The Ultimate Guide for Making Money Off Instagram in 2021
I’m glad that you landed on this article.
This is probably going to be the most comprehensive article on how to make money on Instagram you’ve seen before.
After working with over 3000 accounts on Instagram and growing my own account @gettinggrowth to nearly 40k followers, I can say that earning money from Instagram is definitely on the most popular questions I get.
In this article I’ve listed all my best strategies and ideas to monetizing your Instagram account.
Some of the stuff I share here I haven’t even shared in my masterclasses (worth $1000+ combined). So make sure you stick till the end.
Get a drink, put your phone on “do not disturb” mode and let’s go.
If you’re more a video person or are on the go and can’t be bothered to read this long-ass article (I know.. uhh), then here’s a video that covers most of the strategies briefly.
You can’t start making money on Instagram without nailing your basics first.
Don’t expect to make money by just creating an account and posting photos. Make sure you fulfill these requirements first and you’re on your way to monetizing your Instagram.
Now, depends on what is the aim of your account and business. As an individual with a lot of followers, you’re attractive advertising real estate (you’re an influencer).
The only reason brands and businesses will give their money to you is because of your influence, engaged following and relationship with other influencers. I’ve written about becoming Instagram famous extensively here on my blog. If you haven’t already – give that article a read as well.
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to get to work.
I’ve also written an article on HopperHQ on how to take your account to the next level – at least 10,000 to 20,000 followers. This gives you the reach and influence you’ll need to start monetizing your account.
As a business (not individual) your aim is slightly different. You don’t see your content as a real estate for other advertisers to rent. Your aim should be to attract as much eyeballs to your content as possible.
Naturally, a lot of people don’t necessarily want to follow brands to get their promotions and offers (we get that via sponsored posts already).
Your play here, as a business, should be to create content that is so interesting it outshines the posts of your audience friends and family make.
Once you have done that, it’s just a matter of being consistent and providing great value with your content. Think about motivational posts how your product has helped over 1,000 people already. Or maybe funny stories how your product changed somebody’s life.
Go beyond making posts about your products and its features.
Still with me?
Work on your engagement
It doesn’t matter if you’re a business or an individual.
The power of influence comes from having an engaged following. You can’t make people care about something without them caring about you first. If your audience is cold to your updates and posts, you’ll find it harder to monetize your account and build value.
You’ve probably been told that numbers are important and that you need to have six to seven digit followers to make a dent.
Studies have actually shown otherwise. Recently, brands/businesses are starting to see value in micro-influencers because of their engagement levels.
Same is true for businesses.
Ask yourself: is it better to have 1,000 highly active followers that you have real relationships with or 10,000 followers who don’t remember why and how they followed you in the first place.
Start judging your performance on how well people engage with you. A healthy engagement rate is to get an average of at least 1% to 3.5% of your audience to see your post. In my experience 3.5% is a bit low and I would suggest to try getting it to 5%-10% if your follower count is around 10,000 and 1%-5% when you get over 100,000 followers.
Here’s one caveat though – there are certain exceptions. Service businesses and Instagrammers who sell their time don’t necessarily need a large reach/influence to generate money. For instance, let’s say you’re a video editing guru who offers his services and uses IG as a way to promote your work.
Take Instagram as a platform to showcase your skills and networking opportunity to score clients. You can begin by posting your work, commenting and messaging potential clients.
We’ll discuss this later in detail in the upcoming sections.
- Write a compelling bio. Give people a reason to follow you. Suggest them to follow you and/or DM you to increase the rate of following.
- Work on your posts. Remember, quality > quantity. The best IG feeds usually tell a story and you can relate with the account owner.
- Work on your engagement. If it’s currently low, start going through all your followers one by one over DM asking more information about them and where they heard about you. You’d be surprised what happens the next time you post something.
Across all the different strategies that we’ll be talking about here, this offers one of the best returns on investment.
More than 30% of people have used Instagram to purchase products online in the last year. At the same time, at least 75% of Instagram users take action after being exposed to an Instagram ad.
As a marketer myself, these numbers get me excited. ?
While Instagram offers a huge market, it also requires the most investment in time and effort. To build and grow your business through Instagram is quite a challenge to begin with.
Since you already got a business up and running it will be significantly easier for you to leverage Instagram for your business than starting from scratch.
Some of the pros to grow your business on Instagram:
- Instagram has a more engaged audience than the other platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc. There is a 63% decrease in organic marketing reach on Facebook while on Instagram its growing by 115%.
- Ads aren’t as invasive and customers love interacting with their beloved brands. Businesses can make more potential sales in this platform as more than 65% of Instagram users engage with brands regularly.
- You can interact with customers in real time. After posting your products for sale, you can expect to see people comment or inquire about it after a few hours.
While there are huge benefits to expanding your business on Instagram, there are some things you need to watch out.
Here are some cons/disadvantages that you should be familiar with:
- You still can’t set up clickable feed posts. Luckily there are other ways you can approach this. For example, putting a link to your bio. If you have multiple offers running use a service like Linktr.ee. Also if you have over 10,000 followers you can add the swipe up feature to your stories. And of course you’ll always have the opportunity to add a link to your post when promoting it.
- It’s not as efficient to manage without using a social media management tool. While you can build your business using just a mobile phone, it’s just not suitable if you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of customers.
- Instagram takes time. This is true to other social media channels as well, but to really get the most out of Instagram you need to get personal with your audience. If there isn’t anybody at your business already doing this then consider hiring.
Now that you know the pros and cons, let’s get ahead on the business!
Leverage Existing Customers
So since you have a business up and running you probably have some sort of database of your customers.
It can be a CRM, your e-mail provider or simply an excel spreadsheet. It doesn’t matter. Put together a message for them and let them know that you started an Instagram account.
It’s also useful to mention what you’re going to post there and how often. Before you send that message you can choose between two strategies:
- Account launch teaser
- Already established account with great valuable content
It’s up to you to decide if you want to build up the anticipation by getting followers first and then make your first post or fill up your account with content and then start marketing it.
Since you already have a business and customers ready, I would choose the first option and get your most loyal fans and customers lined up for the first post/offer you’re going to create.
If you have no idea what to post, here are 33 Instagram story ideas. These are definitely applicable for regular feed posts as well.
Don’t stop there.
If you can export your existing customer data from your CRM, head over to Facebook Business Manager. Create an account, an ad account and link your Instagram account to it.
Don’t worry, it’s a fairly simple process.
Once you have that, navigate to Ad account > Audiences and create a custom audience.
For source select customer file and upload your customer e-mails to Facebook. When this happens you’re able to show ads (promotions) to that exact group of people (provided that they’ve set up a Facebook/Instagram account with the same e-mail address as well).
Depending on how big is customer list is, you can even make different audiences of customers that have spent a lot of money at your store and regular clients to offer them different types of promotions.
Now, why is this good?
Since your Instagram account is brand new, you need to reach out to people and suggest them to follow you. Currently there’s no way to run ad campaigns directly to gain new followers however you can write that in the ad copy and drive profile views, which very likely will convert into followers.
I would start there instead of simply posting content and hoping for the best.
Remember, running ads to customers that already know and trust you are more likely to convert into new sales.
Since nobody else is targeting that exact list of people you’ll get very cheap cost per click and high conversion which will likely result in a very profitable campaign for your business.
Starting any new business is always risky.
Most of the new businesses fail (usually around 90%).
That is also true for new e-commerce businesses even if they are built around quick flipping, trending product reselling etc.
The people behind the project and business make it come alive. If you don’t get success fast you’re likely to spend less and less time on it until you find something more interesting and with bigger/better earning potential if we’re just talking about making money here.
Pros of starting a new e-commerce business
- It’s easier than ever to set up your e-commerce website. Most commonly people go with Shopify as it requires little to no technical background.
- Depends on your business model, but you have the option of not having inventory and only ordering from your supplier whenever your customer places an order. Your supplier would ship the ordered item directly to your customer (this is called drop-shipping).
- Your store can run pretty much on autopilot once you’ve set everything up correctly.
Cons of starting a new e-commerce business
- It’s quite competitive. There are hundreds of companies selling the same product that you are, unless you’ve taken it a step further and have customized it to an extent.
- If you’re just in it for the quick buck and not to build a brand you might get lucky by selecting a winning product right in the beginning, but you can also fail miserably as you test different ways to make all the pieces of puzzle come together.
- There are still upfront costs. Shopify, ads, test product, other service providers like e-mail etc. If you choose to set up your own website with Woocommerce for example then the costs might be less, but you’re probably going to invest a lot more time to tweaking the site.
Choosing the right e-commerce platform – Shopify vs. WooCommerce?
This is widely discussed topic among e-commerce shop owners. I’ve worked with both and I can’t really say which one is better and why.
With Shopify the monthly cost is going to be higher when you’re just starting out. Yet it’s usually a lot easier to get started especially if you have no prior experience with setting up websites, choosing the right hosting etc.
With WooCommerce you can get super cheap hosting to start with as you have very little customers in the beginning and you wouldn’t need to worry about server load.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify have free and paid themes (the layout of your new shop). The major difference in price comes from the monthly “service” fee. For Shopify it usually tends to be higher than getting a WordPress WooCommerce hosting.
My personal favorite has always been WooCommerce because of the flexibility it comes with and since I’ve set up a lot of websites before this technical part isn’t a major obstacle to overcome.
I’ve actually put together an article on how to set up your hosting to Google Cloud. If you’re up for a little challenge then try it out. You’ll get $300 worth of credit if you sign up as a business account.
One of the best, cheapest ways to start your e-commerce store is to do dropshipping using apps on Shopify or plugins on WooCommerce. Most are straight forwarded; download, install, connect, select products and list them on your site.
One notable app on both Shopify and WooCommerce is Spocket. They offer vetted US and EU suppliers, so you know that they will be reliable and your customer won’t be waiting a month to receive their product. Since Spocket offers branded invoicing, you can have it be consistent with your Instagram page. If you’re looking for Chinese suppliers, Oberlo is a great alternative.
How does Instagram fit in all of this?
Instagram is an awesome platform to showcase your products and drive traffic to your store. If your shop is up and running here’s what you should do:
- Post content to your new Instagram account so it wouldn’t look empty
- Try to make your posts as high quality as possible (in terms of image quality and also content quality)
- Start interacting with accounts that also have an e-commerce store and share similar products.
- Interact with their users by engaging with people who post comments and like that account’s posts.
- Soon these potential customers are going to turn their heads towards your account. If what you’re offering speaks to them, they are likely to check out your store as well and hopefully become a customer.
Now, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this point because most of it we already covered in section 2 where we talked about scaling your existing business.
When you own a brick-and-mortar store, your only customers are those that can visit you. Instagram opens the doors for anyone to visit your store anywhere in the world.
It depends on what type of brick-and-mortar you own. If it’s possible, I recommend incentivising your customers to take pictures and videos and upload them to Instagram with a certain hashtag and location markers.
This is important to generate a certain buzz around your brand in your area and attract even more people to come and check you out.
Since you own a physical location think of what type of events you can organize and things you can do to make your place interesting. Instagram is going to be the channel to reach your audience.
I did label this as hard as with equally high earning potential.
The thing is, the more effort you’re going to put into building your audience and your influence the more money you’re going to make. However, building a real genuine following isn’t that easy.
Most people don’t have what it takes. It takes a lot of time to create content that is both high quality and valuable, so be consistent and take the time to interact with your audience.
People expect a more and more personal approach.
Ask yourself – who would you follow?
- An inspiring person with high quality content, 20k+ followers, hundreds of comments on each post and 0 replies to your DM that you sent a week ago.
- An inspiring person with high quality content, 20k+ followers, hundreds of comments on each post and a reply to your DM that you sent a week ago
Now, this is a silly example, but the point is – you want to follow and hang around people that “care” about you.
So what’s the problem, why aren’t people replying to their DMs and comments?
Simple. It takes a lot of time.
If you’re trying to run your Instagram full-time and you’re busy creating content, talking with partners and planning your feed, then engaging with your audience can be tricky. Especially when you have 20k+ engaged followers.
So you need to step up your game if you want to “become an influencer”.
Influencer marketing has become so popular these days that I get people messaging me with questions like: “how to become an influencer” , “I want to become an influencer” etc.
Let me be clear.
You don’t just become an influencer. You create content, give value and then gain influence, so that you are influencing your followers. A person with 1 follower who can help you make big life-changing decisions is an influencer. A person with 10k followers, who just receives mindless likes to their posts is not an influencer.
Point is, your followers should call you their influencer, you shouldn’t proclaim yourself to be one.
What are the ways of making money on Instagram as an Influencer?
Okay, so what are the ways to make money as an influencer?
People and brands will pay you if you promote their account. Usually it goes down like this. Someone DMs you asking for a shoutout or if you like you could approach someone yourself and ask if they’d be interesting in a shoutout (account promotion in your feed).
Some influencers often also refer to this as collaboration as well – sure, why not.
Depends on the niche, but usually you should be asking around $100 for 1 shoutout on your feed if you have real genuine and engaged following of 50k+. People will be looking at your engagement carefully.
If you have bought followers or you know that some of your engagement is faked then be transparent about it and offer the shoutout for less money. As with everything in life, try to over-deliver not under-deliver. This way it’s likely they will do more business with you in the future and possibly send other accounts your way.
This is where you as an influencer can take all your creativity and figure out how to mix some brand’s products into your normal content so it doesn’t look over promotional.
Some people do brand promotions intentionally obvious and also ask their audience “what brands you’d like me to work with”. To me it feels like the influencer doesn’t really know his or her tone of voice and what they stand for.
If you’re unsure if you should take money from a certain brand to promote their product then it’s probably not a good deal.
How to find brand deals?
Best way would be to put together your own media kit and pitch yourself to certain brands that you like and resonate with.
I would suggest approaching them via email as it’s more professional and tell them that you’d like to work with them. Mention that you like their products, brand, vision etc and you have a proposal to bring X amount of new customers, views, leads to their business.
If you’re doing this for the first time I would actually suggest you do it for free and ask a testimonial in return and of course have them measure the campaign effectiveness. This gives you better grounds to close new deals.
If you know the value you’re bringing you can put together different packages and sell these instead of just one feed post with brand mention. I talk more about this in my masterclass.
This enables you to ask more money upfront and deliver even better results to the brand. For them it’s all about ROI (return on investment) and not so much about how much it just costs.
Sell your own stuff
If you scroll back a bit to the section where we talked about e-commerce you’ll find some good tips from there.
More and more we see influencers creating their own brands. This is usually a fashion product which can easily be dropshipped so you wouldn’t need to do much.
Make no mistake this can be an extremely lucrative business. You control the product, margins and have complete freedom to decide how you want to communicate it.
For example Kylie Jenner’s cosmetics business made her $360 million in revenue last year. Of course this is an exceptional case, but the potential is there for any influencer looking to open their own brand and sell online.
A lot of people do freelancing these days.
Freelancing offers a lot of flexibility and possibilities to work with different companies at the same time and not be stuck in the cubical in a 9 – 5 job.
Moreover, as a freelancer you have more freedom over your finances and can move towards hiring people, increasing your earnings and even switching to a small business. Robert Kiyosaki has talked a lot about the transformation from 9 – 5 worker to freelancer to business owner to an investor. If that’s something you’d like to learn more about, then read – from employee to investor.
Now, making money off Instagram as a freelancer can vary a lot based on your expertise.
If your craft is visuals based, then showcasing your work might be the best option. Instagram is a good fit for photographers, video editors, 3D artists, designers etc.
If your craft is more information focused (consultants, coaches, trainers) then definitely show off that expertise by shooting videos of yourself talking about it. You can also use appropriate photos and write the value piece in the post captions.
We’ve been talking about this before, just posting doesn’t really do the trick on Instagram anymore. You need to be active and engage with your potential customers.
As a coach myself I’ve found that the best way to reach your audience is to run promotions and suggest people to DM you. This way you’ll get the conversation going and it’s already a lot easier to convince them to do business with you.
Growing your personal brand on social media is probably going to be the most rewarding thing for your life and business.
I’m not just saying that, it literally changes you.
I started back in 2016 with a simple blog and posting motivational quotes to Instagram without giving much thought on where it can grow.
I did it because I enjoyed reading about motivation and entrepreneurship. After a year I started getting requests from people who wanted to give me money for managing their Instagram accounts.
Sure I was happy to help them and keep it as a side gig from my day to day agency work.
Now, in 2020 I see things completely differently and I have a plan around my personal brand and where I want it to grow.
Growing a personal brand is very similar to growing as a freelancer or an influencer. To me it feels like there’s less “rules” and I don’t necessarily need to stick to a theme or provide constant value.
Personal brand is for life and we all have it. Whether we choose to develop it in a desired way or not is totally up to us.
So how do we make money with our personal brand?
The most common way is to sell your expertise. This is very close to freelancing, however I’d like to differentiate it from standard freelancing as you’re tapping into a more scalable business model.
So think about creating PDFs, Courses, E-books, Books and other digital downloadable products. Instead of selling your time, you’re transforming into selling your expertise.
You create a piece of content once and you sell it more than once. You ideally sell it thousands of times.
Now, if you’re all too new to Instagram and online marketing and creating a digital product might seem too complicated to start with then hosting an offline event would be another option.
Simply open your Instagram and start looking for people based on location marker and hashtags. See who are active in your area and start interacting with them. These people are potentially your future clients and event attendees.
In this section I’ll focus on all the other strategies that didn’t fit under the previous sections of making money on Instagram.
I’m thrilled if you’re still with me.
Virtual high-five from me.
Let’s dive in.
Selling Your Photos & Videos
Earning potential: Low
Instagram is an image-and-video-first platform. This makes it a very lucrative option for photographers and other professional camera owners.
While the earning potential isn’t the greatest (unless you shoot for National Geographics), it’s quite easy to get started with.
All you need is a slightly better camera (preferably a DSLR) or a good camera phone to get started. If you don’t have a lot of skills with camera either I would suggest to look through some free online courses or YouTube videos.
The idea here is to use your feed as a portfolio and get attention of the medium size brands who’d like to get something better than simple stock images and videos.
Make sure you let your profile visitors know that you’re selling your content. Writing a good bio description is crucial here.
In addition to this, I would suggest reaching out to brands on your own as well. I suggest looking at brands with blogs and websites that use very common stock footage and send them either a DM on Instagram or shoot a simple e-mail.
Say that you read their website/blog and you think that it could use some nice original footage. Recommend a certain photo from your potfolio for their page.
You can try doing this for free in the beginning to get some testimonials and potential future clients and then after a while start charging for your work.
Selling Your Artwork
Earning Potential: Unknown
Creating and selling art on Instagram is an interesting way to make money.
Moreover, it’s quite difficult to put a price tag on art – so don’t.
It all starts from content of course and as an artist you can get to be creative with your account as well.
You can show yourself a lot to build trust or not at all and keep your identity a mystery (take Banksy for example). You can make random posts with hidden messages and not just post your work. You can post illusions or just complete white space to make more room for your actual work to shine.
The bottom line is, there shouldn’t be a lot of rules. The more interesting you are the more successful you’re going to be and the more valuable your artwork is going to be.
Try to get connected with some of the influencers, either personally or indirectly. Surprise them by sending them something for free. Choose these influencers well. Study them and think if they would be the right type of person to get your work or not.
For example I wouldn’t hang up a painting of a naked woman in my office, however something very minimalistic with a twist I would.
Of course people buy and get art for different reasons and I feel like that’s too broad topic to cover in this article. The main goal should be to showcase your work from an interesting perspective (that nobody or very few people do) and get people talking about it.
Starting an Engagement Group
Earning Potential: Low
Engagement groups were a huge thing back in 2017.
The truth is they aren’t as effective as they used to be. Sure people still use them to network and get support from similar accounts, but getting engagement from these groups doesn’t necessarily help you boost your account to explore feed.
So how do we make money here?
Like I said, people still use them. I personally use them as well. Some of the well moderated groups have usually entrance fees or even monthly fees.
So if you’re in a specific industry and there isn’t a specific group for your niche, then start one and ask an entrance fee from people who might benefit from this.
Alternative strategy here is to give free access and sell premium services to everybody who joined the group. Something like sponsored places so they don’t need to interact in a group to get likes and comments or something else relevant to your niche.
The reason why the difficulty for this strategy is medium not low is that most of these groups are set up in Telegram app. The good and paid ones usually have an active admin checking everybody following the rules or they have developed a fancy bot for that.
Either way setting everything up needs some technical skills and also work to convince people to join.
Expanding Your Real Estate Business
Earning Potential: High
Real estate is quite a broad niche and I believe the earning potential and difficulty here can vary a lot.
Since real estate evolves around images a lot, then Instagram could be a perfect place to find new clients, close deals and network with industry peers.
One strategy I haven’t seen a lot of people using is promoting your short-term rentals (if you have any). You bought this amazing apartment or house and listed it on Booking and Airbnb and you’re not getting the results you want.
Well, why not make a separate account for that listing? Of course you can and should promote this in your own personal feed as well if that’s appropriate for your audience.
To your apartment or house account I would recommend to create a lot of different quality posts about your listing. You can ask your tenants to make photos and tag your account as well. You can incentivise them by offering a free night whenever they book again or a voucher to the restaurant near the place.
This is a great way to get additional bookings and make money on Instagram with your real estate.
By the way – check out my personal Airbnb apartment’s Instagram.
Instagram Specific Strategies
Earning Potential: Low
There are certain Instagram specific things you can do to make money.
One of the most common one is to sell shoutouts. We talked a little about it in previous sections and there are definitely accounts that are making a decent amount of money with it.
Depends what are your goals. If you want to earn extra $1,000 per month then it might take time and commitment to scale it up. If you would just like to get that extra $10 for your lunch then it could work.
You can of course do shoutouts from your own account. It depends how many followers you have, what’s the engagement like and who are your followers. If it’s just your personal account with 400 followers you’re probably not going to ask $10 for one shout out.
However, you can do a series of posts, send DMs and do more different things to justify that price. After all, in the end the person buying the shouout is interested in gaining followers. If you can get them more followers than they would get using other methods then it’s money well spent on their end.
Other option would be to start a new account and to do that in a specific niche. For example, you could start posting about home cleaning tips, gain yourself around 20,000 followers and approach influencers, businesses and brands with the shoutout offer.
If your engagement is good and genuine, then you can definitely expect more than $10 per one shoutout. If you’re clever you package together several shoutouts and activities. For example $100 for 3 story mentions 1 feed posts and 10 mentions to active direct message conversations.
All that from a 20,000 follower Instagram account is a pretty good deal.
Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms and if you’re not utilizing this for your business then you’re likely leaving money on the table.
Making money off Instagram isn’t hard. You should ideally pick a strategy you want to go for and start working towards making this a reality. Focusing on way too many strategies at once usually requires a team and a bigger budget.
The 3 main areas where to make money on Instagram are:
- Growing your personal account by helping others with your expertise and selling your time. You can do this until you’re “famous” enough to get brand deals and promote stuff to your audience.
- If you already have an existing business then it’s useful to grow that with the help of Instagram. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running a local coffee shop or a dropshipping e-commerce business. Being active on Instagram and showing how your products make people happy is the best way to go.
- There are Instagram specific strategies that you can employ. Selling photos, shoutouts and starting engagement groups are just some of the things you could be doing to make money on Instagram.
If there are more ways you think it’s possible to make money on Instagram, then feel free to leave a comment for everybody and let’s get the discussion going.