Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being an influencer is a weird business to be in because, well your life is the business. So, asking for outside help for promoting you and your life can make you feel like you’re failing at being you. If that makes sense? It’s important, though, to recognize that you can’t do everything — especially if you are going to be turning this into a business. Whether it’s asking a friend to help with photos or hiring someone to help with the technical aspects of a blog — don’t be afraid to ask for help! This is one of the hardest and best lessons I have learned when it comes to being a blogger/influencer.

We often use the term “Influencers” to describe people with significant social media followings on platforms like Instagram, Twitter TikTok, Youtube, Linkedin and Facebook. Influencers have become today’s media titans, sought after for everything from product placements to timely trends. What’s the difference between influence and impact? Fans and followers? Sizzle versus staying power?

In this interview series, called, “How To Cultivate Community In A Click to Connect World” we are talking to influencers about how they define success and what we all need to discover about the true nature of influence. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Puls.

Lindsey Puls is the owner of the travel/style blog, Have Clothes, Will Travel. She is an online shopping aficionado from a small town in Wisconsin, USA and has had the pleasure of living in Russia, Japan, Argentina, and Australia. Through Have Clothes, Will Travel she shares travel and packing tips from her adventures, with a local’s perspective, in addition to carefully curated online shopping guides and reviews. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Thank you for making time to visit with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. How did you discover your career path and what got you to where you are today?

Blogging had initially started out as a hobby for me.

I had been working as a morning show news producer for a local TV station and was getting tired of the long, weird hours and less than stellar pay. My husband was in a similar funk with his career, at this time. We were also longing for the opportunity to travel more.

So, together, we began exploring ways to work and live in other parts of the world with our careers. He was able to find a job that suited his skillset first, and our first international move was to Japan for his job. When I moved with him, I made the shift to taking freelance writing gigs and started my blog as a way to document our travels and keep in touch with family.

Starting out, the goal hadn’t been for me to be a “blogger” but the more time and energy I devoted to my site, I realized this was truly where my passion was, and I could make money in the process. Over the last few years, Have Clothes, Will Travel has gone from being a hobby of mine to a full-blown career with a higher income than I ever would have made in the local news industry.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way that influences how you operate now?

It’s important to ask yourself before each social media/blog post you write “what problem am I solving when I write this?” and “who am I writing this post for?” It’s ok to occasionally be self-indulgent with your creations, but if you want an audience that continues to come back for more, you have to create useful content for them.

This, unfortunately, took a while to sink in for me. However, writing content that is helpful to my audience versus what I “feel” like writing has made all the difference in how I operate my blog and social media.

We’re all searching for some good news. How are you using your platform to make a positive social impact?

The fashion industry accounts for 8–10% of all global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of all wastewater. This industry is constantly pushing the newest and latest trends, encouraging consumers to buy, buy, buy. On my social media, you aren’t going to find me promoting the latest trends, but instead, promoting items that are versatile and will last for years to come.

A goal of mine has been to, personally, be more conscious of the businesses I support regarding their sustainability and fair-trade practices. I have also been sharing these, typically small businesses with my followers to promote a more ethical option for their clothing purchases.

Many of our readers are influencers as well. Others have tried and have yet to succeed. What words of advice would you offer to aspiring influencers, knowing what you know now?

Instagram is not the pinnacle of success when it comes to being an influencer. A pitfall of many influencers is putting all of their eggs in one basket, so to speak — and this basket is typically Instagram. In my opinion, it’s far more important to cultivate an audience on your OWN platform that YOU own. For example, building a self-hosted blog with a loyal email list is far more important than a large Instagram following, as this is a group of followers that you won’t lose due to algorithm changes or sudden account deactivations. Utilize social media channels like Instagram to help grow your platform, but don’t rely on it as your sole means of being an influencer.

Success is often a matter of perspective. I’ve always resonated with Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” How do you see success — or define success — for yourself now?

Understanding what it takes to feel fulfilled both with my career and personal life is an ever-evolving journey, I’m honestly still working on figuring out what “success” means to me. I think it is important to continue evaluating and understanding as I grow as a person and as my company continues to grow.

I used to have these arbitrary numbers (whether it would be page views or income) in my head that I needed to reach by a certain date, and THIS would be what it what take for me to be “successful”. I would stress myself out like crazy watching these numbers and doing everything in my power to reach them. Then, once I would reach them, it was never a satisfying feeling.

For me, now, I am defining success as having a career where I am financially stable and able to help travelers and online shoppers make educated decisions before they spend their hard-earned money. While at the same time, still be able to spend time with my family and friends, and most importantly, be able to travel and do the things in life I love. Having a good work/life balance is how I am defining my success for now.

What are your strategies to make room for who and what matters most?

Becoming more organized and having a clear, strategic vision for Have Clothes, Will Travel. I know that this sounds like a no brainer. However, being disorganized and being caught up in the everyday whirlwind of content creation ultimately takes time away from doing the things in life that matter most.

How do you reduce or mitigate stress?

This plays into the question above a little, but ultimately having a clear and organized approach to my content creation helps to mitigate stress. Now that my site is growing, also having the ability to delegate certain responsibilities to virtual assistants and other experts I’ve hired, helps me to stay focused and stress less. In the beginning, though, delegating caused me MORE stress as I hated relinquishing any sort of control of my site.

However, understanding that I can’t do everything, and it is OK to ask for help, has been the best step in helping me to become more successful and reducing stress.

I’m going to try a few of your tips, and I’m hopeful our readers will, too. Now it’s time for the big reveal — the moment our readers have been anticipating. What are your “five strategies to cultivate a large & engaged social media community?’ Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Quality over quantity.

Many experts will tell you that you HAVE to post X number times a day/week to each platform, or your audience will lose interest and you will ultimately fail at being an influencer. Personally, I think it’s far more important to spend your time and energy creating a few quality posts than stressing about posting every single day. Your audience will appreciate that you are taking the time to create quality content versus a ton of lackluster posts.

2. Don’t limit yourself to just Instagram.

It’s easier to not stress about “feeding the algorithms” with a bunch of posts when you are in control of your followers by having your OWN platform (i.e., a self-hosted blog) that you own. As I mentioned earlier in the interview, don’t put all of your focus on growing on platforms that you own absolutely no rights to. Instagram or Tik Tok could shut down tomorrow or deactivate your account — and then what?

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Being an influencer is a weird business to be in because, well your life is the business. So, asking for outside help for promoting you and your life can make you feel like you’re failing at being you. If that makes sense? It’s important, though, to recognize that you can’t do everything — especially if you are going to be turning this into a business. Whether it’s asking a friend to help with photos or hiring someone to help with the technical aspects of a blog — don’t be afraid to ask for help! This is one of the hardest and best lessons I have learned when it comes to being a blogger/influencer.

4. Tread lightly with sponsored content.

I know, this is a hard one. Sponsored content is one of the primary ways influencers make money and it is hard to say no to sponsorships. However, it is so important to make sure the companies you choose to partner with align with yours and your audience’s values, and you are turning down sponsorships that don’t align with these values. It’s also important to make sure that every post you do is not driven by a sponsorship. Make sure you have a healthy balance of non-sponsored content on your platforms, or you run the risk of only being seen as a walking, talking billboard.

5. Understand who your audience is and how you can help them.

Having a clear understanding of who you are creating content for and how you are helping them is incredibly important to cultivating a loyal following. If you’re stuck — think about who you follow and interact with in your own social media feeds. What are they bringing to the table that makes you want to follow them? What posts of theirs spur you to interact with them? How can you recreate this in your own posts?

What do you do to create a greater sense of connection and community among your fans?

My blog and social media are, of course, a highlight reel of my life. Not every day of my life is an amazing adventure in a pretty dress. I make sure I am still showing the less glamorous and more everyday sides of my life in my stories — I love cozy nights in with my dog and cat, just like everyone else.

I think it’s also important to encourage dialog with your followers — asking questions and always responding to anyone who answers. Being genuinely interested in who your followers are and their lives is important. I don’t ever take them for granted — without these wonderful people, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

As an influencer, you are, by definition, a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

There has been a shift in our culture where it is now seen as more important to work for a large company than to create a company of your own. If I could inspire a movement, I would want to encourage education at a young age (and throughout schooling) of how to successfully be self-employed. This didn’t even feel like an option while I was going through the steps of my schooling (unless I was specifically taking business classes in college). Our country needs more future small business owners, not more Amazon employees.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He, she or they might just see this. 🙂

Oh, I would love to sit down with Kiersten Rich of The Blonde Abroad. She has been one of my biggest inspirations. The brand she has created and the audience she has cultivated over the years is incredible. She is an “influencer” who is very business savvy yet personable. She is doing everything right, in my opinion. I want to be like her when I grow up, haha.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

You can follow me on my blog Have Clothes, Will Travel and social media channels — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Thank you for these thought provoking insights. Here’s to your continued success!