SARA Tasker from West Yorkshire set up her Instagram account in a bid to beat the blues of being a new mum at home all day without any grown-ups to chat to.
But what began as a way to socialise quickly spiralled into a business when she began posting tutorials about how to use the social networking platform.
�Andrew McCaren Former NHS speech therapist Sara Tasker, 31, discovered her knack for Instagram during her pregnancy
Fast forward five years, and the former NHS worker now employs her husband fulltime and her company, Me & Orla – named after their daughter – is aiming for a £250,000 turnover next year.
“Being a new mum can be isolating,” said Sara, 35. “I felt quite lonely.
“Photography has always been a passion of mine, so I started taking pictures with my phone. The aim was just to socialise and find like-minded people.
“I’d post pictures of my daily life from flowers to my daughter’s tiny socks but my most popular posts were about Instagram itself and how to use it.”
Within six months, Sara’s following went from zero to 35,000.
�Andrew McCaren Sara’s business is inspired and named after her five-year-old daughter Orla
After her maternity leave finished, Sara went back to work to her role as a speech therapist and continued Instagramming in her spare time.
‘I had to juggle my nine-to-five job with childcare and my creative work’
For two years, she worked full-time while taking care of her daughter and working on her Instagram account until as late as 2am.
“I felt really passionate about helping others online but it was a bit exhausting. I had to juggle between my nine-to-five job, childcare, and my creative work,” she said.
So she quit her job.
“When I came back to work after my maternity leave, I was missing my daughter.
Sara’s tips on how to build a business by using your Instagram account or your blog:INSTAGRAM expert Sara Tasker shares her secrets to building a successful business
Find out what makes you unique – Let yourself be different. Whether it is the type of picture you post or what you are writing about, try to find your own trademark.
Have a mailing list – Create a newsletter and make sure you communicate with your followers or readers on a regular basis.
Keep showing up – Be constant and post regularly, you need to make sure your website, blog or Instagram account is updated regularly if you want people to come back.
Know your worth – People will always try to underpay you or get things for free. Don’t undersell yourself or your expertise.
“Plus, I’d been working for the NHS for about 10 years, the pay was lousy and deep down I knew that I wasn’t fulfilling my potential.
“Finding an audience online gave me a taste of self-belief and I could see the possibilities of making something bigger out of it.”
‘I was terrified about not having a regular paycheck’
But it wasn’t easy. Sara recalled: “I was terrified about not having a regular paycheck, but it was a now or never moment.
“When I resigned my NHS boss told me: ‘I hope the internet bubble doesn’t burst too soon’, so I was determined to prove her wrong.”
From then on, Sara upped her game and started to treat her Instagram account as a business.
©Andrew McCaren Sara teaches most of her classes online but she also holds occasional private training lessons. She is pictured here with her client Rachel
The mum-of-one said: “Perhaps because my pictures were relatable and I was putting time and effort into them, my audience grew quite quickly.
“I was being spoilt with questions about my photography and how to make the most out of Instagram, so I also started a blog where I was sharing advice.”
Eventually, her audience got big enough for her to monetise her experience by launching a series of online coaching courses, making a proper business out of Me & Orla.
Since then, her company has only grown from strength to strength – and the mum-of-one can do most of it without leaving her home.‘I have a chronic illness, so I needed a business I could manage from my bed’
By its first year in 2015, Me & Orla had an annual turnover of £35,000 – almost double Sara’s previous salary, and this financial year it is predicted to hit the £250,000 mark.
Her husband Rory, who used to be a teacher, quit his job and started working for Sara full-time in 2017 as an IT consultant to help her with the technical side of the website.
Both receive a monthly salary from the company.
It’s quite an achievement considering Sara never invested a single penny into the business.
She said: “There was no investment involved – I used a laptop I already had, and my camera was free from Canon in exchange for some advertorial work.
“Being digital means it’s a very lean business model – I don’t think I would ever have had the confidence to get started if it had meant seeking initial investment.”
Me & Orla offers a handful of programmes for people looking to take their Instagram game to the next level.
Sara’s flagship course, called the Instaretreat, is a six weeks online programme which costs £350. Lectures range from “how to find your target audience” to “nailing a visual style” or “how to set up the workflow so it doesn’t take more than 20 minutes a day”.
She also runs shorter four week courses for £110 which include lessons such as how to create “unique images” and find “photo opportunities”.
In 2017, she also launched her own podcast Hashtag Authentic, offering advice for creatives business owners online, which has had over 1million downloads to date.
It was important for Sara to build a business she can manage from home if she needs to.
She suffers from a chronic illness called dysautonomia, a condition in which the autonomic nervous system (ANS) does not work properly. Symptoms can include a rapid heart rate, severe fatigue, fainting when standing for too long and heat intolerance.
�Andrew McCaren Sara recording her podcast Hashtag Authentic from her office at home
Sara said: “It can be pretty disabling and there are days when I can barely leave the house. Sometimes I’ll have to take the shower sitting down or I won’t be able to take the stairs.
“The good thing is I managed to build my business around these limitations. I can run most of it from my phone or computer in bed.
“I am very human and I don’t like to pretend. It’s important to show that nobody’s life is as perfect as it looks on pictures.”‘You can be successful without compromising who you are’
In 2018, Sara was awarded the runner-up prize in NatWest’s Creative Entrepreneur of the Year award, and won Content of the Year in magazine Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards.
Her Instagram page now has a whopping 213,000 followers.
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The biggest project for the rest of the year is promoting Sara’s new book Hashtag Authentic: Finding creativity and building a community on Instagram and beyond, which was released in February. It draws on the lessons she’s learnt over the past five years online, to provide her readers with tips and guidance on growing an online audience.
Sara said: “To have a book published is both exciting and terrifying. I’ll be doing lots of Q&As, talks and book signings so it’s a bit stressful but I just hope it helps women and mums with self-doubt problems.
“Business can feel like such a macho cut throat world and I want to show everyone that you can be successful without compromising who you are.
“Of course, there are downsides to running my own firm. I am constantly working, always checking emails, I can never really switch off and sometimes I’m really tired. But I also truly love what I do and I’m there to pick up my daughter from school everyday. I feel incredibly lucky for that.”
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Keen to start your own business? In February, we spoke with Thomas Delgado who dropped out of university after two years to turn his love of cars into a £3.7million business.
The Sun also revealed how a mum went from living on the streets and begging for food to running her own £100,000 office space start-up.
And we told the story of how a 26-year-old entrepreneur who grew up on a council estate started a ticket company now worth £22million.
Mum went from living on the streets and begging for food to running an £100k office space start-up
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