How to Make Money on Instagram in 2018

You have probably heard of social media influencers and celebrities getting paid thousands of dollars for just making a few Instagram posts. But what does it actually take to turn followers, likes, and Instagram clout into cash in 2018?

Before that question can be answered, it’s important to understand a few things about the commercial value of a following including:

  • Audience Demographics
  • Level of Trust and Engagement
  • Industry and Intent

How many Followers Do You Need?

The number of followers you have could make or break for an Instagram deal. Some brands will require you to have massive amounts of followers – they want to reach as many as possible. But you’d be surprised, not every brand is the same. Your 1,000 could be exactly what someone is looking for – a niche market for example. Growing your followers is important and could lead to bigger brand deals, but your intimate, engaged follower count could be just fine, too.

Importance of Engagement

Followers are important, but they can mean nothing if you don’t have active engagement. You could have 100,000 followers and only get 100 likes – that’s not what brands are looking for. When growing your Instagram followers, be sure to grow your followers organically. (NEVER pay for a sum of followers) This means real people are following your page and will be more likely to like and comment on your posts. Brands look for engagement because of course, they want your followers to then interact with their brand.

Monetization Methods

Sponsored Posts

As a social media influencer, you can make sponsored posts with all types of brands. These brands will pay you to post about their product or service and sometimes offer thousands of dollars for each post. You’ll need the right audience, follower count, and engagement to qualify for these sponsorships.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is when you promote products or services for a company in exchange for a commission or percentage of the sale. The sales you drive to the company are typically tracked through affiliate links that feature a unique tracking code to give you credit for the sale or a promo code that can be entered at checkout.

Because Instagram currently only allows links in your bio, promo codes may be better to use since they can be integrated naturally into your posts.

To check if an online retailer offers an affiliate program, simply scroll to the bottom of their site and look for the words “Affiliate Program”.

If you are unable to find a link to a publicly available program, try to contact them directly. Some higher-end retailers have private programs or are open to creating partnerships with people with large followings.

Note: Some companies may refer to their affiliate program as a referral, associates, or partnership program, so be on the lookout for those phrases also.

Some of the most popular affiliate programs and networks include:

Amazon Associates

The world’s largest online retailer also is home to one of the world’s most popular affiliate programs. Commission rates differ depending on the category, but most range from 2-8%. The major benefit of this program is the large selection of products available to promote and the trust and reputation of that leads to high conversion rates. (Commission Junction)

CJ is one of the oldest and most well-respected networks in the industry, many of the world’s largest brands have affiliate programs set up through this network making it a great choice for people with large followings in any industry.


Clickbank is a large, public affiliate network that offers a huge selection of mainly information products to promote. There are options available for almost all industries and niches and industry leading commission rates of 50%+ are available.

E-commerce/ Dropshipping

What’s better than promoting other people’s products and services? Building your own branded product company. While this may sound like an expensive and daunting task, it has never been easier to start your own brand and promote it through social media.

Product Sourcing

Depending on the type of product you want to sell, you can source in a variety of ways. Today, the most popular and easiest to use the resource is Alibaba and Aliexpress. You simply search for the type of product you want to sell, then message a few suppliers to request samples and any changes or branding you wish to add to the product.

Since many of these manufacturers are in China, shipping can take a few weeks. However, the volume and pricing you are able to get are unmatched for most product types in the US.

E-commerce Platforms

Once you have designed and purchased the products you are looking to sell you must build a website to process payments, build a brand, and display your products. Shopify is the easiest to use and cheapest platform available today, but there are alternatives such as Magento, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce that can also work well.

Amazon FBA

Another great option that has been rapidly rising in popularity these past few years is Amazon’s fulfillment platform. The greatest advantage to selling through Amazon is that they handle the logistics, fulfillment, and operational aspects of the business to allow you to focus on growth, marketing, and building the brand. You can even have your products shipped directly to Amazon’s warehouse so you don’t have to deal with storage or organizing of the inventory at all.

Note: Using this platform can also help your brand grow directly through Amazon, as your product can appear in Amazon search and be eligible for free Prime Shipping.


Dropshipping is a method of sales that allows you to sell products, without owning or holding any inventory. The basic idea is that you create an e-commerce site and then when a customer purchases, you buy the product from Aliexpress and have it shipped directly to the customer.

The obvious benefit to this is that you have no risk with buying and holding the inventory yourself, but the drawback is that you can’t control the shipping time, quality control, or address customer service inquiries about shipping as you won’t have much visibility.

Print On Demand Clothing/ Merch

Another great option for monetizing a large following on Instagram is creating custom print on demand t-shirts, hoodies, and other clothing and merch. Programs like Teespring, RedBubble and Amazon Merch allow you to create a design and then sell all types of products with that design without ever having to screen print or ship anything yourself. They set a base rate for the fulfillment cost of the product, then it is up to you to decide the selling price and marketing channels.

These services are particularly popular with people with large social media followings as there are many unique slogans and inside jokes, they can make merch for and sell to their audience in a highly scalable manner.

Coaching & Consulting

Depending on your industry, you can offer coaching and/or consulting services to your audience or related small businesses. For example, online coaching and meal plans can be sold to a fitness audience and someone with a large following in the travel niche can coach or consult with travel companies on how to improve their social presence.

Ebooks and Online Courses

Creating an online video course or ebook can be another lucrative way to monetize an Instagram audience.  Platforms such as Teachable and Thinkific allow you to build and sell online courses without much technical expertise.  These courses are typically priced anywhere from $47-$1997 and take very little effort to maintain once they are launched, so they are a very attractive option for monetizing an audience.

We found these are the most well-known strategies for making money on Instagram, but we want to hear from YOU! How do you make money off your Instagram account? Are you a business profile or a personal brand? Which strategy do you find works best? Or if we missed something, let us know! We understand social media is different for everyone so we want to include all that we can. Leave us a comment or send us a message!

Written by Erin

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