What I learned on Instagram in 2019
2019 was the year of Instagram for me. And as it draws to a close I am looking back on what I've learned, accomplished and I am reflecting on what I want to change moving forward.
I have never been an ambitious person and never tried very hard at many things in life. And for some reason, this year I decided to start taking Instagram seriously. Very seriously by my standards. I even set some goals for myself this year. Let me share them with you.
I wanted to:
Grow my account to 10,000 followers for the coveted swipe up ability.
Get my home published on blogs and in magazines.
I wanted to start working with brands and be PAID FOR IT! Because it is work and you should get paid to work regardless of what you do.
Start a blog
Start filming for IGTV (this was more of an accident than a goal)
Fund my interior design hobby through this app so I don’t spend any of my OWN money to create content. It’s not a cheap hobby. hahahaha
This is not a humble brag blog post. This is a full on give myself a pat on the back for a job well done kind of post. But it is also a post where I examine myself critically and talk about the challenges I faced along the way. I hope to improve, and be better but also to approach this app in a healthier manner.
Goal 1) Reaching 10,000 followers
I am currently sitting at 44.5K followers and I celebrate every single one of you. But it was not a walk in the park.
I posted almost every single day this year. That’s over 300 posts this year. 300 times where I styled, shot, edited and crafted a funny, lengthy, caption. Then I sit and answer every single comment and dm. After that, I interact with some of your posts and all of my friends. I call this my engagement time.
I spend A LOT of time on this app as a result this year. But I treated this as work. I know that sounds bad. But I looked at it this way because I knew that I needed to carve time out of my personal time to do this. It takes me an hour to prep a post every day and I commit an hour each evening to engage with the app. That’s a minimum of two hours a day. Every day. And I would argue I spent longer than that some days.
Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to you guys. I am LITERALLY SMILING while I respond to you all. That’s an entire hour of smiling by the way. Hahahaha so my face is pretty cramped by the end of it haha!
The time it takes to get a post up has been a lot faster now because I work with Janet Kwan who comes and shoots a bunch for me and that means I do not have to spend my weekends styling and shooting when the light is just right. (Which is hard to predict and really takes up an afternoon on a precious day off.)
And since I'm being brutally honest here. My engagement has dropped on Instagram. It's like I lost my mojo and it's put a damper on things. The numbers drove me. There, I said it. I liked that my content was being shown to the world. My posts were seen at a really high volume but that started to change in the middle of summer. Now, I'm happy if over 10,000 people see my posts when it use to be over 35,000.
This meant I was growing my community at a much slower rate. The likes slowed down, I'm lucky to hit over 1000 likes when it was not unusual to see 2000-4000 per post. Less views meant less followers which in turn meant I was LOSING people every day at a higher volume.
It made me sad. I'm not gonna lie and it made me less motivated to post. But I still did it because I MISSED you guys when I didn't log on. And quite frankly, you guys became my friends and I did not want to leave you hanging.
But I think moving forward I will slow down with posting. I’ll probably aim to post 4 times a week and take some time off to be present in my own life. I’m glad to say that none of my relationships have blown up or burned out through this intense phase I had with Instagram. However, I am taking a preventative approach in 2020 and making sure that my nearest and dearest are taken care of first. That’s my goal for 2020.
Also, I looked back on my photos in my phone and I had very few pictures of faces on my phone. It made me incredibly sad. I don’t want to do that anymore. My memory bank should not be full of pretty things or spaces, but full of people I love. So that’s a new perspective and shift in my attitude. (This correlates with my father’s health scare this year. He’s still on the mend but my parents are getting old and I want to make sure I’m spending more time being present with them than on my phone ya know?)
Goal 2) Getting Published
I did it guys! I wrote about how I did it in this blog post here.
I appeared on Apartment Therapy’s blog three times this year. The two other times came as a complete surprise to be honest. I also appeared on The Jungalow blog and also had a featured home tour in two magazines, one in London, England and one in my hometown, Toronto.
The exposure that these blog posts gave me were so appreciated. I grew over night thanks to the first publication earlier this year.
I learned to keep trying even when I was rejected. I honed my skills at writing and being interviewed. I didn’t take no for an answer, I took it as, not now, try again later. And this attitude has brought me far in this area.
I also learned that once your home is out there, you are opening up yourself to criticism. Being in a magazine or a blog that is outside of your community (aka Instagram) meant that people didn’t know me or my story and they feel more free to make less than kind comments.
Moving forward, I will also ask to read an article before I let a publication hit send because I did not like how my family and my story was being characterized. This is why I never told you guys I was published in a magazine. I didn’t like the narrative and I had no control over it. I didn’t like how the photos came out and did not feel that the selection of shots they had chosen reflected on my style properly. But then again, it was kind of cool to be part of it.
I don't regret saying yes to these opportunities and it has brought some really interesting encounters with people who recognized us from the magazine. It was a surreal experience. We had a lot of people congratulate us from the wood work but it also made me cringe. I didn't do it for "fame", I did it because I wanted tangible proof that my design is out there. It was like collecting notches on my bedpost. HAHAHAHAHA. Who knew I was this weird?
Goal 3) Working with Brands
I finally grown to a place where brands started taking me seriously and this is the year I learned my worth.
Did you know when I first started working with MAJOR brands and companies my first pay check was embarrassingly low. I got paid less than $200 to BUILD and DIY a project from scratch and I visited the hardware store more than FIVE TIMES and filmed on several occasions. I wrote a blog post, did all the work, filmed, styled and shot over the course of a month for $200.
I think I got fleeced. If I divided all the hours spent planning to creating the content I would have been paid less than five bucks an hour! Hahahahahaha! I was so excited that a big company would want to little old me I didn’t take into the account of the labour, work and love that I would be putting in. Being gifted something was so huge and I was so appreciative I thought that this was a fair trade.
After taking Chris Loves Julia’s Masterclass on working with brands I have learned a little more of this industry as a content creator and Influencer. It is a lot more work than I realize and people get paid A LOT more than $200 for what I was doing and getting something for free should not mean that you need to sell that to your followers.
I want to dispel any myths about working with brands and I want us to have a honest talk about the work it takes and how much and why I get paid for what I do.
Also, I had some disappointments this year working with brands. I had a lot of offers on the table but sadly quite a few did not come to fruition even after lining up contractors, buying all the stuff and then having it fall flat felt like a failure. I spent my own money for it too and I've learned not to start working until you sign the contract no matter the deadline and timeline. It happens and I was very excited and overly committed when the brands were not. So I got burned a bit this year.
By the way, sometimes I get low balled and I still want to work with these brands because I love them but I'm going to be more prudent in 2020 and say no to more and pitch for projects that I really really want to do.
Ultimately, I am learning that a brand pays to get YOUR attention dear readers. Therefore, I am taking more careful considerations of who I want to work with because YOU matter to me and I don’t want to sell you or show you things I don’t think will add value to you.
And to be quite frank, I think you guys are my friends and you probably don't want me to work for pennies because like I said, this is work. I put in work. Charging a fair dollar amount for work is okay! (Even if people don't get that.)
Also, if a brand wants to work with me and we are a great fit, I should be compensated because they have budgets for marketing teams that have access to photographers, stylists, editors, etc and I’m just me! I do it all and I’m learning that I SHOULD get paid for this and I’m no longer feeling bad about doing sponsored posts as a result.
I don’t feel bad because what I bring to you will ALWAYS be something I’m proud of and am excited to share with you because I believe you’ll like it too.
Goal 4) Start a blog
I did it because people started approaching me to write for their publications but they wanted me to do it for free. The blog and article topics were so interesting and frankly I was really flattered they wanted me to write for them and also getting published was a thing I chased for awhile, so I did do it for free.
But then it started me thinking, why would I give my thoughts to someone else’s platform? Why work for free and let someone else take the "credit"? So I took the plunge in April this year and paid for my own blog.
I should be more active here. I love writing and it is cathartic for me ,so in 2020 I hope you’ll see more blog posts from me. I also want to see more of you on here! I’m not sure how I can entice people from Instagram to jump on over here and read my ramblings but I’ll figure it out in 2020. Ha!
Goal 5) Filming for IGTV
This was a total fluke and I love it. I accidentally uploaded an IGTV trailer on my feed in October this year and to my surprise thousands of people watch my shenanigans. I LOVE talking and it comes pretty easy to me to narrate what I do so I am very happy about it.
I am aiming to publish one IGTV a week in 2020 but I really need more ideas of what to film but I’m pretty excited about it! I even bought a gimbal (stabilizes filming when I move) and a tripod as a result! But I'm still planning to film on my iPhone because I bought a new one for this express purpose!
(For real though, all the money I've earned thus far has been put back into this hobby and I'm okay with it. I'm just glad I'm not spending my own dime. Save for all the home decor stuff hah!)
Goal 6) Funding my hobby
Look, I’m not rich. I’m just a flight attendant with an expensive hobby and I needed to find a way to keep doing this without making a dent in my budget. Getting sponsorship will help with that immensely and I hope I’ll score 2 or 3 good ones in 2020 to pay for my blog, design programs, courses, props, and hopefully a REALLLL camera.
So far, I’ve net zero. I have earned no real money from Instagram because everything I’ve earned from the few awesome sponsorship I’ve done went right back in to buying presets, programs, gear and software. But that also means that I have not dipped into my savings to fund my hobby so I call it an accomplishment!
Ok so let’s break it down for my goals in 2020:
Buy a real camera, learn to use it, take pictures and edit (this is going to be very very hard because I am not a technical person at all and have zero affinity with photography.)
Score a few partnerships that WE will all be excited for so I can buy a camera hahahahahaha
Sell thekwendyhome 2.0 and work on thekwendyhome 3.0 but I have no clue what God has in store and who knows if we’ll be able to sell our current home
Grow my community to be more tight knit than before! I think having a healthier relationship with Instagram and stop worrying about the drop in engagement and just focus on building people up will accomplish this!
I want to be in a home décor related magazine because that would be really really cool.
Spend less time on the app and more time with my loved ones
So yeah! That’s my year in review in regards to Instagram. Let me know if you guys have any questions and I’ll address them in another blog post. I hope this blog post shed some light on the inner workings of my mind and pulled back the curtain on what it meant for me as I became a content creator and influencer.
PS: I use to think that the word influencer was kind of a bad word but I’m learning that it’s not, especially when we do it the right way. :D
PPS: Also thank YOU for reading all that but also for being here for me. You guys have been such a big blessing for me in 2019 and I will not be here if not for you.
Thanks for reading!