How to Make Money on Instagram 4 Ways (Tips for 2021)
Want to know how to make money on Instagram? There are more ways than one.
Creators go where the money flows. And with money flowing in abundance from competitors’ creator funds, Instagram is doing its part to add new revenue streams to the platform.
With an increasing number of creators shifting from sponsored content to audience monetization, Instagram’s diversified approach may just make sense and dollars.
Right now, there are four primary ways to make money on Instagram:
- Work as an influencer to post content sponsored by brands
- Be an affiliate marketer selling other people’s products
- Earn money for your content through tips and ads
- Become an entrepreneur and sell your own products
Learn about new monetization tools, get inspired by creator examples, and find tips that apply to all four tracks.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
Yes. In fact, helping creators make a living on the platform is a top priority for Instagram, especially as competition heats up from TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube.
“Our goal is to be the best platform for creators like you to make a living,” said Facebook and Instagram’s top boss Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s first-ever Creator Week in June 2021.
Sponsored content and affiliated marketing remain the top ways for creators to earn on the platform. Now Instagram is kicking efforts into high gear on the direct monetization front, where the company lags behind competitors.
Introduced in 2020, Live Badges allow followers to support creators during broadcasts by purchasing hearts, which range from $.99 to $4.99.
Creators in select markets can also earn revenue share from IGTV ads.
During Creator Week, the company unveiled a native affiliate tool, new creator shop options, and bonuses for hitting milestones with badges and Live sessions. Instagram head Adam Mosseri also teased subscriptions, gated content, merch initiatives, and even NFTs. Tests on an incentive that would give creators bonuses for posting Reels are also currently underway.
Creator funds are not off the table, either. But it’s unlikely that Instagram will hand out cash as freely as YouTube (which plans to dole out $100 million over the next year to Shorts creators) or come anywhere near Snapchat’s payout rate of $1 million per day.
As far as rate standardization goes, the creator economy remains as unwieldy as the wild, wild west. How much money you can make on Instagram depends on your credentials, audience size, engagement, strategy, hustle, and a dash of dumb luck.
Here’s how much some creators and celebs have reportedly cashed in:
- $250-$300: The average amount micro-influencers earn on a sponsored post according to the CEO of influencer marketing platform Heartbeat in a Business Insider interview.
- $300: The amount a micro-influencer with 13K followers, reportedly collects on sponsored Reels.
- $750 to $1,000: The amount “plant influencer” Nick Cutsumpas (@farmernicknyc, 63K+ followers) charges per sponsored post (up to three slides). For IGTV videos between two and three minutes, he charges $1,500.
- $8,500: The amount “robot influencer” Lil Miquela (@lilmiquela, 2.5 million followers) reportedly earns per sponsored post.
- $102,000: @goldenretriever’s projected annual earnings on Instagram in 2020 with 1.9 million follows.
- $275,000: The amount Kendall Jenner was paid in 2017 for a single Instagram post to promote the Fyre Festival. She later paid a $90,000 settlement for misleading and not meeting ad regulations.
- $1,015,000: The amount The Rock reportedly earned for a single sponsored post in 2020.
Instagram is creating a marketplace to help brands and creators find each other. In the meantime, eligible creators can continue to use monetization tools in Brand Collabs Manager, work with an influencer agency, or reach out to relevant brands.
Brand Collabs Manager is available to Instagram creators in the U.S. who have:
- Active Business or Creator accounts
- 10,000+ followers
- 100+ hours of watch time on original videos or 1,000 combined engagement (likes and comments) in the last 60 days
- No history of content violations
Look for brands that align with your interests, values, and shopping history.
“Figure out how to include the brand in a video you’re already planning,” recommends @chazsmith on the Instagram website. Brand partnerships are always more effective when they’re genuine.
A growing number of brands like Sephora, Lululemon, and Savage X Fenty also actively recruit rising influencers to ambassador programs. Do your research. If you think you’d be a good fit with a brand, it may be worthwhile to apply, especially if it leads to a long-term partnership.
Looking to nab your first deal? Learn how Aysha Harun, Achieng Agutu, and Nya-Gabriella Peets have found success with branded content in this Instagram Live:
Affiliate marketing allows influencers to earn commission from the sales they inspire.
How does it work? Traceable links and promo codes shared in posts, Stories, or Instagram bios let brands track influencer referrals. Commission can range from 10-20%, depending on whether the partnership involves a pay-per-click or cost-per-acquisition model.
Influencers interested in affiliate marketing can join affiliate networks such as CJ Affiliate, Pepperjam, ShareASale, or Rakuten. Brands such as Glossier, Mejuri, and Rent the Runway run their own affiliate programs.
This year, Instagram will start testing a native affiliate tool with creators in the United States and a group of brands that includes Benefit, Kopari, MAC, Pat McGrath Labs, and Sephora. This tool will allow creators to find, share, and earn commissions on products available on Instagram Checkout.
Creators that have built an audience with content that delivers entertainment or information value have an increasing number of ways to earn money on Instagram.
Options like gated content, subscriptions, and even an NFT marketplace may soon be available on the app. For now, here are the primary ways to collect on your Instagram content.
In May 2020, Instagram began sharing revenue on 15-second ads played on their IGTV videos. This approach takes a page out of YouTube’s playbook, where rev share created the pro video star.
For creators that publish long-form video content, this could become a notable income stream.
Instagram Live Badges
Creators that broadcast Instagram Live videos can earn “tips” from viewers in the form of heart badges. When a user purchases a badge, a heart icon appears next to their name in the live chat. Badges cost between $.99 and $4.99, with a cap of 250 USD per viewer per session.
In addition to badges, Instagram is starting to reward creators for hitting specific Instagram Live milestones, including live streaks and teaming up with different accounts. Similar perks may soon be available to Reels creators as well.
Link in bio
Tipping via platforms like Buy Me a Coffee, Ko-fi, and Patreon has become fairly common practice on Instagram. If you think your followers would be willing to support your work, direct them to a relevant link in your bio or Instagram Stories.
From photo filters to merch and runway-ready product lines, many creators do double duty on Instagram as entrepreneurs.
In the past, those looking to sell their products or services on the app could either go the link-in-bio route or open a separate business account for their brand. Fisayo Longe took the latter route when she launched KAI collective in 2016 after finding success as a digital creator.
Soon creators will be able to open Instagram Shops from their personal creator accounts as well and have access to product launch tools among other features. Instagram plans to make Creator Shops available to eligible U.S. creators by the end of the year.
Whatever your place in the creator economy, these tips will help you earn money and keep your customers and audiences happy.
From goth vegan influencers to senior citizen fashion experts, Instagram is where people with multi-hyphenate interests can find their community.
Define your angle. Share the lens you look at life through, whether it’s shaped by your passions, interests, ethics, experiences, occupation, or all of the above.
“Branded content is the economic engine behind the creator ecosystem in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t work unless it really feels right,” said Instagram’s head Mosseri in a recent Instagram Live session with Zuckerberg.
“The best piece of advice I have for creators is to genuinely love the content you’re putting out there, your audience will feel that,” says Jojo Siwa (@itsjojosiwa), a Nickelodeon and social media star who’s parlayed her success into deals with Target, Walmart, and more.
Negotiating with big brands and agencies may seem intimidating. But it’s important to stand up for fair rates to keep your career viable and stave off burnout.
“When it comes to negotiating rates for branded content, make sure you know your worth,” recommends Meeka Hossain (@catchmeeksifyoucan) in a post on Instagram’s Creators account. “Familiarize yourself with what the brand is asking for with regards to exclusivity, deliverables, and usage.”
Check accounts like @influencerpaygap to compare rates and packages. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and say no if something doesn’t seem right.
Follow ad regulations. Sponsored content that flouts regulations risks being removed or fined. But it also jeopardizes how much trust your audience will put into your recommendations.
On the flip side, including advertising disclosures actually builds credibility. A study published in Australasian Marketing Journal in 2020 finds that influencers who explicitly state their brand partnerships look more enthusiastic about brands than those who don’t.
Make sure you use Instagram’s Branded Content Tools and stay within the app’s advertising guidelines. Learn more about both here.
Customers have high expectations for brands on social media. For influencers, the personal nature of the relationship adds another dimension.
Try to return the engagement your audience and followers give to you. Respond to questions and comments efficiently. Give shoutouts in Instagram Live sessions.
When necessary, set boundaries with comment filters and controls, taking time off, or communicating directly with your audience.
This rule applies to clients as well. As an influencer, missing deadlines and ignoring contracts is the fastest way to burn bridges. (Besides, say, demanding free stuff from other businesses.) Aim to build your community by cultivating long-term relationships and partnerships.
Create a blog or YouTube channel to expand your content marketing to provide the information that prospective buyers want as they make their buying decisions.
Likewise, using other social media platforms will widen your reach. And email newsletters mean you aren’t at the mercy of the Instagram algorithm when notifying your audience about new content.
Second-grade teacher Peter Limata shares and promotes his read-a-longs on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Use social media monitoring (and listening) to stay on top of the conversation in your field, and among your competitors.
Set up Instagram-specific search streams in Hootsuite to watch what’s happening on the platform. Then set alerts using Hootsuite Insights to monitor what your competitors are up to everywhere else. What techniques are they using to make money on Instagram?
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your own Instagram stats either. Track what’s working with your audience and what’s not and find your sweet spot.
With files from Paige Cooper.
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