It’s afternoon in Paris and the Eiffel Tower takes center stage in the middle of a huge oval hotel room window. Macaroons, croissants and flowers are strewn across tables serving as props for the perfect selfie – nearly identical versions of which can be seen on hundreds of different Instagram profiles under the glamorous Le Metropolitan hotel location tag.
Lucy takes a look at the view, the room (she thinks) costs six or seven hundred euros a night. But she’s not here as a paying guest. The reason? She’s at work as an assistant to Tina Lee, an Instagram influencer with over 580,000 followers – and, as she later jokes in a behind-the-scenes video, Lucy eats the props.
Glamorous shoot days like these are a rare but essential part of Lucy’s daily work with Tina, who makes her living mostly sharing travel and lifestyle content on her Instagram page @ofleatherandlace. Usually, Lucy works from home in her NYC apartment, mostly doing graphics for Tina’s second account (@fulltimeinfluencer.co which hosts a hands-on influencer course), as well as publishing the company’s scheduled posts and stories. day, writing captions and dialogue with Tina’s followers in the comments and DMs.
The days dedicated to photo shoots (like the one in Paris) are much more intense: two shoots in the morning for sunrise, one or two in the afternoon, then one more for sunset. At night, it’s time to edit, write captions, and catch up on administration.
“The influencer’s assistant” might not be a job you’ve heard of, but in 2021 they’re more common than they first appear. Lucy, 23, got the job after graduating in the pandemic of 2020 (when “no one was hiring”) with a degree in business administration and graphic design.
“I didn’t expect this to be my job,” she tells me over Zoom from her Insta-perfect aesthetic studio. “I saw Tina posting on her story that she was looking for an assistant,” and after working on an initial project to kick off Tina’s course, Lucy was hired to return full-time.
For most social media natives, this sounds like a dream. “I get paid more than my friends who work for companies in entry-level jobs,” Lucy reveals. Additionally, flexible hours with Tina (workdays are usually 10am-4pm) mean she can work on freelance graphic design projects on the side.
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Then there’s the fact that Lucy’s Instagram account has grown since working for Tina, and her daily reels sharing insights into her work have started to gain traction – 29.6k followers, to be exact.
“I think in the future, I’ll probably end up becoming an influencer myself,” she admits. “It’s like the modern version of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. [Tina] feels like my Instagram mom. However, it’s a moment, with Lucy citing 100,000 subscribers as the threshold for being able to support herself financially.
Yet, as with all jobs, there are downsides. Social media (as many of us know) never sleeps, and while most other workplaces shut down over the holidays and holidays, Instagram picks up. “As an influencer, you don’t really have days off. If you take days off, you start to lose your engagement and following,” says Lucy, adding that assistants will generally work on holidays and sometimes also on weekends.
“I was at brunch with my laptop because I was working. Everyone makes bottomless mimosas and I try to write captions,” she recalled. “If you need complete separation of your life and work, it wouldn’t work.”
For connection-based work, it can also feel lonely. “I have a colleague and he’s my boss, and people don’t network around like, ‘Oh, I’m an influencer’s assistant.’ ‘Me too!’ So it’s hard to find other people in the same field of work,” admits Lucy.
Yet they exist. Another influencer’s assistant is Harmony, a 31-year-old living in New York City with her husband and two-year-old son. She’s been working as an assistant for fashion and beauty influencer Rachel Martino since 2017, and during that time, she’s seen Rachel’s follower count grow from around 200,000 to her current 479,000.
Harmony had already been following Rachel for five years when she first saw the job posting – now spending most of her days working from Rachel’s dining room table. She started out doing “mundane things” like grabbing a coffee or organizing Rachel’s closet before quickly moving on to creating content. Now she’s Rachel’s photographer, she also organizes video shoots, edits videos and does “everything to help her” (although she adds that Rachel edits her own photos). There is also administration and e-mails. “All the biggest bloggers have agents,” she explains, “so we work as a trio: Rachel, me, and her agency.
“I’m sort of his right arm, helping him with every part of the job.”
This rise in assistant responsibilities reflects the trend seen in recent years: influence has shifted from individuals posting alone to a full-fledged business model.
“Bloggers started as regulars [people] just film themselves in their room with their webcam. And the thing is that the profession has evolved so much that we ask more and more of influencers. And so they get to a point where it’s physically humanly impossible to do it all on your own. So more and more people are hiring assistants,” says Harmony.
But what about ownership?
“Their brand is just them,” she continues. “For example, Rachel’s brand is not ‘Rachel and Harmony’. It’s ‘Rachel Martino.’ [Influencers] we must maintain [their] internet persona,” Harmony adds, comparing the job to her previous role as a performer: “you never see them.”
Lucy and Harmony say their bosses introduced them to their followers. Others, like Sammy, who lives in Los Angeles and works for influencer Amie Tollefsrud (aka @rebellenutrition), are ultra-transparent. Helping out with Amie’s account and her e-commerce lessons, Sammy’s main duties include creating Instagram graphics, editing Amie’s podcast and YouTube videos, and occasionally looking after her Pomeranian dogs. They will also appear in YouTube videos on Amie’s channel, and the two are open about their earnings. “Right now, I’m making $1,000 a week,” Sammy says, while Amie often talks about her “seven-figure business” and never shy away from posting about money.
Still, thanks to all the support, admin, and all-day photoshoots going on behind the scenes, you might start to feel like influencer selfies are a lot more professional and potentially less personal than they don’t seem so at first. In fact, Lucy’s latest Reel shows her and Tina filming in a purpose-built studio that looks like the perfect living room.
It’s interesting to think about how this shifts the conversation from “influencers taking pictures in their bedroom” to “influencers who are open and transparent about their need for assistants” (additional note: although neither seem very catchy.) With engagement a high priority and key to making money, this is the obvious next step. So we probably won’t see influencers or their helpers going anywhere anytime soon.
Follow Lucia on Instagram @lucy.q, Harmony @harmonylu_ and Sammy @samjowa.
Follow Emilie on Instagram.
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