In our own industry, there are some heavy hitters that have launched their own lines and earn thousands or more for a mention in a post. 

These artist/brand relationships go beyond one-off posts—they can equal a contract for an ongoing relationship. Brands want to work with people who authentically love their products—when it comes to influencer marketing, what better billboard than a testimonial from an artist who is touting the benefits and results of a product versus a lifestyle blogger who is paid to simply post about a bottle.

However, unless you earn a contract with a brand or start your own product line, the money you can earn through Instagram can be very hit or miss. 

The same artist who earned $40K one month for paid posts and videos may be scrambling for new clients the next. 

To make that income more predictable, the goal, especially in the professional beauty industry, is to get a contract with a brand. 

“The motivation for me to start trying to find ways to make money on Instagram was to find a way to support my family outside of the salon floor,” says Sydney Ann Lopez, a MODERN ARTIST CONNECTIVE member and salon owner in Denton, Texas. “I was working 60 to 70 hours a week in the salon, and feeling like I was only seeing my child at bedtime.”

Lopez recently spoke at our photo shoot workshop, Artist Session, to share ways Instagram has changed her life financially, artistically and enhanced her overall career. 

“The income that I have made from Instagram has enabled me to be home in time to pick my son up from school, spend evenings with him, and put in the extra work after he goes to bed,” she says. “It has been such a blessing for my family.“

Although she was hesitant to talk about compensation, she agreed primarily because no one is really talking about it—there’s such a mystery with what the potential earnings are.

Lopez shares the reality: see the possibilities for earning in the influencer space.
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Lopez shares the reality: see the possibilities for earning in the influencer space.

Lopez is so comfortable and informed about the platform that when not working on clients she works with other beauty professionals and brands and has become a highly sought-after social media educator.

Lopez helps salon owners and stylists build their own followings to enjoy the benefits of having a powerful social media presence. She either goes to salons or meets with individuals, offering full day classes or workshops, or one on one training. 

Lopez built her following the right way – organically and patiently, knowing what her audience wants and delivering in a tasteful way. Her first post was in 2014 – a response to a client who asked that she put up some photos of her own finishes so that she didn’t have to bring in pictures of other artists’ work. “It was great when she started bringing in screen shots from MY Instagram of MY work,” Lopez adds. “Not only was that exciting, but I was thrilled because I already knew the formula!” At the time, Lopez was posting for her clients, but took it more seriously in 2015 when she realized the value of the platform. In less than two years Lopez went from fewer than 7K followers to her now more than 100K.

Lopez works with several brands and what makes her so special and successful is that she does all of this with impressive integrity. She will only work with products she uses in the salon or is willing to use on clients. “I’ve said no to several brands,” Lopez says. “I really have to believe in the product.” 

When it comes to money earned Lopez renegotiates as she reaches various milestones. “100K was a big one,” Lopez says. “I renegotiated with everyone and upped my compensation.” Right now, Lopez has five annual contracts and four short term contracts with beauty brands, including color, styling, software and extensions. Lopez does not accept contracts from competing brands and works exclusively within categories to avoid conflict. In addition to compensation, Lopez regularly gets boxes of free products from companies hoping to get on her radar. “Brands are always looking for social ambassadors,” she says. “They reach out to me because they know that if I like something, I may use it, love it and ultimately mention it in a post.”

Sydney Ann Lopez
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Sydney Ann Lopez

Are you following @SydneyAnnLopezHair?
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Are you following @SydneyAnnLopezHair?

Building a following and making money from Instagram IS WORK. Lopez now spends about two hours each day working on her posts, not just creating content but editing and preparing, hashtagging, commenting, etc. When she was first building, she would spend almost four hours each day creating and sharing content. For Lopez it has been worth it. Lopez has a nice income from the platform that is added to her “main” job of actually doing hair in the Headlines Hair Design salon she co-owns with her mother in Denton, Texas. 

Here Lopez shares her top ten tips on building an Instagram community and profiting from the platform:

  1. Build Your Following and Community the Right Way: Create a loyal following. When building, post three times a day. Stay on top of each post for the first hour, engaging with anyone commenting. Comments should be at least four words in length for Instagram to recognize that comment as engagement. “Make sure to engage other pages as well. I’ve built many ‘Insta-friends’ just by commenting back and forth.” NOTE: Lopez now posts once or twice a day. “At 100K you become a ‘priority account’ meaning you will reach more people and I don’t want to overwhelm my audience with content.”
  2. Get Reposted: When just starting out, make it your goal to get reposted by “feature pages” (like MODERN!) “But make sure your page is ready. People will go to look at it and will decide right then and there whether or not to follow.” Lopez still loves to get reposted by MODERN. “It’s an affirmation of what I’ve done that my content is still relevant.”
  3. Make Your Page Professional: Make sure your page is 98% of what you do (hair, makeup, nails) and just 2% family or fun. “Use ‘stories’ for more of those personal moments. But ‘stories’ should not go on endlessly. Try to keep it to 10 slides per day.”
  4. Focus On the Insights Feature: The Insights page is a feature on “business accounts”, something you should sign up for if you are using Instagram as a way to build your business. “If you are posting and missing the mark, this feature will let you know. Keep on top of what is performing best. I look at it several times each day. It helps me to adjust my posts or timing to get maximum engagement and exposure.”
  5. Tracking Engagement: Engagement is more important than “likes” and a brand interested in working with you wants proof. “Brands pay attention to the ‘Insights’ feature that gives information on each post. They ask for a screen shot of that page to measure engagement.” These brands want to know that what you’re creating is engaging to not only your audience, but to theirs. Lopez points out that you almost get bonus points if it’s saved, “It means it is useful content.”
  6. Create Content For Free:  If it is (or at least was) a brand that interested Lopez, she would create content for free “just to get on their radar.” She would also get active on their page by “commenting”, “liking” and sharing posts that she loves on her own page.
  7. Under Promise and Over Deliver: Lopez frequently gives more than what her contract requires. “Most of my brands only require four posts each month, but I usually do more.” Remember, she likes and uses the products she represents so this is not a stretch.
  8. Be Your Own Cheerleader: Keep your relationship and communication open with brands. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you. If a post performs well, don’t assume the brand is aware. “I let them know if something performs well. I will send the post to a brand and suggest that they repost it.”
  9. Be Proactive: It’s all about communication. Lopez advises that you should thank the brands you are working with and make sure you take care of all the things they need. “Reach out and let them know you can help them. Ask questions and make sure you are living up to their expectations.”
  10. Mix It Up: Make sure there is variety on your page, not just still photos. “In fact, videos perform best for me. My top 30 posts of all time, based on engagement, are videos.” But Lopez advises that the videos must be less than one minute in length. “My best performing last from 45 – 55 seconds, but I always put a teaser in to let the audience know that its short.”

Although Lopez acknowledges Instagram is a part of her job, she says it is one of the best things she has ever done. “I’ve grown my business, made great friends and have met some amazing people, simply because of this platform.” 

For more information and to “engage” with Lopez to help build your own following, DM her on her Instagram page: @sydneyannlopezhair (you know she is paying attention!)

Originally posted on Modern Salon