Confessions Of A…Beauty Influencer

Photographed by Kate Anglestein.
In 2019, you could argue that we have reached peak influencer. Where once our Instagram feeds were a slideshow of overly edited sunsets and hotdog legs, now we’re greeted by image upon image of product placements, flawless #OOTDs and that ubiquitous flower wall. Influencer culture has given us viral dresses, elaborately planned wedding stunts and, most notably, Fyre Festival: a stark reminder of the power of internet marketing and influencer endorsement. Kendall Jenner was reportedly paid $250k simply for posting about the three-day event.
While critics claim that the era of the influencer is waning thanks to millennial 'influencer fatigue', the global industry is projected to hit $2.38 billion this year. In the UK alone, it's predicted that accounts with 1 million followers can command £10,000 for one Instagram post, whereas mega influencers can enjoy six-figure revenues.
What does it really mean to make your living from the internet, all while dealing with daily death threats, difficult PRs and inconsistent payments? We talked to beauty influencer and OG blogger Hayley Hall to learn about the industry, warts and all.
When did you start getting into beauty blogging and why?
I started nearly a decade ago. I was working as a brand manager for a cosmetics brand and these things called 'blogs' kept cropping up in our internal discussions. I was intrigued and, in an arrogant way I guess, I thought I could do just as good a job myself. My first posts weren’t very sophisticated – I wrote about things like my favourite nail varnishes and the hot pink lipstick trend – but within four months I was nominated for a Cosmo Blog Award.
What do you love most about your job?
The fact I work for myself and have the power to say no. If I don’t want to work with a brand, a PR or on a campaign, it’s my choice alone. I love the fact I set my working week up to suit my lifestyle and working patterns too.
And what do you hate the most?
The instability, the constant justification of your existence and value, and chasing invoices!
When did it start to get serious?
At first it honestly was never my intention to turn my hobby into a job. I remember my boss at the time asking if it would ever happen and I practically laughed in his face! When I did go full-time it was by accident. My job at the time at an ad agency in London got too much and I needed a total lifestyle change, so I left the job and the city, and gave myself six months to find something new. During that time, I started putting more into my blog and treating it like a business, and it really took off. That was six years ago, and I’ve been full-time ever since.
I know no day is typical but for people who are curious, what does your average day look like?
No two days are ever the same, but usually I get up about 8am and check social media, maybe post on Instagram or upload an Insta Story of me doing mundane things like having breakfast with my hamster (it’s those random, silly things people love the most). Once the postman has been, I’ll have a look at the new samples that have arrived and sort them into piles of what I want to try, and what can go to friends or family. Most of the time I’m working from home, so I am usually at my desk by 10am to clear my inbox and work on any urgent things on my to-do list. That may be working on sponsored content, taking photos, editing videos, working on proposals or reading through and amending contracts. A lot of the time I tend to pop out to a coffee shop for a change of scenery, especially when I need to concentrate, so often afternoons are spent there either writing, brainstorming or working on client projects.
I tend to be in London around once a week for press appointments, events or meetings, and this literally involves talking through a new product, discussing how we could potentially work together, or putting together an action plan. My husband now takes all my photos so often our evenings are spent taking photos or filming videos; weekends are also usually filled with at least one photoshoot for social and blog content.
What's the biggest misconception about beauty bloggers and influencers?
There’s a perception that being an influencer isn’t a 'real job' or is a 'lazy girl's option' but honestly it’s non-stop because there’s nobody to pick up the slack if you have an off day, fall ill or want to take a holiday. About 80% of my working week is unpaid too, which nobody seems to realise. People often think that success comes easily and that all we do all day is faff around taking photos of ourselves. To be successful you not only have to be a great writer, editor and photographer, you must also be a great storyteller and have a fresh perspective. Knowing how to negotiate and keeping on top of your accounts is hugely important, too.

There's a perception that being an influencer isn't a 'real job' or that it's a lazy girl's option.

What do your non-blogger friends and family think about your job?
They’re fascinated and baffled in equal measure. For a long time they didn’t really understand my job, but now they’re super supportive. My mates will now offer to take photos, scout out locations or send me links to things they think I’d like.
Everyone wants to know about money... How much do you make now? And what do brands pay for a post?
It really depends on what you’re doing and the influencer in question, as well as who books you for the campaign. I’ve earned anything between £90 and £10,000 for a single day’s work.
Have you ever struggled with money?
When I first started doing this full-time money was tight and I worried constantly. Six years on, though, I’ve grown enough of a presence to have a basic regular income that I can somewhat rely on. There’s a huge misconception that influencers earn a ton of money, and it’s not true for 95% of us – plus it takes years to get to that level.
What about late payments?
Constantly! I have to write off thousands of pounds every single year, for one reason or another. Brands often forget to process your invoice, or it’s left on someone’s desk too long, and you have to be prepared for that. Living on the edge is not an option when you don’t know when you’re next getting paid!
Surely that stress can have a really bad effect on your mental health?
Honestly, it can be a struggle. I've spent many nights lying awake worrying about money – when I'm going to get paid, whether I can cover my tax bill – but it's just part and parcel of the self-employment package. It does get easier and more manageable the longer you do it, and over the years I’ve learned to focus my anxious energy into actively seeking new projects and constantly chasing invoices until they're paid. In this job there's no sick pay, holiday pay or maternity pay either. The lifestyle and career path are not for everyone, and I would definitely say if you're not a proactive or confident person, it may not be the right choice for you. Or you should get an accountant and a ruthless bookkeeper!
Not every product you try is amazing, do you give negative reviews? Has that ever landed you in hot water with brands or PRs?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve never been afraid to pull any punches, and most of the time brands are understanding and thankful for the feedback. Now I tend to feature negative reviews on products that are hugely hyped – my readers know I’ll tell it like it is or say when something is a waste of money.
How important is it to be honest with your readers?
It’s vital! If you don’t have honesty, you don’t have integrity, and if you don’t have integrity you won’t last long in this job.
Do you think readers can tell when a blogger isn't being 'real'?
Yes, definitely. I think this is why Instagram Stories have taken off so much, because you get to see the 'real' side of an often glamorous-looking life; they provide a warts-and-all account of what really happens behind the scenes. It’s not all press trips and beautiful products, it’s also working until midnight on a campaign or going weeks without landing any paid work at all. It’s about having crappy days when you feel like a failure, having writer's block for weeks, or being constantly picked apart by anyone over 40 because they don’t understand what you do.

It's not all press trips and beautiful products, it's also working until midnight on a campaign or going weeks without landing any paid work at all.

Do you have any overly enthusiastic followers? And how do you deal with that?
Yes, it’s always flattering when someone gets super involved in your life, but occasionally it can start to feel a bit uncomfortable. If it passes that line then I’ve found the best way to deal with it is to just back off slightly, but always remain polite. I’ve learned that I don’t need to reply to every single comment or message, and usually they get the hint and remember that they don’t actually know you in real life. If it gets really bad, the mute and block buttons are your friends!
What kind of relationship do you have with PRs?
Honestly, working with PRs can be amazing but it can also drive you mad. Some are incredible and really understand the need for a mutually beneficial and long-term relationship, putting next to no pressure on you, but others will send a list of demands or harass you three times a week for coverage. I know they’re only trying to do their job, but it can get too much. I’ve been known to deliberately not feature a product I was intending to, just because they emailed me so often! My get out of jail free card is always to send them my media kit and explain if they want guaranteed coverage, it comes with a fee.
 What has been your most lavish gift from a brand?
I mean, I don’t think you can get better than being flown to New York to interview Michael Bublé, can you?
Have you ever seen any diva behaviour from others at events or on press trips?
Oh my goodness, yes. From demanding certain restaurants to extending their stay at the PR's expense, refusing to sit next to certain people, being hours late, deliberately ignoring the rest of the attendees because they’ve got an ego… One writer I know even took all her dry cleaning to the hotel she was being hosted in and insisted the brand pay the bill, while another sent back a 'thank you' gift card and demanded the value be quadrupled because it was an 'insulting amount'!

I’ve been trolled so many times. Often, it’s just nasty comments about my appearance or weight, sometimes it’s incessant indirect comments about me being pregnant on every single blogpost for months...

Have you ever had to deal with the nasty side of being an influencer, such as trolling or backlash?
I’ve been trolled so many times. Often, it’s just nasty comments about my appearance or weight, sometimes it’s incessant indirect comments about me being pregnant on every single blogpost for months, sometimes it’s nasty tweets because they don’t agree with something I’ve said. My favourite troll was one who was convinced I was a bigger size than I say I am and kept telling me so on every social channel – so for a week I sent her smiling pictures of my outfit and the size tag, until she blocked me. I like to play them at their own game!
The worst trolling I probably got though was when I broke the story that another big blogger had their book ghost-written. I had to come off Twitter for nearly two weeks because I was being told to kill myself and having horrible memes made about me by [the blogger's] fans. Since starting my blog I’ve learned to remember that the issue is not with myself, but with them – whether they’re insecure, jealous, bitter or just unstable. A happy person doesn’t troll.
What do you think about the criticism that many influencers post similar images, that there is now a stereotype of the 'typical' influencer?
I think it’s a fair criticism and something I get frustrated over too. The problem is that this kind of content works, is prioritised by sites like Instagram and is what brands want to see associated with them. We can all try and do something different but if the sickly sweet floral arrangements work, then everyone starts to fall in line. But it will move on, and soon there will be a new pose or a new gimmick to try.
Do you think the influencer bubble will burst? And if it does, what are your plans for the future?
I think it’s inevitable. Like with everything digital, we move on to the next thing, and I don’t think the bubble bursting is that far away – we’re at peak influencer now, so there will be big changes. Trust between influencers and followers is at an all-time low and every Love Island contestant can become an influencer practically overnight. I think we’ll return to more valuable, long-form content soon, which is fine by me, as that’s where I’m best placed. When it does burst, I’ll go back to working in branding and marketing like I did before. I have 15 years of experience I can fall back on, and I have clients that I work on alongside my blog, so I’ll just go back to 'normality'.
What is your best beauty advice?
Wear SPF every. Single. Day. Something like 90% of ageing is caused by the sun so if you can stop that happening as much as possible, your skin will look so much better in the long term.
What are your three desert island beauty products and why?
A Burt’s Bees lip balm because they’re amazing, a facial SPF (either ARK Skincare, Elizabeth Arden or Hawaiian Tropic) because of sun damage, and a pack of Invisibobble hair ties, because I’m always shoving my hair up out of the way.
Hayley blogs here or find her on Instagram @hayleyhall_uk

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