If you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably seen “influencers” (or heard stories of them) who have millions of followers and are cashing in on their posts. They often make it look easy, to top it off. They have an authoritative voice when it comes to their niche (fashion, fitness, cooking), and they make everything they do feel authentic and un-staged. Their followers look forward to seeing their pictures and reading their real, often inspiring, stories.
If you are a creative type who would love to make money on Instagram too, you may be wondering just where to start. Here we’ll outline 8 important steps and guidelines to make money on Instagram. The first four sections here are actual money streams, and the remaining items are important tips if you want to increase your following and make sure people are engaged with your posts. Since the goal is to make money, you need to keep followers interested and clicking, right?
1. Do sponsored posts
- Source of income: Flat fee per post
If you already have a strong or growing following, reach out to brands that you think would be a nice fit with your aesthetic. If you run a fashion blog, reach out to clothing companies. If you run a fishing-themed account, contact manufacturers of fishing-related products. You get the picture.
If you find a company you’d be interested in promoting on Instagram, research the company first. Then make contact. You can reach out to companies directly or list yourself via an influencer marketplace like Shoutcart. As your Instagram presence grows, you may have companies that find you and reach out regarding opportunities. How much should you charge? There aren’t any set rules, but Instagrammer Shelcy Joseph, for instance, says she typically charges at least $75 per sponsored post. It’s been said that the number of followers you need to start diving into sponsored posts starts at around 1,000.
An example of a sponsored post, which received almost 3,000 likes, is from Emily King and Corey Smith, who live in their van and have 174,000 followers on Instagram. They can be found at @whereismyofficenow. They promoted Omega Sport products with a photo of King using the products, along with a caption telling about the products and offering 15% discount:
On the road we unlearn, dissolving layers of conditioning that no longer serve us, or perhaps never did. For example, the little lie that fat is bad has been replaced with the knowing of how essential healthy fats are for our wellbeing, our real wealth. ✧ We eat lots of fat. Avocados. Coconut oil. Olive oil. Bone broth. Recently, we've been loving Flora Health's Omega Sport+ Oil. We add it to salads, smoothies and oatmeal because it supports a healthy inflammation response, brain and bones, so we can adventure further. ✧ Follow @florahealthy and tell us about your nourishing practices. What do you eat and why? We will choose one winner to receive a bottle of Omega Sport+ Oil. And we are grateful to offer you 15% off with the code OMEGASPORT17 at florahealth.com. #sponsored #beflorahealthy #fuelyourendurance
Next: This program will give you a percentage of sales.
2. Post affiliate links to sell products
- Source of income: Percentage of each sale
An affiliate program is one in which people who don’t work directly for certain companies are able to promote the companies’ products or services, for a commission. Similar to the sponsored posts, the social media accounts or blogs of those who promote the products are usually related in some way to the affiliate products being sold. For instance, a beauty expert might use her Instagram account to feature makeup product affiliate links.
Large affiliate networks, which provide numerous potential affiliate advertisers and links, include Clickbank (which pays tier-based commissions), Rakuten (formerly Buy.com), and CJ Affiliate by Conversant, and Amazon Associates (which pays 20% commissions).
Here is an example of an Instagrammer promoting products through an affiliate network:
I did some fall inspired drag marble nails! I used: @savannahlacquer Birkenstocks, Flannel Shirt, & Combat Boots @sally_hansen Heavy Metal @vapidlacquer base & topcoat I've already got a YouTube video up for the tutorial of these, just click the link in my bio to watch! tutorial up next! #savannahlacquer #dressmeup90s #shimmerpolish #indiepolish #dragmarblenails #youtube
Next: Are you a creative type? Sell your own wares.
3. Create and sell a product or service
- Source of income: Direct sales of your goods/services
If you’re looking to build a killer Instagram account and gain a big following, chances are you’re the creative type. And that being said, you may have ideas for a product of your own that you can sell to your audience. Remember, your product could be physical goods (food, books, clothing, photos – you name it) or services (financial advice, consulting). Make sure your brand aesthetic is consistent across the style and focus of your Instagram account as well as any goods or services you sell. If you have an online store, you could make your Instagram shoppable using apps like Four Sixty.
Here, Instagrammer @rawalignment promotes her positive affirmation coloring book product:
5 days until I release my baby into the world. Thank you so much for your endless support along the way. Words cannot express the depth of my appreciation for our ever-growing and love filled Raw Alignment family. My positive affirmation coloring book will be available for pre-order on November 20th at raw-alignment.com. • It includes 50 pages to color in + 50 inspiring quotes, positive affirmations and self growth activities • There is a limited supply of books • Colored pencils WILL be included (also limited supply) • ALL Books will be sent out during the 1st week of December (and possibly the 2nd week too, depending on the # of orders) to arrive in perfect time for the holiday season • YES, it ships worldwide! ✨ Eeeep! I’m buzzzzing with excitement for this book to finally be in your hands! ♥️
Next: There’s money to be made from photos.
4. Sell your photography online
- How money is made: Direct sales or getting a percentage through an online marketplace
Since Instagram is about sharing photos, if you’ve taken some high-quality, heavily-hearted pics, you might consider offering them on sites like 500px or Twenty20, where brands may choose to license them. In 2014, one Instagrammer, desperately in need of money to pay his rent, decided to offer any of his photos for $150 apiece. One day later, he had collected $5,000 in sales and had $10,000 more in orders. If you’re interested in seeing what’s so compelling about his photos, check out him out on Instagram under @arnold_daniel. Here is one of his photos which received almost 6,000 likes:
Now that we have gone over four fundamental ways of making money on Instagram, we will delve into some fundamental ways of managing your Instagram presence to attract followers and keep them engaged.
Next: This component will keep your brand alive.
5. Be authentic
The more real you can be in your Instagram posts, the better. People can smell social media fake-ness a mile away. When trying to let your true personality shine through, think about what particular story or aspect you want to share the most. What truly resonates with you, and what do you feel passionate enough to write about? Cassie Ho runs blogilates, a fitness-minded account on Instagram, which has 1.4 million followers. She shared in an interview how authenticity is what keeps her brand alive. “I view my fans as my friends and I would never want to lie to them, trick them, or use them,” she said. “I create meaningful content that I am proud to share.” Here is one of her sponsored posts:
My skin tells the truth. Too much sugar or stress and I'll get pimples within hours! As I was searching for a healthy remedy, @bioclarity, a 3-step vegan skincare system to clear acne, reached out and asked me to test their creams! So the first thing I did was check the ingredients: Green tea. Cucumber. Licorice root. Oat kernels. Chamomile. And Floralux – a unique form of chlorophyll. . It sounded like a green juice for my face. Which is a definite MUST because I have to be just as comfortable with ingredients going ON body as I would IN my body. . Guys, I am happy to report that #bioclarity is ACTUALLY very peaceful on my skin! Which is sooooo awesome because my goal is to smooth out my skin once and for all with my wedding coming up next year!!! Because it's working for me, #bioclarity and I have teamed up to give any of you guys struggling with acne a 50% off code! Use "CASSEY" for half off 1st month of the 3-step routine at bit.ly/biocassey (bio link) YAY!
Next: Become an authority in your niche with these tips.
6. Be an authority
75009 – Rue Choron 5 days left before we’ll be off to Cuba. My preprations are pretty much done and I am all set to explore the island and discover all those amazing colourful tiles there. Meanwhile I’ll show you one of my favourite black & white images from Paris. Enjoy your sundays! #parisianfloors#ihavethisthingwithfloors#fromwhereistand#paris
To start establishing yourself as an authority in your niche, find the top current authorities and share their content. This will help you get on the radar of the other authorities. It’ll also help you learn more about what others are talking about in your space and what the latest prominent topics are. Network with other authorities in your niche by commenting on their posts and joining any private groups available in your space.
Post to your own account regularly – once a day, if you have relevant, creative content to share. Tools like Hootsuite enable you to create posts and schedule them for publication later. Having scheduled posts is like money in the bank. When there are other distractions or a creativity drought, you’ve got content all ready to go.
Next: Your photo quantity could get you un-followed.
7. Focus on quality over quantity
2/5 Have you guys ever been somewhere that completely left you speechless? That's how I felt the whole time we explored Iceland. Looking back on these picture and I am still amazed by its incredible landscape. ———————————————— Join us on the next @pangeadreams Blogger Retreat – November 2017 in Tulum, Mexico ✨ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more info! ———————————————– pc: @bastihansen x @pangeadreams #pangeadreams
Choose your photos and captions wisely. Prioritize the quality of your posts over the number of them. Unlike Twitter, where it is often acceptable to bombard your followers with tweet after tweet every day, one Instagram post carries more weight. Your followers do not want to feel spammed with photos in which they aren’t interested. There’s no quicker way to lose all those followers you worked so hard to get in the first place. Rather than being concerned about posting too little and losing relevance, really focus on letting your creative juices flow. Instead of focusing on an entire event with multiple posts, zero in on what has impact and will attract interest.
Next: Here’s how to get high-quality photos.
8. Feature high-quality photos
Since it’s all about the photos, Instagram success has a lot to do with them. Beautiful snaps are the staple of many influencers. Some of them swear by special camera tools, many of which are pretty affordable. Try out different photo editing apps such as Snapseed, which was recommended by Instagram user @tschang for editing brightness and contrast. He has 101,000 followers and likes to photograph food and scenes from his travels.
Another rule of thumb when taking photos with your smartphone: Don’t zoom. It can blur your images and decrease pixel quality.
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