I made a LOT of mistakes when I first started my Instagram account for my business. I used to believe all of these myths. But coming to shift my mindset about how Instagram can work for me has made all the difference in feeling fulfilled and bringing in revenue.
Even if we’ve just met, I know we both care more about the people in our businesses than the numbers.
But. The number of followers I have is still glaring at me at the top of my profile. I still get that nagging voice at the back of my head that says, “if I just had twenty or thirty thousand more followers, surely my inbox would be packed with client inquiries.”
But from my own experience, I know I can get inquiries right where I am.
I didn’t used to feel that way back when I had zero inquiries, a tiny following, and no friends in the industry. So I researched everything and bought a few programs promising huge results about how I could grow my following in massive numbers. I learned a few basics that didn’t help me that much.
My following grew. So slowly! But it was growing. After a while I figured I was averaging about 10 followers per hour of intense stalking and complimenting. And I hated it. I was resentful when people didn’t follow me.
But you know what was the worst part from a business standpoint? Pretty much all of the people following me weren’t really into my profile or business anyway. They weren’t my ideal clients. I felt like I had somehow coerced them into clicking the follow button instead of feeling confident that I had great stuff that could improve their life on varying levels.
That’s when I had about a thousand followers. But I got the next three thousand followers in a completely different way.
I knew there was especially one thing missing: good collaborations with other accounts. Everything I bought and read about growing my Instagram following talked about collaborating with other accounts. I did that, and it didn’t do much. A vendor I’d work with would post a pic from a collab we did and I’d get like ten new followers. Not worth the money and time I spent putting it together. So I figured that worked for other people but not me.
But that all changed in one collaboration that I worked on so hard. I was working for the first time with three of my dream vendors and cried to my husband at 2 am the night before it was going to happen because I felt like my whole life depended on the outcome of it.
Because I had put together the right team, the photos came out beautifully. And when other vendors started posting images from the shoot, I started getting hundreds of new followers. And then those followers started buying things from me.
I am not making this up. This actually happened.
The big difference was in tiny, deliberate shifts that made all the difference:
The next three thousand followers came with hardly any of that hustle I had trying to get to one thousand followers. Instead, it came with making real connections with some of the vendors I respect the very most and then meeting their followers. And the coolest part was that I was making friends and finding loyal customers and clients along the way.
My main point: instead of trying to catch anyone who might come into your following net, make good connections with your peers and dream accounts. They’ve already got the people you want. Be SO intentional about who you choose to work with. And most importantly, find ways to make it SO EASY for them to say yes to working with you. (I tell you exactly how to do that if you click on the picture to the left.)
It makes sense why you’d want to–it’s like a resume. “Here’s what I’ve done before, I’d love to do something similar.”
But most people I talk to who feature only client work feel burnt out, exhausted, underpaid, and are losing passion for the thing they started their business around.
Instead, you have to create a vision for potential clients. Build your marketing plan around that.
I had a coaching client I was working with push back on me about this. “But I want to be authentic,” she said. She didn’t want her feed to look super stylized. And there is something appealing and honest about wanting to show only client work.
But there are a couple problems with that:
You can show them this and have complete control over what you’re capable of doing when you put in the time and money to put projects together that show your potential clients what you’re made of.
(Note: choose your collaboration partners wisely.)
I know when I first started my business I put pictures up on my Instagram and basically just thought, “these should convince them that I have the skills necessary to serve them!”
It seems like that strategy would make sense, right?
But here’s the thing: because there are so many pros on Instagram now, just posting pictures to show your skills isn’t the best way to get the clients you really want. You have to romance them a little. Help them know, like, and trust you. They can learn what’s truly important to you, whether your personalities would be a good fit, and whether your visions align well on certain projects. This is amazing because it means the people who are inquiring are already enjoying their experience with you and it just means they’re wanting to take the next step.
So how do you get them to know, like, and trust you?
Show real care and love. I’m not saying I’m perfect at this, but lately, when clients inquire or I see old acquaintances who follow me, they’ll look at me and say, “there’s something different about your profile. It’s like I feel like I know you. I like watching your journey and I just like what you’re doing.”
While this makes me feel so good about my work, I know it’s not because I’m a better designer than other people in my industry. It’s because I’m so intentional about what I want to share with my audience. I want to be honest and thoughtful about weddings, business and life. Even though I don’t always hit the mark perfectly, I do make the effort that not a single word they read of mine or video they watch of mine is a waste of their time.
Here’s how I do that. I think about the 5 Love Languages and I try to apply that to my account:
Above all, it is so possible to book your ideal clients on Instagram. And now I can tell you’re starting to think like a real marketing strategist! Click below to learn how you can add value to every pro you work with.
Emma Natter is a business coach and writer. Her work intersects entrepreneurial strategies with the creative process so career hopefuls can find success, impact, fulfillment, and confidence in going their own way.
I’m Emma Natter, a path-to-success paver and art-trained business coach who first shattered her own career expectations by selling out of handmade styling goods from her little NYC apartment. Now as a strategist to thousands of creatives, I teach you to harness your passion so you can do the same.
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