One of the most important concerns when planning a long term trip is how to sustain your travels around the world financially.
There are many options you can think of and we recently published statistics about The Most Common Ways Long Term Travellers Are Financing Travels based on a survey we’ve done with over 220 millennials. We also talked about sponsoring your trip by generating passive income and have written an extensive 5 step guide of financial independence for beginners in our post How to Travel And not Worry About Money Through Financial Independence.
This post is about making some extra travel cash by monetising yourself as your personal brand on Instagram and, if you have one, your online travel blog.
What it takes to be a professional Instagram content creator
It’s no secret that there are people in this world that make a living from being Instagram ‘travel influencers’. Their everyday job is to “create content” a.k.a. beautiful pictures for the grid, build a community a.k.a. an audience that trusts them and is willing to buy from them, and attract brands for sales collaborations.
We say “everyday job” because while the images on Instagram may look glamorous, growing your account is a full time job. If you’re curious to know more about what it takes to grow an Instagram presence, read about the misconceptions of being “successful” on Instagram in our post How Many Likes Is Your Life Worth.
The Instagramer lifestyle looks like the dream life for many and that’s why many travellers are setting up a travel profile and doing everything they can to grow their number of followers.
You might be thinking that the market for making money as Instagram influencer is saturated and that it’s too difficult to stand out if you don’t have tens of thousands of followers.
Well… You’ll be happy to hear the good news:
Making money from Instagram is still possible – even as a beginner on the platform.
You don’t need to have 100K followers to monetise your Instagram account. In fact, you don’t even need 10K. People secure collaborations on Instagram with as little as 1500 followers. There is even a term for it – “micro influencers”.
We know that it’s possible because we have done it. We have opened our couple travel Instagram account 8 months ago, we’ve grown our following to 1500 travel enthusiasts, and have secured 5 collaborations to date, with many other small offers we haven’t accepted.
So here comes our experience of how you can make money from Instagram as a beginner.
How can you “make money” from Instagram?
It’s good to know that although Instagram is one of the most popular social networks in the world, the platform does not have a clear business model for making money on Instagram. Nevertheless, there are some basic models that have emerged over time of how people earn an income indirectly via Instagram by using the platform as a marketing and sales channel.
There are in essence two types of deals you can make with brands via Instagram:
- You get paid for your services or
- You can save money through collaborations
It’s safe to say that it’s easier to save money than to make money on Instagram. That is the case for big Instagram content creators and even more so for micro influencers.
We have interviewed 16 Instagram travel influencers and have seen it with tens of accounts on the platform: You most likely won’t make a fortune from Instagram alone. This is something you should know before you decide to put all your efforts into generating content for Instagram. But it’s definitely some nice extra cash.
So how can you expect to make money from Instagram as a beginner?
Types of income you can expect to make via Instagram
Discounts or Free Products For Advertising on Instagram
One of the most common types of deals you can secure as a small account is to receive discounted or free products in exchange for mentioning the products in your IG Feed and / or Stories.
If a brand trusts that you are addressing their ideal target audience and you have shown active engagement within your community, they will send you their product to a discounted rate or free of charge to promote on your account. This is typically a one off collaboration and is finalised once you have received the product and have posted the agreed picture(s) and / or story(ies).
This deal works best for products or services of small value (under USD 50) because the expected return of investment of getting their products promoted by a small Instagram account will result in lower sales than when working with big accounts.
For this type of collaborations you often get approached by brands via Instagram direct messages. However, make sure that you switch to email communication for agreeing on the terms of the deal. This shows professionalism on both sides and is more convenient.
Check our Instagram for an example of such collaboration we had for promoting Australian beach towels.
Free Hotel Stays For Selling Marketing Materials
If you want to secure collaborations of higher value such as hotel stays or more expensive products or services, promoting the company on your micro Instagram account alone won’t suffice as a return on the brand’s investment.
This is where we found that it works well to offer photos or videos that the hotel or company can use as marketing materials in their campaigns or social media marketing. This means you take pictures that show you in and around the accommodation or using the product or service of the brand and provide an agreed amount of edited pictures to the marketing manager.
You should keep in mind that with this type of collaboration you agree to transferring the rights on the pictures to the party you’re collaborating with.
For such type of collaboration your Instagram feed serves as your business card. You can convince the company of your skills by showing a portfolio of high quality photography or videography directly on your Instagram profile.
Check out our Instagram for an example collaboration we did with a hotel chain in Malaysia.
Sales From Affiliate Partnerships
One type of collaboration we love is becoming a sales affiliate of a company for a product or service. You agree with the brand that you will earn a percentage or fixed amount of money for each sale that the company makes through you.
The returns are more attractive for high value products or services. This is why you should aim to find companies that offer affiliate partnerships for promoting their products or services with attractive affiliate commissions. These are mostly companies that are still growing and invest a lot into gaining exposure and acquiring new customers.
Before you are able to collect the returns from the affiliate program you will need to create content to promote the brand on your Instagram feed or stories first. After that you’ll earn money passively without any additional effort from your side each time your audience is purchasing the product via your affiliate link or discount code. This means you earn money on the long run with zero effort from your side!
An example we did was collaborating with a TukTuk rental company in Sri Lanka.
Discounts or Free Products For Product Reviews – best in combination with a blog
Another option to earn money from Instagram is to write product reviews. We have to say that this option works best if you publish the review in combination with an online blog. The reason is that people usually do targeted research about a product, service, or experience via online search engines like Google rather than on Instagram alone.
The idea is that you offer the company you plan to work with that you will write a comprehensive review or recommendation of their offering. Of course you should make sure that although you want to be on good terms with the brand, your review should be as honest and genuine as possible not to mislead your readers.
Make sure to ask for an affiliate link or code for your followers if you like the product and think that your followers will love it too.
An example of such collaboration is our blog review of a co-working space in Bali.
What works best?
We found that companies are most interested in collaborations that yield them marketing materials and product reviews. This is no surprise because from these type of collaborations brands can benefit long term. Once you send them your edited photos or publish a product review on your blog, they can make repeated use of the photos and have the chance that people will click through to your blog in the future, as opposed to the short life span of an Instagram feed post or Story.
Important! Be selective with the companies you work with
One important piece of advice is this: Don’t accept blindly every potential deal that is coming your way. Instead be selective and only work with brands and companies that you truly like and don’t mind your followers to associate you with. Don’t spam your audience with tens of deals, focus on products or services of which you think that they will give your community the biggest value. This will help you to build credibility with your online community and the brands you work with.
Coming up next: How To Get Companies To Work With You
One essential topic we didn’t cover in this post is How To Get Brands And Hotels To Collaborate With You. This is going to be our next post. If you don’t want to miss it, sign up below to get our advice right into your mailbox when it’s ready.