How the Right Content Can Propel Your Instagram Following to 400K+ in Record Time

Imagine starting an Instagram page to build a portfolio. You hope it will bring you clients. Instead, you end up with a huge platform and advertisers can’t stop throwing money at you. You don’t even take on any clients anymore, it just became a whole different ballgame.

This is exactly the story I’m covering today. And it’s a paragraph in our journey of growing our own Instagram page and monetizing it.

The biggest lesson we’re learning today: Being able to pivot and adapt is often the difference between stagnation and huge success.

Meet Brandon Shepherd

Not only did Brandon grow a lot on Instagram, but his YouTube and TikTok accounts are also above 400k subscribers. All because of a simple change in his content strategy.

Let’s find out what he did, and what we can learn from him.

For clarity, I’m only talking about Brandon’s Instagram account in this article. I found it most relevant because that’s what we’re trying to learn more about.

The Humble Beginnings: Where we shitpost every tip we find relevant. But, they are all already out there in 1000-fold.

Like many in graphic design, Brandon started by sharing his expertise on social media. He posted videos with tips for mastering Photoshop. These initial offerings were generic. They were meant to build a portfolio and attract client work by showcasing technical skills. These early videos were educational, but, they blended into the vast sea of similar online content. This made it hard to stand out in a crowded marketplace. After all, who wants to see your actual skills at work? People want to see the results.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

The Pivotal Moment

The turning point came when Brandon decided to pivot his content strategy. He moved away from simple tutorials to something much more engaging and unique.

He began creating reels that showcased popular brands… But he made them look healthy!

Who doesn’t want to see Doritos turn into a healthy snack?

This twist showed his design skills but it also tapped into the familiar world of well-known brands. Making his content easier to understand and share.

This pivot was not just a content change. It was a strategic move. It used both the familiar and the new to catch a bigger audience’s eye. The result? His following skyrocketed. It transformed his social media from a portfolio to a thriving platform.

His new content:

The Unexpected Outcome: A portfolio so big there’s no more need for clients.

The journey’s most fascinating part is the unexpected shift in his business model.

Initially, the goal was to amass a portfolio that would attract client commissions. However, as his following grew, so did the opportunities that came with it. He reached a point where he no longer needed to take design commissions. Instead, he could profit from his following by selling ads. Today, you can buy a dedicated reel or TikTok, or get a 90 sec ad on his YouTube Channel. Who would have thought that 2 years ago?

This shift shows a key lesson for freelancers and content creators.

The value of your platform can beat the old client-service model. By building a dedicated audience, you open doors to diverse revenue streams. They can be more stable and even more profitable than project-based work.

The key lesson here is: Don’t focus too much on monetization. Focus on growth. The money will follow after.

The Big Lesson: Showcase Your Skills in a Fun and Engaging Way

It is hard to find clients and stand out in a field. For those struggling with this, Brandon’s story should be an inspiration. It highlights the importance of using your “free time”, the hours not yet claimed by client work, to build something for yourself. It would be best if you used those hours to showcase your skills creatively. The key is not just to show what you can do. The key is to do it in a way that engages, entertains, and resonates with people.

Instead of bombarding your audience with “10 tips for Photoshop,” think about how you can use your skills. Use them to tap into something familiar but present it in an unexpected way. This approach shows your technical skills. It also shows your creativity, personality, and knowledge of the cultural moment.


In the digital age, content is king and engagement is the key to success.

Your ability to pivot and adapt your strategy can lead to unexpected and rewarding paths. Brandon’s journey shows this path. From offering generic tutorials to becoming a content powerhouse. It’s a testament to innovative thinking and strategic adaptation. It’s a reminder for content creators and freelancers. Sometimes, the best way forward is to change direction and pivot.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t focus on what’s already working, instead, use it as your inspiration.
  2. Find out what twist you can give current success formulas. Like Brandon did: Use popular brands to showcase your skills in a fun and engaging way.
  3. Use your free time to create content you’re passionate about. Worst case you’re building a portfolio. Best case, you make money while doing so.
  4. If you don’t have a business yet, start by building an audience first.
  5. Be consistent. This is not mentioned in the article above, but a general rule of thumb. Keep posting every other day or more frequently.
  6. Love what you do. In line with lesson 5, if you don’t love what you create there’s no way you’re going to be consistent. Imagine creating shit you hate every day for 12 months….Exactly.
  7. The Power of Relatability: Brandon’s shift to promoting popular brands as healthier resonated with many. It satisfied a craving for familiar yet healthier options. This relatability factor could be a hidden lesson. It’s about making content resonate personally with a broad audience.
  8. Cultural and Trend Sensitivity: Brandon succeeded by grasping current trends like the focus on wellness. This sensitivity to the cultural zeitgeist could be key for content creators.
  9. Personal Branding Beyond Skill Display: Shifting from technical skills to engaging content emphasizes personal branding’s importance. It’s about creating a unique voice and perspective that stands out.
  10. Audience Engagement Over Skill Demonstration: The emphasis changed from showing skills to captivating the audience. This suggests that how you connect with your audience can be more important than the technical excellence of your content.
  11. Content Evolution Based on Audience Feedback: Brandon’s content evolution teaches us to listen to audience feedback and engagement metrics for guiding content strategy.
  12. Monetization as a Byproduct of Value Creation: Switching from client work to earning from the platform shows that making money is a result of adding value and fostering a community.

Check out Brandon’s work right here:

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