How to Make Money as an Instagram Influencer

Lucrative opportunities beyond just posting pics

Making Money on Instagram - iPhone with gold dollar signs
Donald Iain Smith / Blend Images

Instagram users can turn their hobby into a profitable business, and it's clear the time of the Instagram influencer has arrived. The business of being a social media influencer can seem strange and even unbelievable, but it's very much a legitimate source of income—and for many users, it's become a full-time career. Here's what you need to know about Instagram influencers and how to become one yourself.

What it takes to be an influencer

A social media influencer is essentially someone who can prompt others to partake in an activity or purchase a product by creating and publishing content on a popular social media network such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Google Plus, and others. An influencer has a high number of followers or subscribers, and a high ratio of regular interaction and engagement with their fans.

An account with a million followers that only averages a few likes or comments per post wouldn't be considered an influencer, for example, despite having a large number of followers. However, another account with only a few thousand followers that receives a few hundred likes or comments per post could very well be considered an influencer as their followers are seen to respect their opinion and support whatever content they create. In short, they're engaged.

Instagram's influencer appeal

Instagram influencers tend to have high engagement with their audience, and companies are choosing to invest in Instagram influencers to promote their products or services. This can often be more effective than traditional advertising, especially when targeting younger demographics that may not consume as much traditional media, such as television or print magazines, as previous generations.

A 2015 report found that marketing firms saw an average return on investment (ROI) of around $6.85 per dollar spent on influencer-related marketing, while a 2017 study predicted that the money spent on Instagram influencer campaigns could grow from $1.07billion in 2017 to $2.38billion in 2019.

An influencer marketing campaign on Instagram could consist of a single paid post on an influencer's account, but could also include a series of posts, Instagram Stories, written reviews and endorsements, videos, live video broadcasts, and the influencer taking control of the brand's official Instagram account to drive followers, interaction, or create a sense of identification with the influencer's audience.

What Instagram influencers get paid

The amount earned for posting a brand's paid post can vary greatly depending on a range of factors such as how many followers the influencer has, the amount of effort required, the brand's marketing budget, and how many other influencers are being hired to share similar content.

Instagram influencers can get paid anywhere from five dollars to $10,000 (sometimes even higher!) per campaign, and there really is no established industry standard as of yet. Many influencer agents and services will often have a recommended price range based on an account's follower number but again, this will vary and there is no set amount.

Becoming a paid Instagram influencer

For those with a solid following on their Instagram accounts, becoming an influencer can be surprisingly simple and a lot less intimidating than most would assume. Here are the three main methods most useful for getting started.

  1. Get an Agent: This is the higher-end option for influencer gigs and is mostly used by those with either a lot of followers or who are already a practicing professional model or artist. The agent will help their influencer client land the usual jobs in their chosen industry and will reach out to companies to inquire about potential social media advertising campaigns on their client's behalf.
  2. Negotiate Directly: If an Instagram account is showing high engagement in a niche topic (such as travel, beauty, gaming, etc.) companies will often reach out to the account owner directly with a proposal by email or direct message (DM) on Instagram. This is actually more common than most people think, so it's always a good idea to activate notifications for Instagram DMs so you don't miss out on an opportunity.
  3. Third-Party Apps and Services: By far the most popular way to get started as an Instagram influencer is to try one of the many free services that are designed to connect influencers to brands. These services usually take care of all of the payment processing and legalities, and they will offer tips and advice to new influencers who may be unsure how to negotiate details or even format a post correctly. One of the best services to check out is TRIBE, which is free to join and has quickly become one of the most popular ways for influencers and marketers to connect. TRIBE launched in Australia in late-2015 and is managed entirely through their iOS and Android apps. It updates almost daily its lists of promotional campaigns featuring a variety of products in different regions. Brands can provide direct feedback to users through the app and payments are made either through a bank transfer or PayPal. There are similar apps that offer the same service but TRIBE is one of the easiest to get started and to use.