Side by side image of Weiss and a luxury villa she photographed
Samantha Weiss and a Mexican property she recently made content for.Courtesy of Samantha Weiss
  • Samantha Weiss, 33, said getting fired as an actuary in 2017 was a blessing in disguise.
  • She now has her dream job in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, where she's become a go-to content creator.
  • Her drone was a key investment and it got her a job shooting some of the top Airbnbs in Mexico. 

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with content creator Samantha Weiss, 33, about her new job capturing social media photos and videos of luxury hotels and Airbnbs in Mexico. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

In October 2017, I got fired from my job as an actuary in Stamford, Connecticut. 

I felt like I was in a box professionally, like I had to be this very proper person when I'm actually very creative and love to interact with people. I just realized being an actuary wasn't the job for me. Losing the job felt like a blessing in disguise. 

They gave me a severance package and I took that as a sign from the universe to go travel the world and live my life. I actually cashed in everything to my name, my 401K, all my stocks, everything.

For the past six years, I've traveled the world. I started traveling throughout Southeast Asia, where I was able to travel pretty cheaply. I've lived in Thailand, Turkey, and Albania, just to name a few. 

While I was traveling, I was taking videos everyday and loved using Instagram. About three years ago, I was like, "Ok I need to figure out something to sustain my living," which got me into life coaching and social media coaching. 

I moved to Puerto Escondido, Mexico, in January 2023. It's a little surf town on the Oaxacan coast and still a hidden gem, but it's growing in popularity. I was feeling a little uninspired by my work and I love travel videos. Making content for hotels and Airbnb just felt like something I wanted to go after.

I slid into a hotel's direct messages for my first gig

A two-story luxury villa surrounded by palm trees and a turquoise pool
One of the properties Weiss photographed.Courtesy of Samantha Weiss

The first collaboration I did was with a boutique hotel here in March. I pitched it to them in their dm's and they said, "Absolutely." Luckily, that one person owned a few other properties, so that helped me build my portfolio. 

To be honest, I actually did not prepare at all. My mentality was just to shoot everything. What I really loved, and is popular here in Mexico, is a very natural aesthetic with so many plants. I just wanted to get every single angle. 

I created raw video they could use for Instagram reels and photos. 

I tell everyone you don't need fancy equipment to get started, the iPhone does an amazing job. Especially if it's one of the newer models and it has cinematic mode. The quality is amazing.

I was actually hosting a class last weekend and someone thought I had a cameraman with me. I was like, "No, I literally shoot with my iPhone 13." 

I built up my portfolio by bartering for free stays. I just bought a drone to amp up what I can do.

Aerial shot of a resort pool with white umbrellas and chairs
A hotel property that Weiss captured.Courtesy of Samantha Weiss

For that first project, I got paid with a free stay. In the beginning, I think it's super important to offer content in exchange for free stays, to build up a portfolio. 

Once I did a few, I started charging in June. I started low with just $150 for raw video footage. I give them everything I take and a social media manager can cut it up however they want. 

Now, as I've grown more confident in my work, I have packages that range in price, but start at $500. 

The first Airbnb host I worked with owned a beautiful five-bedroom house that can fit up to 16 people. These places are just gorgeous, with stunning Oaxacan architecture and these geometric motifs. I love the homes with pools overlooking the beach. I love shooting these giant kitchens. 

This month, I'm going on a huge trip to do four epic Airbnbs back to back and it's going to be in this really famous area called Casa Wabi. It's supposed to be some of the top Airbnbs in Mexico designed by really famous architects. 

I got my drone in May for around $1,100. It's amazing, I'm obsessed with it. Everyone wants drone footage and it's really helped me feel comfortable raising my rates. It's the best investment I've ever made. Especially in Mexico, everything is so gorgeous with the beach and the landscapes. It just makes the content better. 

I follow a lot of creators who are really good with drones and they'll post tips or break down certain moves. Honestly, it's just practice. I've now used it a few times for projects, but I'll also just text friends, "Who wants to go create drone videos?" They love it.

I'm a very proactive networker, but the secret is to be friendly

Sunset over a villa property in the jungle
Weiss says her drone has been the best investment she ever made.Courtesy of Samantha Weiss

When it comes to networking, I try to connect with everyone. I follow Puerto Escondido pages that post the best restaurants, hotels, Airbnbs — the ones covering all things hospitality. I noticed a lot of these pages hire people out to create content. 

I've connected with a big Instagram page that shoots all of the best Airbnbs all over Mexico. He saw I was tagged in that five-bedroom home and he reached out and said he liked my work. He's based in Mexico City and can't be everywhere all the time, so he's hired me out for projects around here. 

I follow real-estate pages, which are huge, because I have a drone and a lot of agents really like drone footage. 

Honestly, whenever I meet someone new, I always mention what I do. You never know if their friends, their family, or anyone that they know own an Airbnb. 

The cold message is really simple. I literally just say, "Hey, you want to meet up for a coffee?" or if they're far away I'll suggest we hop on a call. 

And the point is just to get to know each other, not even talk about business. If we work together that's cool, and if not, that's fine, too. 

In this industry, it's so important to just really connect with people. At the end of the day, people want to work with people they like. You could have the best content, but if you're a terrible person, people won't hire you.

Patience and consistency are key — eventually someone will say yes

Weiss stands on the balcony of two-story Airbnb overlooking a luxury pool
Weiss says sometimes she invites friends to practice using the drone with her.Courtesy of Samantha Weiss

The biggest surprise has been how fast this market is growing. Hotels now are looking to work more with influencers with big platforms, but for Airbnbs they literally just need to hire someone to take content for them. I think it's so cool that this is so easily accessible for people to go, build a reputation, and make this into a career.

I've become the go-to creator in this town, just because there's not a lot of creators here.

In the beginning, it was really hard when people said no. I'll never forget the first time someone said no to me, I literally started crying. I was like, "Maybe I shouldn't get into this." I had to give myself a pep talk. People are going to say no and you just need to get over that hump. It's not for everyone. 

Another thing is the slow growth. It might take a few months to get started because some hosts will agree to work with you, but they might not need you right away. I actually have so many people who I've talked to since May that we're not going to work together until October. 

My biggest piece of advice is to be consistent and keep going. If you keep reaching out to people, you're going to find a person who says yes. I did not have a huge following when I started. The success comes from being consistent. 

I enjoy social media, so I'm scrolling from time to time. I follow creators I love. Sometimes before going to a job, I will look at Instagram just to follow Airbnb content. I'll scroll for 30 minutes and get inspired. 

This is literally a dream job. I get to essentially vacation, make content, and visit the most gorgeous properties in Mexico. Who wouldn't like that? 

Read the original article on Business Insider