Want to be an influencer? The risk, reward of a job that can make big money

Forget law school or an astronaut, the dream job for kids right now is being a YouTuber or social media influencer. You probably know some of these stars make good money, but it’s not without risk. We are looking into the risky business of being a social media star.

Influencer kicked off social media, lost all contacts

What started as a hobby customizing pink cars, turned into a full-time job for Sharlene Dismuke.

“I started a whole team, like a whole line of pink cars,” said Sharlene Dismuke, “It is really good money. Really good money online.”

Social media made her a star, with events and sponsorships bringing in the bucks.

“Thousands, thousands of dollars,” she said. “Because each thing that I did was 12, maybe $15,000.”

But in the blink of an eye, it was gone.

“When I logged in, it kicked me out and said, ‘You’ve been logged out,’” said Dismuke.

Her Instagram account was deleted, along with more than 460,000 followers. Instagram said her account violated its rules. She’s now fighting that.

Dismuke said she lost her revenue stream since her business contacts were only on social media.

“I don’t feel like I shouldn’t just be banned or (have) my whole platform taken,” said Dismuke.

For now, Dismuke is working from scratch and started up a new social media page.

Starting off as a social media influencer

In order to protect their revenue streams, influencers first need to think about where they put their content, according to Sarah Smith, co-founder of Speakerbox Media.

“You have to diversify. It’s not even a question,” said Smith. “It can’t all live in one place. It can’t all live on Instagram or on Facebook, it means you should have your own domain.”

Having your own website means you own your content so if something happens to your social media site, like in Dismuke’s case, you have another way to reach people. You can also use your website to sell merchandise or host paid events.

Another big mistake an influencer can make is using a company to buy clicks or likes. Those users are typically fake and often post spam messages to followers. Organic followers are more likely to engage with you.

“I’ve seen so many, so many influencers do amazing. They have full-time careers,” said Smith.

The risk and reward of being a social media influencer. SpoiledLatina and her team share their secrets to success. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Smith also partners with local influencer Yvonne Guidry, AKA “Spoiled Latina.”

“I have an online business where I connect brands to consumers,” said Guidry.

From shopping trips to sneakers, lighters and lashes, Guidry makes money by working with the brands of products she uses, like her Volkswagen.

“I drive the car, I post pictures. And organically, I send customers to them,” said Guidry.

Being a “brand ambassador” is one of the top ways influencers make money, according to Smith. But influencers also make money through other ways, like these:

  • Sponsored posts
  • Selling products
  • Website advertising
  • Events and appearances
  • Affiliate links
Social media influencer Yvonne Guidry shares about how she started a blog years ago and turned it into a profitable influencer business over the years. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Guidry also hosts workshops to help others learn the tricks of the trade.

“I have so much, like, to give. I have so much experience to share,” said Guidry.

The city of Houston even made a “Spoiled Latina” day to honor all of the work Guidry has done in the community. Guidry uses the day to hold her events to help teach others in the industry. You can see highlights from previous Spoiled Latina day events here.

How can I be a social media influencer?

The question about how to get started is something a lot of people want to know. The key to success as an influencer is something Smith and Guidry both believe anyone can do.

“The ‘it factor’ is you,” said Smith. “I would say everybody has [the] “it thing” about them.”

“I think everyone is an influencer in their own way, they just have to be, you know, either go for it and be consistent with it,” said Guidry. “There’s some money out there for you.”

Smith explains the best way to start is to narrow in on what you are interested in and what you like. Don’t try to copy anyone else.

Another key to success is to always try to grow what you are doing. Guidry has been doing this for years after starting a MySpace page back in the day. This year, Guidry plans to re-launch a podcast as a way to reach even more people.

How much money can you make being an influencer?

Being an influencer can bring in six figures if you do it the right way. We tracked down some of Houston’s most popular influencers to find out the secrets of their success. How did they get started? How much money do they make? How much time do they spend on their phones? And what you really want to know: Can you do it too? Amy Davis answers these questions here.

About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.