(a 12 minute read)
When it comes to Instagram, you have probably asked yourself the following question multiple times by now: How do all of these regular people manage to make so much money while you’re doing nothing different?
From the outside it seems pretty easy, right? Just take some cute pics of yourself, post them with some smart hashtags, promote the post in your story, keep on doing this for like 3 years and voilà, you’re jet-setting around the world and your whole life is a vacation...actually, no. It’s much more than that.
Nothing Comes From Nothing
We’re all spending a rather large part of our days on our phones and social media, why not use that time wisely and productively instead? The truth is, money won’t come by itself. I’ve said countless times that Instagram is hard work, and it still stands true. If you really want to succeed, you will need to have one of three things:
- A large following
This is very off-putting for a lot of people because most have none of the above - I know that feeling all too well. Spending a lot of time on something in the hopes that it will pay off later is a risk you have to take - BUT you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Money can speed up the process and scale it to new heights - IF you know what you’re doing. A large following is the result of either one of those factors - OR both put together. (It always is a combination of two or more)
There Are Three Main Ways
Instagram is a force of nature. What was once an endless feed of memes and pretty pictures has evolved into something between a glossy magazine, your best friend’s taste, and a boutique shop. With over ONE BILLION monthly users, Instagram is the platform of aspiration, inspiration - and now, in-app checkout.
Safe to say that it’s a bad idea to stay on the sidelines of the game for no good reason. Growing on such a popular platform is a whole other journey - we already published a blog post on how to grow organically, so check that out too to get a headstart. Right now, let’s talk about the three major ways to make money on Instagram:
-Work as an influencer to post content sponsored by brands.
-Be an affiliate marketer selling other people’s products.
-Become an “entrepreneur” and sell your own products or services.
Read on for our best advice on all three options and a few ideas to get your gears turning - I obviously won’t be able to go into the tiniest of details but that’s not what this is about anyways...this is for you to get a feel for how many opportunities there actually are and that it’s up to you. So, let us begin I’d say. And make sure to read until the end to find out how much money there actually is to be made...now let’s get into it.
1) Post Sponsored Content
This is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of influencers. You know? That whole “selling out” thing to secure a bag? Well actually, that’s not the whole story.
The base requirement here is a decent-to-impressive follower count and a competitive engagement rate. In other words, this strategy is for you if you’re good at making strangers on the internet like and trust you. There’s no other way around that. If you have no one to show that content to, probably no one will actually pay you to post it.
BUT, the appeal of this strategy is that it involves marketing without any of the headaches of e-commerce: you don’t need to create a product or fulfill orders. In a perfect world, all this means is that you just have to be yourself and post about the products, services, or brands that make your life what it is. What’s better than that?
But there are also drawbacks. If you don’t already have a following, the road to get there can be a long and tedious one. You have to start slow and work your way up, day by day. And even if you succeed with the sponsored content route, you’ll probably need to reflect on the balance between your integrity and your revenue. It’s your personal brand on the line, after all. And people trust authenticity.
Of course, not everyone wants to be an influencer and not everyone is good at being one. That doesn’t mean the journey ends here already. There are a ton of ways to grow a massive following without ever having to show your face.
For example: you could grow themed pages and focus on one specific type of content, you can ride trends and grow very quickly if you’re pumping out great content or you could come up with ideas that I haven’t even considered yet. My point is, there are so many options to succeed if you look for them and it’s up to you to make them work or not.
Step 1: Choose A Niche
We always talk about starting a brand or business based on passion and it still stands...kind of. While you should obviously focus on and post whatever you feel like doing, you need some core concept to stand out. The more specific the better. “Vegan” is saturated, so why not try “sober vegan ultra-marathon runner dad who interviews famous people on his podcast” instead? (Or don’t, because that one’s taken already.)
What I want to say is this: with over one billion people using the app regularly, it can be hard to stand out. If one trend emerges, you can be sure that not very much later a ton of people will have jumped on the train and it will become tougher. You should still do whatever you feel like doing but if your plan is to make money, you’ll need at least somewhat of a strategy.
Step 2: Build Trust and Grow Your Audience
There are no shortcuts. Growing a large audience takes time and patience...or a lot of money if you want to speed up the process immensely. I won’t dive too deep into it because there’s already a ton of content out there for you to dive into. As I mentioned earlier, we published a blog post on how to master IG, you can follow us on our socials if you haven’t yet and definitely check out others in this niche. There are so many resources out there to help you learn, it would be a shame to waste them. But the basics of brand building are always this:
- Content is KING.
- Use the power of #hashtags.
- Engage with your entire community.
- Make use of all domains.
- Keep on going, and do it consistently.
Step 3: Partner Up
If you want to get going with sponsored content, you have two options: wait around for people to notice you or go out there and make them. We obviously prefer the latter, because “from nothing comes nothing”, remember? Just focusing on yourself without ever reaching out isn’t the best strategy.
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 for 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: If you have 5,000 or more followers, you can list yourself in the Grapevine 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 U.S. only, though.
- indaHash: Brands post campaigns you can participate in. Post a picture with the specified hashtags on IG and get paid. You need at least 700 engaged followers to be eligible - very doable to say the least.
There are a ton of other options you can dig into if you like, these are just a few I know. Sponsored posts work well on IG, but most brands want to establish long-term relationships with influencers to maximize growth. This is the Jackpot if you ask me. Since IT is the most preferred channel for influencer marketing, it’s a perfect place to find brand ambassador programs and collaborate with companies to promote their products.
Just imagine this: you start posting content, go through the hustle of building a brand online and then, one day, you look back and realize how insane it actually is that you’re getting paid to just be yourself. This is the magic of New Age Media. A dream that wasn’t possible just one decade ago. We’re still right at the beginning and not playing along would be something you won't look back on proudly…
2) Sell Other People’s Products.
What I’m talking about now is the magic of affiliate marketing. Unlike sponsored content, this strategy is less about spreading awareness and more about making sales. This is because you only make money when your followers actually buy the product. On the plus side, as an affiliate marketer you don’t need to worry about producing that product or fulfilling orders.
The downside is that this option requires a solid strategy if you want to grow without annoying your audience. If you don’t already have an audience or tons of time for the grind of it, you’ll probably need some money to succeed. That’s because you’d either have to directly reach out to people (which can annoy them) or you have to run ads to get your offer seen by others. Also, the term ‘affiliate marketing’ sometimes has a bad reputation, so you really have to act intentional to make it work.
Step 1: Choose a niche.
Unlike an influencer, an affiliate is more invested in making sales for the partner brand - not just generating awareness - in exchange for a commission. So, actually getting started is less of an obstacle because you have much more freedom to experiment. Try out one thing, see how it’s going and move on if it doesn’t work. Being able to test around is great for getting valuable insights and experience.
So, all in all this step is pretty much like before only that you’re now able to move around however you like. Though it sounds like a numbers game, affiliate marketing is also an art, and you’ll have better chances at success if you have a plan going into it and expand your online presence by creating a website and including other marketing channels...for example, you could check out our book to get a whole A-Z guide on how to do just that and more if you like (cheeky self-promo right there).
Step 2: Find Affiliate Programs.
Where do you even start doing it? You can’t just go up to someone and ask for affiliate links, right? Well, yes you can actually...kind of. Just like with influencer hubs, there are a lot of services to help you do just that. I won’t go too deep into the matter because it would deserve a whole blog post on its own but I can give you a taste for what I mean.
Consider reaching out to one of the many online merchants offering affiliate programs. Or you can explore popular marketplaces like:
- Clickbank: An affiliate platform with a tier-based commission that’s open to everyone.
- RewardStyle: An invitation-only fashion and lifestyle influencer network that offers 20% commissions.
- Amazon Associates: A popular option that pays out a 10% commission.
Again, there are a lot of other ways you can look into - these are just a few to get the gears turning. You can even look for brands that offer individual affiliate programs because there are a lot that do. And now that you’ve done all of this, it’s time to look for the right product to promote.
This obviously depends on what exactly you’re doing but in any case there are a lot of things to keep an eye on. The main factors are that the products are of a high quality and that the conversion rates are good. Most affiliate programs offer some insights so you can see how good (or bad) certain products usually perform. For example, Clickbank gives you a Gravity Score, which shows you how many people actually made money with an offer in the past 12 weeks.
Step 3: Get at it.
Once you know who you’re working with and what you want to promote, it’s time to start the grind. I said it in the beginning but this is the toughest part. Reaching out to people, promoting content and getting others to buy can be a long and tedious journey but it’s necessary if you want to make money. No one will give you anything for free. On the other hand, if it were so easy, everyone would do it.
This is also why it’s important to have a strategy when you’re starting out. Just sliding into people’s DMs or comments probably isn’t the most effective thing you can do. But again, there’s so much to say about this topic that I’ll probably make a whole other blog post about it if you want one.
3) Take Matters Into Your Own Hands.
The third strategy for making money on Instagram goes beyond marketing and into the realm of actual ecommerce. Rather than using your personal brand to sell other people’s products, sell your own. This might be a coffee-table book of your most popular photos. But it could also be your time and advice as a consultant; or your high-end fashion line. And if you already own a business, selling on IG is an obvious addition to your marketing strategy.
Turning your audience into your customers may well be a natural fit. And with the rise of ecom platforms like Shopify, and print-on-demand services like Printful, it’s increasingly simple to run an online business that delivers real-world products. But what I want to focus on is something different: your time.
The journey of starting an online business is a long journey and too much to cover here (hence the WHOLE book we wrote). But time is different - because everyone has the same amount of it. Everyone’s given 24 hours per day and it’s up to us how we use them. Of course, not every single second of our days are in our hands; we have to go work, prepare food and do all kinds of things but it’s about how we use our free time that makes the difference.
And because you’re still reading this I know that you’re really interested in making money online. And that means you value your time enough to know that you have to use it wisely. So, let’s brainstorm a few ideas on how you can start using your time to sell services of all kinds. (And trust me, there are a ton of ways to make money on your own accord.)
-...you could start selling your own photos for others to use.
-...you can create other visual content for sale. (animations, graphic design, etc.)
-...you can provide social media marketing services.
-...you can write captions for businesses and charge money.
-...you can create story masks and filters.
-...you can-- I’ll stop.
The Internet offers a ton of opportunities for everyone to use, you just have to take initiative and get started. Acquiring skills and then freelancing your way through social media is one of the greatest opportunities of our time. People are making six-figure incomes with that kind of work. And all you have to do is actually do it. There’s nothing else in your way. No one will gift you anything - are you someone that can make it happen by yourself?
PS: How Much Money Can Be Made?
Oh, and before I get. I promised we would go over this as well, because it’s probably the hottest question in the room…
Celebrities can earn a lot of money by posting on IG. In fact, the highest paid social media influencers get anywhere from $8,400 to $1.2 MILLION per post. Obviously, your income depends on your reputation, your number of followings, and your ability to grow your IG over time.
To calculate your estimated earnings from your online presence and social accounts, it’s important to calculate your engagement rate. Why? Engagement shows that your audience is active, so it’s no wonder that influencer prices and costs depend heavily on this metric.
Views and clicks don’t mean anything unless users take action. The formula is pretty simple: Combine the number of likes and comments per one post and divide it by the number of followers, then multiply by 100:
No matter what your engagement rate is, there is always room for improvement. The main idea is to find your niche and promote your services so that your income can grow. That’s the best way to get your audience to take action.
Now, though, it’s time for you to decide - will you take action and make 2021 better than the sh*tshow that was 2020, or will this become just another blog post you browsed through only to end up in the same place as before?