How to Become a Paid Social Media Influencer: 5 Steps to Take in 2024

Social media can be a great way to earn some extra money when you learn how to grow a following and monetize your presence.

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Updated May 13, 2024
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Getting paid to create social media content can be a gig that allows you to share your creativity and earn money while remaining flexible. Many successful paid social media influencers focus on creating quality content, building a strategy for audience engagement, and researching potential brands and affiliates.

However, most paid social media influencers earn less than the annual national average wage for all jobs, which is about $60,500. This means that it may fit best as a side hustle, at least until your revenue grows and becomes stable.

Let’s explore how to become a paid influencer and what monetization channels you can use.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • Developing a niche and building a consistent content strategy can help maximize your social media presence.
  • The 2023 national average social media influencer income was about $57,000 a year, or about $28 an hour.
  • Brand sponsorships and affiliate marketing are two of the most popular ways to earn money as an influencer.
  • You don’t need millions of followers to earn a living through social media. Micro-influencers and nano-influencers are sought after by smaller brands and may even be preferred on some platforms like Instagram.

Becoming a social media influencer: Is it worth it?

Pros Cons
  • Allows those who enjoy creating content or discussing particular topics to turn a hobby into paying work
  • Offers freedom and flexibility not often found in traditional jobs
  • Can offer a fun and productive experience when connecting with different brands and industries
  • May help you get gifts or promotional items from brands
  • Building a big enough following to gain sponsorships or brand partnerships can take a long time
  • Competing with other social media influencers can be challenging, and particular niches, like general beauty and fashion, are oversaturated
  • Measuring audience engagement and conversions can be difficult
Our verdict: If you enjoy creating content and working with brands and products, being a paid social media influencer may be worth it. Still, it's essential to understand that social media is a business that takes a lot of time and effort. There’s little guarantee of success, as you may see only a little return for your hard work.

How to become a paid influencer in 5 steps

Social media influencer marketing has exploded in recent years, and product manufacturers and brands are noticing. It's estimated that influencer marketing generated $15.2 billion in 2022 and is forecasted to be a $22.2 billion industry by 2025.

Unless you’re already a celebrity with a huge following, learning how to make money from social media takes a little more work than simply signing up on a platform, uploading content, and waiting for the cash to roll in.

Becoming an effective influencer means balancing being authentic, building trust with an audience, and creating paid opportunities to help you succeed.

As more people connect to your voice and content, the better chance you may have of attracting sponsorships. But if you generate content only to attract sponsorship, your organic audience may fade away.

Being an influencer is becoming increasingly competitive, and understanding how people use social media to make money can help you develop a strategy to set you apart from the competition.

1. Choose your niche

Niche markets are small, specific sections of a broader market. Your niche is usually about a particular subject, like health and fitness, lifestyle, fashion, or entertainment.

The most effective influencers drill down into a specific segment of bigger topics. These smaller topics are generally less crowded with competition and offer greater opportunities.

For example, many people enjoy fashion, but trying to include all things fashion as your niche would be overwhelming for you and your audience. Instead, your fashion niche might focus on finding sustainable fashion on a budget, hunting for vintage clothes at thrift stores, or finding or reselling quality kids' clothes using a specific platform like Facebook Marketplace.

To help you develop a niche:

  • Reflect on your interests and passions: Develop a list of potential topics. Then, apply a business lens to your ideas to help narrow your choices.
  • Consider fixing a problem many people have: Find a group not served by the existing products and voices available. Research your potential audience's needs and wants and develop a strategy to help them meet those needs.
  • Pay attention to your potential demographics: Learn more about the people you’re trying to reach, such as their age range, gender percentages, common race, and geographic locations.

While you may identify a problem or need in a market, if many people don’t share that problem, you likely won't have many followers or opportunities to work with brands looking to connect with an audience in your niche.

The more appeal you can have across multiple demographics, the more likely you are to increase your viewers and become a successful influencer.

2. Build your social media presence

Your social media presence is your visibility and engagement on the social media platform (or multiple platforms) you use. Finding the right site that fits your unique voice and content can help your intended audience find you and give more people exposure to your channel or brand.

As you gain experience on one platform, developing a presence on one or two other social sites can be beneficial. For example, if you create a following on Instagram, crossing over to Facebook or YouTube might gain new followers or encourage existing followers to engage in new ways.

Some of the biggest social media platforms today are:

  • TikTok
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter

Many Instagram influencers and content creators on TikTok managed to build their presence by choosing a specific aspect or a type of content to focus on. This can also help maintain high engagement rates – as you post content on the platform you use – since your target audience will be more likely to find it interesting.

Learn how to make money on TikTok.

Before you go all in on one social media platform, spend time on each site to help you determine which works best for your brand and gives you the best results. Consider the pros and cons of each and how you might create crossover content from one platform to another.

3. Create quality content

When people consider some of the best side hustles, creating content for the internet is usually on the list. Getting to be creative and spread your ideas or opinions is fun and can be what drives many people to social media.

To have the best chance of becoming a paid influencer, be sure you post only high-quality content that serves a purpose for your audience. Cutting corners on production or producing boring content is less likely to engage your audience, and they won't trust your voice or recommendations.

Create a content strategy focusing on entertaining, actionable, or emotional content that adds value to your viewer's life and encourages them to share with others.

Use your understanding of your audience demographics to help you develop content structured around what the viewer is looking for and the products they are most interested in. You can also diversify the format of the content in your content creation plan. For example, you can post Instagram stories and reels in addition to traditional Instagram posts.

To help you accommodate future sponsorship opportunities, consider adding a review segment from the start so that when you have a brand sponsorship opportunity, your audience won't feel like it's out of character or an abrupt change of tone from your regular posts.

4. Engage with your followers

Creating a community around your content brand and consistently engaging with viewers can help people feel like they have found a place where they can interact safely and where their opinions are valued.

To engage with your followers:

  • Be proactive about liking or replying to comments so your followers know you’re a real person who cares about them
  • Ask your followers questions about a topic you’re interested in and discuss it with them or use a Q&A format to take questions
  • Consider joining other communities where your followers hang out

The more you engage with the content your audience likes, the more you’ll remind them of your brand and encourage them to interact with any products you endorse.

5. Reach out to brands

Once you’ve gained a following within your niche, reach out to brands for sponsorships or endorsements. Here is how:

  • Research the brands that match your audience well, especially if you already use and like the products
  • Look for specific contact information for a brand's social media or marketing team and review its website for information on where and how to pitch a brand partnership
  • Use platforms like Upfluence that can help brands and influencers connect
  • Create a pitch deck to help you summarize your brand, audience metrics, and what kind of partnership you are proposing

As you develop your pitch, focus on how much you can help the brand grow its sales with your audience and use actual data instead of aspirational numbers.

How much money can I make as a social media influencer?

Many people learn how much Instagram celebrities make and think posting online is the key to a healthy bank balance, but most influencers don’t make millions of dollars during their careers.

Average paid influencer income

The average minimum price per post for an Instagram mega-influencer (someone with more than 1 million followers worldwide) was $1,200 in 2021, according to the online statistics platform Statista.

In comparison, macro-influencers, or those with 100,000 to 1 million followers, had an average minimum price per post of $185 in 2021.

According to ZipRecruiter, about 45% of social media influencers make between $11,500 and $34,499 a year. The national average salary of a social media influencer is just over $57,000 annually, which works out to about $28 an hour.

Costs and expenses to consider

While that might seem like decent money for a short video, remember that it usually takes much longer to create content and edit it into something useful. The time spent planning, researching, and developing a content strategy has to be considered, as well as the cost of renting or purchasing equipment and supplies.

Influencers also have to cover any costs usually partly handled by an employer, such as taxes, health insurance, and retirement savings, so $57,000 may not stretch as far as you’d think.

How to monetize your social media presence

Monetizing your social media presence can take time and a lot of effort. Still, it may be worth pursuing if you enjoy creating content and engaging with people and brands online.

Consider sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, and product sales in your content marketing strategy to maximize your potential return.

1. Sponsored posts

Sponsored content is one of the most popular ways to monetize your social media presence. Brands who want to access your audience pay you to post about a specific service or product on your social media channels.

Much like pitching a brand collaboration, you can find sponsorship opportunities by contacting brands directly through their marketing email, social media channels, and official websites.

Some brands will only provide free products in exchange for a review on your site. Others may offer a small dollar amount for multiple posts, making it hard for an influencer to profit from the collaboration.

To effectively negotiate a bigger payout, research and structure your pitch so it's specific to each company’s brand and strategy.

You generally have the best chance for success by researching the brand’s customer base, marketing approach, and values and demonstrating how your audience is a good fit for the brand. Highlight the size of your following, engagement numbers, and the potential reach for the brand’s product to help create a successful partnership for everyone.

Before signing any contracts, be sure you understand the amount offered, the terms for payment, and the scope of work or number of posts required. It’s also important to clarify who controls the script and the final usage rights of any content you create.

Negotiating a contract is less fun than making a video, but it can be vital to ensuring your influencer business succeeds.

2. Affiliate marketing

Another form of sponsorship is affiliate marketing. An influencer will share a link to a brand or service they like in a post or video. Every time someone clicks on the link and completes a sale, the brand will pay the influencer an agreed-upon dollar amount or a percentage.

To find the right affiliate program for you:

  • Research the commission rate and how the program is structured
  • Learn about the process to join and become an approved affiliate and how the company pays commissions
  • Confirm the types of products and brands the program generally works with

If you are a sustainable fashion influencer, you don’t want to link to a brand or site with fast-fashion products that aren’t created in environmentally friendly ways.

The more diligent you are about details upfront, the easier it will be to compare affiliate platforms and ensure the partnership works for you and the company.

3. Selling products or services

If you want to diversify your income or limit the amount of brand sponsorship you do, selling directly to your audience can be an effective way to earn additional income.

Many influencers use this strategy by offering a certain amount of content for free on their primary site.

Once an audience has expressed interest in a topic, develop a course or ebook for a small fee that offers more in-depth information or strategies to help your audience succeed.

For example, a vintage fashion influencer might offer general content about finding great clothes in thrift shops or garage sales.

A paid ebook or course offering in-depth advice on rejuvenating a piece of vintage clothing or preparing a piece for resale to achieve the highest profit can help the audience take their knowledge further and generate a steady income stream.

FAQ about paid social media influencers

How many followers do I need to become a paid influencer?

While no set number of followers is required to be a paid influencer, a general rule of thumb is that for every 10,000 followers, you may earn $100, although that amount depends on various factors. Your niche, overall audience engagement, and success with previous sponsorships can also affect how much you make.

Can I become a paid influencer without a large following?

Yes, you can. While influencers with a large following tend to make more money, having a small audience (10,000 to 100,000) doesn’t mean you can’t earn money on social media.

Newer brands or brands with a smaller budget may prefer to work with influencers with smaller followings, since you may not charge as much as the mega influencers who have millions of followers. Working with a smaller brand can benefit smaller influencers, since you help each other grow your businesses together.

How do I know what to charge for sponsored content?

The rate you charge varies, and there aren’t standards to help you determine pricing. Rates are determined around an influencer's follower count, audience engagement, and ability to provide access to the audience a brand wants to reach. To help you decide what to charge, interact with other creators in your niche as well as others to help you determine a going rate.<.p>

When calculating pricing, be sure to cover your costs and time, along with a small cushion for unexpected expenses or delays.

Other side hustles to consider

If becoming a social media influencer doesn’t feel like the right fit, you can consider weekend side jobs or side hustles that can help you make money from home. This includes:

Starting a blog

If you enjoy writing about interesting topics, blogging can be a good way to earn extra cash. Although starting a blog is relatively easy, gaining a following and making money from your hobby can take time and effort. Be patient and focus on providing engaging content that people like interacting with.

Learn how to start a successful blog.

Running an Etsy shop

If you enjoy crafting or collecting vintage items to resell, consider starting an Etsy shop. You can create a personal storefront to sell your work and choose how much you want to charge or if you want to offer discounts. Creating a shop is straightforward, but be aware of the listing, processing, and payment fees that Etsy charges and some limits on what you can sell.

Learn how to start an Etsy shop.

Author Details

Kate Daugherty

Kate Daugherty is a professional writer with a passion for providing others the head start they deserve on their financial journeys. Largely self-taught, Kate relied on books, blogs, and trial-and-error to learn how to budget and save for the future, all while working to pay back about $15,000 in student loans.