How to Turn Instagram Into Income—Without Becoming an Influencer

You don't need millions of followers to make money on Instagram. Here are some tips and ideas on how you can bring in extra cash while creating something you love.

Got a cool craft you enjoy making? You can sell it on Insta. Love photography? You can sell that too. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be an influencer with millions of followers to make money on Instagram. Although you do need to have a brand-sponsored post to be paid directly by Instagram, there are are plenty of creative ways to make money on there that don't involve ads. Here are some tips on how you can use Instagram to take your hobby or idea to the next level.

01 of 04

Determine your brand and style.

Trying to figure out your Instagram persona might sound like a difficult task, but it doesn't have to be. Reflecting on what you're passionate about and how you want to talk about it is the key to keeping people's attention on your page. "Figuring out who you want to be and how you want to be really important," says Kennedy Roberts, founder and lead creative of KAR Creative Studios, a team that helps with social media, web content, and photography for emerging brands.

Los Angeles-based designer Lorena Cortez uses her passion for photography, film, and styling to promote her online pinup-inspired store, Ruby Rae Clothing, on Instagram. "I was intentional about the content I was putting out to be not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye but also promoting my brand. My favorite way to promote myself is through parallax-style videos that I shoot and edit myself," says Cortez. So before you launch your business on Instagram, take some time to figure out the things you are interested in and how you want to showcase them.

02 of 04

Sell your product or service directly.

Speaking of business, you don't actually have to have a website or an online store to make money off of Instagram. You can create content that leads people to a course or a download, or sell any type of art or craft you enjoy making. "Any hobby that you have, you could potentially use Instagram to sell those things. Even if you're not functioning as a business with a website, you can easily throw up an Instagram page and share images of your product and sell some," says Roberts.

Artist Danny Koby first started her page to show off tufted yarn rugs she makes, and had no intention of selling anything. "I really just wanted to have a place to put pictures of my art, but somehow people found my page and wanted their own bath mat! I really never expected it to grow so quickly. I am so thankful for everyone who follows and supports me and my art," says Koby. She does not have an online shop and all sales are done through Instagram DMs.

03 of 04

Get your work out there.

Follow accounts that are posting things similar to yours and interact with their content with likes and comments to increase your visibility on Instagram. Another tip is to be consistent with posting—"every day, if possible," suggests Robert. Also, don't be afraid to reach out to people to collaborate. Have a fellow creator do a guest post on your page, or suggest doing a takeover on theirs. "I like to say using Instagram is a telephone, not a microphone. What is most important is making connections with people," says Robert.

Jalyn, founder of Milkweed, started her business selling body butter candles about a month ago—and sold out of her first batch within 10 days of launching. Each candle comes in a customized, hand-painted jar. All orders are placed via DM and paid for via Venmo or another payment app. "Eventually, I think I'll make a website. But for now, Instagram is serving all the purposes. From marketing, to customer service, to selling the candles themselves. IG has made it easy for me," she says.

04 of 04

Treat Instagram like the real world.

While many say social media is far from real life, Roberts believes it doesn't always have to be that way. In fact, using Instagram to communicate like you do offline might be just the thing for your business. "Instead of thinking about Instagram like this weird alternate reality, just think about it like it's life and you were marketing your business by word of mouth," suggests Roberts.

Artist Jackee Alvarez runs two Instagram businesses—one for selling her paintings, and another to sell handcrafted clay and wire earrings with her friend Madison. She says one of the most helpful parts of having her business on Insta is the access she has to people. "I think what helps creatives is really having a conversation with the people that are supporting them. I wouldn't be able to have such quick contact if I just had my website—I would have nowhere to let people know what's going on and really get opinions," says Alvarez. She also says that there is a learning curve with Instagram, especially with knowing what hashtags to use and when to post, since posts do not show up chronologically. When you set up your profile as a business account, Instagram allows you to check insights on your content. The insights section will show you when your followers are most active, how many people are interacting with your content, and how many accounts you have reached.

"The good thing with Instagram is you literally have the whole world at your fingertips. Anyone can stumble upon your page and give you a follow and support with a purchase. I think the way Instagram is currently set up allows for small businesses to be seen and supported," says Alvarez.

And speaking of follows, aim for quality not quantity. "I think you can have 50 followers and if all 50 of those people love what you're doing and buy something from you, you could make a lot of money," says Roberts. "Aim for quality people who are actually interested in what you do."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles