‘I lost my job. Then I made $100,000 a year working for myself’

When I was younger, I became interested in theater and dance. Although I tried to pursue a career in this field, I could not bear the harsh rejection within the theater industry. So, in 2012, I decided to go to university and study journalism in London. Although I loved journalism, it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue as a full-time career. I thought I could figure out my next steps during my studies.

While I was in college, a rising social media influencer was getting a lot of attention on YouTube and making a living by posting videos about her life. But I was 21 and wanted to have fun with my friends, so I didn’t think I was going into a career on social media.

After graduating from college, I quickly moved into marketing and advertising, working with lifestyle and beauty brands. I usually didn’t stay in a job for longer than a year because I felt that I wasn’t taken seriously. I also often felt like I was underpaid and left work feeling unsatisfied with what I was doing. Looking back, I can see that I always had an authority problem, which could be related to my ADHD; I was diagnosed in 2022.

Emily Valentine after quitting her old job.

Just a few years after graduating, I had worked at five different companies. I always felt like I was meant to do something different in my career and my life, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. That was until I was fired from my last job at the age of 26.

I worked as a talent manager in fashion photography from 2014 to 2016 and had to answer to the talent manager. My role also consisted of taking care of the make-up artists for fashion shoots and campaigns. I felt it was a cutthroat industry and the expectations were almost unbearable. But I learned transferable skills such as the ability to negotiate, which I later learned would be essential to becoming a successful influencer. In this role, I also developed my YouTube channel and my blog. I remembered the idea that my mother had proposed to me all those years ago.

Then I lost my job. I was told it was due to a conflict of interest between my personal career and the role, but it came as a shock and I was extremely upset. I was living in London and had rent to pay, with only 30 days salary to live on.

I thought, “What was I going to do?” I then swore to myself that I would start making money by becoming a social media influencer, whatever the odds. At the time, I had less than 10,000 followers on Instagram and wasn’t very well known, but I knew at that moment that I had no choice but to make it work.

I couldn’t imagine working in a company again. So the morning after I got laid off, I sat down at my desk at home and started emailing every brand I knew. I adapted a pitch and then edited individual templates I had created so they would fit the brands I was offering to. I told these brands why I think they should hire me and how I will boost their product.

From my experience working with fashion and creative industry clients, I knew I had to approach all of these brands with confidence. I was up every morning presenting to brands, sending my media kit, and telling them why I thought they should work with me. From my experience working in the corporate world, I also knew that I had to be polite, professional and meet deadlines to ensure the client was taken care of.

Emily Valentine
Emily Valentine does a photo shoot.

A few weeks later, in 2016, I was on a family vacation in Cuba. That’s when I got my first email from a big brand, New Look, launching a beauty line and asking me to be the face for £5,000 ($5,600). At that moment, I knew that everything would be fine and that my hard work would pay off. In that year I made £45,000 ($50,000). The following year I made £100,000 ($112,000) helping brands advertise their products on social media while growing my own fan base.

Around the beginning of 2022, I decided to pool my experience in the industry and pass it on to others. I started by doing market research because I wanted to know who my customers were. But this expanded later as people were interested in knowing how to become successful social media influencers. I started charging £300 ($338) for one hour sessions on my subject matter expertise.

Following this, I slowly started putting together a digital course that includes modules and tips on how to become a successful influencer and how to negotiate with brands. The course is due to go live in 2023, but I’m looking to produce a lower ticket offering that includes the course, and a higher ticket offering that includes weekly sessions with me and hands-on coaching.

Emily Valentine at work
Emily Valentine works with a global brand.
Reece Chapman

Over the years, my followers have helped me tremendously. I share my life with them and I tell them my stories. Conversations with my followers inspired me to get tested and diagnosed with ADHD in 2022.

I think success in being an influencer involves positively influencing and helping people. I could easily try on outfits for a living, but it’s the deep, meaningful connection with my followers that I’ve always sought. I feel like their best friend and big sister. Working on my own for the past seven years has taught me not to be afraid to share my inner thoughts and experiences as a young woman online. It’s really valuable.

Emily Valentine is a social media influencer. She works with global brands and creates campaigns. She also offers private training sessions to emerging social media influencers and is in the process of creating a digital course. You can find her on Instagram here.

All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

As told to Newsweek associate editor Carine Harb.

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