Hello, My Job is Influencer
Ramblings from when I was mostly doing #sponcon and paid ads
The last sponsored post I did was in March 2022 with Hello Wisp, an online sexual healthcare service. That means it’s been 6 months since I’ve done a sponsored IG post.
This is a big deal for me because doing sponsored posts on Instagram was my primary source of income from age 26-31. This is the longest period of time I've been active on IG without doing a paid ad, since I started influencing.
Because I am not doing sponsored posts regularly anymore, I have been, gladly, and not without fear and resistance, finding other ways to make money that feel more aligned with what I want to do. A big part of this is becoming more conscious of how I want people to feel when they encounter in person, and online.
I’ve tried freelancing, I’ve tried full-time employment. It has not been easy and there has been a lot of experimentation and trying things out. I left the workforce at 25 and by 26, I was a full-time influencer. I am 32 now. So it’s been a bit of a re-learning. It’s been hard and messy and beautiful and scary and wonderful. It’s been hard in the way of forming identity and self-worth outside of my career. It’s been beautiful as my mental health has improved in immeasurable amounts, which no amount of #sponcon can buy.
There was a time when I really loved doing sponsored posts, but that was back when I was in my Instagram wellness groove, and it’s been a good four years since I’ve been in that mental/physical/emotional space. It was how I paid myself, and it allowed me to keep my blog and Instagram content free for everyone.
Simply put, sponsored content felt aligned for a while, and I found joy collaborating and creating content with brands I loved. From the outside, I can imagine it looked, well, picture-perfect.
But internally and eventually, I felt like I was in a never ending cycle, a catch 22. Sponsored posts were always supposed to be a means to an end. But where, and what, was that end? I felt professionally, creatively, and mentally stuck. I felt like a billboard.
It felt like the main point of my job as an influencer was to acquire more followers, amass more likes, sign bigger brand deals. There was no stopping, no resting place. “Start a brand!” people would say, as that is a common influencer path to go down, but my heart just wasn’t in anything particular. I took a break and had a reckoning with my career, went on hiatus, and my entire life changed.
When I stopped promoting wellness and changed my IG page to non-wellness content, the money brands were willing to pay me decreased overnight by 69%. To put that into context, that is a salary of $70,000 getting cut to $21,700.
If that’s not proof that the dieting/wellness industry is interested in making the big bucks, IDK what is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, wellness is a billion dollar industry, and so is the diet industry. It keeps people buying stuff, on a quest for never ending self improvement.
This was extremely difficult for me to swallow, to be in a job that was so volatile, unpredictable, and could change so suddenly on a whim. I was not willing to go back to wellness just to make more money. If I couldn’t be authentic, I would find other ways to make a living.
Money aside, there was a moral aspect of this decision to cut back on paid ads on my IG. Instagram thrives on people sharing images that evoke the very human feeling of desire and envy. This ultimately keep us scrolling and buying stuff, which keeps the big guys at the top getting paid. And who evokes these feelings better than an influencer?
Since hitting pause on my brand partnerships but still being active on IG, I’ve started to view the platform with a fresh set of eyes, as a consumer, not as an influencer. The ads I see are all packaged so pretty. The messaging is always the same. They are written to make someone feel inspired, envious, or determined to have what the influencer has, so they go out and buy it. I mean duh right, this is the definition of advertising.
Since using Instagram differently, I’ve been trying to be more intentional with how people feel when they view me online. Back then, people encountered the matcha-drinking, meal-prepping, yoga-doing version of me, Lee From America. Now, I want people to see something different.
It has been a privilege to not have to do sponsored posts on Instagram. I know that may sound weird like, isn’t it the dream to be an influencer?, but I have felt a new sense of freedom from that life which brought such little fulfillment and was all about analytics, sales, and likes. It was so much pressure: would the brand be happy with the amount of likes and comments? Would I make the same amount of money next month? Would my followers give me grief for getting paid from this brand? What would people think?!