How to Make Money on Instagram?

By now, you’ve no doubt heard about social media influencers or even know one yourself.

Their ‘craft’ has become synonymous with independence, success and making a living from what other people view as hobbies.

And the platform that favors the emergence of this new career path is Instagram.

You’re probably wondering how did influencers manage to turn a photo sharing platform into a veritable eCommerce platform, and how can they simply make a living off their success on Instagram?

Well, I’m no social media influencer myself, but I know enough about online marketing and social media marketing to unravel the mechanism that allows social media influencers to make money on Instagram.

In this article, I discuss the ways you too can cash in on Instagram account.

What’s the Secret to Instagram Success?

The two key ingredients to the success of popular Instagrammers are an engaged follower base and influence.

You can achieve the former by leaning into a niche that people show interest towards like food, fashion, beauty, travelling and fitness. These are usually among the hot topics that are trending on Instagram.

Having influence on people is a tougher nut to crack, because it’s something that stems from your personality.

If you’re passionate about what you do, if you’re someone that people aspire to become (e.g. motivated, fit), if you’re a good communicator, if you’re open and likeable, it’s much easier to brand yourself, become popular and exert influence over others.

Social media influencers are also trendsetters who are innovative and whose opinions are trusted. This is actually one of the reasons why companies are willing to work with them.

Another ingredient that’s probably just as important as the first two, is to know how to monetize your popularity, that is, to know which revenue channels to explore.

But before you can think about the ways to monetize your Instagram profile, you’ll first need followers. How many? Well, not quite as many as you might think.

How Many Instagram Followers Do You Need?

When I mapped out the ingredients to Instagram success, I wrote engaged follower base and not a large follower base.

Still, technically, the more followers you have the better, but engagement matters just as much.

Having lots of followers that are not engaged with your posts (“fake followers”), won’t be enough for you to monetize your Instagram profile.

Even 1000 followers that are active and engaged with your account can help you earn money.

Therefore, I recommend focusing on having genuine followers that are truly interested in the topics you post about.

Yes, but how do you measure follower engagement?

If you have a business account on Instagram, you get access to various metrics that can help you get an idea of your follower’s engagement with your content.

Companies that want to work with influencers usually use engagement rate calculators to compare ER across different Instagram accounts.

These tools usually look at the number of likes, comments, number of followers, follower growth, and so on.

If you’re still a micro-influencer, that is, you have a small follower base, it’s important to stay engaged with your audience. That means taking the time to reply to questions and comments.

Of course, as your follower base grows, you won’t be able to reply to everyone, but when you’re starting out, it’s a good way to establish a closer relationship with your followers.

How to Make Money on Instagram?

Instagrammers usually make money through one or all of the following ways:

  • Partnering with brands (sponsored content);
  • Becoming an affiliate;
  • Selling their own products and services;
  • Selling their photography.

Of all these, sponsored content and affiliate marketing are probably the most popular streams of revenue, but depending on your niche, the other methods can work just as well.

Nothing limits you to just one monetization tactic, so you can use them all at once.

Let’s see what each of these methods entail:

Making Sponsored Posts

Social media influencers have figured out the things so many companies struggle to achieve: reach and trust.

With millions of followers, Instagram celebrities like the Kardashians are also courted by companies, but celebrities prefer advertising their own brands or small companies don’t have the budget to pay what these celebrities may charge.

For this reason, brands will choose the next best thing to Instagram celebrities and partner with social media influencers to get the word out about their products through sponsored posts.

You may be wary about this strategy thinking that your followers may see through the tactic, but there’s no reason why you can’t be transparent about sponsorship deals by simply adding a #sponsored hashtag to your post.

Some brands may even require you to disclose your relationship with them for which Instagram has a dedicated ‘Paid Partnership with’ tag.

Another aspect to be careful about is to not promote brands that you cannot get behind, because of the potential backlash that you may experience as a consequence of promoting a bad brand.

You need to showcase integrity and be selective about the brands you decide to work with. This will further increase the trust you nurture with your followers.

How to Reach out to Brands?

When you’ve reached peak popularity, brands who want to work with you will reach out to you. Until then, you will have to reach out to brands yourself, which isn’t bad news at all.

By reaching out to brands you like and actually use in your everyday life, your audience won’t feel that you’re selling out and you can be much more genuine about promoting these brands.

Having an Instagram profile focused on trending topics, can significantly increase your chances of collaborating with companies. Here are some Instagram profile topics that are popular:


If your account is about travelling, you could reach out to hotels, restaurants, resorts, etc.

Some hotels and restaurants are open to work with influencers, others not so much.

A hotel in Dublin publicly shamed 22-year-old influencer Elle Darby for requesting a free stay at their hotel.

This, however, did not put a dent in the number of Elle’s followers, but if you want to avoid situations like these, it’s best to ask first whether the company you want to approach is open to partnering with influencers.

Fashion & Beauty

Fashion and beauty are other popular Instagram topics and brands in these categories are abundant. You can contact clothing brands and cosmetics companies to feature their products in your posts.

Fitness & Health

Even if your profile is about fitness, there are plenty of opportunities for sponsored content. From gyms to workout gear and supplements, opportunities for sponsored content are available.

Food & Cooking

Food is always a popular topic to delve into. With an Instagram account dedicated to food or cooking, you could seek out sponsorship opportunities with restaurants, kitchenware equipment manufacturers, bakeries, etc.

Always be respectful when addressing companies and brands that you want to collaborate with and make sure your requests are not over the top, especially if you don’t have the follower base to back your requests.

Listing yourself on influencer marketplaces can also increase your chances of brands finding you. Influencer marketplaces popular with influencers include Grapevine, Shoutcart, Fohr Card, indaHash, and CrowdTap.

Of these, Shoutcart has no lower limit on how large your follower base should be. indaShash sets a 700 follower eligibility requirement, while Grapevine requests that you have at least 5000 followers.

Fohr Card allows you to create an influencer card by connecting all your social media profiles including your blog and YouTube channel and showcases your reach to brands, all the while allowing you to contact brands yourself.

List yourself on these platforms and see if any brands contact you to work out a deal with them.

Working out a Deal

The next step after you’ve been pitched by a brand is to work out a deal with them. This usually involves the creation of some kind of Instagram content (story, video, or post), which can be used by the brand to promote their product or service.

You can be contracted for a single post or an entire campaign for which you’ll receive remuneration or a free service or gift.

Depending on your follower base and length of exposure, brands may be willing to pay anywhere between $200 to $400 per post.

Because you’re giving these brands access to your audience, it’s important to know what your audience may be interested in based on their engagement level so far.

You can get some insight into various metrics in your Instagram Analytics report, which is available with business accounts.

Becoming an Affiliate

If you’ve ever owned a blog, you’ve probably tried to monetize it at some point and even tried your hand at affiliate marketing.

On Instagram, affiliate marketing works the same way, and as an influencer part of your job is to drive sales for the partner brand.

After each customer that makes a purchase by using the promo code or affiliate link provided in your post, you’ll receive a commission.

To take advantage of this revenue stream, enroll in affiliate programs run by your favorite brands or by Amazon.

Alternatively, you can check out other marketplaces like Clickbank or RewardStyle.

Keep affiliate links short and tidy with and if you want to seriously get into affiliate marketing, expand your online presence to include a blog or personal website as well.

Selling Your Own Products

You’re not keen on popularizing other people’s brands? How about coming up with your own line of products?

It’s not uncommon for Instagram celebrities to come up with their own products or services.

Whether it’s a clothing line, a perfume, or a cosmetics line, you can easily jump-start an online store dedicated to your own products.

And because you already have a loyal fanbase, they’ll be sure to check out your products or services.

You don’t have to be a techie to pull off the launching of an online shop, because ecommerce platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce can set you up with an e-store in minutes.

Shopify even has a Shopping on Instagram feature that allows you to place product tags on your images for a seamless shopping experience. This feature is available with the business account and requires a Facebook page and shop.

If you’re a designer, you could create a print-on-demand service and sell your designs printed on t-shirts, mugs, posters, etc.

And who says you can’t sell digital products or services as well? If you have design templates or an eBook, you can sell those too.

If you’re a consultant or you’re a photographer, you can link your website in the bio section of your Instagram profile.

Selling Photography or Designs

Since Instagram is, after all, a photo sharing platform, why not take advantage of this and license your photos or offer them as printables on mugs, t-shirts, or posters?

You can upload your photos for licensing on 500px or Depositphotos, and if you’re interested in print designs, Cafepress, Zazzle or Printful can help you get your work on different merchandise.

These platforms take care of inventory, customer service and fulfilling orders. Your only task is to list your photos or designs.

The Takeaway?

Making money on Instagram is not as difficult after you’ve managed to amass a sizeable follower base. It’s getting to this point that is more difficult, frankly.

I, for one, would probably shy away from the attention, but as the saying goes, luck favors the ones who dare, which in this case means putting yourself out there and connecting with people in creative ways.

So, if this is something that comes naturally to you and you’re a good communicator, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try to make money by becoming a social media influencer.

Find a niche that’s close to your interests, build your audience, and try out the Instagram monetization tips discussed in this article to start making money.

In the hopes that my article has given you the push you needed to take on this challenge, I wish you all the best!

Updated on: March 2, 2019