Jules Montgomery is a TikTok creator and the two-time Founder and CEO of Influent, the platform connecting brands and influencers for transparent partnerships, and Matches Media, a creator-led, full-service social media marketing and PR firm.
We sat down with Jules to explore partnership trends in the creator economy and how to overcome common blockers from your first 100 to 100,000 followers. We dive into:
- Why brands and creators alike benefit from bringing content in-house
- How Influent handles the business end for full-time content creators
- Ways to navigate the early growth stages of your influencer journey
“Each stage of growing a platform brings unique challenges. Whether you’re early on or trying to break 100,000 followers, it’s all about maintaining consistency.”
Influent’s Origins: The Unseen Work of Full-Time Content Creators
Before Jules broke into content creation, she grew up on social media. But it wasn’t until late 2019 that she discovered its immense potential for sales and marketing.
She noticed several Instagram accounts at the time that were blowing up for selling trendy tie-dye sweatsuits. Users were flooding their comment sections to demand restocks.
The brands would respond — announcing the next shipment wouldn't be ready till months later.
As a post-grad who was unhappy at her 9-to-5, Jules seized the opportunity and paid her younger sister to tie dye tons of white sweatpants.
They took self-timer product shots, made a brand Instagram, and launched an eCom side hustle.
From Early Sales to Going Viral: All Thanks to TikTok
As a social media native, Jules already knew what steps she’d take to drive early growth.
- Go to the audience — She reached out to those aforementioned commenters looking for tie-dye products and even offered them a 30% discount on their first order.
- Gifting to influencers — She DM'd all her favorite influencers to ask if they'd like free product. No research was required; she only had to look as far as her "Following" list.
One of those influencers eventually filmed a TikTok in a set by Jules. She knew nothing about the app at the time beyond the fact that her younger cousins were watching videos on it.
That single video blew up and drove somewhere between $10,000 to $12,000 in sales. Jules was totally sold on the platform as an eCommerce growth lever, as she:
- Began gifting to more TikTokers and running real campaigns
- Scaled her business to six figures in two months
- Started consulting on TikTok marketing
Once the pandemic hit and manufacturers shut down, she pivoted to consulting and running social campaigns full time — before deciding it was time to start posting her own content.
It was an early version of her current niche: educating brands on how to work well with creators, best practices for social marketing, broader content tips and tricks for creators, and so on.
She gradually accumulated a few million views. Suddenly, creators started following her in hordes, while brands flooded her inbox to recruit her to run their socials.
Why Do Creators Need Something Like Influent?
Once Jules began executing her own brand deals, they quickly upended her preconceived notions of what it means to be a professional influencer. In her words:
“As a brand founder, the influencer lifestyle seemed so nice and chill. In reality, it is such a mess to manage all this inbound and reach out to companies and negotiate rates all over the place.”
It’s difficult and often overwhelming to start off making videos as a hobby and then suddenly manage a freelance business on your own. From there, Jules spun up the idea for Influent.
Quite simply, she wanted to simplify the stress of the business end so influencers can get back to what they love most: actually creating content that’s beautiful and personally meaningful.
Influent has gone through several iterations, including Jules' early idea of a Glassdoor for influencers, so creators could rate brand partners and know how to accurately price themselves.
And now, as recently as a few weeks ago, she’s been approached by a number of brands for a new potential direction for the platform:
More and more companies are looking for creators to take over their TikTok accounts full-time and produce all of their content in-house.
Why Brands Are Hiring Influencers to Run In-House Content
In terms of what this might signal for the larger creator economy, Jules sees brands trying to totally own their content marketing, rather than relying on one-off influencer partnerships.
While she was initially unsure how creators would respond to these opportunities, she saw overwhelming positive reception to a series of TikToks on the topic.
She put out a few calls for influencers interested in creating branded content in-house (with a fixed monthly rate and number of deliverables) to apply to roles linked in her bio.
“I don’t think I’d ever seen a TikTok video convert people to my email list so effectively.”
Tons of creators slid into her DMs, explaining how they no longer want to post sponsored content on their personal profiles since users tend to hate ads.
Knowing this, Influent is still dedicated to facilitating the content creator workflow — with a new focus on helping form brand-creator connections. It results in a pretty seamless dynamic.
A creator produces content in-house, posting anywhere from five times per week to three times per day. Then, the brand sparks higher-performing videos.
It also drives big wins on both ends of the equation:
- Less lift for brands — On the brand side, it's more cost-effective and easy to manage.
- Creators get paid well — A creator can produce content in-house for three brands and make close to $10,000 per month. (Compare this to many scattered, smaller deals.)
- Make socials personal again — By producing branded content in-house, it stays off the creator’s personal profiles. “I can just have fun on my personal social media again.”
“While running campaigns on the brand side, I thought the grass was greener for influencers. Once I started actively doing it, I realized — this is so much work.”
Zero to One Audience Building: Finding Your Niche for Hypergrowth
As both a professional content creator and content consultant to brands, Jules outlines the usual stages a creator will work through in growing their platform.
She also highlights some of the less expected pain points and blockers of each stage, plus how she'd advise an actual client to work around them.
Finding Your First 1,000 Followers
Going from Zero to One is easily the most challenging part of your entire content journey since you’re basically calling out into the void with every early post.
As for tactical struggles, Jules reveals that most creators realize they’re way less comfortable on camera or talking to a camera than they thought.
When all you’re doing is staring into a piece of plastic and metal, it’s hard to recreate your voice and personality as if you’re speaking with a real person. So, she advises:
- Get comfortable — Practice filming by yourself and speaking to your phone as much as possible by just posting frequently, even if no one sees it.
- Consider yourself in 2D — In a video, you lose the animation and dynamics of your in-person presence. Media can be flattening, so practice talking with your hands, moving your body, or speaking at a far louder volume than usual when you film.
As mentioned, even if no one sees this early content — which, realistically, will be the case — you just need to stick to it and maintain consistency in your output.
Yes, it can be disheartening to pour your time and effort into dozens of videos without seeing major returns. But it's rarely the case that you'll go viral in your first 10 or 20 posts.
Even if you do go viral right off the bat, Jules points out that, if people click on your profile and see no past content, they'll write you off as a one-hit-wonder.
If you can’t prove that you’ll consistently entertain them, viewers on a viral video won’t convert into actual followers. As such, those early days of posting to no one aren’t wasted time.
1,000 to 10,000: Establishing Trust & Value
Once you break through to that first thousand, the next challenge is, again, fighting to earn people’s trust in you as an impressive, reliably entertaining, and follow-worthy creator.
Establishing that trust is difficult because expectations for influencers have grown so finicky.
Even if a user enjoys one of your TikToks that’s popped up on their For You page, they might click on your profile and see you only have a few thousand followers.
In many people’s minds, that’s not a large enough viewership to make you a “real influencer.”
Here, Jules reminds us you can only keep pushing to work past that and prove your value with high-quality content from the get-go — but also through consistent efforts over time.
This stage, more than the others, can be understood as a marathon, not a sprint.
Growth Tactics for Scaling to 100,000 Followers and Beyond
The growth stage from 10,000 to 100,000 followers is, perhaps surprisingly, the easiest one we’ll cover. At this point, you’re likely just having more fun because you’ve:
- Learned to engage your audience
- Gotten better at filming, talking to a camera, and editing
- Found people to interact with (both fellow creators and viewers)
From there, it's more about maintaining the consistency you've built and double tapping on what's been working for you.
And, according to Jules, it's about ignoring the negative feedback that's likely started to roll in.
- When you’re a smaller creator, viewers don’t see you as a real influencer or someone bigger than them. In other words: They don’t have reasons to tear you down.
- Once you’re hovering in that 10,000–100,000 window, you might be considered a legit creator — which (sadly) many believe gives them a reason to dehumanize you online.
Jules’ advice? “You just have to get over that as a creator.” As your platform grows, your exposure to supporters and hateful viewers alike will grow with it. It’s unavoidable.
So, all you can do is stick to the power of your growth and the audience who sees the value in your work and has chosen to follow along.
“Even as you’ve grown, people may not consider you a ‘legit influencer.’ You need to work past that and really prove your worth as a valuable creator early on.”