How Justine monetizes her Instagram with digital products

By Zane Skuja read
26 Feb, 2021
How Justine monetizes her Instagram with digital products

Justine put hours and hours into attracting and connecting with her followers and it paid off – she got her first sale just 5 minutes after publishing her first digital product. She uses Sellfy to sell her Lightroom presets, which are photo editing settings you can save and apply on any other photo.

Justine’s success shows you don’t need to be a professional photographer to sell photography presets and, you don’t need millions of followers to monetize your Instagram. Read on to find out how Justine has leveraged her Instagram account to make money for her travels.

What do you do and how do you define yourself?

My goal is to be a digital nomad so I can work from everywhere in the world and I don’t have to be attached to a city or a country. I’m more like an entrepreneur because I have three different businesses. 

The first business is selling a digital product, my Lightroom presets on Sellfy. I also sell some flasks for tea and coffee on a different site. My third business is providing services to companies. I help them with their website, digital strategy, social media, and creating a great user experience.

Justine’s Sellfy store

What’s your background?

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I started my first business after finishing my studies in International Business. It was bike delivery for anything like beer, stationeries or even a key you forgot at your friend’s house. I did that for two years and I learned a lot. I eventually shut down the first business because it was in debt. I was only 19 years old when I started, I think I was too young.

I got a job after that, but I quit a year later because I just knew it wasn’t for me. I went to co-working spaces, I took online courses to learn more about entrepreneurship, and that’s where I gained the skills for what I currently do.

You’ve got over 17,000 followers on Instagram. How did you grow your audience?

I’ve worked on growing my Instagram following for a little over a year. In the beginning, I just had my personal Instagram with friends and stuff like that. But at one point, some of the big companies I was doing services for started using Instagram and asked for my help. I was a bit scared to try things with their accounts, so I decided I’d try on my personal account. I wanted to see how the hashtags and algorithms work and what the limits of Instagram are.

I started developing my own Instagram account. I traveled and posted lots of pictures and people were liking them and commenting a lot. I spent hours creating content and my community started growing, which was so nice to see. Now I offer training for companies to explain how to grow a community on Instagram and what to do or not.

My Instagram followers were already there when I started selling presets on Sellfy. It was thanks to this community that I sold my first presets, 50% or more of the sales came from this community.

I think selling photography presets is a pretty good business for an Instagram influencer. The more people follow you, the more you’ll be able to sell.

When did you first get the idea that you can sell presets and how did you create your first preset?

I was looking at other Instagram accounts with perfect Feeds where all the pictures were in the same colors and I was wondering how they do that. I was following an influencer who sells her own presets and I thought I should try using those. When I first bought them, I took pictures every day, just to see the results.

But then I found that if I did a picture in a different setting, for example, the beach, then a ‘city preset’ didn’t look good. So, I kept buying more presets and I had to modify them every time to fit my pictures. It was a lot of work so I thought I should try creating them myself.

How did you get your first sale on Sellfy?

I had decided I would try selling my own presets in November 2018. I created a poll on my Instagram Story to ask if my followers would be interested in buying my presets. I got around 3000 people saying they wanted them. So, on December 23, just before Christmas, I started my Sellfy store and I put a link to it on my Instagram.

Five minutes later, I got the first sale! It was like my Christmas present, I was so excited to get that PayPal notification!

I posted on my Instagram account to say I had launched my presets and I spent hours contacting all the people who had entered my poll. And, I gave them a discount. Money started coming in and I invested it in Facebook ads and other marketing activities.

Wow, you sent so many DMs!

Yes, it took so much time, haha! But, it was worth it because people were very enthusiastic and happy. I also started getting messages and feedback from the customers. It’s definitely a time consuming and long-term strategy, but that’s how I got my first sales.

Sounds like it worked well for you! Who are your followers and buyers?

In the first year, 90% of my followers were French because I was posting and commenting in French and I was following only French people. And so, the first customers were French, too. 

As I travelled, I started using international hashtags, and people from other places started following me. Now, I think it’s 50-50 between French and international followers. I’m trying to go more international by connecting with influencers in Spain, Great Britain, the United States, Russia and other places in the world. But, it’s challenging.

I did influencer campaigns in Spain because there they love Instagram, they love editing pictures. But, honestly, it’s not working that well. I think the problem is that my site is in English and French, but the attracted audience is Spanish-speaking. But it’s too long to put French, English and then Spanish in every post, so I’d like to see how I can target better.

You have two accounts – one for yourself and one for your presets. What’s the difference between them?

My main account (@justine_blchn) is where I post my own pictures of traveling and everyday things. The preset account (@justine_blchn_presets) is only to show how photos look with and without my presets, the before and after images. There, I repost customer pictures, influencer stories and other content related to the presets.

Before & after images with Justine’s Jungle Preset

The great thing with presets on Instagram is that every time a customer posts a picture with my preset, they tag me in the photo, and I repost it. I receive messages with their before & after photos, I get a lot of positive reviews and they share my account in their stories. 

That’s the best thing about doing business on social media – you’re very close to your customers, you can talk to them, they’re emotionally engaged and they talk to others about what you do.

So, you use Facebook ads, post on two Instagram accounts and work with influencers. Tell me more about how you use these marketing tools.

I do a lot of Facebook ads and they work well for retargeting. The ads are shown to people who went to my website but didn’t buy. In the next seven days after visiting my sites, they’ll see ads with my content.

I also use a platform where I match a campaign with an influencer. I select a profile and offer them my preset so they talk about it in their stories or they post before & after pictures.

Working with influencers is interesting because an influencer with a small audience may bring a lot of sales while a huge one may bring none.

When an influencer posts a picture with my preset, I look at the comments and I follow people who express an interest in my presets. Then, I send a DM to all of them. Also, I send messages to people who are following me but haven’t bought from me yet. 

I also offer free demos where people can send me their pictures and I show them how my presets look on them.

Justine uses the FB Messenger chat on her Sellfy store to encourage visitors to send her photos to test her presets.

It takes a long time to communicate the way I do it, but being close to my customers and having that community works great for me. People see I’m there and available if they have any questions or troubles. I think this is the best conversion process, but it’s long. I may eventually hire someone to talk to my followers on a daily basis.

What advice would you give to people who want to grow and monetize their Instagram? What should they do?

I think the most important thing is consistency. If you post every day, then stick to posting every day. If you want to post only once a week, it’s OK, too, but you need to keep it that way. If you’re consistent, the algorithm will respond and categorize you as a good content creator. If you stop posting consistently, the algorithm will categorize you as inactive. Keeping up with the algorithm is really hard, but it’s doable.

Another important thing is to be extremely active and engaged with other people’s content. You need to always ‘like’ pictures, comment, reply to comments and follow new accounts. 

Also, posting time is important. For example, for my French audience, early mornings and evenings work best. Those are good times because it’s right before or right after work.

I personally never post on Saturdays because my followers don’t look at their phones then. And the thing is, if you post at a “bad” hour, for example, on a Saturday at 9 pm, when everybody is out, Instagram will see you have low engagement and will decide to show your post to fewer people next time. 

Sometimes, it’s better not to post anything than to post a picture you’re not sure will work with your audience. 

Use hashtags to make your account visible to people that don’t follow you. For example, on average, 30% of likes on my posts are my followers and 70% come from non-followers. You have to find hashtags that are not too big, like 5K to 1 million posts is optimal. It’s extremely important to use hashtags that represent what you’re doing. If you’re doing lifestyle or fashion, then you shouldn’t use #travel. People just won’t follow you or hit ‘like’ because it doesn’t make sense to them.

Justine uses hasthags in English and French

Lastly, analyze what happens with your posts. I look at the engagement in the first hour, I regularly look at my statistics to see which posts perform better and which hashtags work best. 

How has this business changed your life?

When I decided to create a new business after I quit my job, I was worried about how I’d be able to make money. I really wanted to travel but didn’t know how to achieve that financially. I was worried about money and how to get money fast because my first business went kind of bad and I didn’t want to make the same mistakes.

I started selling presets and thought I’d be super happy if I managed to make 500 euros doing this. When the presets started making money, I was absolutely amazed. 

I made 500 euros in the first week and that made me realize I could make more and more. I never thought I would be making so much money with this and spending so much time on it.

It’s only been a few months, so nothing much has changed in my life. But, I definitely feel more peaceful and confident about money now. I see it works and I can earn money for my travels and invest in my other businesses.

What are your goals for the future? What do you want to achieve?

I hope I’ll never have to look for a job again. I want to spend my whole life with my own profitable business. I know, I should never say never, but that’s my goal. I want to be able to work whenever and wherever I want. I want that feeling of freedom.

For the next few years, I want to discover more of the world. In three years’ time, I’d love to have a steady business with a team, a beautiful office with good vibes and stuff like that. But, that’s in three or four years because, first, I want to travel.

Zane started out in Sellfy as a Customer Support rep and quickly became fascinated with clients' business stories. Having worked in Customer Experience and Marketing projects, she is now part of the Customer Success team and enjoys interviewing Sellfy creators.