The glamorous life of an influencer unravelled

It’s 5 a.m., the sun is rising, the birds are waking up, and the night owls are heading home to bed. Lital, however, is getting dressed, doing her hair, putting on her makeup, and waking up her boyfriend. Why? Because she needs the shot! At this time of the morning, there are no tourists outside the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Florence, making it the perfect and only time for Lital to take a photo standing outside it without having randomers in the background. This is an activity influencers know too well. Lynn Quanjel, also known on Instagram as @whoisthatblonde, has found herself in the same situation, multiple times.


Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

The editorial team behind the Sustainable Fashion Gift Card was curious about the influencer phenomenon in relation to sustainability. Being in the spotlight all the time, sharing your personal life, is that even a sustainable lifestyle at all? And to what extent can you be sustainable as an influencer when you promote “stuff?” In this four-piece series we try to unravel the influencer phenomenon with an eye on sustainability.

Behind the perfectly curated feed of social media influencers and bloggers are a series of challenges and disadvantages. The fact is that the life of an “Instagramer” isn’t always as glamourous as it seems. Recently at a blogger closet sale in Amsterdam, we had the chance to speak with Lynn Quanjel in person.

Lynn explained that in order to be a successful influencer, she has to spend hours looking for the next best place to take a picture and then spend multiple hours editing and planning how the post will be used and published. This, like other freelance jobs, mounts up to numerous hours that followers doesn’t see, and is one of the least appreciated things about their work. Lynn also mentioned how she has often been asked to explain how she edits her pictures, but what followers don’t seem to realise is, in fact, it has taken her nearly three years to teach herself how to edit her posts to her own high standard.

Followers don’t see the hours that go into taking that one great picture

The challenges

Aside from long hours behind a computer, influencers face a number of other concerns. For example, they often do not have a stable income. As Quanjel told me, some months are great, and she can allow herself to splurge on a new handbag, but other months she has no income at all and has to dip into her savings, very similar to any other ordinary freelancer.

It seems then that life isn’t all jet setting and attending VIP events. A common solution to this instability is to create a business on the side. Many men and women influencers are becoming entrepreneurs and creating brands for their followers to consume directly from them. Take Sivan Ayla (@SivanAyla), American lifestyle blogger based in LA. She recently launched a nail polish in collaboration with the beauty brand NCLA, followed by active wear with Strut This, and now, a year later, she is launching her very own “mummy and me” swimsuit line. Another great example is Amanda Meixner, known on Instagram as @MeowMeix, a nutrition expert who created her own “healthy snacking e-book.” Lynn Quanjel also started her own social media consultancy business in order to allow for a steady and reliable income.

Money troubles

So, income remains a sensitive topic among our online trusted “friends.” As I was curious about how influencers can make money from their Instagrams (and other platforms), I contacted Ashley Torres, known online as @everydaypursuits.

Ashley started her blog nine years ago and used it purely to talk about shoes. Now she relies on social media as her sole income. She explained that, sometimes, brands approach influencers and offer them free products in return for two or five posts about that product. For those starting out, this can be a great way of gaining products to shoot with, especially in fashion, as more clothes means more content. However, for those influencers who are already more established, this isn’t always a good deal for them, as more products often means more things laying around the house (not sustainable or minimalistic) and no money coming in the door.

Another way brands reach out is by offering a commission (think swipe-up links on Instagram stories). Ashley says: “Brands working with commission offers often give 1-10% of the product’s price, usually around 5%. Only, due to Instagram’s cookie policy, if the product isn’t purchased through my link within five minutes of using it, it cannot be traced back to her and therefore, I will not earn anything.” The same goes for those products being returned, the product will be deducted for her insights and she will earn nothing from that purchase.

Clearly, when it comes to influencer income, there is no guarantee or stability. Torres added that the best way to make money by being an influencer is through brand partnerships. This is a lot cheaper for the brand (as opposed to making a 10 thousand euro video advertisement for TV, for example) and allows more freedom for the influencers.

“If the product isn’t purchased through my link within five minutes of using it, I will not earn anything”

Online dependency

Another major disadvantage for influencers is the platforms themselves. Instagram is proving to be quite challenging as there are often changes in its algorithm. It allows the user to see the content from the people they engage with the most. While this works wonders for the loyal followers who like to stay up to date with their favorite influencer, it proves difficult for those influencers trying to gain more audience and expand. As sustainable blogger Victoria Onken told me, she is bad at engagement and she doesn’t post enough for Instagram’s algorithm to work in her favor.

And of course, there is the nature of the job itself to deal with: being present 24/7. Unlike your traditional office job, influencers have to share constant details and activities about their day. Last year, Victoria lost her grandfather and had to return to Israel to attend a funeral, and unlike most, she had to show it to her followers. She had to allow her 11.4 thousand followers be part of an intimate and hard time for her and her family. Being present online for most of your day (and life) also allows for a lot of judgement and negativity. Lital Julia (@litaljulia) told me that the worst thing about being an influencer, is dealing with negative comments, and people trolling her page and being damn right nasty. Then again, if you choose a life in the spotlight, history shows this is what you will face.

It’s in the nature of the job: being present online 24/7

Weigh the pros and cons

Being an influencer is of course not all that bad. It does allow you to make great connections and friends, attend spectacular events, travel to breathtaking destinations, get in touch with your creative side and have a lot of fun. But do the positives outweigh the negatives? After speaking with these ladies, all of them seem to agree they do. Despite them having other activities on the side, they enjoy blogging and sharing everything about their life, and genuinely want to make their followers happy. Not just because it results in money for them, but because they have influence over people trying to be healthier, more sustainable, more athletic, or more stylish.

Whatever the topic, there is an influencer there to entertain you while at the same time lend a little hand.

This four-piece series is derived from the research internship about social media influencers of Hannah Ospina for SFGC magazine. The series was edited to make it fit for our magazine by content creator Donna Brouwer.

Read all the articles in this series
  • It’s 5 a.m. Lital, however, is getting dressed, doing her hair, putting on her makeup, and waking up her boyfriend. Why? Because she needs the shot!...

  • Have you ever wondered what influencers do with all their gifted products? We asked Instagrammer Ashley Torres....

  • Big brands are masters in convincing us to dismiss rational reasons to buy a product and instead, make us want to buy it because it feels good. Yes, they play with our emotions and we’re all being inf...

  • Have you ever clicked on Instagram, seen a nice blazer jacket and thought "I want this. Now,” and then went right ahead and bought it? This article is about the psychological mechanism upon which infl...

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