For many, becoming an influencer is a dream come true. You finally have the opportunity to utilize your unique, seemingly unrelated, skills to create a career that feels fulfilling, meaningful and exhilarating. These skills usually sum up to resemble a powerhouse media agency that is run by one person behind a laptop or an iPhone.
Skills such as creative writing, journalism, creating an editorial calendar, scouting locations for a photoshoot, being the creative director and the model for said photoshoot, promoting content, public relations, digital marketing, advertising…the list goes on and on.
Because many of these skills are effortless for influencers and bloggers, those on the outside view it as a hobby or a passion project. They see as a fun game of selfies, shopping, sipping on mimosas in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. While this may be the case for some of the Instagram profiles, there are countless examples of bloggers and content creators who are working hard to create a sustainable side hustle or full-time business as an influencer.
And some of these folks unlock their code to success. They amass hundreds of thousands of followers, sign brand partnership agreements, become public speakers and create virtual programs that can scale their business to the stratosphere.
However, like any industry there are influencers who may not have the purest intentions (at best) or are scammers (at worst). There have been a few that have come under fire for misleading their followers by selling services that did not live up to expectations.
The most recent example is Brittany Dawn. A Dallas based fitness influencer with over 500,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 300,000 YouTube subscribers. Dawn created various virtual programs, ranging from fitness to nutrition, to monetize her brand.
She started generating a ton of sales. As well as a ton of complaints. Eventually her clients started asking for refunds. There have been so many complaints that several news outlets, including Good Morning America, are now calling her brand a scam.
Now, whether Dawn is a scam artist, is not my place to say. As a blogger and influencer, I have a lot of respect for my peers who are disciplined and consistent in developing their craft, growing an audience and making their dreams a reality. When it comes to each person’s intentions as to why they are pursuing this career path, only they know the truth for themselves.
This blog post is not to bash Brittany Dawn, her brand, or question whether or not she is a legit financial professional. This blog post is for other influencers who care about their craft and genuinely want to help others, on how to avoid finding themselves in the same position.
Here are seven lessons you can learn from Brittany Dawn’s mistakes:
Underpromise and overdeliver. The biggest issue that many of Dawn’s clients had were that they did not achieve the results they were seeking. From what I gathered from their interviews, they were expecting to lose inches and lose weight. As any trainer will tell you, results vary due to body type and effort. Dawn should have been more up-front that she can promise or guarantee results.
Do not offer personalized virtual training programs. The whole reason for creating a digital product or virtual program is to be able to scale your business. In order to be able to grow a business that doesn’t require you to be there every step of the way, you have to have offerings that you create once and can sell to many people.
Limit the customer service support on your virtual programs. When someone buys a program for you, let them know that they have 30, 60, 90 days where they can ask you questions via email. The length of time you offer will depend on your offer.
Only offer email support. Brittany Dawn offered phone support to virtual program clients which is very challenging. There are only so many hours in the day when you can hop on the phone with a client. And for those of us with client experience, we know that most clients tend to be long-winded and have no issue going over their allotted time. Therefore, only offer phone support to your high-end, VIP clients. Your virtual training program clients receive email support, only.
Draft an agreement that the client signs acknowledging the regulations around your program. Before someone can access your program, make sure there is a digital form that they sign acknowledging that results may vary, if you offer refunds and the circumstances that a refund will apply, the support they will receive and for how long.
Be clear about why your program is priced at its rate. Brittany Dawn’s programs were priced between $50-$300. When I work with my nutritionist, a one-hour consultation followed by a personalized 15-day meal plan is $125. Therefore, a generic 90-day meal plan with workouts for $300 is definitely a good price. Let your clients know the value that you’re giving them, otherwise they will just see the price and feel sticker shock.
If there is a complaint, address it immediately. This was probably Brittany Dawn’s biggest error. Even after doing all of the above, I’ve still received complaints from clients. Some of them are justified, others are not. However, I address each one immediately. One of the requirements I have in my programs is that in order to be considered for a refund, the client must show that they have done the homework. If you are a fitness influencer, require that your clients take photos of their meals and short videos of their workouts to document that they are in fact doing the work. If they are and are not seeing results, it is worth listening to their frustrations and working with them to come up with a solution.