Social Media Marketing: How to Earn Money on Instagram

Tom
Tom September 2022 Content Creator 13 min

Table of contents

Once upon a time, social media was just an online extension of our social lives. It was all about top friends, band lyrics you were obsessing over, and trying to decide if you should send a message to your high school crush a decade later. 

People still use the platforms for this sort of thing, but over the last ten years or so, the medium has developed a much more popular and exciting purpose: making bank. 

Instagram is one of the most powerful social media platforms in use today—its advertising revenue in the US has climbed from $6 billion US in 2018, to a projected $39.7 billion in 2023. These kinds of numbers leave a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and companies to make serious money off the platform. 

In this post on how to earn money on Instagram, we’re going to go over some of the ways for you as a creator or business to make money on Instagram. We’ll discuss the basics of who earns how much, what the major challenges are you’ll face, and some tips on ways to make money on Instagram. 

How to earn money on Instagram in a nutshell

  • Making money on Instagram is certainly possible, however it’s no guarantee
  • The amount you make on Instagram depends on many different factors (public profile, sponsorships, etc.) but the most consistent indicator is your number of followers
  • Choosing between a ‘creator’ account and a ‘business’ account will assist you in steering your venture in the right direction
  • Attracting followers and balancing your day job with your content creation or business are some of the major challenges to success
  • Running Instagram ads, securing sponsorships, creating merchandise, and promoting your posts are some of the most effective ways to make money with your account
  • You will likely have to register as a freelancer or business, the process for which will depend on your region

Can you make money from Instagram?

Of course you can. We could reel off a bunch of stats revealing Instagram’s highest earning creators and how that number just keeps going up, but you already know the truth. Even if you don’t use Instagram, you’ve no doubt heard of the ‘influencer’ craze and seen Instagram-famous content creators partying on remote islands to which they flew all their friends on a private jet. 

The more important question than whether you can, is whether or not you will. Being a social media influencer comes with a number of challenges all influencer hopefuls have to be willing to face. 

We’ll get into these below, but first let’s go over some of the figures on Instagram earnings. 

How much money can you make on Instagram?

Most Instagram creators keep their earnings private, so finding an average of earnings for creators is difficult. Often, influencers will use Instagram as a platform to promote their other channels. If you make a short film, post it on Instagram, it goes viral and you land a Netflix deal for a movie or series, how much of your earnings from that deal can you accredit to Instagram? Same for businesses who direct their followers away from their Instagram page to their personal website: do sales made on their website count as making money from Instagram if that’s where they initially hooked the customer? 

That said, the basic rule of earning on Instagram depends on how many followers you have. The more followers you have, the more likely big advertising companies are to pay you to host their ads and create content for them. 

The following figures are in USD and come from Thrive My Way

1000 to 10,000 followers

Also known as ‘micro-influencers’, creators with 1000 to 10,000 followers typically earn the following: 

  • $100 for every post, or Instagram story
  • $300 for every image, reel, story, or other package type
  • $10,000 per year

100,000 followers

Typically not the account of a famous person but one very successful on the platform nonetheless, creators with 100,000 followers earn:

  • $1,000 for every post, or Instagram story
  • $3,000 for every image, reel, story, or other package type
  • $300,000 per year

1 million followers

Usually an account owned by a traditional celebrity or extremely successful Instagram celebrity, earning a million followers can lead to earnings like: 

  • $10,000 for every post, or Instagram story
  • $30,000 for every image, reel, story, or other package type
  • $1,000,000 per year

Creators with followers beyond these numbers are making multi-millions. Put simply, being a successful influencer is a lucrative business. But how can you actually go about breaking into that business? 

Which Instagram account is right for you?

People who make money on Instagram can choose from two different account types: creator accounts and business accounts. The central tenets for earning with both of these accounts are the same: attract followers and land advertising, but there are crucial differences between the account types. Understanding them and how earning strategies may differ will help you make the right decision for your own venture. 

Creator account

Launched in 2019, creator accounts were designed to make it easier for content creators (influencers and users with a personal brand) to facilitate brand/creator relationships, build followings, and become notable opinion leaders on certain issues. 

With the Instagram creator account, you can:

  • Create posts for your collaborators and partnerships
  • View your analytics for insights into your audience and post performance
  • Sort messages you receive into different folders: general, primary, and requests
  • The option to switch your account to private

Creator accounts are ideal if you have a creative talent and you want to start showing it to people. Building an audience takes a long time, but the flexibility afforded here gives you many avenues through which to do that. 

Business account

If you have a clear monetisation strategy and an established business, a business account is likely the better choice. Where creators are building their personal brand and establishing connections, business account owners are building a customer base and creating a convenient way for customers to pay for their products and services.

With the Instagram business account, you can: 

  • Create an Instagram Shop and sell directly on the platform
  • Create buttons for users: contact customer service, book an appointment, and more
  • Schedule posts, e.g. for discount periods on products
  • Promote your posts in advertisements

Go with an Instagram business account if you’ve already done the groundwork setting up your business. These features are designed to accelerate an existing business. You should already have your products made or your services finished and ready to offer. 

How to earn money on Instagram: the challenges

Before we get into the specific ways to boost your earning potential on the platform, we have to talk about the hard part: getting started. The beginning of any entrepreneurial venture requires above all persistence and patience. Don’t look to overnight successes or viral sensations as paths to follow: take your time, build the right audience for you, and stay focused. 

Attracting followers

At the core of the influencer mission is to amass a following. For creators, this means bringing in people who are interested in the content you create and want to see more of it. For businesses, this means attracting people to your company ethos, becoming loyal to your brand, and developing a need for your products or services. 

  • Diversify your content. Incorporate Reels, posts, photos, and more to keep audiences engaged. In addition to this, bring a range of styles to the content you produce. Entertain, educate, and update. 
  • Cross promote your content. Bring your videos to TikTok and your shared articles or audience poll questions to your Twitter account. Instagram is a great all rounder for content, but you’ll benefit from using more channels for different types of content. 
  • Find brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors are influencers who believe in your brand and will be willing to promote it to their own followers. This is especially effective for ethically minded companies wanting to engage like-minded customers. 
  • Engage with trends and use hashtags. Hashtags are a crucial way to spread your brand to the right channels. Instead of using generic hashtags like #love or #art, find the ones that accurately represent your niche. Speak directly with your target audience. 

Keeping your day job

As we mentioned, Instagram success takes patience and perseverance. If you have to pay rent, bills, groceries, and all the other daily expenses, chances are you’re going to need a more stable income than an Instagram page or boutique business.

This means keeping your day job. If possible, reduce your hours so you can put more time into your online side hustle. Look at the tax situation in your region for freelancing with part-time hours and make sure it suits your situation. Budget carefully if you have to take a hit financially and, if you’re really committed and this is an option for you, move back in with your family while you get things off the ground. 

Otherwise, get ready to spend weekends and weeknights devoted to a project that may take time to pay off, if it ever does. Ultimately, like writing a novel, starting a band, or doing paintings, your Instagram business or profile is your passion project, and you should treat it as such. 

4 ways to earn money on Instagram

Now, let’s get into some of the more concrete ways to increase your chances of financial stability as an Instagram business or creator. Each of the below methods and features is partly dependent on a mixture of timing and luck, but these methods have been shown to help others. 

Run Instagram ads

Did you know instagram ads have the potential to reach 1.2 billion people? Running paid ads on Instagram costs money, but the potential for payoff is huge. 

Paid ads look the same as normal posts, but show a ‘sponsored’ label on the post to let audiences know why it is appearing in their feed. With sponsored posts, you can add links, a CTA, and product catalogue. They are more engaging to users and more focused on conversion than an average post. 

The cost of paying for adds on Instagram depends on a few things: 

  • Who you are targeting
  • How competitive your industry is
  • What time of year it is
  • Where you place the ad

When you’ve figured out your budget for advertising, it’s time to pick the kind of ad you want to use. Each type of Instagram ad best serves different content and businesses, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with the types and pick the one that’s right for you. 

The six major types of Instagram ads are:

  • Photo ads: photos are the platform’s most native form of content. These ads include a photo, caption, and CTA. You also have the option to include a ‘view profile’ button which will take users directly to your page.
  • Video ads: ever growing in popularity, video content may overtake photo content on Instagram someday. Video ads include the same as photo ads, but with a video instead. 
  • Collection and shopping ads: most useful for business accounts, these ads resemble photo ads with one crucial difference. There’s a little shopping bag in the bottom left corner which, once clicked, will show the user all the items in the particular collection being advertised. 
  • Explore ads: these ads show up in the ‘explore’ section of the Instagram platform. To post an explore ad, indicate in Ads Manager that you want it to show up there. These ads show up only after a user has clicked on something they find interesting, meaning you are directing an interested audience to your ad. 
  • Carousel ads: essentially multi image posts, carousel ads let you show off multiple angles of your product. This works great for products with multiple features, sizes, or options.
  • Story ads: like explore ads, story ads don’t show up in your traditional Instagram feed. They instead show up users’ stories. There are two types of story ads: Traditional, which feature text and video or image and tell a story, and Canvas, which cost more and provide a more immersive experience for the viewer. 

Secure sponsorship

Getting sponsored might sound like a privilege reserved for Instagram’s most-followed few, but fortunately this isn’t the case. Even micro influencers just getting started can secure sponsorships—and see a huge boost in their revenue because of it. 

Here are some of the best ways to secure sponsorship:

  • Establish your brand. Sponsors want to work with creators and businesses who specialise in the same area they do. They want to reach an audience together and hook them in with their unique offerings and content. The more specificity you have in your approach, the more likely you are to attract sponsors. 
  • Stay consistent. Post on schedule, promise content at a certain time and deliver, have regular sales and customer engagement events—whatever you do, keep it regular. Consistency suggests reliability and sponsors will only get involved with who they perceive to be a reliable partner. 
  • Tag the smaller brands. If you’re posting content about movies and you only tag Disney and Netflix in your posts, chances are no one’s going to take any notice. However, when you start tagging small movie studios and independent filmmakers, you might see some attention coming back. Perhaps, if your reach is growing, these companies will see value in sponsoring your posts.  

Sell merchandise

For businesses selling products, this is a given. But more and more content creators are finding ways to sell merchandise and it’s working well. 

Youtubers often create a lore through their content, sometimes a long-running narrative or universe, which rewards viewers with payoffs only loyal viewers would catch. These are the viewers who will buy merchandise if you offer it. Take Youtuber Patrick H Willems, whose googly-eyed plush doll Charl started out as a joke on his Youtube channel and ended up selling out its first run of merchandise. 

Merchandise requires building an audience first and listening to your audience. Read the comments on your posts and see what people want, because they’ll let you know. 

Promote your content

In addition to crafting good content and posting consistently, actively promoting your content will help expand your reach to channels and audiences you might not have anticipated. These are some of the top ways to further promote your posts and content: 

  • Tagging relevant companies and creators
  • Using trending hashtags
  • Having a clear visual style in every post
  • Run contests and giveaways
  • Engage your audience (polls, questionnaires, feedback requests, etc.)
  • Paid campaigns

Will I have to register as a Business?

How you need to legally register yourself or your company as an Instagram content creator or business will depend on your region. Most likely, you will be registering as a freelancer or company, because you are earning just like any other.

Check the requirements and processes in your particular region. Below, we have included links to our content on registering as a freelancer or business in Germany: 

Conclusion: how to earn money on Instagram

There’s a lot of money to be made on Instagram. With huge and climbing advertising revenue, the platform has sent creators and businesses running like prospectors to the gold rush. Always remember however that only fools rush in. Establish your niche and your brand, build your audience, keep your day job and, above all, be persistent and patient.

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