April 20, 2020

Cake with: Jeroen and Nathalie

In this series, we chat over cake, with influencers and creators about life and the influencer industry.

This time, we talk with creator-couple Jeroen and Nathalie about life before Instagram, how they create content, do couple shoots, and take walks without phones.

We start the interview with our most pressing question: what’s their favorite cake? Nathalie’s favorite is cheesecake, while Jeroen doesn’t think a baked good doesn’t deserve the name “cake” unless it has a decent amount of chocolate or whipped cream.

We order a vegan chocolate cake, cheesecake, and elderflower lemonade.

What do you answer to the question, “What do you do?”

Nathalie: I introduce myself as a Social Media Manager.

Jeroen: And I usually say I do something on the internet or with social media.

If you tell people you’re an influencer or creator, they think “you get free things,” and they start asking all kinds of questions.

Nathalie: Yeah, our profession has such a bad rep. But it’s a job like any other: we work hard, we are professional and take pride in improving our skills.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Jeroen: For me, it depends on whether I go to my “regular” job or not. When I work as a consultant, I wake up early, commute to Brussels, work all day, and then come home late.

While when it’s an influencer day, I get to sleep a bit longer and spend the day with Nathalie. We then wake up around nine and start the day by working out, so we can begin working full of energy.

Nathalie: After that, it depends on the day. Every day is different. We spend a lot of time producing content, preparing and conceptualizing shoots, brainstorming about what videos to make, and then, of course also editing pictures and videos. Then there are also emails and meetings with clients and, of course, replying to DMs and comments.

Jeroen: And don’t forget sleeping in! (laughs)

Nathalie: (laughing) I don’t do that!

Life before Instagram

Both of you have amassed impressive followings. But let’s go back to the beginning. How did everything start?

Jeroen: Nathalie is the one to blame, as she introduced me to the influencer world. When we started dating four years ago, she would ask me once in a while to take some pictures of her. So it all started very innocently. But soon enough, she convinced me to pose for pictures myself. And that’s how I rolled into it.

In the beginning, it was tough. I always enjoyed dressing nicely, and I like to put effort into styling my outfits. So that part came easily. But posing for pictures felt so incredibly awkward. I felt very self-conscious when Nathalie would ask me to pose in the street, I didn’t know what to do with my arms or which poses would look good.

Up to this day, I still find it very hard to pose for pictures. The easiest pose is to just walk in a straight line. There’s a reason why so many fashion influencers take pictures that way. I also look at how other creators pose on photos and try to get inspired by that.

Nathalie: I started in 2012. I was a student, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. Instagram didn’t even exist yet! It was such a different world. I had a blog, and I would post to it every day.

Then Instagram was created, and I made an account straight away. I saw the appeal of the platform. I started putting less effort into my blog and put that time into Instagram.

How do you prepare to create content?

Nathalie: Most of the preparation time goes towards conceptualizing the shoot. Where are we going to shoot? What poses will work? Which outfit should I wear?

Then, of course, before we can start shooting, I do my make-up and hair.

Shooting the picture is the easiest part. If you prep well, shooting can go very quickly. Sometimes it only takes 5 minutes.

If you don’t have a plan, though, it can take much longer, as then you don’t know what you want in terms of the exact location or pose, and you have to experiment on the spot. It can take a while before I’m satisfied with the picture.

Jeroen: I usually just freestyle. But that’s, of course, only if it’s a regular post. When I do sponsor posts, I prepare much more. As brands often give guidelines for collaborations, we want to ensure we follow these and make sure the brands will be happy with the result.

What kind of content do you like to create the most?

Jeroen and Nathalie at the same time: Travel!

Jeroen: No doubt about it. It’s so much easier to make more dreamy pictures when traveling.

Plus, you get much more inspiration when you are in a different location. While we love the city where we live (Antwerp), it’s hard sometimes to keep being inspired and not get stuck in a rut for shoots.

Nathalie: Our followers also love it. People often message me that they visited a spot I recommended. That makes me happy. I love the connection I have with my followers.

View this post on Instagram

Plans for today: absolutely nothing✔️

A post shared by Nathalie // Content Creator (@nathalievandenberg) on

Just me standing in front of a wall

Let’s talk about the couple poses. Your audience seems to love them. How about you? 

Nathalie: I love making them. But Jeroen not so much.

Jeroen: Well, it depends. I mind less than I used to. What I don’t like is when we have to ask people in the street to take a picture of us. And then sometimes the pictures are not that good, so we have to ask another person. I find the whole process a bit awkward.

Nathalie: We are also often in slightly more touristic locations when we take couple shots, so it’s not easy to use a tripod. Or safe. We once had our camera stolen in Paris while we were shooting, so we don’t want to go through that again. Even though our camera is insured, it would be a big hassle.

Who takes your pictures?

Nathalie: Most of the time, it’s Jeroen. Sometimes my mom takes pictures when I’m on vacation with her. I also ask other influencers to take pictures when we work together.

Jeroen: Nathalie takes all my photos. I don’t like to pose for other people. Nathalie is the only one for me.

What’s your process for writing captions?

Jeroen: We often come up with them late at night in bed. (laughs)

Nathalie: It’s true. (laughing)

If I really, really, don’t have any inspiration, I go to Pinterest and look for some inspiring quotes that speak to me. And I keep a file with quotes or song lyrics that I like. That also helps to get inspired.

But it also depends on the post itself. With some pictures, the caption just comes naturally. While with outfit posts, it is harder to keep having new ideas.

Jeroen: Maybe our next caption can be: “Just me standing in front of a wall.” (laughs)

The first collaboration

Do you remember your first brand collaboration? How did it happen?

Nathalie: I remember it clearly. Three months after I started my blog, I got an email from Zalando. I have no idea how they found my blog, but they offered me a €50 voucher. In return, I had to feature them in a blog post. I was through the moon!

Jeroen: I don’t remember.

Do you work with a lot of brands?

Nathalie: I do collabs, but I don’t want to exaggerate. I find it important to keep the right balance between my content and sponsored content. You have to make sure you post enough non-sponsored content to keep your authenticity.

On top of that, I only do collaborations that fit with my story. I have some criteria for myself to determine whether a brand is a good match for me or not.

At the same time, I like to do brand collaborations. Some posts are just better because they were sponsored. Quality posts and collaborations can go hand in hand. I know some people don’t see it that way, but I think it’s all about finding brands that fit with your lifestyle and personal brands. If the story you are telling in your post works, it will feel natural to you and your audience.

What do you think about the tools brands use to know your Instagram stats without you showing them?

Jeroen: It’s incredible how much information brands have about you nowadays. Without you telling them anything about you! There are a lot of tools on the market that will show you how many followers you have, which countries they are located in, their age and gender, etc. It’s a bit creepy.

I almost missed out on a brand deal one time because of one of those tools. A brand asked me for a collaboration, and everything seemed great until they asked me for my audience demographics. I sent them screenshots of my Instagram analytics screen, and they didn’t believe me!

The tool they were using was showing them very different information. The information given by the tool was far off; it couldn’t have been more wrong. But instead of believing me, they believed the tool. They thought I had photoshopped the screenshots I sent them and faked my analytics! Incredible. It took a lot of effort to convince them.

In the end, I managed to convince them, and I did the collaboration. But I almost didn’t get the deal, even though I and my audience were exactly what they were looking for.

Jeroen and Nathalie’s top tips for brands.

Some advice that will lead to better collaborations between brands and influencers:

We take our job seriously, and we are professionals. So use email to talk with us about brand collaborations, not our Instagram DMs.

Influencer marketing is too often based on campaigns. Many brands only do an influencer marketing campaign once a year when they launch a new product. You will see much better results when you work with influencers for a longer period and do multiple campaigns with them on a more regular basis. Or even better, make them your brand ambassadors. This gives the influencers you work with the chance to really get to know your brand.

Don’t expect influencers to follow your briefing to the letter if you only pay them in free products. If you want quality posts that fit perfectly with your brand story, you have to pay influencers a cash reward on top of free products. The only way our industry can become more professional is if you treat us as professionals and reward us accordingly.

Don’t try to control influencers too much. It just doesn’t work when brands tell you how to pose, where to take your picture, and which outfit you should be wearing. It’s the job of the influencer to know what works for their audience, and how to position your product in the best possible way.

 

The secret sauce

How do you stay creative?

Nathalie: If we don’t have any inspiration, we plan a little trip. We are much more creative when we are in new locations. And it doesn’t have to be far or expensive. Going to Amsterdam for the weekend (a 2,5 hours drive), for example, can help us break out of a creative rut.

If you would have to start all over again, building your audience on Instagram and scoring your first brand deals, how would you go about it?

Jeroen: Instagram is quite saturated now. But it is still definitely possible to start from zero now and grow. You just need to be more strategic about it.

If you want to grow your following now, you need to pick a specific niche that is not so crowded. There are still plenty of niches that are not too crowded.

Nathalie: Yes. But make sure you pick a niche you are passionate about. People can tell when you are passionate about something. To find your passion, choose your niche and start building your Instagram identity and personal brand based on that.

Secondly, invest in learning how to make excellent content. I think the key to being successful is inspiring people with your content.

Jeroen: Third, you need to pump up your personality in your posts. Don’t make the same content everyone is making. Figure out what makes you, you, and show that in your posts. We cannot stress enough how important personality is.

And then, of course, you need to learn how to use hashtags, location tags, etc. But that’s the easy part, just google tips on how to do that 😉

Nathalie: Once you do all of that right, you can join a platform like Influo, and pitch for brand collaborations. But if brands don’t seem interested to work with you, it means you’re probably not ready yet, and you need to improve your content.

Always on

What do you think about the Instagram algorithm?

Jeroen: It sucks.

Nathalie: Yeah. But there’s nothing we can do about it. So we should just stop complaining and deal with it.

What are your biggest struggles as a professional influencer couple?

Nathalie: Definitely work-life balance. Like any entrepreneur, we are always on, always working. It’s great that we can do what we love, but sometimes we also want not to do anything for two weeks. Just go on a relaxing vacation, not take any pictures. It’s hard to find a balance.

Jeroen: It’s definitely an advantage that we are both influencers, so we understand the lifestyle. If I had a 9 to 5 job that would have nothing to do with Instagram or content creation, that would be very hard. I don’t think I would want to be an Instagram-husband who uses their only two weeks of holidays to take pictures of the wife constantly.

Nathalie: Yeah, it’s a win-win that we both have the same lifestyle and that we can work as a team. We can divide tasks.

What we started doing now to try to have a better balance is to have offline time. We both love to walk, and then the phones stay home. No pictures. No thinking about content. Just us and nature. We enjoy that quality time.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Jeroen: I don’t think I will still be very active on Instagram or Youtube in 5 years. Instead of working for a marketing agency, I would like to have my own consultancy business assisting companies with influencer marketing.

Nathalie: I want to keep doing what I do. I love being an influencer. And I love the personal contact I have with my followers. I would like to do more video, though, whether it’s on Youtube or IGTV. I think you have a much closer connection with your followers through video than through pictures, and I think that’s the future.

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