Kkarmalove was featured in the July 2014 issue. Read it here.
Christine Hsu is like a lot of other girls. She loves clothes and she loves posting up selfies. Except she was able to create an Instagram empire and turn a hefty profit with her hobby. One day we met and I had to learn more about how she was able to turn selfies into a profitable business. For anyone out there who wants to learn how to make money through the power of Instagram and social media, this should be an enlightening interview.
First of all, can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
I have an Instagram account under the handle Kkarmalove. I get paid to post pictures up and I also make money from selling t-shirts I designed online.
How did this get started?
I started on Blogspot first and then I started on Lookbook.nu. Lookbook was really popular when I first started posting up pictures of my outfits. Fashion was a big passion of mine. I’ve always loved fashion, and since there’s nothing to do in Nebraska, fashion was one of my only hobbies.
And then what happened?
I started Blogspot/Lookbook about 3/4 years ago and I started my Instagram about a year and a half ago. I had maybe 3,000 followers on Lookbook when I transitioned over to Instagram. Instagram is where I got a bunch of followers.
How did you get your followers?
On Instagram I used the hashtag function. I hashtagged this one girl, #fashionfeed, and she looked at whoever tagged her and would repost some of the images. She had like hundreds of thousands of followers at the time so that helped me gain followers pretty quickly. Unfortunately, she got her account hacked so it’s impossible to use her anymore, but there are other accounts that you can still do the same thing with. There are a lot of fashion accounts with huge followings.
That sounds easy, how come everyone can’t do that?
It’s not that easy. It comes down to having a good eye for fashion. Everyone tries to do a fashion account, but most girls suck at it.
So how do you make money?
There’s a few ways to make money. I make most of my money by selling t-shirts and other clothes on my online store. Once you’ve built up this following where people love what you post and love your style, they are more inclined to buy what you’re selling them. I made a couple shirts that I thought I would definitely wear and then I sold them by posting it up on my Instagram. I also sent them to other accounts on Instagram that had large followers and they gave me shoutouts. That helped me to sell a lot of t-shirts.
Besides that I also do promos. If you hit a certain number of followers — like around 100k — there are companies out there that will essentially be your “agent.” They find clients that want to advertise on your Instagram and pay you a fee every time you post. For an account that has a million followers, you can make around $250k per year or more. One of these companies is called Instabrand if you want to look them up.
Tell us more about how you started your shirts?
It was almost exactly a year ago. At the time I was still working at a restaurant but the restaurant got sold. My sister and I didn’t have any income so we were figuring out what we could do to make money. At the time my Instagram didn’t make enough money by itself. I also already knew I was moving to LA to be with my sister Kat.
So we came up with the idea to make shirts. We actually always wanted to make them but we were lazy before and didn’t know how to do it.
So we put up some shirts on Storenvy (which is a site that let’s you set up an ecommerce store) and then marketed it on my Instagram.
Then they just sold. It was really easy to sell.
So your only sales tactic was Instagram?
Yep, pretty much. Like I said before I gave away some shirts to influential people and they helped me sell. That was enough to sell out our first few batches of clothes. Later on we also got onto Nasty Gal (a huge online clothing retailer) which helped us sell a lot more as well.
How did you get onto Nasty Gal?
All I did was email them. It was simple as that. They must’ve liked my clothes and that was that. I think I might have gotten lucky because Nasty Gal is typically very hard to get into.
How did you know what designs would sell?
It comes back down to having a good eye for fashion. I created designs that I knew I would want to wear. It’s a good indication that you have a good eye when a lot of people are willing to follow your account. If you can’t get that at first then it might mean that your style just isn’t appealing enough to a mass population, thus your marketability is low.
So what was your best seller?
The “Best Bitches” crop tops. Those sold out extremely fast. We released limited edition ones and those sold out instantly as well.
Is there a way to replicate this sales strategy with other businesses?
Yeah possibly, but it helps that the women’s fashion market is so highly represented on Instagram. All the top Instagram accounts with millions of followers are women’s fashion accounts. Men’s fashion has some accounts too like @ootdmen.
See Christine online @