Over the past three months, I have embarked on a journey to build my freelance work and grow my brand utilizing Instagram (we love side hustlers here at Excelerate America). I chose Instagram because I’m a visual person, I make visual art, and I found that it was the best platform to showcase the skills I have.

I just reached my 100-day mark, making a new piece of work daily, and am slowly growing my follower base as every day passes. 

I’m not an influencer yet, but I have gotten to a place where I feel comfortable sharing some tips that I’ve learned throughout my Insta journey. If you are interested, follow me at @jst_vz, I make daily generative art and audiovisual content.

Justine's Instagram layout, @jst_vz1. You have to make content that people will like.
First and foremost, you have to make good content. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised. Posting for the sake of posting isn’t always enough. If you aren’t making quality content, why would someone want to like your content and follow to see more.

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Not only should your content be aesthetically pleasing but it also needs to emphasize your brand values and culture. With my Instagram, I have found a niche with the kind of work I create, and before I post anything, I make sure to review whether it fits with my other work and whether it is something I think my followers would like. 

2. You have to be active every day!
Whether or not you post every day, you need to make sure you are being engaged on Instagram every day. Follow hashtags that you often use and like and comment on content you that is also relevant to your brand.

At first, I was creating good content, I was proud of my work, but I was not seeing an increase in followers or engagement. As soon as I started engaging with other user’s content, I saw a huge increase in both followers and engagement very fast.

3. You have to be authentic.
A tool many people use on Instagram is mass following and unfollowing people to gain followers. I haven’t found this technique helpful. If you are creating engaging, authentic content, people will be more loyal to your brand and you won’t need this trick to grow.

A beautiful grid layout from Elizabeth Olwen.   Authentic, lovely visuals from our friends at Drifter Coffee.










4. Pay attention to your grid aesthetic.
At first, I was not very thoughtful about how my posts looked as a whole on Instagram, but I started recognizing that a lot of the accounts I follow keep the grid in mind. There are many tools on the internet for laying out and planning your posts, like Later.com (a tool I use to schedule and plan posts).

It may not seem important, but people are just as likely to see your content in your grid as they would in your timeline. Keeping your content cohesive could be the difference in gaining a follower.

5. Don’t forget about Instagram stories.An example of Justine's Instagram story.An example of Justine's Instagram story.
I have found that I watch more stories on Instagram than I do scrolling through posts. There are a lot of opportunities to do some fun things on your stories that may not align with your grid! Because I have a clear vision in mind with my grid, I don’t create personal posts, selfies, performances, or outtakes on my normal posts, but I will put them in a story.

I have found that people really engage with them, and my stories reach people outside of those following me. You can also use hashtags in your stories which is another cool way to reach people. These guys also disappear after 24 hours, so there is not nearly as much pressure to make them perfect. 


6. Be patient.
Nothing happens overnight. You won’t go from zero to a million followers instantly. Don’t get discouraged over this fact. It took me two months to reach 100 followers, and in the last 30 days, I have already doubled that, with nearly 200 more followers. I have done quite a bit of research on Instagram influencers, and people I would consider successful Instagram brands, and they all say that their growth is exponential but is always slow at first.


Getting from zero to one thousand followers is the trickiest part of it, but stick to it, keep making engaging content, and it will grow!


Justine Smith is a Graphic Designer for Excelerate America, the fun, smart service for businesses looking to level up. Do you have any additional tips for growing an Instagram following? Or would you like more from Justine? Reach out to her at  justine.smith@excelerateamerica.com

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