Instagram babe makes $215,000 with sexy selfies
THANKS to her nearly 8 million followers on Instagram, this curvy bikini babe is making bank.
Abigail Ratchford, 25, has come a long way from her days juggling three jobs as a paralegal, secretary and bartender - and earning less than $750 a week - in her hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
"I was thinking that there had to be more to life than this hamster wheel that I was on," she told The New York Post.
Now, she makes more than $215,000 a year from product endorsements and merchandise sales, all of it fuelled by her social-media account.
It started in 2013 when a friend who was a professional photographer asked Ratchford to model swimsuits for a shoot to build up his portfolio.
Bloggers spotted the pics on his Facebook page and started writing about this new girl, which caught the attention of websites such as Maxim, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and Barstool Sports.
Sensing an opportunity to capitalise on her budding internet celebrity, Ratchford started an Instagram account, which quickly shot up to about 20,000 followers.
From there, she started reaching out to local photographers, offering her modelling services and online exposure in exchange for shoots.
While she wasn't paid, Ratchford was able to make a steady income selling as many as 100 signed photographs a week to her fans, for about $37 each.
She posted a steady stream of photos - usually of her clad in bikinis, lingerie or sports jerseys to cater to her college-aged fan base - and watched as her Instagram following soared to more than 100,000 in seven months. (Ratchford has since deleted those early photos to keep her Instagram feed fresh.)
Once she'd saved up more than $12,000 from her signed photos and side gigs as a bartender and paralegal, she headed to the West Coast in January 2014.
There, she said, "I started to think of other people and follow in their foot steps, and I really looked up to Kate Upton and her viral videos."
So that summer, she co-ordinated a video of herself bouncing about in lingerie and uploaded it to Instagram.
By this point, TMZ was following her account; once they, along with various men's blogs, picked up the video, Ratchford's following went from 300,000 to more than a million in a week.
She signed with a manager and the videographers she worked with began referring her to brands that work with social-media influencers. After her first endorsed post - Ratchford said she doesn't remember what product she was paid to promote - other brands flooded her inbox with requests.
"For every million [followers], you can charge up to US$1,500 (A$1890) a post," she said.
But now that she has almost eight million followers, brands typically cap the fee at about $7,500 per post.
Admittedly, this puts her in the "working class" category of Instagram influencers, given that companies have paid Kim Kardashian upward of $500,000 to reach her 102 million followers, according to Us Weekly.
Her younger sister, Kendall Jenner, was reportedly paid $250,000 to promote the failed Fyre Festival to her 82-plus million Instagram followers.
In the past year, Ratchford has partnered with "about a dozen" products - including customised handbags by De-Vesi - and regularly turns down those that don't fit with her brand, such as slimming teas, teeth whiteners and protein shakes.
"I call those the 'Instagram model starter pack,' " she said. "I tend to stay clear of that stuff."
Recently, the FTC warned influencers that they make clear in posts when they are paid to promote products. Ratchford, for one, is not phased by it.
"Honestly, that's what I always did, so I didn't really even notice," the model said.
She said her most valuable photo was from a shoot with Ardell eyelashes in 2015. Although she only got paid $2,500 for a day's worth of shooting, posting the photos on Instagram led to several more sponsorship opportunities.
"It brings in more cosmetic brands because they see you've done big [beauty] campaigns," she said.
But her biggest money maker is her own products. In October 2014, Ratchford hooked up with a company that runs her website and produces posters, calendars and other items emblazoned with her likeness.
They front the costs of the shoots and creating the merchandise; once that investment is recouped, they keep 30 per cent of the profits, while Ratchford gets 70.
The products are sold on the model's website, which she promotes on Instagram.
Ratchford said that her sexy calendars net her about $150,000 a year. Other merchandise - shot glasses, ping pong balls, skateboards, all featuring her scantily-clad photos - bring in another $63,000.
"A lot of my fans are college-aged guys, so I definitely make products [targeted at] them," she said.
She's also hit upon a formula that steadily grows her social media empire: Upload to Instagram weekly selfies promoting her merchandise, and weekly professional photos that get picked up on men's interest sites - thereby upping her number of followers. In the past two years, she's gone from 2.5 million to almost 8 million.
While websites such as Buzzoid allow you to buy 10,000 followers - who will comment on posts - for $69.99, Ratchford said she has never purchased followers.
Ratchford is working to expand her audience to stay relevant. While she's made a steady career of courting college-age dudes, she wants to grow her female audience. Lately, she's been uploading makeup tutorials and beauty tips on her Snapchat.
"I'm thinking long term ... By 35 I want to be married and have kids, and I can't be posting these [racy] photos," she said.
"Females are the ones who are gonna be spending the most money on weight loss and beauty products.
"My selfies get a lot more likes and comments than my professional photos," she added.
"People like them because they're more intimate.
"I like taking selfies [while] laying on my stomach so you can get a good butt angle, too."
So far Ratchford's constant hustle has left little time for romance.
When she first moved to LA, she dated Jamie Iovine, son of record-label chairman Jimmy. While they remain on good terms since breaking up in 2015, she learned not to broadcast her love life on social media.
"I made a mistake by making [our relationship] really public [with] pics of us all over Instagram," said Ratchford, adding that the number of likes were significantly lower on those photos.
"You kind of have to pretend you're single, just so [your fans] can have the fantasy of having a chance with you," she said.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and has been republished with permission.