In 2018, it might seem like the market is oversaturated with social media influencers; but you shouldn’t let that discourage you from becoming one if it’s what you really want. There’s still room for you to shine and share your individual voice with the world.

That said, becoming the best influencer you can be takes quite a bit of work. Before you begin the process, here are a few tips you’ll want to include in your strategic marketing plan.

1. Determine your specific niche and target market.

This might sound like a no-brainer, but a lot of people struggle to find their sweet spot. That’s why there are so many “lifestyle” bloggers out there. They can’t decide if they want to focus on food, fashion, or home improvement. You might like sharing many elements of your life, but for the most traction, it’s wise to focus on one specific niche.

In fact, when it comes to making your mark on the internet as a social media influencer, the more specific, the better. For example, “home improvement” might still be too broad. Instead, you could focus on home improvement projects for people who are renters, because renters face a unique set of issues that homeowners don’t.

The more focused your niche is, the more likely you’ll attract a target market who can relate to its needs. As a social media influencer, you’re there to solve problems for a particular group of people. Zero in on those people, and your brand will definitely grow.

2. Choose your platforms.

Take a close look at all of the platforms and figure out which ones work best for what you’re trying to promote. If you like to write and use a lot of beautiful language, you might consider using Facebook. If you love capturing stunning pictures, it’s better to focus on a visual platform like Instagram. If you have a lot of quick wit and love engaging in live conversations, it’s time to start tweeting.

When you’re in the beginning stages, try to focus on no more than two platforms at a time. It can get pretty hectic to try and juggle 10 platforms at once. Make a point to really dominate one or two, and as you grow, you can consider hiring a social media manager to tackle the rest.

3. Determine your editorial schedule.

As a social media influencer, you’re also a content creator—which means you face the struggle of producing quality content on a regular basis.

The internet is a fast-moving space, and social media is constantly changing. The best way to keep up and maintain your audience’s attention is to automate and schedule in advance. This way, you’ll remain organized and be less likely to fall behind.

Plan out your schedule in increments. You can map out a month’s worth of content in just a few hours on a weekend afternoon. Then schedule the content creation time, as well as the marketing. There are many scheduling apps and programs that can help you with this. Once everything is scheduled, your posts will automatically go out at the time and day you’ve set.

4. Provide valuable content.

It doesn’t make much sense to put work into preparing an editorial schedule if your content is subpar. Do your research to learn what questions people have within your niche, and create content that answers those questions.

If you want to be the go-to creator for renter home décor issues, come up with some fresh and innovative ways to decorate an apartment without permanency. Or share examples of DIY projects you’ve done that can totally transform a space on a budget. As you continue to produce useful and valuable content that addresses your audience’s needs, your credibility will continue to grow.

Marketing is very important as a social media influencer, but at the end of the day, your content is what matters most. There isn’t an easy, one-size-fits-all formula for going viral. People will share content that impresses, improves, and inspires them—focus on creating that type of content.

5. Collaborate with other influencers.

Connecting with other social media influencers is a great way to build your audience. Each time you collaborate with another influencer on a project, your brand is exposed to a new market.

While it’s a good idea to collaborate with influencers in your niche, it’s also smart to focus on connecting to influencers in other related niches. An influencer who specializes in home décor might choose to connect with an influencer who talks about budgeting. Together, they could create a décor post that focuses on budget-friendly ideas, which will attract new followers from the overlapping segments of those niches.

6. Make guest appearances on podcasts.

Even if your content is more visual or writing-based, consider a podcast guest appearance. The podcast world is absolutely booming right now, and there are loads of podcasts out there looking for new people to interview. Reach out to a few that make sense for your niche and see if they’re willing to have you on their show. Whenever you make a guest appearance, be sure to let listeners know where to find you on the internet, especially on the platforms you use most.

As with other influencer collabs, mix things up by working with people inside and outside of your niche—just be sure there’s some relation between their podcast and your content. Also, don’t just expect the podcast to do all the work: find ways to make the experience mutually beneficial. Offer to promote the podcast on your biggest social channel(s), and consider sending a tangible gift to thank the podcaster for the opportunity.

7. Interact with various brands.

Once you’ve started to build a loyal, niche audience, you can start leveraging it to work with brands and earn money. There are people who make over $30,000 every single month from Instagram posts.

First, figure out what kind of brands you’d like to work with, or even specific ones that fit well with your content and followers. Consider joining a brand ambassador program, which provides a way to connect with brands and start building relationships. You might also want to hire a manager to help you secure the best deals.

Finding brands willing to pay for your influence is not an easy or overnight thing. It takes a lot of work, and deals are rarely immediate. It might take years to find companies who are ready to invest in you. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t stop believing in what you bring to the table.

8. Get into the conversation by engaging with others.

It’s very tempting to believe that if you get on social media and post amazing content, people will simply flock to you; but in the beginning, you’re going to have to do the heavy lifting. The grunt work involves going out, finding the people, and engaging with them to put your name and brand out there.

One great way to start is by looking at other social media influencers in your niche. For example, visit their Instagram account. Go through the list of people who liked their latest picture, visit each person’s page, and like and comment on a few of their pictures. Yes, this is a lot of work, and no, it’s not very fun—but if you make an effort to do it consistently, you will almost certainly gain plenty of followers in your target market.

9. Remain consistent.

Becoming an influencer can take a long time, and it’s easy to become discouraged. Don’t give up on the process.

Continue producing quality content on a regular basis. Find new ways to become inspired. Keep learning as much as possible: read books about marketing and sales, or watch tutorials on how to take great photos. Implement new lessons and tricks of the trade as you go—applied knowledge is the most effective. Most importantly, remain consistent. Time will pass no matter what you do; you might as well spend it doing the best you can.

A great way to approach this process involves sitting down and creating a realistic plan. You don’t want to burn out; then it just becomes that much easier to quit. Take it one step at a time, focus on steady growth, and one day, you’ll look in your inbox and see inquiries from major brands with lucrative partnership offers.