From merely a photo-sharing app, it rapidly became one of the most popular social media platforms. Instagram has taken the world by storm in less than 7 years. Today, it has around 700 million users, which is double its user base compared to only 2 years ago. So, if you love snapping and sharing pictures, Instagram is your best option by far. Now, if you could also make money for doing something you love, then things can’t get any better, right?
The good news is that Instagram gives you amazing opportunities to make from a few hundred to several thousands of bucks every month. Besides the “build a following and then run ads to sell your product(s)” clichéd tip, there are many more strategies to get thing rolling. Let’s dive into the thick of things, shall we?
How Many Followers Do You Need?
It depends on several factors. For instance, the niche you are in and how easy it is to tie your niche to a popular product category (i.e. food, fitness, beauty, fashion, etc.), how engaged your followers are, and the revenue channels you have selected to explore all play a role in determining the potential to profit from your Instagram account.
Generally speaking, the more engaged your audience is, the more money you can generate from your photos. That being said, you do need a few thousand followers to make money from Instagram. This is because businesses will pay money to an Instagram user like you as a means to get exposure to your audience and have your followers either purchase or recommend their products.
Every time you create a post, Instagram sends it to some of your fans’ feeds. If you use the right hashtags and post at the right time, then your organic reach will be significantly higher compared to other social media platforms, which will give you the chance to make $1000s per post. With a few hundred followers, your content will be seen by a small number of people, which won’t drive many sales for the brand’s products or you.
Tip: No matter how tempting it may be, do not buy followers. You need a real audience on Instagram if you want to make this work.
Best Ways to Make Money on Instagram
Become an Influencer
You may have heard the term “influencer” get thrown around lately. An influencer is a person that has built an online reputation by sharing and doing great things online. To their audiences, they are trusted experts, trendsellers, and tastemakers, whose opinion about certain subject is hugely respected. When an influencer makes a recommendation, their audience usually takes action on it. So, their reach helps create awareness while their persuasion skills (aka influence) generate sales for them.
It is that reach (and size) of your Instagram account and audience’s trust that many brands cannot compete with, which is why they seek for influencers to partner with (aka influencer marketing). The selected influencers will help get the word out about the companies’ products by doing sponsored posts.
As an influencer, you will be asked to create content, be it an Instagram video or post; content that will also be used on the brand’s own website or in an ad. In exchange for a free product, service, fee, or a gift (or a combination of all four), the deal may involve the creation of just one post or an entire campaign. To give you an idea of the sum you could charge as an influencer per post, let’s just say that some brands are willing to pay between $200 and $400 for a single post while 7 million influencers get paid up to the astronomical $150,000 per post.
To make yourself found by brands looking for influencers, you can list yourself on an influencer marketplace, like:
Shoutcart – It doesn’t matter how large your following is. You simply sell a shout out to your audience on behalf of the brand (will talk more about it below).
Crowdtap – You earn rewards by doing content creation tasks, which is perfect if your Instagram account has a smaller audience.
Fohr – You get a list of brands and their requirements and also create an influencer card by connecting some of your social media accounts (i.e. blog, YouTube channel, and Instagram). The card will show your different profiles and total reach for the brands in need of a collaboration with an influencer.
Indahash – You get paid for participating in campaigns put up by brands and posting a picture with a specified hashtag. To be eligible, you need to have, at least, 700 engaged followers.
Grapevine – If your Instagram profile has more than 5000 followers, you just list yourself in this marketplace.
Other excellent options are Tribe, Hyprbrands, and Hypetap.
You may also look for brands to work with yourself. In this case, try to find brands that are on the same page with you in terms of values and personality. It is crucial you respect your audience’s trust, so always ensure they will never feel like you are selling out.
Tip: Be transparent and indicate sponsored posts by adding a #sponsored hashtag. Don’t worry, reports show that this won’t affect how your followers perceive your recommendation.
Sell your Photos
The vast majority of websites and blogs use stock images at some point. To make sure your photos are sellable, bear in mind that brands value authenticity and real-world photos, even those captured on phones (some companies pay up to $6000/photo). Also, consider straying away from the square format and using white colored borders to help control how your picture appears in feeds. Color palette, lighting, and shooting angle all play a crucial role in whether your photo will be appealing to your followers or not.
Once you set up a photo journal, you get in touch with prospective clients via a DM (direct message). If all goes well, you can make a lot of money in a day from selling your Instagram pictures (see almost broke photographer Daniel Arnold who made $15,000 in one day).
Marketplaces to Consider
Foap – You earn $5/photo you sell. You may sell the same picture an infinite number of times. No need to have a huge following. Don’t forget to check out their Missions feature, which connects you with some brand colossus that may be interested in buying your photos (and earn $100-$500 per selected photo).
500px – Great platform to license your pictures and, of course, get exposure. At the moment, 500px has over 80 million photos and has seen as much as $20,000 per picture.
Twenty20 – Like Foap, this platform allows you to put up any photo of yours for sale (for $2/photo) and get it sold several times while retaining the right to the photos you post. You may also enter photo challenges that have high rewards or consider commissioning work from brands.
Snapwire – Submit your pictures to their challenges. The more authentic photos you upload, the more points you earn, which helps you level up and boost your chances to make more money.
Become an Affiliate
As an affiliate, you will be called to make sales for the partner brand, mainly through a unique promo code or trackable link (these help ensure that clicks result in sales). According to Instagram regulations, you cannot include links outside your bio. This means that you can only focus on a single product at a time. In this case, incorporating promo codes into your posts is you best chance to make some money as an Instagram affiliate.
Popular marketplaces to consider are ClickBank, Amazon Associates, Teespring, RewardStyle (you will need an invitation to join in), MaxBounty, ShareASale, OfferVault.
Alternatively, you could pay influencers to help promote an affiliate product by giving shoutouts (upload another user’s profile page – a screenshot – to your account to show support to that user and give them exposure). You can purchase shoutouts (from $5 and upwards) in marketplaces like BuySellShoutouts, JumpFame, PlugHype, and Grin.
Find well-converting products and products that get exceptional reviews by customers.
Shorten the affiliate links to make them look nicer (i.e.use bitly URL shortener).
Open Your Own Online Store
This is a tactic that requires the most of your time compared to everything else discussed already. However, it can also become your main stream of revenue. The steps are (1) open an online store, (2) build an Instagram account around your niche, (3) feature your products, and (4) earn money.
Since Instagram and Shopify have joined hands, product tagging is made super easy so you can definitely start selling whatever it is that you want to sell (using product tags). To sell your own stuff, you can:
Use a print-on-demand service (i.e. Zazzle) to print anything from your own wall art and mugs to t-shirts and pillows.
Use your bio to sell services (i.e. consulting). Include a link to your personal site or a contact email.
Or you could sell ebooks, courses, and other digital products.
There is a whole world of possibilities out there for aspiring entrepreneurs that want to use Instagram and their large online audience to earn money. Even something as simple as sharing silly photo shots with your cat can snowball into a fantastic opportunity to turn Instagram into an extra source of income (and free stuff). You only need an engaged following, respect your audience, and provide them with high quality at all times. Do feel free to explore multiple streams of potential revenue through Instagram, though, as what is discussed here is just the tip of the iceberg!