Social media has created many new ways to make money, and over the past few years, it has led millions of people around the world to become influencers.

Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat have opened up doors for individuals who want to switch careers, become full-time creators, or supplement the income from their 9-to-5 jobs.

The most important step to getting started as an influencer is to pick a platform or two and begin posting consistently. While some creators eventually land on a specific content niche, such as fitness, beauty, fashion, or education, others post about many topics.

Creator Ayomi Samaraweera gained hundreds of followers a few weeks after uploading her first TikTok when one of her videos about resigning and applying for new jobs went viral.

“It was a lot of trial and error in the beginning,” Samaraweera previously told Business Insider. “I wasn’t really thinking about a niche or how my content could be unique. I just posted what I felt like at the moment.”

A steady posting cadence has even helped some creators successfully launch companies, like Nadya Okamoto, who founded the period-care brand August in 2021. She first grew her TikTok following rapidly by posting 100 times a day about menstrual hygiene and her experience in reproductive healthcare.

“To me, the TikTok algorithm is like a lottery,” she previously told BI. “The more lottery tickets you put in, the more chances you have of winning or, in this case, going viral.”

Here’s exactly how to become an influencer and start making money:

How many followers you need to be an influencer

Most brands take an influencer’s audience size into account when considering them for a paid collaboration. As a result, influencers are categorized based on their follower count.

Nano influencers have only a few thousand followers, under 10,000, but can still partner with many different brands. California-based creator Stacy Kim had only around 4,200 followers on Instagram but landed more than 40 paid partnerships in over a year and a half with companies like Samsung and Clinique.

“My engagement on posts is really high, and I heard that most brands care more about that than the number of followers you have,” she previously told BI.

The next category, micro influencers, are classified as social-media users with between 10,000 to 100,000 followers. For many brands, this is the preferred tier of creators to work with because they have a highly engaged audience but charge a lot less than celebrities or very well-known social-media personalities.

Maesha Shonar, a micro influencer with 24,000 followers on Instagram, previously told BI she had such a highly engaged audience. To stand out to brands, she created a pitch proposal, which outlined two sponsorship options the brand could choose from — each with specific timelines, deliverables, and rates — and case studies of her recent collaborations.

Influencers who have more than 100,000 followers are the next tier, followed by mega-influencers who have multiple millions.

Fashion influencer Nate White has 1.8 million followers on TikTok and earned six figures in 2022 by collaborating with companies like Verizon and Amazon Prime.

“The money’s changed my life,” he previously told BI. “I’ve been able to move out from the hood where I’m from … the kids in that neighborhood looked up to me and I miss that, but I did this for me.”

Meanwhile, YouTube star MrBeast, who has over 280 million subscribers, brought in $223 million in revenue in 2023 through various businesses, including his YouTube channels, sponsorships, and chocolate and snack brand Feastables.

How influencers get paid

After amassing an engaged audience, influencers can start making money directly through their respective app’s monetization programs, by creating sponsored content for brands, or through affiliate marketing, among other revenue streams.

Pay can range from a few thousand dollars for an Instagram sponsorship to six figures a year for a full-time creator, such as photographer and videographer Tej Patel, who made $100,000 in 2022 through his photo and video work, sponsorships, and the TikTok Creator Fund, which has since been discontinued.

Brand deals are one of the most popular ways to earn money as an influencer since companies are always looking for talent to help promote their products or services. Some brands have earned a reputation for rolling out more inclusive campaigns by paying creators fairly and allowing more creative control.

Take a look at new data on influencer brand deals in 2024

Platforms also pay creators based on their video views and engagement.

In 2023, some creators earned tens of millions of dollars through TikTok’s Creativity Program beta, now dubbed Creator Rewards, which pays influencers for TikToks over 60 seconds.

On Snapchat, creators have had success making money from its ad-revenue program. In 2023, Gen-Z creator couple AJ and Grey made $84,000 and $21,000, respectively, from the program. The initiative allows creators with at least 50,000 subscribers on the platform to make money through the ads their followers are shown in between Snap stories.

Affiliate marketing is another popular way to make money after becoming an influencer. This revenue stream allows creators to link to products or services they use, and if a follower buys it through their customized link, they earn a commission.

In 12 months, influencer Janesha Moore made $100,000 just from affiliate links on platforms like Amazon, in addition to partnering with lifestyle and beauty brands. She also highlighted how it’s easier for BIPOC creators like her to earn money through affiliate marketing than brand partnerships, where there is often a pay disparity.

“Affiliate marketing is such a powerful tool because everyone has the same percentage they make, so it’s really just a matter of the strategies you put into place to make the money work for you,” she said.

Learn more about how influencers make money on TikTok, Instagram, and other platforms and how many followers you need to get paid:

TikTok:

Instagram

YouTube:

Snapchat:

How to contact brands and get paid for sponsorships

Email is how influencers usually first contact brands about working together. Most influencers who reach out to companies attach a media kit to display the value they would bring to a potential partnership. The document highlights information such as engagement analytics, audience makeups, and previous brand deals.

Creator Paulina Perez landed more than 20 paid partnerships in a year with global companies like Skims, Olay, and Sephora, all thanks to the media kit she created. She previously told BI that she’s been fortunate to collaborate with so many brands because of her unique niche as a Hispanic creator who also posts videos in Spanish, and many of them have turned into long-term relationships.

“I still work with a lot of the companies that first took a chance on me,” she said. “I just charge them more now because my engagement is higher and my audience has grown.”

Check out the full 2-page media kit Perez she uses to land brand deals

Many creators also use Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn to direct message influencer marketers at brands who are looking for potential talent. Samaraweera, the creator who scored her first brand deal with 2,000 followers, Instagram DMed software company Fishbowl to land her first paid sponsorship.

“Timing is everything, so keep a lookout for brands who start engaging with your content because it’s more than likely they’re looking to work with you,” she said.

See the email and DM templates influencers have used to reach out to brands


Ayomi Samaraweera (middle)

Ayomi Samaraweera (middle) with fellow creators

Courtesy of Samaraweera.



How influencers find jobs and get advice from other creators

Workplace communication platform Slack has surged in popularity in the past few years, so much so that those in the industry have started using the app to vent about their frustrations, land job opportunities, and connect with other creators, brands, and talent managers in the industry, with one labeling it a “gold mine” for opportunities.

“I had an influencer who really wanted to work with a certain brand, and I just asked in the channel and immediately got the contact info for the person in charge,” talent manager Lissette Calveiro previously told BI.

Many creators have also launched their own apps to help influencers get paid fairly by brands, like Christen Nino de Guzman’s Clara for Creators and Samaraweera’s Canopy for Creators. These apps, which are free to join for users, help creators compare rates and negotiate higher compensation. Nino de Guzman said she launched the app to help show others how easy it was to become an influencer and make money from social media.

“It used to be a typical kind of person, usually a middle-to-high class woman blogger who had access to video equipment and was traveling, but now anyone can be a creator,” she said.


Christen Nino De Guzman, Clara for Creators

Christen Nino De Guzman.

Christen Nino De Guzman



How to get a manager or publicist as an influencer

Once an influencer becomes more popular online and amasses a large following, they can choose to hire a talent manager and publicist to grow their brands even more. Talent managers can help creators with anything from starting a new company to negotiating higher rates for campaigns to generating content ideas.

Some talent management firms, like UTA or CAA, focus on representing the most well-known social media stars like Alix Earle. Others, like Kensington Grey and Society18, focus on creators from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

Explore BI’s database of talent management firms and agencies that work with influencers

Talent managers previously told BI that they often get hired after a creator explodes online or goes viral and the creator feels overwhelmed with the incoming messages and offers to collaborate.

“Reinforcing that there’s a reason this happened to them, it’s all positive and they’re safe and everything’s good — that’s probably the most time-consuming part of that first couple months of when someone blows up,” said Danielle Pistotnik, a talent manager at Select Management Group.

Meanwhile, some influencers choose to hire publicists to help with their image, landing TV appearances or written features in prominent publications, and getting them on the list for exclusive industry events.

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