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How to Become an Instagram Influencer and Get Paid

Blog | | January 16th 2021

If you want the lifestyle of the biggest influencers, you need more than just an Instagram account with followers.

A strong profile is a great start but Instagram itself won’t help you become a successful influencer. To do that, you will need to land brand sponsorship opportunities and create high-quality content.

If you’re looking to grow your account, become a top influencer, and get paid for working with brands, you’re in the right place.

This guide isn’t just for people looking to become an Instagram influencer though. We’re sharing tips for influencers at every level to help you be better and earn more money.

Our guide is free, so share it with your friends!

Table of Contents

  1. Instagram Influencer 101 (the basics)
  2. Becoming a better creator
  3. Finding brand partnerships
  4. How much Instagram creators make
  5. Making more money on Instagram

Instagram Influencer 101 (the basics)


Already landing partnerships with brands? Skip here.

Influencers have been around well before social media. They generally have a large audience and are able to affect purchasing decisions.

Here’s our definition of an Instagram influencer:

An Instagram influencer is someone who has built a large audience on certain topics and niches. Their audience looks towards them because they have established credibility, trust, and authenticity.

The different types of Instagram influencers and the influencer pyramid

Instagram influencers aren’t just a one-size-fits-all though when it comes to their audience.

There are actually four different types of influencers based on their follower-size:

  • Nano-influencers: accounts with anywhere from a few hundred followers to under 5k followers
  • Micro-influencers: accounts between 5k to 50k followers
  • Macro-influencers: accounts between 50k to 500k followers
  • Celebrities: accounts with more than 500k followers

Not only are these influencers different based on the number of followers they have, also have different levels of visibility and engagement.

Nano-influencers usually have the best engagement while celebrities have the best visibility.

You will often see the different types of influencers displayed in a pyramid chart like the one below. We like to call this the influencer pyramid.

influencer%20pyramid

What kind of influencers get paid?

Any size influencer can actually get paid.

If you’re looking to make enough money to pay for some expenses on the side or become an Instagram influencer full-time, you need to be at least at the micro-influencer level.

That means you should have around 5k followers.

How to get paid as an Instagram influencer

Becoming an influencer seems simple enough.

Just get followers, right?

It turns out that the fastest path to becoming a successful influencer is actually becoming a great content creator.

When you’re only measuring your account by followers, brands can’t tell if your followers are real, quality people who care about your content.

To become a successful influencer, you need to become a creator. The best creators are also usually the best influencers.

Becoming an Instagram creator is the fastest way to become an influencer.

Instagram creators vs. Instagram influencers

Going the creator route is a better way to land more brand deals.

When you’re a creator, not only can you present your audience to brands but you can also present strong creative ability. That second part goes a long way to landing brand deals.

As an Instagram creator, you can also get paid with a smaller audience.

Brands are willing to work with strong creators that might have under 5k followers.

Why would brands work with creators that aren’t at the micro-influencer level?

It’s because brands always need content for their social media, website, and ads. When they work with creators, brands get to reach new audiences and they also generate content they can reuse.

They can also partner with these creators in the future to run whitelisted ads and do dark posting, which is a big win for brands!

So what exactly is the difference between Instagram influencers and Instagram creators?

Instagram Influencers

Influencers are follower focused. They usually have a large, growing audience.

Having a large community allows them to influence purchase decisions and impact brand preferences on a wide scale.

While some of them are great creators, their most notable skill is influence over a wide audience.

Building an audience as an influencer can take a long time though. That’s why it’s preferred to go the creator route.

Instagram creators

Content creators are value focused. Some of them do have large audiences but their main selling point isn’t the number of followers they have. In fact, it’s usually the content they create.

Creators produce engaging or interesting media to share with people. They gather an audience of people who connect to their content.

They also usually have their own niche.

These are the subjects that they create content for and where they create value for their audience.

If you’re interested in being a creator, the first step is picking topics that matter to you - ones that you already have knowledge on in the beginning.

As you create content in your niche, don’t be afraid to learn about deeper topics in your niche or branch out into a new niche.

Take your followers on a journey with you as they learn from you.

A few niches to consider: food, makeup, fashion, travel, fitness, outdoors, finance, art, and all the sub-topics that any of these niches can have!

How to become a better creator


Even though creating content is the most important part of a creator, just taking better photos and videos won’t level up your creator skills.

Part of being a better Instagram creator is understanding what your audience wants more of, and delivering content to them consistently.

Your content AND branding will guide your success in building brand partnerships. That means you also need to build a strong brand aesthetic, something that’s as consistent as your posting schedule.

how%20to%20be%20a%20strong%20creator

Becoming a strong creator really comes down to four things:

  1. Understanding what content your audience wants more of
  2. Posting consistently
  3. Building a brand aesthetic
  4. Creating better content

How to track your high-performing Instagram content

There are a few different ways to track your how successful each Instagram post is.

Some creators just use the metrics available on the Instagram app, some use an Instagram analytics tool like Later, and others use Instagram’s creator studio.

Free Instagram analytics tools

As a new creator, we recommend going the free route and tracking your analytics either through Instagram insights (inside the app) or their creator studio.

Since the data from Instagram or their creator doesn’t display as great as a social media analytics tool might, consider putting the data into an Excel spreadsheet.

This way, you can track your progress and see how you are improving your content. With these tools, you will be able to track likes, comments, impressions, and even information about your audience.

Once you start seeing success as a creator, you should consider paying for an Instagram analytics tool.

Paid Instagram analytics tools

As you start leveling up as a creator, you will find that there are a bunch of options to track your content better.

Most paid tools to track your Instagram growth are for businesses, so we’ve picked out a few that are a bit more creator-friendly.

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Later is a great budget-friendly tool for Instagram analytics.

Later’s paid plans are anywhere from $15/mo to $40/mo depending on how often you post.

They have some great features for creators including:

  • Automatic engagement rate calculation
  • Optimized posting times based on your audience
  • Instagram story analytics
  • And more!

Our recommendation: Go for the Growth plan at $25/mo which includes their standard Instagram analytics.

hootsuite

If you’re looking for a tool that can help you with more than just analytics, check out Hootsuite.

In addition to allowing you to schedule and track your posts, Hootsuite also allows you to respond to messages in their platform.

They also have an app for your phone too if you’re always on the go (most creators usually are!).

Our recommendation: Go for the entry-level plan at $29/mo. You won’t really need much more than that.

iconosquare

The most expensive tool on our list is Iconosquare.

A lot of their features are the same as Later and Hootsuite. What they do have that’s better than the other tools is great social monitoring.

With Iconosquare, you can track hashtags and create custom feeds from them to really laser in on your brand.

Our recommendation: Get the entry-level plan at $39/mo.

How often should you post on Instagram as a creator

This is a question that a lot of current and new creators have on Instagram.

Our recommendation is to figure out what your audience is looking for in terms of content and how much time you have to create content.

Looking for an estimate?

Plan to post at least 2-4 times a week on Instagram to maintain your audience as a creator.

How to build your brand aesthetic on Instagram

Content is extremely valuable to brands, which is why we emphasize great content. Brands are always looking for new creative ways to showcase their products.

This is why we recommend building your own brand aesthetic.

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Your brand aesthetic displays the type of content you create.

Are you going to do lifestyle content, include more color in your images and videos, cover a specific topic (i.e. food)?

These are the type of questions you should be asking yourself when building your brand aesthetic.

As a creator, understanding your value and brand here will make pitching your content and audience to brands easier.

Here are some great Instagram accounts that have their brand aesthetic figured out:

How to create better content for your Instagram account

This is the most important part of becoming a strong creator. You can post consistently, track your content, and put together a great brand aesthetic. But if you don’t use the right tools to create your content, you won’t be able to offer as much value to brands.

Great content draws in interested people who become followers, increases the chances your content is shared, and becomes the portfolio you need to land partnerships.

If you are making your content, never stop learning about the basics of photography, video editing, or writing.

You might start out with just an iPhone camera but never stop investing in the tools you use to create your content.

As you grow your account, here are some tools you might want to consider using to create even better content:

products%20to%20improve%20content%20for%20creators

Finding brand partnerships


Now that you have a solid foundation of how to be a strong creator, the next step is to find brand partnerships. There are two options here:

  1. You can manage everything yourself: outreach, pitching, negotiation, terms, and contracts
  2. You can find a partner to manage it for you

Key tips for finding and creating successful brand partnerships

Before you decide to start reaching out brands or joining a network to connect with brands, there are a few tips you should follow.

Here are some dos and don’ts to make sure you find the right brands to work with and ensure a successful campaign.

Dos

  • Do agree to a specific content delivery. This is the number of images, videos, stories, etc. that you will deliver to the brand.
  • Do have an agreement in place on compensation. You don’t want a brand to skimp out on any money they owe you.
  • Do keep your Instagram account tidy. Remember, your Instagram account will be seen as part of your portfolio. You want to show brands that you are a strong creator and are intentional with your content

Don’ts

  • Don’t promote brands that are inauthentic to your personal brand. You may lose followers and brands might be happy with the results of the campaign
  • Don’t let brands take advantage of you. Sure you can do work for brands outside of what you agree to but don’t just do it because a brand told you so
  • Don’t give poor effort on a campaign. For any content you are creating for brands, make sure you are putting your best foot forward.

Reaching out to brands yourself

If you are going to manage brand partnerships on your own, be prepared for a lot of work.

You will need to find brands to contact, find some way to connect with their partnership team, and pitch yourself successfully to get a foot in the door.

From there you will need to negotiate on payment, content to deliver, the specifics of the content, and sign any contracts to formally seal the partnership.

If you are committed to it, you will be able to make decent money. Full-time influencers and creators will work through this process many times a week.

Finding a partner to help you connect with brands

If you are starting out or don’t have the hours to spend on this process, then we recommend the second option.

Even better, there are a few different partners available to Instagram creators.

Agencies

Agencies don’t just help brands, some work with creators as well.

This one might be a little tougher to find and you can expect a talent agency to take a cut of your earnings.

Agencies aren’t the usual route for most creators so we will skip the details here.

Influencer database

Most influencers and creators will end up in an influencer database.

As the influencer marketing and creator marketing industry has evolved, influencer marketing platforms have been created.

These platforms usually go through Instagram and add creators based on followers and engagement. If you’re a creator with 3k or more followers, you will likely end up in one of these databases whether you asked to or not.

It would be a lot to list every database out there but a quick Google search will give you the top options. If you want to join, just click on the website for one of these databases.

Most influencer databases have a place for creators to apply.

Be aware though, influencer databases don’t manage brand partnerships for you. You will still have to do all of the negotiating, contracts, and communication yourself.

It’s just a way to have brands find you a little faster.

Influencer network

This last category is rare but might be the best one out there for Instagram creators.

Here at Trend, we have our own influencer network that you can apply to join.

A platform like Trend does all the outreach and marketing to brands and brings them to the platform.

As a creator, you can simply apply to work with any of these brands in just one-click!

Why influencer networks are the best for creators

On Trend’s network, all the rates are pre-negotiated and the paperwork is done for you. That means you can focus on the partnerships you want and do what you do best - create content!

How to join Trend’s influencer network for creators

trend%20sign%20up

The first step to join Trend’s network is to apply You can apply for Trend here: https://trend.io/creators/

Tip: Make sure you use an email address that you actively manage. This will be how you access your account if you are approved.

The approval process is fairly short and you should hear back within 3 days.

If you aren’t approved, here are some tips to improve your chances for success when you re-apply.

trend%20account%20approval

Once you are approved, you will receive an email asking you to create your account with Trend and download an app for Trend.

After downloading the app, select the screen that says “I receive an invite from Trend.”

trend%20creator%20account%20creation

You will enter in the email you used to apply plus a temporary password that was included in your welcome email. This will create your account.

Then, you will be asked to add your Instagram handle and create a new password.

trend%20creator%20bio

After finalizing your account, Trend will ask you to add some information about you including a profile picture, your age, and your address (so brands can ship product to you!).

A few more details including your PayPal email (so we can pay you!) and the categories you fit in and you’re all set.

trend%20notifications

Make sure to turn on those notifications too so you can be notified when new campaigns are up! This is the best way to increase your chances to work with a brand.

applying%20for%20a%20trend%20campaign

Once all of your information is entered and your notifications are on, you can start applying to brand campaigns. It’s that simple!

How much will I make as an Instagram creator?


This is the question everyone is asking and wants to know.

The answer to how much Instagram creators make is: it depends.

instagram%20earnings

How much money will you make on Instagram

The amount of money you make will depend on your audience, niche, engagement, and content quality.

A few notes on money that you should keep in mind:

  • Not all money is created equally - some creators get paid more overall but they might work more than others. A better estimate of how much your are making is to divide your time spent working as a creator by the money you make (i.e. if you make $1,000 and spend 50 hours, you are making about $20/hour)
  • Not everything you make will be money - money isn’t the only thing that creators earn. As a creator, you will also receive free products from brands. If you work with a luxury brand for instance, the “money” you make might be less than the product you earn (i.e. they pay you only $100 but you get a $500 bag).
  • Your first brand partnerships won’t be for money - for new creators, first partnerships usually start with a product exchanged for a post. As you build some experience with these partnerships, you will be more likely to also receive a money payment.
  • Consider the time you have to be a creator - not everyone will be able to be a creator full-time, especially at the beginning. If you don’t have many hours to work as a creator early on, focus on brand partnerships that won’t take a lot of time and will deliver decent money.
  • It’s important to build your earnings AND your portfolio - don’t just focus on making money. Make sure you build your portfolio too. The more brands you work with the stronger your pitch will come across!

How much do Instagram creators make on average

As we mentioned earlier, the money you make will depend on a lot of different factors.

We get it though, you still want to see some averages so you can figure out how much to charge.

For those of you chomping to see some numbers, the below table should satisfy you on how much Instagram creators make.

Remember, this doesn’t account for the time you spend to execute the brand partnership (all the hours you spend communicating, negotiating, and creating content)!

how%20much%20influencers%20and%20creators%20make%20on%20instagram

How much do Instagram creators make on Trend

With Trend’s easy one-click apply, you don’t need to spend much time to set up a brand partnership.

Our top creators are working with new brands every week (about four brands a month). On average, creators in our network land two campaigns a month, with very little time commitment to find and apply for these campaigns.

Trend’s top creators make about $3k-$6k per year, while the average creator earns $2k in money and product.

That doesn’t seem like a lot but the average brand partnership takes about two hours to complete. That’s a lot less of a headache to manage!

Once you have a few partnerships under your belt, it’s time to learn about how to leverage your past experiences to make even more!

How to maximize your earning potential as a creator


Now that you’ve started working with brands, you have momentum on your side! Each successful partnership is a step to the next partnership.

Along the way, there are some easy ways to make the most of your current partnerships too.

As a creator that means:

  • More long-term partnerships - the same brands keep paying you and want to work with you more.
  • Greater earning opportunity - you can end up whitelisting your content and dark posting with a brand to earn even more money from them!
  • More spots to earn - once you master Instagram, start growing into different platforms like YouTube or TikTok to make even more money.

Long-term brand partnerships

Completing a partnership with a brand one time might be the start of a long-term collaboration.

If a brand liked your content, enjoyed working with you, and saw good returns on your post it’s likely you can work with them again!

Brands love Instagram creators who work with them over time to build their reputation with your audience, especially if your audience is a good fit. This is another reason why you should be picky about the brands you work with.

Whitelisting and dark posting

This is a great way to earn more money for each campaign you complete, even on campaigns you complete with Trend.

These two services allow brands to reach new audiences with the content you create.

What is influencer whitelisting?

Influencer whitelisting is when a brand connects with your account, takes your successful post, and runs an ad campaign to it.

They are paying to promote the content you posted on your Instagram account. Think of it as a brand turning your personal post directly into an ad.

What is influencer dark posting?

Influencer dark posting is when a brand connects with your account, takes additional content you didn’t post, and runs an ad campaign to it.

They are paying to promote content you didn’t post on your account.

This could be additional content that you sent a brand but didn’t post or content you created later for the brand. The key here is that this content has not been posted to your account.

Some brand partnerships even just focus on dark posting. They may ask the influencer or creator not to post but just send them content and run ads through the creator’s account.

Why brands like whitelisting and dark posting (and why you should too!)

Whitelisting and dark posting allows brands to run ads to a creators audience with authentic content.

The result?

High performing ads that drive tons of traffic and sales for brands. That’s why they love working with creators for whitelisting and dark posting.

Brands aren’t the only ones benefiting from these ad campaigns. Since a brand will run the ad campaign through your account, you will also pick up some followers!

How to set up your account for whitelisting or dark posting with a brand

Once you’ve landed your first whitelisting or dark posting gig, you need to make sure your Instagram account is set up for brands to run ads through your account.

It’s an easy process but there are a few key steps involved.

Here’s how to set up your Instagram account for whitelisting and dark posting:

  1. Create a Facebook Business Manager by going to www.business.facebook.com and logging into your Facebook profile
  2. Create a business name and enter your name and business email
  3. Enter Business Information and press “Submit”
  4. Accept the confirmation email sent to the email you used from Step 2 to complete the Business Manager setup.

Next, you will need to connect your Facebook and Instagram accounts to the Business Manager.

  1. Select Business Settings from the top right corner of the screen
  2. Select “Pages” and then “+Add”. If you have a Facebook Page, select “Add Page”, if not, select “Create a New Page”
  3. Assuming there is an existing page, enter the Facebook Page name or URL to be claimed by you and click “Add Page”. Note: you will need to have admin access to the Page you are claiming. If you do not have admin access, someone with admin access will need to grant you permission to claim the page.
  4. Next, Select “Instagram accounts” and then “Add+”; Log into Instagram

Once your Business Manager is set up and the accounts are claimed, you’ll need to assign your brand “partner access” to the Instagram and Facebook accounts:

  1. Select “Pages” from the left-hand menu
  2. Select “Assign Partners” and then either enter the Advertiser’s Business Manager ID or create a link to request partner access. Note: a brand’s Business ID will need to be shared with you before you are able to give whitelisting access to your Facebook Page. Alternatively, you can email the share link by clicking “Get Link to Share”. From there, the brand will need to accept the invite.
  3. Select the level of partner access to give. Note: the highest level needed to whitelist the accounts “Create Ads”
  4. Select “Instagram accounts” from the left side of the page, then select “Add Partners”, then enter the brand’s Business Manager ID. Note: the Business ID will need to be shared with you before your are able to give whitelisting access to your Instagram account.

Once you complete the setup, your Facebook Page and Instagram accounts will populate in the brand’s Business Manager.

How much to charge for whitelisting and dark posting

Influencer whitelisting and dark posting rates are a little different than traditional campaigns. In regular campaigns, a brand pays you to post and you post.

In whitelisting and dark posting, since the brand is using your account, you might want to consider some different payment options.

Here are some common ways other creators charge for whitelisting and dark posting:

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  • Charge a flat rate: This is the easiest payment structure for you. You and the brand agree on a fixed amount that will be paid at the beginning of a whitelisting campaign
  • Charge based on time: Here, you charge based on how many days or weeks a brand will run ads through your account. It’s still a somewhat fixed amount but can change the longer a brand wants to run ads with you.
  • Charge based on ad spend: If you’re working with a big brand, this might be your best option. Here, the brand pays you a percentage of how much they spend on ads. For example, if a brand is going to spend $100,000 on ads through your account, you might ask them to pay you 5% which would be $5,000.

Expanding your reach on social media

Remember, Instagram is not the only place you can make money. As you start building your audience, try growing your audience on other platforms too!

Try Youtube, Snapchat, TikTok, a blog, or any new platforms that might launch. You never know which platform or format of content is going to work best for you.

Maybe you work best with Snapchat daily updates, or Youtube long-form content. Maybe TikTok videos are the most fun and creative for you.

Brands are always trying to reach new people and the larger your audience is, the more people you can reach, and the more you have to offer in a partnership.

Wrapping it up

Are you ready to start? Hopefully, we helped you think of some next steps to start becoming a successful Instagram creator.

We recommend applying for Trend at https://trend.io/creators/ to start your journey. We can bring brands to you and provide you the experience needed to build your personal brand.

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