Safety First in Working with Brands: Things to Think about as an Influencer

We all know the excitement of getting an e-mail about an interesting campaign. “Hi! This is [ ] from [Company/tourism board]. We saw you on Instagram and think you would be a great fit with our brand. Would you like to [try our product/go on a trip]? Please let us know what your rates are.” When it’s a company or a destination you’re excited about, or when you have it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and immediately respond “YES!” then soon after give away personal information such as your address (to receive product) or personal information for flights/visas. Even when you’re not necessarily excited, sometimes it’s second nature to quickly respond “Sure, I’ll try the product and if I like it we can discuss working together” followed by an address.

I’ve been in this situation plenty of times myself, and one day as I started responding to an e-mail, I started thinking “what if…?” These days, I’m pretty careful when working with brands. Here are a few questions to ask and thoughts to consider when considering working with a brand:

Who are you really talking to? Can you confirm the brand’s identity? If you were approached through a DM on Instagram, is the account that approached you verified? How many followers does the account have? Did you do a search for the brand to see whether there is another account out there? Check the contact email on Instagram. Is it a company email address? If you receive an email from a brand, is the email a company email? Does it match the email on the brand’s Instagram account? Did you google the sender’s name to see whether they have a LinkedIn that says they work for the brand? If you are approached through a reputable Influencer platform or thorough a reputable PR firm, you can probably feel safe – but don’t forget to vet platforms and PR firms before working with them!

Who are you giving your address to? So what if you aren’t dealing with the brand you thought you were dealing with…and you give your home address to a random stranger on the internet? Yeah, not good. Always, always vet brands before telling them where you live. And if you can avoid using your home address, please do. Maybe you can have products shipped to a P.O. Box or to your office. I’ve always felt safer having products shipped to my home because I live in a condo building with a 24 hour front desk.

Are your travel plans really what you’re told they are going to be? If you’ve been approached by a tourism board or travel agency, or are for some other reason going on a press trip, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to verify your travel plans. Do you remember hearing about the scam luring influencers to Indonesia? If you’re going on a press trip, get an itinerary beforehand. Independently verify the details of that itinerary. Call the rental car company, call the hotels. Make sure they all have a reservation under your name. Consider speaking with influencers who have worked with the brand in the past.

Are you protecting your money? Be careful with your money. Don’t ever give money to a brand that reaches out – whether it’s to get a visa or for anything else. Be skeptical about promises of reimbursement. Be careful about information you give out to get paid. Don’t give someone the information needed to hack into your bank account. Also, make sure you get paid. Keep track of who you’ve worked with and what they owe you.

I wish there were a hard and fast rule for verifying the identity and reputation of a brand you are considering working with, but unfortunately there is not. Take into account the advice I’ve given in this post and ultimately trust your gut – if something seems off, it probably is.

Five Things I Wish I Had Known about Being an “Influencer”

If you’re on social media these days, it’s hard not to envy the curated depiction you see of other people’s lives. Social media influencers – people who make money off of their social media presence – share highlight reels of their seemingly picture-perfect lives.

I’m one of these influencers and I am constantly bombarded with messages like “must be nice to be able to do what you do”…”you’re so lucky”…”I wish I had your life!” Hm. Do you though?? Most people don’t realize that I work a demanding full time job as a lawyer in addition to blogging and social media posting. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. But it’s not easy. I spend a lot of time behind a desk and being an influencer isn’t always as easy as it seems. Here are five things I wish I had known before I started.

  1. Building and maintains a following takes work. Caveat: it “just happens” for a select few people. I’m not one of them. And most people aren’t. Most people who it did “just happen” for were in very unique circumstances at the time that they grew. For me, it was completely intentional. At the time, I was working at a law firm for $25 an hour while I was in law school. I had a few other part time jobs as well. Unfortunately for me, these jobs didn’t allow me to keep up with my mortgage the lifestyle I had gotten used to as a consultant. I was seriously struggling financially. One day as I was going through my newsfeed on Instagram, I saw someone include #ad in the caption of their post. I was immediately curious. I perused the Internet and quickly learned that people were in fact getting paid money to post branded photos on Instagram. I loved to travel and thought this would be the perfect way to supplement my income. I did my research. I changed my Instagram account from private to public. I changed my name. I studied what the big accounts were doing and I mimicked that. It worked. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took about a year of hard work for me to gain a substantial following. Even now, I notice when I neglect social media for awhile because I’m busy with life, I start to lose followers and my engagement goes down. Was it worth it? Yes. But was it easy? No.
  2. Traveling for a client isn’t a vacation. Stay in a nice resort. For free. Take beautiful photos depicting an extravagant life on the property. Go on tours for free wearing the cute free outfit that you got. Sound easy? Probably. Well let me tell you that it’s not. Trust me. I have a college degree and two graduate degrees. I’m a CPA and I passed the bar exam. I work as a lawyer at a law firm. I say all of this so that when I tell you working as an influencer isn’t a joke, you understand my credibility. There is a lot of pressure to get “epic” photographs, often in a short amount of time. Clients have high expectations and and if you don’t deliver, your reputation will be affected. But guess what. You can’t control the weather. If it’s rainy every day of your trip and you promised your client 10 high quality photographs, you better deliver. So you need to be able to improvise and be creative. You need to be comfortable with minimal sleep. And you need to get used to your vacations not really being vacations anymore.
  3. People won’t take you seriously. This is probably the most frustrating for me. I have worked damn hard to get to where I am in life and when someone calls me “lucky” it minimizes the effort I have put it to get to this point and is downright insulting. I know that for the most part people don’t realize this, so I try to be understanding. To a certain extent, yes, I am lucky. I was born in a country that allows me to travel the world with relative ease. I realize that not everyone has this privilege. I was raised by loving parents who gave me everything I needed to succeed on my own. But those 2,000 hours a year that I bill to clients at the law firm I work at – those aren’t luck. They hard work. So are all the hours I put into negotiating with clients, creating social media content, and writing blog posts.
  4. Daily life won’t look like your Instagram feed. I am baffled by how many people think that social media influencers entire lives look like their Instagram feeds. Instagram is a highlight reel. It is a collection of someone’s most picturesque, curated moments. It is not everyday life.
  5. Jealousy will be hard to resist. Many influencers are friends with each other. It’s easy to compare yourself to your friends. Who has more followers? Who gets the better sponsored trips? Who has better engagement? Don’t fall into that trap. It’s ugly. I’ve seen friendships end over it. I’ve even had a friendship of my own end because someone was jealous of me. And it hurt. Focus on yourself and be the best that you can. It will serve you better in the long run.

34 Instagram Accounts that Feature Female Travelers 

Below are a few of the best accounts that feature female travelers and their hashtags. I included accounts of all sizes and travel styles.

  1. @wearetravelgirls #wearetravelgirls
  2. @mountaingirls #mountaingirls
  3. @radgirlscollective #radgirlslife 
  4. @dametraveler #dametraveler 
  5. @sidewalkerdaily #sidewalkerdaily 
  6. @globelletravels #globelletravels 
  7. @passionpassport #passionpassport
  8. @amazingworldshoots #amazingworldshoots
  9. @girlslovetravel #gltlove 
  10. @wearetravelladies #wearetravelladies 
  11. @travelnoire #travelnoire 
  12. @outdoorwomen #outdoorwomen 
  13. @darlingescapes #darlingescapes 
  14. @wildernessbabes #wildernessbabes 
  15. @ladiesgoneglobal #ladiesgoneglobal 
  16. @beautifulmatters #beautifulmatters 
  17. @sheisnotlost #sheisnotlost 
  18. @traveldreamseekers #traveldreamseekers 
  19. @jetsettingchicks #jetsettingchicks 
  20. @girlsvsglobe #girlsvsglobe 
  21. @femmetravel #femmetravel 
  22. @thetravelwomen #thetravelwomen 
  23. @travel_bff #travelbff 
  24. @girlsmeetglobe #girlsmeetglobe 
  25. @explorerbabes #explorerbabes 
  26. @citizenfemme #citizenfemme 
  27. @womenwhoexplore #womenwhoexplore 
  28. @womenwhohike #womenwhohike 
  29. @girlaroundworld #girlaroundworld 
  30. @girlsabroad_ #girlsabroad 
  31. @travelgirlsgo #travelgirlsgo 
  32. @girldiscoverers #girldiscoverers 
  33. @thefairytalebloggers #thefairytalebloggers 
  34. @pinktrotters #pinktrotters