How to Start Earning Money as a Social Media Influencer

This post may contain affiliate links. When you make a purchase through the links, I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support. 

In recent years, we have seen the rise of a new business model: that of the social media influencer. If that term makes you cringe, you’re not alone. The term influencer seems to be doled out to anyone who has more than 1k-2k followers. 

Although the word influencer makes us think of annoying people who pop up in our feed ads, hocking anything for a quick buck, an influencer is simply someone with a decent following that has attracted the attention of a brand and are then gifted discounts or freebies in exchange for reviews or a mention on their social media. 

laptop and camera light

Pretty much anyone with a following can do this. I was offered freebies when I had less than 300 followers. It has the potential to become a formidable business with a little bit of effort.

Best part? It can be done on any of the major platforms:   

Let’s discuss: 

Compensation Guidelines & Tips

If you are going to make this your full time gig, it could be hard to nail down the exact monetary compensation. There is no right or wrong formula, only what you feel comfortable with. You’re not going to get $1k worth of compensation for 100 followers though.

Compensation is usually based on 3 main factors: 

  • Niche
  • Number of followers
  • Products you are already discussing

My general rule of thumb is to not take a campaign for something I don’t use myself. If I am going to endorse a product, I want to be sure about it’s benefits. Yes, I have mentioned products that have been mentioned to me, but in those cases, I will state that. My point? Do your research about who you are working with. 

Think about this: once you know WHY a brand wants to work with you, that should be worked into your social media marketing plan (link for my marketing planner in the Resources section at the end of this post). You want to be able to expand those efforts and duplicate them so you can maximize your earnings. 

What is an Influencer?

A social media influencer is a person or account that has achieved a level of recognition due to their ability to persuade their followers to follow their example:

  • wear what they wear
  • eat what they eat
  • listen to what they listen to
  • etc. 

This is a very aesthetic and socially engaging career.

It took off primarily on Instagram because the app based on images and video, making it easy to sell a lifestyle. Some influencers develop a following that explodes seemingly overnight from a few strategic posts, aka “going viral”.

This is almost identical to the business model of affiliate marketing: high converters are seen as leaders in their niche/field and are able to guide others to purchase their recommended products.

If you decide to become a social media influencer, you will need to know exactly what performs well on the app or site that you intend on using. Study the images/videos to see what the aesthetic and technical details are like (including the length of videos).

Tech tools are often changing, so you will need to stay on top of the features that are released so that you can be one of the early users of whatever is new to the platform. 

Personal Recommendation:

For Instagram, I recommend following Natasha G. She is an IG Growth Coach & Social Media Strategist so she’s always on the ball when it comes to the newest techniques. Her Insta feed is chock full of tips that are easy to implement and will definitely help. 

Brand Ambassador

There are many social media influencers who start out as simple brand ambassadors. As your account begins to grow, you will most likely have many different brands reach out to you, asking you to use their products or mention them in a good light to help bring about awareness of their products. 

The payment for this type of online career can be anything from being gifted free products to earning a salary. Some brand ambassadors don’t just use their online platforms to create messaging for brands, they also represent the brand at special offline events. 

When you set out to become a brand ambassador, make sure you become known for and build your channel/account around that one major thing

  • beauty products
  • fitness
  • cooking 
  • etc 

Work on creating an aesthetic or style for your account that is easily recognizable. You don’t want to have a mix of content that doesn’t match well. It should be cohesive with all your social media channels and website (if you have one). 

Collaboration

You also have the option to leverage the influence for others.

TikTok has the “duet” and “stitch” features so you can collaborate easily with others.

What’s the difference?

Duet: side-by-side or above/below. Both your video and theirs are shown on the screen at the same time. 

Stitch: starts with one person’s video, then leads into the other. Your video would be the outro (end).  

This can lead to some strategic collaborations if both audiences like the two of you working together. Watch comments to see what the reactions are from the audience.

Instagram has the option of making joint videos or posts and tagging another user as your collaboration partner. Why is this a good thing? Well, the video comes up in both of your feeds, so both of your follower lists can see it. 

You can have guests on your channel to help with content creation.

People enjoy seeing their favorite social media influencers crossover into other accounts.

TIP: be strategic with who you do this with. If that person ends up in a mess, you could be affected as well, so make sure there is a certain level of trust first.

I added a link to my eBook “Welcome to Collaboration Station” in the Resources section at the end of this post. 

Affiliate Income

The great thing about affiliate influencer careers is that it’s often built in a very natural and organic way. At times, those who achieve influencer status are simply showcasing how they are living their life, and the way in which they do it attracts an audience that wants to mimic them.

They are able to cater to a brand’s target audience by simply creating:

  • posts
  • stories
  • videos

Remember: have a voice and personality with your account. I added a link for my Personal Branding Kit at the bottom of this post in the Resources section. 

Do not simply just say whatever a company sends you in the campaign onboarding email.

Keep your finger on the pulse of trends on the platforms you use, like popular sounds or video types. Using those songs or content types in your content will make your content discoverable when users look at all the videos using a particular sound. 

TIP: tailor the message so it becomes relevant to your brand. Don’t post just to capitalize on a sound’s popularity. If the video doesn’t make sense for your brand, people will see right through it. 

Once your posts start to show success and engagement for a brand, they will be more likely to hire you again and pay more the next time.

How? Do your best to achieve organic results. 

TIP: never try to game the system with fake followers or engagement. Eventually, you will be found out and that’s misrepresentation. If you signed a contract with a brand, you might end up in breach of that contract. Be authentic. 

Follow for Follow

My rules for following:

  1. Do not respond to “follow and I’ll follow back” requests in your comments section. These people will follow you, get you to follow them, and then unfollow you.
  2. You are under NO obligation to follow someone if they follow you. It’s common for teachers to tell their social media students to follow people just to get them to follow back, then unfollow you. 
  3. Unfollow if there is no interaction. If they follow thousands of people, they will never see your content. Be picky with who you follow and what content comes up in your feed. 

So what do you do instead?

Focus on creating that is:

  • value-based
  • unique
  • original content that your target audience enjoys
  • attracting a genuine following of people who like your content 

Yes, there are some influencer positions you can apply for with companies and brands, but most will seek you out. They will contact you via private message or direct message with an offer or opening discussion.

A few things: 

  • You don’t have to answer or respond to every message you receive.
  • Do your homework about any company you want to work with.
  • Make sure they align with your personal values. 

Consistency

What will be your key to success? Consistency!

You can’t expect to be paid as a social media influencer if you’re constantly abandoning your audience and only showing up whenever you feel like it. Treat your social media as a full-time job/career. Post on a consistent basis, whatever that looks like for you. 

A few things to consider:

  • the time it requires to edit, post and share your content
  • use the right keywords & hashtags to help your content get found 

If you need to create any graphics, here are two choices:

  • to DIY, I recommend: Canva 
  • to outsource it to a freelancer, I recommend: Fiverr 

Sponsored Ads

There are plenty of good examples of people who earn a great deal of money from sponsored ads as a social media influencer. What starts out as a fun Tik Tok account of lip syncing songs and dancing could transform into:

  • a business
  • a TV show
  • just a lot of sponsored revenue 

The most-followed creator on the app brought in over $4M during her very first year as a Tik Tokker. Brands like Dunkin’, EOS Cosmetics, and Hollister paid her for sponsored ads. Source: StyleCaster 

Understand that you’re probably not going to land a major account like these right off the bat, unless you go viral. It takes time to grow your account to the place where brands would be interested in paying you money to mention their name. 

Your first steps:

  • find out which brands in your niche deal with social influencers
  • work to strategically land the smallest account 

Other (bigger) brands will end up being more likely to consider you if they see:

  • you’re being hired and liked/recommended by those brands
  • your posts are working to increase brand awareness & sales 

Influencer Networks

If no one is approaching you and you want to find partners, you can try an influencer networks: 

What do do on the networks:

  • create a profile – fill out every piece of info you’re comfortable sharing
  • showcase your accounts
  • pick categories
  • specify what you charge to promote 

Most platforms are free to use, but might take a portion of your earnings or charge you a monthly rate to host your profile. 

How do brands find you on the platforms?

  • they search for a niche/hobby/keyword
  • find your listing
  • check out your channels
  • contact you for a possible promotion opportunity 

When you get a sponsor, they will send you a campaign onboarding email, which will tell you the campaign’s details:

  • content type (video or pictures
  • specific features they want you to mention (don’t just copy and paste, unless you are told to do so)
  • coupon codes (might be general or specific to you)
  • your pay or commission scale 
  • hashtags they want you to use 
  • a reminder to follow FTC guidelines and disclose the partnership (beware companies that don’t remind you of this)

The captions will most likely be up to you, so make sure you put some thought into it. 

Partnerships

From time to time, you might be approached with the offer to collaborate with another social media influencer. It’s possible they are automated bot accounts that comment on your posts, but other times they will be genuine collaboration offers that may work out well for you. You’ll have to suss that out for yourself. 

I mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: be careful about who you partner up with. If they become embroiled in a scandal, your reputation could end up being collateral damage. Do your homework prior to signing or agreeing to anything. 

A word to the wise: don’t purchase a product with a promise of reimbursement after you post or at a “campaign end” date. Yes, they might be legit.. but they also might not pay you and now you’re out whatever money you spent.

You shouldn’t have to pay for a promotional product at all, not even “just shipping and handling”. It should be gifted to you if they expect you to mention it.

Make sure you are making solid decisions before posting to your followers.

Your reputation is at stake. 

Product Creation

When your account grows substantially, you might want to consider creating products of your own. You can quickly and easily use online tools to:

If you’re interested in a beauty or skincare line, you can work with a company that can formulate it and design a product brand for you based on your name recognition.

Whatever you’re interested in doing, you can look to your fave influencers to see what they are doing with their accounts. Plenty of influencers have had brands reach out to them after they found success. Bigger brands will help you create products based on the response of your audience. 

Before you get excited and start dreaming, keep this in mind: steer clear of negative interactions with others. Social media stars are often dragged into drama and situations that audiences might enjoy, but brands will steer clear from. We’ve all seen this on numerous occasions. 

If your behavior is problematic:

  • brands won’t want to hire you 
  • consumers won’t buy your products 

the future of social media

Social media shows no signs of slowing down at this point.

YouTube is the second largest search engine in existence.

The top three social networks (Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok) see billions of users every month. 

Keep an eye on the development of future social media so that you can create and position yourself on the site/app early on in its development. Early adopters just might see the most success. 

If you are using an influencer strategy to create a career, you want to immerse yourself in everything there is to know about the social media platform you intend to use. 

Becoming a social media influencer can be a fun and exciting journey.

Not only do you get to inform and educate your audience, you get to do so in a way that allows you to both be creative and showcase your personality.

Don’t worry about naysayers who try to stir up negative emotions in you along the way. This is to be expected. Engaging with trolls only makes you look foolish and will attract more of the same. 

Many thanks to Mini, who explained some social media things because I was unsure of certain features. 

Her patience is one of her best traits and I love that she has no problem answering my silly questions. 

Stock Photos:

Ivory Mix 

resources

Business Planning Journal

Everything you need to get your business started on the right foot. Get all those plans on paper!

  • Daily, Weekly & Yearly Plans
  • Business Value Worksheets
  • Product & Competitor Research
  • Pricing Calculator
  • Marketing Plan
  • Notes Pages
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Business Marketing Planner

Planners:

  • Weekly 
  • Social Media Calendar

Trackers:

  • All 6 major platforms 
  • Blog Posts
  • Affiliate Programs

Everything you need to get your business marketing strategy on paper!

Business Marketing Planner product photo

Personal Branding Bundle

Are you putting your right branding foot forward?

Let this bundle help you!

  • Brand Building Worksheets (to help craft your message)
  • Website Checklist & Social Media Checklist (to help you come across as professional and serious)
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Social media Planner

30 PAGES TO ORGANIZE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES! 

  • Plan Content
  • Brainstorm
  • Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly Planners
  • Posts and Stats Trackers
  • Pages for each network 
  • Website/Blog Post Planner
  • Keyword/Hashtag Trackers
  • Post Schedule
  • Editorial Calendar
  • Goals Sheet
  • Password Keeper
  • BONUS: Planner Stickers
  • BONUS: 15 Engagement Posts (Canva Template)
social media planner product photo

Collaboration Station Ebook

My FREE ebook “Welcome to Collaboration Station”, which includes practical tips to:

  • make collabs beneficial for everyone
  • make them start off on the right foot and run smoothly
  • delegate tasks
  • manage conflicts

Subscribe to our email list to get your copy:

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