When I first launched my blog 11 years ago, it was really my sole platform for sharing. I think I probably started a business Facebook page pretty soon after publishing my website, and I updated my personal Twitter handle to match my new branding, but there was certainly not a whisper of adding Instagram to my repertoire as a digital entrepreneur. I didn’t even get an iPhone or sign up for Instagram until the second year of running my blog!
Fast forward a decade and that has all changed. I still make the bulk of my income from the blog, but I also make a sizable amount of money from my Instagram, and the scale is tipping more toward the Instagram side with each year that passes. It has been a really fun evolution to be a part of, and I love Instagram for both personal and business reasons.
I was recently asked by someone in my Instagram community how I was able to build a business on the platform, so I thought it was time to put together a dedicated blog post explaining just that. I did want to include a caveat to all of this advice, though. I would not recommend launching your business solely on Instagram. I do not own my Instagram account. No one owns their Instagram pages, so it’s really important (imperative!) that you diversify your business so that it’s not entirely on Instagram. In my opinion, it’s far too risky to put all of your eggs in that basket, especially with how often the platform changes.
Yes, it’s a blast to launch and build a business on Instagram, and, yes, it can be very profitable, but don’t let that be your sole focus. Launch a simple website or blog to go along with it so that you can direct your followers to a separate area of the web that you actually control. This allows you to maintain your growing community even if, say, your Instagram account gets hacked and you lose that part of your business. I’ve seen it happen to other people and it’s devastating. I wouldn’t wish that for you, so please make sure you diversify beyond Instagram alone. Okay, now let’s jump into my tips.
How To Build A Business On Instagram:
Branding: This is one of the most important first steps you need to consider, in my opinion. You really only have one chance to hook a follower when they come to your Instagram profile, and that all comes down to branding. Decide on a consistent color palette for the things you post, and try not to post the same types of images right next to each other on your grid. Once you have a good number of posts available to view on your profile, this consistency and pre-planning will make your page look carefully considered and extra professional. My point is that consistent branding shows you care about what you’re putting out there and that you’re taking your account seriously. By the way, I use the A Color Story app to plan my grid before posting.
Posting Schedule: Speaking of consistency, let’s talk about the frequency of posting. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s one universal answer since everyone’s Instagram community is different. For me, I try to post at least once every other day, if not every day. Sometimes I skip a few days in a row (like over the weekend, for example), and it hasn’t hurt me, but I wouldn’t ever skip an entire week or month of posting. Consistent, frequent uploads equals more exposure, so if you’re just starting out, I’d say pick a schedule and stick to it as best you can. Instagram insights will give you a good idea of the best times and days to publish content. Once you have enough posts under your belt, I would suggest taking a close look at your analytics to find out what type of upload schedule is best for your personal audience, and stick to that.
Community: For me, community is absolutely everything on Instagram. I’m so grateful to have a group of followers who are supportive, encouraging, and always there to help give me new ideas and direction. Sure, there’s the occasional troll, but that’s life. I try to be the bigger person and respond with care to each and every person, whether they’re kind or not. Which is the main point I wanted to make here: engage! I respond to every comment and direct message I get because that’s my favorite part of Instagram—the interaction. Engaging directly with your community allows you to feel more like a friend to your followers than just another digital face on the Internet. Comment back to people, check out their pages, and give them a follow back if you genuinely like their style. Oh, and make sure you prioritize getting back to direct messages. The algorithm looks fondly on accounts that interact with their community, so it’s important to make sure your page isn’t one-sided.
Sponsorships: One of the most frequent questions I get asked when it comes to running a business on Instagram is centered on sponsorships. How do you get sponsored by a company? How much money can you make from a sponsored campaign? The first thing I want to say here is not going to make you happy: it takes a pretty long time to get to the point where you’re able to charge a fee for sponsorships. When I first started out, I did a lot of work in exchange for free product only. It took years before I was able to charge a set fee. Of course, this is because I grew my business on Instagram from the ground up back when the app itself was just getting its own feet on the ground. It might be easier for new accounts to make money sooner, but there are also a lot more accounts vying for those paid spots now, so it’ll be harder to get noticed (see above tips for what you need to do in the meantime to get noticed).
Income: These days (keep in mind it’s nine years into growing my Instagram page) I’m able to charge between $500 and $2,000 for a sponsored social media post, depending on the scope required. It would take an entirely separate blog post for me to explain what actually goes into creating sponsored posts, but I’ll just say this: I work very, very hard for that money. Sponsorships are a blast (as long as you’re selective about the brands you work with) and they make my business possible, but it’s not at all my “big picture” focus when it comes to building a strong business on this platform. I’ve found that the moment I center all of my attention on making money, my followers pick up on that and turn away. So, instead, I focus first on engaging with my followers, then I focus on consistency and branding. If I do a good job, brands will see that and choose to work with me. Simple as that!
I hope you found that helpful if you’ve been considering starting—or maybe re-starting—a business on Instagram. Of course, all of my advice follows what has worked for me, and some folks have an entirely different experience, but I think you should be able to take some of the tips outlined above to get you going. If you are an already established Instagram business user and have advice of your own, please leave it in the comments! I’d love to make this post an interactive creative conversation.