Three years ago, Krystal Bick left her 9-to-5 job at Google, one of the most sought-after companies to work for, to become a social media influencer in the travel and lifestyle realm.

Bick was earning six-figures as a product marketing manager at Google and helped build the search engine’s influencer program. She was also a small-time influencer herself, blogging and posting ads on her own social media accounts.

“My time at Google was extremely pivotal in the building of my blog, my business, and my overall approach to becoming my own entrepreneur,” Bick told Business Insider. Before leaving Google, she was earning hundreds of dollars for a sponsored Instagram post.

“I think at that moment that’s when the industry really started moving a lot of traditional advertising dollars over to marketing budgets specifically for the influencer market,” she said. Bick spoke with her boss and calculated what she could earn as an influencer based on her own Instagram follower base and growth at the time “and the numbers checked out.”

There was still some risk involved, but she was willing to give it a shot.

“There’s 90% certainty and there’s 10% of, ‘this could really fail miserably and then I don’t know what I’m going to do,’ but I think I was comfortable enough with the fact that even if I fall flat on my face, at least I tried it and I tried it at a moment where I feel like it really was an opportunity to try it,” Bick said.

She has 125,000 Instagram followers as of August 2018. She doesn’t share her exact numbers, but told Business Insider she now makes four figures per post and up to five figures for a brand ambassador program, which are typically a combination of Instagram and blog posts.

Bick said that working for herself isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. “I love being able to wake up each day, knowing that I’m building something — for me, by me — that gets to impact other like-minded women in a positive way,” she said. “To put it simply, I feel incredibly liberated.”

Bick said working at Google gave her the foundation she needed to negotiate with brands.

“When brands realize I speak the same marketing language as them and understand their campaign objectives, I think it helps solidify their faith in influencer marketing, and in me and my business specifically,” she said.

Influencer marketing is projected to be worth between $5 and $10 billion by 2020, Brittany Hennessy, senior director of influencer strategy at Hearst Digital Media, told Business Insider.

Read more:Influencer marketing’ could be worth $10 billion in just a few years, and a woman who pays Instagrammers and YouTubers for brands like Cosmo and Esquire knows why

The influencer market gets a bulk of traffic and sales from Instagram. Instagram announced the platform had 25 million business profiles at the end of 2017. In the same year, #sponsored posts increased from 139 million in September to 171 million in December of 2017, Business Insider Intelligence reported, citing a report from social media analytics company MediaPost.

Bick said the most important part of quitting her job to be an influencer was building a business model, being patient, and setting goals for herself.

“I think a big determining factor is how much you treat yourself like a business and how much you take yourself seriously,” Bick said. “If you don’t treat yourself as a business, business isn’t going to treat you as a business.”

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