The best news is you can start your own business and make money as a content creator on Instagram. Don’t quit your day job, yet, but it’s definitely a great start to have more sources of income in place that are flexible and independent. And besides: being able to spend more time doing what you love while making money is possibly the most appealing part of becoming an Instagram content creator!
So, you want to become a content creator on Instagram. All of these new visual mediums are new opportunities for anyone to make money online. Make the best of it!
Choose the right platforms
If you’re a professional photographer in 2020 and you’re not on Instagram, where have you been? It used to be that without a decent website, photographers simply wouldn’t be taken seriously. Now, in the age of big data, it’s vital that your social media presence is on top form, and that you understand exactly when, how, why, and where to post and share your imagery.
The huge benefit of sharing images via social media over a traditional website is the added interaction and engagement, all of which will help you to connect with like-minded photographers, followers, and hopefully clients. Simple Ways to be more interactive include tagging brands in your images, uploading stories, and reaching out to people whose work you admire. If you’re into video and haven’t set up a YouTube channel, consider that too.
Not all content creation happens within the square walls of Instagram posts, of course, and for introverts, this constant need to share yourself can be exhausting. If this sounds like you, channel your skills into newsletters, blogging, and written photography tips.
Carefully curate your content: is it better to specialize or diversify?
Whatever stage you are at with your portfolio of work, at some point you will need to decide whether to shoot images with a niche appeal aimed at a particular demographic – a recognizable, style and aesthetic – or to shoot a wider range of images with a more mass appeal.
The niche approach is great if you specialize in one genre and style and have a very clear consumer in mind, and this way potential clients should know exactly what to expect from you. You may, however, struggle to find as many clients in the first place. If you diversify your photography and shoot a wide range of different looks, brands, people, and content, you can certainly attract a wider range of followers and clients, but again, you may put some off.
Do your research
Take a look at the work of most traditional, successful, commercial pros, and you’ll notice that they have a consistent lighting and editing style. They also choose to work alongside brands that share their values and aesthetics, or with companies that they use and love. If you’re trying to break into the area of content creation, you’re unlikely to get any paid gigs if you haven’t got any examples to show potential clients, so producing some original content off of your own back is key.
Make a list of your dream clients, from camera products to coffee brands, then do some solid research into their style of marketing. Have photographers already been creating content for them? How have the images been shot? What language is being used alongside the visual posts? Once you’ve nailed this, try shooting – in your style, whatever that is – images or videos of that product being used in the real world. Even on a limited budget, you can create fun content that’s full of personality, without having to rely on an exotic backdrop. Always remember to tag the brands, locations, and photo communities that you want to hit up, otherwise, your work is very unlikely to reach your intended audience.
Make it relevant
It sounds obvious, but all of your content that’s intended for commercial purposes needs to be created with a target audience in mind. How will follower x feel about this new LED camera light? How old are they? What hobbies do they enjoy? Who else are they following? All of these questions can help you to get under the skin of your audience and shoot photographs that will appeal to them, perform well and convert into sales for your client. It sounds mercenary, but commercial photography has always been about crafting images and stories that sell – it’s just the platform and approach that has shifted.
05. Use analytics tools
Another brilliant advantage of social media platforms – or disadvantage, if you get too hooked on the numbers – is the ability to see how well certain photographs have done compared to others, and discover who is looking at your work. While social media platforms do offer you a limited range of insights on posts, paying for a premium service such as Later.com will offer a more detailed analysis of what your content is doing. For example, Later helps you to plan, schedule and analyze posts across Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, with feedback on the best time of day to post and the most effective hashtags to use. No guarantee creating similar content will perform as well in the future, but it’s certainly a good approach to use feedback positively.
Pick a focus area
Choose one thing you’re skilled at and knowledgeable in for your area of focus. It’s essential to stick to this area to bill yourself as an expert with the portfolio to back up your claim, so make sure it’s something you’ll be interested in for a while.
Next, create a website with a blog, so your Instagram followers can visit to see your original work. Having a place where you can showcase your content is essential, as you don’t want to solely rely on Instagram (or any social media platform). This will also allow you to reach your audience on other channels, such as via an email newsletter.
Create an Instagram business account
Having an Instagram business account instead of a creator or a personal account is critical for being successful on the platform. A business account declares your Instagram presence as a company and provides you with additional features to help with lead generation.
Making the switch will give you access to Instagram analytics and insights that show you demographic information about your Instagram followers. Using this data, you’ll be able to tailor your social media content and even publish it at optimal times. Even after you publish a post, you’ll be able to see how well it performed.
Instagram Insights will also help you utilize sponsored posts because you can use what you know about your audience to create better ads. If you’re in more of an influencer role using your platform to promote brands, using ads on Instagram can help you reach a wider audience, which is a way to grow your following. Instagram will show your ads to users that have an interest in your content, based on their browsing habits within the app.
A business account also integrates with tools to help you succeed, such as ManyChat (more on this in a bit). If you’re unsure how to make the switch, you can learn how to set up an Instagram business account on our blog.
Fill out your Instagram bio
Your Instagram bio is only 150 characters, but it contributes to visitors’ first impressions of your account. Your bio should introduce who you are and share what people can expect to see from your content. You should also include relevant keywords in your bio, which may be the same keywords you use on your website for SEO.
Finally, don’t forget to include a link in your bio. This is the only place in Instagram where you can put a link (unless you have 10K+ followers and access the Link Sticker), so it’s essential to include it.
Focus on the overall look of your Instagram profile
When someone visits your profile, you want to make sure it has the right look for the best possible impression. Every brand crafts a different aesthetic for its profile, but yours should make sense for your business and be consistent throughout all your public-facing communications.
For example, if your brand colors are blue and white, you don’t want all of your pictures to have shades of red and black in them—visitors will wonder if they came to the right place.
Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to the visuals on your account:
- Take great photos: Be honest with your skillset here. If you can’t take great pictures, can you improve them by editing or should you hire a professional?
- Pay attention to how your profile looks: What does your grid look like? Do the photos all look like they’re coming from the same brand (i.e., are they styled similarly)? Are they branded in some way?
Kathleen Barnes made a career switch from being a content creator for Urban Decay Cosmetics to being an influencer on Instagram. Her husband takes a majority of her photos, and her feed always has a consistent aesthetic, in terms of colors and styling.
Embrace the brand’s voice in the captions
Because Instagram is a visual platform, photos and videos are important, but you shouldn’t forget about the captions.
As an influencer, what you include in the caption is a chance for you to share your brand’s personality through text. The information you provide in the caption is a way for users to get to know you better, which helps build trust—key in convincing someone to follow you and possibly make a purchase.
If you’re a content creator writing copy for a company, the brand voice is an important part of their overall marketing strategy. Imbuing the brand’s personality in the caption provides another layer of opportunity for a follower to learn about the business and its motivations.
Whether you’re a content creator or an influencer, you should share a CTA as part of your captions, usually what you want users to do next. With ManyChat, you can use the Comments Automation feature to automatically send a DM to anyone who comments on a post.
Not only does this help with engagement (which Instagram loves), but it also enters users directly into the marketing funnel. Once the DM is sent to the user, they start receiving pre-determined messages you’ve planned and created. These messages can be additional action items with links, such as to a blog post or a product description, or they could be questions to acquire more information about the customer’s interests and needs.
Influencers may directly utilize a marketing funnel to continue to grow their following, encourage users to purchase a specific product, and build trust. Content creators may only need to understand where a buyer is in the funnel so they can create the appropriate content.
For example, if a user is discovering a brand for the first time, the content to push would likely be an introductory blog post or information about the brand. If the user has visited the brand’s profile before, they’re likely interested in a specific product and would be interested in information or a coupon code, right in their DMs.
Use the right hashtags
Hashtags are an essential part of your Instagram captions. Hashtags make your posts searchable for a term and can help them reach a broader audience. While you can include up to 30 hashtags in a single post, it’s wise to test different hashtags and the number to include in posts to see what works best for you.
If you’re a content creator working for a brand, the brand may already have specific hashtags they use, but you can do some digging and suggest hashtags that may broaden the reach. If you’re an influencer, hashtags are another way for you to reach a broad audience and grow your following. If you use a new (for you) hashtag, such as #makeup, users looking for content with #makeup may find your profile for the first time.
To find hashtags to use, type a hashtag related to your post in the search bar. When you tap on a result, you can see what posts come up and evaluate if your content belongs in the mix.
You can also look for relevant hashtags on the Explore page—Instagram’s curated collection of posts the algorithm thinks you’d like. Scroll through the recommended posts and make a note of the hashtags.
Publish new content regularly
Establishing a solid publishing schedule is another step for growing an audience and achieving success as a content creator working for brands. As a content creator, you want to get the most eyes on the content you’re making for the brands you’re partnering with. If you’re an influencer, then you’ll want to grow your audience for a few reasons. For one, having a large audience on Instagram shows potential brand partners that you can reach lots of people. While a large
following isn’t the end-all and be-all, it does give you some credibility and shows you know what kinds of content resonates with Instagram users.
The goal is to keep Instagram followers coming back to your profile for new content. If you only post once per week, it’s easy for followers to forget about you and start looking at other accounts instead.
Posting regularly is also another way to appeal to Instagram’s algorithm. When users don’t meet the algorithm’s requirements, their content doesn’t appear on many feeds.
Interact with followers
Instagram is a social media platform, so interacting with followers and other users is key to earning their trust. Engage with others by liking and commenting on their posts.
If your current followers interact with you, don’t forget to return the favor. Instagram DM Automation by ManyChat can help with this, especially as your following grows. We referenced our Comments Automation tool earlier, but our Story Mentions and Story Reply triggers are also useful for this type of engagement. Each of these triggers sends an automated message to someone who mentions you in their Story or replies to a Story you’ve posted.
All of these automated interactions help make your profile more attractive to the algorithm. They also enter the user directly into your sales funnel, where you can collect their contact information and share an exclusive discount or send additional content.
The majority of the information about an individual is voluntarily provided by the user when you use ManyChat’s Instagram Automation. The software also automatically collects some data, such as their name or how many Instagram followers they have, and will create a contact card that’s accessible through the ManyChat dashboard.
Additionally, you can ask user questions to get to know them (such as what type of products they’re interested in) and all of their answers will also be stored in their contact card.
Contact brands for partnerships
Many content creators work with brands to support campaigns and other marketing efforts. For example, if you’re great at creating Instagram Reels, you could work with brands to create Reels that will increase visibility for that brand. You could also provide photos, graphics, blog posts, or any other type of content that will support a brand’s marketing campaigns.
To get into this business, start by contacting brands you already admire and tell them why a partnership with you makes sense. Only reach out to brands that make sense for the industry you’re an expert in and for your followers.
If you’re an influencer, being choosy about the brands you work with is especially important. Taking on any partnership that presents itself may confuse your followers. Confusion breeds distrust, which isn’t conducive to getting your audience to purchase from your list of recommendations.
As you can see, becoming a successful Instagram content creator requires a significant time investment. But the payoff can be great if you have the right audience and you create engaging content consistently. It’s also important to remember that selling branded merchandise is just one way to monetize your Instagram content. It’s possible to make money in other ways as well, such as through branding and product placements, or even by licensing your content to other companies on an ad-supported basis. The possibilities are nearly endless once you’ve established an impressive following as a trusted source for reliable information within your niche.