A professional Instagram star tells us how she went from earning £75 per post to £15,000 a post

Elma Beganovich (pictured) and her sister Amra now charge brands $20,000 to post content on social media.

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Elma Beganovich (pictured) and her sister Amra now charge brands $20,000 to post content on social media.
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Instagram/Elma Beganovich

    31-year-old Elma Beganovich and her 34-year-old sister Amra quit their corporate jobs in 2013. They built a huge Instagram lifestyle empire and travelled the world. They started out charging $99 (£75) for a single sponsored post. In 2016 the rate went as high as $20,000 (£15,000). Business Insider caught up with Elma to find out their tips to success.

It used to be that most Instagrammers were happy as long as a post surpassed the 11-like benchmark. But not for the Beganovich sisters, who have been furiously building an Instagram lifestyle empire over the past several years.

31-year-old Elma, a former lawyer, and 34-year-old Amra, a former economist, quit their corporate jobs in 2013 to become social media personalities, something which barely existed at the time – and their story is pretty impressive.

The New Yorkers now average about 30,000 likes per Instagram snap, and say that they can now charge brands up to $20,000 (£15,000) to post content.

Between them they have 2.3 million followers on social media, have built a digital marketing firm called A&E, and have an “influencer marketplace platform” in the works.

Elma told Business Insider: “In my law career I was told I had to wait it out- it didn’t matter what my capabilities were or if I was more capable than a colleague – I would have to sit it out for 10 or so years to become a partner, which I found outrageous.”

Frustrations such as these, coupled with the sister’s sideline interest in fashion, beauty, and travel, got them considering a different path.

They learned to code and started off by posting to a fashion blog called Club Fashionista, though Elma pointed out there is no need to write lengthy posts any more.

“We abandoned the blog in favour of our social media platform. People read YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter more than they do click through a blog,” she said.

While it was an unknown world at that time, Elma conceded that she and her sister had the advantage of starting early. They began to explore the world of social media in 2012. “Instagram started in 2010, so we were among the first ones – it was a lot easier to gain a following then.”

She told Business Insider that when they got to the stage where they could charge for posts it was for around $99 (£75) each, but that sum soared to $20,000 (£15,000), in a pretty short timeframe (2014-2016).

Here’s an example of the kinds of sponsored content they post:

This kind of breakfast I live for ☕️and here's to #TimelessSummer⌚️with @cluse #sponsored

A post shared by Elma Beganovich (@elmabeganovich) on

This is a sponsored post for Cluse, a watch company whose product Elma is wearing.

“Influencers are getting more and more savvy and demanding fair payment, but it’s still cheaper (for the brand) than putting an ad in Vogue, and has a much bigger impact and reach. Videos on YouTube stay out there for a longer time.”

And she has a few nuggets of advice for anyone wanting to do the same.

1. Check yourself.

According to Elma, before you even begin to think about becoming an influencer, you need to be thoroughly sure that you’re bringing something new to the table.

Do you have the “wow” factor? Because you need it.

It’s a lot harder to gain traction in the influencer community now than when she and Amra were establishing a following. Given the greater competition it makes it even more important that you stand out.

“Ask yourself what are you providing that others aren’t,” she said. “You need a distinct angle to make you stand out from the crowd that is why people will follow you.”

Elma explained that when they started they would travel to further-flung destinations like Capri and Santorini, where many travel bloggers didn’t make it.

2. Don’t limit yourself.

When identifying which brands you want to work with, Elma said it’s important not to limit yourself.

“Don’t say I only want to do advertising with these certain fashion brands, for example. This also means at the beginning doing some work for free, but it’ll pay off in the end.”

#EmpireStateofMind ???? We have an exciting interview coming out in one of the top business publications, where we share how to build a brand on digital and how to solve major challenges along the way. What many entrepreneurs do not share are their hardships and what it takes to get out of bed everyday, motivate yourself and your team to grow the company. It’s really pouring sweat and tears and showing up every single day that got me where I am today. I gave up a lot and gained a lot in return. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, my team and wonderful friends – so always keep the good ones close by, they will make your rainy days a lot sunnier. I’ve got a long way to go and have only scratched the surface. If I can help anyone in the meantime, don’t be afraid to reach out and DM me. Much love, -E. #PayItForward #EverydayIsaNewBeginning ????#AmraAndElma ????

A post shared by Elma Beganovich (@elmabeganovich) on

3. Network, network, network.

It’s pretty self-explanatory, but Elma emphasised the importance of networking with anyone and everyone, be it with PR firms, spas, restaurants, hotel marketing teams, publicists, and beyond.

4. Negotiate.

“Once you’ve figured out the industry, know your worth,” Elma said. “Keep talking to brands, fellow influencers, stylists, and editors to make sure you know the market price.”

5. Sacrifice.

“There will be sleepless nights, jet lag, changes in food, working to different time zones – it’s all part of the job.”

If I died and went to heaven, this is what I'd imagine heaven would look like ☁️ ✨ #AmraAndElma

A post shared by Elma Beganovich (@elmabeganovich) on

6. Build a team.

Arm yourself with contacts where you’ll be shooting. You need local photographers, tour guides, publicists, and stylists at your fingertips.

7. Be confident in your idea.

“People will question you when you start out and that’s the toughest bit to get through. My family members believed I was squandering away my law career but you have to follow your gut, ignore the noise, and don’t break.”

“You don’t go from $99 per post to $20,000 overnight.” Though, she added, it was a pretty short timeframe (2014-2016).

“Even when you don’t know something, just be confident about it, because it’s better to act upon that and see if it works rather than living in doubt from one day to the next.”