You’ve probably heard stories of Instagrammers cashing in on the pictures they snap and share every day. You might’ve even looked at your own sizable following and thought, “Maybe I can do that full time too.”
Just like bloggers, YouTubers, and anyone who’s amassed an audience around the content they produce, Instagrammers have reach and influence figured out—two things many companies struggle with.
Together, reach and influence offer the opportunity for Instagram creators to explore multiple streams of potential revenue, whether they want to build an empire or just earn some extra cash and free stuff.
How many Instagram followers do you need to make money?
If by now you’re wondering how many followers you need to start bringing in real revenue, the short answer is “not as many as you think.”
The long answer depends on factors that range from:
- What niche you’re in and how easily you can directly tie it to a product category (fashion, food, beauty, and fitness are popular niches, based on top Instagram hashtags)
- How engaged your followers are (100K fake followers won’t amount to much)
- Which revenue channels you explore
Naturally, the more engaged followers you have, the better. Check out our tips on how to get more followers on Instagram.
While top Instagrammers make thousands of dollars per post, even those with small but engaged followings of 1,000 have the potential to start making money.
How to make money on Instagram
Depending on your unique brand of Instagram content, your target audience, and your level of commitment, you can use Instagram to make money in the following ways:
- Work with brands on sponsored posts
- Become an affiliate
- Open your own ecommerce store
- Create an Instagram shop
- Sell your photos online or on things
- Make money off your content
The beauty here is that chasing one revenue stream doesn’t necessarily rule out another.
So let’s start with the most common approach to Instagram monetization: partnering with brands as an influencer.
Work with brands on sponsored content
The term “Instagram influencer” gets thrown around a lot these days.
An influencer is basically anyone who’s built themselves an online reputation by doing and sharing awesome things online. To their audiences, influencers are tastemakers, trendsetters, and trusted experts whose opinions about certain subjects are respected.
Many brands just can’t compete with that, so they partner with influencers on sponsored content like posts and Stories that help get the word out about their products.
But it’s not just the follower count and reach of your Instagram account that brands want—it’s your audience’s trust and engagement with high-quality content.
It can be hard to balance your revenue as an influencer and your integrity as a creator, but if you’re not relying on your Instagram marketing income to stay afloat, you always have the freedom to be selective about the brands you work with, just as brands will be selective about the Instagrammers they work with.
How to decide what to charge as an influencer
Typically these influencer deals involve the creation of content—Instagram ads, a post, a video, or a Story—and will sometimes include permission for the brand to use this content on their own site or in an ad.
Most of these deals are negotiable and can involve a single post or an entire campaign in exchange for a fee, a free product, a service, a gift, the promise of exposure, or some combination of these.
Keep in mind when negotiating that you’re not just offering content but access to your audience—a potentially large reach on one of the most popular social media platforms around—and usage rights.
The average influencer who has upward of 100,000 followers charges up to $500 per post, on average. Just to give you an idea of what some brands are willing to pay and how to negotiate based on the cards you’re holding.
Finally, it’s important as an influencer to also know your own audience.
What is the makeup of your audience, and what is your engagement rate (total engagement divided by your number of followers)? You can dig up numbers to back this up in your Instagram Analytics report, if you’ve switched to a business account. This will help you be prepared when it comes time to negotiate.
Want to learn how to grow and monetize your Instagram account? Instagram marketing expert Gretta van Riel shows you how in Grow Your Business with Instagram, a free course at Shopify Academy.
How to find brands to work with
If you’re big enough, chances are brands will find you. But you can also look for brands to work with that are on a similar level in terms of personality and values, so your audience won’t feel like you’re “selling out.”
You can reach out to them directly to try to work out a deal, but you can also list yourself on one of the many influencer marketplaces out there to increase your chances of being discovered, including:
- Fohr. Connect your Instagram, blog, YouTube channel, and other social platforms to create an influencer “card” that shows your different profiles and total reach to brands shopping for a partnership. You can also access a list of brands and their wants, so you can take the initiative to reach out too.
- Grapevine Village. If you have 5,000 or more followers, you can list yourself in the Grapevine Village marketplace for the opportunity to work with like-minded brands.
- Crowdtap. Do small content creation tasks to earn rewards. This is great if you’ve got a smaller audience. Available in the US only.
- indaHash. Brands post campaigns you can participate in. Post a picture with the specified hashtags on Instagram and get paid. You need at least 700 engaged followers to be eligible.
The rules vary when it comes to sponsored content, but to be on the safe side and respect your audience’s trust, consider adding a #sponsored hashtag to indicate sponsored posts.
You can find examples of sponsored posts and how Instagrammers integrate brands into their story or caption by searching #sponsored on Instagram, like this one from How He Asked, an account that shares wedding proposal stories and partners with a jewelry business: