For many Insta creatives, artists and entrepreneurs, the possibility of making a career out of their craft seems like a distant dream. But… everyone’s gotta start somewhere!
So what’s the secret to growing your Instagram content from dream to reality, from hobby to hustle, from part-time passion to full-time career?
We’re setting out to answer the question on every aspiring content creator’s lips, and discover the key to becoming one of the most successful Insta-creatives in the biz. And who better to give advice on becoming an Insta expert, than the Insta experts themselves?!
Ready to make a career out of your Instagram content? Ready, set, grow!
In a sea of talented creators, how did you make a career from your creativity?
I started posting my illustration work to Instagram with no real goal or strategy to gain an audience. This was back in the day before influencers or brands were on the platform. I posted my art, people liked it and that’s how I started getting a larger audience and more work. It’s the way I approached it then, and it’s how I approach it now. I put no pressure on myself to be popular, I look at no analytics. I just keep it fun and stay true to myself.
My advice is to ignore trends – they come and go so fast. Focus on the things that you’re passionate about. Immerse yourself in it and let that influence your work and aesthetic. Write down thoughts and ideas and sketch, sketch, sketch until you come up with something that feels super original to you. I guarantee that will feel better than doing what everyone else is doing.
– Ellen Porteus, @ellenporteus
What do you think makes a successful Instagram account?
Authenticity, point of difference and passion.
You have to do things differently. I’m unsure if there are many other people on Instagram wanting to be astronauts and painting what they think they would see if they were in space. I’ve always stayed true to myself and have been consistent with the type of energy I’m putting out into the world. I feel I have somehow managed to give insight into my life, the things I love and the things I am passionate about, without giving away parts of myself that I have never really been comfortable sharing with 50 thousand people.
“Whatever you’re doing on Instagram, or in life for that matter – do it with passion! Passion is one of those things that is incredibly hard to manufacture if it’s not there organically.”
How has Instagram changed the direction of your life?
In every way possible. I don’t think @loveludie would be what it is today if it wasn’t for Instagram – my brand grew purely through Instagram. And if I didn’t have Ludie, I wouldn’t have Hutch. And if I didn’t have Hutch, I don’t think I would have started A Cleaner Coast. In fact, I don’t think my life would be what it is today if it wasn’t for Instagram. I know thats a huge call, but I genuinely believe it.
– Jenna Hutchison, @loveludie
What were the challenges of turning your content into a career?
Wordfetti actually began as a side-gig. I was working in a corporate job in State Government, but despite being in my supposed ‘dream job’, I always felt like I had a creative bank account I never got to tap into. So I started Wordfetti to give me that opportunity to go to town with my creativity.
It grew from there through purely word of mouth, and within 10 months or so, the time came where I had to decide which route I’d go. Because if not, both my roles would suffer.
The biggest challenge and setback was probably the noise around me. Those who thought I was a lil’ crazy working the hours I was. Those who thought I was silly to buy a house and a car then leave my corporate job. And those who think it’s strange that I was creating a brand where I knew no one in the industry.
“Holding back, and not letting people’s opinions come in my way was definitely a big chunk of the challenge. But in equal parts? It also fuelled me to work dang hard. ‘Cause boy – I had to make it work.”
What’s your advice for women wanting to start their own business on Instagram?
Stay consistent. I think when I first started Wordfetti on Instagram, it took a good 5-6 months of creating content almost everyday for us to really start building our audience.
With so many brands and businesses out there today, it’s going to take time for your audience to see who you are, what you do, and why you. BUT. If you stay consistent, and show up, your audience and your community will start to build.
– Anita Siek, @wordfetti
How do you balance an Instagram career and a full-time job?
For starters, it’s created a supplementary income, which has been really great and really helpful. I’m a high school teacher, and not ready to let teaching go by any means, but having a supplementary income gives me so much more drive, motivation and passion.
I love connecting with other women who also have full time jobs, and trying to show them that they can have both! You can have full time job and still invest in yourself. Having a side hustle is possible.
– Katie Lolas, @lady.lolas
How did you turn your online content into a real life career?
We owe so much to our followers for being messengers and getting us noticed. They are the reason this somehow crazily turned into a career. Now, we’re releasing brand new music and music videos, we’re proud of these new works and feel excited about the artistic direction we’re moving in.
We never set out to turn our content into a career and don’t know when the turning point was, but it’s kept us constantly surprised, grateful and humbled.
– Vanessa & Arna, @nofrillstwins
What’s your advice for others wanting to be successful on Instagram?
I used to think successful people were born confident and never felt fear. I thought they were born with this super power. And then somewhere along my career journey I had a massive epiphany. It’s not that successful people don’t feel fear. Of course they do. We all do. It’s just that they feel the fear and do it anyway.
The sooner women have this same realisation and truly know that no one fully has their “shit together” – that we are all doing the best we can with the limited resources we have, that we all have to take risks, steps out of our comfort zones (multiple times a day as a business owner) and sit in the feeling of imposter syndrome and inadequacy – the sooner women will have the courage to take the same risks and give things a go.
“I think the sooner women have this same realisation that no one fully has their “shit together”, the sooner women will have the courage to take the same risks and give things a go.”
I have also learnt along my journey that persistence counts for everything. Starting a business is hard. Pursuing your passion is hard. Taking risks is hard. Stepping out of your comfort zone is hard. The one thing that makes a person truly successful is their ability to persist and never give up. Of course there will be times when things aren’t working and where you need to pivot, change, even close one business and open another, but persistence will hold you in good stead.
And underneath it all, if you truly understand your passion and motivation, this will keep you going – particularly on the days when you just don’t want to get out of bed or are absolutely ready to give up.
– Sheree Rubinstein, @oneroofwomen
What are your words of wisdom for starting a business on Instagram?
Just do it, but be patient! Instagram is a great way to test if an idea is viable or not without a huge investment, but you can’t expect instant results. The platform isn’t geared for growth the way it used to be so it’s harder to get traction and many businesses may need to move to a ‘pay to play’ strategy to get momentum.
“The three most important things to make waves on Instagram are to be original, consistent and authentic. Serve your audience visuals they’ve never seen before, show up every day, communicate and be present — even if you think no one is listening — and always be your real-life authentic self.”
I know the word ‘authentic’ gets thrown around a lot online but to truly connect with a person or brand online your audience needs to know how to relate to you. They can’t celebrate your wins without understanding your struggles so make sure you show them both sides of the coin.
– Ruth Stephenson, @creativelysquared
Has Instagram changed the direction of your career?
Yes. in capital letters, YES! I had no idea that this hobby would become what it has. I’m sitting down with lawyers in a few weeks to talk about how we properly register ourselves as a business and things like that. And it’s like, how did that even happen?
It takes up a lot more of my life than I thought it would, and that’s in no way, shape or form a negative thing. I’m very happy about it! I’ve had to drop down to four days in my full time job because of everything that’s happening. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to achieve in like a two year period essentially this time last year, and it’s just completely diverted from that. Which is really cool.
I’ve always been someone who trusts their gut, and I’ve had a few opportunities pop up for me since I left school. In the past I’ve always just kind of thought – okay, the universe has put this in front of me, I’m going to do it – and it’s all led to this point. I feel like everything has happened for a reason, so I could do this.
– Marlee Silva, @tiddas4tiddas
When did you know Instagram was more than a hobby?
When Instagram launched I had a modelling account for many months. I did modelling on the side to try and save for my future business fund and thought that’s all it was supposed to be used for. But every post only left me feeling empty inside. I couldn’t understand why posting a picture of myself in a bikini or on a photoshoot would change the world? What was the point of this except feeding my good old ego?
One day I posted a workout and a girl commented how much it helped her. She said that just by doing this small workout it helped her feel confident enough to take on the world. That’s when everything changed for me, I no longer saw Instagram as a model set card but a platform to help potentially millions of women all around the world. A platform to inspire, to create, to share, to learn. To ultimately change the world for the better, on woman at a time.
– Louisa Paterson, @trainlikeaballerina
How has Instagram helped you turn your creativity into your career?
I first got Instagram in 2012 just to post selfies and bad photos of food just like everyone else. But I started posting my art just cause I wanted to, then it gradually grew into the main space to share my art.
“My Instagram helped me build a customer base so I could sell my art.”
My Instagram helped me build a customer base so I could sell my art. This happened very slowly and gradually, so sorry anyone wanting a magic formula to make your Instagram popular – I don’t have one! It happened very organically.
– Frances Cannon, @francescannon
What’s your expert advice for creating a career from your content?
Funnily enough, creating content has always been my job in some form or another. I started my career in magazine publishing (I’m actually now back there in my day job at Girlfriend magazine) then moved into writing for digital publications and also started my own copywriting business. It was about two years ago that I realised “hey, maybe I could cut out the middle man and get paid for creating content that inspires millennial women!”
“If you really want to make Instagram your career, you have to treat it like it’s already your full-time job— posting daily, networking with brands, engaging with your community. I think that’s the difference between those who make it and those who don’t.”
Instagram is such a saturated market, so it’s crucial to find your point of difference — there are already enough pretty faces on Instagram. Ask yourself, what is the unique message you’re putting out into the world? Once you figure that out, you’re already leaps and bounds ahead.
– Emma Norris, @_agirlinprogress
So… what’s the secret to growing your Instagram content into a career? The truth is, there’s no secret ingredient to success. But if you’ve got the passion, the drive and the determination – all you gotta do is put it into action, and stay true to you along the way.
If you’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to take the leap and turn your Insta-dream into a reality, this is it! So what are you waitin’ for?