How many followers do you need to become an influencer on Instagram?

You might think you would need hundreds of thousands. But this wasn’t the case for Shelcy Joseph and her sister Christy. At the time of writing this post, they only had 8206 followers on Instagram and 965 on YouTube. Even with a small following, they have attracted some brands from New York City and are making money with Instagram.

How did they manage to get attention and monetize their account in such a short time and with a small following? By sharing stories and content online. Here is one of their videos that features outfit ideas for the office.

Taking Risks in The Name of Passion

The Joseph sisters came to New York from Haiti in 2010 after a devastating earthquake ruined their home country. Like many, their parents wanted them to get the best education and pursue a traditional career path. They were encouraged to pursue a professional career… something in the line of medicine, law or engineering.

But Shelcy Joseph had something else in mind. Studying neuroscience and working in a lab all day did not seem appealing. Her heart was into fashion, something she was fond of since she was 9 years old. She also loves the art of storytelling, something that would be more challenging in a scientific field.

But how was she supposed to tell her parents that she wasn’t cut out to be a doctor? How could she justify leaving a lucrative career option and follow her passion instead?

Light at The End of The Instagram Tunnel

While still in school, Shelcy decided to join some writing classes and took up internships in fashion blogging. She needed to expose herself to the fashion industry and practice what she learned in her writing classes.

Then she discovered Instagram; the ‘land’ of mini blog posts and beautiful photos. At first, all she wanted was to share some photos with friends and get some feedback. But then she discovered that this was the storytelling field she had been looking for. That’s when her sister Christy joined her too.

In 2014, they started a YouTube channel and an Instagram account under the name NYCxclothes. They spent their weekends taking short videos and photos of personal fashion which they shared online.

Six months down the line, they had a mega breakthrough. One company called to ask them if they would feature their products on their Instagram profile.

What? You read that right, after only six months.

The company sent them products and a proposal to pay to feature them in their Instagram profile. Shelcy was awestruck; she had to reread the contract to make sure it was real. All she wanted was to have fun doing what she loved. But as it turned out, a certain company somewhere, wanted to join her party and pay for it!

Shelcy and Christy Joseph Take on Instagram

With a new incentive, Shelcy and Christy decided to dedicate more time to NYCxclothes.

They started to view this as a business and spent their weekends and about 5 hours during the week doing fashion photography. They also edited the videos and photos and scheduled them for posting and took time to respond to their audience’s comments.

Their zeal to empower women to live up to their potential and do it in style was paying off. With that, they bought better photo and video editing software and equipment. At times, they hired professional photographers and booked studios for their shoots as well.

… They Made Money

Shelcy noted that companies weren’t looking for profiles with large following on Instagram. They were after the engagement levels and the consistency. That’s how they got the deals.

Today, the Joseph sisters make money from influencing people’s fashion decisions. They are still in their early days and only have a small following but they are averaging $1,600 per month.

As they build a larger following and increase engagement, that number will keep going up more and more.

And Goodies Too

Besides receiving money, some companies pay them with their products. This enables Shelcy and Christy to save almost $500 per month on their clothing budget. Some companies include Instructor, TOMS Shoes and Pura Vida Bracelets.

In a few short years, their Instagram business has proved a success. They are already working with major brands, famous photographers and publications.

There Is Money in Social Media Business If You Look for It in The Right Places, The Right Way

Beside the Instagram business, Shelcy helps businesses in New York with content development. Having succeeded in Instagram, she is now considered to have the star factor in social media. She once made $1,200 per month by helping a company sell handbags through social media advertising. Her long-term goal is to start a digital media magazine.

You Can Go Beyond Instagram And Back

If you have passion for writing, you can go beyond writing captions on Instagram. How about writing full blogs for the company whose products you feature in Instagram? These blogs could either belong to their own websites or other high authority websites.

Make sure you link the audience back to the Instagram profile where they will see more products.

You may need to start off being the ultimate employee of your Instagram business. You take the photos, edit them, schedule them, respond to the comments and market the account all at the same time. As your account picks traction you can hire support staff to help.

But first, here are some rules to guide you.

14 Rules of Running a Successful Instagram Business

Shelcy Joseph’s success was well shaped by her discipline to stick by certain rules. In fact, these rules are visible in the NYCxclothes profile.

1. If you can capture it in camera you can influence people to love it.

Yes, it is your passion, but by showing it off using photos on Instagram, you can share the love with others.

2. Focus on what you are passionate about.

Whether it is fitness, food, fashion or travel, make sure you are passionate about it. The more you are comfortable with your choice, the easier it is for you to speak (post) about it.

3. Keep your photos top notch.

Blurry photos reduce your chances of winning your audience’s hearts. Make sure the photos are of high quality. Consider hiring a professional photographer or partnering with one in your business.

4. Write informative captions.

Your captions should be more informative than compelling the audience to buy. By giving the information, you appear as the expert to your audience. This is the way to win their attention.

5. Nail your niche.

Companies that seek influencers to feature their merchandise look for consistency in profiles. Don’t fall for the temptation to post any unrelated content. It will dilute your brand.

6. Interact with your followers.

Responding to your audience’s comments makes them feel closer to you. Appreciate them by engaging with each one of them.

7. Start small with the aim to grow.

You may feel threatened by the fact that everyone else has thousands of followers. But remember that they also started with one. Appreciate the few followers that you’ve got and give them the best of the content. You never know who’s watching! It could be a major brand.

8. Observe Consistency while posting photos.

Create a monthly plan on how you will get the photos and a daily plan to post. Your frequency of posting must be consistent. That’s what your audience and sponsors look for. Set a schedule and follow it.

9. Use hashtags to get discovered.

Relevant hashtags put you right in front of your target audience. When you post, include your business’ hashtag in your caption. You could also add any other tag that is relevant to the subject of the day.

10. Treat all your social media platforms as your portfolio.

Reinforce your Instagram business with other social media platforms. While at it, keep all your conversations professional. Use all platforms as your portfolio. Place information that is relevant to your business where your target clients can see it.

11. Deal with every company according to their guidelines.

There are no one-size-fits-all guidelines in business. Every company and brand wants special treatment. Before engaging with them, understand what they want then stick to it. That way, you will help them reach their target market faster.

12. Expect other forms of payment.

Some companies may offer you their products in exchange for a few Instagram features. Consider them if they are within your business values. If not, just be honest and tell them that their products don’t fit your brand or message.

13. Interact with the company and brands you are targeting first.

Get to know the companies you want as clients and take part in their posts. You could start by following them on various social media platforms. Comment from time to time, before bringing in business into the picture.

14. Mark the sponsored posts as required.

You should use the directions given in the Instagram’s FTC guidelines. Sponsored posts include #sponsored together with the brand’s hashtag in their captions.

Will You Be Next?

Social media is here to stay. Shelcy Joseph and her sister made it clear that you can to create an extra stream of income using Instagram. They are sharing their passion and it is paying off.

What about you? What online income model is right for you?