencers are like, you know, it’s like you immediately think of someone who’s like a vain selfie person or something like that. Like it’s in somehow less of a noble profession than, you know, other more real professions. And it’s something that women, and definitely influencers and bloggers have to deal with at all times is, you know, these kind of like really ignorant stereotypes. 

Emma: Yeah, it’s ignorant. I also would just say it’s kind of lazy. It’s just like a silly joke. We’d like to not think about it. So like, oh, those people just take selfies wherever they go. They’re just vain, just lazy. Just like, you know, I think the number one joke for food bloggers is like, they write two paragraphs at the beginning about their trip to Italy or something, you know, and it’s like, it’s fine. It’s a funny joke, but it’s actually quite lazy. It’s like, oh, you don’t understand what this industry is. Like any time I’m like, oh, you don’t understand what we’re really doing. That’s fine. It doesn’t really matter. But influencers are actually like Elsie just said, I think, really rad, but also pretty normal and boring. There are people who are just, frankly, entertaining you for hours every single week.

Elsie: I want to defend them. Obviously, some of my closest friends are influencers. We’ve been influencers ourselves for more than 10 years. Not always, like, proudly carrying the flag of the word influencer. It’s kind of, you know, I get it, it’s kind of awkward, but like I don’t know. I just, want people to know if you haven’t met someone or known someone personally in real life, that it is a very competitive, hardworking field of work. There’s so much that you have to do for free. 

Emma: You will be verbally abused more than any server I’ve ever met. 

Elsie: Yeah. The verbal abuse rating is very high, and the amount that people expect from you for free or just like feel entitled to know about your life and your children and just like everything.

Emma: The boundaries are odd.

Elsie: The boundaries are rough. 

Emma: Yeah, well, I think too, like, influencers are individuals. Some of them are wonderful, good people. You won’t meet a nicer person, and there are probably some total asses on there too. I don’t know. I mean, they’re all individuals. 

Elsie: I’ve never had that experience. 

Emma: I haven’t really either, to be honest. 

Elsie: I’ve met hundreds of influencers in my life, probably thousands. People are nice. Yeah. 

Emma: I’ll tell you what I can’t defend as easily though, the social media platforms themselves. I’m not the biggest fan and I do have a few bones to pick with that, but that’s probably a different episode. But that I think is a little more like, maybe there should be a little more rules and regulations around. I think they’re coming because I feel like there’s even a lawsuit right now with MEDA that’s kind of about their younger users and some things they’ve done to not protect them specifically around like young girls and body image and things of that nature. I also think some of the algorithms are geared, especially towards younger women, but generally are maybe just like, maybe they don’t need to be that addictive. Maybe they don’t need to suck us in that way and make us feel so anxious all the time. You know, maybe there’s something a little bit broken there. I think most parents think about this a lot as their kids get to an age where they’re like, should I let them have social media? You’re thinking about its role in your life and whether has it been positive. And it’s, you know, a tricky thing. Cause like I said earlier, I think it’s a great opportunity for small business owners, and creatives to have a way to market themselves that they didn’t have before. I also think there are some drawbacks to it that I kind of wish the companies, the big companies making all of the money would put a little more thought into for the public. I think that there could be a little more there and I’d like to see that in the future personally.

Elsie: Yeah. I think that’s what law laws are for regulation, I think is definitely coming in that space. And I think the majority of people see a big need for that. 

Emma: Yeah. And then I also think it’s kind of a little messed up that they don’t really allow their content creators to make money unless they do it on the side through sponsorships and affiliate links. And, you know, I’ll just point out, so, you know, we have a newsletter for Beautiful Mess. If Elsie and I write a newsletter and send it out to our list, it will go to the entire list. And some people might not read it or they might decide to unsubscribe. That’s up to them. But it goes to the entire list. Or, you know, the email company that we use, we use Flowdesk. There are other ones, MailChimp, MyEmma, whatever. They don’t decide just to send it to a small fraction of the list that we’ve created. It goes to the whole thing. On our Instagram account, they decide who gets to see the content that we put out. We don’t get to decide that at all. And if we don’t play by their rules and do the things that they want us to do, the addictive things that their algorithm likes, people won’t see our content. And I think that’s a little messed up for content creators, so I’m not a big fan of it. I think there could be a more happy medium somewhere 

Elsie: Yeah, you have to go with the rules that they make and I think you have to be able to accept that. We all know there’s nothing more annoying than hearing an influencer complain about Algorithms, you know, and it’s like, yeah, we all frequently do that because we just do. But yeah, it’s like a lazy river, it’s like you have to swim in the right direction at all times or you’re fucked. Okay. I mean, you could outs swim it, but you would get tired. Okay. So now let’s talk about, like, why we’re taking a little more of a pause from social media influencing. So we’re definitely not quitting Instagram. Let me just make that clear. It’s not gonna be thriving because we’re not gonna post, like, videos as much right now, and I think that the only way to be thriving right now is posting a lot of videos, but yeah, I think that we can show up a little bit more if you want to be like in our inner circle, though, the place to do that is our podcast. The next place after that is our blog, and the next place after that is our newsletter, and the farthest possibility is social media because it’s just not what we’re into. So let’s talk about why. First of all, our journey with sponsorships. So for a lot of years, we did Blog posts and social media sponsorships. 

Emma: At first it was kind of an add-on. 

Elsie: Yeah, at first it was like a blog post and then you mention it in your Instagram. So it was like you just take one of the pictures and you write a caption and that was all that it really was. And then it became, sometimes people would ask for just the Instagrams. Then more recently, most people started asking only for Instagram. That was kind of a sad time for us because we love blogging and we’re really good at it. For a lot of products, writing a long blog post would benefit them much more than one Instagram for one day would.

Emma: As far as our skillset, and like what we’re good at. 

Elsie: And, you know, some people still did it, but it just became like the trend, you know, whatever agencies are asking for is what brands are getting. And they just started asking only for social media videos. And then in the more recent years, it became just videos. They only wanted reels, and at that point, that was definitely where we were hitting our burnout wall, because it’s a lot of pressure to make sponsored reels that do well with, you know, the considerations of like the algorithm, the length, the showing the products, making it like a natural. Also, the video was never our main talent or our top talent.

Emma: I’m more of a photographer or videographer.

Elsie: Yeah, like we enjoy it, but we’re not like excellent at it like the way some people are. So I think that that is definitely one of the reasons why we started to get fewer sponsors, we just know that in 2022, we got, like, probably half of the offers that we got in 2021. And then in 2023, it got even worse. Then by the end of 2023, we got some pretty good offers during the holidays. And we just said no to them because we weren’t in the headspace anymore. And we were like, actually, we’re good with like kind of phasing this out. And now it’s not that we wouldn’t take a sponsor, but we probably wouldn’t take a sponsor. 

Emma: Well, and you know, q4 is a lot of when some bigger ones come because they’re using the end of the year budget and there’s holiday time so there’s more marketing budget anyway. And for us, we just do have less time school starts to close, you know, there’s holiday stuff to do with kids and that’s a priority for us as we’ve mentioned before. So it just makes it that if you need to be a workaholic in December, it just doesn’t fit your life anymore. 

Elsie: Yeah, like, I loved this December. We stopped working, I don’t know, around, like, the 15th to the 20th, somewhere in that zone, and we didn’t work again until the new year, and, I mean, I did, I worked, like, probably for, like, 20 minutes a day. That’s nothing compared to working full-time. And it was great, I mean, We scheduled posts ahead, so we still had stuff going up, but, yeah, having that kind of flexibility is something that a full-time social media creator isn’t going to have in December. So, that was immense, like, that’s a huge upgrade to our lifestyle at this point. So, yeah, we’ll talk more about the pros and cons. Okay. So, video content, yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I like doing it. I guess what I want to explain to people Is that if you think about like all your favorite social media influencers, like think about like three, okay? Just like give yourself a minute to think of three people who you love following on social media, and it’s very likely that none of them will have websites that they update every day. Social media influencing is its own career and blogging is its own separate career and there are very very few people who do both full-time. We were doing that for a long time more than 10 years but the reason we were able to do that is because we had a team and we had a lot of support. So it’s not something that I think we ever would or could or would want to try to do alone. So, yeah, when we had a chance to do just blogging, we kind of jumped for that because it’s more sustainable. We talked about that in the last episode. And it’s just more what we enjoy. Social media is more of a hamster wheel, I can’t say the word hamster wheel enough when I talk about social media.

Emma: We always call it that behind the scenes, we’re always like, we gotta get off this hamster wheel. 

Elsie: It really is. It’s like you have to run so fast to keep your wheel spinning, you know, just to keep the money coming in and, you know, keep the content going out. And, you know, you’re going to be doing all of that with a ton of verbal abuse coming into your DMs, people questioning, like, you know, your ethics and, like, your moral fiber as a human and things like that.

Emma: And why you’re not writing about current events when you’re not a journalist and maybe haven’t even heard about it yet because you’re just doing your job and taking your kids to school. You’re like, I don’t know. So, there’s all those things too. So when we say hamster wheel, maybe we should explain that a little more and like passive income because I think to us, it’s obvious, and probably most listeners it is. So when I think about passive income, what I mean is I make some piece of work and then I make income off of it for a long period of time, maybe not forever. So the time that I, you know, spend is not connected to my work. So when I work for someone, if I am an employee somewhere, my time and my payment are kind of connected, right? So I have to show up to work to get paid. Hopefully, you have a good employer who gives you sick days and things of that nature. But generally, if you don’t show up if you don’t put your time in, you don’t get paid. That’s how it works. So passive income is the opposite of that. You create something and then you try to make money off of it for a long time. So people do this in all sorts of different ways. The main way the investment world that people talk about is like owning properties and being a landlord. I think you can also do it with digital products or other types of products that you can sell over and over again. For us, blogging is becoming more and more of a passive income because we try to write blog posts that are going to be at the top of the search for a long time and are going to be useful to people for a long time. So we will be able to make money from our CPM-based ads on those pages for years into the future, potentially. And it’s not totally passive. We have to keep our site updated. We have to make sure that our site has good hosting doesn’t go down or is still very usable. You know, if we didn’t touch it for five years, like literally at all, that probably wouldn’t be good. I doubt the health of our site would be good, but if we’re able to do a lot of the work, you know, upfront and then just kind of maintain it, then it becomes passive income. Social media doesn’t really give you the same opportunities for that right now. Maybe this will change in the future, I don’t know. But at the moment, sponsorships and affiliate links are your main ways to make money, and that kind of more or less expire slash is tied to your time. So if I make a really cool sponsored post, let’s say it’s a reel, I get paid whatever I was contracted you know, we’ve agreed to a price, they pay me. My reel goes up. That’s that. Now, if I want to make more money, I need to go find a new sponsor or make another piece of content for that sponsor or whatever else. I’m not going to make more money in the future off of that reel. It’s a done deal. Even if it goes viral, it’s not necessarily going to make me more money just instantly because it doesn’t have ads on the page. There’s no way that social media lets you do that. That’s just not an option right now. Affiliate links are kind of the same way. If I put those in a post on my grid, or if I put them in my stories, stories especially, it will expire. Even grid posts, even if they go viral, over time, they’re just not something people click on or click through. So those affiliate links aren’t going to keep earning me money necessarily. 

Elsie: No, I’ve had lots of times when I stopped posting affiliate links and it goes down so tiny to like basically nothing when you’re not posting them regularly every day. Okay. So I put down some pros and cons. So we’ll do sponsorships and then we’ll do affiliate links because yeah, I think just like explaining what it’s like to do the job would help inform people who are, like, thinking about it, or, you know, you know someone who’s trying to get into it. And a lot of times you don’t know the pros and cons until you’re, like, doing it, which is unfortunate. Okay, so sponsorship pros. It can be very lucrative. There have been times when our sponsorships made more than any other part of our business, and they can be a big one. It can be really fun to work with brands you love. Some of the proudest times in my early blogging career were getting sponsorships for brands that were cool to work with.

Emma: Yeah. That you idolize. That’s like fun. 

Elsie: Yeah. You get to do a huge variety of work. So we’ve done social media posts, of course, and blog posts, but we’ve also done paid events. We’ve done this thing called SMTs, which is like a satellite media tour, where you like, you be on the news. We did one, like holding Kahlua bottles and stuff, and we did like seven or 10 news interviews in a row across the country. Sometimes people would just pay us to do like a Pinterest pin. There’s just a huge variety of ways people can sponsor you. Or are there any more pros you want to add? 

Emma: I think it can be fun to like work with, like we’ve had some relationships that developed over the years that were really positive, like just really nice people either at the company or at the agency that worked with the company. So that can be a pro too. You can find just really nice people that you end up working with. 

Elsie: Sponsorship cons. So they can dry up instantly due to economic changes. It happened during the pandemic. There are even seasonal budget changes where this time of year people won’t get as many sponsorships, and if you have major expenses, you can be in a bad position if that’s your main income. You always have to keep evolving to keep attracting sponsors, so it’s fun to evolve when it’s your choice and when you want to, but when you find something that you’re good at, that you enjoy doing, and then it just no longer works, that’s frustrating. And when you feel the pressure to do things that you wouldn’t ever choose just to keep attracting sponsors, that is challenging. And then, for us, a lot of it was videos in recent years, the main thing sponsors ask for is videos. And we just found them not as fun, easy, or enjoyable to work on as blog posts and photo content in the past. And then, this is something that I think a lot of people don’t know, that I want people to know, especially if you’re just getting into it. But brands can cancel your post after you’ve already done all the work. And that does happen kind of frequently. 

Emma: And you can have a contract, but you know, at the end of the day, if someone breaches a contract, your options are to sue them, which costs money, or I don’t know, post about it online. But I think that’s risky for a whole bunch of different reasons.

Elsie: Yeah. And a lot of times your post will fall through, this is very common when you’ve already put in half of the work. So just to even secure a post and start a contract, you usually have to present a full concept. And sometimes, you know, you put a lot of work into that. And then, you know, they cancel the post after that, or they say maybe, and then it turns into a no. So I think it’s important to know that there’s a lot of extra work, like, for every sponsored post that goes up. There are many more that fell through, where you kinda halfway started it and then didn’t get to complete it. Also, brands can ask you to reshoot your content for minuscule details, like minuscule details.

Emma: Yeah, things that matter to them, like, you know, showing the brand label more or something of that nature. 

Elsie: Yeah. Like, I’ve heard of people having to reshoot off of, like, having the wrong color of nails, or they didn’t like the outfit they were wearing, or things like that, and it’s kind of just like an opinion against an opinion, and ultimately, since they’re the one holding the carrot, you have to do, you know.

Emma: Carrot it is the paycheck.

Elsie: Yeah. So that’s definitely a con reshooting is very common. And for me, it was like always very frustrating when I felt like I had already completed something and checked it off my list and then came to find out there’s like one way you said a word that they didn’t like or something like that. And you have to do the whole thing again. It will melt your brain. 

Emma: One other con I’ll say is that, and this isn’t always, but often they’re kind of quick turnarounds because they will have, you know, some kind of campaign they’re running, or maybe they’re having a sale on their site or something of that nature. It’s timely. You know, they’re doing their spring content and they might be mailing you a product that’s going to be featured in your sponsored content. And so it takes time. It comes in the mail. And then you have to shoot it and then you have to get approvals and that takes time. You can’t just, you know, maybe they’ll approve it in an hour, but probably not, there are humans too who have work hours. So then there’s that. And then if there are any changes, so on and so forth. So it just makes it where you kind of have to be a little bit on call as you’re doing a sponsored piece. And that was a lot easier before I had kids because now my schedule is a lot more dependent on, you know, if someone has a sick day or if daycare is closed or something like that, then I just can’t really work or I have to tell my partner he can’t work so that I can get my thing done, which is, you know, something you do. But it’s just, you know, a thing that’s a little bit, it’s less flexible. Life is a little less flexible as you do sponsored content that has quick turns. And they tend to, and it makes sense why they do, they’re not being mean, it’s just how it works, you know. 

Elsie: Like imagine that you are about to go on vacation, so you complete all of your work, turn it in, and then while you’re at the airport, you get an email that asks you to do something else that you can’t do anymore, like that’s the type of frustrating thing that happens pretty often in that type of work. And then it’s like, you can try to negotiate. You can try to stand up for yourself and it sometimes works and it sometimes doesn’t. 

Emma: Or you could try to move the date. But if they’re having a sale or they’re, you know, if it’s something timely for them, it may not work. So yeah, it’s just tricky. 

Elsie: Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about affiliate links. The biggest platform is called LTK in the past it was called reward style, but now it’s, I think it’s officially only called LTK. Also, the Amazon affiliate program is a very big program as well. So those are the main two programs that we have done and been involved with. So that’s just the main ones that we’ll talk about cause there’s probably a hundred more. We just don’t have experience with them. So affiliate link pros. Well, okay first I should say, that there are people who make a top-level full-time income from affiliate links. It can be very lucrative, but I think it’s kind of like sponsorships. You have to do a huge amount of buildup before you get to that point where you can earn that like a doctor’s salary. So you do have to put in usually a year or years of work. Either way, to be able to build up to this point.

Emma: It’s a skill too, because essentially what you’re doing is selling, right? You’re recommending products that you like and you’re selling it to your audience. So one, you’ve built an audience, two, you’ve built trust with them, and three, you’re good at selling. And not everyone’s naturally good at selling. And you’re also selling on platforms where you’re making like videos of the things or you know. There are just a lot of skills involved that I think people don’t know. 

Elsie: The more comfortable you are with selling, the more successful you’ll probably be with affiliate links. 

Emma: Which is why I’m doing so good selling Nova’s Girl Scout cookies because I really believe in it. 

Elsie: Yes! Okay, affiliate link pros and this is sort of like comparing it to sponsorships a little bit. The first pro is I love that you can promote anything you want to, anything you choose. So the cool thing about it is, like, when you work in sponsorships, you can spend a lot of time trying to wait for a dream sponsor, trying to attract a dream sponsor, you’re posting about them, like, hoping they’ll notice you, things like that. But with affiliate links, even with a small following, you can go ahead and just start selling whatever thing is, you love this certain type of pan or this certain type of curling iron or whatever. You can just start selling it and making money, you know, no matter how many followers you have. Yeah. That’s a big opportunity there and with viral videos, it works great because it doesn’t matter how many followers you have anymore. It just matters if you can get your videos viral. 

Emma: And I think to show the product in like a light where people are going to find it desirable. So showing how great the curling iron is, or I watch a lot of content about organizing and I’m like, Oh, this thing that goes under the sink that holds all the, you know, I’m like, I see you’re showing me exactly why I want this. And you know, Yep. So it’s like you’re doing a great job selling it to me. So you’d be good at that. 

Elsie: Totally. Yeah. So you can earn money with fewer followers. Another thing that’s cool about affiliate links is you have complete creative control over how you share your links. If you work with the brand, they’ll probably send you a brief. They’ll ask you to, like, do, like, a spring theme or do a Christmas theme or whatever their whole thing is at that moment. They’ll ask you to follow certain specifications, and if you do affiliate links, you can do it however you want, which is easier because a lot of times however you want is just what you’re already doing at your home. So it just like takes out a lot of steps of having to like fit certain, like when you watch sponsored posts you probably don’t know, but people are checking a lot of boxes even of what words to use. What colors they’re allowed to wear? 

Emma: The length of the video. 

Elsie: Yes. What type of music, and when you do affiliate links, you can choose all of that stuff or just like kind of not care and do whatever you already have going on, which I like. And then another thing I like about it is that it can be on your own schedule. So if it’s January when you have the most time, that’s not a time of year when a lot of sponsors are reaching out. You could have, you know, January be your biggest month of the year that you make affiliate content. And it wouldn’t matter, you know, and you can also make content ahead for other parts of the year without having to worry about if it’s going to be accepted or not because you’re the only one approving it. So, it’s just a little more, like, flexible and efficient. And I will say that LTK Is a huge opportunity. There are lots of people who make more than a million dollars a year on LTK, but I don’t think it’s like easy by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s really, really hard. 

Emma: We don’t make a million dollars a year.

Elsie: No, it’s not. It’s not us. It’s not us. Yeah. It’s possible though. Okay. So affiliate link cons. So here’s what we think is bad about affiliate links. Yeah. It takes a lot of quality and repetition to grow your business at all. So the commissions, you’ll get commissions for everything you sell, but they are tiny and it takes a long time for them to build up. So when you first start, you might have a week where you earn like 27 dollars and that would be like a big week for you of working a lot. And that sucks. Like, that’s a con for sure. And you know, you’re doing it in the hopes that by You know, you’re following a model that could be more lucrative in the future, but there’s not a guarantee of that. And you have to put in a lot of work for free. Another thing that’s con is that the earnings are not consistent. So you don’t have control. There are a lot of brands on LTK where the commissions go up and down. So you might be doing so well, like sharing the clothes you bought from Madewell, but then they might turn their commission down to a lower level when they have a big sale, which also happens to be when you sell the most stuff because it’s easier to sell during a big sale, and that’s something to keep in mind is that you know, it’s highly inconsistent, and it’s really like a quantity strategy. You just have to be putting out huge quantities of affiliate links to earn larger quantities of money. The other thing is you have to be comfortable selling online and have a knack for it. There are people on TikTok who you can tell this, like their whole thing all day, every day, they’re like selling vacuums and little cleaners and little, you know, those little scrub brushes that have a long neck for some reason, like things like that, you know, and they just make tons and tons of videos, post the same videos over and over. And it’s working for them. So I think that it’s something that would have to be something that you had time set aside for and space in your life to be like always analyzing and kind of keeping up with those strategies. 

Emma: Yeah. I think kind of like our blog, how we have our own little strategy with it, and people from the outside looking in, we talked about this in the last episode, might not get it. I think it’s similar sometimes with an affiliate you might look at someone if you follow them very consistently You might be like this is so repetitious but if you’re like a casual follower, it probably doesn’t feel that way and you’re probably more likely to buy to be honest because I buy stuff from people’s affiliate links all the time, and it’s usually very random It’s just like, I’m like, Oh yeah, I do need that, click. 

Elsie: I mean, I always buy things from links. If I’m like gonna check out, I think it’s like a nice thing to do ’cause they’re working really, really hard for the money. It’s not an easy job. I don’t know if I could say which one I think is harder. They’re both hard. We definitely made more money from sponsorships through the years. If you just want like our transparent disclosure. So this is the advice I would tell my own kids. If they want to become an influencer in 2024 when they’re too young and they’re not even on social media, don’t worry, they’re not saying they want to do anything like that. 

Emma: No, no one’s working on her, her Girl Scout cookie goal.

Elsie: They want to be like an artist and a princess. But just in theory, if someone who was close to me asked me like, do you honestly think I should do it? And I thought they had a knack for it. You know, I would be encouraging in some ways. Like, I think that Influencing has evolved a lot first through the years. There are things that we never even thought would be an opportunity that turned into a huge opportunity later on. And a lot of times our work snowballed into other projects and there was, you know, and it was exciting and it was fun. It was creative and I have no regrets about what we did with our career in our twenties and thirties, but I would give them the warning that this is work that does not have good longevity. It’s not passive income. There’s nothing about influencing that I would call passive income. It’s like exhausting work that you have to keep working hard forever to keep earning money. 

Emma: You do get to be your own boss in a lot of ways. Yeah. So like, that’s cool. But no, it’s not passive. 

Elsie: In theory, if you were successful, you could hire an assistant or a team to make it more passive for you, but it’s always going to be something that someone has to keep some wheels turning to keep earning money. So yeah, that’s the thing that I think is just the biggest downside of social media influencer work, and then obviously, like, just the lack of respect and human decency that you receive is pretty rough.

Emma: That’s the main thing I would say, is like, I think certain personality types can be online more than others, and I don’t mean that as any kind of diss to any particular personality type. I just think the internet can be a little bit of a harsh place. And so for some people, I don’t think it’s a healthy place for them to be all the time and you kind of have to be online a lot if you want to make money online, you need to understand what’s going on on social media, what the algorithm wants and like keeping up with, if you’re doing affiliate links, all the sales and different things that the companies that you love are doing sponsorships, you need to understand like what content is going to do well with your audience and how it’s going to fit with your sponsors and so on and so forth. So you’re just gonna have to be online a lot. And if you don’t want to be on social media all the time, then this is not going to be a good job for you. It’s going to make you feel sad and anxious. But I think some people are totally fine with it. They’re able to have, like, these really cool boundaries with it and just, you know, like, This is my job, I do it and I get off. And people say what they want to say and I don’t really care. And it’s like, that’s cool if you got that going, then you’re good, you’re golden. 

Elsie: I think that you just need to proceed with the caution and the warning that someone told you this is not an easy job. Like, I just don’t like that it’s portrayed as an easy job, because it’s just kind of not. Maybe if you were like a celebrity, or so like, okay, imagine if you’re like a B list celebrity who already has a couple million followers or like 10 million followers. For them, I think, an influencer side job is kind of a no-brainer because they already have an agent. They don’t have to build a following. I think that for them, it could be maybe somewhat of an easy lucrative job. And I see why a lot of them do it, I totally get it. I think that that’s also part of why we don’t have as many sponsors as we used to because a lot of B-list celebrities sort of like took over influencing, which is good for them. I genuinely am so happy for them. But for people who have to start from scratch, it’s a lot of work, like most people, it takes years to build a following, and the number that’s considered a strong following goes up every single year. So it can be like a carrot that you’re chasing forever. 

Emma: Yeah, it can be.

Elsie: So let’s go on to the positives. So this is the advice that I would give to people if you want to earn money influencing in 2024, either you’re already doing it and you want to do a little more or you want to start, here’s our advice. The first thing is to go really hard with video or whatever new feature becomes the next trend after that, but right now it’s definitely video. I think if you want to grow a bigger following, you kind of have to post videos regularly and whatever frequency that you’re able to and get into a point where you enjoy it or it’s fun for you where you know, it doesn’t feel like you’re just checking boxes. It feels like you’re building something that you enjoy.

Emma: Yeah, you gotta find your way with it. 

Elsie: The next thing I would do is choose very wisely if you want to do a high production style or a low production style. When I watch on Tiktok, the people who do the videos where they’re talking and putting on makeup, It looks kind of easier than a lot of the videos we’ve done where, you know, you’re like painting a whole room or something on camera. Like, choose very wisely which one you think you would be able to do regularly over and over again. You know what I mean? When you’re establishing your thing, I think it’s good to choose something that you could do with very high frequency. 

Emma: Yeah. And I’ll say that is kind of hard because I never would have guessed that in 2008, or 2009 when I started my first food blog, I still right now in 2024 would love food blogging. Like honestly, that’s just lucky. Yeah. So, you know, do your best with it, but it’s kind of hard to predict the future. Sometimes our interests change. We’re all just humans, and so you kind of have to let yourself do that. 

Elsie: I agree, and I will say I’ve known lots of people who completely changed course. My biggest advice, this is like big sister to little sister, the most important takeaway of this episode, so please listen. I beg of you. If you are someone who works in social media, create a backup income, and build something that is truly yours. Social media earnings can vary greatly from year to year. You know, we don’t know what’s gonna happen with the economy. With, you know, our own reputation or other things, like there’s lots of things that could happen in the future that might not be great for your influencer business. I will say our social media was the main leverage that we had to launch seven successful apps throughout the 30s, which was its own hard business with its own journey, but I’m so glad that we built other incomes on the side, you know, and we didn’t solely rely on sponsorships as our main income. 

Emma: Yeah. And just generally, if you’re in an era where things are going well for you financially, then like learn about personal finance. If that hasn’t been a part of your background, maybe you already learned all that. Maybe your parents taught you, maybe whatever. Awesome. You’re good. If not, get some books about it. Check out Ramit. He does, I will teach you to be rich. There are all sorts of other resources to basically invest your money and find ways to make your money work for you because there could come a day when your business dries up or changes in drastic ways or your priorities change as a human and you’re going to want to make sure that you invested your money wisely along the way.

Elsie: Yeah, we would have been so screwed when our sponsorships dried up, if that were our main and only income. So, before we wrap up our social media advice, we thought we would just share some tips for creating healthy boundaries because a lot of being successful at social media is having the longevity and mental health to sustain whatever may come your way. So, tell us some of your tips Em. 

Emma: Well, therapy’s great, so I highly recommend that. So just for the record, any work environment can be kind of toxic. It’s not that we think social media is the only one. I’ve had friends who had really terrible workplaces, terrible bosses, who were verbally abusive to them and things like that. I just think you kind of have to know social media. That will for sure happen. Just prepare yourself with a plan for how you’re going to handle it when it does. And it can happen in other places too. So that advice is for anyone really. So yeah, therapy is really good. I think too, like finding yourself resources, if you tend to be a little bit of a people pleaser, which I think almost everyone is to some extent, some more than others. Kind of have to find some books, resources, friends, and loved ones that you can talk to, and set yourself up a support system because the more successful you are on social media, the more you will have people who dislike you, who dislike the content you make or attack you personally, or, you know, think that you’re a bad person or, you know, you’ll run the gamut of things they’ll say to you the more successful you are. So you’ve got to have some boundaries in place for how you’re going to handle that, how you’re going to let it make you feel if you’re going to let yourself have breaks, things of that nature. And then, I think too, when you’re doing sponsorships, setting healthy boundaries out of the gate as you work with people, whether it’s an employee or whether it’s a sponsor. So things like contracts can be very helpful. But I also think just having conversations around how many times you will reshoot something, what happens if, you know, this or that scenario might come up never hurts to ask questions. It’s not awkward. It’s okay to say, what should I do if you don’t pay me after 90 days? What recourse will I have? See what they say. There are all sorts of different areas that I think we have to protect ourselves and have boundaries. 

Elsie: Yeah, we hope this episode was helpful. So we have a voicemail question, so let’s go ahead and play that. 

Voicemail: Hey Elsie, hey Emma, this is Kate from South Florida. We are moving back up to being your family, in the Tampa Bay area, and we have bought an ironically like a pseudo-historical home alone house. Complete with like the 3rd floor up to the attic finish situation. My question, however, is we have always gone with a more traditional, very, very washable sofa situation, and this house screams historical colors like greens and I mean, I think really browns and rich woods. We have solid oak throughout the house. So my question is this if we are to go with a sofa and we have never gone with color is a velvet green sofa. A solid choice and is it technically kind of neutral because I think it could be and then I guess really the livability. We have a large doodle and a 4-year-old. Yeah, you have a lot of experience with colored sofas and velvet. So please give me your heads up as to what you guys think.

Elsie: Hi, Kate. Thank you so much for this question. This is really fun. Your house sounds amazing, by the way. I’m excited to see it. Send us a picture. So if you haven’t already ordered, I’ll tell you what I think are the pros and cons of a velvet couch. So my personal favorite pet-friendly couch is leather. I love leather couches, but I know that maybe you’re vegan, or maybe you just like don’t like the look of leather. I think that velvet is great. I think that it’s washable. It’s pretty forgiving. It’s more forgiving than linen or something like that. But it does get imperfections, texture imperfections, and then sagginess, I would say is like the main thing that a velvet couch can get, which I think if you’re a pillow person can be okay. My opinion of how it looks best is like a dark couch in a dark room, a light couch in a light room so that it blends. I think when you put it on high contrast, then you’ll see those imperfections more. 

Emma: I would agree. I also would, I’m sure you already feel this way, Kate, but you know, with dogs, with kids, life, you know, it’s just going to mess up your stuff. It’s part of it. So embrace the pillows and the throw blankets and, you know, buy, the cleaner. What’s the one, Folex? I feel like that one’s really good with dogs. Not hair, but like other, other messes. And personally, I think a green velvet couch sounds awesome, so I’m into it. 

Elsie: Yeah, I had one at an Airbnb. I never had one in my home, I don’t think. Yeah, I think they’re pretty. 

Emma: Airbnb, that tells that it probably holds up pretty well. 

Elsie: I say go for it. All right! Okay, let’s pass it over to Nova for her segment. Hey Nova, what do you have for us this week? 

Nova: A fact. 

Elsie: A fact? Okay, I’m excited. 

Nova: Did you know the first Olympic Games were held in ancient Greece? 

Elsie: Whoa, that sounds really cool. I wish I could see it. 

Nova: Yeah, I think it’s cool. 

Elsie: Thanks, Nova! 

Nova: Bye, I’ll see you next week.

Elsie: Thank you so much for listening. We had so much fun sharing about our social media era. We would love to hear your suggestions for topics for future episodes. Send us an email at podcast@abeautifulmess.com with your request. And next week we will be back with an absolute banger rewatch podcast. It is going to be Harry Potter week next week, so we will see you then.

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