How to Make Money on Instagram: The Mystery Unraveled

Who’s making all the money these days? From the looks of it, it’s people and businesses on Instagram. Are you getting a piece of the pie? We all spend a lot of time on this platform. It seems like we should start benefiting from it financially. But is it a complete mystery how some people are raking in the dough by merely taking advantage of their social media prowess while the rest of us just keep scrolling? You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and watch others profit from Instagram - you can jump right in and join them! Instead of spending your money on social media, it’s time to learn how to start earning money there. With the right tools, the right information, and a little time, you too can start making money on the ‘gram. 

Breaking Instagram Down 

So, when did Instagram become a thing?

Its original focus was on photos and images instead of text, which is how it got its name. It’s a play on instant telegram. It launched in October 2010 and has never looked back. With 25,000 users signing up on the very first day, it was a huge success right out of the gate. When first launched, it was the number one app for photography, gaining nearly 100,000 users in its first month and almost 1 million more by the end of its second month. In 2011 it earned the App Store iPhone App of the Year award, with over 14 million users posting nearly 400 million images that year.

Then, in April 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram, giving it the ability to evolve and grow right along with its popularity. In the years since, it’s grown to include 25 languages and is used by one billion monthly actives and over 2.3 billion monthly users.

What are some of the most significant updates on the platform?

They’ve incorporated filters, updated formats, increased the number of photos and videos per post, included view counts, added stickers, developed zoom capabilities, added the stories feature, improved security, added tools, and enhanced controls. But that’s just the beginning. If you’re a small business owner, Insta has grown to suit your needs even more. By introducing advertisers, allowing users to create business profiles, allowing for paid partnerships with specific identifying tags, and they’ve made it possible and simple to make purchases directly from the platform. All of these things make it easier to make money, both as an individual user and as a business. 

How Does Instagram Make Money in 2020?

Instagram started without a clear way to make a profit.

There were no advertisers and no monetization model. Since its acquisition by Facebook in 2012, their advertising model has become an ad platform for brands, both big and small. Additionally, with the move to mobile optimization for most apps, Instagram is in a great position to be dominant in advertising well into the future, especially with millennials, its key demographic. This is the critical piece of the profitability puzzle for them, evidenced by the 177% increase in advertising spending in 2018.

Brands and individuals can use image ads with links in their bios, or carousel ads that allow for swipe-able photos and options for clicking through to a website or making a purchase directly through the app. With a reach of nearly 850 million users, advertisers are taking advantage of access to a global target market, which is why advertising is where Instagram makes its money. 

Can Money Be Made on Instagram?

If you’d asked how to make money on Instagram in 2018, you might get a different answer than if you’d asked how to make money on Instagram in 2020.

The platform has evolved and grown year over year. Currently, nearly 200 million Instagram users will visit a business profile every day. That’s a lot of access to users and consumers. But it’s not just businesses that can make a killing on the app. Individuals and entrepreneurs can find their niche there too. Who is making money on Instagram? There are four main types of Insta earners:

  1.   Influencers
  2.   Affiliate marketers
  3.   Photographers
  4.   Small businesses

Do Instagram Users Get Paid? Introducing the Influencer

Do Instagram users get paid? The short answer is yes. But it’s really the influencers who make the big bucks. Instead of allocating a huge chunk of their marketing budget to billboard, radio, TV, and print ads, brands are paying people to reach their target market. Those people are called influencers. 

earn money on Instagram

Who Is the Highest-Paid Instagrammer?

Getting paid as an influencer just for using Instagram is a bit of an art.

The most obvious example is Kylie Jenner, who is the highest-paid influencer on social media, including Instagram. She and her sisters have changed the game when it comes to influencer marketing. But let’s be real, they are the exception, not the rule. They rake in upwards of $1 million or more per sponsored post. It’s truly mind-boggling. Other celebrities, including supermodels like Bella Hadid and athletes like David Beckham, earn anywhere from $75,000 to nearly $1 million per post, depending on who it is and how many followers they have.

But what about for other influencers, those who have significantly fewer followers than Kylie Jenner’s 153 million?

There is plenty of moolah to go around. There are influencers for every market and every demographic. Companies are always looking for ways to spread the word about their products. Smaller companies with smaller budgets often reach out to local or regional influencers to build their brands with the Instagrammers that can impact them immediately and directly. The keys are engagement and number of followers. You can have 20,000 followers, but if your posts don’t generate engagement, your value as an influencer drops. To get the biggest bang for their buck, sponsors want to see that people are paying attention. This shows they’re getting a great ROI. It’s the users that have a significant following that comment, and like the posts, they share that have the most value to sponsors. 

How Much Money Do You Make from Instagram?  

How much can influencers make on social media? It depends. There is an estimated scale that looks something like this: 

  •   5,000 – 10,000 followers: $100 to $500 per post
  •   10,000 – 25,000 followers: $500 to $800 per post
  •   25,000 – 50,000 followers: $800 to $1.500 per post
  •   50,000 – 100,000 followers: $1,500 to $2,000 per post
  •   100,000 – 250,000 followers: $2,000 to $6,000
  •   1 million followers and up: $10,000 and up, per post

The truth is there is very little standardization when it comes to influencer sponsorship and partnership deals and collaborations. It really depends on demographics, brand, product, engagement, creative authority, production costs, timing, and rights. It’s a wide-open field right now where pretty much anything goes. If you have the followers and you can get what you ask for - do it. 

The Low-Down on Affiliate Marketing

You can get paid for Instagram posts without being a celebrity influencer.

One way is through affiliate marketing. What is an affiliate? By definition, it’s a person or organization officially attached to a larger body. In other words, individuals can get paid to become affiliate marketers by helping businesses generate sales. Initially most successful for bloggers, this type of referral advertising has shifted to social media platforms, including Instagram, and is proving to be hugely profitable. And it’s relatively simple. Keep in mind, like influencers, you need to have a substantial follower base for it to be profitable. Unlike influencers, you can do it on your own without sponsors. 

How does it work?

If you spend some time on social media, you have a pretty good handle on it, you get the ins and outs, and you have a fairly significant following, you can cash-in on that. You can create some passive income by partnering with online businesses. It works when you refer your followers to their site, and they pay you commission for the referral. Here’s what to do:

Sign up with brands and companies that accept affiliates.

Some of the top companies that accept affiliates include Amazon, eBay, GoDaddy, and HostGator, or a marketplace like ClickBank.

Consider your niche before signing up.

Stay in your lane and the lane of your followers, so you stay in sync. Otherwise, you won’t make money, and you could alienate your followers. One way to branch out is through marketplace affiliates. You can earn money on Instagram with ClickBank, one of the many online marketplaces, no matter your demographic. It has products and services from a wide variety of categories, so you can hit your niche market with relevant items no matter who is doing the shopping.

Provide an affiliate link to promote a product or service in a post.

We know, we know, Instagram doesn’t have in-post links, but you can put it in your bio. Make sure to direct people to the link in your bio. Affiliate links have your personal information embedded in them, so the e-commerce company knows to give you credit and commission for sales generated through those individualized links. 

Make sure your images pop!

The more attention-grabbing your image, the more luck you’ll have with an affiliate link. Such is the way of Instagram. 

Don’t go promotion crazy.

If your followers sense an ad campaign in your pics, they’ll bail. Be discreet. Incorporate the product into a lifestyle pic or via a shoutout, then add hashtags and a note to check your bio link. The hashtags will generate interest, potentially boost views, and could increase the number of your followers. You want people to click through the bio link and make a purchase. It’s how the brand you’re promoting makes money, and it’s how you’ll make money.

Photographers Are Finding a Whole New Audience – and Income Stream

income from Instagram

Photography is not a lost art, contrary to what it might seem.

Anyone and everyone with a phone or a digital camera can market themselves as a “photographer.” And with this easy access to photography equipment built into your smartphone, any photographer, be it hobbyist, amateur, or professional, can reach a vastly larger audience. But can money be made there? The answer is a resounding yes. Instagram is basically a free exhibit space, though instead of reaching a handful of dedicated patrons at a gallery, you have a billion potential followers and customers.

Here are a few Instagram earning tricks you can use:

Sell your photographs.

Posting your photos might mean some people try to steal the images, but the limited resolution on the platform means they won’t get great prints. People who fall in love with what you’ve captured will want a high res print. You can post your photographs and use a variety of sites, including your own website, to make the sale.

Utilize Patreon.

Patreon is a membership platform that uses crowdfunding for artists. You can tease your work on Instagram and collect a fee for your patrons to view your photography collection. 

Team up with an influencer.

A great way to make money from Instagram as a photographer is to team up with an influencer to take the photos they post. We all know some of them are in desperate need of some professional pics. You make them look great. Their follower numbers go up. You both profit. 

Offer your services.

Instagram is a great place to find your target market if you want to promote your services as a photographer for hire. Weddings, family photos, event photography, you name it, you can sell it. Using great samples of your work and the right hashtags, you can boost your photography business and get bookings through a link in your bio. 

Become an influencer.

Once you have built up your following, you can be an influencer yourself. Use your status and engagement to build sponsorship and partnership opportunities and get paid to post information on things you might already be using. Camera equipment, outdoor gear, lighting, locations, and destinations are all potential funding sources you can use once you rack up the right number of followers. 

Take advantage of affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing opportunities go hand in hand with influencer sponsorships. When you have the followers and engagement, you can make a bundle with affiliate links and product promotion. 

How do you promote your photography as an Instagrammer?

There are some essential moves you need to make to get it right. 

Create a great profile.

You need an image that commands attention, a description that is concise but tells who you are in a way that makes people want to find out more, and make sure you include a link to your website. 

Post only your best photographs.

This is critical. Don’t muddy the waters with sub-par quality. You want to keep people coming back, keep them engaged, keep the likes and comments coming. 

Connect with your audience through Stories.

You can boost engagement and entice more people to follow you by sharing insider info on Instagram Stories. The best story content includes behind-the-scenes images and videos, tips and tricks they can use themselves, information about your equipment, the brand, your settings, and setup, and answering questions from followers through the story feature. 

Use hashtags and geotags.

To find more followers, one must use hashtags. You can promote your brand, your location, your equipment, and the theme or subject of the photo. Geotags are also helpful to get followers as they’ll find you when they search for a place you are or have been. Turn on your location settings and if you want Insta to add your location automatically. 

Don’t overdo it.

Post regularly, but only if you have exceptional images to share. One to two per day is about right, and you can schedule them, so you never miss the chance to post. Mid-morning and early evening are the best times to post and catch the biggest audience.

Everyone can tell the difference between a great smartphone pic and a true fine art photograph. If you’re a photographer and you’re not also an Instagrammer, you’re missing the boat on a potentially significant income source. 

Small Businesses Are Finding Customers and Earning Money on Insta

Being a Kardashian isn’t the only way to make money on Instagram. Small businesses are finding not only followers but also customers on the social media platform. Kylie Jenner’s cosmetic company is just one example of how you can create a booming business with the right approach. Let’s take a look at some other examples of success stories from the ‘gram, and how you can use their techniques and strategies to market your own small business online. 

Insta Success Stories

Pura Vida Bracelets 

This small jewelry company, started in San Diego by two college friends, has grown into a global brand, and most of the credit goes to their social media presence and mastery. They currently boast 1.9 million followers, reported 2018 sales of over $68 million, and sold a majority stake in the company to Vera Bradly, the international luggage and handbag company, for a cool $75 million. And they did all of this by selling colorful bracelets that start at just $6. How? By using Instagram to find followers and promote their pure life philosophy. They stayed true to their vision by using images that capture their laid-back lifestyle brand. 


A husband and wife team started Letterfolk by creating handmade letter boards that they sold with a full set of characters so people could create custom signs that they could change on a whim. They’ve expanded their business to include custom home goods, office supplies, stamps, stationery, and more. With 315,000 followers, a handful of employees, and an estimated revenue of over $1.2 million, their motto of crafting “meaningful products inspired by simpler times” seems to be working. And their success is undoubtedly due to their simple yet striking images, their sense of humor, and their appeal to their followers’ sense of style via their Instagram feed. 

Popeye the Foodie  

Popeye is an adorable and lovable dog rescued from the streets of Los Angeles who is now living the high life and starring in his own Insta feed. By putting this furry face in front of food, his owner is reaping the rewards. By documenting his gastronomic adventures, they have built a following of nearly 400k and now have a line of Popeye the Foodie merchandise that sells on Amazon, West Elm, Spread Shirt, Chewy, and more. How did this happen? By using Instagram to its fullest potential and posting adorable, relatable, captivating images of a pup that was once a starving stray and is now wearing cute outfits and eating at some of LA’s best eateries. And making his owners a pretty penny in the process. 

How Can You Create This Kind of Success for Your Small Business?

There are a million ways to market your company, your product, your service, and your brand. But Instagram is one way you can take advantage of a global audience to get the word out. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started:

  1. Create an account. It’s critical to determine your theme, feel, or style that fits your image and your business. If your company is all about a formal lifestyle or high-end products, make sure you steer clear of that laid-back feel or the informal images that don’t jibe with your brand. Make sure the look is in sync with what you’ve already put out there, and be sure to edit and enhance your images to get the biggest bang for your buck. You want to draw people in, make them stop and click like and make a comment, and then, hopefully, click-through to make a purchase. And then share on their own feed. 
  2. Plan your strategy. It’s never a good idea to wing it when it comes to promoting your business on social media. You want followers to recognize your style. If you start in a haphazard direction, you’ll have to shift gears, and that will create discontinuity and will confuse the people you’re trying to attract. 
  3. Be creative. Take advantage of all Instagram has to offer. You’ll need visuals, videos, and stories to capture your audience. Don’t shy away from carousel selling, and be sure to include links in your bio, hashtags, and geocodes. 
  4. Show who you are. Some of the most successful Insta accounts have gotten that way by showing their customers who they are. Whether you’re a wedding photographer that’s willing to travel, a digital artist who works remotely for international clients, or the owner of a CPA firm that wants to take on more clients, they need to know you, not just your business. Whatever you do, show off what you do best. 
  5. Be consistent! The best business feeds are easily identifiable because all of their posts have the same look and feel, relatable text, and easy to navigate links. 

So, You’re Up and Running on Insta. Now What?

How does all of this equal a big payday? The most common way for small businesses to make money on Instagram is by selling their products and services through the platform. This can be by way of links in your bio or with a shoppable account. Links in your bio is an easy way to direct customers to your website. They are pulled in by your compelling images or video and have to know more! Make sure you mention in your text that they should check the link in your bio, so they know there’s more to see. You can then sell from your website or another e-commerce platform such as Shopify, 3dcart, BigCommerce, Volusion, and WooCommerce, just to name a few. 

Want to have a shoppable account? This type of account allows your followers to click through to purchase directly from your post. You can also use a shoppable account to buy sponsored ad space, so even people who don’t follow you will see your post.  

Here’s what you do:

First: Create a product catalog on Facebook with your e-commerce site

Second: Set up your account and get approval for Instagram Shopping

Third: Turn on Instagram Shopping in the app following this process: Profile>Settings>Business>Shopping>Continue>select a product catalog to connect to your business account>Done

Here’s how to add products to your posts once you have approval for shopping:

  • Upload your images – you can tag five items for every image posted or 20 items if you use a carousel post. 
  • Add captions just like you would for any other post
  • Tag your products – this option appears below “Tag People”
  • Type in the words that match your Facebook catalog – Instagram will pull the items from your catalog that match those keywords
  • Share away! These posts will appear in your feed, and your followers can click through to purchase any of the tagged items. 
  • Use the new Checkout feature – this allows shoppers to buy your products without ever leaving the app

Need Some Tips for Making More Sales?

Start by tagging multiple items in each post, and make sure they’re tagged correctly, so the tags are attached to the right items. Make sure the shopping experience is consistent by ensuring the images accurately show what the items look like. Make sure you only use high-quality images and use descriptive hashtags, so there’s no guessing what you’re promoting. 

What If You Sell Services?

You can still promote and sell your brand through Instagram, even if you don’t have a physical product to sell. It’s similar in that you need to engage your audience and inspire them. Tell your story and showcase your company, your people, and your service. Make sure you’re utilizing links as much as possible so that you can take advantage of a shoppable account, just be sure your catalog reflects what you’re offering, and that your tags are appropriate. That way, there’s no confusion on what you can provide to your followers. 

Other Ways to Get Paid

You don’t have to be an influencer, an affiliate marketer, a photographer, or a small business to make money on Instagram. There are other ways to find your fortune, or at least an additional income stream, on the platform. Take a look. 

Make Money with Paid Partnerships

With a decent following, you can make money from paid partnerships even if you aren’t Influencer status. If you have anywhere from 10k followers and up, brands will want to leverage you to promote their products. When you have a lot of followers, and you have trackable engagement, sponsors will often reach out to you. You can also pitch ideas to brands you like for products you use anyway. That way, you get paid to use what you’re already using. 

When you get started down the partnership path, be sure to stay true to your content and your style. It will lead to the greatest success with any promotion and will ensure consistency and reliability for your followers. If you’ve built your base around lifestyle shots in urban areas, you can’t do a beachside promo and expect people to get it. If it doesn’t fit, either see if they’ll work with your branding or pass. Be confident in what you’re promoting. If you don’t believe in the brand, don’t post it on your feed. It should be genuine to maintain trust with your people. 

How to Make Money with Clickbank and Instagram

What the heck is Clickbank, and how can you make money from it? Let’s take a look. First of all, it’s an affiliate marketing program. They have more than six-million clients globally, and they’re in the top 100 internet retailers in North America. So, what does that mean for you? 

You make money when you share affiliate links on your Insta feed, which can create some passive income if you have enough followers who will click the links and make a purchase. The key is traffic. If your feed only sees a few dozen visitors per day, you’re not likely to be a good Clickbank affiliate candidate. But with a sizeable following, you can monetize your account and take advantage of the revenue you’ll generate by offering free advertising to this mega online retailer. All you have to do is sign up. Then pick products that fit with your image and within your niche. Finally,  promote them in your feed. 

Instagram Fitness Could Work Out Well for You

Becoming an influencer in any capacity takes time, attention, a certain level of social media savvy, and an excellent strategy. This is undoubtedly true if you want to make money on Instagram fitness posts. And it’s about more than being beautiful. Here’s how to get there if you’re a fitness fanatic or are passionate about exercise and health, and you want to share it with the world. 

Build your following.

Just like any influencer, you have to have a substantial following. You have to start somewhere, but if you build it, your fitness followers will come. 

Create the right content.

Your posts must resonate with other fitness enthusiasts. What types of posts do you want to see? Create the kinds of images and information that you would draw you in, and your people will feel the same way. Make sure your images are high-quality, that you’re offering valuable information and tips on:

  • Health
  • Workouts
  • Tutorials
  • Before and after pictures
  • Progress updates
  • Accomplishments
  • Awards and recognition
  • Motivational quotes
  • Action shots
  • Recipes for nutrient-rich food, shakes, and drinks

Hashtags are king.

In every niche, hashtags are what will make it easy for people to find you and to find the type of content you’re sharing. Research fitness-related hashtags and find influencers who are like you and try to replicate their hashtag game. Be specific and specialized. Make sure you tag your particular exercise, food, or workout. Tag any products or brands you’re using in the picture. And try to use at least 10 or 11 hashtags per post. Followers will find you, but so will sponsors and potential partners. 

Engage with other fitness influencers.

Use your hashtags to find other people in the fitness community. Engage with them, follow them, and ask for a follow back. 

Reach out to potential sponsors.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, including sponsorships. You can try this through a DM, or you can answer questions people are asking on the brand’s posts. You can connect with them by using their products and talking about them in your posts. This is where tagging that brand is critical! 

How to Make Money on Instagram without Followers

You can’t make money on Instagram without any followers, but you can make money before you reach the 10,000-follower milestone. If you’re an individual trying to earn money on social media, one of the best ways is by attracting brands who want you to promote their products and services. While 10k is a magic number, you can still appeal to companies with fewer followers. How? By appealing to their target market. The key is building relationships with your followers that leads to increased engagement. Compelling images and captivating content while highlighting a product will catch the attention of the company that makes that product. Make sure the brands you’re promoting fit your niche. 

If you own your own business, you start making money by promoting your goods and services and building your following in the process. Showcasing the product is just the beginning. You have to have great content to succeed. Use Instagram Shopping, create searchable hashtags, have flash sales, offer coupons, post polls, and feature customer stories and insider information. As you build relationships, those followers are going to share your information. That is what will build your following and your brand.  

Insta Tips and Tricks

earning on Instagram

Building Followers - Why 10k is the Magic Number

Reaching 10,000 followers is a turning point on Instagram. It opens doors to sponsorships, partnerships, influencer status, and the ability to make more money. First and foremost, you can take advantage of the swipe up link on your stories. This gives viewers instant access to a direct link to your blog, your website, an email or newsletter signup page, or an e-commerce site. It creates an immediate impact on your site traffic by eliminating steps required by users to get there. Reports indicate a conversion rate of 15-25% per story. 

Don’t Buy Followers

There’s a term for bought and paid for followers – fake. First of all, you risk removal from Instagram. Second, you won’t reach the coveted verified status on Instagram, meaning you won’t earn that beautiful blue checkmark on your profile. And finally, only high-quality followers with genuine engagement will entice businesses to give you their business. 

Boosting the Elusive Engagement Rate

While the number of followers is the most hyped metric on Instagram, the most crucial metric is actually engagement. What exactly is engagement? And how can it be measured? Engagement amounts to how people interact with your page. This can be visible in likes and comments, but it’s more than that. A simple formula you can use to measure engagement is to divide the number of comments by your number of followers and multiply times 100. This percentage is your engagement rate for any individual post. 

Great, now that you know how to figure out your engagement rate, how do you bump it up a notch?

Here are a few ways to do just that:

  • Strategize your hashtag use – when it comes to organic reach on Instagram, hashtags are life. They can increase your reach, increase exposure, get your post in front of a whole new audience, and increase your engagement
  • Add a call-to-action – CTAs have been a vital component of marketing for as long as marketing has been around. They’re a way to engage your followers by asking them to perform a specific action. That action increases engagement by asking followers to comment, like, double-tap, share their experiences, share thoughts, tag a friend, or share the post. 
  • Ask questions – engagement often increases when you ask questions. Not only does it create conversations, but it increases loyalty. You are letting your followers know that you are interested in what they have to say. The more interested you are in them, the more willingly they’ll post comments and share your posts. 
  • Reply to comments – nothing says, “I care about you” more than answering questions and replying to comments posted by followers on your content. Creating conversations and engagement means conversing and engaging with your people. 
  • Leverage Insta Stories – because Stories show up at the top of the feed, there’s less competition. While your regular posts have to fight the algorithm for feed placement, your stories are easier access. Use them! 

Insta Stats that Matter

Everyone likes to have things quantified, so let’s take a look at some of the Instagram stats that matter to everyone trying to make money on this social media platform. 

  •   Each month over 1 billion people use Instagram
  •   500 million people use the Stories feature daily
  •   Of Instagram users over 63% log in at least once every day
  •   The forecasted time spent per user in 2020 is 28 minutes per day
  •   200 million users will visit one or more business profiles each day
  •   Potential reach is nearly 850 million users
  •   More than 75% of US businesses expect to use the platform in 2020
  •   It’s the second most downloaded app by Apple product users
  •   Instagram ranks 10th in Google queries
  •   Only 11% of Insta users are in the United States
  •   73% of teens in the US say that the best way for brands to reach them is via Instagram
  •   Age demographics break down like this:  
    • 18-29: 67%
    • 30-49: 47%
    • 50-64: 23%
    • 65 and up: 8%
  •   Among teens, Instagram is the most popular social media platform

Wrap It Up

Everyone wants to know how to get paid to like Instagram photos. Oh, if only it were that easy! The good news is, though it’s not as easy as merely liking posts, there are a lot of ways you can make money on Instagram. From working toward influencer status to becoming an affiliate marketer, from banking on your photographic talent to promoting your small business, there is money to be made for all kinds of people like you and businesses like yours. Use the platform to build a brand you could sell for a small fortune - or that you love so much you never want to stop. Either way, get out there and create the kind of change YOU want in your life.

Here’s a little something to light your fire and help you control your financial future for life.