When people initially talk about brand repping, they hear that it’s an easy way to fill up their child’s wardrobe with small shop items, for FREE, in exchange for snapping a picture or two of your child in the items and posting those pictures on Instagram. They don’t tell you about all of the hard work and the costs involved. They don’t tell you about the dedication it takes, the time you have to invest and the true passion for small shops that you have to have in order to succeed.
Not many wake up one morning, start an instagram account and get chosen to be a brand rep immediately. For most of us that have been in the brand rep world for a while, we had to work for it and we had to spend money to get to where we are now. When I started out, I was taking pictures with my cell phone and each picture I took was amazing… I thought. I would quickly take a picture with my phone, add one of Instagram’s filters and post it. I was sure that I would get hundreds of likes on that picture because I knew how beautiful my daughter was and it was a matter of time before everyone else noticed her. Sound familiar? I entered as many searches as I could and although we did get chosen for a couple, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I was lucky to get 20 likes on each picture and we were lucky to get chosen for one out of every 20-25 searches we entered. Of course, I was disappointed but I also took it as a challenge.
I started following the rep accounts that seemed to get chosen often and learned that brand repping wasn’t as easy as I assumed it was. I started spending more time taking pictures. I purchased various small shop items from some of the shops I loved and made sure to pay attention to the styling aspect instead of just throwing something on. I paid more attention to my daughter’s hairstyle, her shoes and to the background of our photos. I stopped pulling my daughter outside in our driveway to take pictures. We began exploring the neighborhood and finding fun places to take pictures. I started using my camera more and my phone less. I even researched editing apps and worked on my favorite pictures to make the lighting better and learned how to fix the food that my daughter always seemed to have on her face when we would take pictures.
Eventually, I invested in a 50mm lens. GAME CHANGER! My pictures suddenly went from Mama taking pictures for fun to Mama looking like she actually knew what she was doing. People started commenting on how much better my pictures were. I started to find a new love for photography that I never knew existed (although I had taken some classes in college). The more I took pictures, the more I wanted others to see them. I started buying more and more small shop items. I would look for sales and try to get enough pieces each month to have enough to take pictures every few days. I set myself a small shop budget and spent two or three times my budget every single month without fail. But I was taking pictures and tagging shops and shops were finally noticing us, so I tried not to think about the cost.
I stopped entering every search we saw and instead, entered only our favorite shops, a couple at a time. I knew quite a number of reps that were working with 40-50 shops at a time and while that seemed amazing, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to devote myself to that many shops, so I set a limit of 5, though I’m pretty sure we surpassed that quicker than I thought we would.
We found a new addiction in Dr. Marten boots. At one point, my daughter had 10 pair. I mean, we NEEDED them in every color, didn’t we? All of the popular reps were wearing them. And those suckers aren’t cheap (although we did score a number of them for a really good price). I took solace in knowing that I would be able to sell them as soon as she outgrew them, so although we wouldn’t make back all of the money, I could justify spending on them.
Once I mastered my 50mm, I tackled manual shooting. It terrified me. I promise you that it was something I was 99.9% sure that I wouldn’t be able to do. Up until that point, I had been shooting on action mode because my toddler didn’t stand still and it was the only way I could take pictures fast enough. I spoke to a couple of people, decided to learn one camera setting at a time and really started to feel like I knew what I was doing, finally! As my pictures got better, so did my desire to want to keep getting better. I purchased a 35mm lens and really took my photography to another level. I joined more and more teams because I wanted to take pictures daily and it was the only way to afford it.
Through our journey, which started in August of 2015, we have found a number of shops that we absolutely love. Each time they have a new release, I have to shop. We currently work with 20 shops and I’ve considered adding a few more. When we get chosen as a rep, that doesn’t mean we are just getting free things. For most shops, that also means I’m purchasing on a monthly basis, not because they require us to, but because repping isn’t about free stuff. It’s about supporting and helping to promote shops that you really and truly love.
Now, if you’re keeping track up until this point, my fun hobby that would get my daughter free clothing has cost me thousands of dollars. I won’t even attempt to add it all up because the final numbers would probably terrify me. What I will tell you is, that although brand repping has become a very expensive hobby, it’s become even more rewarding. Each day, for the last year or so, I have really bonded with my youngest daughter. We turn pictures into adventures. We may walk around and find “treasures” or we may ride bikes to our final picture taking spot. We may drive and look for fun new places or do it right in our dining room. No matter where we are, we are together. It’s time that we aren’t on our phones, or sitting in front of the t.v. We are talking, laughing (and there’s a lot of that going on), dancing and I get to capture every moment with my camera. Years from now I will have thousands and thousands of pictures of her that we can look back on. I will be able to see her growing up right in front of the camera.
And what’s more, I’ve made so many friends in the brand rep community. Most of these people I have never met, and will probably never meet, but they are some of the most incredible people. They are people that I can count on to listen when I have a bad day. They are people that will support and promote my shops, even if they aren’t on my team. They are people that I can call and chat about anything with. They are people I can get advice from and give advice to. They are people that I feel like are my family because we are watching each other’s children grow through pictures. I can’t think of any other hobby where I would be able to meet women like these and I’m so very grateful for each and every one of them.
My advice to those of you that are thinking about getting into brand repping is this…. don’t do it for the free clothes. Chances are you will spend much more than you receive in free merchandise. Do it to support all of these hard working small shop owners. Do it because the thought of capturing pictures of your kids is something you know you would love and you aren’t afraid to dedicate the time. Do it because you want to meet people across the world that also have the same passion as you do. Do it because it’s the most rewarding hobby you will ever have.
Heather is the Mom of three and a marketing professional. She enjoys graphic design, writing, photography and making new memories with her family.