In the ten months I have actively pursued a career in freelance writing I have learned four things –
- Quality requires quantity – It takes time to build a business. Society is quick to tout stories of fast success while leaving out one little fact – they’re the exception not the rule. If you want to build a strong business as a freelance writer (quality) you’re going to have to invest time (quantity).
- Slow progress is still progress – I use goal-tracking to document any tasks I complete in favor of building my career. It helps me keep track of what I still need to do and provides incentive to keep going. I guarantee, if you decide to start your own business you will have moments where you will want to give up – don’t!
- Learn how to learn – To succeed in business, (or life in general), you need to be willing to change, learn, and grow. If you are “stuck in your ways” you’re not going to go far.
- Use social media.
The last two items are very important. You need to be willing to question what you think you already know, and accept when you’re wrong. I admit when I first started this journey I was a bit cocky. I’ve been online for more than twenty years. Social media has been a part of my life since it was still a twinkle in the eye of some programmer in Silicon Valley. I have built, administrated, and mediated everything from chat-rooms to websites.
With a background like that in my pocket I was confident I could easily build a brand. I imagined easy success and fast results thanks to my years of first-hand internet knowledge.
In March, I started an Instagram account with the goal of promoting my work as a freelance writer. I figured all I had to do was post some pictures, use some hashtags, and everything would fall into place. Which is exactly what didn’t happen. I was unable to maintain a steady increase in followers. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t grow my audience. Furthermore, I was losing followers faster than I was gaining them.
I decided to take the advice of Jorden Roper, creator of Writing Revolt, and take an objective look at my approach. The first thing I noticed was that my account wasn’t focused. If you are going to do any kind of social media successfully, you need to find your niche. You cannot have multiple voices and expect your audience to follow them all at once.
My original Instagram account – not the one I have now – was much like the first incarnation of this website. It was a hodgepodge. I was across the map and it made it difficult for my audience to connect. I realized I needed to sit down and carve out an actual niche. So, I deleted my old Instagram, started a new one, and gave myself the freedom to experiment.
Here are ten methods I have tried that work –
(…and we’re going to count them down Letterman style.)
10) Be patient.
Do not expect overnight success and avoid anyone who promises it. If you want to grow your account – the right way – it takes time and effort.
9) PICK A NICHE!!!
Do not make my mistake and try to be a Jack-of-all-trades. Take the time to sit down and figure out where to best focus your efforts. When someone scrolls through your Instagram feed you want to give them an idea what you are about. Consistency is key.
8) Take good pictures.
Sina, creator of the blog HappyGreyLucky, advises readers wanting to grow their Instagrams to “take good quality photos” and “create a beautiful feed.” This does not mean you need to run out and buy a $500 camera or become the next Ansel Adams. The one on your iPhone, Android, or ZTE will do just fine. Just make sure your pictures are in focus, are part of a consistent theme, and are visually appealing. In other words, don’t post something like this –
7) Don’t be a social media hermit.
Networking is much easier nowadays thanks to social media. Take the time to find others who share your interests and follow their accounts. Interact with both your audience and the Instagrammers you follow. Respond to their comments and make sure leave comments of your own.
6) Post regularly.
The main mistake I made with my old account was not posting regularly. If you want to grow your Instagram account and build followers you need to post daily. I regularly plan for taking pictures and posting to my feed throughout my day. It maintains engagement with the audience and keeps my account visible to Instagram’s algorithms.
5) Write good captions and use appropriate hashtags.
A good caption is basically what we writers call a “hook.” It is that opening line that will either draw your audience in or turn them away. Take the time to write a good, concise caption that is quick and easy to read. The same for hashtags. Try to use tags that aren’t vague and relate to your image. I find that a mix of popular and less-popular tags works best for growing and maintaining my audience.
4) Analyze and revise.
Take the time to analyze your photos to see which ones attract the most followers and which do not. Visit the accounts of popular Instagrammers you follow and study their images. I’ve noticed the top Instagrammers all have one thing in common –
Clear, focused, visually-appealing images that are part of a consistent theme.
3) Don’t post crummy content.
Just…no. Good production value is important when starting or promoting a brand or business. If you want your Instagram account to grow you need to take good pictures and give your audience high-quality content.
2) Post pictures of yourself.
I am an introvert. I naturally avoid cameras the way Dracula avoids Italian restaurants. HOWEVER, if you want your audience to really engage you need to show them the man (or woman) behind the camera. This makes your account personable which is important for long-term growth.
1) Do not, under any circumstances, purchase followers.
Fake followers are like fake friends – they will stunt your growth.
(Note: I am in way, shape, or form being paid by Jorden Roper or Writing Revolt. These are my honest reactions and/or opinions of her company/products.)