The Truth About Making Money on Instagram

Take photos, create posts, get paid – it sounds like a dream, right? In life, we’re told that if something appears too good to be true, then it probably is; but is that the case with Instagram, or is it possible to make real money using the platform?

The answer is yes, Instagram can make you money, but there are several caveats to this statement. Your ability to get compensation for your posts will depend on your power as a social media influencer (starting with how many followers you have), as well as the brand itself and the scope of the advertising project. Some brands will pay you in free products, while others will pay you real money for your time, and projects could be long-term or short-term in nature.

Want to become an Instagram promoter and get paid for the privilege? Here’s everything you need to know about making money on the world’s seventh-ranked social media site.

There is Money to Be Earned

It’s easy to believe that you’ll never make a living by promoting products on Instagram, but there is real money to be made in social media promotion. Consider that the app has over 800 million monthly active users, and you’ll see why companies across all industries spend between $1 billion and $1.5 billion per year on sponsoring Instagram content. While some brands only pay influencers between $5 and $10 per 1,000 followers, others will pay as much as $100 per 100 followers for a promotional post, so it’s easy to see how social media stars can afford their luxury lives.

It’s Not Easy

The bad news is, it’s not easy to make money on Instagram. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it. Before you can hope to create a single sponsored post, you need to work on your profile and start to accrue a following. Although it sounds easy to post a few beautiful photos and rack up some regular subscribers, the reality is that becoming popular on Instagram is a painstaking process. Above all else, there is a lot of competition, and so much relies on the quality of your post and the way you tap into the platform. However, if you’re both creative and a little tech-savvy, then it could very well work for you.

You Need a Niche

So, how do you start to grow your following and make money on Instagram? First, you need to think about the style, tone and subject matter of your account. While there are plenty of social media influencers that blog and post in the lifestyle niche, you might want to be more specific – perhaps you’ll post about fashion, food or parenting, for example. You don’t have to stick religiously to posting this type of content, but it helps to belong to a niche if you want to tap into a specific audience. Once you’ve found your niche, you can research other likeminded influencers for inspiration. Then, it’s time to build your feed.

Your Feed Is Your Resume

Instagram is a huge platform, and once you know what you’re doing it is possible to make an income from your posts. That said, if you’re serious about making money on Instagram, then you should view Instagram as your job, and your feed as your resume. It can be a part-time job, of course (don’t expect to be able to give up your day job and become a full-time Instagrammer – that takes time), but you do need to dedicate some time to the platform every single day.

A thriving Instagram presence is one that’s consistent and tasteful, with compelling captions and images that users will stop to look at. You don’t necessarily need a digital camera to take photos – lots of Instagram influencers use their smartphones – but you do need to snap good quality pictures in natural light and stick to a basic theme. The bigger your Instagram portfolio, the better, though you need to be careful about how often you post.

Choose Quality Over Quantity

Decide early on how often you’re going to post and stick to your schedule. Generally speaking, there are two types of Instagram user: one that posts exceptionally high-quality content once a week, and one that posts good quality content once a day. Decide which one you’re going to be, and commit.

You also need to strike a balance between posting too little and posting too much. If you don’t post regularly enough then your followers will soon forget about you – they may even unfollow you to free up space for more consistent Instagrammers. That said, if you inundate their feeds with too many pictures, then they will quickly become irritated and stop following you anyway. Less is more, and 1-2 posts per day should be more than enough to appease your following.

Instagram Content Affects SEO

Bear in mind that the content of your posts (i.e., the keywords you use and any links you provide to other Instagram accounts) will affect your ranking on search engines, which is incredibly important when you’re trying to build your Instagram brand. If you’re not sure how to make SEO work for you, you can book a consultation with this reputation management agency to boost your online presence.

It’s All About the Hashtags

Unless you’re a social media novice, chances are you’ve used a hashtag or two in your time, but do you know what they’re used for? Tags are for boosting engagement with your posts, so if you want to build a following then you need to know how to use them. Every post you create should be accompanied by a short message or caption and a few hashtags – you can post these in the comments section after you’ve published your post if you don’t want them to be visible in the caption; some people find hashtags annoying, but this is your call.

Hashtags help Instagram to organize and categorize content so users can find it easily. For example, if you’re posting a photo of your plant-based lunch, you might tag #plantbased or #cleaneating your photo gets cataloged with other posts of this nature.

It’s Complicated

However, getting people to engage with your posts isn’t as simple as creating beautiful content and sticking a few hashtags on end. Building a following is about using the right hashtags, so your work remains visible among the millions of other posts. When you’re just starting out, you should aim to use hashtags with fewer search results, so yours has a chance of being seen.

For instance, #cleaneating features in 36,821,699 posts right now, so your food-related photo (however stunning) will get among a sea of others if you use this hashtag alone. #cleanlunchideas only has 547 posts, so there won’t be many people looking at these photos, and you won’t gain much of an audience. The key is to find something in between. For example, #cleanlunch has 20,000 posts, so you have a chance of featuring high up in that catalog.

You can use your search bar to find hashtags that are relevant to your posts. Once people start to engage with your posts by liking and commenting, you move higher up the search rankings. It may sound confusing, but once you get practicing, it will become second nature. For more information about Instagram hashtags, see this handy guide.

You Need Followers to Make Money

The number of followers required to create a promotional post differs between brands, but you should aim to have at least 5,000 followers before you start reaching out to companies. Bear in mind that will probably have to do a few unpaid shout-outs or ads in the beginning, but you will still get to enjoy free products.

The more established you become on the platform, the less you will need to reach out to brands yourself, and the more companies will contact you. Plus, once you’ve gathered a large following, you can start to charge more for your promotional posts. In case you need some more inspiration, fashion blogger Danielle Bernstein @weworewhat, who which has 1.1 million followers, charges anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000 for a single branded Instagram post.

You Need to Reach Out to Brands

Once you’ve established a following and created your Instagram portfolio, it’s time to start reaching out to brands. Before you approach anyone for paid promotion, it’s a good idea to have some unpaid brand ambassador work under your belt, as well as a press kit. Your press kit (which can be a page on your website or a downloadable PDF) should include information about your target demographic (the age, sex and average income of your followers), the number of subscribers you have on Instagram and any other active social media accounts. Ideally, you should also include data from any previous promotional campaigns you’ve worked on.


As you can see, it’s entirely possible to earn life-changing money from Instagram, but building a profile and engaging your followers takes a lot of work and commitment. The upside is that you don’t have to invest money in this venture, and you can upload photos wherever you are in the world. Becoming a social media influencer is hard work, just like anything else pursuing, but both the creative and monetary rewards can be incredibly fruitful.

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