I’ve been a full time influencer on Instagram since 2015. Here’s my step by step guide on how to become an influencer on Instagram that makes money!
Wondering how to become an influencer on Instagram? I’ve been a full time influencer on Instagram since 2015 and will share with you everything I know so this can be your job too.
Being an Instagram influencer is certainly lots of fun, but there’s way more to it than just taking aesthetic photos and posting them on Instagram.
If you want it to actually be your job and make money from Instagram, you essentially need to also know how to run your own business because after all, by being an Instagram influencer, you are your own boss.
Being your own boss means knowing how to do your own marketing, pitch yourself to brands, network with other Instagram influencers and even learn how to do bookkeeping for influencers. It’s easier than it sounds.
In this post about how to become an influencer on IG, you will learn all of the above and more as I walk you through the ins and outs of working and being paid as an Instagram influencer.
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About the Author/Instagram Influencer of This Post & Blog
Hey! I’m Sarah Chetrit.
Before I share with you the steps on how to become an influencer on Instagram, you may want to know my background with being an Instagram influencer.
I call myself a content creator because I have multiple revenue streams as a blogger, content creator, Instagram influencer, TikTok influencer and even do a bit of social media management, but one of my better income sources is through Instagram.
I have been an Instagram influencer in the travel and lifestyle niche since 2015 and have been paid thousands by brands like:
- Herbal Essences
- Mrs. Meyer’s
- Haagen Dazs
- and more.
I have also been paid by tourism brands such as:
- Champagne, France
- Los Angeles, California, USA
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- and more.
Social Media Accounts to Check Out
- If you want to see firsthand all the campaigns I do on Instagram, you can find my IG here: @sarchetrit.
- If you want tips daily on blogging and social media, you can follow me on TikTok here: @sarah.chetrit.
Step by Step Guide on
How to Become an Influencer on Instagram
1. Prep to Be an IG Influencer
Shift Your Mindset
If you want to be an Instagram influencer, you’ll want to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Being an influencer on Instagram is not just about getting free items from brands, taking aesthetic photos, posting them and seeing your followers grow.
Despite what you might see other influencers sharing on social media, being an Instagram influencer is work! After all, if you want it to be your full-time job, you need more than “free” stuff. You need paid collabs to pay your bills.
It may take 6 months to start seeing a good side hustle income and perhaps 2+ years to start seeing full time income.
Of course, there are exceptions to this but it’s good to have a realistic expectation of how much you can make and will be able to quit your current job to be a full time influencer on Instagram.
Being an Instagram influencer means shifting your mindset to understand:
- You are starting your own business as a sole proprietor or an LLC (something we’ll get into later and you don’t need to worry about).
- You will be heading multiple roles in your own business as a one-person business. Roles include but are not limited to marketer, photographer, writer, strategist, PR agent, sales person and bookkeeper/accountant.
- You will need to be consistent and persistent to see results you desire.
- You will need to constantly learn and adapt to the Instagram algorithm, trends in marketing and overall changes in the social media industry.
Even though being an Instagram influencer is much more fun than being a Certified Public Accountant (my old job that I went to school for), it still is work!
As a result, I want you to be aware that this isn’t just a hobby and fun and games. You are starting a legit business!
Besides understanding that you are starting a business, you’ll also want to believe that you CAN make money from this; that you CAN turn this into a business.
There are so many influencers out there that are making a full time income from Instagram, and there are going to be people in your life and online that will fill your head with doubts.
Get inspired by those already making money from Instagram, and drown out the noise from people who doubt you.
On day one of learning how to become an influencer on ig, you’ll want to already call yourself an influencer.
- Don’t think: “I’m trying to be an Instagram influencer.”
- Do think: “I am an Instagram influencer.”
The mind is so powerful in manifesting your dreams. So fake it ’till you make it because YOU CAN MAKE IT!
Choose a Niche (or Not)
A niche on Instagram is a specific topic or interest that you’ll be posting about. The more specific a niche is, the better you’ll be able to cultivate an audience that is like you!
Here are some examples of general vs specific niches.
- General niche: Travel
- Specific niche: Family travel, solo female travel, Europe travel
- General niche: Cooking
- Specific niche: 20 minute meals, Korean recipes, Gluten free baking
- General niche: Skincare
- Specific niche: Acne-prone skincare, BIPOC skincare
Picking a niche isn’t always easy or not beneficial to do so. The next section will help you decide whether you should pick a niche or not.
The Case for Choosing a Niche
You’ve probably heard time and time again that you need to choose a niche.
Choosing a niche is not 100% a must, but it will make it easier to grow. Your audience will come to you as an authority on your niche and be engaged with that specific type of content.
Then as you start to grow, you can start branching out and adding in a niche or two in there. After all, humans grow and evolve as they grow. Instagrammers should not expected to be tied to their niche forever.
The Case for Not Choosing a Niche
If choosing a niche is easy for you, then it could make it easier for you to grow but choosing a niche is not always natural. As humans, we have multiple interests so we may want to share to them all from the beginning.
Not choosing a niche has its benefits too:
- Choosing a niche may prevent you from posting because you overthink what to post and don’t end up posting.
- If you are brand new to social media and are not sure what your niche should be, you could test out posting whatever you want and either
- gravitate towards what you enjoy posting about
- or gravitate towards which niche your audience is more drawn to.
- Be careful of only posting what you think your audience likes though. If you’re not feeling it, this can lead to burn out. You did not leave your full-time job just to start a business you are not passionate about. Being an Instagram influencer works best when you align your soul with it!
You can also view yourself as your own niche.
Lifestyle Instagrammers are Instagrammers who have created a niche out of the way they live.
For example, if you’re a busy 20-something year old corporate gal in New York City who loves dining out on weekends and traveling every few months, then you might post travel, restaurant reviews and quick dinner recipes (am I talking about myself from 2013…?).
Posting like this would be considered more of a lifestyle niche and would attract those who live a similar lifestyle as you (other 20-something year olds from big cities who love to travel and dine lavishly).
Whether you choose a niche or not is up to you and your goals.
How to Choose a Niche
It’s best to choose a niche based on something in your life you already love and/or are an expert in. That’s because you will be creating content around this topic, posting it and attracting people who are also interested in it.
Some people starting out on Instagram think it’s a good idea to choose a niche that’s profitable or grows the fastest but as I briefly mentioned above, do not pick a niche based on topics/industries you don’t vibe with. It’s a surefire way to experience burnout, and no, you are not trying to build an Instagram business to leave your current job so you can go into another career only to experience burnout! Let’s try to prevent that.
If you’re not quite sure what you already love and/or are an expert in, think about what your friends and family go to you for advice or think about what brings you joy on a daily or weekly basis.
If you love many things in your life, as I mentioned in the “The Case for Not Choosing a Niche” section above, test out posting different niches.
Whatever you do, just start.
You don’t always need to know your niche before you start. What you love in real life doesn’t always translate into loving it on social media.
For example, I LOVE cooking every single day. I am a big foodie and practically cook every meal. But I quickly learned that I hated testing and making recipes for social media consistently. I only figured this out once I started posting so don’t hold back because you don’t know your niche. If anything, start now and figure it out later.
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2. Get Setup on Instagram
To really learn how to become an influencer on Instagram that makes money, you need to take action! No matter how much you prep or think about your niche, the money won’t come until you actually start, which is why it’s best not to overthink the ins and out of being an Instagram influencer and listen to your gut.
If this is what you want to do right now, then start it. You can always change your mind a year or two later if you don’t enjoy it, but you won’t know if you’ll like it or if it’s a viable career option for you if you don’t try it out.*
Luckily, the first few steps are not too difficult! It all begins with some technical set up of your Instagram account.
*On a personal note, I used to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). I was orphaned by age 10 and worked full time through a five year accounting program. After I graduated, I spent 11 months studying and taking 15 hours of CPA exams. I worked in corporate for three years and paid my loans off during that time. I quickly left those 9 years behind once I got a couple of chronic illnesses.
Once I decided to go for blogging/influencing, to supplement my income in the first year, I also tried dropshipping, social media management, freelance writing and freelance photography. I never would’ve known that I didn’t like dropshipping, social media management, freelance writing or photography if I didn’t try it out.
Don’t ever feel like trying something new out could be a waste of time if it doesn’t end up working out. Learning about what you don’t like or what doesn’t work for you is an important part of learning what you’re meant to do in life.
Ok… back to the regular information of this blog post.
Create (or Convert to) Creator Account
Whether you’re creating a new account or converting your personal one into your Instagram influencer business, you’ll want a Creator account.
A Creator account specifically allows you to:
- See detailed insight about your audience, which will be helpful when pitching to brands
- Understand the best times to post for the best engagement
- Get detailed insight about your posts, stories, etc., which will help you understand what works for you and what doesn’t
- Furthermore, see how many people follow and unfollow you everyday, which sometimes you’ll be able to correlate to the post you shared on those days- PS don’t worry about unfollows though… it’s natural for people to follow one day and unfollow another day just like in real life, we have people who in and out of our lives
- Add more contact options than what’s available in a Business account
- Get access to the Creator Studio, which gives you access to creating a shop, do affiliate marketing, see all your stats, other Creator-related functions and if you’re lucky, get access to Instagram Reels bonuses, which is only available to some creators now
How to Start Up a Creator Account
To set up a Creator account, start an account as you would then:
- Go to your profile
- Tap the Three Bars in the top right corner
- Tap Settings (with the Gear button)
- Tap Account
- Either select:
- Switch to Professional Account then Creator
- Switch to Creator Account
- Select a category that indicates your niche. This doesn’t matter so much so you can even choose Blogger or Public Figure. It’s up to you if you want this displayed on your profile anyways.
- Connect a Facebook page if you want or skip this option.
- Review your contact information.
- Choose your profile display options, which includes showing your category and/or contact details on your profile.
Should you convert your personal Instagram to a Creator one or start fresh?
Changing your personal Instagram to a Creator account is completely up to you. But here are some things to consider:
- If you use your personal Instagram to keep in touch with friends and family and keep them updated with your life, do you want to mix that with sponsored posts and DMs with followers/brands?
- Is your personal Instagram a reflection of what your niche will be? If so, does keeping your personal Instagram mean you will have to delete photos?
- Do you want people to know you are becoming an Instagram influencer? If not, then start a new account.
- Are your current followers your target audience? If not, then start a new account.
Most people like to start fresh with a brand new Creator account and keep their personal and business lives separate, but if you don’t mind mixing the two or they’re very similar to what your Instagram niche/content will entail, you can keep it as is!
Secure Your Account
Securing your account is very important. I have seen so many accounts get hacked meaning these influencers and businesses lose their business opportunities, community and memories. Don’t let this happen to you.
Do the work beforehand to make sure your account is secure and protect your Instagram account from Instagram hackers.
- Enable two-factor authentication
- Update your phone number and email
- Enable login requests
- Choose a secure password
- Make sure your email account is secure
- Know Instagram’s best practices about when they would send an email, DM, notification, etc.
For more details on each bullet above, check out this post.
Optimize Your Bio
Your Instagram bio should tell your followers who you are, what your account is about and what’s in it for them if they follow you.
Pro Tip: Use the name section of your bio to add in keywords.
Keywords are words that people search in the Instagram app to find content and people they’re interested in. It’s part of how Instagram makes itself SEO-friendly. SEO stands for search engine optimization.
Having keywords in your name is a great way to make social media and SEO help potential followers find you.
Need help writing a bio?
- Look at some of the big creators in your niche. Check out how they write their bio.
- Hire a pro to write a search engine optimized bio for you.
Good to Know: As you grow and figure out what works for you on Instagram, you will better figure out what your Instagram is about. You can always change your bio later.
Follow Creators in Your Niche
It’s a really good idea to follow creators in your niche both big and small for three reasons:
- It helps you see what other people are posting, which you can learn from. Get inspired but never copy. If you do “copy” another creator, make sure to give them credit in your caption.
- You can network with other Creators, which also helps you learn as you create relationships and start to share tips with each other or even film together in person.
- Most importantly, by following people in your niche and interacting with them, it’ll start to signal to Instagram what your account is about, which is part of working with the algorithm in the next section.
3. Understand the Basics of Instagram and its Algorithm
Now that you’ve set up the technical parts of your Instagram, let’s move onto understanding the basics of Instagram and the Instagram algorithm. Doing this will give you a solid foundation on how to make money as an Instagram influencer.
Basic Settings of Instagram for an Influencer
Instagram is a social media app where you can share both photos and videos.
As an influencer, there are some basic guidelines when sharing photos and videos.
Post Vertical Photos and Videos With These Dimensions
Since most people access Instagram through their mobile phone, you’ll want to post high-quality videos and photos that best fit the user experience of a mobile phone.
So that your photos and videos show up clear and having to avoid learning how to fix blurry Instagram photos, you should always export your photos and videos with these settings:
- Dimensions: 1080 pixels wide, 1350 pixels tall (ratio is 4×5)
- 1080 by 1080 is OK too (ratio is 1:1) but the above is better
- Size of photo: Max 1gb
- Dimensions: 1080 pixels wide, 1350 pixels tall (ratio is 4×5)
- Dimensions: 1080 pixels wide, 1920 pixels tall
- Frame Rate: 30fps
- Size of video: Up to 4gb
- Best format: MP4
These dimensions will allow your photos and videos to fill up most of the screen vertically so that you capture the most of your follower’s attention!
Exporting in these settings also make sure that Instagram doesn’t compress your content and make them blurry.
Turn Off Data Saver for Video
Another way to make sure your videos are crystal clear is by turning off Data Saver.
To do this, you’ll want to
- Go to your Profile
- Tap on the Three Bars in the top right
- Go to Settings -> Account -> Cellular Data Use
- Turn off Data Saver
Post Original Content
To make money with brands, it’s not a good idea to be reposting on Instagram. Instead you’ll want to make original content that reflects you and your ideals and lifestyle. That way brands can see what your capable of in terms of content creation!
The 2022 Instagram Algorithm
In 2021, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri released a great post on their site about how the Instagram algorithm works.
The algorithms are slightly different for your Feed and Stories, Explore page and lastly, newer to Instagram, the Reels tab, but essentially, all of them respond to thousands of “signals” from your account.
Instagram Feed and Stories Algorithm
The Instagram Feed and Stories is a great way to connect with your existing audience as well as potentially reach a new audience.
What essentially happens in an Instagram feed post along with stories is that Instagram uses important signals to decide whether your post is worth pushing out to your wider audience.
They do this first by showing it to a small percentage of your existing followers, then based on signals they get, they decide whether or not they should push it out further to a larger audience (whether it be more of your followers, people looking at the hashtag page or onto the Reels page).
Instagram says that these are the most important signals when it comes to the Instagram Feed and Storie algorithm:
- Information about the post. These are signals both about how popular a post is – think how many people have liked it – and more mundane information about the content itself, like when it was posted, how long it is if it’s a video, and what location, if any, was attached to it.
- Information about the person who posted. This helps us get a sense for how interesting the person might be to you, and includes signals like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks.
- Your activity. This helps us understand what you might be interested in and includes signals such as how many posts you’ve liked.
- Your history of interacting with someone. This gives us a sense of how interested you are generally in seeing posts from a particular person. An example is whether or not you comment on each other’s posts. (Source)
- This is why I recommended above to follow creators who are in your niche!
Instagram Explore Algorithm
Once you post on your Feed, there is a chance of your photo or video going out to the Explore page showing it to a larger audience than just your followers.
As a result, the Explore page is a great way to get new followers.
Instagram says that “the most important actions [Instagram predicts] in Explore include likes, saves, and shares” and as a result, they look at these signals:
- Information about the post. Here we are looking at how popular a post seems to be. These are signals like how many and how quickly other people are liking, commenting, sharing, and saving a post. These signals matter much more in Explore than they do in Feed or in Stories.
- Your history of interacting with the person who posted. Most likely the post was shared by someone you’ve never heard of, but if you have interacted with them that gives us a sense of how interested you might be in what they shared.
- Your activity. These are signals like what posts you’ve liked, saved or commented on and how you’ve interacted with posts in Explore in the past.
- Information about the person who posted. These are signals like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks, to help find compelling content from a wide array of people. (Source)
Instagram Reels Algorithm
Similar to the Explore page, the Reels page is another great way to get new followers, especially in 2022 since it’s a newer feature.
The most important signal of a Reel is the watch time– how likely is a follower or potential new follower likely to watch a reel all the way through. Will they go to the audio and get inspired to make their own Reel?
Here are the most important signals for Reels according to Instagram:
- Your activity. We look at things like which reels you’ve liked, commented on, and engaged with recently. These signals help us to understand what content might be relevant to you.
- Your history of interacting with the person who posted. Like in Explore, it’s likely the video was made by someone you’ve never heard of, but if you have interacted with them that gives us a sense of how interested you might be in what they shared.
- Information about the reel. These are signals about the content within the video such as the audio track, video understanding based on pixels and whole frames, as well as popularity.
- Information about the person who posted. We consider popularity to help find compelling content from a wide array of people and give everyone a chance to find their audience. (Source)
Summary of All the Algorithms
This might be a lot to take in but in summary, you’ll want to:
- Follow accounts like yours
- Engage with posts and accounts like yours
- Post content that is engaging and keeps people on the app because Instagram will reward those who can get people to stay on the app longer
The more intentional you are on Instagram, the more easily you’ll be able to work with the algorithm.
This is one reason why choosing a niche may be more helpful for you in the beginning but if you really can’t, don’t let it hold you back from posting. As I mentioned above, you can post various content to see what works for you and hone in a niche as you figure it out.
Understand Your Data on Instagram
Understanding your data on Instagram is crucial to helping you grow because the more you know about what your audience and Instagram likes, the more you’ll be able to create content that makes both happy. On that note, don’t only post for the algorithm. To build a community, make sure to post valuable content for your audience.
Here is common data that you’ll be accessing from your Profile. This helps you decide what content to make and brands decide if you’re a good fit for them.
Under Accounts Reached, you’ll see how many unique accounts have seen our content. This number is aggregated from posts, stories, reels videos and live videos.
This Reached audience has a combination of both followers and nonfollowers and sorts out data by cities, countries, age range and gender.
It also shows which one of your types of content had the most reach, which is really helpful to understand what type of content to make.
For example, my Reels have the most reach to non-followers and my posts have the most reach to followers. That means I’ll want to post a mix of Reels to reach new followers and post Posts to connect with my existing community. By the way, follow me on Instagram!
Under Accounts Engaged, I’ll see the same information as Accounts Reached but this is data for who has actually engaged with my content. Engagement can include information such as likes, saves, comments, share or replies.
What’s great about this section is you can see which posts, Reels, Videos, etc. have the most engagement, which can help you decide what type of content to make or what brands to work with.
In the Followers section, you can see where your audience comes from, how old they are and which gender they are.
What’s most important here is the Most Active Times, which you can sort by Hours or Days. Even though Instagram no longer has a chronological feed, it’s still important to post at a time when most of your followers are online.
Under each post, reel and video you post on your profile, you will find stats like how many people liked your post, commented on it, shared it and saved it.
You will also see how many people it reached, how many impressions* it had, how many people went to your profile after the post and how many follows you got.
All of these are really helpful in pushing your post out to a wider audience but keep a close eye on the various signals depending on where you post it (Feed, Reels, etc.).
If a post gets you lots of follows, that type of post may be good for getting new followers. If a post has lots of comments or saves, that type of post may be good for reconnecting with your current audience and building a community.
*Impressions vs Reach: Impressions is the number of times your post was on screen. This means one person could have seen your post multiple times.
Reach is different from impressions because reach is based on the number of unique people who see your post. For example, 10 people could’ve seen your post (reach) but if 5 people saw your post 2x because they saved it for later, then your Impressions would be 15.
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4. Create and Post on Instagram to Attract New Followers
Learn the Basics of Photography and Videography
Since Instagram is a visual platform, you’ll want to learn the basics of photography and videography.
Don’t worry– you don’t have to be perfect in the beginning.
Actually, you never have to be perfect. To make money, you really need to know some basics and understand how to work with brands more than anything.
Nonetheless, learning Instagram, photography, getting partnerships– it’s all a process and most influencers start out with zero knowledge and build it up from there. The more you actually create content and post, the better you will get.
You can study other people’s photos and videos and watch endless YouTube tutorials but guaranteed the best way to learn is simply get a base understanding of photography/videography and create the content!
Here’s a blog post I wrote on how to take good pictures of yourself with tips for getting comfortable on camera, taking photos without an Instahubby, mentally being ok taking photos in front of strangers and more.
So you know…even after all these years, my photos and videos are not top-notch quality. Because of my chronic illnesses, I just don’t have the time and energy to create amazing content like other Instagram influencers but I still get sponsorships. One of my strengths lies in storytelling. If you’re not great at one thing on Instagram, you can be good at something else!
Create and Post Content Consistently
Create Content for Instagram
Creating content for Instagram is best done in vertical format.
That’s because most, if not all, of your followers will be accessing your Instagram from their phone, which is taller from top to bottom (vertically) vs. a laptop or computer, which is wider from left to right (horizontally).
Create and Post Consistently
It might seem obvious but to actually grow, you need to get into the habit of actually creating content.
Creating content helps you learn faster what works for you and your audience. You’ll actually learn more about posting and “messing up” than taking courses or watching tips for weeks.
Create, post and learn as you go!
Build a Habit
If you are busy with a full-time job or school as you build up your Instagram, then I highly recommend batch creating content and posting it to an Instagram scheduler (like Planoly, which is free up to 30 posts a month) then posting it throughout the week.
Also if you need help actually getting into the habit of creating habit, then you may want to read Atomic Habits. Here’s why or you can get the book on Amazon.
The best way to grow right now is through Reels that are less than 15 seconds.
Instagram is competing with TikTok and more and more people like to watch short form video as entertainment so post Reels to reach a new audience.
Instagram is making it easier than ever to make Reels too! If you head to the Reels tab and scroll, you’ll see some Reels with a “Use a Template” button above the username, which allows you to make videos quickly.
Don’t overdo trends as you want to build a community, but trends are a great way to grow because they’re proven to be successful.
To find trends, you can:
- follow Instagram influencers who share about trends to spot one,
- hang out on the Reels tab and see which videos are being done again and again,
- or the best for your specific niche is to engage with the accounts you already follow and see if there are any trends that many of them are doing. Trends for your niche are the best ones to do.
To build an engaged community though, make sure to mix trends and Reels with regular in-feed photo posts. Those photo posts won’t do as well but they’re a great opportunity to connect with your existing audience.
Also, remember that not all your posts have to do well! Some are for growth; some are for connecting.
Lastly, you can do a trend multiple times. Just put your own spin on it every time and if you copy someone exactly or want to credit someone for the inspo, tag them! Crediting them means putting text such as “IB: @username”. IB means inspired by.
Hashtags are a handy way for Instagram to sort your photos into categories so that people searching for something specific on Instagram can find related posts, which can include your post.
This is done by simply typing out a #hashtag with a # in front of a word either in your caption or in the comments.
You want to use hashtags because this is another way for new people to find your posts or to increase your reach so that Instagram further pushes it out.
Basic Guidelines for Hashtags
- Use up to 30 hashtags a post.
- For most people 20 is a sweet spot but even 10 will work. Test out to see what works best for you. You can figure this out by seeing the Impressions under Post Insights. If your post ranks under a Hashtag, you will see it under Impressions.
- Make sure the hashtags are specific to your post.
- If your post is about traveling in Aruba, do not put a hashtag about cities in Europe. There are more tips below.
- Use hashtags specific to your account size. There are more tips below.
Hashtags for Your Account Size
There are really common hashtags that many people have posted to such as #travel and less common hashtags that not a lot of people have used such as #amsterdamtraveltips.
If you have a new or smaller Instagram account, you don’t want to use these commonly used hashtags because your posts will get lost in them and it won’t increase your Impressions at all.
Instead, use a mix of large, medium and small hashtags skewing more to the smaller sized hashtags.
How to Find the Best Instagram Hashtags
You can find the best Instagram hashtags to use by:
- Writing out keywords or words that describe your image. You can use common sense here, which makes hashtags easy.
- Checking our creators with your similar follower number and great engagement and see what they use
- See if Instagram recommends any keywords to you in the Explore page
- Use a hashtag searching app. I use Flick.
- If you’re in any of the following niches, I researched hashtags for you and even how many times they were used.
5. Cultivate a Community
You can have 100,000 followers but if you don’t engage with them or connect with them on a personal level, then they might not engage with your content and engagement is everything lately.
When your audience is more engaged, Instagram will push your posts out more.
Also, Superfans are the ones who will most likely buy from you or listen to your message. So focusing on your community is key.
Learn what Superfans are here or get the book on Amazon.
You can cultivate a community by heading to accounts that are like yours (i.e. like the accounts you already follow), check out who comments on their posts then leave comments on their commenters’ posts.
These commenters then may see your comment and your account then decide to follow you.
This cultivates a community of people who are already interested in the things you post about.
Engage With Your Audience
To cultivate a stronger bond your existing community, it’s really nice to engage with them so it’s not a one-way relationship with your account.
Notice followers who consistently like every one of your posts? Leave a comment on their posts.
Have followers who always comment on your posts? Leave a comment on theirs or respond to their Instagram stories.
Share Your Life on Instagram Stories
People love to connect with people and get insight on what goes on in their everyday lives. Instagram stories is a great place to do that.
Share your daily life or whatever else you couldn’t fit onto your post or Reel. There is no limit on how many posts you can share but generally 5-10 a day is a good idea.
Some brands like to do Instagram stories only collaborations so following best practices to increase Instagram story views is definitely a good thing to look into.
Good to Know: Your 1st story of the day will always get the most views. So if you’re doing a brand campaign, make sure all your stories from the previous day expire (run out after 24 hours) and then post your brand campaign’s stories as your first stories.
Being genuine online is more important than ever.
Of course, even when we are the most genuine online, only a sliver of our daily life is shown. But by being genuine, you can really connect with your audience on a personal level.
Being genuine in your recommendations and tips also allows you to create trust with your audience.
Remember though- there is a difference between being personal and private. You do not have to share everything online!
Create an Instagram Story Filter
A fun way to connect with your audience or add onto your personal brand is by creating an Instagram story filter for anyone to use.
This Instagram story filter could reflect your style of editing or have something that reflects your niche.
6. Avoid These Instagram Mistakes
Don’t buy followers or do giveaways.
As you learned above with how the Instagram algorithm works, when you post, Instagram will show your post to a small batch of your followers as a sort of micro-test to see if it’s worth pushing it out to more people.
If you bought followers or gained followers from giveaways, they did not follow your account organically. As a result, they’re not truly interested in what you’re posting meaning if they are part of this micro-test batch, they’re most likely to swipe past your post or even unfollow you.
This will signal to your Instagram that your post is not worth pushing out to more people, which will in turn decrease your overall reach and the potential to gain new followers. You will have low reach and low engagement.
It is really not worth getting followers through these methods because brands care more about engagement nowadays instead of follower numbers. With higher engagement, even with a small follower count, you can charge fairly for your sponsored posts.
If you did happen to buy followers or do giveaways in the beginning without realizing how badly they impact your account, or perhaps your account is old and you have followers who no longer engage with your content, you can get rid of these followers safely.
Don’t feel the need to participate in engagement groups.
Micro and nanoinfluencers like to have engagement groups where they purposefully leave comments on each others’ new posts. They think that more engagement will result in better reach.
I don’t recommend doing this because:
- It takes away your limited time from creating valuable content for your audience.
- Any method of trying to hack the Instagram algorithm could be detrimental to your account.
- Inorganic engagement really doesn’t help your reach that much. Organic is always best. I’ve seen accounts with 200+ comments on their posts from engagement groups and yet their reach/likes are still really low.
Something I’ve done that has helped me naturally get comments is leave comments on posts I like of accounts I follow and for the first 5-10 likes I get on my post, I leave a comment on their post.
The latter helps with building an engaged community, and overall, both methods tend to get people to return the favor of commenting without having to tie yourself to an engagement group. It can all be done on your own time without obligation!
Don’t do follow for follow.
There are Facebook groups in which new Instagrammers get together and follow each other to build up their follower account quickly.
I don’t advise you to do this because as it goes with followers you buy or gain from giveaways, these Instagrammers may not engage with you, and as we know, engagement is key for better reach, growth and charging a fair amount for sponsorships.
If you feel compelled to do this although I advise against it, at the very least do not do follow for follow with accounts that aren’t even in your niche and that you’re not interested in seeing on your feed.
Not only will it clutter up your feed but it will signal to Instagram that you like these types of accounts that have nothing to do with your niche.
Don’t waste your time on bad trade collaborations.
Don’t listen to Instagram “gurus”.
Don’t waste your money on courses from these types of teachers.
There are two main courses for Instagram that you should avoid:
- A course run by a teacher whose only success is based off their own. Instead, look for a course who has had success with at least a dozen students. A dozen because perhaps they’re really good at what they do but their course is new, they might only have a dozen students. Of course, the more success stories, the better.
- A course run by a teacher who only platform is based on giving Instagram tips but doesn’t have a normal creator account themselves. For example, this teacher’s only experience on Instagram is by being successful with giving Instagram tips. Naturally, anyone giving growth tips about the platform they’re giving tips on will do better than the average account.
Don’t let Instagram impact your mental health.
Focus on your mental health, and work on being confident in yourself. Otherwise, you will find that your mood is easily swayed by the number of followers you have, likes that you have on a post or how many brands say no to you this week.
When you are confident in your being, with or without validation from Instagram, then you will be able to approach your Instagram business with a clear mind and move forward with a clear strategy instead of being overrun by emotions.
Also, the better your reach is on Instagram, the more it’ll get negative comments. This is a good thing because more than your audience is seeing your posts, but it’s a bad thing because mean comments can really hurt you if your mental health isn’t optimal.
So many reasons to stay focused on your mental health because there is so much noise from Instagram and the internet that can bring you down quickly if your health is wavering!
Don’t fall into the rat race.
- There will always be influencers with more followers, and on the flip side, less followers than you. Thus, comparing is a fruitless activity. Focus on you.
- You don’t need to get to X followers by the end of the month or in six months. There are more and more influencers every day, but also more and more brands every day willing to work and pay influencers. There is room for everyone.
Knowing the above two will also help your mental health and prevent you from feeling down about yourself if your account isn’t growing as you’d like. Everything takes time!
Don’t just learn about Instagram.
There’s more to Instagram that just posting content and learning the algorithm.
Brands use social media influencers as a form of marketing so you can learn about marketing, psychology of people, building a network, making money and more. As a result, you may want to read some of these books for influencers and bloggers that I’ve read to help me with my blogging and influencing business.
Don’t take trade collaborations just because it’s “free” stuff.
A trap many new Instagram influencers fall into is getting excited about “free” stuff.
Know that “free” is not free. You pay for this stuff with your time making your content, time building your community, and most importantly, the trust gained with your community.
Under no circumstance should you risk the trust and relationship you’ve build with your community just for “free” stuff.
Downside of Getting Free Stuff
What I actually ended up hating about getting “free” stuff is that a lot of times, the items were garbage and it was not good to promote it to my existing audience. I compromised my hard-earned relationship building.
Overtime, all the free stuff created sooo much clutter in my apartment, and lastly, the time I spent creating content for this garbage, I couldn’t spent time creating content on actually valuable content with stuff I already own and use.
Only take trade collaborations if it’s something you would already spend money on yourself, you plan on using it and/or your community would find it to be valuable.
Really think about your time!
By the way, a lot of brands pay regardless of your follower count. For every 20 brands that say “we only do trade collabs and don’t pay”, there will be a brand that will pay you. You just have to be persistent and accept that the no’s are just a part of this business as the yes’ are. Learn how to negotiate with brands looking for influencers.
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7. Get Paid Sponsorships as an Instagram Influencer
Promote Items/Services You Already Own and Love
If you want to get sponsorships as an Instagram influencer, you’ll have to post about whatever niche you’re trying to get paid in. This helps you build your portfolio, and unlike what most people think, you do not need to do any trade collaborations to build your portfolio.
You can build your portfolio with items/services you already own/use and love, which is the most authentic and genuine way to cultivate your community as well.
Sign Up to Influencer Platforms
Of course, doing trade collaborations can be a great way to start out with building your portfolio if they’re with brands that you and your audience already love, plan on using or can benefit from.
In the beginning, the best trade collaborations are not the ones that come into your email or your DMs, but then ones you apply to yourself.
You can sign up to influencer platforms, which have both trade and paid collaborations. These are a couple of good ones I’ve been using for years:
If there are anymore that should be in this list, please comment below! That way, we can help more people learn how to become an influencer on Instagram. Remember- there is room for everyone.
Be careful with your time! Applying to collaborations on these can get time consuming! Do not let it cut into your main growth activity, which is posting content and engaging with your audience. The faster you can grow, the easier it’ll be to get collaborations in the future.
Also don’t sign up to too many platforms at a time. Some are literal garbage and have the worst campaigns.
Create a Media Kit
Media kits are 1-2 sheet PDFs that you send to brands with information about you, what your account is about and general statistics.
When you pitch to brands, it’s really helpful to send them a media kit. This helps them see clearly why they should work with you.
You can make a free media kit on Canva or check out already done for you media kit templates here.
Create Relationships With Brands and PR Firms
Paid sponsorships don’t happen over night. Sometimes they can take months to happen, especially if you build a solid relationship with a brand or PR firm.
You can create relationships with brands and PR firms by simply introducing yourself to them on social media, sending them a media kit and staying connected with them. This way, you’ll be first on their mind if they have a campaign coming up or have the opportunity to work with you.
Pitch to Brands
You don’t have to wait for brands to come to you to get collaborations. In fact, the highest paying Instagram influencers will reach out to brands first.
You can straight up pitch to them! Seriously- go to them first.
Let them know what you can do for them, show them examples of content that would be similar to what you would do and tell them what you expect in return.
Tips for Pitching to Brands:
- Do your research. Make sure your collaboration would be truly helpful to the brand.
- Find their contact via social media, their website or even LinkedIn.
- Include a media kit. You can make a free media kit on Canva or check out already done for you media kit templates here.
- Have a template for pitching but customize it to each brand.
- Be persistent. Follow up 1-2x instead of getting defeated and immediately thinking they don’t want to work with you.
- Pitch often and expect lots of no’s for every yes you get! It’s just part of the business.
If you do get a sponsorship by pitching, congrats! Just make sure to tweak your influencer contract template with appropriate deliverables, timing and clauses and have the brand sign it before you start work.
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10. Treat Your Instagram Like a Legit Business
Once you start mastering how to become an influencer on IG and start making money, you’ll want to collect money from brands and keep track of your earnings properly because of taxes!
Yes, just like any other business, you need to report your earnings to pay taxes.
To send invoices, I have two methods:
- This App: I use Lumanu because you can make invoices quickly and it’s a cheaper alternative to PayPal. While PayPal charges you a fee, which adds up on quickly on large sponsorships, Lumanu has no fee! Read more about Lumanu in this blog post or sign up here.
- My Own Template + Bill.com: I try to use Lumanu’s invoicing system as much as possible but some of my clients prefer more detailed invoices or are abroad so I’ll have to send them my own invoice, which includes an option to pay with Bill.com.
Want the template I use to invoice brands? Get it here for $5.
Tracking Revenue and Expenses
Any good business has impeccable records of their revenue and expenses (aka how much they earn and spend on their business).
Not only is this good for tax season but knowing exactly where your money comes from and what you spend it on will help you with analyzing how to best grow your business.
Bookkeeping aka the act of keeping track of your revenue and expenses is something I encourage you to start doing asap because the more organized you are from the beginning, the better sense you’ll have about your business.
You can learn about easy bookkeeping for influencers here on my blog.
Have a Separate Workspace
Besides being able to expense your home office or coworking space, you’ll want to have a separate workspace to really into the work vibe. You’d have a separate workspace for any other job so the same applies to your IG influencer work too.
If you have a small apartment in New York City, carve out a corner of your apartment. If you’re lucky enough to have a whole extra room in your home, then make a content creating studio, which will make it easier to pump out content!
Invest Your Earnings
As your Instagram business grows, it’s a really good idea to invest your earnings. This could be in:
- gear for content creating,
- courses to help you learn,
- health insurance*,
- mental health care*
- and a Roth IRA* or stocks. A Roth IRA is a retirement fund account. Please consult a financial advisor for help on this if you need. This is for entertainment purposes only.
*As someone with two chronic illnesses, I know very well that your business can only make money as long as you have energy. You are your business.
Invest in yourself. Invest in your health and future.
Unlike working at a corporation, you don’t get health insurance or retirement fund help so make sure to take care of this on your own. Your health and financial wellbeing are a part of your business just as much as your camera and laptop is.
If you’re at a point of doing brand collaborations, you’ve built a community and you have tons of posts on Instagram, you might want to consider protecting your business just like most businesses do– by getting Instagram influencer insurance!
You probably won’t need this if you’re just starting out but as you get established, it’s something good to consider, but at the very least, take the necessary steps to secure your account so it doesn’t get hacked.
Was this section on the business side of Instagram helpful? Please consider Pinning this post on Pinterest so you can help me out and also help others who aspire to be an IG influencer to find this post. Thank you so much!
9. Network With Similar Creators
You might find the road to learning how to become an Instagram influencer to be a bit lonely. It’s not like going into work and seeing all your colleagues daily.
Instead, most creators are working by themselves in their own homes or at co-working spaces on their own brands.
Nonetheless, what holds true for most, if not all, industries holds true for Instagram– networking is key.
Networking with other Instagram influencers is not only fun but you will grow and learn faster by sharing tips and even referring each other to brands for trade collaborations and paid sponsorships.
Want to support AAPI creators like me? Check out these Asian American Instagram influencers!
10. Diversify Your Instagram Income
Generally most people on Instagram make money with sponsorships. Sponsorships pay really well, but to diversify your Instagram income, you can use Instagram to advertise other services/products to your audience. These include but are not limited to:
- Selling personal branded goods (i.e. notebooks, clothing, etc.) by using a service like Printful
- Selling services on Fiverr
- Selling digital products on Etsy or your own website
- Selling courses on Teachable (like me- see my courses here)
- Offering consulting or coaching services
- Promoting items/services on Instagram to make affiliate income
- Having a paid membership or paid-only content
Having your own products and services will make you less dependent on sponsorships alone and keep your income more consistent.
For a really great link in bio option that allows you to sell memberships, courses, products/services, bookings and much more, check out my blog post on this creator store I use.
11. Move Onto Other Platforms
Now that you’ve mastered how to become an IG influencer, you may want to move onto other platforms. There is great money making opportunity on TikTok, YouTube and even with starting your own blog.
Moving onto other platforms will allow you to create multiple revenue streams meaning you have money coming in from different sources.
It’s important to have multiple revenue streams as an influencer because this increase your money making capabilities but also because social media is subject to fluctuations in the market. If market or consumer changes impact the way people interact with one social platform, you’ll have another one ready to make money.
This is why I am not only an Instagram influencer but I also have a combined 141k followers on TikTok (from 4 accounts– don’t create multiple accounts like me; it’s not a good idea…), 26k followers on Pinterest and two different blogs.
Out of all my platforms, my favorite are my blogs because:
- I own my own blog. One day Instagram could decide to shut down its platform, remove features your need for sponsorship or completely change leaving you at risk of losing your business (highly unlikely but still a poignant example of how you are in the hands of a corporation). With my own blog, only I get to decide when or how it changes. I get to decide if I want it to shut down or keep going.
- I make passive income from my blog; that means blog posts I wrote years ago makes me money ’till this day without much extra added effort. Passive income in the form of affiliate marketing and ad revenue are much easier to make with blogging than social media.
- This passive income boosts my monthly income about 20%, which gives me a big cushion on whether I want to say yes or no to partnership or if I even want to work much on my Instagram that month. It’s so helpful for my chronic illnesses (fibromyalgia and ulcerative colitis- I am a hot autoimmune mess).
If you’ve mastered Instagram, are making good money with it and want to start a blog, I have a free blogging course that helps you get your blog set up in 5 days!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best time/day to post?
Despite the many websites online that say that one time is better than the other to post to, this really depends on your target audience (i.e. location, age range, etc.) and when your followers are online.
If you’re just starting out, you may want to test posting 2x a day in the morning and afternoon.
Then as you grow, Instagram will give you data on when most of your followers are online. Read the Followers section of Understanding Your Data on Instagram to see when your followers are online.
I already have a personal Instagram account. Should I delete everything and start over or should I start a new account?
This depends on how many followers you already have and if they are your target audience for the niche you want to post in. It also depends on if you’ll want a personal account to keep in touch with your friends and family.
Read through this section to help you with this question.
How many followers do you need to get brand deals?
You can start working with brands with as little as 100 followers since you will recognized as a nano influencer. Most brands will likely do trade collaborations with you but if you create content for them and use your Instagram as a portfolio, you can get paid.
Make sure to read the section on this trade collaboration mistake so you’re not compromising your time for stuff you don’t actually need and are not taking away time from building your audience.
How do you get your first 1000 followers?
Because Instagram is so focused on Reels, I would definitely recommend posting Reels to get to your first 1000 followers. You can learn about that here.
How do I get content ideas for the niche I’m in?
It sounds counterintuitive but the more you post, the more ideas you get. Also, the more engaged you are on Instagram, the more ideas you’ll get.
Make sure to follow creators in your niche to get inspired by them (but don’t copy) and engage with your community. You’ll learn from them what they need and get many ideas from them.
How do you know if a post will perform well or not?
In the beginning, you won’t know if a post will perform well or not. You will only know once you post it and then have enough data/insight from past posts to know whether it’ll perform well or not.
Even after being on Instagram for awhile, some posts that you think might do well may not do well. It relies on variables that are outside our control.
The best way to approach knowing or not though is to post so you have more aggregated data (from your Insights) on what works for you or not. Read the section on Understanding Your Data on Instagram.
It’s good to know that not all posts need to perform well. Some posts will be for connecting with your audience; some will be for reaching a new audience.
Not all posts are meant to perform well and that’s ok! Knowing this will save your mental health that can be easily impacted by Instagram. Read the section on Instagram impacting your mental health.
Can only some niches make money?
All niches can make money. As long as there are brands that exist in that niche who sell products and services, then you can make money as well because you would be helping them market their products and services.
Read the section on how to get paid as an Instagram influencer.
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Until next time,