Progress: How to make money as a social influencer

WHETHER it’s blogging, posting photos on Instagram, making comical TikTok videos or vlogging on YouTube or Twitcher, there are now several ways to earn extra cash — or even a full-time salary — from social networking platforms.

Outreach company Get Blogged, who connect bloggers with brands for paid partnerships, saw a 672 per cent increase from June to August 2020 compared to the previous year.

Lucy Clarke, head of influencer talent at Get Blogged, says despite the recent surge in interest the influencer industry is still in its infancy, with ‘a great deal of opportunity for new voices to succeed’.

Getting started

Treating social influencing as a job, rather than a get-rich-quick scheme, is the key to success.

‘There’s a misconception that anyone can become an influencer, and that it’s just a case of sharing your life on Instagram. It’s true that there are low barriers to entry but, now more so than ever before, it takes real skill, patience, and consistency to effectively monetise an online presence,’ says Lucy.

It is also important to identify an underserved niche and build a following around a clear and defined set of topics that you can share with your followers — for example, living with a chronic illness or gardening on a budget.

Most influencers will continue working in their day job while building up their social media content and following. They work evenings and weekends until they are in a position to work full-time as an influencer and quit their day job.

And even then it is important to have enough savings to fund the first year and to manage expectations because — like any business — it may take two or three years to start turning a profit.

Quality content and engagement

Creating authentic, quality content which your followers, subscribers or viewers engage in via likes and comments is the key to monetisation.

It is possible to make money with just 1,000 followers, particularly on Instagram, although many influencers say the real turning point comes at 10,000 upwards.

‘It’s increasingly being recognised that those with smaller but more relevant and niche followings will often have a greater deal of authority and influence with their audience than those with hundreds of thousands of followers,’ Lucy adds.

For vloggers on sites such as YouTube and TikTok, the key to being a big-name influencer is to regularly go viral and generate 10,000, 100,000, or millions of views and actions with every post, according to Dom O’Neill of

He says: ‘My advice is to focus on awesome content that you find exciting and engaging. The reason any content would go viral is because it emotionally resonates.

‘Focus on the story, focus on empathy, create content that gets people identifying with it so much that they cannot help, but share, like, and comment on that content.’

Sponsorship and product placement

Once you have established a large audience you may find brands approaching you offering freebies. In return, they hope you will feature their gifted product in your content which under consumer protection law must be disclosed.

Although it is tempting to accept free offers it is important to remember that gifts don’t pay the bills and they may undermine your personal brand. Instead influencers will negotiate with brands to sell advertising and product placement space in their content charging per 1,000 followers or views.

On Instagram the rule of thumb is 1p per follower, per sponsored post. But a shrewd influencer will limit the amount of sponsored content they feature to ensure the product aligns with their own brand and followers don’t get advertising fatigue.

‘I only sponsor things that are authentic, that I would genuinely use. Some months I won’t have any sponsored posts. It is all about growing audience engagement and credibility. A casino approached me and it was a good deal but I turned it down because I don’t endorse gambling,’ explains Instagrammer Luisa Ruocco.

Affiliate marketing

Reward for sale or affiliate marketing can be secured directly with a supplier or via a third party scheme like Amazon Associates.

When a follower visits a website or buys a product via a unique, coded link shared by an influencer, the influencer receives a commission, usually between five and 20 per cent.

‘Some suppliers may pay you per person who comes to the website, some will pay for action taken on the website, such as a new user signing up to a newsletter, while other suppliers will need a sale to be made before they pay out,’ explains Dom.

It is also possible to negotiate a base payment for general brand awareness on top of the link commission. This means if a follower clicks through via your link but then later buys the produce following a Google search you are not missing out.

Third-party adverts and side incomes

Once you have a large following on your blog or hundreds of thousands engaging with your YouTube or TikTok channel, it is possible to make a lucrative passive income from adverts.

Third-party ads via YouTube, Google and Bing can appear before video plays or around content. A vlogger with 250,000 regular monthly views can make £1,500 to £2,500 per month via adverts which would increase tenfold if views increase to 2.5million.

There are also a range of spin-off incomes that influencers can earn due to their expertise on specific platforms. This might be consultancy work, appearing on television or writing articles. And an influencer who posts highly stylised photos can sell the image rights permitting brands to use the content in their own future marketing campaigns.

Working from home blogger

A DESIRE to spend more time with her children led Abi Hugo, 31, into a career in interior influencing. The mother-of-two initially set up an online décor shop at the end of her second maternity leave because she didn’t want to return to her job in human resources. She began promoting items on Instagram via stylised photos but soon realised that updating her website, plus packaging and posting goods, was extremely time-consuming.

‘When I hit 5,000 followers, I was approached by a bedding company who asked how much for a sponsored post. It started something in my mind and I decided to pursue it.’ Abi, who lives in Essex, now runs the blog The White Thistle and associated Instagram account @thewhitethistle where she creates photos of home décor and interiors.

The majority of her income is from sponsored posts, although she earns about ten per cent from affiliate marketing. She is now matching her previous HR salary, whilst working from home with her three-year-old son and six-month-old daughter.

‘When I hit 20,000 followers I started taking it more seriously and pitching to brands. I create content that they can use in other places and it is cheaper for the brand than hiring a photographer.’

Abi has worked with high street brands including Primark, M&S and Homesense. ‘I have one to two sponsored posts a week maximum as I don’t want to market to my audience 24/7. I say no to a lot of deals, as some will do my account more harm than good if it doesn’t align with my brand. I got approached by a vibrator company, and it was well paid, but I said no!’

The accidental influencer

LUISA RUOCCO, 29, fell into social influencing. She worked as a head hunter in London after graduating from St Andrew’s University with an economics degree, but when she left her job to go travelling in America and Europe, she kept in touch with family and friends via her Instagram account @luisainsta.

Within a year, her account had more than 10,000 followers who enjoyed her food and travel posts and the offers of free meals started coming in, which encouraged Luisa to develop it into a business.

Utilising her savings, she started working eight hours a day at her kitchen desk building relationships with brands. She says: ‘The first year, 2018, I broke even. From 10,000 to 50,000 followers things were pretty stable but when I hit 50,000 I found I was being offered meals in Michelin restaurants not high street ones.’

Luisa, now has more than 70,0000 followers and earns her income via sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, social media consultancy and lifestyle writing. ‘I am now earn almost the same salary as my head hunting job in 2017. Twenty per cent of what I do is taking pictures and writing hashtags, that’s the easy part. The other 80 is negotiating brand deals. Make sure it’s something you enjoy, it’s not an easy way to make money.’

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