Welcome back to Influencer Interviews! Last week we took a spoke with @haylsa and @kyle_hunter about what it is like to work together as an influencer couple. This week we are chatting with Mel Vandersluis, otherwise known as @mvandersluis on Instagram. She also recently started the page @whenwerehome which focuses on her life at home.
Mel has been in the influencer community for several years now. Over that time, she has experienced great success as well as some struggles. Instead of letting those struggles hold her down, she has learned the importance of mindset and gratitude. She is sharing the highs, lows, and how to keep a positive mindset through it all below in our interview this week.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, why you became an influencer and how you found your own voice in the saturated influencer world?
My name is Mel Vandersluis, and I am a travel content creator from Montreal, Canada. I became an influencer almost by accident. I didn’t really plan to become one.
It all began when I took my first content trip with Pangea Dreams which is a company that my cousin, Tracy Komlos, owns. Back then it was a content creation agency, so she was the first one to really open my eyes to the idea of content creation for brands.
My first really big trip in terms of content creation for myself was to Bali. Once I was being more consistent with it and posting every day and working on my photo edits, I noticed that my account really took off. Because Bali is really well known for their amazing community and they have plenty of repost accounts, my account did really well. That was the beginning of my journey as an influencer, although I really don’t love that word (I prefer content creator).
In the end, everyone has their own unique voice. No one can be you. I come from a place of what I’m going through which helps me decide the kinds of photos and conversations I want to share and have with my audience.
What do you wish someone told you before becoming an influencer?
So many things! I wish someone would have told me how easy it would be to get lost in an industry where it is easy to compare yourself to others. I don’t think I was really mentally prepared for that, but I realized it is really easy for me to compare where I am to where others are.
Knowing that and going through my own personal journey with it, I realized you really have to put blinders on and focus on what you are doing. You can’t compare your chapter to someone else’s. Someone else is going through a very different journey. I would have loved for someone to say to me, “Just remember to stay in your lane and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.”
What does mindset mean to you and how is it relevant within the influencer industry?
Mindset to me really ties in with mental health. I think it is really important not to just be on social and take care of your community but to take care of yourself and your mind. It can be really easy to get lost in the online industry.
For me, I need to make sure that I take 20-25 minutes out of my day to meditate or get a workout in or write in my gratitude journal. I need to make sure my mind is in the right place because it is so easy to get lost and make social media more important than your own mental health.
Talk about the biggest failure you had and what did you learn about it?
I think I would consider making my numbers so important as one of my biggest failures. When Instagram was going through all of the algorithm changes, it really threw me for a loop. I spent years growing, and all of the sudden I was loosing. I was loosing thousands of followers every week.
I’m still loosing followers, but I think that was a very good learning experience for me. I always take failure, as hard as it is in the moment, as a good learning experience. It taught me that numbers aren’t so important. It’s really what you are serving your community that is important.
It doesn’t matter if you have a thousand followers or a million. It is about how you serve your community and providing value for them.
What keeps you going when things get tough in your business?
Gratitude. I think just make sure you are grateful for all the things you do have. There are going to be a lot of times where you get no as an answer. You can send out a hundred emails and maybe get two responses that say yes.
I really believe that gratitude is something that brings me back to earth and brings me happiness. I started writing in a 5-minute journal a couple of months ago, and it really has been such a big game changer. It has questions like, “What are the 3 things you are grateful for? What are the 3 great things that happened today?”
When things get tough, I look at these questions and realize that I’m thankful just to be on the planet and to breathe fresh are and to walk and talk and breathe and smell. When we go back to the basics of what we are able to have, I think that makes all the difference.
What would you say is the number one thing that can go wrong being an influencer?
I think making it about the money. It’s a really difficult thing. You start seeing opportunities come in like, “We will pay you X amount of money to post about us.” For someone who doesn’t have a good grasp of what they want to provide their community, it is really easy to get lost in the money.
It is really important to have a good sense of what you want to provide your community. If you are going to be talking about beauty products, make sure to try them first. Don’t just agree to a collaboration where you’ve never tried a product.
I think that would be the number one thing that people get lost in, but make sure to do collaborations that are on brand for you and make sense for you. Now that I’ve been in the industry for over 4 years, I’ve realized how many collaborations I almost wish I didn’t take.
I could have put more emphasis on other ways I could have made money but that made more sense for my community like eBooks or online courses or presets or whatever it may have been. Things that would have been more of service to my community instead of just thinking, “This will make me X amount of money.”
I think in the last couple of years I’ve really been in tune with this to say no to things that don’t suit me. It has also gotten me back into emailing brands that I really love and saying, “Hey, I have this really great idea to do this with you guys if you’re interested.”
Let’s say it is a home project – I recently bought a condo. I had reached out to IKEA because I love IKEA and we have a ton of IKEA furniture already. I thought it would be great to do a really fun collab together. They are also working on sustainability, so it all made sense.
I think researching brands is also really important. Look up what their mission is. Does it match yours? It’s like finding a partner.
How do you stay positive and continue to set goals and grow in this industry?
Like I was saying before, I think gratitude is a really big part of just staying positive. I think another big thing is to keep moving forward. I have felt lost quite a few times in this industry, just thinking, “I don’t know what to do next. Everyone is doing these really cool things, and I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Instead of feeling lost, just try anything. This goes back to a topic I talked about on a photo not long ago that was titled, “Any path will do.” It is one of those quotes that my dad used to tell me anytime I said, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel really lost.” He would say, and I hope I don’t butcher it, “If you don’t know where you are going, any path will do.”
I think it is worse to not do anything than to just try something. Along the way, you take one path, and if that doesn’t work, you change and you go down another. I think that’s a lot like people who started in the industry a long time ago.
I feel like I’ve been doing the same thing for a while now, and I’ve gotten to the point that I want to try something new. I’m a creator, and I want to really challenge myself in different areas. Trying new paths is great and a great way to stay positive and keep being creative.
What would you do differently if you were starting in the industry now?
I would do exactly what I did when I started. Share what you love. Really do your research on that specific topic. For example, if you really love Nutella, like I do, share everything you know about Nutella. Maybe it’s recipes or facts about Nutella.
There’s a market for everything right now. It is one of the most incredible eras to be a part of. You can really make a business about anything. There are people out there for each and every community.
Anything else you want to add?
Something I always like to refer back to is a motto, not really a quote, but it is to stay curious. That has helped me when I’m feeling uninspired or need a pick me up.
I really love learning. Whether it is an online class or in another country learning how they make chocolate or how to cook certain dishes, I’m always really curious. I think that helps creativity-wise just to keep your mind open. So stay curious and see what’s out there!
I really appreciate Mel taking the time to share her story and her insight into mindset and the influencer industry. Please go give her a follow at @mvandersluis. Hopefully this helps you see the reality of being an influencer and how important having a positive mindset is for an influencer.
Comment below with your tips and tricks for keeping a positive mindset!
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