The Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Paid Adventure Brand Ambassador on Instagram

Instagram is a force of nature. The perfect spot for thrill-sharing adventure lovers.

What was merely a photo-sharing app initially has become one of the top social media platforms in less than a decade.

With 600 million monthly active users and 400 million daily active users, it ranks higher than Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

What does this tell us? People love visuals.

The Opportunity to get Paid as an Adventure Lover

For many adventure enthusiasts, their first instinct is to find ways to connect and share their adventures...then comes the thought..."Could I make money from it? Other's do it...why can't I?"

In this post, we would like to discuss a few different techniques and ways to go about making the leap from hobbyest to paid professional. It can be done.

Some success stories are on the smaller scale- where you get free swag.

Others are on the larger scale where you could potentially earn thousands a month.

Your earning potential is basically contingent upon the size of your following and how much time you’re willing to put in.

Most run-of-the-mill articles you read about making money on Instagram will tell you something obvious:  Run ads! Announce products! Cultivate a following.

But we give you something more to chew on...and some real leads.

Tactic #1- Buy a good camera

Full Stop. Buy a good camera. 

We can't stress this enough. You cannot be an adventure guru on Instagram and get paid without high quality shots...

It just won't happen.

So what's the solution at a relatively low cost? 

1) Your best friend is an amazing photographer with an amazing camera and wants to help you achieve your dreams or is in love with you ;)

2) A used camera 

Photo guru's are constantly upgrading their equipment and often looking to sell relatively newer cameras and lenses to fund their next purchase.

Do some research and find the camera and lens you like. Then look for it online, second hand. There are TONS of articles to read about what to ask when buying a second hand camera. 

We use a D7000 Nikon and Sigma Lens. We love it! But many of our Influencers use different types. We recommend it be mid-to-high professional grade...no entry-level cameras can compare to the next step up. 

Take an online course...learn more...so you can get paid more.

We love this Photography Masterclass course. Straightforward and excellent video content...all under $60.

We took this course within 1 month of opening Campton.

We needed better photo skills so that we weren't dependent on high-priced photographers in a jam.

It gives you all the knowledge you need to take amazing photos PLUS the SETTINGS (KEY!), but will require a small time investment and a good camera to work with...but well worth it.

If you can't get excellent photos right now..hold off on trying to become a paid guru unless a friend has a good camera and knows how to use it...and likes you enough to work with your new business schedule (someone in the friend zone ;).

It is THAT important.

Tactic #2- Cultivate your look and style

You need to go to Instagram and check out @kjp for this tactic. Nobody does it better. Both him and his wife understand the importance of establishing a look or 'brand'. Her with the Jackie-O style, him with his cute AF dog. All while color co-ordinated.

KJP picture for Campton Clothing Co.

 The photos are amazing...but the staging and dogged adherence to a style and 'feel' make this couple worth a million bucks. They even ship their station wagon to certain locations to get the right photo.

Do we think you should do that?...no. That would cost a ba-zillion dollars.

Instead, develop and commit to an image. Don't sway...far. Even for free swag or paid posts. Your image is everything. 

If you are an amazing camper who builds awesome campsites and enjoys adding 'fun and flavour' to your trip...then show that.

If you're a hardcore mountain climber..stick to that and cultivate amazing photo opportunities.

You WILL NOT succeed in becoming a paid adventure guru with just good photos of nature and your running shoes. You need a story. 

Find who you are, show who you are, enjoy sharing who you are.

Tactic #3- Sell your photos

Stock photo sites are huge these days.

You've probably gone looking for photos yourself for presentations, flyers or your own website.

A while back we came across a website called Foap, which has dubbed itself "the next wave of stock photography"

Foap Stock Photo Hero Image on Campton Clothing Co.

Rather than brands paying big money for photos from professionals or settling for those mediocre (and often cheesy) stock photo sites, Foap is becoming a popular alternative.

Here’s how it works.

  1. You sign up
  2. You build a profile
  3. You create a portfolio of your best images that you’d like to sell
  4. You earn $5 for each image you sell (you can sell the same image an unlimited number of times)

Here’s the thing about Foap.

You definitely need to have some solid “photography chops” to really make any money. 

You can’t slap up some completely amateurish content and expect to make a killing.

 It’s just not going to happen, and quality is essential.

So I really recommend that you develop your photography skills before attempting to sell anything on Foap.

But if you’ve got the skills, there’s most definitely money to be made.

One feature that you’ll want to check out is called “Missions.”

This is where you can connect with some of the world’s biggest brands and attempt to sell them your photos.

You don’t need to have a huge Instagram following to make money. In fact, it’s one of the few techniques that’s totally plausible even if you have only a minimal following.

Being successful really just boils down to how skilled you are at photography. Once you’ve taken your picture and uploaded it, it has the potential to keep bringing in cash.

 

Tactic #4 - Consider creating a vblog (videos) on YouTube

If you have any filming chops or feel comfortable talking to the camera, creating a separate vblog outside of Instagram can help increase your credibility and broaden your exposure.

YouTube is the fastest growing way millenials are consuming entertainment, so find a niche area and give it a try. 

Ask friends for feedback once you've posted a few. 

Don't assume that once you start recording that people will automatically come, because they won't. Your channel won't even show on YouTubes top recommendations without a huge following or paying for ads.

So your only option is to create content that is shareable, and unique. 

One video can literally change your life, so be creative and partner up with other people who have skills YOU need.

Remember to take your followiong on a journey, and make sure it's worth their time.

The key is relationships...creating a blog or story that makes people want to connect to you and your adventures. Keep it simple, keep it fun and keep it helpful. 

If you don't have time to post regularly and sustain a relationship through commenting, answering questions and posting regularly...don't do it. It will not do you any good and put A LOT of guilt/stress on your plate.

Tatic #5- Use New & Different Media

You can't fall behind here.

People consume media in so many different ways, it's important to diversify your image. Still photos can be great...but video can be awesome as well.

It's OK to have your standard approach, but be willing to learn and use new formats of delivering your message.

Music.aly, YouTube, Snapchat, IG are all live-feed videos that connect you will your audience. Take a good look at what some of the pros are doing...there is your jumping point.

Facebook stories have jumped on the Instagram bandwagon, allowing you to easily post to both sites without duplicating content (time-saver!)

Sign-up, practice and then leap.

Tactic #6 - Reach out to smaller companies

Don't email Adidas, Patagonia or North Face...They won't answer and why should they? But lots of smaller companies are looking for your representation.

Small apparel and gear companies are often looking for ways to organically grow their customer base using Influencers.

Many will have their own influencer programs, where you can sign up and gain a 10% commission on all sales you funnel their way.

This sounds easy right?

While it's a great concept, the chances of you gaining a significant amount of income from this is rare. 

Very few of your followers will actually buy just because you post a recommendation. You may get lots of likes but few sales, while the company gets free exposure from you.

Be careful not to fall into this trap too soon or without a large following.

You'll end up looking like you lack credibility if you post too frequently and declining support. In the end you will have taken away some of the 'magic' of your image plus no 10% commission.

Remember: today's audience is much more sensitive and cynical to blatant advertising, so be gentle in your approach and think through your strategy carefully.

A better way to connect to small companies, is to reach out by email and see if they will give you free product (stickers or badges) OR a discount code so that you can purchase from them at wholesale.

Once you have some of their gear, you the opportunity to post stories and take photos IN their gear but shaped for your brand image (ultimate control!).

This creates a connection that seems more authentic and credible to your audience once you do subtly make a recommendation. These small companies will also be watching, and if your photos are good or the response is great, they will be interested in building the partnership.

Tactic #7 - Don't expect Free Swag or $$$... in the beginning

We honestly receive 10 emails a day requesting free swag or money to collaborate with adventure influencers who have less than 2000 followers.

And we've accepted and declined them...depending on what they providing us in return.

While we pride ourselves on trying to work with each influencer regardless of number of followers, we are still surprised at the number of people who forget that we expect results.

There have been many who accepted free clothing, and then did not produce the photos or posting as they agreed. Our financial loss and their reputation burned.

The reality is that we are looking for a return on investment, and Influencers who have a large following, experience working in the industry and a good reputation are often the most reliable and best investment.

Stores understand the monetary value of their product, shipping costs and labour time. What they don't know is whether you have any clout or persuasion with the audience they are selling to, OR your professionalism.

So...what do you do?

You want to make money...they want exposure and sales. 

Find common ground...it's all about negotiation. Find things to offer them they don't have. Like great Music.ly videos, or content for Youtube. Offer to Blog Post or run a giveaway. Get a group of people together and do a stunt...

Negotiate!!!

They may have an area you see as not well represented, like mountain climbing.

Do you mountain climb and get amazing shots?

Well, offer them climbing shots (provide examples), plus offer to post to your IG/FB and Twitter accounts in return for a free shirt. Suggest this can assist them in opening up their market in this category...

And finally remember...you are reaching out to them, so don't make them regret taking you up on your offer.

Tactic #8 - Price Yourself Right $$$

Start small in the beginning. Here is an over-simplified list of what is reasonable to expect from clients based upon your follower numbers:

Followers (Instagram, Twitter & Facebook combined)

1-250 ~ Don't expect anything. Focus on increasing the quality of your profile and developing a style. You likely only have family and friends supporting you, but everyone starts here.

250-1000~ Don't expect anything. Focus on increasing the quality and focus of your profile. Encourage others to tag friends, start hash tagging appropriately. Don't post too often and be careful not to stray from your 'look'. Use your stories to provide updates and fun aspects, leave the permenant posts for images that solidify your specific niche.

1000-2000~ Don't expect anything. Hash tag like a professional, figure out when your best posting times are and what type of content gets the best results. Reach out to small companies and offer to do free posts of their content that fits your 'style'. Prepare your audience for promotional materials and assess their response.

2000-5000~ Ask for product. Start honing your hash tags and following accounts that will do shoutouts and reposting of material they like. Tag them in every photo. For example #adventurevisuals #peoplescreative #adventurelife. You'll get lucky every so often. Respond to all comments, positively...be grateful. Ask some brands you love for stickers, posters, lower cost product and ask to run a giveaway with them. If you get a great response: 100 entries, at least 50 comments...this is great! They'll want to do it again with you and maybe send more free swag if your photos are high quality.

5000-10 000~ The biggest jump...the hardest. Ask for product and suggest a collaboration to do a giveaway. They provide the product, you post post post and get your audience free prizes!  Always put a $ value in the post ( $350 value) and make sure people have to tag others to enter the contest. People will start feeling rewarded by your account and encourage others to join.

Deliver content in a predictable way to your audience, so that they can get used to receiving your content.

Now is the time to start connecting with other Influencers in your area and do some joint promotional material or media together. 

Joint photoshoots, attending events and/or being sponsored are great ways of using your limited resources and building off of each other. 

They will also give you new ideas on how to situate your 'brand' in the market.

Lastly, ensure that your audience engagement is trending in the right direction. Your numbers should only continue to go up (i.e., likes, comments). If it's not, start trouble shooting NOW!

Are you posting too frequently, or at the wrong time? Is there certain content you love, but your audience doesn't...figure out what is not working and FIX IT!

10 K+ Followers~ Charge a FEE. Once you have a following over 10K, you can start charging a fee or requesting a bunch of free swag as a minimum. 

Under 12k, you should charge between $10-$25 for a permanent post or shoutout using their photos or product shots. A permanent post should remain on your account indefinitely and a link in the bio for 24 hours. 

If you've used a robot to buy followers, you won't get very much engagement from your followers. Potential buyers will see this and steer clear. Each of your posts should have a minimum of 500 likes to be considered valuable and those without comments are highly suspect.

Between 12k-18k you should consider raising your fees to $50-$80 a post with free swag. Keep in mind, you want repeat customers...so if your audience isn't responding with likes, tags, website visits or sales....then you have a lot of work to do.

Finding new customers is harder than keeping customers...so it's your job to encourage engagement by writing good copy, knowing great hashtags, responding to all comments and sharing to other Influencers in your circle. 

Over 20k Your ultimate goal is to get paid between $150-$250 per post with free merchandise...but this will only happen with customers who trust you and are getting a good return on their money. That means taking amazing photos, responding to comments/likes, creating connections with other great Influencers and cultivating a style image others want to emulate.

Over 40k~ You've MADE IT! If your followers are real, then you can really start to price how you like, when you like and what you like. You're a pro at this stage so keep up the amazing work and comment below if you've hit it BIG and have any tips for your fellow dreamers!

Tactic #9 -Buying or Selling  Shoutouts with Help

If you feel like you're ready to take things to the next level or can't gain traction organically and you have some great photography/images already in your profile then move onto Shoutouts.

Two options here...

1) If you're are looking for followers...buy a Shoutout (under 5K)

2) If you're looking to start making $$$...sell a Shoutout (over 5K)

Go to Shoutcart.com

This is a marketplace where you can find quality influencers who have large followings and “buy shoutouts” from them or sell your own.

It’s an incredibly effective way to get the word out on an affiliate product in a short period of time without having to do a lot of heavy lifting or purchase your own shout out your latest adventure for as little as $2.

Here’s how it works.

You browse through Shoutcart’s list of featured Instagram influencers/sellers to find someone who’s in the right niche that matches you and your audience.

Advertising a giveaway or contest is a great way to encourage your audience to 'Tag' or Share on Facebook, leading more people to follow you and discover your content.

*Beware* If you have used a 'cheat programs' or 'bought followers'...you may have a huge percentage of 'robots' in your following. ShoutCart will know and give you a lower "score", meaning your profile is less attractive. If you are buying a shoutout...look for accounts with over a 10+ rating.

Tactic #10- Offer Excellent Customer Service

This is a difficult transition for many adventure lovers who live and breathe on the freedom and independence their adventures give them.

Then suddenly, they have a boss.  The client.

You must commit to being a business.

Available.

Accessible.

Nice.

You must be available by email and messaging. Try to respond within 24 hours 90% of the time. They will keep coming back if you offer a good service. Don't let them down.

If your customer is not happy, find out why and fix it if you can. Negotiate.

We've had several encounters where paid ambassadors forgot to post when they promised or incorrectly linked our product. This is wasted ad dollars and unacceptable. 

If they send you free product, make sure you post it in a timely fashion. Waiting 4 months for a post does not promote repeat purchases.

Remember, somebody thinks you're special...don't convince them otherwise.

 If you think you'd make a good ambassador, there is nothing stopping you. Share below with all your friends and followers and let them know it can be done!

Happy trails,

The Campton Crew

Comments

  • Posted by amy treasure on

    Seems like a lot of work! Although it is very appealing because I love adventure and I love sharing my thoughts with the world. I think the part about getting a look is also kinda silly, but I know absolutely nothing about starting up a blog and getting followers. Its a very great article though, and I hope people can figure out the best way for them to adventure and share it with the world. Thanks campton!

  • Posted by Anisa on

    Awesome blog! The steps are laid out well for anyone wishing to take their photography skills to the next level. It is a lot of work and would be easy to give up; however, this article demonstrates that although it is initially a slow process to gain recognition online, it is possible if you stick to what you love and ask for opinions from different people. Love it!

  • Posted by Courtney on

    Wow! This is the most comprehensive blog post from a company I have seen about how to make Instagram work for you. Lots of valuable information! So glad I read through this article. I know what to expect and the work I need to put in to garner great results!

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