Can you use Instagram as a viable income source? You betcha! There are an increasing number of ways creators and business owners can earn a sustainable and passive income by leveraging Instagram. Keep reading to learn which methods you can use - from working with brands, promoting a course, and everything in between.
1. Work with brands
You don't need a million followers to get sponsored posts, but at least a few thousand and a reasonable engagement rate to catch potential sponsors' interest.
You can follow a few different approaches to working with brands:
- Whitelisting: As a creator, you can partner with a tool like Lumanu to connect with brands for whitelisting campaigns. When you give a brand permission to run a whitelist campaign, it means they can post ads in your account’s name. The ads look like they’re posted by you, but they don’t appear on your profile. Because brands will push this ad to new audiences with similar interests and characteristics as your own (‘lookalike audiences’ in advertising jargon), whitelisting can help you get more followers and engagement - in addition to getting paid.
- Shoutout post: With sponsored shoutout posts, brands pay you to create a post promoting their products or services on your feed or stories. It is usually done by posting a picture or video with a caption about the products and tagging the brand.
3. Livestreaming: You can go live on Instagram and do a product review, host mini-games, offer gifts to engage with your followers and enhance brands' awareness.
4. Product Placement: This is when you share a helpful suggestion or informative content about the products without the intention to sell anything. It is more like a way to introduce the product subtly.
The simplest strategy is to identify the brands that influencers you admire have worked with and then reach out to those brands or similar ones. For example, if you're a travel influencer and you see that someone you admire has worked with Marriott, reach out to Marriott or other similarly sized travel brands.
The downside of this strategy is that it requires research and may be less effective if your audience size is smaller.
If you have an engaged following but aren't sure which brands would be a good fit for you, consider partnering with an influencer marketing platform like Tapinfluence or TRIBE that can connect you with relevant brand partnerships. You can also tag brands in your posts and contact companies directly via direct message or email.
Here are some other tips to get sponsored deals:
- Find your niche and build your own brand.
- Don't be afraid to reach out to brands you love.
- Create content that resonates with your target audience and brands.
- Get an agent or assistant to do the legwork for you.
- Create your profile on Instagram’s Brand Collabs Manager to get noticed.
- Get Instagram insurance - 84% of brands prefer working with insured creators
2. Sell printables or e-books
Printables and e-books help you avoid worrying about shipping or inventory, and you can sell them unlimited times. Start by creating a product that you're good at and your followers would love. It can be weekly planners, recipe e-books, printable art, or even your Kindle book.
Once your product is ready, upload Instagram posts with photos or videos of the product along with a link for people to buy it. Make sure to have attractive visuals and use a link-in-bio Instagram tool to redirect them to your landing page.
Use Instagram Stories, Reels, or IGTV to give your followers a look at how your items will help them, and try doing giveaways and contests to get some traction and reach new audiences.
3. Share affiliate links on your account to products that you love
If you have an engaged audience on Instagram, you can make money by sharing affiliate links in your posts, bio, or stories.
It's simple: Post pictures of yourself using or wearing products, and include an affiliate link to that product in your bio or your story. The company whose product you are promoting will give you a unique code that you will include in your link. When people click on that link and buy the product, the company will pay you a percentage of the sale.
In general, there are two types of affiliate programs that brands will use:
1) A direct contract with a creator or influencer marketing platform where the brand provides the link directly and pays out directly to the creator.
2) A brand will use a third-party platform (like CJ Affiliate or Impact Radius) where the brand manages all of the payouts on their end, and then creators can apply for those channels through the platforms.
While promoting, include a link to your affiliate offers in your Instagram bio so that users can learn more about what you're promoting.
For instance, Vi Lai, a content creator with 130k followers, makes $5,000 per month from affiliate marketing alone. She frequently includes affiliate links in her Instagram Stories and uses Linktree to include brand-specific links and discount codes in her bio since it's simpler for her Instagram fans to swipe up and check out right in the app.
Quick tips to help you sell affiliate products on Instagram:
- Ensure that the offers you select are relevant to your target audience.
- Use attractive images and share helpful stories to show how the product has helped you.
- Add relevant hashtags so that users can easily find your posts
- Aside from partnering with individual brands, you can also register with affiliate networks.
4. Promote your online store through Instagram
80% of Instagram users make a purchase decision based on what they've seen while browsing the app. So if you have a store and you’re yet to start selling through Instagram, you might be missing out on significant customers.
There are several ways you can use Instagram to sell your products:
- Post photos of your products with links to purchase in your bio
- Create Instagram Stories with swipe-up links to purchase your products
- Collaborate with other creators and ask them to link back to your store
- Create shoppable posts or stories (you need to create a business account for that). When someone views a tagged shoppable product, they'll see the product name, price, and a link to purchase it.
Ellie Watson is an example of a creator doing this right. She’s built up 729k followers and uses this audience to drive sales to her clothing store on Instagram – The Wholesome Store.
Aside from posting beautiful images of her products, she recently ran a giveaway to promote her new collection and reach new people - by encouraging participants to tag their friends.
5. Promote your service or course
Whether you’re a yoga teacher, the owner of a catering business, or a counselor, you can leverage Instagram to grow your name and drive sales to your service or course.
Promoting your service
The best way to start is by creating engaging content and insights to catch potential clients’ attention and establish yourself as an expert in your niche.
Case in point: Kelly Houseman is a counselor and public speaker who uses Instagram to find therapy clients. Kelly uses Instagram to connect with her followers by posting motivational content and helpful tips.
Kelly told Notch:
“I use Instagram to really connect with followers and add value to their lives and have been able to get several speaking gigs and media inquiries that way. I think the biggest thing behind that is knowing what I can offer and then putting it out there in a clear way.
For example, I love motivational speaking, so I tend to post pictures of past events I have done or new segments. That way, people know what I can offer them as well as showing off what I can do.”
“I use Instagram to really connect with followers and add value to their lives and have been able to get several speaking gigs and media inquiries that way. I think the biggest thing behind that is knowing what I can offer and then putting it out there in a clear way".
Kelly often gets leads through DMs, and directs them to her counseling practice website. She also leverages a link-in-bio tool to drive her audience to her website, email list, and more. Don't forget to show off yourself by sharing testimonials, either in written quotes or short video clips, to show potential clients that you're trustworthy and deliver on your promises.
In addition, use Instagram Live to engage with your audience in real-time. Live video is especially beneficial if you have a service-based business because it helps build trust and humanize your brand. For example, you could host Q&A sessions every Friday on your Instagram account where your followers can ask questions live and get answers right away.
Promoting your services can also lead to new, unexpected opportunities. For example, @catherine_shapiro, owner of catering business @_thymeandhoney_, grabbed the attention of others who needed their food photographed, and she has since landed consistent food photography clients as well as catering gigs.
Selling your course
Do you have stellar knowledge and skills in a specific niche that you would like to share with the world? If so, consider creating courses using platforms like Teachable, Skillshare, or Thinkific, and promoting them on Instagram.
Check out how Kahlea Nicole, an influencer coach, uses her Instagram bio section to bring attention to her upcoming course:
She uses stories, highlights, and regular posts to draw attention to her course, which she links to in her bio. Your course is usually what you're passionate about, so try not to bombard your audience with too much promotional content. Instead, focus on sharing knowledge.
Janice Wald, a blogger who uses Instagram to promote her course Mostly Blogging, recommends using a countdown sticker for a new course or product launch, answering questions, and introducing yourself to followers via DM, stories, and live videos.
6. Sell your own merchandise
You can also use Instagram to sell your own merchandise - which can be a lucrative business when you have an engaged following.
T-shirts and stickers are always popular choices, but you could also sell phone cases, tote bags, or even notebooks with your brand logo on them.
But it can be difficult because you have to create and maintain a supply chain of products. The good news is that you can use a dedicated Influencer merchandise company - like Teespring, Icon Printing, MerchLabs - that can take care of the manufacturing and shipping for a percentage of each sale.
You can either make your own designs or use a design service like Design Crowd, where you can offer up designs for people to create for you while you sit back and wait until someone makes something you like (and pay them). Or hire a designer through Fiverr or Freelancer to create something for you.
With Instagram’s shoppable posts feature, you can tag your products and let users shop directly on the platform. According to Business Insider, Meagher – a gaming content creator with 560,000 Instagram followers – made more than $250,000 by selling 10,800 items of his second merchandise collection within three months.
Most of his merchandise income comes from Instagram. Meagher promotes his merchandise on Instagram using the IG shop feature, tagging products on photos and referring to them in stories.
Hosting giveaways or contests is another great way to attract attention to your merchandise and sell more products. Ask participants to follow your account, like the post, and tag their friends. Make sure to promote the contest on your feed and Stories, and use relevant hashtags so people can find it.
7. Earn badges in your Live Instagram content
Live badges are a way to encourage followers to interact with you during your live broadcasts.
- One heart for $0.99
- Two hearts for $1.99
- Three hearts for $4.99
If a person buys your badge during the live video, a heart symbol will appear beside their comments in the video.
Here are some tips to earn more Live badges:
Be creative: offer viewers a behind-the-scenes look at your creative process, a sneak peek of new products or take them on a tour of your office or studio.
Be engaging: live video is all about interacting with your audience in real-time. Ask questions and encourage people to comment - and make sure to shout out viewers who contribute
Be yourself: viewers want to see the real you, so don’t be afraid to show your personality.
8. Sell your presets
If you edit your Instagram photos, then you probably know all the ins and outs of Lightroom presets, which allow you to save a set of editing settings and apply it to any photo with one click.
If your Lightroom preset collection is getting big and you're looking for ways to monetize your talent and creativity, selling your presets on Instagram could be a great way to make extra cash.
Let's check out @tramnble, an Instagram influencer with 142,000 followers.
She's been selling presets for the past few years, and her business has been booming. Her secret to success is creating tutorial videos to share photography tips and show people how her presets can enhance their photos. She then directs her followers to her Instagram bio for the link to the presets.
Tramnble also uses stories and story highlights to show her presets in action – complete with a “swipe up to buy” link.
People are running their businesses on Instagram. Now it’s your turn!
With all of the ways Instagram can be leveraged to earn money and gain financial independence, it’s never been a better time to get started as a content creator. Whether you want a side hustle or a full time gig, Instagram can be a powerful vehicle for achieving your goals.
However, the stakes are high - you can invest all your time and effort into building an Instagram business, only for everything to be stolen in a click by a hacker.
In fact, our data shows an account gets hacked every 10 minutes in the U.S alone. Which is exactly why we created the world's first insurance for Instagram accounts.