It’s a growing question in the age of social media marketing: How much money can an Instagram influencer expect to make? To simplify it as much as possible, it depends. What does it depend on, you might ask. Well, that’s where everything starts to become much more complicated and can no longer be boiled down into a simple answer.
Don’t be fooled, it’s not going to be as easy as posting a bunch of selfies and people clamoring to give you money. Becoming someone who earns income from Instagram modeling is hard work, even more so for people that can live off their account income. If you, like many aspiring models, wonder how your Instagram account can be turned into a potential source of income, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the money your Instagram account could generate for you.
But first, a quick discussion on some terminology. Feel free to skip ahead to the main points if you already know this info.
“Model” vs “Influencer”
You’ve probably heard the word “Influencer” get thrown around a lot, along with referring to popular personalities on Instagram as “models.” These terms sometimes feel weirdly close together, and the distinction can be confusing. The problem is that there isn’t too much distinction to be made in the first place.
Some people find it strange that popular Instagram celebs are called models, despite them not doing any other model work outside of their Instagram account. This is in part because Instagram was partly created with the intention of models using it as a way to promote themselves, along with the normal social media element. So, over time, anyone with a large amount of Instagram followers just became known as a model. For a while, that term was acceptable to use when referring to someone who used their account to promote products and get paid for it.
As social media became a bigger presence in everyone’s lives, “model” was no longer quite right of a term. More popular Instagram personalities started gaining traction and promoting products with their platform, but some of them were not modeling whatsoever. On top of that, some people were finding large followings and promoting products much in the same way an Instagram model would, but on different social media platforms. Bloggers are a great example of this. Over time, people settled on “influencer,” since they were using their popularity to influence followers into buying promoted products.
That all to say, the terms have become all but interchangeable as long as you are talking about using Instagram as a platform. It might be more right to say it is a fingers-and-thumbs situation: all Instagram models are influencers but not all influencers are Instagram models. Either way, if you’re researching the topic, don’t worry too much about the exact terms. The advice and information will be mostly interchangeable.
How Instagram Models Make Money
It’s not like Instagram has models on their payroll. If you’re confused by how people are making money with their profiles, it’s because they are effectively serving as advertising and marketers. Much like how models used their likenesses to appear in magazine ads, billboards, and commercials, they now appear with products in Instagram posts.
Social media influencers are slowly replacing traditional advertisements, especially on social media. Multiple case studies have found the engagement rate with influencer marketing is much greater than with any other form of ads. Plus, companies can be more precise with the way potential customers see their promotions by working with influencers, and influencers are more likely to know how to appeal to their fans than a room full of marketing executives trying to guess at their target audience.
Of all the influencers who make money with their social media accounts, probably about 90% of them can do so by working with companies that seek to use the influencers as a type of new-age advertisement. That might sound a little messed up, but it is just the state of things. Plus, it’s not too different from how models did business in a pre-Insta world. At the end of the day, you stand to make much more money if you can find a business to partner with.
The One Unavoidable Truth
As mentioned previously, there are so many factors that go into determining your Instagram account’s potential income. There is, however, at least one thing that can be said with certainty. The higher number of followers you have, the more money you are going to make. That’s an obvious point, but it cannot be stressed enough.
You aren’t completely screwed if you don’t have a huge following, but the magic number to keep in mind is one million followers. That’s the point where you can start making big-time money, potentially surviving-off-of-just-your-Instagram-income kind of money. It’s a milestone that helps set you apart to draw attention from companies too. It doesn’t make much sense, but the gap between 995k followers and one million followers feels like a bigger difference than the gap between 15k followers and 20k followers.
To help boost your follower count so you can make a bit more money, try these apps that can get you real Insta followers.
The Many Ways to Make Money as an Advertisement
Part of why it is so hard to nail down how much an Instagram model makes is because of the wide variety of ways they make money from their business partners. There are a few ways these deals can look that are fairly common.
Commissioned Post Promotions
Sometimes it’s a single post, sometimes it’s a series of posts. Either way, brands will offer to pay a social media influencer a lump sum of money to make some number of posts on Instagram to promote their product. This usually involves singing the praise of the product, sometimes taking a selfie with it, featuring it on their Instagram story, and using a specific hashtag that the company hopes to get trending.
This is a method both Instagram models and the partnered companies enjoy. It’s straightforward and rarely has to involve extensive legal discussion. Models often are paid upfront, or sometimes upon completion. The posts get made, and everyone leaves happier and hopefully richer. Plus, if things ever turn sour, the model can always just delete the posts later.
The downside is that this model heavily benefits those with a high follower count, more than normal. Even if you are one of the many micro-influencers out there lucky enough to get one of these offers, you have little negotiating power. You’ll want to accept even a lukewarm sounding deal because it is so easy for a company to find a different Instagram model to do a few posts. Top tier Instagrammers the likes of Kim Kardashian and Gigi Hadid, on the other hand, can expect brands to be beating down their doors with these kinds of deals, and they’ll be able to name their price and expect the company to pay up.
Instagrammer Matt Crump shared his fee guide for roughly how much an account can expect with these sorts of deals. According to him, Instagram users with at least a million followers can expect a bottom line of 10,000$ for this kind of deal, and the sky’s the limit. Accounts with less than 10k might be lucky to get 500$. He admits there is some variance to this depending on the exact demands of the sponsored posts. Even then, every company is different, but those are numbers that you can probably rely on.
If you have ever followed an Instagram model and seen on one of their posts or their story a discount code, that’s a sure-fire sign they are a part of affiliate marketing. This a more long-term partnership between an influencer and a company. Influencers will get special links or codes that specifically signify to a brand that a person buying their product did so because they heard about it from a specific social media influencer.
Micro-influencers usually benefit from this partnership a bit more. Companies can offer a smaller upfront amount in exchange for a higher overall payout if the influencer’s engagement rate shows to be good. This means less overall risk, so they are more likely to make offers to smaller influencers.
Plus, there is usually a bit more leniency in the exact way a model would have to promote the products. This allows them to still be creative and tailor exactly how they need to present the brand to their followers. They are also more incentivized to make sure the engagement rate is higher because the more followers use their affiliate marketing links and codes, the more they end up getting paid.
The icing on this cake is that affiliate marketing benefits the consumer too since the influencer often gets a discount code that will save them money on the products, and who doesn’t like saving money?
Affiliate marketing does present the issue where it is perhaps the most impossible to know how much it can make you. Rates are different between and among brands, and you never know how many followers will use your links and codes. If you are willing to put in the hard work of making sure your audience turns into customers, then you stand to make a bunch of money and potentially develop a long-term partnership. But, there is almost no guaranteed income floor, and the ceiling isn’t easy to pin down either.
Old Fashion Sponsorship
It has been a practice for a while for celebrities to use their likenesses to promote products in an official capacity. A formalized sponsorship goes beyond the previously mentioned scope of appearing in advertisements, though.
Most commonly, a sponsored model will still actively promote a product much in the same way as they would for the individual posts partnership, only they keep it up for a length of time usually agreed upon in a contract. Also similar to the commissioned posts, the amount of money a model receives for their services with sponsorships is usually fixed. Some of it is received upfront, and the remainder is slowly paid out over the length of the sponsorship to incentivize the model into keeping up the good work.
Sponsorships usually come with more responsibilities than the commissioned single posts though. Often, sponsored models will have events they are asked to attend or to serve as a spokesperson in the press material. You’ve probably seen some social media influencers wear clothes with brand logos or sporting merch from a brand. That is also a typical expectation of a sponsorship.
If the sponsorship an influencer receives is from a larger brand, their contract will sometimes come with a “non-compete clause.”By strict definition, this means while a model is sponsored, they cannot work with or support a company that their sponsor views as a competitor. Doing so can cause all kinds of trouble for an influencer, including immediate termination of the contract or a lawsuit.
However, for sponsored influencers, the restrictions often goes a step further, preventing them from promoting the competitors on any level. This can be as minor as not openly discussing how much they like the competitor’s products or as severe as not being allowed to be seen in public with the products.
Exact amounts of money on this are hard to tell, as every deal is different. Larger name brands offer more money on average, but they tend to be more restricting in their contracts. The good news is that micro-influencers can benefit from sponsorships as easily as top tier Instagram accounts. Plus, the longer you stick with a brand, the more money you stand to make since they can come to rely on you for quality content.
This doesn’t happen all that much anymore, but it used to be quite common for companies to offer people their product for advertisement instead of actual payment. Most will still offer it as a bonus, but it’s not too often that you see deals where a brand isn’t offering you any kind of money.
Technically speaking, getting free products doesn’t net you any kind of income at all. But, it can keep you from having to spend money on products you were already planning to buy. It lowers costs instead of raising profit, in a sense. A friendly warning, it’s heavily frowned upon to try and sell any products that you receive from a brand, so do not try and make a turnaround that way.
This kind of partnership offers about the same to smaller influencers and big names. Though, micro-influencers might be more likely to run into offers that are just free products with little to no real pay. While that can feel like a raw deal, you should take them if you do like the product anyway. It’s free stuff at the end of the day, and you set yourself up for building trust and a reputation with that brand.
Selling Your Own Products
This is an option reserved almost exclusively for the major social media influencers, as it usually requires a lot of money up front to even get started.
Much like how Kylie Jenner started her own cosmetics company, if an Instagram model becomes known for a particular thing, and they have a big enough following, they will often start their own business within that product. Of course, sometimes you end up with unexpected celebrity business ventures, like Venus Williams’ interior design firm, but those can be just as profitable.
This is no longer exactly making money from your Instagram account, but a popular Insta account can lead you to a successful business opportunity. You also get to use your account as basically your own sponsored advertisement, so you kind of get to cut out the middleman of having to work with a different brand.
Micro-influencers aren’t completely out of luck on this angle. You can do partnerships with companies to design a few pieces of merch that can be sold through them. This makes you a bit more kickback than normal affiliate marketing sales. But it is a ton of hard work coordinating with several companies just to get a few t-shirt designs ready for sale. The bright side is you don’t have to worry about the overhead as much as if you started a whole new business.
The Bottom Line
So, how much do Instagram models make? Unfortunately, unless you happen to be someone that files taxes for an Instagram model, it’s probably just about impossible to say for sure. There are just too many ways that influencers can diversify their incomes, and each brand partnership can be so varied that no deals will likely make a model the same amount of money.
One thing that can be said is that it’s not impossible to make a living from your Instagram account, but you shouldn’t rely on that out of the gate. Until you reach that magic number of a million followers and find some regular brand support, it’s hard to guarantee you’ll make ends meet.
On the bright side, even micro-influencers stand to make a decent amount of money from their accounts, as long as they have a reasonably sized following. The money they make from being Instagram models will likely be more supplementary income. As they continue to grow and prove themselves as a worthwhile investment for brands, that could easily change.
In short, maybe don’t quit your day job right away, but if you are willing to put in some hard work and be smart, being an Instagram model could quickly become your day job.