Since its launch in late 2010, Instagram has evolved from being a mere photo-sharing platform to one of the greatest social media beasts on the Internet. The culture now goes far beyond filtered selfies and friendly reconnections; these days, the average user can turn these uploads into a full-time Instagram career.
That’s right; ordinary users can now earn money from simply posting high-quality content.
Why Pursue an Instagram Career?
Aside from its rising practicality among netizens, most brands are now well aware of the platform’s marketing value. With over 800 million users on the app (and counting!), there’s high potential to reach and engage one’s target markets. It also helps that among these numbers, 60% discover new products and services – and 75% of them take action.
Plenty of companies today are thus willing to collaborate with active, trusted users on the app to promote their goods and services.
In fact, a study by Influence Central ranked Instagram influencers as the sixth most effective source for influencing consumer decisions. It’s no wonder, then, that the demand for these guys are high. At the same time, plenty aspire to this career path; ’cause who wouldn’t want to get paid to simply post on Instagram?
Other than the typical ‘influencer’ route, many use their Instagram feed as a digital storefront for their own business. Since the advent of Shopping on Instagram, creating a streamlined, shoppable experience for viewers has never been easier.
What You’ll Need to Pursue an Instagram Career
Think this may just be your calling? Confident you can persuade others through the art of well-lit photos and inspirational captions? Before diving in, be sure you’ve got these essentials in your back pocket first.
A Distinctive Brand
First and foremost, you’ll need a focused niche and distinguishable aesthetic.
Take time to reflect on your favourite accounts – what makes them stand out to you? Chances are, each has mastered two crucial profile elements:
- Content showing expertise/credibility in a specific topic, and
- A creative visual style that’s unique to their brand
If you’re going to turn your Instagram into a full-time job, you’ll need to start treating it as a business. The best Instagram accounts, like real-life businesses, have established a distinctive image and mission for themselves.
Define this in your content and stick with it. A focused brand will lead viewers to trust you as an active, reliable figure in your field. This way, you’ll have a higher chance of converting them into loyal, paying customers or clients.
A Loyal Following
As with any business, social proof is vital.
A substantial following shows that you’ve earned the trust and confidence of many – proving that your brand is one of quality. It’s a number that displays your credibility, and influences more to follow your profile and invest in your business.
According to an article by the Huffington Post, most up-and-coming influencers require at least 5,000 followers to gain brand and customer attention. Other big-name companies tend to work with profiles of 10,000 followers and up; though with the rise of micro-influencers, users can generally start making a profit within the 3,000 to 5,000 range.
Savvy Marketing Skills
So how does one build a strong, loyal following on Instagram?
One key tactic is to ensure consistent, quality posting. Remind your followers why they’re with you in the first place. Be active and present, and deliver engaging ideas on the regular.
Another factor is having sharp social media marketing skills. While these can be exclusive to Instagram (you are building an audience on their app, after all), using other platforms or websites can be helpful in gaining new followers.
Cross-marketing on other social media profiles is a popular strategy. Those who promote their goods, services, or events on Instagram typically have a Facebook page where they do the same; directing their Facebook followers to their Instagram account.
On the actual Instagram app itself, many ensure an active presence in their community. This could involve frequently liking, commenting, or even direct messaging users in their field – raising their visibility among potential followers.
Best case scenario; you’ll gain yourself a new customer, or the attention of a brand who’s willing to sponsor you.
Types of Instagram Careers
Think you’ve got it all in the bag? Here are some of the most popular Instagram careers and what they entail.
Instagram Career # 1 – The Instagram Model
If you’ve got photogenic good looks and an eye for perfect angles, you may just excel as an Instagram model.
While the definition of an “Instagram model” is quite flexible, these creators are typically known for their flawless selfies or professionally-taken photographs at a stunning travel site or professional studio. The subject matter of their content can vary, ranging from fashion to international travel.
Instagram models thus promote the goods, services, or events of brands from different fields.
On top of beautiful portraits, they often build a following through a compelling or inspirational persona.
Sporting a follower count of 58,100 users, Instagram model Lisa-Marie kills it in her field with a gorgeous feed of both smartphone selfies and professional magazine captures.
Her content has enough variety to keep her audience engaged, while never veering from the main theme of her stunning good looks and glamorous outfits.
With her feed serving as an effective portfolio, brands swarm her for photoshoots for their latest marketing campaigns. Some of her most recent collaborations involve Guess, Missguided, and Sally Hansen.
On top of it all, however, she never abandons authenticity. There’s still an effort to reach out to fans and remain a genuine, relatable person. Her latest post is a prime example of this, where she opens up on the ups-and-downs of a modelling career.
If you’re looking to find success as an Instagram model, not only is high-quality photography crucial – but so is your personality.
Instagram Career #2 – The Lifestyle Coach
As with models, Instagram lifestyle coaches take on a variety of content.
Some dedicate their feed to motivational posts, offering life, social, or self-improvement advice to those who need it. These users typically host public-speaking events offline, using their Instagram as a marketing channel.
Other lifestyle coaches promote healthy eating and exercise. Their posts generally consist of workout videos or flat lays of their latest recipes; paired with captions that offer tips or related instructional guides.
Finally, we’ve got “lifestyle bloggers”, who post engaging photos and videos of their everyday life. While it sounds mundane on paper, these users have established a unique aesthetic and persona that keeps viewers curious for more.
Kayla Itsines is a prime example of an Instagram “lifestyle coach” whose feed displays a combination of all three.
Being a successful trainer offline, her profile mainly touts fitness-related posts. Much of these involve before-and-after pictures of happy clients, selfies at the gym, and workout videos that offer instructions for viewers to follow along.
In-between her workout content, Kayla includes high-def photos of her latest meals with the accompanying recipe in the caption. Sticking to her brand, these recipes are all about clean eating and healthy ingredients – though look as delicious as any other popular food post on Instagram.
On top of this are sneak peeks of her everyday life from time to time. He feed also features occasional photos of her dogs, latest travel adventures, and her life as a mother.
With stunning content showcasing her fitness expertise (along with customer testimonials); Kayla’s Instagram is the perfect marketing tool for attracting new clients and sponsors.
Instagram Career #3 – The Skincare and Makeup Guru
Those who have a passion for eyeshadow palettes and the 10-step Korean skincare routine may fare well in this niche.
Skincare and makeup gurus are just as their title labels them – Instagram influencers with high knowledge of makeup techniques and maintaining clear, healthy skin.
As an Instagram career, this role commonly involves plenty of affiliate marketing – reviewing, featuring, or offering tutorials on various beauty products. With enough traction and a loyal audience, some of these ‘gurus’ go on to sell their own brand of skincare or makeup products.
Since this niche is dedicated to actionable tips, tricks, and techniques; popular formats of content include time-lapses of their routines or videos displaying step-by-step guides.
Though initially finding fame through his informative videos on Youtube, makeup artist Wayne Goss has also taken the Instagram beauty community by storm. The man continues to promote his most trusted beauty products while leaving his thoughts on the field’s most popular brands and current obsessions.
His in-depth beauty advice, however, is saved for his Youtube channel; though Wayne often promotes snippets here and there to direct Instagram users to his main platform.
With his reputable presence on both websites, brands often collaborate with him for mentions or reviews on their products. At the same time, he’s built enough of an active following to promote his own brand of beauty goods, simply titled after his name: Wayne Goss.
Instagram Career #4 – The Travel Blogger
You’ve likely seen these types of influencers on every corner of the platform. Known for their striking landscapes and blue-water captures, travel bloggers are another popular Instagram career to pursue.
These creators are paid to promote a specific hotel, tour company, or travel agency. Success in this field can turn a high profit, with big-name travel influencers making about four or five digits per post!
To succeed in this niche, top-quality photographs are a must. Cityscapes, nature scenes and tourist destinations are your selling point – so flaunt your locations as best as you can! This means shooting in the right lighting, with proper angles and detail. The more captivating the photo, the more likely you’ll gain followers keen to witness your next big adventure.
Jarryd Salem and Alesha Bradford of the account, @nomadasaurus, are successful examples of Instagram travel influencers. They label themselves as “Australia’s top adventure travel bloggers”, and for good reason – each photograph on their feed is an absolute marvel to behold.
The couple has travelled well across the globe, from New York to India to Easter Island. Not a single post on their profile is wasted on a subpar shot or a low-res selfie; all feature beautifully-captured wonders of the world.
In an interview with Business Insider Australia, Jarryd and Alesha disclose their main sources of income, which include affiliate referrals (such as on hotels or travel insurance), press trips, and freelance writing.
Instagram Career #5 – The Online Store
Finally, we have the online store. As previously mentioned, these are Instagram accounts who have turned their feed into a shopping experience, featuring a product or service in each post.
Originally, users were only able to use Instagram as a means of visual promotion. The goods they sold were merely displayed as photos or videos, with a link in their bio directing viewers to their actual store website.
Now, with Shopping on Instagram, users are able to shop directly from one’s feed. This new feature enables the use of “product stickers”, which displays the full name of a product and its corresponding price when a user taps on its photo.
Based on Columbus, Ohio, JackThreads is a men’s clothing and footwear brand that uses their Instagram feed as a shoppable gallery.
Their posts promote much of their newest arrivals and season collections, from polo shirts to chino pants. They also sell footwear from well-known brands such as Reebok and Timbaland, along with accessories such as socks, watches, and even soap dispensers.
Their profile is also an effective channel for promoting discounts, flash sales, and brand announcements.
For ease of experience, JackThreads is an example of a business that uses the Shopping on Instagram feature. Almost all posts displaying a product have a tap-able function that pulls up its full name and pricing. When selected, users are directed to the appropriate landing page on their official site where they can complete their purchase.
Is an Instagram Career for You?
Now that we’ve outlined the most popular, profitable career paths of an Instagrammer – think you’ve got what it takes?
Though creativity and marketing smarts are essential to being an influencer, one also needs persistence, consistency, and the ability to adapt. Though a fun and unconventional gig, an Instagram career is still a job, at the end of the day.
And it may a long, bumpy road with tons of hard work to get there – but the rewards are well worth it.