When I started my bookstagram, @bethsbookshelf, I never intended for it to be a part-time income for me. I started it because I love books & photography. Bookstagram combined those two passions for me. Of course, it was even more exciting when I realised how awesome the community is. Booksatgram challenged me to be a wider, faster and more critical reader. I used to read about 10 books every year, and now I’m reading at least 50. (plus, I finally read Harry Potter, wooow)
However, in February 2018, a brand reached out to me to do a paid promotion. I’d worked with brands previously on a gifted (no paid) basis and it was awesome. But when I realised that I had enough followers to make money, it kind of changed the game for me.
Besides Instagram, I have a candle company (Madame Fiction) and I also write freelance for a few different companies. My income was never consistent, but in the last few months, with figuring out how to work with brands on Instagram, it has been pretty good going. Of course, there are weeks without a brand deal, so I have to be smart with my savings to make sure I have backup money for those quiet seasons.
I asked on Instagram what kind of questions you have about working freelance and making money on Instagram so here I am today to answer your questions!
Q: How does freelancing generally work?
There are blogs and articles dedicated to the ins and outs, and this can be a long answer so I’m going to share the basics.
Essentially, when you’re a freelancer, you aren’t contracted to a company. You don’t have the security of being paid. You don’t have any benefits, pensions, sick pay, holiday pay or a set salary. Whereas with freelance, you have the freedom to choose your hours, run your own business, be more creative, and the opportunity to surpass the salary you might have if you were working for a company.
Of course, both contract jobs and freelance work has pros and cons. You have to decide which is best for you and your lifestyle. I crave alone time and working creatively on my own, so I’m willing to take the risk of the freelance lifestyle. I chose to start at the age of 21 with the hopes that by the time I have a family to support that I have a steadier income. However, if one day freelance doesn’t work out for me for whatever reason, I will work for a company. I am open and aware that at any moment, things can change for me.
Having said that, freelancing works best when you choose an avenue. It will be hard if you want to be a freelance graphic designer and car mechanic for example. It will be super hard to run and promote two separate businesses. Of course, you can have more than one venture happening at once, but try and make sure they can coexist.
For me, I can run my candle business and my writing business from one room. While I’m promoting two different businesses, it’s not been too hard. Especially once you get loyal clients and customers.
On that note, freelance works by building up a portfolio. I started freelance in May 2017 and it wasn’t until summer 2019 that I would say I felt like I was finally in a rhythm. So make sure you have the resources and time to commit to your freelance adventure.
Of course, if you work part-time, then doing freelance on the side to start is an awesome idea. I was lucky enough to not have a lot of financial commitments when I started so even if I earned nothing one month, I was going to be okay. Now I have a mortgage, bills and plans to travel, so it’s important I make a certain amount of money every month.
Hopefully, that answers some questions about freelancing in general but if you have more queries, there are a lot more detailed blogs about it!
Q: How did you start freelance and when were you able to drop your job?
I finished university in April 2017 and started freelance right away. I started with my candle business and writing my own book. I started my candle business through Etsy so I had good promotion through their site. I made a reasonable profit in the first year but nothing that I could entirely rely on.
So I started working as a typist for a market research company. While this was all from home, it was still set hours which took away the flexibility for my writing and candle making.
I did this for about a year and a half and was able to drop this job in September 2018. I was so happy to stop working this job! It was super interesting and I learned a lot about marketing but ultimately, it was too constricted for me and a lot of pressure.
I was able to drop this job because I had more brand deals on Instagram and I had just started my freelance writing business. I got consistent work with a company called Upleap which gave us a lot more security financially. Now I use that portfolio to reach out to a few other brands. I’ve only written for four companies so far but the work has been consistent which means I’m not always on the hunt for more work. This takes away a lot of the stress of being a freelance writer.
I would say not to drop your job until you are secure that your freelance work will get you the financial support you require.
Q: How did you decide to open Madame Fiction? What did you need for your first candle?
I started Madame Fiction because I was obsessed with candles. Like, obsessed. All I did on my uni breaks was look at different candle shops. I’d add a bunch of candles to my basket only to see crazy transatlantic shipping prices. So I decided to open my own UK store because there aren’t enough bookish candle stores in the UK.
For my first candles, I went a bit mad. Looking back, I wish I’d started with much smaller stock. I think I bought enough supplies to make over 100 candles which is just crazy starting out.
Supplies: hot plate, jars, wood wicks, sustainers, hot glue gun, labels, oils, wax, printer paper, ink, scissors, desk space, jugs, containers and scales. So quite a lot of stuff!
Now onto the Instagram side of things.
Q: Is it a good idea to reach out to a company for a sponsorship?
YES! It is. I have done this a few times on a gifted basis, purely because when I’m reaching out to a company (rather than them coming to me) it’s because I desperately want to try their products and work with them.
I’ve reached out to Moon Specs, Kuishi, and a few more companies. Sometimes companies reply, sometimes they don’t. And that’s okay!
When reaching out to a company, know what you want. Are you wanting to get paid? Are they a big enough company to afford that? Or do you just want to try their products and are therefore willing to work with them on a gifted basis?
If you’re reaching out to a company, be sure to have a media kit prepared (you can get these on Canva!) and your prices ready. You want to be as professional and easy to work with as possible.
Q: How do you organise content?
This is my biggest downfall at the moment. I had a moment a few weeks ago where I had 4 ads in a row. They all sort of fell at the same time and I was actually kind of embarrassed because I was scared people would think I was just money crazy all of a sudden.
The thing about brand deals is that companies will give you dates as well. When you do a brand deal, you get a brief with all the requirements. I ended up working with four brands that had very similar deadlines.
So to organise your content, I would recommend getting or making a media planner journal. There are lots floating around on the internet. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any right now because I haven’t found one I have fallen in love with yet.
In the meantime, use the app Preview to plan out your Instagram content so you can make sure your feed is looking its best!
Q: When did you start putting a price on your posts?
My first brand deal was at 5,000 followers but you can start pricing whenever you want. I will talk about pricing soon. I know a lot of agencies will look at accounts with at least 3,000 followers, while other brands will look for accounts with at least 10,000 so that you can include a swipe-up link.
Q: How do you know a brand is genuine?
Good question! Thankfully I haven’t come across an issue like this yet.
Be on the lookout for how they reach out to you. Did they email you or DM you? Emailing is a good sign!
Did they address you by name? Did they give you specific compliments on your account? Were they clear on what they want? Did they link you to a website/Instagram? If the answer is no to all of these, I would be very wary to work with a brand like this.
Once you have decided that the brand seems genuine, do not go into a brand deal without a contract! It’s super important to lay out the terms and conditions. How much are you going to be paid? What for? When will the money be paid?
Normally it’ll look something like this:
1 x story and 1 x feed post, £50, to be paid within 30 days of the invoice being sent.
If the brand is late in paying, you do have the option to add on more money at the end of your invoice, but thankfully I’ve never been in that situation because it can get complicated!
Emails are legally binding too so if you don’t have a contract, don’t worry as long as the terms and conditions are clear in the email.
Q: How much can you charge?
Now for the real talk – MONEY.
Don’t feel guilty or bad for asking for money. You don’t flip burgers for free so why should you do promotional work for an established brand for free?
Instagram ads are the new TV ads, and I promise you that no company does TV ads for free. In fact, where a brand might spend £1 million on a TV ad, they might now only spend £50,000 on Instagram ads with the exact same turnover. Instagram ads are more targeted, specific and personal.
When it comes to getting money, the general rule I follow for 1 feed and story post is anywhere between 10% of my interaction and 1% of my engagement.
This is about to get real personal, y’all.
Currently, my interaction averages about 1,500 likes (not great currently, damn that algorithm). My following count is 32,000 followers.
Therefore, I can charge between £150 and £320.
Now that might sound like a lot but it’s 100% fair. I’ve done a lot of research on this and with working with agencies, this is an average and recommended price.
I tend to stick to about £200-£250 since that’s somewhere in the middle, but of course, as my following count goes up, so will my prices.
If a brand wants something extra (for example, another story or Instagram picture), I can add that in at a slightly lower price. For example, I might charge £350 for a series of stories and two Instagram feed pictures.
So look at your interaction and your following and you, too, can figure out a fair price to charge. And own that price! Be confident when quoting a company.
Now, when I say I work with agencies, there are a lot of influencer agencies in the UK. They tend to price their own content based on my follower amount and it works out roughly the same. However, the good thing about this is that:
a) there’s a steady amount of work
b) there’s a middle man who makes sure there’s no scam
c) every brand that works with this agency has to follow the same guidelines. therefore, i’m always paid within 48 hours from posting
d) lots of different opportunities
e) support when it comes to pricing, content creating and general Instagram tips
So have a Google for influencer agencies in your country and see what you can find!
Q: Do you work with certain brands on a gifted basis rather than paid?
All this question means is: do I do brand deals without getting paid, but instead I’m sent the product?
Yes. Alllllll the time.
While I’m passionate about creators being paid for their time and content, I’m also passionate about giving companies a chance to get seen.
I run a small business and honestly, I couldn’t afford to pay £250 per influencer. It’s just absolutely impossible for me. Therefore, I work with brand reps.
Some brands I work with on a gifted basis include Library Lights, Dreams, Go Scribbler, Page Anchor and more! I don’t mind at all.
I decide on a one at a time basis whether or not I’m going to ask for money and there are just some brands that I just don’t want to be paid. Usually, this is because they are a small, from home, business, or the ticket price of their item is already quite high. Or I simply love love love their products.
For example, with Go Scribbler, they are sending me a wonderful box every single month. I love love love this box and a monthly commitment is so generous, so I do not feel the need to be paid monetarily.
On that note! And this is so important… gifted terms and conditions are much different from paid ads.
When I have a paid ad, I have a big brief explaining exactly what I need to do and by when. I’m required to use certain hashtags, and photograph the item in a certain way. I also have a deadline.
When I work with a brand on a gifted basis, there is absolutely no pressure to post. There is no contract, no deadline, no requirement to use hashtags and photograph the item in a certain way. If the brand doesn’t like my photo, nothing bad happens. If a paying brand doesn’t like my photo, they have the power to reject it and I need to reshoot the content.
So for example, if a brand offers to send me their products on a gifted basis, and it arrives, and I’m not impressed, or something else comes up, I don’t have to post anything about it.
I had a situation last year when a brand emailed me asking to collaborate. I asked for it to be a paid collaboration but they never replied. Instead, they sent the products with no contract in place. While I liked the products enough, I didn’t post about them because I didn’t have a contract. The products were already quite tricky to photograph and since the brand couldn’t be bothered to reply to my many emails, I didn’t take the time to post. This brand had almost half a million followers, too, so they could definitely afford to pay the £90 I was charging back then.
With companies like Library Lights, I’m friends with the owner so I’ll of course always do free promotion for her! But with that comes the creative freedom to post whenever and whatever I want.
As a small business owner, I’m so grateful for my reps but I always make it clear that they have creative freedom. While I give a general idea of how many photos I’d like within their repping period, I also don’t sit there and count if they’d reached their number of photos. They also applied to be a rep, rather than me asking them to work for me.
So continue entering rep searches and saying yes to unpaid opportunities you don’t want to miss! It is good practice for paid ads, anyway. 🙂
Q: Imposter syndrome? Feeling underqualified?
Thankfully no. But then again I don’t feel I’ve reached a level of achievement where these negative feelings are yet associated. Maybe one day I will feel like that.
Right now, I’m just so grateful this is where I am. I know that I work hard. I know I create content that brands are happy with.
I guess the hardest part would be when I do a brand deal and my engagement isn’t great. I did a brand deal the other day where my post only got 600+ likes. This is super low for me, so I wasn’t feeling great. But I have to remind myself that I work with this company a lot and they use my photos for a lot of their promotional material so one flop isn’t a big deal! Plus, you never know how many of the people who see it will buy the product anyway. Maybe the 600 people who liked the photo will allll buy the book as opposed to only a few out of maybe 10,000 people.
The brand chose you, so do your best. Most companies will understand the algorithm.
Just be confident, work hard, do your best & enjoy it 🙂
I hope this post helped some of you that are thinking of charging for Instagram posts or working freelance! As always, if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to message me on Instagram.