Now that we’re all on Instagram all day and buying stuff we’ve seen on there and even shopping right there on the app, I’m sure you’d like to know how to make money on Instagram instead of spending money on it.
When Instagram launched in 2010, it was a simple photo-sharing app. Without the noise and fluff on Facebook, Instagram was a respite, only featuring visual content. Eventually, it expanded into a video-sharing app as well, with users initially being allowed to upload a 15-second video, increased to 60-second videos, then Instagram Stories for shorter, expiring content was introduced, then IGTV for longer videos.
By 2020, Instagram sees over a billion active users monthly, with 500 million users daily logging in and actively engaging on the platform.
Obviously, the demand is there, and marketers, brands, and companies willing to ride the wave will be there too.
So how do people as young as 13-year-olds make money on Instagram?
Let me explain the tried-and-tested income-generating methods for you, and give you real-life examples and success stories for each one.
How to Make Money on Instagram: 8 Ideas to Try
Before we dive in, I just want to refute a point that you might have encountered when reading about making money on Instagram.
Don’t believe anyone who says you can make money on Instagram WITHOUT followers.
You’d need customers to buy what you’re selling—whether you’re selling an idea, information, or an actual product.
The first four methods below can be used by Instagram users who are just starting out, while the last four money-making methods are best for influencer-level users.
1. Affiliate Marketing
In traditional affiliate marketing, you’d need to set up a website and promote products on multiple platforms in hopes of getting a commission if one or more people click on the link you posted and buy at the third-party website.
Probably one of the most popular affiliate marketing tools for Instagram comes from rewardStyle, a members-only affiliate network with only a 10% acceptance rate.
What makes rewardStyle amazing is the invention of its LIKEtoKNOW.it tool.
With LIKEtoKNOW.it, followers of your Instagram account can just “like” your post and they’ll be e-mailed details of your outfit, products included in the shot your posted, and so on.
This is how LIKEtoKNOW.it works:
- You post a photo on Instagram.
- The photo featured a close-up of your makeup-perfect face with a pair of gorgeous earrings.
- A follower likes your post.
- If that follower also has LIKEtoKNOW.it installed on their phones when they liked your post, they’ll receive an email with links directing them to where they can buy the earrings and all the makeup products you used.
- If this follower buys from when they clicked the link, you get paid a commission from the sale.
Imagine how much money you can earn from Instagram if you have thousands of people stalking the things you wear, use, or feature via LIKEtoKNOW.it.
Dropshipping is similar to affiliate marketing, in that you don’t have to manufacture or buy stocks of products to sell them and make a profit from selling them.
Here is what happens with dropshipping:
- Choose a product that you know people will buy.
- Make a deal with a dropship supplier, such as AliExpress, that sells that product.
- You promote a product on Instagram and direct it to your store. Note that if you use Instagram Business, you can integrate it with Shopify seamlessly.
- When an Instagram follower buys that product on your store, the dropship supplier will handle processing, shipping, and post-sale customer service on your behalf.
- You earn either a pre-discussed flat fee or a percentage of the sale as commission.
To learn more, read this case study on Seven Kingdoms Mart and how they promoted their dropshipping business on Instagram.
3. Sell Photos
Instagram is full of fantastic photos from both beginner and professional photographers.
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If you have an eye for photography or exceptional graphic design skill, you can sell your photos on Instagram.
It’s up to you if you want to sell usage rights, print them as posters, or just sell digital copies of your drawings, paintings, animations, and so on.
Forbes featured photographer Daniel Arnold’s story in 2014.
At that time, Arnold had about 22k followers and decided to put all his Instagram photos for sale on the eve of his 34th birthday. He priced a 4×6 print of any of his Instagram images for $150, even if he hasn’t really sold any of his images professionally.
24 hours after announcing the sale, he has sold $15k worth of prints and extended the sale.
Learn all about hashtags. Mastering hashtags is the secret to reaching the right audience for your products.
Or you can also visit Instaprints to buy or sell images.
4. Create Masks and Filters for Instagram Stories.
Back when Instagram Stories were introduced, skeptics thought it was a mere Snapchat knockoff and wouldn’t last.
Today, over 500 million users watch or create Instagram Stories every day.
Because there’s a time limit on these stories, users who see them are highly engaged.
Businesses see this as an opportunity to engage their target audience through Instagram masks and filters.
They usually hire graphic artists to do this for them, but many brands also work with Instagram influencers who specialize in Instagram masks and filters.
You can start with Facebook’s Spark AR Studio to create masks and filters.
5. Sponsorship: Earn Money Promoting other Brand’s Products
This is the most common way to get paid for your Instagram posts.
Companies can make a deal to sponsor a few posts on your Instagram feed to market their product to your followers. In most cases, companies give an Instagram influencer control over how the sponsored post looks, feels and sounds like.
The important thing is you disclose to your followers that a post is sponsored and follow FTC guidelines.
Shelcy Joseph began her personal fashion/lifestyle blogging with her sister on Instagram and YouTube around August 2014. By 2017, she is earning between $75 and $100 per sponsored post.
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6. Become a Brand Ambassador
Ambassadorship is a bit more long-term than sponsorship.
Depending on the company you talk to, this deal can go as long as several months to over a year.
The following three websites are all looking for influencers/ambassadors to help shape their future products:
- SurveyJunkie - Get paid CASH to share your thoughts on some of the world's biggest brands.
- Daily Goodie Box - Get a GIANT box of free samples to test out and try shipped right to you at no cost!
- Branded Surveys - Work directly with companies like Nike, Samsung, Amazon, and Disney to improve their product lines.
I highly recommend signing up will all three to increase your chances of actually making money as an influencer.
As a brand ambassador, the company sees you as someone who is in line with their values, products, and future.
Coca-Cola’s #ThisOnesFor Instagram Campaign is a great example of this. The cola giant enlisted the help of 14 Instagram influencers to create over 20 posts in a span of several months.
Earnings as a brand ambassador can be per-post or per-campaign. It can be a mix of photos, videos, and other types of media too.
Read my full guide on how to become a brand ambassador for step-by-step instructions on how to get started.
7. Sell Your Own Products
You can mix the brick-and-mortar retail business with the modern magic of Instagram by selling your own products and promoting them online.
If you have thousands upon thousands of followers who just can’t get enough of what you’re selling, then you can get paid for Instagram posts through product sales.
There are a ton of “slime famous” Instagrammers out there, but you can’t look away from the creations of Theresa Nguyen (rad slime). Her 1 million followers definitely can’t.
Her mesmerizing slime videos lead to about $500 sales from slime each week.
Nguyen started this only in 2017 (she was 13 then), and her online store continues to sell out every time she uploads new slime.
8. Teach Others Instagram Marketing
Many people make money on Instagram not by selling products, but by providing useful information. Long-term experience as an influencer is a must.
Your Instagram feed can be your résumé as proof of your marketing prowess and communication skills.
As a travel blogger like Veera Papinoja, a huge chunk of her Instagram income comes from consulting for companies and other organizations. She makes around €500 to €2,000 every month to maintain Instagram accounts of other companies.
Veera also does training and lectures about successful Instagram marketing on the side. She takes home somewhere between €500 and €10,000 a month from these side gigs.
How to Become an Instagram Influencer
Out of all the social media platforms today, Instagram has the highest engagement rate.
Companies know this and have included Instagram into their marketing efforts.
And why shouldn’t they?
If you have at least 2,000 to 15,000 followers, fall under a trusted niche, create eye-catching content, and have a loyal audience who trusts your judgment, here are the steps to take to become a full-time Instagram influencer:
So, how do you cash in on the opportunity to make money (and more) as an Instagram influencer?
1. Grow (the quality of) your Instagram following.
Companies have gotten pickier about the caliber of Instagram influencers they’re willing to work with.
It’s not unheard of for current brand requirements to include a minimum of 100K followers and/or 1K likes per post.
Before you get discouraged, consider that many brands are also looking for a certain type of audience, regardless of the actual number of followers.
For example, if you have only 1,000 followers, but they are top-level hospital health professionals, then a company like Johnson & Johnson might be very interested in talking with you.
In light of this information, you should consider cultivating your audience to reflect a specific interest, such as beauty, travel, health, etc.
Post photos that cater to just one or two subject areas and follow influencers who do likewise.
If you repost, like, or comment on their photos, those influencers are likely going to do the same for you.
Their followers may then notice you, and then you’ll get more followers that are interested and engaged in your content.
2. Create example campaigns.
Just as you would do an unpaid internship at a company you were hoping to get hired for, you could create example campaigns on Instagram to showcase your social media talents.
Consider generating a series of photos around something that interests you, such as healthy eating.
Then, follow businesses that are also focused on this topic.
You can learn which businesses are into healthy eating by doing a hashtag search using Instagram’s search bar. Instagram will then provide you with content that uses that hashtag.
As you post your photos, use the hashtags that your targeted businesses and audiences are using.
3. Complete your profile.
Businesses and companies can’t contact you if they don’t know who you are.
Be sure to complete your Instagram profile and add your name, a phone number, a web address, Facebook page URL, etc.
You may wish to add some information about your geographic location too, especially if you are generating content about travel.
Use your Instagram profile as a mini-résumé and list your experience in the topic of your interest.
Maybe you’ve been in the food business for a few years and that’s why you started a healthy eating-themed Instagram account. Or maybe you’ve been running marathons and are trying to incorporate better eating habits into your active lifestyle.
4. Reach out to marketing agencies.
To increase your chances of being selected as an influencer, you should sign up with as many social media marketing agencies as you can find.
A good selection of these agencies focus on Instagram; two examples include Instabrand and Hashmeta.
Why should you partner up with marketing agencies?
Because some companies, especially big companies, will not bother to manually research, contact, and negotiate with individual influencers.
They either don’t have the time or would rather expedite the process using third-party mediators who can choose appropriate influencers.
Having said that…
5. Reach out to individual companies and businesses.
Smaller companies and businesses typically do not have the budget to work with agencies.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t have the budget to work with individuals, however, and this is one of the best chances you have at seeing how to make money on Instagram.
Consider reaching out to smaller operations with a proposal package that includes a set number of Instagram promoted posts, blog posts, and comments on fellow influencer sites.
You might easily score a work contract for several hundred dollars compared with three times that amount for a standard agency’s deal—as noted by this business owner’s comment on Ecommerce University:
6. Keep track of your followers.
As you grow your audience and followers, keep tabs on who these followers represent.
Companies will first follow you to learn about how popular you are and how relevant your content is to their goals.
Only after learning these facts will those businesses reach out to you.
So, if you know ahead of time who they are, you can channel your energies on specific products, trends, etc. that they are also focused on.
How do you earn money on Instagram?
Anyone can join, become an influencer, and make money on Instagram.
You don’t even have to follow the footsteps of the Kardashians when it comes to the number of your followers, or look like a Victoria’s Secret model to get paid for Instagram posts.
Brands and marketers prefer to work with micro-influencers (those with less than 10k followers) instead of macro-influencers (celebrities/famous people with over 10k followers) because followers of micro-influencers trust their recommendations more.
Even regular people like me and you can take Instagram for a spin and try your luck earning life-changing cash with the platform.
Have you been paid to gram yet? What ways are you making money? Share them with us in the comments!