A woman who pays Instagrammers and YouTubers for brands like Cosmo and Esquire says people who make the most money as influencers all have the same background

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderBrittany Hennessy said the most successful influencers she’s worked with had a job before being an influencer.

  • Brittany Hennessy is the senior director of influencer strategy and talent partnerships at Hearst Digital Media.
  • She said top social media influencers have two skills: Business savvy and charisma on camera.
  • Hennessy also said “the most successful influencers are ones that had jobs before they were influencers. Real jobs.”

Posing for a photo or taking the perfect picture of brunch is harder than it looks, especially if you want to make a living doing it.

The top social media influencers are business oriented and thrive on camera, Brittany Hennessy told Business Insider.

“Those are two things that you really have to perfect if you want to make all of the money,” said Hennessy, who is the senior director of influencer strategy for Hearst Digital Media. Her job is to scout and manage influencers for brands including Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and Harper’s Bazaar. She’s also the author of “Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media.”

“I found the most successful influencers are ones that had jobs before they were influencers. Real jobs,” Hennessy said. “Because they know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of something that’s not so good, and so they make sure they deliver great products.”

Hennessy said the main thing you need to be a successful influencer is business savvy – a skill Hennessy calls a “rarity.”

“Very few influencers have the business skill set to do this job and that’s basic things, like replying all to an email, knowing what ‘end of day’ means versus ‘close of business’ and going the extra step, making presentations, and that sort of thing,” she said.

Influencers who had jobs prior to becoming an influencer tend to be more successful, Hennessy said.

Krystal Bick, an influencer who works with Hennessy, told Business Insider that her former job at Google as a product marketing manager has given her a leg up. Today she makes four figures per post and earns up to five figures on brand ambassadorships.

Read more:

A millennial who left her 6-figure job at Google to be a full-time social media influencer explains why she was willing to take the risk

“When brands realise I speak the same marketing language as them and understand their campaign objectives, I think it helps solidify their faith in influencer marketing, and in me and my business specifically,” Bick said.

Another important skill for influencers is being able to speak on camera and do a studio photo shoot, “not one that your husband is taking pictures of you,” Hennessy said. Being on set is often a rude awakening for influencers who find comfort taking daily photos on the streets or on location, she added.

“A lot of influencers are so comfortable taking their daily photos that if they get booked for any sort of shoot and they have to be on and perform in a room full of people, it’s a struggle and they don’t know how to pose and they’re like, ‘What do you want me to do with my arm?’ and people are like, ‘Isn’t this what you do for a living? Like, just pose.’ I think that’s something,” Hennessy said.

Hennessy said that while business and camera skills are paramount, being an influencer isn’t for everyone.

“Even YouTubers are very comfortable in their own space, so when you put them in a chair and you’re feeding them lines and saying ‘read these back to me,’ they have no idea what to do,” Hennessy said.

“Everybody buys clothes, everybody buys makeup, everybody buys toys for their kids, if it’s so easy, none of us would have jobs,” Hennessy said. “We all would just take pictures all day and get paid for it, but it’s much more than that, and you have to have a certain aesthetic, a certain tolerance.”

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