Eileen Rhein is the creator of the popular luxury and adventure travel and lifestyle blog, Lighttravelsfaster, and influencer on Intellifluence. Based in New York City, Eileen is also a corporate attorney on Wall Street and a professional dancer. Elieen has collaborated with well-known brands such as Hilton Hotels, Google, Bobbi Brown and Wells Fargo, to name a few. An expert on travel, Eileen spends an average of 4-6 months per year traveling and has visited 60 countries. With an audience reach of close to 200,000, Eileen strives to lead a well-balanced life and regularly speaks on empowerment and motivational topics in her live videos and Instagram stories. You can learn more at Lighttravelsfaster.com

Can you tell us a little bit about your background including how you branched out from corporate law into also running a luxury travel and adventure blog as an influencer?

Sure! So as you already said I’m Eileen Rhein thank you very much for having me I’m from lighttravels faster you can find me on Instagram and also on my blog. I am a corporate law lawyer by training so I’ve actually spent eight years working at some of the largest law firms in the world particularly here on Wall Street doing private equity and mergers and acquisitions. I wasn’t very happy in that life I didn’t have a lot of spare time and in particular I didn’t have enough of a creative outlet because I am also an artist. So I grew up playing the violin, dancing, while I lived in Toronto I was in a professional dance company but when I moved to New York and got into the law world here I didn’t have much time for anything so, you know, it really came about by happenstance.

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One day I was at a networking event and I met somebody who was a full time blogger, this was a few years ago, and I was like “oh what do you mean you’re a full time blogger and so tell me a little bit more” and, you know, she explained it to me and I said “okay that’s kind of interesting” and she said “you know, I’m going to a networking event in a few days why don’t you come with me, you can meet other bloggers, and  just learn about it”. So I went with her and I thought yeah I can totally do this and because I was an international business lawyer I spent a lot of my time traveling. I was always working Europe, I had a lot of clients in London, Paris, and Milan and so, you know what, people were like that’s pretty interesting that you’re always traveling and doing all these things so I thought well, you know, why don’t I start an Instagram and travel blog and see where it goes.

But I did have a goal of making it a business from the start it wasn’t just, you know, oh I want to express myself it was truly I want to make a business out of it and hopefully one day, you know, I’ll be able to leave the legal world and I did in fact do that. Last year I left my law firm and went full time as an influencer so I spent all of last year just building my influencer business. But coincidentally though actually about two months ago a former colleague of mine had moved to another firm and was starting a team and she said “please what can I do to bring you in” so now I’m actually back in the law world but in a more manageable role so I’m doing my two businesses at once, lawyering and also doing  influencing.

But I’m definitely burning the candle at both ends so I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep doing both of them because, you know, influencing running a social media business and a blog if you want to be profitable and successful it is a full-time business. And I think a lot of people don’t understand how much work it is they think it’s just snapping a photo and putting it up and it is not that.

What are some of the challenges you faced when starting your blog and working to grow your audience-base in the beginning?

Yeah so it really doesn’t anymore. I mean even I would say two or three years ago it was much more easy to grow organically but now, you know, you really need to do other things to do that.

So, you know, like definitely going to as many events as you can and meeting other people and, you know, then of course you’ll post about them and they’ll post about you and so you kind of get some cross flow like that, companies reposting you things like that. So it’s really a lot more of you have to market yourself and you really have to pound the pavement and the same thing goes for work. I think a lot of people think that, you know, work is just going to come to them.

I’m going to get a bunch of followers and then people are going to say “oh hey you’re amazing” and, you know, that’s just not how it works. You need to pound the pavement, you need to be reaching out to people, making proposals, you know, following up on leads just like any entrepreneur.

How do you balance your career in law with being an influencer as well as someone who travels close to six months out of the year, is an accomplished musician and so on!?

Yeah so, well that’s, you know, really a tall order right now for me  because as  I said I’m having trouble balancing doing both of them because now that my social media business is so large it really is a full time business as it was, you know, last year when I wasn’t doing law. So I guess, you know, there’s no true typical day for me but a kind of standard day would be, you know, I start work at the law firm at usually like nine thirty and, you know, any time I have a spare moment between my files or my calls I’ll try to post something, I’ll try to respond to some of my influencer e-mails, you know, maybe post some stories, something like that.

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I try to post on my Instagram feed ideally twice a day but, you know, sometimes I’m not able to do that. Then I’ll typically have at least two events in the evening so I’ll usually bring like a change of clothes to the office and I’ll go straight from there to my first or second event sometimes we even have three events. And then I use weekends to shoot content because usually we don’t have any events, influencer events at that time. And for travel I can see one of the things, you know, about this new job, this new law job that I have is that it does allow me to work remotely. So today I worked from home because I knew I would be talking with you and didn’t want to be doing that in the office so that does help a lot. Last week I was in Norway for ten days on a press trip and I did have to do some law work while I was there but because it allowed me to work remotely that was really helpful. Except for when I have to get up in the middle of the night to do a call because of the time zone change but, you know,

I’m still trying to find ways to balance it but I find I truly have no moment to spare anymore. There’s no time when I can just be sitting, watching TV because even then I’m like “oh I should be, you know, responding to some more e-mails, I should be preparing some more content, you know, I should be looking for applications or, you know, things like that. So really if you want to be successful in this business like for any entrepreneur you have to leave no stone unturned and you can’t just sit around expecting things to come to you.

You have worked with many big brands – really, I could spend the entire podcast just reading the names of the brands you’ve worked with… Do you have a favorite collaboration (or several) that comes to mind?

Yeah! So, I guess one of the brands that I always wanted to work with was Coca-Cola because I just think, you know, it’s so historic, it has such a beautiful branding history to it. They really I think have done a good job of protecting the brand as well and keeping it like with an iconic image over time. And the thing that I found the most fascinating thing about it is everywhere I travel even on some tiny island in the middle of the Philippines you’ll see Coca-Cola.

It’s not quite the same with Pepsi and maybe they are kind of similar here in the states but elsewhere Coca-Cola has really the upper hand so I always thought it would be really special to be able to work with them. Now I’ve worked with them three times on three different campaigns and yeah I just think it’s a beautiful brand with like a really interesting history. The other one which I’ve done not as much with yet but I would really like to do more with them is Disney. I just think it’s also something that – you know, I really like brands that are cross-cultural, cross generational that have a global reach but also, you know, sort of an elegance and a timelessness to them and I think both of those brands really have that.

With as many collaborations as you’ve been apart of, I’m almost certain you’ve run into an issue where it’s just not a good match (you don’t like the product, etc)… What do you do in that scenario so you don’t burn bridges with the brand but you’re honest with your audience?

So I’ll do that at the front end typically so I wouldn’t end up in that situation. For me like when I’m selecting a brand collaboration I go from the start like is it something I already use or would I use this but also it would have to be a fit with my personal brand. So there are some things that, you know, like – let me give you an example just off the top of my head like maybe, I don’t know, UFC like Ultimate Fighting.

Like I have nothing against that, I’ll watch it in a bar but like it just wouldn’t be a fit for me to do a collaboration with them and so if they were to come to me I will just say “ thank you but no thanks I don’t think it’s a good fit”. There have been occasions where I’ll get sent a product just for like reviewing not for a collaboration and it hasn’t worked for me. And yeah even in those cases I’ll just let them know I won’t be posting about this.

So, there was one like a skincare brand they sent me some stuff a little while ago no expectation of me posting but generally if they send me something I’ll try to do a story or just a shoutout. I won’t put it in feed unless we’ve agreed beforehand but for a story I’m sometimes happy to do that but this skincare product gave me a big red rash all over my face and so I just said, you know, “thanks very much but like I reacted to this so, you know, just letting you know”.

As someone deeply invested in social media as an influencer, I am interested to hear where you think influencer marketing (and maybe social media, in general) is headed in the next 5 years or so…

I mean I guess I’m not quite so sure about that. I do see like a heavy trend towards video over photos which I personally enjoy anyways so I’ve been doing more and more of those.

And I think – Like with Tik Tok for example that’s an entire video platform and it’s just growing rapidly but even on Instagram we’re seeing more video content. So that’s one change I’ll see but in terms of the rest I mean I’m just trying to – what I always try to do is just, you know, stay open and move with the time.  So like I do have a Tik Tok account it’s not huge yet it has like twelve thousand followers but you know, I’m on there and I think it’s important to always just stay open and try to stay ahead of the trends, you know, try out new platforms and also  always sort of trying to figure out the area that is best for certain sectors.

So for example travel you really tend to do well If you have a very good blog. Instagram is great but you can’t be doing it without both of them you need to have a good blog and you also need to have a good Instagram if you want to be a travel influencer. If you want to do like beauty you actually you don’t really need to have the blog you can just have Instagram. So that’s important to determine like what your sector is that you want to do and where is it going to fit the best. If you want to do multiple sectors like I do that’s fine but again you need to think about which area that product is going to fit best if you want to succeed in that sector.