A look into how influencers make money

how influencers make money

Photo by Diggity Marketing on Unsplash

It’s hard not to compare our lives to the lives of influencers we see on Instagram. Real life is messy. Instagram life is devoid of clutter. What actual mom do you know who wears ironed clothes every single day, is a gourmet chef, and never has clutter on her kitchen island? The lifestyles aren’t all that relatable. However, it’s impossible not to feel that twinge of envy for their perceived perfection. It helps to understand how influencers make money.

Let me get this out of the way: I admire the work of professional influencers. (Here are some of my favorite instagram accounts!) Many earn a living by creating content about their daily lives. They have worked hard to build an audience of followers. It’s a marketing job that requires talent, creativity, skill, and hard work.

To be an influencer, you have to be an all-in-one marketing shop who can

  • write
  • design
  • photograph
  • style
  • negotiate
  • strategize
  • analyze
  • video
  • edit

Their social media accounts are a business.

The book Influencer: Building your personal brand in the age of social media is a peek into the behind-the-scenes of contract negotiations and how brands work with influencers. Reading reveals the reality that the influencer lifestyle is really, REALLY hard work. An influencer’s job is to create engaging personal content. Post engagement – the number of likes and shares and comments – equals income. 


(This is also the way this blog makes money)

  • Ads on their website: once the traffic on a website reaches a certain level, ad revenue can be a significant source of income for a blog. Most ad revenue models pay per click – so when you click on an ad, the blog makes money.
  • Brand collaborations: You’ve probably heard the term “collab,” which is influencer lingo for a contractual agreement with a brand for content creation. Brands and influencers negotiate sponsored posts either on a social media account or blog post. Details included in a contract can include timing, number of images, number of social media posts, content outline, and final approval. Some agencies like Clever Girl Collective and Sway partner brands with influencers for sponsored posts. 
  • Creating products: the courses, the planners, the downloads… whether they partner with a brand like Target (oh joy! started out as a blog that has evolved into a brand with products in Target!) or create a digital download on their website, bloggers have added products to their revenue stream. 
  • Affiliate income: Affiliate networks allow influencers to make money from their recommendations with special commissionable links that track traffic to their website. When someone makes a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, the influencer earns a commission. For example, the gift guide section of this website uses affiliate links.

Understanding how influencers make money should give you a little more insight into the “perfection” they portray. You should also admire their work and understand how much creativity and effort goes into a professionally managed influencer account, and just remind yourself that posting is their job. Avoid that compare and despair mentality when scrolling on social media by remembering “this person is paid for this!” 

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How influencers make money

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