Kat Gaskin on Turning Instagram into a Full-Time Career and Brand

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all photos by Kat Gaskin

*drumroll please*

We’re talking Instagram again because who better to talk about Insta than…..Kat Gaskin of The Salty Pineapple!! 

You guys, you know I talk about her Instagram brand all the time (How to Work with Brands as a Blogger, How to Grow Your Insta Engagement). I literally always use her as an example of just flat out amazing branding. And she’s also low key great at giving social media advice.

Kat is kind of like the dream Instagram story. She was working her regular 9-to-5 and just super over it. So she literally quit her job to travel around to beautiful beaches taking beautiful photos. 

And Kat also created the infamous quote “Be a pineapple. Stand tall, wear a crown and be sweet on the inside.” Like yes, she actually created this quote.

Dreamy, right? But you and I both know it’s probably WAY harder than getting to a stunning beach in Hawaii, snapping a pic on your phone, and having the engagement rolllll in.

Hi Kat!! Welcome welcome. So, from following you for a while, I know your story pretty well. But can you give us a rundown of how The Salty Pineapple brand got started?

Hey girl! Thanks so much. Did you know the pineapple is a symbol of welcome and friendship? *Hands you a virtual pineapple*

Long story short, this is how I started Salty Pineapple:

In high school, I knew that I wanted to run my own empire. My dream was to own a creative business where all I had to do was go in and sign the cheques. Enter graphic design.

I graduated from university/college and immediately secured a 9 to 5 job in the city because that’s what we’re taught we need to do. It was fun, but overall pretty unfulfilling for my first few years of “adulthood”. As social media rose in popularity and I could stalk people’s lives who were travelling non-stop with ultimate freedom, I knew my life was meant for something so much greater than a comfortable desk job. I was already doing freelance design jobs in my off-hours, so why couldn’t I just do freelance work full-time? Enter my master Salty Pineapple plan.

I saved for 1.5 years while planning my corporate escape. October 2012 was when I finally made the giant leap and quit my job to start building my own brand, Salty Pineapple, full-time. It was so freakin’ liberating and scary! But also, the best feeling in the world.

Then after about 2 years of hustling EVERY DAY and living a very frugal life (I’m not exaggerating at all — no haircuts, restaurants, shopping, NOTHING), I finally came to a point where I could afford to also travel and work freelance! All the while, I was sharing my art, stories, design and beach-y pineapple obsession on my Instagram and the rest is history.

While your story sounds like a dream Instagram fairytale, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was so much hard work. How did you get through those hard times…when it felt like no one was liking your pics or no one cared about the content you were putting out?

I kept a folder on my phone called ‘Wins’ and screenshotted any time something good happened to me, I made progress or I gained even 1 follower.

Tracking my progress and wins (whether big or small) helped me stay motivated and focused over the past 7 years of building Salty Pineapple.

Patience was also and still is a huge factor. Nothing happens overnight regardless of what we see on Instagram or YouTube. Success is a long, hard, winding, risky, unpredictable, dangerous and exhausting road. Never give up. EVER.

Obtaining success isn’t easy, nor should it be. Nothing worth it ever is.

Like I’ve talked a lot about on my blog, you have very very specific branding. Like I can immediately tell when a photo is yours. What are some principles/guidelines you follow when choosing what pictures go on your Instagram? Or now, choosing what products go on your shop?

Simply put, I only share what I like. Whether it’s on my Instagram or in my shop.

All my photos are edited and shot by me. My feed is 100% original and unique. Same goes for my products. They are all created and designed by me. I don’t look to Pinterest for inspiration — all the creative fire I need is inside me!

When it comes to building your brand and a signature “style” consistency is your best friend. Embrace what makes you unique and proudly share that.

One of your Instagram Lives always has stood out to me – you were doing like 4 tips for building your Instagram following. How has Instagram Live worked for you? What content have you seen perform best on there?

Honestly, selfie videos aren’t my thing. I’m still getting comfortable with them.

Instagram Live has been an effective way for me to connect with my followers on a deeper level, which is my favorite part. Videos are way more engaging for obvious reasons – people can see AND hear you.

I did a weekly series every Thursday where I broadcasted for 30 minutes and shared how people can build their brands on Instagram. People loved those and hope to bring them back soon!

A lot of people are talking about Instagram engagement being so down. What is your unique secret for boosting engagement?

My secret for boosting engagement is… there is no secret.

Great engagement takes hard work, endless hours and genuine interactions with your community. There’s no shortcut or paid service that will get you followers overnight.

Respond back to all of your comments on a daily basis, like photos from your followers regularly, leave them comments, post to your Stories every day and brainstorm unique captions that people can relate to.

You interact a lot with your followers. I know this for a fact because you always respond to me lol. How do you stay on top of responding to comments, emails, etc?

First, turn OFF all notifications. Yes, turn them off. I did and it helped me be so much more productive! I schedule in one hour per day to respond back to Instagram comments and post once per day now. For emails, I only check my inbox twice a day and try to keep my emails as brief/action-oriented as possible.

Also, I’ve noticed that for someone with a large following you don’t do many #sponsorship or #ads. And the ones you do are done really strategically like coconut water or something else that fits so seamlessly in your brand. What would your most unique tip be for someone who is starting to get offers from brands?

Don’t work with anyone whose products you wouldn’t actually buy. Now more than ever, people can immediately sense when you’re not being authentic. I tend to unfollow accounts who post ads that don’t fit with their brand. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does that.

But hey, if Instagram is your only stream of income and you need that $$$, do whatever you want. It’s your account.

If you’re getting offers from brands, that’s so cool! But be forewarned, the bigger the brand, the more they will try to ask from you. It’s crucial to stand your ground and be very clear on your collaboration terms and fees (if you charge for your marketing services).

Instagram → Product

You literally just opened The Salty Pineapple Shop like 2 days ago (shop here). So exciting!! And everything is so freaking cute and so on brand. Can you give us all the details on what transitioning from an Instagram brand to physical products look like??

AAAHH!!! The Salty Pineapple Shop is my new favorite thing in life. When I designed the SP logo in 2010, I ambitiously dreamed that one day it would be put on products that I could sell — and now I’m freakin’ DOING IT!

Transitioning from a brand on Instagram to products was pretty easy for me since I’m a creative at heart.

After years of listening to my followers and having conversations with them, I know what they like. They like the same things I do and that’s what’s so great about Instagram. It automatically connects you with people from around the world who have similar interests.

I took the designs, photos and captions I’ve been sharing on Instagram for the past few years and transformed them into pieces you can buy — that’s it! Because everything on my account is original to me, it’s not just my Instagram, but also my dream world.

The free shipping speaks to my soul. How did you decide what products to start with?

RIGHT? Offering free worldwide shipping was a must for me as a Canadian.

I decided on what products to start with by keeping it simple.

I had been sharing free phone wallpapers with my community for years, so I knew phone cases were the next natural step. I had also previously sold my art prints and those did really well. And who doesn’t love drinking coffee?

If someone wanted to launch a product from their brand, what would you tell them? Is there anything you need BEFORE launching a product?

Don’t let all the research, science, trends and statistics question your own intuition.

As much as learning from other’s success is great, it’s not the BEST way towards your own success. Go at your own pace and try not to overwhelm yourself.

If you want to launch your own products under your brand, start with 1-3 products first and see how they do. Then slowly start to add more products and designs if the first few are selling well. It’s also great to only focus on selling ONE product and do it really well. Like what I do with The Content Planner, my other business.

All you need to launch a product is a PLAN.

Write it down with detailed tasks, specific dates/times and goals of all sizes. Then check each one off as you go. Checking off is important because it gives you the satisfaction you need to keep going.

There are a LOT of digital products out there. It feels like everyone and their mother is selling you an e-book, course, webinar, whatever. How do you make sure you’re standing out from the crowd?

You stand out from the crowd by creating a digital product that actually does what it says it’s going to do. For example, if you launch an eBook that teaches people how to gain Instagram followers, your customers better be gaining followers.

I completely agree that everyone is launching digital products, which is awesome. It’s less wasteful and you can make a hefty living from just a few downloads.

Honest customer testimonials and case studies are also great for building social proof.

What’s your favorite product in The Salty Pineapple Shop?

The ‘Be a Pineapple’ art print is my absolute freakin’ favorite.

It’s my words, my photo and my design — selfish I know haha! But the product represents a lot for me: starting a new chapter with my brand, crushing all the other basic pineapple competition who unknowingly copied my quote and finally owning my creativity.

It kind of looks like you’re going to do various collections in your shop. Like you started out with the Signature Salty Pineapple Collection – what are you excited about launching next?

You are correct! I’ll be launching collections for a few different reasons:

    • I want each product collection to have a theme and story that people can relate to.
    • I’m a meticulous designer and want everything to match and compliment each other.
  • I have TONS of different design styles (super bright, darker moody colors, faded and dreamy, etc.) waiting to be unleashed to the world. Stay tuned!

I’m excited for EVERYTHING — exclusive Salty Pineapple collaborations and partnerships, the next collection release called ‘Endless Summer’, new products and also free phone wallpaper downloads.

xx

So guys, that’s a wrap on Kat! Literally amazing advice and I’m obsessed with her Salty Pineapple Shop. Follow her on Instagram and leave her little crystal ball emojis if you LOVED her advice!!

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