If you had told me that I could grow my Instagram to 50k followers in less than a year, I’d have honestly laughed. You know how hard it is to get followers? To have people actually engage with (and care about) your content? The answer is, yes, I KNOW.
It’s also one of the reasons why people hesitate when starting a side hustle, or following their passion ( I did for a long time). I had one failed attempt before starting Yoga of Cooking – I was obsessed with floral design. I invested in workshops and courses, and spent every Saturday morning at the LA Flower Mart buying flowers, designing arrangements and posting them on Instagram. Wanna know what happened? Nothing. Crickets. And it crushed me.
How I started
Fast forward to 2018, I was fed up with my Entertainment job (as in TV/Film, not porn LOL), I was working for one of the biggest companies in Hollywood, which seemed promising, but the truth is I was really depressed. I was making sh*t (with no benefits, sick days, holidays or health insurance), was suffering from adrenal fatigue and pretty much just hated being there.
So, I dusted my 10 year old Canon 7D, my boyfriend got me a set of lights on Amazon, and I started baking at night. I don’t know exactly why I did it, I just knew I had to. So every day I’d look forward to coming home and baking. During this time I started a meditation practice under the guidance of Catalina, from In the Name of Silence (who trained with His Holiness the Dalai Lama), was going to therapy and practicing Ayurveda (where the name Yoga of Cooking comes from). After saving every penny, I left my job in June 2018, and gave myself 6 months to build something.
So, if you’re stuck in a job you don’t love, trying to build your following/side hustle/passion and have read every influencer’s post on “How to grow your Instagram account” to no avail. Read this. I promise I won’t say “post quality content” or “engage with your followers” (because I know you already know that).
Tips on how to actually grow your Instagram – the honest way.
1. DEFINE YOUR VALUES
Your business and personal values. I knew from day 1 that I wanted to have an honest business. That I’d never sell myself out by partnering with brands I didn’t believe in, promote products I wouldn’t buy myself or accept a low ball offer to show off my #sponsored post.
I also decided that I was going to earn every single one of my followers, and every single like and comment. Why? because you can spot a fake from a mile away. It also makes me feel confident approaching brands and telling them what my rate is – because it’s legit.
Also, because I’m a f*cking adult and I’m not playing games. I don’t need to be the most popular blogger with the most likes; I just want to do something I love. And if people respond to that, great! But having fake accounts from Kazakistan, or whatever, “like” my post? That does nothing. You’ll never know why that post tanked, or what your audience loves. Which brings me to…
Listen to what your audience has to say. But also listen to your gut. Don’t just make another “healthy twix bar” because a big blogger made it (chances are they copied a smaller blogger).
Listen to that voice that made you go for it, what does it want to say? What sets you apart? What do you LOVE sharing?
Find your why. Create and then listen what your audience has to say; did they share it, bake it, comment? Ask them what they want to see and what they think, tweak it, and make it your own – without compromising your style.
Pay attention to all your analytics (Instagram, Blog, Pinterest, Facebook). There’s a lot of info there that can help you when creating content and deciding when/what to post and what your audience is most interested in.
Invest in yourself and your business. For me, this meant meditating, going to therapy, and doing Ayurveda. After years of working in TV my body was depleted, my mind was confused and I just didn’t know what to do or who I wanted to be. This is more than #selfcare, I did the work.
Take care of your body and soul while you’re busy growing your business.
Invest in your business, too. My first year I made exactly what I put into my business. I bought courses, books, new camera gear, props, backgrounds, coaching sessions, you name it. Why? Because you need help! There are so many elements to running your own business, and figuring it all out on your own can take years. If you don’t have the money now, YouTube, Google and webinars are your friend. Take in as much free info as you can find and invest when you’re ready. Courses and Masterminds are meant to provide support and accountability when you need it most.
Things you might want to invest in:
- SEO: courses and trainings, site audits.
- Pinterest: management and pin creation.
- Photography: courses, coaching, workshops, gear
- A professional website
If you’re interested in working with me, click here to learn more about my 1:1 mentoring sessions.
A quick note on courses: do your research before signing up for a course. Study people’s profiles, their engagement ratio, how authentic they are. Are they actually thriving, or are they selling you an unattainable life? Don’t go after someone telling you what they make $$$$ per year and that they do yoga “whenever I want”. That’s just not true.
No course/mentor can teach you what the endless hours, energy, failures and tears you’ve put into your business can.
There’s no other way to put it. The number of hours you work, matters. Did my photography get better because of a course? Hell no. My work got better because I worked 7 days a week, 14 hours a day, for a year. I took it seriously!
Do you have to be that extreme? No. I don’t know your situation, but I had a deadline. I needed it to work because I didn’t want to go back to my old job. The more you practice, the better you get.
Inspiration needs to find you working, and that’s where the magic happens.
At first it’ll seem like there’s no way you can shoot the way X person shoots, but watch. Compare your work to your own work, and see how much you’ve improved. Don’t spend hours on Instagram wishing to have someone else’s feed.
If you’re learning photography, buy a cake mix and frosting, and bake a quick cake. Shoot it using different backgrounds, different props, at different times of the day. Find out what you like. This takes time! Reach out to other photographers, you’d be surprised how much people are willing to help (but value their time!). I’ve made great friends through Instagram just because I reached out.
5. HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM
Sometimes when you start something new, the people closest to you might not get it. I’m lucky to have a partner that’s extremely supportive and a sister that’s as zen as it gets, but I know there’s people close to me that judged me when I started. Don’t listen to that (go back to point #2).
Always keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. Find expanders, people that do what you love and follow them. Engage with their content, support their work, attend their workshops or cookbook signings. Show up for others genuinely and you’ll find your IG tribe. Guaranteed.
No one knows the struggle of the algorithm more than other bloggers. That feeling when your post is tanking and it’s a sponsored? Yeah, your bff doesn’t get why you panicked -but we do! I have to admit I have cried over tanked posts before (there’s so much work behind what we do and expectations from clients). But my blogger friends get me, and they listen to me complain and I listen to them. There’s tons of Facebook groups you can join for free, or paid ones like Create & Cultivate. Just don’t join engagement pods.
Ok this was longer than I expected, but I know if you implement these things into your strategy it’s going to make your life a little easier.
If I had to pick one strategy, I’d say listen. Mostly, to yourself.