Billy's delight at his internet success
It has become a phenomenon in the past few years. It's inspired songs, phone accessories and the word was even added to the dictionary in 2013.
The selfie. At one point or another, most young people have spent hours obsessing over them. Finding the right angle, rifling through filters and using every hashtag under the sun to maximise the exposure for their self-indulgent masterpiece.
But one Wigan man takes things to the next level, by earning a living through his social media and has become one of the UK’s top Instagram models.
Billy Brayshaw earns a living by plugging content across a range of platforms, but primarily Instagram. He is sponsored by modelling agencies and PR firms to promote their products and services, from fragrances to clothing to travel events.
“I have always been one for posting selfies, I’ve done it for years,” Billy said.
“At the beginning of last year, me and my cousin were messing about and decided to see how many followers we could get.”
The 27-year-old from Ashton started liking more pictures and pages on Facebook and Instagram, and posting more professional style images.
A flurry of new followers was swiftly followed by several promising opportunities.
“I started getting messages, and free things. At first I thought it might be dodgy.
“But I just agreed to things and hoped for the best, and it’s turned out really well.”
Billy receives everything from underwear to £200 fragrances, and his most lucrative experience came last summer a travel company called Surge sent him off on a two-week adventure across Europe.
Starting in Paris, he went on to Barcelona, Roma and Amsterdam, attending a series of events to promote their services.
He has even been flown to New York City, but the aspiring actor said the rewards don’t come easy. It was still work. I had to do loads on Snapchat, then Instagram, then Facebook posts - about five a day on each! I was constantly on my phone.”
Although rare to earn a living from social media posts, the reach of online stars has been notoriously exploited in the last few years, with some YouTube vloggers being reported to charge up to £20,000 to advertise products.
Detailing the pros and cons of the rise of social media celebrities, Billy said: “I think it’s weird, because you’re rich in followers, but that’s like being rich in monopoly. It’s not real. But this is an income for me.
“There are bad things and good things. You can look at these people with amazing bodies and it makes you feel like you have to mould into that person. But at the same time, you are trying to improve yourself. It gives you determination, so it works both ways. Just don’t get too obsessed.”