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With a few thousand followers on Instagram these days, it's easy to ask yourself: When can I start making money?
The good news is, there's no strict minimum.
Many Instagram influencers get paid with less than 10,000 followers. Seven influencers Insider previously interviewed, all with under that amount, said they got made money from brands to post to their small audiences.
For instance, Tess Barclay, a Toronto-based nano influencer who creates lifestyle content, started earning money with a few thousand Instagram followers. She told Insider that she charges brands upwards of $154 for an in-feed Instagram post.
"I always thought you needed a million followers, or a hundred thousand followers, to make money on social media," Barclay told Insider. "But that's really not true. There are so many ways that you can make it a business, even if it is part-time."
Instagram is also directly paying some influencers through incentive programs like "Bonuses" for Reels. Some Instagram monetization features like "Badges," Instagram's tipping tool for IG Live, require that creators have at least 10,000 followers. Many of these programs also are limited to certain countries, have an age minimum of 18, and require accounts to be registered as business or creator accounts on the app.
While the doors have opened for many more creators on Instagram to start making a living, often they don't start making full-time incomes immediately (although a fair number of micro influencers with under 100,000 followers work full-time as influencers).
Meanwhile, may other influencers start making money by earning a commission from sales via affiliate marketing.
Today, Instagram influencers no longer need hundreds of thousands of followers to start earning cash.
Here are a few reasons why:
How do influencers make money on Instagram?
Instagram doesn’t pay you automatically when you get likes on posts and views on videos. So, how do influencers make money on the platform?
We have an entire post on this topic if you want to take a deep dive on it. We’ll give you the abridged version for now.
HypeAuditor did a survey of 1,865 Instagram influencers with followings ranging from 1,000 to over 1 million.
Here’s what they discovered when they asked respondents about their main sources of income:
This means content featuring products from sponsors or brands you’re an affiliate of.
Because Instagram only allows you to place one link in your Instagram bio and does not allow links in posts, many influencers use link-in-bio tools to list all of their affiliate links and other important content on one page.
Other ways influencers make money on Instagram include earning Instagram Badges while airing Instagram Lives, joining the Bonuses program for Instagram Reels and acquiring Instagram subscriptions.
When you join the Instagram Badges program, Instagram users can show their support when you’re live by buying badges in $0.99, $1.99 and $4.99 increments.
Such users will have hearts, or “badges,” next to their usernames when they comment on Lives, signaling their support for you.
Instagram Subscriptions are Instagram’s answer to third-party subscription services like Patreon and OnlyFans.
The program enables you to create exclusive content for followers (subscribers) who pay you monthly subscription fees.
You can create exclusive Instagram Stories, posts, Reels, Lives, badges and group chats.
The program is only available to select influencers in the United States at the moment.
How much money can you make on Instagram?
HypeAuditor’s survey found that influencers earn $2,970/month on average.
Influencers with followings between 1,000 and 10,000 followers earn $1,420/month on average while influencers with over a million followers earn $15,356/month.
The survey revealed the most profitable categories to be Animals, Business & Marketing, Fitness & Sports, Family, Beauty, and Fashion in that order.
Because the majority of influencers earn most of their income from sponsored posts, let’s take a moment to review the survey’s data on sponsored Instagram posts before we continue.
HypeAuditor found that the majority of influencers (68%) work with one to three brands at a time.
They also found that most influencers make up to $100 per sponsored post at the least. Some make over $2,000 per post.
How many followers do you need to make money on Instagram?
This is a complicated question to answer, mostly because there isn’t a written rule that states “your Instagram account must have X amount of subscribers to make money on Instagram.”
Some programs have rules, such as Instagram’s Badges program, which requires influencers to have more than 10,000 followers.
When it comes to sponsored posts, affiliate links and selling products, the amount of money you make is tied to your niche, the number of engagements you’re able to generate as well as your ability to negotiate with potential sponsors.
Even so, let’s take a look at a few pieces of data that demonstrate how much money you’re able to earn based on follower count.
We’ll start with a smaller influencer. Business Insider published an article about YouTube and Instagram influencer Kayla Compton back in March of 2021.
Kayla had 3,400 YouTube subscribers and 1,900 Instagram followers at the time the article was published but was already generating money through YouTube ads, affiliate links and, most impressively, a sponsorship in which she became a brand ambassador for Pura Vida Bracelets.
The article states she generated $15,000 in sales for the company despite having a smaller following, and her deal came with a 10% commission rate.
Her secret? An eight-page media kit that briefly outlines her content, experience and demographics.
Here’s what’s on each page of that media kit:
Income potential by Instagram follower count
A separate study by HypeAuditor revealed that engagement rates are better among nano influencers.
Instagram accounts with 1,000 to 5,000 followers have an average engagement rate of 5.6%. Accounts with over 1 million followers have an average engagement rate of 1.97%.
HypeAuditor’s other survey revealed how much influencers make per sponsored post based on follower count.
71% of influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers only make up to $100 per sponsored post.
Some make more than that, but the numbers don’t really start to climb until you get to the 1 million follower-mark where the majority of influencers make over $1,000 per post.
That leaves us with the same question we started with: how many Instagram followers do you need to make money?
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I get paid by Instagram?
Instagram does have programs in which it pays influencers directly, such as bonuses for Reels.
However, most influencers get paid through sponsored posts and commissions generated through affiliate links.
When this happens, the brands you’re promoting pay you directly for mentioning them and featuring their products in your content.
Payouts typically occur through PayPal or direct payments to your bank account.
Few influencers get paid by Instagram directly.
Do you get paid for 1,000 followers on Instagram?
Instagram accounts with 1,000 followers make $1,420/month on average and up to $100 per sponsored post.
However, Instagram does not pay influencers directly, so you can begin making money whenever you land your first sponsorship deal or join an affiliate program, even if you don’t have 1,000 followers yet.
Does Instagram pay for likes?
Instagram’s limited creator programs do not include payments for likes.
However, higher engagement rates can open doors for bigger and better sponsorship deals.
The final verdict
Let’s recap everything we’ve covered in this post.
We know that:
The real answer is that whether or not you’re able to make money on Instagram is dependent on your niche, your engagement rates and how well you’re able to sell yourself to brands.