How to Make Money as an Influencer
So, you’re an Instagram influencer. You have a highly engaged niche audience, you’re producing high quality content, your feed has a consistent and recognizable aesthetic, and you’re on top of engaging with your audience.
You’ve put in the hard work and built up your Instagram army... now what?!
How can you leverage your dedicated following to transform your passion for producing quality content into paid work?
Before we dive into how to work with brands, let’s explore the different ways brands compensate influencers.
How Influencers Get Paid
There are a variety of ways brands will compensate influencers for the opportunity to get in front of their audience.
1. Pay Per Post / Mention
A common compensation model is for brands to pay influencers on a per-post or per-mention basis. This could be a flat rate for every image you share that features the brand or product, or every time you talk about or mention the brand name.
The rate you’re paid per post will likely depend on the type of post. For example, a post on your main Instagram feed is likely more desirable to brands than a post on your Instagram Story because of its lifespan and potential reach. An Instagram Story only lives for 24 hours, whereas a regular post can appear in your followers’ feeds days after you initially publish (thanks to Instagram’s algorithm), and always lives on your personal profile.
Other considerations brands will make when determining the rate they’re willing to pay you for a #sponsored post will include the size of your audience and how engaged they are.
This post explains the impact that size and engagement can have on determining your value as an influencer.
2. Paid Traffic
Instead of paying you for a post, a brand may choose to reward you for the traffic that the post sends them.
Brands may prefer this compensation model (especially for new influencer partnerships) because it is deemed to be lower risk. This “pay for performance” model guarantees that the brand is only paying for results.
Once you’re able to validate your influence by proving that your posts can drive real traffic, the brand you’re working with may be more willing to negotiate other compensation terms with you. This method is a great way to get your foot in the door with interested brands and establish a working relationship with them.
Compensation through commissions falls under the “pay for performance” model too, but takes it a step further. The commission rate model aims to reward confirmed sales that come from the traffic you send to the brand. For the brand, this is the safest (lowest risk) way to reward you, because they only pay when your referred traffic results in an actual sale.
Performance-based compensation models can be challenging to track, but not impossible. Tracking is typically done through a custom link or coupon code provided to the influencer, that they can then share with their followers. Since Instagram is fairly limited with how and where you can use links, it’s popular to use a coupon code or a shortened link address that is easy to remember.
4. Free Product
Free product is another method that brands use to compensate and incentivize influencers. This method can be particularly effective for driving sales as it gives you the opportunity to test and show off the product in an engaging way. This method is popular among influencers with a presence on highly visual platforms like YouTube or Instagram. Often, free product will be combined with another compensation method, like pay per post.
5. Sponsored Giveaways
Brands and influencers will often team up on contests that aim to increase engagement and exposure for both the brand and the influencer. You’ve probably seen it, and have maybe even participated-- “follow, share this post, and tag 3 friends for your chance to win...”.
While this compensation model isn’t straight cash or free product that you get to keep, it does provide value to you as the influencer. Sponsored giveaways are a great way to reward and engage your followers, without having to put up any money or resources of your own. This strategy is effective both in helping you interact with and reward your community, as well as helping you grow it.
How to Get Started
Finding and establishing a working relationship with a brand that is looking and willing to pay for influencer marketing can be challenging— even more so when you’re just starting out. Just as there are multiple ways to be compensated, there are a number of ways that brand-influencer relationships can be formed.
1. Build the Audience & Get Approached
Building up an engaged audience is hard work and takes time. While it is critical to have an audience in order to get paid for your influence, you also need to put in work to find the brands that are willing to pay you. Focusing all of your energy on your feed and hoping to get noticed by brands is a passive approach that works for very few.
While building and maintaining your online presence can be extremely time consuming, it is important to take steps that will help facilitate brand relationships.
2. Approach the Brands
Instead of waiting for a brand to notice you, you can take the first step and reach out to them.
Who should you approach?
As an influencer that is just breaking into sponsored content, you should look for opportunities for early brand collaboration. Think of the local businesses or smaller brands that you already buy products from, or already endorse to your followers.
These smaller brands likely have a small marketing budget, so you should not expect to earn a living off your first few partnerships. In fact, there is a good chance that they will only be able to offer you payment in the form of free product, if at all. You should look at these early collaborations as experience for your portfolio that will help you get your foot in the door with larger brands in the future.
It is critical to only work with brands that you believe in and produce products that you not only use, but that your audience would find value in. If you promote products to your audience that you’ve never tried or that don’t fit your niche, you risk losing the trust of your audience which will have a far greater negative impact than forgoing an early opportunity for a payday.
Be authentic, be genuine, and be intentional about the brands you collaborate with.
3. Work With Services That Connect Brands With Influencers
Good news! There are ways to connect and collaborate with brands, without having to go door-knocking yourself. There are multiple agencies and services that exist to facilitate relationships between brands and influencers. Some of these agencies have a database of influencers that they pull from based on a brand’s requirements, and others actively recruit influencers once they gain an understanding of a brand’s needs. This makes things very simple for the brand, but it can be challenging for budding influencers to get on an agency’s radar.
In addition to influencer agencies, there are platforms like Kickbooster that facilitate brand-influencer relationships, but give the power to the influencer to choose which brand(s) to work with.
Kickbooster’s referral marketing tool allows brands to easily create their own influencer marketing program. Brands using Kickbooster reward their influencers using the commission method. When a brand sets up their influencer marketing program with Kickbooster, they select the commission rate they’re willing to offer for referred sales and the time period that they will honour referrals for (usually about 90 days). This is great news for influencers, because it means that you’ll be rewarded for a sale even if your audience doesn’t make a purchase right away.
The brands’ influencer marketing programs get listed in Kickbooster’s Marketplace where you can see, at a glance, who the company is, what commission rate they’re offering, and their cookie duration period (how long they will attribute sales to you that come in after your unique link is clicked).
All you have to do is select “boost this campaign” to get your unique tracking link or coupon code to share with your followers. Once you register for your first campaign, you’ll be given your own personal dashboard to track your progress, You’ll see how many times your link is clicked, how many sales you’ve helped generate, and how much you get to take home in return for your efforts.
There is no application process, fee, or minimum follower requirement to use Kickbooster.
Get Rewarded for Your Efforts
You’ve done the hard part. You’ve put in countless hours and hustled to build up a loyal and engaged follower base. It’s time to get rewarded for all of your hard work.
You don’t need to wait for a brand to come to you. You’re armed with the knowledge of how you can and should be compensated, and you know how and where to find brands to work with.
Go out and make things happen for yourself, you’ve earned it!