by Alison Conway February 12, 2019

Hi Strangers!
My name is Ashley Polan, @ashpolan on instagram... Because really, we all
recognize the IG name first most the time. It's okay, everyone does it ;).
First off, I want to start off by saying I don't fully consider myself an "influencer". I know there are going to be some ladies out there that immediately go to my instagram page and look at my following, or content, or photos.. and think "this girl is hardly an influencer she barely has over 3k followers". In fact, when asked to do this blog post that was my first thought! But now that we're on the topic of followers, is that really what makes you influential?
While a frustrating topic for many of us on both ends of the spectrum, I'm here to talk more about my experience with working with different brands, growing my audience, and more.
Let's start by taking it back a couple years... I started my instagram for none
other than connecting with friends, family and sharing my college life (Go Broncos!) back in 2012. It probably wasn't until I moved to Reno, Nevada and made the transition into a career in digital marketing in 2015 where I started paying more attention to my instagram aesthetic.
Like most people, it was around this time I started admiring the beautiful accounts and aspiring to be some sort of Instagram model.. I was often
complimented on my outfits, how I styled different pieces, and was a go-to for friends on family when it came to fashion advice. So, becoming a fashion blogger seemed like it might be my ticket to Instagram fame.
I started my blog "Layers of Ash" made it a priority to buy outfits, get professional pictures (which I paid for), talk about my outfits on my blog, post beautifully staged and edited photos on my Instagram, spending hours liking and commenting on posts to get followers... All while working a 9 to 5 job.
After awhile I began getting comments or messages from smaller brands and companies along the lines of, "We love your style and would love to collab! DM us!".. I would immediately message these brands back interested to hear more.. And most the time I would be a response like this, "Here's a code for 40% off to buy something from our store and share CODE15 so you're followers get 15% off" and the occasional free product in exchange for content.
With the codes I would purchase a few items and couldn't wait to get the products in.. And, you probably guessed it, most of the items I would get back were terrible quality, terrible fit.. basically unwearable. I gave these companies the benefit of the doubt too many times I would like to admit.
After making this mistake enough times and trying to keep it authentic (we've all heard that word before)... I decided to reach out to local companies and borrow clothes I picked out and I loved. I would take nice photos, provide them with content and bring the items back in perfect condition. WIN for everyone! It's definitely a great solution. Especially for babes trying to get started in the fashion blogger/influencer world!
In addition to the local companies, I've gotten reposted from a few large companies which has been really exciting! But in the end, is the amount of time, energy, and often money I put into that single image that got reposted worth it? It's easy to make these images look effortless, but they aren't that at all. We don't all have fancy camera's and photographer husbands. I have to carve out real time and pay to capture that kind of content.
My current position on this is, while still modeling (a hobby I truly enjoy) for a
few local companies I do still get access to professional photos, but for the most part I prefer to stand in front of my mirror and snap a photo of my outfit or have a friend or my husband capture one with my phone. Either way, I am not going out of my way to spend a whole day changing in and out of multiple outfits to stage perfectly posed pictures to make it look like I am always doing something fun. I would like to note I have absolutely nothing against this, I still enjoy doing this from time to time! However, I choose not to make this a priority and am more realistic about my time and money management when it comes to content creation for brands.
I honestly enjoy creating content and working with other amazing brands! I have met so many wonderful people along the way. Although difficult at times, it can be very rewarding!
Thanks for reading my lengthy post. Feel free to reach out to me on instagram and let me know what you thought :)
xo,


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