Make Money On Instagram: Q&A

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 can read up to 50.

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 2014, while working between other contracted jobs, but it wasn’t until summer 2018 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.

I got my first freelance job in 2014, but really took quite a break from 2015-2017. In 2017, I started freelance writing again, and it was around summer 2018 that it became reliably part-time.

Around February 2020, my freelance writing became full time & I am now able to close my candle shop (very bittersweet) and focus on that which is a lot easier, since there are fewer side hustles to juggle.

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 already had a bit of freelance experience from working as a ghost writer in 2014 and 2015. In 2017, 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 was getting clients through my freelance writing business. I had a main client, Upleap, which gave us a lot more security financially. I used my portfolio to reach out to a few other brands where I would do a handful of articles for them.

In December 2019, Upleap had to make cost cuts and got rid of all their writers, but that led the way to me writing full time for two consistent clients: Oh So Spotless & Prudent Reviews: two companies that I am so so proud to work for. I now have amazing experience for my portfolio and CV, but I’m super happy with sticking to these two main clients. However, if there’s ever a writing opportunity or someone gets in touch with me for a one-off post, I’ll definitely do that! But having the consistency of a contracted job is so nice.

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!

Madame Fiction is closing when I run out of my stock – with the pandemic, that looks like it’ll be a while because I can’t go to my studio (which is now in my parent’s house).

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?

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.

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! I also use my calender to jot down what dates my brand deals are going live to make sure there’s not like 4 in a row or something. If this is the case, I’ll try and renegotiate the date with the brand.

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. However, you can definitely charge at 1,000 followers! Plus, your price will be smaller, so brands will definitely be able to afford it.

Q: How do you know a brand is genuine?

Good question! Unfortunately, about 80% of brands that reach out to me are either not genuine, spamming me, or want to use my creativity for free. I recently had a brand try and get me to purchase the product, saying they would “refund me” and I just heard alarm bells everywhere! Thankfully, I got out of that one fast.

When a brand reaches out to you, check for these things:

  • They referred to you by name, and not just “hello”. That means there is somebody behind it paying attention to your Instagram, name, username and your work.
  • Check the email is coming from a legitamate email address. You can usually figure this out by Googling it.
  • Copy paste any link they sent you and inspect them before clicking the links or going to the address they sent you.
  • They aren’t making you pay anything in advance.
  • They’re treating you kindly.
  • Best scenario: They ask you what your prices are.

So…

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.

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 40,000 followers.

Therefore, I can charge between £150 and £400.

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 £250-300 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.

I do adjust this price depending on the brand. If I’m going through an agency, I tend to go for the higher end because they’re working with big-budget brands. If it’s a smaller or medium sized store, I’ll stick with the lower end. If it’s a completely new or totally small business, I usually don’t charge at all. (But this will change the terms of the contract, and doesn’t involve a posting date, creativie limitations or any obligation to post if their products disappoint.)

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.

For example, if you have 1000 followers, but get 200 likes her post, charge anywhere between £10 and £20.

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 person 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, Books That Matter, Page Anchor and more! I don’t mind at all.

Usually, I don’t ask for mney 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 Books That Matter, 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?

This time last year, I would have said no. But now, yes. I do feel awkawrd charging brands sometimes, but I have to remind myself that when I charge a brand, I’m helping out this community because it will encourage someone else to charge.

And ultimately, I know that I work hard. I know I create content that brands are happy with.

The hardest part would be when I do a brand deal and my engagement isn’t great. Sometimes I post an ad, and I don’t even crack 1000 likes. It feels crap, but I have to remind myself that they’re working with me for my content (hopefully) and not necessarily my engagement. Plus, you never know how many of the people who see it will buy the product anyway. Maybe the 1000 people who liked the photo will allll buy the book as opposed to only a few out of maybe 10,000 people.

Also, if I feel particularly bad about low engagement, I’ll happily post another photo later to make up for it!

The brand chose you, so do your best. Most companies will understand the algorithm.

Q: How long do you spend on a brand deal?

A long time. It’s not just the shooting, editing and posting. If I have a brand deal going live on the Friday, I make sure that the entire week is spent preparing for that.

First of all, planning out the ins and outs of the contract and communicating with the brand takes a lot of time. At least a few hours, but spread over a few weeks usually. Then I spend time planning out the photoshoot, spending a lot of time looking through other photographs, Instagram, Pinterest, especially if it’s an item I’ve never photographed before. Then I have to take time out of my full time job to shoot the content which usually involves my husband. So I have to consider that the price of my photo has to cover both our wages. Sometimes we drive a couple hours away to find a nice location!

Next, we shoot the content which takes forever because I usually have to reshoot and reshoot to get the shot I like. Downloading all the pics to my camera and editing them all takes absolutely ages, especially since now I do all the doodles on my pics. Then I send the photo to the brand, and they have to approve. If they reject, the process starts again!

As for stories, this also takes absolutely ages, especially because the brand needs to approve them with added texts. So I need to upload the stories onto my Instagam, edit them and save them. Then when I post it for the final time, I need to add all the mentions and hashtags again so they’re clickable.

Then the week of posting, I need to create killer and engaging content to get my engagement rate up so that when I do post for the brand, I have the potential for high engagement. Then I post the pic and spend basically that entire day engaging with people online.

See! That’s a lot of work, which is why I don’t feel bad for charing high prices.

Q: How do I ask for money?

When a brand reaches out to you, and you have concluded that they most likely have a marketing budget, how do you ask for money? Here’s a good way to phrase your email:

Dear [insert brand name here]
Thank you so much for reaching out to me! I’m delighted that you love my content and want to collaborate with me. I also love your products. {Explain why}.

Do you have a budget for this campaign? I’m happy to send you my rates, insights and media kit to help you with a sponsored post.

Thank you so much. I look forward to hearing from you!

If they respond saying they don’t have a budget, keep negotiating.

Try this:

Thanks for letting me know about your gifting. I do charge for feed posts due to the fact I have costs to cover when creating imagery (planning, photographer, driving to shoot, props, etc) and it takes me ]x amount] working days to create the content needed.
On top of my creation time, my published posts reach up to [insert number] people with high levels of engagement (please see attached insights).
If you are looking for me to create content for you, I would love to work together however I'm unable to create content in exchange for free product.
If you are able to find budget to pay for my time please don't hesitate to let me know as I know I can create some beautiful imagery for your brand.

Q: Photography ownership?

If a brand asks if they can use your photographs on their website, or for ads, you should charge for this. I think it’s okay for them to use your photos on their IG, as long as they asked and give you credit, but if they take ownership of your photos – charge them for this. Charging for this is pretty complicated but some people charge between £200 to £1000 a year per photo, regardless of following account. There are a few calculators online so utilise them to help you find your price!

Overall:

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.

4 thoughts on “Make Money On Instagram: Q&A

  1. You have no idea how glad I am that you wrote this! You laid it out so clearly, and I super appreciate that. I have a Bookstagram account just for fun paired with my book blog, but I’ve always wondered if I’d be able to monetize both someday. I got advice saying bookstagrammers couldn’t really monetize – they’re only paid in free books and products – but that didn’t make sense to me. I can’t see why brands wouldn’t want to pay us as much as any other influencer.

    I’m in a situation kind of like you were when you started, and I’m hoping I can eventually get to where you’re at! Thank you again for making good content. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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