Kat Gaskin on Turning Instagram into a Full-Time Career and Brand

Kat Gaskin on Turning Instagram into a Full-Time Career and Brand

all photos by Kat Gaskin

*drumroll please*

We’re talking Instagram again because who better to talk about Insta than…..Kat Gaskin of The Salty Pineapple!! 

You guys, you know I talk about her Instagram brand all the time (How to Work with Brands as a Blogger, How to Grow Your Insta Engagement). I literally always use her as an example of just flat out amazing branding. And she’s also low key great at giving social media advice.

Kat is kind of like the dream Instagram story. She was working her regular 9-to-5 and just super over it. So she literally quit her job to travel around to beautiful beaches taking beautiful photos. 

And Kat also created the infamous quote “Be a pineapple. Stand tall, wear a crown and be sweet on the inside.” Like yes, she actually created this quote.

Dreamy, right? But you and I both know it’s probably WAY harder than getting to a stunning beach in Hawaii, snapping a pic on your phone, and having the engagement rolllll in.

Hi Kat!! Welcome welcome. So, from following you for a while, I know your story pretty well. But can you give us a rundown of how The Salty Pineapple brand got started?

Hey girl! Thanks so much. Did you know the pineapple is a symbol of welcome and friendship? *Hands you a virtual pineapple*

Long story short, this is how I started Salty Pineapple:

In high school, I knew that I wanted to run my own empire. My dream was to own a creative business where all I had to do was go in and sign the cheques. Enter graphic design.

I graduated from university/college and immediately secured a 9 to 5 job in the city because that’s what we’re taught we need to do. It was fun, but overall pretty unfulfilling for my first few years of “adulthood”. As social media rose in popularity and I could stalk people’s lives who were travelling non-stop with ultimate freedom, I knew my life was meant for something so much greater than a comfortable desk job. I was already doing freelance design jobs in my off-hours, so why couldn’t I just do freelance work full-time? Enter my master Salty Pineapple plan.

I saved for 1.5 years while planning my corporate escape. October 2012 was when I finally made the giant leap and quit my job to start building my own brand, Salty Pineapple, full-time. It was so freakin’ liberating and scary! But also, the best feeling in the world.

Then after about 2 years of hustling EVERY DAY and living a very frugal life (I’m not exaggerating at all — no haircuts, restaurants, shopping, NOTHING), I finally came to a point where I could afford to also travel and work freelance! All the while, I was sharing my art, stories, design and beach-y pineapple obsession on my Instagram and the rest is history.

While your story sounds like a dream Instagram fairytale, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was so much hard work. How did you get through those hard times…when it felt like no one was liking your pics or no one cared about the content you were putting out?

I kept a folder on my phone called ‘Wins’ and screenshotted any time something good happened to me, I made progress or I gained even 1 follower.

Tracking my progress and wins (whether big or small) helped me stay motivated and focused over the past 7 years of building Salty Pineapple.

Patience was also and still is a huge factor. Nothing happens overnight regardless of what we see on Instagram or YouTube. Success is a long, hard, winding, risky, unpredictable, dangerous and exhausting road. Never give up. EVER.

Obtaining success isn’t easy, nor should it be. Nothing worth it ever is.

 

Like I’ve talked a lot about on my blog, you have very very specific branding. Like I can immediately tell when a photo is yours. What are some principles/guidelines you follow when choosing what pictures go on your Instagram? Or now, choosing what products go on your shop?

Simply put, I only share what I like. Whether it’s on my Instagram or in my shop.

All my photos are edited and shot by me. My feed is 100% original and unique. Same goes for my products. They are all created and designed by me. I don’t look to Pinterest for inspiration — all the creative fire I need is inside me!

When it comes to building your brand and a signature “style” consistency is your best friend. Embrace what makes you unique and proudly share that.

One of your Instagram Lives always has stood out to me – you were doing like 4 tips for building your Instagram following. How has Instagram Live worked for you? What content have you seen perform best on there?

Honestly, selfie videos aren’t my thing. I’m still getting comfortable with them.

Instagram Live has been an effective way for me to connect with my followers on a deeper level, which is my favorite part. Videos are way more engaging for obvious reasons – people can see AND hear you.

I did a weekly series every Thursday where I broadcasted for 30 minutes and shared how people can build their brands on Instagram. People loved those and hope to bring them back soon!

 

A lot of people are talking about Instagram engagement being so down. What is your unique secret for boosting engagement?

My secret for boosting engagement is… there is no secret.

Great engagement takes hard work, endless hours and genuine interactions with your community. There’s no shortcut or paid service that will get you followers overnight.

Respond back to all of your comments on a daily basis, like photos from your followers regularly, leave them comments, post to your Stories every day and brainstorm unique captions that people can relate to.

 

You interact a lot with your followers. I know this for a fact because you always respond to me lol. How do you stay on top of responding to comments, emails, etc?

First, turn OFF all notifications. Yes, turn them off. I did and it helped me be so much more productive! I schedule in one hour per day to respond back to Instagram comments and post once per day now. For emails, I only check my inbox twice a day and try to keep my emails as brief/action-oriented as possible.

 

Also, I’ve noticed that for someone with a large following you don’t do many #sponsorship or #ads. And the ones you do are done really strategically like coconut water or something else that fits so seamlessly in your brand. What would your most unique tip be for someone who is starting to get offers from brands?

Don’t work with anyone whose products you wouldn’t actually buy. Now more than ever, people can immediately sense when you’re not being authentic. I tend to unfollow accounts who post ads that don’t fit with their brand. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does that.

But hey, if Instagram is your only stream of income and you need that $$$, do whatever you want. It’s your account.

If you’re getting offers from brands, that’s so cool! But be forewarned, the bigger the brand, the more they will try to ask from you. It’s crucial to stand your ground and be very clear on your collaboration terms and fees (if you charge for your marketing services).

 

Instagram → Product

You literally just opened The Salty Pineapple Shop like 2 days ago (shop here). So exciting!! And everything is so freaking cute and so on brand. Can you give us all the details on what transitioning from an Instagram brand to physical products look like??

AAAHH!!! The Salty Pineapple Shop is my new favorite thing in life. When I designed the SP logo in 2010, I ambitiously dreamed that one day it would be put on products that I could sell — and now I’m freakin’ DOING IT!

Transitioning from a brand on Instagram to products was pretty easy for me since I’m a creative at heart.

After years of listening to my followers and having conversations with them, I know what they like. They like the same things I do and that’s what’s so great about Instagram. It automatically connects you with people from around the world who have similar interests.

I took the designs, photos and captions I’ve been sharing on Instagram for the past few years and transformed them into pieces you can buy — that’s it! Because everything on my account is original to me, it’s not just my Instagram, but also my dream world.

The free shipping speaks to my soul. How did you decide what products to start with?

RIGHT? Offering free worldwide shipping was a must for me as a Canadian.

I decided on what products to start with by keeping it simple.

I had been sharing free phone wallpapers with my community for years, so I knew phone cases were the next natural step. I had also previously sold my art prints and those did really well. And who doesn’t love drinking coffee?

 

If someone wanted to launch a product from their brand, what would you tell them? Is there anything you need BEFORE launching a product?

Don’t let all the research, science, trends and statistics question your own intuition.

As much as learning from other’s success is great, it’s not the BEST way towards your own success. Go at your own pace and try not to overwhelm yourself.

If you want to launch your own products under your brand, start with 1-3 products first and see how they do. Then slowly start to add more products and designs if the first few are selling well. It’s also great to only focus on selling ONE product and do it really well. Like what I do with The Content Planner, my other business.

All you need to launch a product is a PLAN.

Write it down with detailed tasks, specific dates/times and goals of all sizes. Then check each one off as you go. Checking off is important because it gives you the satisfaction you need to keep going.

 

There are a LOT of digital products out there. It feels like everyone and their mother is selling you an e-book, course, webinar, whatever. How do you make sure you’re standing out from the crowd?

You stand out from the crowd by creating a digital product that actually does what it says it’s going to do. For example, if you launch an eBook that teaches people how to gain Instagram followers, your customers better be gaining followers.

I completely agree that everyone is launching digital products, which is awesome. It’s less wasteful and you can make a hefty living from just a few downloads.

Honest customer testimonials and case studies are also great for building social proof.

What’s your favorite product in The Salty Pineapple Shop?

The ‘Be a Pineapple’ art print is my absolute freakin’ favorite.

It’s my words, my photo and my design — selfish I know haha! But the product represents a lot for me: starting a new chapter with my brand, crushing all the other basic pineapple competition who unknowingly copied my quote and finally owning my creativity.

It kind of looks like you’re going to do various collections in your shop. Like you started out with the Signature Salty Pineapple Collection – what are you excited about launching next?

You are correct! I’ll be launching collections for a few different reasons:

  • I want each product collection to have a theme and story that people can relate to.
  • I’m a meticulous designer and want everything to match and compliment each other.
  • I have TONS of different design styles (super bright, darker moody colors, faded and dreamy, etc.) waiting to be unleashed to the world. Stay tuned!

I’m excited for EVERYTHING — exclusive Salty Pineapple collaborations and partnerships, the next collection release called ‘Endless Summer’, new products and also free phone wallpaper downloads.

xx

So guys, that’s a wrap on Kat! Literally amazing advice and I’m obsessed with her Salty Pineapple Shop. Follow her on Instagram and leave her little crystal ball emojis if you LOVED her advice!!

 

 

 

Follow:
  • Ginger Smith

    Oh, this is so inspiring! Thank you! Also, I have heard the quote and fell in love with it, but never knew who said it first. I’m glad I know who to credit now! <3

    • Me too! I remember Kat being the first one I ever heard say it, but then the quote caught on so much, it got confusing. It’s also cool to hear how she is combatting that a little and getting it out there that she did create it!

      So glad you liked the interview girl!

    • Happy Wednesday Ginger! I’m grateful you took the time to read my interview. Be a pineapple forevah evah. Slowly, but surely maybe the world will know who coined the phrase, but until then you are now part of a secret society of salty pineapples! xoxo

  • I think doing it your own way is great advice! I hate seeing the same thing everywhere!
    with southern grace,
    Lindsey
    http://www.withsoutherngrace.blogspot.com

    • Absolutely agree Lindsey! We are creatures of comfort and habit, so it’s easy to fall into following the leader. But not us right? We are fearless trailblazers! Have a wanderful Wednesday wherever you are. xoxo

    • Ditto! Plus, it’s the best way to start building traction – why would someone follow someone who is exactly like 100 other people?? Figure out your differentiator and what makes you stand out xoxo

  • Azanique

    I love this post so much! I never thought about turning off notifications and scheduling time to answer back. That is such a helpful tip.

    – xo, Azanique | http://www.lotsofsass.com

    • Yay Azanique! Turn em off girl. They’re only hurting your productivity. Your phone is for YOUR convenience — not the convenience of others. It should help you and be a useful tool, not a distraction. I know it was definitely like that for me. Have a great day! xoxo

  • R.M. Lopez

    Love these tips! And i had no idea she penned that quote!! 😍 It’s one of my faves!

    • Me too! I also had no idea that people weren’t giving her credit for it. I totally didn’t expect that so it was cool to hear some of her story on that.

    • Woo R.M! Thank you for taking the time to read my interview! Yes, I created the quote back in 2014 and look how far it’s reached. Cuh-razy! Check out my shop if you love the quote 🙂

  • Wow, what an AMAZING interview! I just followed Kat’s instagram and I’m already obsessed! I also need to get my hands on that content planner – that sounds like exactly what I need 🙂

    Kristen | http://www.sophisticatedgal.com

    • Ugh yes right girl!! I’ve been eyeing it for a while too, even from the perspective of it would look really cute in an Instagram lol 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the follow Kristen! I followed you back. You should definitely check out The Content Planner if you want to solve your social media stress. I use mine every day to plan for my two businesses and I finally have so much peace of mind! You deserve more time to do the things you love 🙂 Not spending hours wondering what to post! Always here if you need to chat. xoxo

  • Sami Mast

    This was SUCH an interesting interview! And so inspirational! Kat seems like such an amazing person and I definitely want to have her life, haha!

    xo
    Sami
    The Classic Brunette

    • YAY! I appreciate your comment so much Sami. Let’s have each other in our lives 🙂 Maybe one day we can meet on the beach and talk about life! xoxo

    • Lol right girl ditto! I also know her life seems like one beautiful beach after the other, and as bloggers, we know that is only half true sometimes. SO much work goes into beautiful content like hers! Thanks for reading Sami xx

  • Lynn White

    This interview was great! Very inspiring and she seems like such nice person.

    • Thank you Lynn! I appreciate you taking the time to read my story. Always be sweet on the inside as I always say! xoxo

  • Amber V Briglio

    wow lots of great info here. I love that her content is all original. LOVE IT!

    • Me too! she is an amazing photographer and the way she edits her photos is just goals, too.

    • Ah thanks so much Amber! My content wasn’t always all original, so I’m really grateful that I can travel and shoot all on my own now. Wishing you all the success in the world. xo

  • Thank you so much for the feature name twin! It was a true honour to share my story with your lovely and beautiful followers. If anyone wants to chat, has questions or wants to say ‘Hi!’, you can email me: design@saltypineapple.ca. Stay golden xoxo

    • SO amazing you replied to all these comments. It means a lot to me and you are the first person I’ve interviewd to ever do that 🙂 I know all these babes reading your interview are soo appreciate of that too. xoxo

      • Of course I would respond! I love connecting with fellow females who want to build their own empires. Who says it has to be lonely at the top? Thank you x a million pineapples for interviewing me!

  • I had never heard of her before but am legit obsessed! I love how she started planning and dreaming up her empire in high school!

    • Right?? I maybe found her Instagram like a year and a half ago. No clue how. But yes I love how she planned planned planned, made it work financially, and then took the risk.

    • Aaah thank you so much Rachel! A dream is just a wish without a plan right? (According to another Katherine coincidentally) I admit that I lucked out picking the right career way back in high school. It’s can be hard making a decision when you’re so young. We feel a lot of pressure from our parents, school, teachers, peers and society. Like who decided that? Anyway, I’m on a tangent but thanks again! 😀

  • This interview is soo inspiring and has a ton of good info! Thanks for sharing, Katherine! Just checked out Kat on IG and I’m loving all her photos & the stories she tells <3 Keep up the great work!!

    xo Kaitlyn

    • Thanks babe!! She has SO much good info in here, it’s incredible. It’s a long read but I’ve legit read through it 4-5 times because her advice is so solid.

    • I saw your post on Instagram Kaitlyn and wanted to show my gratitude once again! Keep me updated on all of your success girl. You shiiiiiine 😀

  • Pam Avoledo

    I love the quote. She’s also really honest, too. I like that she says there is no big secret to gaining a following. Her photos are gorgeous, too!

    • Me too, I love when someone doesn’t BS you about what it takes to do something. Like yes, building an Instagram following is absolutely freaking hard work, which we all know. Thanks for reading this! xx

    • Honesty is the best policy I always say! I don’t ever want to sugarcoat it for people because what we do is freakin’ HARD. But we’re awesome, courageous and intelligent sooo we’re not afraid of a little hard work. Hope you’re having a great day Pam! xoxo

  • I’m feeling so inspired by this post! Seriously, I love that she says she always wanted an empire. Me freaking too.

    • EMPIRE OR BUST SAMANTHA! Let’s build empires together so it’s not so lonely at the top. Deal? Deal 😀

    • I love that she wanted it AND she worked her butt off to get it. I feel like a lot of girls want successful careers or businesses but don’t want to put in the time and work it truly takes to get there. So glad you enjoyed this!! xx

  • mckenna bleu

    She sounds awesome! I loved her answers!

    • I am awesome McKenna! And so are YOOOUUUU girl. I appreciate your words and for taking the time to read my interview. xoxo

    • I feel like you guys kind of have similar styles with all the colors you incorporate 🙂 And I feel like you both have really strong branding that quickly stands out to people. Thanks for reading this!

  • Wow, how cool! I love all of her pretty photos.

    • Thank you so much Jenny! You are so gorgeous, beautiful, smart, kind and gracious. Hope you wake up and have a productive Thursday. Kat xoxo

    • I know right, so stunning!

  • How interesting! I hadn’t heard of Kat/seen her account before but I love it. Just followed 🙂

    • Love love love her photos, so you will get such wanderlust feelings from following her! Thanks for reading this girl xoxo

    • Well now you know all about me and Salty Pineapple Rachel and I’m so happy because of it. Thank you so much for the follow and I promise to always try and brighten your day with palm trees, sunsets, pineapples and motivation. xoxo

  • thesophiadiaries

    Don’t know about her, but I definitely gotta go follow her now!!

    • She is awesome! Definitely recommend because her photos are going to be just beautiful in your feed 🙂

    • YAY! That’s soo rad of you Sophia! If you like pineapples, sunshine and following your dreams, my account won’t disappoint. Sending you sunshine this Thursday! xoxo

  • Thank you so much for this amazing insight. There is so much great info here. As someone just starting out with branding this is really useful, even though I won’t be doing it on Insta. Thank you for this post!

    • Definitely! I feel like it easily applies to a blog or website, too. Creating 1 on 1 relationships with readers and talking to them is probably even more applicable for your blog! xx

    • Thanks for taking to the time to read my interview Maygin! Best wishes on your branding journey. The beginning always seems to be the toughest part because you’re starting from scratch — BUT it’s also the most fun because you can do WHATEVER you want! Nobody’s watching, so it’s a great time to experiment and see what works. Keep me updated on all of your success. xoxo

      • Thank you for that insight! I hadn’t thought it of that way, but I feel much better about being in the beginning stages now because it’s the perfect time to figure out my brand. I feel like I have to have it all figured out right now, but your comment reminded me that I do not. Thank you so much for these amazing words of wisdom! <3

  • Anna Hubbard

    Wow, Kat is AMAZING! I’ve been working on trying to grow my Insta following, and it can be a bit frustrating sometimes. I like how she keeps a “Win” folder on her phone to remind her that she is making progress – I may use that idea for myself!

    • That was also one of my FAVE suggestions. I can definitely get caught up in the overall journey and forget about the tiny little wins. It’s a super smart attitude of gratefulness!

    • Yeee Anna! Track those ‘Wins!’ girl. I also included a section in The Content Planner after each week to write down your small/big accomplishments, which helps me motivated towards my business goals too. Definitely try it out! It’s simple, but super effective. YOU ARE AMAZING GIRL! xoxo

  • Loved this interview! Her pictures are definitely amazing – she is so inspiring!

    • WOW thank you Cameron! Amazing?? That’s so sweet of you. Often times, we take the word ‘amazing’ too lightly because we say it a lot, so I always try and remember how special it is when someone calls my photos amazing. Have a great Thursday!! xoxo

  • Casey

    So inspiring! And I love that quote!

    • Weee you da bestest Casey! What are you up to today? I wish I was at the beach as it’s raining here in Toronto, Canada. Boo. Anyway, I appreciate you for all that you are! xoxo

  • Great read, this was so interesting and she had some really great tips!

    • Thank you Amanda! If you need anymore tips let me know! I’m full of ’em. And send me your blog link, I’d love to check it out and follow you! xoxo

    • She really really does! Thanks for reading Amanda xo

  • WHAT A GOOD INTERVIEW. Just followed Kat on Instagram and pulled up her shop…how friggin’ COOL that she actually invented that quote!!!!!!

    Coming Up Roses

    • WOOO! Thanks so much Erica! And for the follow as well + for checking out my shop! You’re such a sweet pineapple. I’m so honoured that you took the time to read my interview 🙂 xoxo Kat

    • I know right?? She is super cool. Thanks for reading girl xx

  • Farah Jaffrey

    Your story is so inspirational. I would love to make this a dream 🙂

    • Wow thank you Farah! I honestly never thought in a million years that I’d have an “inspirational” story, but I dreamed that one day my life’s journey would maybe encourage others. It’s hard to see what’s happening from the outside when you’re deep in the thick of things. You are a beautiful unicorn and sending my love xoxo

  • What pretty photos and what a great success story (that’s still being written)! I wish that I was on the beach about 95% of the time. Definitely going to go give her a follow!

    • Thank you Katie! Yes, my success story is still being written and I’m so happy that you’re not apart of it 🙂 I still am based out of Toronto, Canada, so I feel you girl. I miss the beach every single day BUT living away from it makes my beach travels all the more sweeter ya know? xoxo

    • I love that you see it’s still being written! I know a lot of people probably look at Kat and are like “Wow she’s made it, she’s done.” But with her goals and vision, I know she’s just getting started and I love that! Thanks for taking the time to read this Katie!

  • This is so inspiring, although I have about given up on instagram..I have really quality content and lose followers constantly, its such a terrible game it seems..oh well have to keep on truckin..these are great tips!

    • Ah you are such a wonderful soul Valerie! Girl, I hear you. Instagram has been on the decline for about a year, so my suggestion is to focus on creating exceptional blog content. Social media platforms will come and go, but your blog is your home. I wish I started a blog way back when. You’re ahead of the pack and don’t even know it! xoxo

      • Ditto to that! Algorithms on every social platform will come and go. But your blog will always be your north star, so focus on building that audience and giving them value! xoxo

  • This is so inspiring and I absolutly love her pictures and that quote!!!

  • This a great read! I love the questions you asked and how honest she was. No secret to engagement love that she was super honest makes a great interview!

    • Yay Renee! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my interview and to also leave a comment. Honesty is the best policy and I’d rather not sugarcoat things ya know? Hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday! xoxo Kat

    • yess I love the honesty and realness. I definitely hate reading interviews that make everything sound perfect, like getting to where she is now was a breeze. Thanks so much for reading this xoxo

  • This was seriously so inspiring. She is obviously such a genuine person with an incredible roster of knowledge! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • WOW Courtney! Thank YOU so much for your genuine comment. Seriously, girl. Sometimes we forget that there are real people behind the screen, so it makes my heart flutter knowing that came across. You’re so welcome and hope we can connect in the future. Kat xo

  • What a great read! I love learning secrets from social media influencers and bloggers.
    I love how honest she was. Her pictures are sooooo pretty!

    Darrian | http://www.darrianmichelle.com

    • Awesome Darrian! Let me know if you want to know anymore “secrets”. Happy to share everything I know. Yooooou are so pretty! I love your blog and subscribed 😉 Kat xo

    • Her pics are definitely stunning and she’s even more of a gem 1 on 1. Thanks for reading this girl!

  • mQs

    Loved reading this!

    • Thanks girl! I appreciate you taking the time to read the entire interview and hope you learned a thing or two, or at the very least, it brightened your day! Kat xo

  • Jenn

    Kat! I can’t believe I’m reading this with my own two eyes. Such hard work and dedication, mad love from a fellow artist and Canadian for staying true to yourself and helping others as you build your dreams. So inspiring.