Influencers have seemingly flooded the marketing scene in recent years, with companies seeking out coverage on influencers’ blogs, social media outlets, and more. But, what is the future of influencer marketing? This is a question on a lot of marketers’ and influencers’ minds. Experts have touted 2018 as the year of the mid-tier or micro influencer, and continue to express how lucrative it is to be an influencer right now. The mainstream media focuses on influencers monetizing through brand sponsorships, advertising, and affiliate marketing, but I see the industry completely differently and have an idea or two about where influencers’ futures are headed.

As the founder of an influencer community, I hear it all and see it all, and #thestruggleisreal. Based on the scope of my perspective, there are three problems I foresee within the industry:

1. Supply and demand

While the supply of influencers continues to increase, the demand for influencer marketing services will stay relatively the same. Influencer marketing has been around for years, but it’s still considered a Google breakout keyword and an emerging industry. There are far more influencers providing services now than there are brands utilizing influencer marketing. As more and more influencers emerge, the influencer industry is going to see a major shift in demand.

2. Revenue isn’t diversified

I see too many influencers relying on brand sponsorship income alone, and this is a big problem. One minute, a standout is the hot, new influencer every brand wants to work with, and the next minute, brands have moved on to the next best and brightest. This goes back to the supply and demand issue; brands can shift their focus—and ultimately, their funds—to the next up-and-coming influencer without any notice, leaving a former favorite in the dust. Or, what about when readers get tired of seeing sponsored post after sponsored post? It’s easy to lose credibility with readers by spamming them with sponsored content, and if influencers lose their readers, then they lose brands, as well.

3. Single point of failure

The same concept applies to using affiliate networks to monetize. Yes, it’s a fine way to make money, but what happens if their system is down? Or they go out of business tomorrow? Or they decide to ban a user from their service? Here, again, influencers are at the mercy of someone else, and have no control over their destinies. Influencers are relying on the affiliate’s platform to make money instead of relying on more stable independent connections.

So, what options do influencers have when these scenarios happen? Influencers are giving the control over their success to everyone else, and it’s time to take it back. But how?

There needs to be a major shift in the influencer mindset. Right now, what influencers hear about the industry is not setting them up for long-term success. Influencers need to think about the big picture.

What is the goal here?

I’m calling it right now: influencers are the new-wave entrepreneurs.

What??? Hear me out.

Influencers have loyal followers who trust them and are ready to purchase from them. Influencers are human and bring an emotional edge to any brand whose products they promote. People buy things from these influencers because their followers feel as though they know and can rely on them on a more personal level. So, why wouldn’t influencers leverage their own hard-won credibility? They need to create products and services they can market and sell directly to their audiences, instead of relying on fluctuating outside sources of income.

It’s time for influencers to realize their potential and start leveraging their blogs as marketing tools to sell their own wildly profitable products and services.

Consulting, a monthly membership club, personal styling, licensing your name, using a drop shipper to reduce physical inventory risk, writing a column for a local publication, hosting a segment for a local news station, and even designing your own clothing/product line: the possibilities are endless with a little creativity.

The best part is that any influencer can do this—both micro and macro influencers. A large following is not a requirement for selling a product or service. Think about it: when a business launches, it starts from ground zero. Influencers are at least ahead of that curve, and have already built up customer bases that will purchase something from them.

So, it’s time for influencers to start thinking outside of that comfortable box. There are fun and interesting ways for influencers to serve their audiences and make a living that also give the control back to the influencer and ultimately give them staying power in this industry. Influencers don’t need to wait to have a massive following to accomplish this, either! Influencers know their audiences well—it just takes getting creative and coming up with something exciting that they know their followers will benefit from. Influencers who market their own products to followers will be surprised by how quickly their income shifts from fickle to fixed.

What do my SC sisters think about this idea? Let’s have a serious discussion about this topic below!