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How to make money on Instagram

If you’re reading this, chances are good you have an Instagram account. After all, it’s one of the most popular social media platforms out there, with almost 1.5 billion users worldwide. 

The primarily visual platform allows users to browse through heaps of entertaining, engaging, or just plain attractive content and to easily find things relevant to their interests. But for a business owner, or someone looking to start a business, Instagram is more than a way to kill time. 

Making money on Instagram is becoming more and more common. 20 years ago, ‘Instagram influencer’ wasn’t even a phrase, and now it’s some peoples’ entire career. But not everyone is or wants to be an influencer, which is why it’s good that there are a lot of other ways to make money on Instagram. 

So how can you make money on Instagram, even if you’re just starting out with the platform? Well, these are some of the most popular ways. 

Affiliate marketing

As a very visual and (more recently) video-oriented platform, Instagram, like YouTube, is an excellent platform for affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing means that you’re helping brands make more sales by promoting their products or services. 

Because affiliates only get paid if customers purchase a product through their links, there’s very low risk to the companies they partner with. That means it’s also relatively easy to become an affiliate partner. 

How do you find affiliate marketing opportunities? Generally speaking, reaching out to merchants offering affiliate programmes will be successful, since there’s really no downside for them. There are also well-known larger programmes like the Amazon Associates initiative, which pays its participants 10% of every sale. With a low barrier to entry and a very high potential reach, affiliate marketing is a great way to make money on Instagram. 

The golden rule of affiliate marketing, no matter the platform, is to never endorse something you don’t personally like. Authenticity is key in any sort of marketing, and if you’re not happy with the product, it shows. 

Additionally, when you’re affiliate marketing, you need to disclose that you’re an affiliate. That means you want to be as transparent as possible about the reasons you believe in the product. 

When you’re promoting something on Instagram, use a mix of regular posts, Stories, and Reels. You want to show off the product and its uses – take pictures from different angles, demonstrate how it’s used, and prove it has value. You can show a product’s impact with before and after photos, which is useful if you’re promoting something like makeup or shaving products. 

Another idea is to show yourself using the thing you’re advertising, from beginning to end. For example, if you’re partnering with a meal planning service, video yourself cooking one of their dinners, and make sure to highlight the end result. 

As an affiliate marketer, you need to include links to the things you’re promoting. On Instagram, you can’t include links in regular posts, which means you’ll be using Stories and your bio to post links. However, you can still leverage standard posts by including promo codes, to give prospective shoppers an extra incentive. 

Sponsor brands

Similar to affiliate marketing but a little different; when you sponsor a brand you’re not making sales, just raising awareness of their products. People who sponsor brands are sometimes called ‘influencers’ – which doesn’t mean they’re all fashion icons doing yoga on an island. 

An Instagram influencer is anyone who has a reputation for creating engaging content and who has developed a following that trusts them. Influencers often have a specific niche, whether it’s fitness, fashion, gaming, or something else. The more precise your audience, the easier it is to develop your brand

Once you’ve developed enough of a following, you can reap the benefits in the form of partnerships. How do you get followers on Instagram? Your content needs to be: 

  • Visually appealing. All Instagram content is primarily visual, so having a quality camera is a must. 

  • Laser-focused. Do you have an area of expertise or a hobby that you know a lot about? Your content should be geared toward that, so that you can develop yourself into a voice of authority on a specific topic. 

  • Regular and varied. You always want to consistently upload content to keep your followers engaged, and Instagram gives you so many options for posting. Use posts, Stories, Reels, and Carousels to mix up your content and keep it interesting. 

  • Valuable to your audience. Post things your audience will want instead of posting for the sake of posting. That could be advice, tips, or how-tos that are as informative as they are nice to look at. 

How many followers do you need to make money on Instagram? You can get started with a lot fewer followers than you think. What matters is their level of engagement. As long as you have a core of people regularly liking, commenting on or sharing your posts, it’s a springboard to getting noticed. 

So now you have your following. How do you find brands to sponsor? There are influencer marketplaces you can list yourself on, like Fohr or indaHash. 

There’s also a good chance brands will reach out to you, especially if your following grows. Brands often offer partnerships on striking posts, even when the poster isn’t an established influencer. If you’ve ever seen ‘dm for collab’ on a friend’s holiday post, you know what that looks like. 

The challenge is to distinguish between useful and counterproductive partnerships. You only want to sponsor brands that are relevant to your niche, and that share your values. Otherwise, it feels out of sync with your personality as a creator. For example, if you post about healthy, sustainable cooking, it would be strange to sponsor a steakhouse. 

Influencers can make a lot of money on Instagram by sponsoring brands. Deals range from single posts to entire campaigns, and can even include companies paying to use your content on their website. Your fee depends on the size and loyalty of your audience – around the 100,000 follower mark, you can make a few thousand pounds per post. 

Sell your photos/content online

A picture is worth a thousand words, and Instagram is full of pictures. Pictures are assets that you can licence and print, so you can sell them both on and offline. 

If you’re looking to sell your content digitally, there are marketplaces like 500px or Twenty20, where brands look for photos to licence. You can also print out your photos to sell them in a variety of formats, from large posters to graphics on t-shirts. 

Your customers can range from companies looking for ad material to followers excited to own something you’ve made. If you’re selling to regular consumers, creativity is key. You can promote your own brand by putting your photos on clothes, coffee mugs, or phone cases. 

You’ll need somewhere to sell these prints. Rather than enrol in a coding bootcamp or pay a monthly fee, you can make an ecommerce website in minutes with the SumUp Online Store. There, you can list all your products as well as their images and descriptions, and sort them into categories to make it easy for shoppers to find what they’re looking for. 

Checkout is easy and you can accept almost any type of debit and credit card as payment, and only pay a 2.75% transaction fee. A SumUp Online Store gives you total control of your shipping options and lets you reach anyone, no matter where in the world they are. 

Open your online store

Open an Instagram shop

Just like on other social media platforms used for business, selling directly on Instagram is becoming a trend. Letting people shop straight from the app starts by opening an Instagram Store. All you need for this is an Instagram Business or Creator account. 

You can use this Instagram Store to list your products and tell viewers a bit about yourself. Just like a SumUp Online Store, you can include descriptions of these products, complete with prices and images. 

It’s also a good idea to separate your stock into categories to make your store more user friendly. This way, you can also highlight discounts or promotions. 

Your customer has two options for checkout. They can click on a link to your ecommerce store, or buy straight from Instagram. Shoppers can access Instagram checkout via: 

  • Shoppable posts and Stories. Anyone with an Instagram Business account can make their posts shoppable by adding product tags to them. 

  • Shoppable ads. You can do the same thing with ads as you do with regular posts and Stories. 

  • Live Shopping. Whenever you go on Instagram Live, you can tag your products. They’ll appear at the bottom of the screen for viewers to tap on. 

Prospective customers can find your store in the Shopping tab, which is designed to show users products relevant to tier interests. Depending who they follow, they’ll get different recommendations, which means the algorithm helps you expand to related niches. 

The best part about using an Instagram Shop? It’s free to open. Instagram takes 5% of every sale and that’s it. The convenience of an easily browsable and personalised ecommerce platform as well as a low fee makes opening a store an excellent way to make money on Instagram. 


With almost 2 billion users worldwide, Instagram is a vital market. Although it helps to have a lot of followers, you can make money on Instagram with only a few. Anyone can post affiliate links, open an Instagram store, or take licence-worthy photos. 

Any way you choose to make money on Instagram has relatively low risk on your part, and you can also use your Instagram presence to promote yourself elsewhere. So why wait? You can start turning a profit with your Instagram account today. 

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Max Elias