Style Influencer Brittany Xavier Built a Community of More than 1 Million Followers by Tapping Into Her Passion
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In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
Five years ago Brittany Xavier was working as a marketing executive and looking for a creative outlet to offset the corporate grind. She decided to launch a fashion blog called Thrifts and Threads to highlight both thrift store discoveries and more investment-worthy pieces.
What started as a nights-and-weekends hobby soon turned into a full-time job, and today Xavier has 1.1 million followers on Instagram, over 5,000 subscribers on YouTube, and high-end brand partners like Cartier, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and YSL.
This November Xavier achieved a career milestone when, in partnership with Inspr, she launched her very first fashion line -- a holiday collection sold in Macy’s stores and online.
Read on for Xavier’s top strategies for making an impact on Instagram.
How did you get your start on Instagram?
I started a blog, and I wanted to use my Instagram to grow it. So when I first started it, it was really just, “Hey guys, here's a new blog post!” It was really promoting my blog traffic. And once I started to minimally monetize it I got really strategic, because I got really motivated. I thought, This is exciting, I'm making cash on the side. And this is fun; I like doing it. I was doing it nights and weekends and after work. I kept looking at the growth month after month on my blog and my Instagram as my followers were growing. I became really strategic and consistent with it until a year and a half after I started I was able to quit my job -- I was making more money than my full time job.
How do you leverage your account, and to what extent do you monetize it?
Early on I started getting free clothes and certain pieces, and I thought, This is nice. That doesn't cut into my clothing budget. I was always very budgeted. About 7 months later I met another girl who was doing the same thing. And she was like, “You should be charging people, because you're posting it and they're using it for their their website or their Instagram too, but you're not even getting anything for it besides the clothes.” So I thought, I guess I'll make a rate sheet. The reason why I quit my job when I felt super confident -- I was always very safe about how I quit. But once I made my salary three months in a row, that was when I felt like I was ready.
I basically would give a brand a rate card and be like, “Hey, if you want this specific item highlighted it's going to be this much, and then you can use that for your channels as well.” I literally just made up my own rates. I was just kind of ballparking everything and figuring it out. And so I definitely tracked my numbers as far as my blog growth and my Instagram followers, and I was tracking how many jobs I needed to book a month where I could feel confident that I was making up my full-time salary each month.
I didn't have a lot of friends in the industry, so I actually reached out to that girl and I was like, “Hey, what do you think I should charge?” She helped me kind of figure it out, but she's said, “I don't really know either.” But also I would ask a few brands at first, and what they would tell me was higher than I was thinking, so I kind of was able to do a mid-range, just based how much time is going to go into it. A lot of it is creating the time and getting edited, just what was worth my time, and what they would be using it for.
What's your content strategy? How do you decide what and when to post?
My husband works with me -- he shoots all my photos and does a lot of my website help -- and I also have an assistant. At the beginning of each month we have a content calendar planning meeting where we look at everything and see how many beauty posts we’re posting this month, which styles are we highlighting for fashion trends, and if there are any holiday posts coming up. We look at everything in the next few weeks and say, “What do we really want to be showing on my Instagram and my blog?” We block in the different things we want to highlight. And then from there I know I have sponsored posts on these days, so that's blocked out too. We're very strategic as far as not being oversaturated with sponsored posts. Whenever I post one sponsored, I don't post another that day.
I also leave room for something cool happening; then I'll shoot that as it's happening. But for the most part it does help me be more organized and strategic when I'm planning ahead, and then I'm able to be more creative because I'm able to scout the location and pull the style for what trend we're highlighting. It just makes it more less rushed versus just, Oh today I need to shoot a photo, let me figure it out as I as I go. So sometimes we actually will take a half day to shoot multiple pieces if the locations are all pretty close together, or if we're doing a beauty story, I have an office in a studio where we'll set up the scene for however we need shoot different beauty looks.
I don't really know the hours it takes, because it seems like we're always doing it. I'm always really excited about the new content, and I definitely don't want my followers to be bored and expect the same thing from me. If I know I'm going to be doing another beauty post in a few days, I want to make sure that it's different from my last one, and I try to do things to make sure they feel like they are following my life and getting inspired too.Related: The Creator of WeRateDogs Makes Five Figures a Month By Posting Cute Canines Online. Here's How.
What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?
You have to stand out with your strong voice. Being consistent is huge, as is having a strategic content strategy. I think when I first started I was very on the fly. But if you're starting out more strategic, I think that you can make more of an impact earlier. If you're not doing as a hobby, you have to kind of invest a little bit -- like, if you don't have a photographer or if you need someone to help you edit photos. I also think having a conversation with your followers is really important. Always be engaged with the comments and the DMs. You want to be relatable, but at the same time, offer inspiration.
What's a misconception people have about Instagram?
The question I get a lot is, “What do you do for your job?” Sometimes people don't understand how you can monetize this. It's funny, because we're doing these trips and different events and I'm literally there to create content -- that's what my contract is, I have very little downtime. But from the outside and it seems like, Oh, we're going to lunch. I'm not showing all the behind the scenes. I'm not going to show you be up until 4:00 am working on stuff and getting things out. I'm showing the final product. Really it's a lot of writing and a lot of website stuff and coding. There's a lot of other things that seem like menial tasks that people would never think that I'm doing all day, but that's what goes into it too.
Another misconception is when someone says, okay I started [an account], so I'm not making that much money, when should I quit? And I'm like, “Don't quit your job then when you haven't gotten it down yet to the point where you can quit, or you're just going to be know risking everything for what?” It's the same thing with any startup; you're going to be working for yourself for free before you can get it going. And you might not get it going; that is the other risk. You have to just put in 100 percent and really try if you want to do it. Know the realistic expectation of it, but also go for it.
Here are Xavier’s five favorite Instagram posts:
“Ever since chopping my hair in early 2018, it’s been fun trying different cool and chic short hair looks.”
“Love a good all-white look, especially in winter.”
“Paris has such a special place in my heart, especially since visiting so many times for fashion month. I always still try to shoot my travel photos with a fashion vibe.”
My squish @jadynxavier is w/ me this week in NY and she’s been so sweet even though it’s been pretty busy and haven’t had a ton of down time, her personality is so chill and love watching her grow into a little lady. Love her #momlife
A post shared by Brittany Xavier (@brittanyxavier) on
“My daughter is 11 and loves to travel with us when she can! NY is one of her favorite cities to visit, and she usually has FOMO when we go for fashion week and don’t bring her (but she can’t miss school).”
“I’m beyond happy with the final looks of my capsule collection with @INSPRNY, especially with the quality and colors of the pieces!”