My audience on Instagram was ecstatic to hear about Hayley Andersen’s appearance on Her Life, By Design. And if you’re an aspiring travel influencer and blogger, you probably are as well. Hayley is an Australian travel and lifestyle content creator who has worked with huge brands like Booking.com, DJI, and the tourism boards of many countries — including Japan. This episode is a raw and honest glimpse into the world of travel content creation. During my conversation with Hayley, we chat about her journey from 0 to 300K+ followers, how to craft a winning pitch, Hayley’s biggest lesson learned on this journey, and her best advice for aspiring influencers. But most importantly, Hayley shares why passion, persistence, and patience are key for success as a content creator.
Why Passion, Persistence, and Patience are Key For Content Creation
I asked my audience on Instagram what their number one question was for Hayley. It was apparent that the question on everyone’s mind was “how did you become such a popular content creator?” A common theme that Hayley and I discuss throughout the episode is that sometimes, everything you see on Instagram can appear a little too perfect. Today, it’s easy for anyone to overlook the amount of persistence and patience that took Hayley from a community of 0 to over 300K.
Starting From Scratch
Hayley started her journey a little over 5 years ago. However, she only made Instagram and blogging her full-time job in the last 2 years or so. Prior to focusing on travel blogging, Hayley studied marketing at university while working a full-time job to make ends meet. She realized that the conventional route wasn’t for her. Hayley would flip through page after page of magazines that showcased the world of entrepreneurship. She was inspired and started following girls who were bloggers and influencers on Instagram.
At university, she had a bulletin board covered with clippings from magazines of things that inspired her. The board included images of places she wanted to go, people she admired (like Beyoncé), and a check she wrote to herself for $10,000 dollars. And when she checked off her goal of saving $10,000, she wrote a new check to herself for $20,000. It was then that Hayley and her partner set a goal of saving $50k. When they reached that amount, they packed their bags, left everything behind, and bought a one-way ticket to Europe to travel around in a $5000 van.
Growing a Community from the Ground Up
When Hayley and her partner left Australia to pursue a full-time travel lifestyle, she didn’t have a backup plan. Armed with nothing but her camera, a brand new blog, and an Instagram account — she was persistent about improving her photography skills and showing up consistently for her small audience. The growth of her community was slow and steady as she traveled around Europe for 2 years. But the momentum didn’t pick up until she traveled to Southeast Asia and a photo she took in Thailand went viral. This was the most significant growth she saw, having jumped from 20k to 50k followers in a short period of time. Although Hayley attributes this sudden growth to the 2 years spent mastering her photography skills, she reminds listeners that viral growth comes and goes in waves.
In the episode, Hayley reassures listeners that it takes a while to grow a great community. She also reminds listeners that passion is what will drive your patience, allowing you to stick it out for the long haul. And if you’re feeling down about your current growth on Instagram, remember that the road to a strong community consists of many ups and downs.
Building a Portfolio Through Unpaid Collaborations
The more Hayley’s community grew, the more collaboration requests she received. She received her very first travel collaboration from the tourism board of Myanmar. Hayley was thrilled with the opportunity, even though the trip was unpaid. In the episode, Hayley points out that accepting unpaid press trips at the beginning of her career was a way for her to build her portfolio and get her foot in the door.
If you’re at the stage of your influencer career where you’re accepting mostly gifted collaborations, Hayley’s experiences reinforce that this phase is just another part of the journey. Hayley spent a lot of time working for free at the start of her influencer career; seeing it as a huge opportunity to learn, build a reputation, and a strong portfolio. It’s important to remember that building a sustainable career as an influencer is a long game, especially within the travel niche. But getting comfortable with pitching to brands is something you should get used to as soon as possible.
How to Craft a Stand-Out Pitch
As Hayley started seeing massive growth in her community, she also started seeing more requests for brand collaborations come through. However, something Hayley did from the very beginning was pitching to as many brands that aligned with her work and values. She would send hundreds of emails to tourism boards, hotels, airlines, or any company that she genuinely saw as a potentially great fit for her content and vision.
To craft a winning pitch, Hayley advises every influencer to reach out, introduce yourself, and explain what you’re about and how you’ll bring value to them. Include all the areas where you can provide value — whether it’s through content creation, writing, photography, or videography — in your pitch. Illustrating how you’ll be able to bring value to a brand will significantly increase your chances of landing the partnership. Hayley reinforces the importance of pitching from a position that shows what you have to offer, not from a position that demands a service or product from a brand.
In this episode, Hayley shares her best advice for pitching to brands. She explains the key elements to include in every pitch, such as statistics and your media kit. Hayley also gives listeners an intimate look into how much work went into pitching before she was able to land brand collaborations consistently.
Hayley’s Biggest Lesson Learned as an Influencer
As Hayley’s community continues to grow and the doors to opportunities continue to open, she finds herself falling into the comparison trap. Unfortunately, comparison along with imposter syndrome are two things that Hayley still encounters till this day. No matter where you are on your influencer journey, it’s easy to compare yourself with others in the same field. Hayley reminds listeners that “you’re only seeing someone’s life from the outside.” And when she feels herself getting bogged down by unrealistic comparisons, she writes down all the things that she’s happy and grateful for. This allows her to reflect on where she’s been and how much she has achieved. “Remember the things you have done and all the things you should be proud of in life.”
Moreover, when Hayley feels herself getting sucked into the comparison trap, she takes some much needed time off Instagram. A social media detox can really help you reassess your intentions, goals, and values. Sometimes, you might get caught up with what another influencer is doing, that you begin to envy a style, collaboration, or project that doesn’t align with what you value. However, referring to other influencers’ work can also be a great source of inspiration and motivation, so be mindful about who you’re following. An important question that Hayley poses for listeners and aspiring influencers is, “do you really want this lifestyle? Or does it just look nice from the outside?”
Hayley dives into some actionable tips that can help you establish a healthier relationship with Instagram. She encourages listeners to write down your goals and a complete list of things you want to do. And most importantly, “follow people who are going to make you feel better,” and give yourself permission to unfollow anyone who doesn’t bring you value.
Advice for Aspiring Influencers
On the theme of advice and lessons learned, Hayley divulges in some practical yet overlooked advice for aspiring influencers. A common thread throughout this episode is an emphasis on passion, persistence, and patience. It’s only fitting that Hayley stresses the importance of enjoying every step of the journey, “you have to be in it because you love it,” Hayley says, “not because it’ll make you rich.” If you’re truly in it because you love the process, you’ll be able to find the value that you bring to the table and discover the unique factor that sets your brand apart.
A piece of advice Hayley wishes she had at the beginning of her own journey is to diversify and spread yourself across different channels. That means branching out and starting a blog, exploring the opportunities on TikTok, and branching out into any available platform. And within Instagram, it is crucial to hop on Reels as soon as possible. But no matter which platform you’re on, Hayley reminds listeners to “connect and relate to your audience and stay persistent.”
“Social media these days is just about being really real and being relatable. The more they relate to you, the more they’ll engage in your life.”
And yes, being vulnerable and putting yourself out there also allows for mean, unwarranted messages. Hayley is no stranger to hurtful messages herself. But she advises influencers to take the good with the bad. And when you get overwhelmed with the bad, allow yourself to step away and take a break.
Why Passion, Persistence, and Patience are Key for Content Creation
If you take away one thing from this episode, I hope it’s this: perseverance, when fueled with passion, is a powerful force. It’s easy to judge Hayley’s journey based on what her current Instagram profile looks like. For her, giving up was never an option. This fact alone made it easy to understand how she grew a large and engaged community. For any aspiring influencer, especially in the travel niche, you need to listen to this episode. This conversation with Hayley will be sure to educate, uplift, and inspire influencers currently in the thick of navigating this evolving industry.
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