The Ultimate Guide to Making Money as an Influencer

What is an influencer?

A social media influencer is someone who has built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a particular topic and generated a large and loyal following of engaged fans. Brands love influencer marketing because a powerful influencer can create trends and cause products they promote to sell out quickly.

The history of influencers

Celebrities may have been the original influencers, but their importance and influence is waning in favor of social media influencers. Why? Influencers are often revered as experts or authority figures in a very specific niche, whether it’s beauty, food, technology, or something as particular as woodworking. This means not just anyone with a large following can or will become an influencer. Instead, influencers are the social media celebrities who have a certain amount of leverage with their fan communities. Compared to celebrities and popular social media users, true influencers are more relatable and trustworthy in the market, especially with younger demographics. 

Early web forums of the 1990s may have paved the way for the influencers of today. They allowed niche communities to discuss specific topics or interests where some people might have earned a reputation for their expertise and quality recommendations.

Then came the bloggers in the 2000s who wrote about their experiences in a certain field and with certain products or services. It quickly became common place for companies to send popular bloggers free products in the hopes of a favorable review.

Over the last five years, influencer marketing has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry with expectations that it will only continue growing in the coming years. In the early days, brands have sent influencers free products or offered to pay them a small commission through an affiliate program, but as more and more companies influencer marketing as an invaluable tool, the power balance flipped, and the more business-savvy influencers command significantly higher fees for each post, mention, product placement, or review.

What does it take to be an influencer?

In today’s social media landscape, we see so many successful influencers that it may seem like everyone and their mom can do it. However, building and retaining a community of devoted followers isn’t as easy as it may look. It requires consistent and authentic posts that provide invaluable information to your followers. The journey to becoming an influencer is a grind, and there certainly isn’t one set path to becoming an influencer, but these steps will steer you in the right direction.

Step 1: Focus on a niche.

To be able to influence your fan base in a specific field, you first have to choose one. In this article by Viral Nation, they layout 10 of the powerhouse niches that exist in influencer marketing. 

  • Beauty
  • Health And Fitness
  • Travel
  • Fashion
  • Business/Making Money Online
  • Luxury/Lifestyle
  • Gaming
  • Animals
  • Relationships
  • Family/Parenting

You definitely don’t have to limit yourself to just one category, but make sure your individual niches align with one another. For example, you could combine travel with lifestyle or beauty with fashion. Also remember that your niche is not going to apply or appeal to everyone.  Especially when you’re just beginning your career as an influencers, there’s no way that you can create content or speak in a voice that everyone will accept. More than just picking a niche, the key to becoming an influencer is adding your unique voice to everything you do, so carve out your own niche that allows you to exhibit your passion, strengths, and even your quirks. 

Step 2: Pick a platform

Depending on your niche, certain platforms might be better suited for your content than others. 93% of social media influencers currently prefer Instagram, but that doesn’t mean you should focus all of your effort on Instagram if your niche doesn’t align with the platform. You should also consider the platform that your audience is most likely to use. For example, if your target content genre & niche favors millennials, you might want to focus your effort on Snapchat and Instagram versus other platforms.  Don’t ignore other social platforms, but when you’re just starting out, it’s best to focus more of your attention (80% or so) on a primary social platform than spreading yourself too thin trying to specialize in all of them.

Step 3: Create quality content

Creating high quality content is likely the most important step to becoming a social media influencer. Regardless of the type of content you create, it must be meaningful and valuable in order to keep your audience engaged and hungry for more. Depending on your niche and the social platforms you utilize, you can create different types of content such as blog posts, photos, videos, podcasts, etc. The most crucial thing here is injecting your unique voice. What makes you different than all the other influencers out there? Understanding the answer to this question will make your content stand out, and establish your image as an influencer. 

Step 4: Know your audience

More than just creating quality content, it has to be content that an audience wants. If you’re looking for ideas try running a Google search for your niche or reading Reddit to get an idea of what your target audience is talking about. Most social media platforms also have an analytics section where you get access to audience demographics data such as gender, geographic location, occupation, online behavior, etc. Study the data available to you!  And don’t forget to pay attention to the comments on your posts or create polls to get more insight on what your viewers want to see.  In many cases they will tell you exactly what they want.

Step 5: Using the right hashtags

One of the most effective ways to increase the visibility of your content is to use the right hashtags. Identify the most relevant and trending hashtags in your niche. Then use them in your posts so that your content may be seen by an entirely new audience that may be unaware of your existence. Only use hashtags that align with your image as an influencer and the content you’re creating. Many social media planning tools like Tailwind or Preview help you find popular and related hashtags. In addition to using popular hashtags, you can also create your own unique hashtag. Encourage your followers to upload content on their own profiles using your branded hashtags to increase your reach even more.

Step 6: Be consistent

Publishing high-quality content on a regular basis is the most effective ways to retain your audience’s attention. It creates a sense of anticipation among your audience, boosts audience engagement, and increases your reach. However, be careful that you don’t sacrifice quality in order maintain your schedule. 

Step 7: Collaborate

When you’re first starting out, partnering with an established influencer in your niche can be a great way to increase your fan base.  Collaborations expose different creators to different audiences generally serve as a win-win for everyone involved.

Step 8: Keep your audience engaged

Vary your content as a way to keep your audience engaged. Host an AMA (Ask Me Anything), or announce a giveaway. Maintain a personal connection with your audience by going live. Use Instagram Stories to give your audience a glimpse of behind-the-scenes action at an event or a party. This will make your followers feel closer to you and reinforces their loyalty. Respond to all of your direct messages and comments. Responding to your audience validates the trust that your fans put in you and makes them feel more connected to you.  Always seek to value your audience members as much as they value you.  

To see more of the nitty gritty of what it really takes to be a successful influencer, check out this video from one of our heros, Casey Neistat, where he breaks down his daily schedule. Influencers might make their days seem like fun and games, but for those who have found success, it’s actually their full time job.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing modernizes the idea of celebrity endorsements and places it in a content-driven marketing campaign using individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche. Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that influencers have built up with their following. Many companies now budget specifically for influencer marketing because ROI is comparable to or better than other channels. Brands are now recognizing this and taking advantage of this very targeted marketing. Compare this to running a TV commercial that might reach millions of eyes in a one-way only medium of communication.  A well-placed brand deal with an influencer can be far more targeted but also provides a way for an audience to interact back with the influencer to create engagement via likes, comments, etc.  Savvy brands even provide influencers with unique tracking links to measure sales and performance of campaigns.

How much money can I make?

The short answer is…it depends.  Influencers with less than 1 million followers can earn $10,000 per post, depending on the platform.  Influencers who are north of 1 million followers can often charge ten’s of thousands per campaign with the highest echelon of influencers charging over $100,000!  To provide some perspective on this, makeup vlogger, Jeffree Star, made a reported $18 million in 2018. The most successful influencers are able command the most for brand campaigns, but even those just starting out can earn a couple of hundred to a few thousand dollars a month. For example, a nanoinfluencer who has between 1,000 and 10,000 followers, can make between $30,000 and $60,000 a year, and a microinfluencer with between 10,000 and 50,000 followers can make anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 a year.

How do I start making money?

Communicating with brands

When you have a substantial audience, it’s likely that brands will contact you. However, when you’re just starting you will likely need to be the one reaching out and that’s OK!  After all, how many brands are going to be that upset about someone reaching out to promote their products that they love?  Be confident, you have something that every brand needs, eyeballs.  We’re going give you the full breakdown on how to communicate with brands to start landing deals and boosting your income.

1. Know who you want to work with 

Create a targeted list of brands that you believe in and want to work with. It’s likely that the brands that yoau resonate with will also resonate with your audience, and thus be valuable to the brand.  Be careful to consider only those brands that are in line with your image. For example, if you’re a beauty influencer, it likely doesn’t make sense to strike a brand deal with a company that makes phone cases. Promoting just any company that’s willing to throw you a buck can have the effect of deteriorating the trust you have with your followers and your authority in your niche. 

2. Know who is the decision-maker at the brands on your target list

Find out who is the best person to contact. Whether it’s someone on the social team,  PR department, or if they use a separate agency. This might take some leg work either through online research or even asking around.  LinkedIn can be your best friend here.  Search for individuals who hold titles such as “Influencer Marketing Coordinator” for the brands you want to work with.

3. Why are you the best influencer for the job? 

Prepare a compelling pitch specifically for every brand you contact. A brand can tell when they’re getting a cookie cutter template. Include all of your relevant information such as follower count and engagement, but also include why you love that brand and want to work with them.  Also pitch an idea, make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.  Giving someone an ‘easy button’ will move you to the front of the line.

4. Pick up the phone and call your contact. Then, follow up with email.

It’s scary to talk to someone on the phone, but it will make you stand out. People get loads of emails every day, but they get less calls. You’ll also be able to connect with them on a personal level and create a rapport. Follow up with an email that includes a summary of your discussion with your media kit and what you believe you can do for them. Again, give your contact a reason to say yes.  Perhaps you do your first promotion for free.  Giving before you get can be a powerful way to build a relationship.

Negotiating with brands

The first step to negotiating with brands is to knowing what you are worth. How engaged is your audience?  How likely are they to buy what you recommend to them? Use Social Bluebook’s “My Values” page to get a better understanding of how much you can charge per post. If a company doesn’t want to straight out endorse you, try to strike an affiliate deal where you’ll be given a commission on any sales made through your unique tracking link. You’ll be able to track how many people clicked the link and how many purchased. This is extremely valuable information that you’ll be able to use in future negotiations!  Another great tactic is to simply offer your services for free. Once you’ve created a strong relationship and shown the value you can bring, the brand will most likely want to continue working with you. This can also serve as a foundation in negotiating with other similar brands. You don’t have to disclose that you were working for free; they just know that you’re working with other brands.


Advertiser Dictionary

As you begin working with brands and companies, you’re going to come across a lot of new terminology and metrics when communicating back and forth. It’s important that you can speak their language and understand key terms so that you can understand and confidently discuss potential deals.

  • Engagement Rate: An engagement rate is a metric that measures the level of engagement that a piece of created content is receiving from an audience. It shows how much people interact with the content. Factors that influence engagement include users’ comments, shares, likes, and more. 
  • CPM: Cost per thousand, also called cost per mille, is a marketing term used to denote the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on one webpage. If a website publisher charges $2.00 CPM, that means an advertiser must pay $2.00 for every 1,000 impressions of its ad. 
  • ROI: Return on investment is a ratio between net profit and cost of investment. A high ROI means the investment’s gains compare favorably to its cost. As a performance measure, ROI is used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiencies of several different investments. 
  • CPC: Cost Per Click refers to the actual price you pay for each click in your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaigns. 
  • EMV: Earned Media Value is all the posts and buzz about your brand on social media created by people outside of your company. 
  • KPI: There are many Key Performance Indicators that serve a purpose for different elements of your strategy, but when it comes to influencer marketing, the five essential ones to focus on are conversion rates, reach and awareness, referral traffic, audience growth, and engagement.  
  • Over-Index: “Over-indexing” answers the question, “how does a target group differ from the total population?” For example, you run a restaurant and have a target audience of under 30s. A marketing agency finds that 30% of the population like tofu and 30% like pork. More detailed analyses shows that for the under 30s, 40% like tofu and 10% like pork while for the over 30s, 25% like tofu and 45% like pork. The marketing agency would suggest that you serve tofu by explaining that, “the under 30s over-index by 10% on tofu likability.” (40% for the target population – 30% for the overall population = +10%).
  • Average Likes: The average amount of likes you get per post
  • Reach: The total number of people who can potentially see your content.  
  • Growth Rate: 
  • Churn Rate: The percentage rate at which users of a given service leave a social media platform from one time period to the next.  

More ways to monetize

Sponsorships and brand deals aren’t the only way to earn money through your social media following. Here are some more ways to start monetizing your social media profiles and earning extra income just by posting! 

1. Create an online course

Know a skill that could benefit others? Start an online class and sell your course for a low rate. The e-learning industry is rapidly growing; nowadays, anyone with webcam and internet connection can teach others and earn money just by sharing their knowledge on the web. 

2. Start using ad revenue programs

Ads are one of the earliest ways everyday internet users began to make money off their social media accounts. If you have a blog or run a website, signing up for a program like Google Adsense will help you earn extra income just by letting some ads run on your site.

The key to being successful with ad revenue on social media is to target your content according to the type of ads shown on your page. You can offer value through your posts that will encourage visitors to click through and make a purchase, which earns you income.


Promoting yourself

Get where you are going faster. Whether its testing content to see what sticks or trying to hit goals for a brand deal you are working on, buying ads allows you to reach more people than you could organically and do so quickly. In just a day and less than $100, you could reach more than 20,000 people. Through ads, you can reach more people, get them to take action, like visiting your website or buying a product. 

To get started, we recommend you create an account through Facebook Business Manager. This is the same tool that major brands and advertising agencies use to create and run their ads; thus it comes with lots of bells and whistles for you to take advantage of. 

  1. Go to and select Create Account.
  2. Enter your name and confirm your identity with Facebook login credentials.
  3. Follow the prompts to create your business account.
  4. Claim your Page
  5. Add a Credit Card

Once you have set up your account, you’re able to start buying ads. To learn more about the specifics of ad buying, check out our article on How to buy ads and reach more fans on Facebook & Instagram.

Strategy & Buying Advice from a Pro

🙅‍♀️Never start a campaign without a goal and a plan. You’ll waste your money and come out empty-handed. Think about what you want to achieve, and map out your campaign, ad set(s), and ad(s) you think will help you get what you want. 

🏃🏽‍♀️Don’t launch it and leave it. The best campaigns are those that you monitor daily and make small changes to improve performance. These changes could be turning off ads that aren’t doing well or adding new ones, making adjustments to your ad set or budget, etc. 

🍕Pizza. Think about budgets like pizza at a party. If you have 10 slices and invite 2 people, everyone will be full and you might even have leftovers. If you invite 15 people, some people will go hungry. The same goes for budgets. Your budget will be split across multiple ad sets and ads. Be mindful of how many ads are pulling from the same budget. 

🧑🔬Test and Learn. If something doesn’t work, don’t give up. Make a change and try again. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you think is seeing your ad. Does this post compel them to take this action? Create a testing agenda, or list of things you want to learn and work through the list, one at a time.

🤷‍♂️Don’t overdo it. If you make too many changes at one time, you won’t know what worked and what didn’t. Be patient. 

👩🏼‍🎤Learn from others. You aren’t the first person to buy an ad on Facebook or Instagram. Lots of great content is available on the internet. Facebook even offers a free course called Blueprint that will explain all the ins and outs of its buying tools. If you really get lost and need some help, there are tons of great marketers looking for some extra cash who would be happy to show you the ropes or manage the ads for you. You can find them on Growth CollectiveUpWorkFiverr or by asking around for referrals.A