For our second round of Under the Influence, we get to meet Irena D, a Manchester based blogger, owner of Irena D World.
According to Influencer Marketing, an ‘influencer’ is someone who has ‘the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience / a following in a distinct niche, with whom he or she actively engages’.
Q: Do you agree with this definition of an influencer? Are there other terms that you prefer?
A: I think term “blogger” suits me more than ‘Influencer’ as I started building my online presence with a blog. Even these days I always call myself a blogger because it all started with my blog writing, which I am still absolutely in love with.
Q: How did you become an influencer? Was this always what you wanted to do? What did you study and what were your job aspirations?
A: I started blogging back in 2014 when it was quite a novelty and only fashion enthusiasts knew about fashion bloggers. During this time, I was also a lead singer with my own band Rubika and my listeners wanted to know more about my life outside music.
That’s when I decided to create my blog, which I treated more like a diary. Being one of the pioneers of a new blogging scene was extremely exciting, especially when I saw a chance to write about my two main life passions – fashion and music.
My first posts were about my favourite bands, and gigs that I attended. I studied BA Music at Salford university and was running my Instagram and Tumblr while still studying. As I started posting my looks on Instagram just for fun, I realised that people liked my outfits. This is when I decided to continue with my blogging/Instagram career.
My blog posts gradually developed into reviews of latest trends and styles, including my outfits of the day, which many readers found fresh and inspiring. Then my Instagram started growing really fast, so I had to concentrate more on my blogging than on music, becoming a professional blogger as a result.
I never in a million years thought this would be my path.
Q: How long did it take until you could work solely online?
A: When I left university I was a private music tutor for kids and was working mainly at the weekends, so during the week I had time to focus on blogging and Instagram, and attend meetings with brands and fashion events.
It took me about two years to develop strong relationships with brands and grow my Instagram following significantly, only then was I able to make a decision to go into full-time blogging.
Q: What does an average work day look like for you?
A: Working from home undoubtedly has its perks, but I don’t know why most people think that the only thing bloggers/influences do is take photographs. Obviously, that is a myth, as we have to work even harder because we are self-employed and rely entirely on ourselves.
Being successful means putting in a lot of effort, dedication, and time every day, while constantly improving your professional skills, and, in many cases sacrificing your private life for your career.
Like with any other full-time job, you have to have a structure to your day. I usually start with a 40 minute run along the canal; then breakfast, checking emails and DM’s.
After that I am off to meet with my photographer to shoot campaigns or looks in town. Then I often have meetings with a brand’s PR, where I also catch up with my fellow bloggers.
When I come back home, I have a quick lunch before I start working on my photos. Usually, around 3 o’clock I post on Instagram and reply to my comments and requests.
It’s already 5 o’clock but my working day continues, and I have to head back into town because I have a meeting with a beauty brand where we will discuss the new product launch. My followers can learn about it straight away by watching my Instagram story.
Back home at last, I have a dinner with my husband where we discuss things, make our plans for tomorrow, and just have a laugh. Then with a glass of rosé in one hand, and the MacBook in the other, I head to the sofa where I start working on my blog post which has to go live the next day.
Despite my hectic daily schedule, I still find time to check the latest Vogue issue, listen to the new Jessie Ware single or watch thirty minutes of my favourite French series on Netflix. I really cherish these little pleasures in my life because they help me get optimistic and inspired.
Q: Which platforms do you actively use and which is your favourite?
A: Six or seven years ago, I was mainly using my blog. I used to write posts almost every day and only post twice a week on my Instagram; but a huge growth of the latter in the subsequent years made me shift my focus.
Having a strong presence on Instagram is essential if you expect to be discovered and contacted by brands and PR. However, it seems that a revival of blogging is happening right now, as I’m starting to get more requests from brands, preferring blog posts to Instagram posts.
Q: Do you believe that influencers have a moral duty to take a stand and be activists for ideals they stand for?
A: This is such a good question. I only promote or share my opinion on something that I truly believe in.
If I am not entirely happy with the brand’s ideology, business ethics, the way their products are made etc., it will be a definite “no” for me, even if it’s a renowned brand, the pay is good, and my career would benefit from working with them.
In my opinion, the cooperation between bloggers/influencers and brands can only be successful if it’s based on total honesty and mutual respect of personal values and beliefs.
Q: Do you feel as though the pandemic has affected influencers in a ‘positive’ way?
A: When the pandemic hit, our readers relied on us more than ever. On my Instagram story I was sharing information on how to book a virtual consultation with a hair specialist, how to choose the right hair products, who best to follow for an online fitness class, or where to get press on nails.
I always did my best to help my readers as much as I could, and because every brand that I work with is available online, nothing really changed in my day to day work.
Q: Do you feel pressure from your followers to act a certain way or produce certain content?
A: Of course, I don’t share everything on my social media platforms. That depends purely on one’s moral principles and professional goals.
I am not here to judge anyone, I don’t share my personal life because that is purely my own choice. I know some girls who share almost everything, but that is their individual vision of influencing and I respect that.
I’m really lucky with my readers as I’ve never felt any pressure from them. I love inspiring and helping others with my honesty and passion.
Q: What is the influencer/blogger/content creator scene like in Manchester? Is it harder to work online in Manchester than it is in London or a bigger city?
A: Manchester’s fashion scene absolutely exploded in the last five to six years. Now we don’t have to travel to London for meetings because all the brands travel up north.
It’s a fantastic achievement, and with the constant rise of professional blogging/influencing here, we have put Manchester on an international fashion map for sure.
Manchester has an ultra-friendly fashion scene, we all know each other and before the pandemic would always meet up for a coffee or shoots.
Q: What is your favourite thing about being an influencer?
A: It’s helping with fashion advice or personal style, while also being an inspiration to my followers. I love helping my readers and they reward me with their love in the form of ‘likes’ on my Instagram.
Q: What is your least favourite thing about being an influencer?
A: My least favourite thing in being an influencer is people’s perception of the term ‘Influencer’. As I mentioned previously, people tend to think that our only task is to take pictures all day long. But I’m hoping that will all change soon.
Q: What advice would you give a student who would like to build their online following?
A: My advice to anyone who’s thinking of building their online following is to not be scared of not succeeding quickly. If you put in enough energy and effort, and create unique content which you personally really believe in and passionate about, sooner or later you will start gaining a steady following.
Just be consistent and persistent in what you do, being a successful blogger/influencer requires a lot of hard work but it will all pay off in the end.
Don’t copy anyone and be yourself, it’s all about being genuine to yourself and your followers if you are planning to build a professional career in blogging.
If you’d like to learn more about working in the media, you can get tickets for the Women In Media Conference here.