4 ways to make money on Instagram

These days, it seems opportunities for a side hustles can be found around every corner — including within an app that you likely already have on your phone: Instagram. We know influencers can rake it in on Insta, but you don’t have to be a social star to use the app as an income source. “The term ‘influencer’ gets thrown around so often these days; but the truth is, Instagram provides an opportunity for anyone to generate revenue,” said Calli Cholodenko, founder and CEO of Something Social. “There are several ways to generate revenue on Instagram, some more obvious than others.”

Brush up on your Insta-business opportunities here.

Join an affiliate program

Affiliate marketing gives Instagram users the chance to make money by linking to products in posts or stories and earning a commission each time a follower clicks through and makes a purchase. Cholodenko noted that the primary platforms for affiliate marketing are RewardStyle and Like to Know It; but there are many others, including Amazon, ShopStyle Collective, LinkShare, ClickBank and more. While some require a pretty substantial following, others are more open to beginners. And, as Ashley Hajjar, director of influencer marketing at Rakuten Marketing, previously told Mic, many advertisers also have public affiliate programs that allow anyone to partner with them. “An influencer can begin monetizing from the moment they have one follower,” she said.

Partner with brands for sponsored posts

Sponsored posts — the ones promoting certain brands or products with a hashtag like #ad or #spon — are also incredibly common among the influencer set. Instagram users can partner with brands on one-off posts or stories or ongoing campaigns that incorporate multiple posts. These are often priced per post, though payment can also be determined based on factors like engagement (such as how many people comment or click a link) — and the amount varies widely. “A sponsored post can range from $20 to [more than] $200,000, and allows brands to reach new audiences based on the influencers they leverage,” Cholodenko said. Sponsorships can also go hand-in-hand with affiliate marketing: Cholodenko noted that many influencers become “brand ambassadors” and regularly promote the products with unique links or discount codes.

If you’re interested in partnering with a brand, you don’t have to wait for them to come to you — nor do you have to wait until you have a massive following. Micro-influencers, who have anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 followers, are considered just as (if not more) valuable to brands than people with way higher numbers. “You can...be proactive about becoming an ambassador for some of your favorite brands,” Cholodenko said. “Do some research, identify brands who utilize affiliate marketing and send them a [direct message]. Brands want passionate customers in their corner, and they’ll likely be happy to provide a discount code or affiliate link to share with your audience, regardless of the size.” They may be willing to partner with you on sponsored posts as well, depending on your pitch — and perhaps even more so if you’ve already built up some compelling affiliate marketing statistics, Hajjar said.

But the most important thing is to make sure you have a feed full of quality content, said Marissa Stahl, COO of Something Social. “Brands look for clear, consistent imagery and high quality image/video assets when seeking partners to promote their product,” she said. “Posting high quality content centered around a consistent and unique aesthetic provides value to followers, users and ultimately brands seeking partnerships, and will make you stand out in the space.”

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Sell your professional services or products

You don’t have to sell other people’s products to make money on Instagram. If you have your own business — or even just a skill others might find valuable — you can use the platform to sell yourself and your products. “Instagram can...be a great tool for marketing a digital offering, online course, training program or even consulting services,” Cholodenko said. “By developing a relationship with your audience and strategically communicating your offering, you can streamline the sales process to your target audience.”

Caley Dimmock, a brand and marketing consultant, does just that. She said she sells “educational opportunities such as in-person workshops and online courses” through Instagram, and also uses the site to promote herself “in a way that generates inquiries for [her] marketing and creative services.” Dimmock’s services range from photography and content creation to creating Adobe Lightroom presets that others can download and use on their own personal images.

You can also sell physical products of all sorts. “The platform provides the opportunity to generate awareness for a unique skill set, be it needlepoint accessories with rap lyrics, punny garden vases [or] fan art,” Stahl said.

Cholodenko added you can integrate product sales with Instagram through services like Shopify or WooCommerce, though you’ll need to set up a business account on Instagram, as well as a Facebook page and an approved Facebook shop. Without Shopify or WooCommerce, “many people sell goods and services through direct messaging on the Instagram platform,” she said.

And again, you don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of followers to get started. “I truly believe in the 1,000 true fans concept,” Dimmock said. “If you have your own product or service, all you need to do is build an audience of 1,000 solid people to generate income. Let’s say that each of these 1,000 people spends only $100 with you over the course of a year — that’s $100,000 a year in income.”

The key, Stahl explained, is “establish[ing] a community based on your specific skill or interest,” such as creating an account highlight your beautiful desserts if you’re a baker, using relevant hashtags, and tailoring your messaging for followers who are interested in baking. “Once you’ve established a strong baking community on your account, you would begin to offer goods and services that can be sold through the app — [like] cakes for delivery, wedding cakes [and] baking lessons,” she said.

Clean out your closet

There are lots of ways to sell the clothes you no longer want — such as through apps and websites like Poshmark and ThredUp. And while those sites have their benefits (such as providing shipping materials or doing the posting on your behalf), you can also try selling your stuff directly on Instagram using hashtags like #ShopMyCloset, #Instashop and #Instasale.

You can host sales on your primary account, but particularly if your feed isn’t usually geared toward style, it may make sense to start a dedicated secondhand sales account. As noted on StyleCaster, it’s worthwhile to post information about yourself and your shopping policies (such as shipping and payment methods) and create detailed invoices for your customers.

Regardless of what you’re selling on Instagram, the key, Dimmock said, is to establish yourself as someone your followers can trust, and take the time to understand them and “nurture those relationships.”

As Stahl said, “Instagram started as an online community and it’s best to treat it as such. Making money should be secondary, creating relationships should come first.”

And if you’re overwhelmed, heed Cholodenko’s wisdom. “We hear it all the time: ‘It’s too late,’ ‘it’s too saturated,’” she said. “But the truth is anyone, at any moment, can leverage Instagram to further their brand or personal brand. Keep things consistent, speak to a specific audience and the revenue will follow.”