How to Build Your Brand, Step Up Your IG Game, & More, According to the InfluenceHer Collective Award Winners

Ever wonder what filter your fave influencer is always using? Or how your favorite blogger scored an invite to that amazing PR event? TBH, there's so much that happens behind-the-scenes to create what you see and know from influencers, and we've always been dying to know what it's really like to be a top content creator.

Lucky for you, we've got the inside scoop from eight passionate and talented women who are paving the way in the influencer industry. These women are our 2018 InfluenceHer Award winners, and with years of blogging and media experience, they're dishing on their top advice for becoming a blogger, cultivating a community of supportive influencers, and creating meaningful and successful content. 

What do you wish you knew about becoming an influencer and blogger before becoming one?

"I wished I had begun taking it seriously as a business that first year! It was just a hobby at the time, but it would have helped in the long run to just start documents receipts, payments, products gifted, etc. in an organized way so I could look back on it later! I didn't realize just how much time and energy you spend doing 'housekeeping' tasks like that blogging - I really just thought it was all content creation! It's SO much more than that, and you really wear every hat."  — Taylor, @blondeandambitiousblog

"It’s extremely time-consuming. There have been times over the last year where I have spent 40 hours a week working on posts and SEO Optimization. There's that, and then the potential that they may just flop or not work the way I wanted. It's been a long learning process and sometimes I wish I'd researched more in the beginning! I didn't plan on monetizing my blog/IG the way I have when I originally started. I also wish someone told me that taking photos of yourself is hard work! You can't see what is showing up or how you're positioned. That makes it difficult to get things right on the first, fifth, or twelfth time!" — Amanda, @sequinsandsales

"I wish I had known that the importance of organizing and planning my content, collaborating with other influencers, and having clear and attainable goals. I had no idea how time-consuming it can be trying to run a blog and work full time on social media. I also wish I knew that growth on social media is hard but not impossible, and it is MUCH easier to grow when you remain true to yourself and show what makes you unique." — Dominique, @dombagnoche

What advice can you give to someone who wants to work with specific brands or attend events as an influencer?

"First thing is first: cultivate an audience and get to know them. The organic audience and engagement that bloggers have is what attracts brands and partnerships. When I decided that I wanted to turn my blog into a business and engage in partnerships with brands, I did my own faux campaigns. While brands weren't working with me, I would style outfits from one brand and tag them in it. This allowed me to show brands what they could expect if they wanted to work with me. And I really believe that once you get your first partnership, the others come pouring in. It's all about showing your personality and creating content that catches the attention of your audience and brands. In regards to conferences and events, if you want to be in a space, ask to be there! Whether you attend as a volunteer or a guest, work your networking skills to make sure everyone knows you before you leave! Have business cards so that the key players in the room can invite you to more events." — Natalie, @natalieinthecity_

"Have something new to say and make it memorable. Influencers are powerful because they are real people experiencing everyday life like the average person. At the same time, you also need to offer both brands, but more importantly, your audience something valuable. Brands notice when you feature them in high-quality content organically. Supporting and highlighting your favorite brands, and only those brands, builds trust in your community. Once you've established that you have an engaged audience that trusts your opinion, you have influence. Do your research. There are so many Pinterest articles with tons of great information. They tell you how to make a professional 'About Me/Contact' page and they'll get you started with free templates for pitching brands. The sky is the limit if you're prepared and knowledgable!" — Gabby, @gabbywhiten

"Be understanding of what you want out of whatever it is you're doing. Why do you want to work with that brand? Why do you feel like you're the best fit for this brand? In this industry, I feel like it's so easy to lose sight of who you are and what you want. There are so many distractions and fake people trying to claw their way to the top. I think for someone who wants to work with specific brands, you should understand yourself and how you operate. You're going to get a lot more NOs than YESes, and that will teach you a lot. With every rejection, take it as a lesson to discipline and motivate yourself. With events/conferences, don't be afraid to reach out. Don't always expect everything to come to you. Sometimes, you have to go after it and make it happen. Sometimes it will happen, sometimes it won't. That's okay, and that's all a part of the process." — Grace, @bygracelee

What's your best advice for connecting with other influencers and finding your community of bloggers?



#ad I don’t know about y’all but, I have my ideal Sunday rituals. I like to work on blogging things in a cute coffee shop while trying not to browse too many online sales. I also love to end the day of productivity by doing a face mask and listening to an uplifting podcast or watching a motivational YouTube video. TONIGHT at 6:30 EDT, I’ll be tuning into the @nytimes Get With The Times live speaker series to hear superstar @ashleygraham touch on empowerment in the fashion and beauty industries and how she’s actively trying to reshape its culture ? you can access the link to the livestream over on the @nytimes twitter account! #nytgetwiththetimes #influencehercollective

A post shared by GABBY WHITEN | NYC BLOGGER (@gabbywhiten) on

"Engage, interact, and make meaningful connections. There are so many content creators on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc. Find people that you genuinely feel like you connect with regardless of their follower count. Interact with their content in a way where it generates more than a 'thank you'! Ultimately, don't be afraid to send the DM! I've met some of my best friends through blogging and they all started with a comment, retweet or direct message!" — Gabby, @gabbywhiten

"You can't do this alone. Choose community over competition! There are people who work hard as much as you do, and it will only empower them if they see someone doing the same hustle." — Marj,

"Engage with other influencers! That's where all of my Instagram friendships stemmed from. I would go through hashtags (such as #InfluenceHerCollective!) and start following and engaging with accounts I liked. Sometimes I even shoot them a DM to introduce myself." — Rachel, @rachel.rusian

What are your favorite apps and resources to use?

"I use Lightroom to edit ALL of my photos, mostly the desktop version but I also use the newer Lightroom CC App on my iPhone to edit photos on the go if I need to! Lightroom has been a complete game changer for my Instagram and blog. I use my own Lightroom presets, this is how I am able to keep a cohesive and consistent look to my photos. Presets also help speed up the photo editing process because Lightroom can definitely be very time-consuming. To plan my Instagram feed, I use an app called UNUM. You can drag and drop, rearrange/shuffle, and even hide images when drafting your future IG feed on the app. It also loads your current Instagram photos which makes it so simple to visualize and create your grid. I highly recommend this app!" — Dominique, @dombagnoche

"For editing photos: Lightroom (desktop) and I use Millennial Pink presets, Facetune (to brighten whites, NEVER to alter myself). One tip for my bloggers of color about presets is to start with a base preset and play around with things. Most are made for fairer skin tones and make me ORANGE. Turn down the orange "hue", darken down the "blacks" slider, and it helps soo much off the bat! For scheduling: UNUM (just to see what my feed will look like in advance). For Instagram stories: Unfold (I love their fonts and their set up for videos)." — Amanda, @sequinsandsales

Any advice you'd like to give an aspiring influencer or blogger?



They say simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication. ? People tend to think it’s easy to get lost in a place like NYC and it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd. ? I think surrounding yourself in a place with people of different backgrounds, goals, mindsets, and career choices can help you bring out your true self. Something as simple as being yourself can actually speak louder. ⌚️I love my new sleek and simplistic @eltonpeppleofficial watch because it proves you don’t have to shout to stand out. ⚡️ . . . Elton Pepple is giving away 25 of their first wave of ultra-light, super thin watches valued at $220 in preparation of their official launch on May 15th! ? Go follow them @eltonpeppleofficial for a chance to win yours and to get a sneak peek of what’s to come. ? #eltonpepple #sponsored

A post shared by Grace Lee • NYC (@bygracelee) on

"I've been blogging for nine years now, and sometimes I feel like I'm still learning. I'm constantly learning and challenging situations, and I think that's one of the best ways to move forward. Don't ever feel like a number puts you higher on the totem pole than someone else. I respect the people who don't have to say anything or do anything to prove they are 'successful,' because I see it through their actions and work. Another tip is to be nice... to everyone. You don't know what people are going through, and you don't know whose life you can impact by just being nice. I always tell myself: 'Be the person you want to meet.'" — Grace, @bygracelee

"I know social media makes it really easy for us to compare ourselves to each other all the time, and this can be especially hard for women who are looking to make an impact online or build a presence. But my best advice to up and coming or seasoned bloggers is to stay in your lane and focus on you! Horses that are racing where blinders for a reason. I promise you that comparing yourself to others in your space doesn't do anything but tamper with your bliss and hinder your success! Keep shining YOUR light!" — Natalie, @natalieinthecity_

Read more on the 2018 InfluenceHer Award winners here.