TWO weeks into her business studies course at college 16-year-old Georgia Portogallo, realising it wasn’t for her, walked out – with just £10 in her pocket and no plans.
Unemployed and unsure what to do, she might well have regretted her impulsive actions, which came just weeks after she’d picked up just seven GCSEs with grades ranging from A to C.
But, surprisingly, she didn’t – because she’s gone onto be an Instagram influencer who now teaches people how to get followers online.
In just three years she’s managed to earn enough money to buy a £160k home and has designer bags worth £20k.
“I just knew college wasn’t for me and I would never be happy there,” Georgia, now 19 and living just streets away from her parents Claire and Guido, 51 and 57, in North Lincolnshire, said.
“Sat in a classroom I felt I was wasting my time. Even though I was broke, with no career path and my mates were all still in college or sixth form I knew I’d made the right decision.”
Georgia, who in June got engaged to her boyfriend of three years Jordan Smith, 21, now earns thousands of pounds a month as an Instagram teacher.
Meanwhile, her wardrobe is piled high with designer clothes from Gucci, Versace and Balenciaga.
She’s made her thousands through tutoring hundreds of ‘students’ a week, ranging from their teens to 60s, on how to be social media famous – and she’s got a decent track record of 15k past pupils.
In just a few years Georgia has amassed 121k followers on her own page where she posts pouting snaps of herself – occasionally with Jordan.
She now has clothes sent to her from brands such as PrettyLittleThing and Missguided who are desperate for her to wear their items in her posts.
Georgia’s top tips on how to be an influencer
- Make sure you always post regularly so you build a fanbase
- Talk to people that comment on your posts
Network with other influencers
- This way you can advise one another about tricks and ideas
- A positive vibe brings people to you and will help increase followers
- What are your goals? Where do you want to be? Make sure you know what you want to be, e.g. a cleaninfluencer
Meanwhile she charges up to £400 per post – not bad considering just three years ago she was completely unknown and entirely broke.
“I had to borrow £50 off my dad after walking out of college,” she confessed. “I bought some makeup then upsold it on eBay just to make ends meet.
“I would sell my clothes online to make cash.
“So to compare that to now when I have £20k’s worth of designer bags – well it is completely crackers.”
Despite desperately wanting to be a businesswoman after leaving college, Georgia had no idea what she was doing in the beginning, admitting her knowledge of social media was at best patchy.
“All I did on Instagram at the beginning was look at pictures of celebrities like Ellie and Daisy O’Donnell,” she admitted. “But within just a few weeks the followers started to role in. I got the idea of following people I liked and really interacting with them.
I just knew college wasn’t for me and I would never be happy there.Georgia Portogallo19
“I’d comment on their posts and make sure I was seen.
“They would respond and I would get followed back.
“I’d also tag brands I was wearing and often they would share my posts and that would reach a huge audience.
“It was oddly addictive, seeing the number of people interacting with me go up and up.”
Georgia spoke as runaway hit Emily in Paris became one of Netflix’s most-watched shows.
In it, much to people’s amusement, Emily (Lily Collins) becomes an overnight Instagram sensation after posting her day-to-day life on the network – with what people deem boring captions like “So romantic I may be falling in love”.
Georgia – whose virtually overnight social media success seems to mimic Emily’s – swore it wasn’t this easy to build your followers.
“People seem to think you’ll get a massive following overnight but you have to be really, really on it,” she said. “I didn’t stop. I was posting stuff all the time.
“In 2018 when I hit around 30k followers I started to realise things were taking off which was a really cool feeling.
“That’s when brands started contacting me about sponsored posts. I’d get maybe £30 a post. It was enough to do things – Jordan and I might go for dinner – but not to live on.”
Still at home with her parents, she was on holiday at her grandmother Carmela’s home near Bologna, Italy, in 2018, when she was struck with a brainwave.
“I was just chilling out when I realised so many people wanted to be Instagram influencers,” she said.
“So I put pen to paper and started thinking about the best way to become one. Top tips and ideas.”
Before she knew it she’d written 88 pages on it. Posting it on her webpage, she quickly realised she could sell this information, so paid celebrities such as Marnie Simpson from Geordie Shore to promote it.
And within days she had wannabe cleaning and makeup influencers requesting the documents, impressed by how many followers she had.
“They pay £25 for the document which really goes into depth about how you can become an influencer.
“There’s a general overall guide then sections for more niche areas.
“I’ve got people interested in cleaning – Mrs Hinch has made that hugely popular, beauty, motherhood… everything.”
She also addressed a really important area – trolling.
“I try and make my Instagram a really positive place, but of course I do get some negative comments,” she said. “But I try and ignore them as they’re just bullies hidden behind the screen.
“But people need to go into this with their eyes open.”
She said she took her influencer lessons seriously and people were successful, generating tens of thousands of followers.
“Now there are other people doing what I am doing but I was the original,” she explained.
“Every day I get more and more requests for help.”
In addition she is seeing more and more requests for paid content, explaining she would post one picture for £150, two for £350 and three for £400. Story posts – which disappear after 24 hours – cost £60.
“I love watching the money roll in,” she laughed. “I’m only 19 and it is such a thrill.
“I’ve obviously bought the three-bedroom new build with Jordan – we’ve not moved in yet because we’re getting it totally redecorated in the style of the Dakota Hotel in Leeds, all dark greys.
“But I’ve also really splashed out on designer goodies.
“I’ve got a load of designer bags: three Gucci ones, three Louis Vuitton ones, a Fendi one and a Dior one.
“Meanwhile I’ve got two pairs of Balenciaga trainers, Louis Vuitton trainers and a £1,800 Moncler coat.
“I love buying Gucci and Versace jewellery too.”
She said she had savings and was planning a “huge engagement party” with Jordan once it was possible because of coronavirus, with the couple – who met at school in 2017 and got engaged in Venice, Italy – planning to marry in 2024.
“He’s not really into social media,” she added, explaining he worked in the steel industry.
“He’s proud of me though. My parents are too – as are my friends.
“Even though I am earning so much I’ve not experienced any jealousy. Everyone has been so nice. I’m so glad I quit college.”