It didn’t take long for Jessica Zollman to gather a large number of followers on Instagram. Zollman was the fifth employee and the 95th user of the app in 2011, which put her on the ground floor on the tech giant a year after its launch.
A photographer by trade, Zollman, 34, soon found herself swimming in opportunities for commercial work. So she left Instagram in 2013 and joined a photo and advertising agency, where she became a roving photographer shooting on behalf of brands and endorsing products with the occasional #sponsored post.
As an influencer, she states that her newfound fame took her to a “beautiful, mysterious train, making a really, really impressive amount of money”. But this fame wouldn’t last long, and, four years later, she would find herself scrambling financially.
“Market saturation happened,” she says. “People started noticing how lucrative doing that kind of work was, and so there became this new goal of becoming the influencer.” Brands weren’t paying as much because people would work for less – or even for free. “I had to lower my day rate. I had to work twice as hard for twice as less,” she says.
The psychological impact of struggling for work, coupled with the surge of competition, was enough for Zollman to quit the influencer lifestyle and transition back to the polar opposite: a traditional nine-to-five job.
“I just had this moment where I was like: ‘Why am I so ashamed of the idea of having to get a job?’” she says. Relying on Instagram for creative validation and regular income had left her emotionally exhausted, and getting a steady job felt like the best thing for her mental health.
Zollman wasn’t alone in growing disillusioned by the industry’s “song and dance performance.” Experts state that it’s the evidence of change. It is a sort of fatigue that affects not only the influencers, but also brands and the consumers.
See more of this over at BBC.
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(Image Credit: Jessica Zollman)