This week I have been working remotely from Samara, Costa Rica. 

I’ve been lucky enough to stay in an Airbnb that’s basically in a jungle. It’s a beautiful location, the wifi is strong, and I’ve been able to produce tons of content.

How I became an Instagram influencer - Elise Darma
Ah, the digital nomad life 😉

On my Instagram Stories, I’ve been getting a few questions about this whole trip. The big question has been, how did you get this experience as an influencer?

So today I’m sharing with you how I became an Instagram influencer and have been able to stay in this beautiful jungle Airbnb for an entire week for free.

Prefer video? Watch in full right here ☝️

How I became an Instagram influencer

This isn’t my first time being an Instagram influencer as a digital nomad

In 2016 I grew my Instagram following to about 50,000 followers. 

I grew my following in the travel niche. I was a digital nomad, so I used a lot of my photos to build up my account. Once I had that following, brands would reach out to me. 

Brands would offer me digital nomad experiences in exchange for promoting their brand. I built up about three years worth of experience working with brands, especially in the digital nomad space. 

The big ‘but’ is – is that’s not how I make my money. Being an influencer is not how my business earns its revenue.

My business has many streams of revenue:

  • My agency where my team provides services for clients
  • My online products and courses
  • My online coaching
  • I also affiliate for tools and other people’s programs

Those are some of the ways I generate revenue for my business. 

Being an Instagram influencer was never my end game.

I built up my Instagram profile as proof to future clients that I could do the same for them. But one of the cool side effects has been brands reaching out to me to give me amazing experiences in exchange for me promoting the brand to my audience. 

Get all the details behind my revenue streams in this video 💰

How I travel for free as an influencer

Here is a step-by-step of how I was able to stay in Costa Rica for a week for free. 

I first got started as a freelancer and built up an agency. I had quit my job and began to work and travel online full-time.

(To learn how I was able to quit my job and become a full-time freelance Instagram marketer, read this blog here.)

One of my favorite clients is called Clementine Fields, and they are an online beauty brand serving Canadians organic beauty products. 

I’ve been working with them since about 2015 and my job was largely to grow their Instagram and create their newsletter – a lot of great content marketing services, if I do say so myself. 

Fast forward to the summer 2019 and Tom, the cofounder of Clementine Fields, emails me and says, 

Hey, Elise, I don’t know if you know this, but me and my family, we just built a home in Costa Rica. Would you be willing to help us out with our Instagram strategy in exchange for going there and staying for a week?

When that opportunity hit my inbox, it was a clear no-brainer. 

There was no wondering, Should I charge for this?

It’s not about that for me because my business is already geared to bring in revenue from many streams.

Learn the TRUTH about passive income ⬆️

I don’t have to worry about trying to charge brands and businesses when there’s an influencer deal on the table. 

Truthfully, what this experience would have cost me had I paid for it would have been upwards of thousands of dollars. That alone is worth it to me to not charge the brand. 

Just casually posing on a Costa Rican beach… 🌴

I get to have this experience for free in exchange for about half a day’s worth of work: Before I got to Costa Rica, I built out their new Instagram account and their new strategy.

Once we got here to Costa Rica, I’ve just been sharing the experience through my Instagram Stories of what it’s like to live here for a week. 

In my Stories, I’ve been sharing a lot about our mornings here and how I’ve been able to work remotely from this beautiful location. I share some of the quirks about the town and some of the places we’ve eaten at. I’ve really tried to showcase through my Stories what it’s like to stay here. I hope that brings a lot of interest to the Samara jewel and this beautiful home.

So that’s the story of how I was able to stay here for free.

I have a longstanding client; we have a really good relationship. They’re the ones who reached out to me and asked me to do some strategy work for them in exchange for coming here and promoting this experience for the week. 

How to become an influencer on Instagram

If you’re a service-based entrepreneur, whether you offer services to clients or maybe you’re a coach, one great thing to do is when you find clients that you love and you work together really well: maintain that relationship. Keep that relationship going for as long as possible. 

With my agency, it’s no longer my main revenue. I’m not accepting new clients, but the clients who I still do have, they’re there because we have a long-standing relationship and we work well together. 

A second tip is to not try to replicate my personal experience, because if you do you might think you need 50,000 followers first and then brands are going to reach out to you. 

Today in 2020, it’s a different world out there and brands love working with micro-influencers.

Learn how Lillian got brand deals even in her SUPER niche area of big data. ✨

Even if you have 5,000 or 10,000 followers, reach out to brands. They might be looking for your particular niche, your particular brand style, your messaging to represent them. 

So don’t do exactly what I did. Don’t wait for tens of thousands of Instagram followers to feel like you’re worthy of being an influencer. 

I got my very first brand deal with Surf Office in Portugal when I had 5,000 followers. It was the same kind of deal where I got a week’s stay for free.

You do not – I repeat, you do NOT – need ten thousand followers on Instagram to be an influencer.

How to be an Instagram influencer - Surf Office Portugal - Elise Darma
Influencer deal in Portugal with only 5k followers ✅

A few final tips: 

Signing off from sunny Samara, Costa Rica. ☀️


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