How to make thousands from your Instagram account – and other popular myths…
“You could charge £500 to £2000 per image!” yelled one Facebook post, advertising the joys of turning your Instagram account into a money-spinner. But, as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
This week Facebook served me a sponsored post from Stylist Magazine about social media/blogging – pretty good targeting since I’m an avid reader and work in social media. What they dished up was completely off base though. Essentially they were flogging a message about how to use your Instagram following to make extra cash, but their headline and intro promised you could make “thousands a month” just like the superbloggers they interviewed in the piece.
I can’t tell you how infuriating it is when I see this kind of rubbish being trotted out online or by magazines I actually read and respect. While some of the advice might help aspiring bloggers, more often that not what it actually does is create unrealistic expectations.
In reality, it’s a very small section of the blogging community that gets paid this kind of money. Not everyone can or will achieve this. That doesn’t mean they should stop trying, but it just doesn’t happen for everyone like this. I work with so many talented young people who are making amazing progress with their blogging but constantly feel like they fall short thanks to pieces like this.
In the interest of balance, I think we should look at some of the things that make these bloggers stand out from the rest and what we can learn from them.
They have oodles of followers
If you want to get paid for championing brands on Instagram, it’s a lot about the quality of your pics but mainly about the numbers. Brands need to show a return on investment, so if they are buying your services, they need to show that it’s had an impact; how many eyeballs have seen my content? How many of those people bought it afterwards? For this reason, many won’t look at you until you have followers in the thousands. Patricia Bright (mentioned in the Stylist piece) has 272,000 followers. That’s more than the circulation of some of the most popular national magazines for women. It’s a numbers game, so if you want to get paid you need to have the numbers first.
They’re connected with the right people
Bip Ling’s mum and dad both attended Central St Martins and run a fashion illustration gallery in Mayfair. She has said she was around fashion shows from a young age and even went to Louis Vuitton HQ in Paris aged 14. Before starting Style Bubble, Susie Lau was commissioning editor of DazedDigital.com, so she wasn’t new in media circles and probably had a pretty good contacts book already. These people didn’t come from nowhere; they were in the right places at the right time to make things happen. That’s not to take away from the incredible talent they have or the hard work they put into making their blogs a success, but if your mum and dad work for the council and you live on a housing estate, you’re probably not going to have the same opportunities these people have had. You might have to put in a bit of extra effort to make some of the connections you need. This could take a bit longer and be more difficult than you think. (And I say this as someone whose dad works for the council and who grew up on a housing estate). You can do it, but just be prepared for it not to be easy.
They have an agent
Danielle Bernstein of We Wore What, touted in the article as earning upwards of $5,000 per post is actually on the books of Next Models. This means there is someone out there whose job it is to put her photo in front of brands and sell her. Not many ordinary bloggers have this kind of help and just because you’re posting it on Instagram, it doesn’t automatically mean brands will spot you and suddenly want to pay you lots of money. If you don’t have representation and want to make money, then a big part of your efforts should be concentrated on getting yourself in front of the decision makers. Enter contests, tag them when you wear their products, talk to them a lot. It’s a long road, but you’ll need to prize the door open somehow to start a conversation with them.
They have the right look
Having a strong following is really important when it comes to attracting attention (and money) from brands, but so is having the right look. Brand managers need to make sure that the person representing them fits with the brand’s image. Zoella’s ‘girl next door’ look and tween appeal made her an ideal fit for Superdrug. Tess Holliday’s gorgeous curves and outspoken attitude were a match made in heaven with Yours Clothing. You might have lots of followers and look great, but if you’re not what a brand is looking for, they won’t book with you. It’s as simple as that. There’s not a lot you can do about that really, apart from look like whatever they think is cool right now, and trying to do that is usually infuriating and a bit of a losing game. You’re far better off just looking like yourself and if they like it, then great.
Their photos are professional standard
A lot of articles about monetising your Instagram feed make it sound like you can make loads of money just by snapping any old thing with your iPhone and posting it, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Many bloggers work with a professional photographer to get those awe-inspiring shots and all use editing tools to make them absolutely perfect before posting. It’s called Insta-gram but it ought to be called ‘A lot of bloody effort’-gram.
They work bloody hard
There’s no denying it, these people put a lot of effort into these perfect-looking Instagram feeds and blogs. They make it look easy, carefree and natural, but very little about it is. They plan out their content strategy in advance, spend hours and hours crafting the content and schedule in their postings at exactly the right time for maximum impact. It can take years to hone the type of skills they have. And you shouldn’t feel ashamed about that. You have to start somewhere, so even if your blog isn’t perfect yet, it’s lovely to look back and see how far you’ve come.
Finally, I just want to add that blogging and getting into social media to try and get big money deals with brands is kind of the antithesis of what made it cool in the first place. You should be doing it because you have a passion for something, because you have a talent you want to share, not just because you want to make money. Brands are buying into bloggers because they want a piece of something ‘genuine’. Just be genuine, be yourself and you’ll make progress.
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