Instagram has quickly become one of, if not, the biggest social media platforms on the planet. With over one billion users checking in every month, it is hard to imagine a better place to get as many eyes as possible on your content. Many people use Instagram as a platform to post pictures and interact with friends, but companies have started to realize the unrivaled virtual traffic makes it the perfect place to advertise their products. However, since the opportunities for ads are limited, and no one pays attention to social media ads anyway, companies got creative and started using influencer marketing.
That’s where Instagram models come in. More often than not, Instagram models are not models in the sense of runways and magazine covers. They are simply people with a substantial Instagram following who get paid by companies to use their platforms to promote products. As social media becomes a bigger element of everyday life, more companies are using Instagram as an opportunity to advertise, and the more need there is for Instagram models.
So, how do you become an Instagram model? Well, if you were hoping for a walk in the park, sorry. It takes a lot of work to become a successful model on Instagram, especially if you are wanting to do it as a full-time job. It is certainly not impossible, but you need to be prepared for quite a bit of hard work. On the bright side, despite what the name implies, you don’t have to have a storied modeling career to cut it as an Instagram model.
Everyone’s journey looks a bit different, but there are a few simple steps that every person follows. Here is a rough guide of the steps needed to become an Instagram model.
Step One: Figure Out Your “Thing”
The earlier you figure out your niche as a model, the easier the steps to come will be. Instagram models may be in high demand, but there is no shortage of people trying to make it as an influencer. Developing your own identifiable, personal style will help you stand out from the crowd of competitors. You don’t have to go all out and reinvent the wheel, but you’ll never get anywhere if your online presence feels generic.
The best place to start with figuring out your niche is just examining your interests. That way, you will come across as more genuine in your Instagram posts, and working on your Instagram content will likely become an enjoyable process. Most Instagram influencers fall into one or more of about three broad categories:
There are dozens of more specific niches that Insta models appeal to, but they all more or less fall under one of those distinctions. What you want to fall under will mostly be up to you, but it will affect the best ways to promote yourself and the types of sponsorships you are likely to get.
You won’t have to commit to this personality and niche forever, and you don’t have to just pick just one. Combining interests to broaden your audiences is a smart plan overall, and helps shape what makes you as a model unique. It’s great to come in with a strong idea, but you aren’t bound to it. If you want to try experimenting with your image, it’s best to do it while you have a smaller following.
For Instagram models, consistency is key. You’ll probably end up with a fair bit of followers that only follow you for specific types of content. Constantly rebranding yourself will make people not want to keep following you, and it will keep companies from feeling confident that you will be a reliable face for their products.
Step 2: Develop Some Technical Know-How
Instagram modeling differs from regular modeling in one major aspect: you are mostly an independent worker. This can be a good thing since it allows you to be entirely in control of what kind of content you produce, your aesthetics, the fact that you don’t have to adhere to strict standards, and so on. The trade-off for increased independence is that you have to do all of the behind the scenes work yourself.
Traditional models have almost everything done for them by modeling agencies. That includes bookings, outfit choices, makeup, hair, photography, picture production, and publication. An Instagram model is more or less an independent agent who has to take care of the entire production process. When Instagram influencers get to a certain level of success, they can afford to hire other people to take care of some of the steps, but most starting models won’t be able to do that without greatly hurting their ability to make money.
Ideally, you’d know how to do some of these things before you start your modeling journey, but it’s okay to learn it as you go along. Experience is the best teacher, after all. If you have to pick one priority to start learning or improving, the whole process becomes a lot easier once you learn how to take professional photos. It encompasses a bunch of things you’ll have to learn anyway like good lighting and angles, plus, the better the initial pics, the less time you’ll have to spend editing them later on.
It may come as a surprise just how much technology you’ll have to learn to regularly produce the quality content that is expected of a professional Instagram model. Despite what they want you to believe, top influencers aren’t inhumanly gorgeous, they are mostly average people that just know how to make themselves look as good as possible with some tricks. This includes photo editing. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing saturation and light levels, but some people do make some more drastic edits.
It can be a daunting proposition for new influencers, especially if their only experience beforehand was applying filters to selfies. It can also be an equipment hurdle too. A nice camera and a computer that can handle photo editing can run you quite a bit of money if you don’t already have them. It can be a good idea to save for these since they are a career investment, or if you have some good friends or family with the necessary gear, they might be willing to let you borrow theirs until you can afford your own.
Of course, this doesn’t even factor in any kind of specific skills or equipment you’ll need to succeed as an influencer in a particular niche. Again, you’d ideally be looking to develop a niche that is already a part of your interests, so this hopefully won’t cause much, if any, issues.
Step 3: Start Making High-Quality Content and Building Your Base
Once you feel confident that you are prepared for the work and you know the kind of content you are going to be putting out, you can create your Instagram model profile. Odds are you already have an Instagram account and were considering converting it into your model account. There are ups and downs to starting fresh or not. The deciding factor should be if you feel comfortable with your personal account also being the account that — ideally — thousands of strangers are going to be viewing and vice versa. Not everyone will want their friends and family to see their professional Insta accounts.
Whatever you choose, unless you already have a sizable following for whatever reason, this is going to be the part of the process that takes the longest. Finding followers who will stick around and support you is not easy. You’ll be tempted to try and shortcut this by buying followers, but you should never do that. It’s so easy for a company to tell when a large portion of your followers aren’t real, and trying to pull one over on a brand is a sure-fire way to create distrust. If you need some help boosting your follower count with real people, though, you can check out these apps that can help boost your number of followers for free.
Gaining followers is not just a waiting game, there are deliberate steps you can take to get more people interested in your Instagram account. These may sound like gimmicks, but these are some steps that have been proven to work by social media experts.
Keep your content high-quality. This can come down to the quality of the individual posts, but it is also important to consider diversity across posts. Instagram users love a good shot of an influencer by the pool, but if that is the only thing that a model puts out, it quickly becomes old. Instagram stories are a great way to spice up what you put out to your followers. The fleeting nature of a story encourages people to interact with it, since, unlike a regular Insta post, they can’t just find it later.
Optimize your hashtags. Instagram allows you to put up to thirty hashtags on a single post, but never do that because it annoys users. You’re better off using few, more relevant hashtags. People searching hashtags is one of the more common ways they find new accounts to follow. If you can jump onto a trending hashtag with a post that draws people’s attention, it will almost assuredly lead to a big influx of new followers. The trick is to then convince them to stick around.
Make sure your content comes regularly. This doesn’t have to mean constantly, because many users find it annoying when one influencer floods their Instagram feed. At least daily updates are recommended, though that can be hard for new influencers that have to maintain a job and other responsibilities alongside their accounts. Either way, just don’t take too long between updates, the last thing you want is for people to forget they were following you.
Learn how to use the algorithm to your advantage. Instagram uses complex and constantly changing algorithms to decide what appears higher up in a user’s Instagram feed. You want to be higher in that feed to assure that people see you before they get burned out of scrolling. It’s impossible to know exactly how to best game the system, but there are a few things that the algorithm seems to constantly prioritize:
Fresh content: Instagram feed is no longer strictly chronological, but it does prioritize newer posts.
User interest: This goes back to the niche goal. Instagram tries to figure out what kind of things people like, and it puts the content that features those things higher on the feed.
Follower Loyalty: If a follower has interacted with your content or regularly seeks it out, Insta assumes they want it and will show your content to them more frequently in the future.
These indicate a couple of things that are important to keep in mind.
First, stay up to date on your follower’s interests and make sure they are engaging with your content. Do not explicitly tell them to like or share things, Instagram users hate that. But you can outsmart them and still encourage engagement. Have little Q&As in the comments of a post, offer special content giveaways where the “entry fee” is to like and/or share the post, encourage people to send you DMs and respond to them (as long as they are respectful, of course). A great way to poke people into interacting is to get them to share information about themselves, so ask your followers questions like their favorite movie, a song they like to play when they feel down, anything that gets them to feel like you want to know more about them.
Second, the timing of your posts is just as important as the frequency of them. If you post an amazing selfie at 4 am, but the majority of your followers aren’t active until 2 pm, you’ll get buried too deep in their feed to get noticed. There currently isn’t a way to know exactly when your peek follower traffic is, so it may require some experimentation. Or, like above, you can make a poll or ask followers to direct message the times when they are normally on Instagram the most.
Another important thing to improve your follower growth is to interact with similar accounts to yours. That includes commenting, liking, sharing, any way to increase your visibility on their profile. The reasoning behind this was covered more in-depth covering the topic of Facebook pages, but the principles still apply. In short, you are using their profiles as an inspiration for what you could be doing better and trying to put your account in front of their audience, which has a similar taste and is sometimes more established.
Step Four: Landing Partnerships and Getting Paid
When people say they want to be an Instagram model, there is sort of an unspoken understanding that they hope to get paid for their work as an influencer. If you are looking to become an Instagram model, you probably already have a decent idea of what brand partnerships are and how they can work. If not, you should check out this article on how much Instagram influencers make.
The two main things to highlight here are your follower count and your engagement rate. Essentially, you need to have a decent-sized number of followers, but it might not have to be as high as you’d first think. Sure, brands want to make sure you will reach plenty of people, but they are usually more interested in your engagement rates. That’s a better indicator of how much they can expect to benefit from you promoting their products. Those sorts of metrics are built-in to Instagram, so thankfully you won’t have to struggle too much to figure out what those are for when a company asks for them.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a brand first. You may end up waiting forever for a brand to extend an offer to you when you could have gotten a few just by approaching them. There isn’t exactly a correct, ideal way to reach out to a brand, as long as you are polite and respectful. Some influencers put together a media portfolio — a sort of resume that showcases what a company can expect to receive from you and highlights what would make you a good partner. This helps you seem more professional, which is always a plus, but it isn’t strictly necessary.
Be sure to read the fine print whenever you start getting brand sponsorships. The nature of social media influencer marketing is that every deal will look different, even ones that you make with the same company. It can be boring, and no one enjoys reading over the terms and conditions, but it is a part of the job that you signed up for. Besides, it’s better to spend at most an hour or two reading a dull document than it is to find yourself in a binding legal agreement that is causing you a ton of distress. It’s also good just to comb it for any particulars — nobody wants to violate a non-competition clause, even if it’s by accident.