When it comes to digital marketing, Instagram is at the top of the heap. With 800 million users as of September 2017, the visually-driven platform is a big moneymaker for brands who are savvy about social media marketing.
So how can you leverage that marketing power to make some money off your own Instagram account? Assuming that you’re just a regular individual who has built an engaged following, there are certainly ways to make an extra buck or two, or even support yourself, using your Instagram account. (See also: 5 Social Media Stars Who Earn Way More Than You)
1. Create sponsored posts
If you have a lifestyle or product-driven Instagram account, doing a few sponsored posts can provide a neat little side stream of income. Once your account has amassed a few thousand followers, you can start reaching out to brands (or they’ll reach out to you) about doing a paid post. How much you’ll be compensated varies greatly depending on the brand, how specialized your niche is, how engaged your followers are, and whether you’ll include other services, like writing a blog post or hosting a giveaway.
Be wary of fatiguing your followers with constant sponsored posts, however. The whole reason why Instagram marketing is so popular is because it seems more authentic and engaged with its audience than traditional forms of marketing. Too many sponsored posts could make you look like you’re just a brand mouthpiece.
2. Create content
With the growing importance of Instagram marketing, many brands are focusing more of their ad budget on creating content for social media channels, and often they hire freelancers for this rather than employ full-time staff. With this comes a whole new job category, the content creator — someone who is paid to create photos and written content for Instagram posts.
You don’t need to have a huge following to sell your services as a content creator, but you do need creative photos and captions. Many brands are finding that it is less expensive to hire a content creator than to hire a professional photography studio — the photos don’t need to be as detailed or as formal-looking, and can often be taken with natural light. You can also sell your Instagram photos through services like Snapwire, Foap, and Lobster Media. (See also: Earn Extra Income With Your Smartphone Camera)
For written content, instead of going through a marketing firm, some brands (especially smaller ones) are hiring freelance copywriters instead. What this means is that Instagram users with clever captions and descriptions are able to find work in content creation by using their Instagram accounts as an online portfolio.
3. Turn free products into paid work
Influencers, even small ones with just a few thousand followers, are often inundated with offers of free products in exchange for an Instagram post, a review, or a shoutout. While free products can be fun, they don’t pay the bills.
What you can do, however, is turn these offers of free product into paying gigs. For products that I’m interested in, I’ll often create an Instagram post using the free products. If the brand reacts favorably, I might email my contact at the brand offering freelance writing or photography services. Quite often, pitching brands for paid work turns into an opportunity to blog for them, create a set of product photos, or for long-term collaboration. (See also: How I Scored Tons of Free Stuff By Building a Small Social Media Audience)
4. Become a brand ambassador
Becoming a brand ambassador can set you up for steady income every month. Brand ambassador programs can vary greatly in compensation, from free products and an affiliate incentive, to monthly paid partnerships. Here, your status as an influencer will play a large role — the more engaged your followers are, the better a package you can negotiate. It’s always best to work with a brand you truly believe in, so that you are authentic to your followers when you promote it on a consistent basis.
5. Do brand consulting
Once you have amassed a good number of followers who respect your opinion, some brands recognize that you may have good feedback to give them on how they market their brand. They may be willing to pay for that feedback. I personally know a few bloggers/Instagrammers who have been paid to spend a few hours chatting with a company about their products and how they can improve their brand image. There’s also a whole category of Instagram consultants who help small or new accounts and brands polish their social media strategy and their Instagram feed.
6. Earn through affiliate networks
Earning money through an affiliate network means that every time someone makes a purchase based on your influence (by clicking an affiliate link with your unique code attached to it), you gain a commission. Affiliate sales can be a great way for influencers to earn income, but they tend to be more effective if you have a large following or if the product you’re marketing is super popular. Nevertheless, affiliate sales can be another way to diversify your income stream, and for some influencers they can be extremely lucrative.
Because personal accounts on Instagram allow only one live URL (the link in your profile bio), and do not allow direct linking through Instagram photos, affiliate marketing on Instagram is different from blogs or other forms of social media. Some influencers have turned to third-party apps like LIKEtoKNOW.it, which send subscribed users an email with links to buy the products when users click “like” on an influencer’s photo. You can also send users to your blog or another website where you have your affiliate links available.
7. Adhere to federal requirements
It’s important to remember that the Federal Trade Commission notes that all Instagram posts (even the temporary posts on Instagram Stories) should fully disclose if the creator received compensation in any form for the post. This applies to free products as well as to monetary compensation. On Instagram, you can use the hashtags #ad, #sponsored, or an explanation in the caption. If you’re going to be making money off your Instagram account, you must be upfront about it with your followers.
You must also be responsible for reporting your income and paying taxes on it, so you will want to factor that into your asking rates. Brands who pay you are reporting their expenses on their end, so you must also report them when you file your income taxes to avoid a potential penalty.
If you’ve spent time building a following on Instagram, why not make it work for you financially? You might be surprised at how our growing social media use has resulted in a growing industry where you could earn some extra money, or even start an unconventional new career.