l first met Katya when we were both volunteering on an event for the BBC where we both worked. She even introduced me to sewing classes! Since then Katya has gone on to start her own Instagram coaching business called Easyinstamcr.
Her feed is always inspiring and her passion for the platform is endless! I knew she’d be the perfect person to talk to about how to find your voice on Instagram. Here is Katya Willems sharing her tips on finding your ‘special sauce’, what not to do on Instagram and changing career just before she turned 40.
What is your official job title?
My answer varies each time I answer! I usually go with Instagram expert or Instagram coach.
What does being an Instagram trainer mean in your day-to-day life?
It’s so varied! I work with one-to-one clients over Zoom and I also run Zoom workshops. However, a lot of my day-to day-life is marketing my business. I offer Instagram tips via Instagram, social media, newsletters and my blog. I’m also always trying to get my head around all the new functions on Instagram. It’s taken me a good bit of practice to get good at Reels!
You previously worked at the BBC. What skills did that give you to build your business?
I think working in such a creative media environment has definitely given me a good grounding in running a social media company. In both environments, you are creating content. Also, I do actually do a lot of talking to the camera now on Instagram. Being surrounded by talented presenters and watching how they did it has taught me a lot. Although I was a personal assistant, I ran a lot of social media workshops while I was at the BBC. I was lucky enough to train to be a trainer while I was there. So I did get a lot of direct skills for my current business there too.
Where did you find the courage to leave your job and start a new business?
I think it was desperation and exasperation. I had tried everything at the BBC to get an official social media role. At the time, no one could create one for me even though there was clearly a need. It’s just not the sort of place where they can quickly introduce new relevant roles. I was 39 and I just couldn’t face being a personal assistant in my 40s. I knew I had a lot more to offer and I was chomping at the bit to have a more challenging and impactful career.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to do the same?
Do it. Life’s too short. Be prepared for the fact that it’s really hard, but incredibly rewarding.
How long did it take you to build your business?
Well, I started Easyinstamcr nearly 3 years ago and I’m still not where I want to be. It really does take a long time!
What are some of the highs and lows that you’ve been through along the way?
I’ve had so much crippling self-doubt throughout it all. I’ve often thought I’m completely crazy! At the beginning, it was terribly lonely and I often felt quite stupid because so many of the skills I was learning were so new to me. I still have self-doubt now, but I’m so much more confident. And I’ve found a brilliant community of like-minded business creatives who egg me on when I’m struggling.
You talk about finding your ‘special sauce’ on Instagram, without giving away your trade secrets, what does this mean?
It means understanding what your own uniqueness is, so you can bring the essence of yourself to your brand and your Instagram. It’s not anything fancy. It means working out your quirks and your special talents really, and realising that’s going to be your best selling point. For example, I went on a personal branding course and discovered that my uniqueness is my passion, my insightfulness and being very approachable.
Once I realised that those things made me unique, it made me stand out as an Instagram trainer. I started to own it and really made a point of conveying that through my Instagram content. It made my account more magnetic and more authentic. Then more of the right people started to connect with me and want to work with me. When people identify and own their ‘special sauce’ they also become magnetic too!
What are the common mistakes people make on Instagram?
I could write a very long list! These are some of the main ones:
- Not showing up consistently.
- Copying other people’s content and not putting any of themselves into their accounts.
- Thinking that they have to be business-like and serious – when actually it’s an informal and fun platform.
- Following some formulas that an expert has taught them, and forgetting that good, original content is what will get you noticed.
- Buying followers.
- Just broadcasting content, but not bothering to actually put the work in to interact with their community.
What do you love about Instagram as a platform?
The community! It’s a warm, encouraging place if you find your right tribe. People want to be positive and sunny on Instagram. It’s also creative and inspiring. And I love that it’s informal and fun. I get to be really silly!
What would you change about Instagram if you were in charge?
I’d get rid of all the annoying people on Instagram and just leave the good, authentic kind people.
What have you learnt from the people that you teach?
Some of my clients are so creative! It’s so interesting to see different people’s approaches and seeing their take on telling their own story on Instagram.
Should we all be embracing reels and why?
I don’t think you have to embrace Reels to succeed on Insta. But you will automatically get a lot of views if you make one at the moment as Instagram is pushing them. They are an awful lot of fun and an opportunity to go wild creatively. I love them!
You were a fairly early adopter of Instagram. How have you seen it evolve and where do you see the direction of Instagram as a platform?
Originally Instagram was all about curating very beautiful pictures. Now it’s a very interactive place and the look of it is less important. I think it’s more important to be embracing all the different features if you can and to be doing everything you can to be a conversation starter. Also be very focussed on building a thriving, interactive community. I’m not sure where I see the direction of Instagram going as a platform! I’m just enjoying the ride.
What happens when the algorithm changes and how do you adapt to this?
I try and listen to what other experts are saying and employ the advice they offer that suits me! I don’t want to be a completely tied to the algorithm though. This is because I want to behave authentically on Instagram, and not act like a rule-following robot.
What advice do have about bridging the gap between creating beautiful or aspirational content and authenticity?
I enjoy posting beautiful pictures, but I just try to be real in my captions! And I try to show up in an authentic and honest way when I talk to camera. I’m very relaxed about sharing mistakes! I put up a photo of when I’d fallen in a muddy puddle the other day. The backside of my jeans was a mess. It was a very popular post.
What are your favourite social media platforms after Instagram?
I don’t really like the other platforms!
You enjoy walking and networking, is there still a place for ‘real-world’ networking and how has this benefited you as a person and as a business?
I love networking! As long as it’s the right networking event. Fresh Walks is a group for networking whilst walking and I love it. It’s such an unforced way to get to know people. I’ve done absolutely loads of networking in the last 5 years. I also run my own event called Instacake for Instagram enthusiasts to meet up, eat cake and chat about Instagram. I’ve really got out there and deliberately looked for my people.
I can’t tell you how much all this networking has changed my life. I now have this incredibly diverse and interesting community around me because of it. It has resulted in a lot of clients, but also friends and people who can help me with all sorts of business and personal problems. I could talk for hours about the importance of real-life networking. Nothing beats meeting people in the flesh.
How have you adapted to and been affected by COVID and was this easier as you work online?
I did very little work online before COVID, now everything I do is online from one-to-ones to workshops. I quite like it! And I’ve now got international clients, which is ace!
Finally, what is your ultimate advice for anyone starting an Instagram account right now?
Get clear about what your account is about, what your mission is, and who you’re trying to talk to. Show up at least three times a week and make sure to use Stories every day if you can. Talk to camera as it’s a fast way for your audience to really get to know you. Find accounts that really really inspire you and learn from them. Try to be real! Get your audience involved and ask them questions.
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