We spoke to the UK’s leading student influencers about life as an Instagram star

‘Someone offered me £20k to be a personal trainer in Miami’

Instagram’s a gold mine in 2017. It’s made thousands of people famous from the comfort of their own bedrooms, but for most of us, the closest we’ll get to stardom is 50 likes on a holiday picture from a gap year in Thailand.

We spoke to some of the UK’s most Insta-famous students on how they gained their following, managing it, and the highs and lows of Insta-stardom.

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Freddie Pearson, Manchester, 16.8k followers

“You could never fill my shoes cause you’re not like me and I’m not like you” @mrmattcrockett 📸📸📸

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When was the turning point where you started to gain a large following?

I started working with photographers in August. By September I had around 7k followers, then I did a lot of shoots before uni and now I’m on nearly 17k.

Have you ever been recognised in public?

I went out two weeks ago and someone came up to me saying they followed me on Instagram. She kept recalling things I was doing and posts from the past. She was from Blackpool, nowhere near where I’m from. It was nice but it was a weird experience.

Do you get any weird DMs?

All the time. I’ll wake up in the morning and have like 11 or 12 requests. It can range from girls my age to 45-year-old guys – it’s very odd.

Missin summer days 🌴🌊☀️

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Has Instagram given you opportunities for work?

I got scouted on Instagram. I’ve met photographers, people from magazines, River Island’s director and Topman’s director, all through there. I’ve also had someone offer me £20k to be a personal trainer in Miami but it sounded way too dodgy.

Do you ever switch off from it?

I really wish I wasn’t, but I’m quite addicted to my phone. I’m trying to grow it at the moment for self-promotion and modelling work, so I’ll plan out posts – it means I don’t have to spend hours on it every day.

Have you ever deleted something that hasn’t done too well?

I’m guilty of that. But I regret doing it – I feel like I’m trying to be something I’m not. I find it kind of sad that social media is all that some people care about.

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Daisy Payne, Manchester, 22k Followers

baby blue

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How long have you been using Instagram?

I’d been using Instagram since I was about 15 and I eventually reached around 160k followers until I closed my account down and started a new one.

Why did you close it down?

It got to such a point that people would message me saying they saw me when I was out. People would catfish me; someone told me they were talking to a girl in China who looked like me. I started a new account intending for it be private but my followers found me. 

How did you gain such a following?

I feel I got Instagram at its peak – there was a community of us who did shout-outs to support each other. Sometimes I’d wake up to 2k new followers overnight.


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How do you manage your Instagram presence alongside your studies?

When I’m off uni I’ll use it. I try and use it primarily for my film work now. I’d like to go into the film industry and it’s a great platform for my art, so it’s in transition at the moment.

Has it given you any opportunities for work?

I’ve just started modelling. I recently did a shoot for a jewellery company called Mood Good. Since then I’ve been messaged by modelling agencies via Instagram and I’m looking to do more.

How do you stop it from getting in the way of your life?

The key is to maintain distance from it. If you let yourself feel pressured to have an Insta-perfect life then you’ll start seeing flaws in yourself that don’t exist. 

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Frankie J-S aka FJSFIT, Birmingham, 16k followers

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How did you get involved in the fitness world of Instagram? 

In March, I changed the name of my personal account to FJSFIT. I was in Saint Lucia for two months as part of my Medicine degree and my following grew from 3k to 10k followers during that time.

The work I’d been doing in the gym was exposed and so I was waking up in the morning with 1k new followers overnight. I kept my content consistent from then on.

What was your motivation to start it?

I wanted to create a fitness account that was actually relatable. My USP is that I’m a busy uni student and I don’t look like a bodybuilder. I think that’s why I get so much engagement – instead of messaging one of these celebrities, my followers will message me, someone more on their level.

What posts typically do best in the Instagram fitness world?

Unfortunately, aesthetically pleasing selfies. If you show your bum or wear a sports bra, it gets a lot more attention. While that may go to the explore page and get a few thousand likes, it doesn’t mean anything. What keeps my account growing is the videos and engagement.

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How do you manage your Instagram presence alongside your studies?

At the moment I’m applying for my Junior Doctor job so that’s my priority. I’ll probably have a week or two’s worth of posts lined up in my drafts. The most time-consuming thing is returning the engagement.

Has it given you opportunities for work?

I recently qualified as a personal trainer and I now make an income from coaching people online, including writing their training and nutrition plans.

I work with a clothing company called Live and I’m sponsored by The Good Guru. Brands will send me a lot of stuff for free so I’m also saving money.

Does it ever get in the way of your life?

If I can fit in going to the gym for an hour every day I can fit in time to post. I don’t give up a social life or a boyfriend. It started as a hobby and nothing more so I never let it take over my life. 

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Zachariah Cain, Leeds, 6k followers

🦇Nostrils Or Bat Caves?🦇

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Has Instagram given you opportunities for work?

My Instagram is basically my second portfolio. Since I shared a picture that was endorsed by Vogue, I’ve done castings for ASOS, JD, Beaverbrooks, and Toyko Laundry.

How much time do you typically spend on Instagram?

Since I started uni it’s definitely gone down quite a bit. In summer I’d be on Instagram three to four hours a day and it went from 500 to 6k followers. You get around the 3/4k mark and there’s a constant stream coming in, so I spend less time on it now.

🎾Smacking Balls🎾

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Does your following ever get overwhelming?

Not particularly. Only the DMs – people saying what they’d like to do to you in person and stuff, but nothing physical.

Would you say Instagram is a positive thing?

I’d say it’s opened up a whole new category of work. 10 years ago if you said you could make money by posting a photo it’d seem ridiculous, but these days people make a living out of it. I never saw Instagram as that important until I started modeling.

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