Girl in red swimsuit enjoys the swimming pool at Platran Hotel Ubud, Bali

5 Ways to Make Money Using Instagram

The other day, my friend asked me, “Do you get paid every time someone uses your Instagram story filter?” Answer: LOL no. I wish! Today, I’m pulling back the curtains on the 5 ways I use Instagram to generate income for my business, and how you can increase your visibility using this completely free platform.

So on today’s podcast, we are going to be talking about a platform that is just so near to my heart, because it is where I started my online business journey, where I started my online brand, where I started The Wanderlover and this platform changed my life.

And of course it’s Instagram. And I feel like even in 2022, there are so many questions around Instagram, and I really just want to pull back the curtains and be transparent about the five ways I personally make money with Instagram.

This episode was actually inspired by one of my close friends who I grew up with back in New York. She texted me a few weeks ago after I had just launched my new Instagram story filter. If you haven’t seen it already, if you go on to The Wanderlover and scroll over to my face filters, I launched a new filter called Freedom that I highly recommend you check out.

After I had launched it and she texted me asking, do you get paid every time someone uses your Instagram filter? And I just started laughing because it’s so far from the truth.

And so I just want to demystify this world because I feel like there’s still people who reach out to me and they want to travel to nice places and they want to get paid to post photos, but there are so many missing elements to it. And I also want to make this episode for the small business owners, for the entrepreneurs who want to expand on ways they can monetize using this platform and just see how I did it so that you can implement it yourself. And the last thing before we dive into this episode is I want to explain that Instagram is my largest audience, but it’s only one piece of the business and just one piece of the puzzle.

Ass an entrepreneur, you really need to be focusing on multiple platforms because you cannot put all your eggs in one basket. I know very, very few creators or entrepreneurs who just has their solo audience on Instagram, right? Their like one and only Instagram audience. There’s usually always an accompanying blog at least, or Tik Tok or LinkedIn or Pinterest, right? You really want to be utilizing as many platforms without spreading yourself too thin.

Okay. So it, depending on where you are with your business or online business, you will be using Instagram for different purposes. And Instagram for business is so different than using Instagram as a personal account, documenting your travels in a very kind of uncurated way and just being, not really cohesive with your content, right? And so in this episode, we’re going to be focusing on Instagram for business. And what I mean by that is bottom line, you do not have a business if you don’t have products or services to sell, right?

So I really want you to start thinking about ways you can start monetizing your audience, your skills and your social media presence, or thinking about additional product or service offerings you can add to your suite.

1. Collaborations

So the first way I make money with Instagram and this is how it all started back when I was working in finance and growing my audience, is through collaborations. And so this is in collaboration with companies that align to your brand. And what usually happens is they will mail you a product or they will ask you to promote their online product or service and your asset in this case is your audience because they are essentially paying you to promise a return on investment. Because let’s say, think about it as a billboard. You have a hundred thousand people looking at this billboard. And so when you post something, what percentage of people are going to convert, right? What percentage of people are going to buy and after the company does their due diligence, they will assess that you are worthy of investment.

And I used to get these with brands by sending so many emails, by signing up to a lot of influencer agencies where they connect you with brands that fit in your niche. I have a list of a hundred plus platforms that pay content creators. If you want to find that on my website, you can have collaborations delivered straight into your inbox every day.

Constantly apply, negotiate and improve your offering

I used to constantly be applying, improving my media kit by improving my portfolio by honing in all my content creation and photography skills. The first way is always to be creating the most valuable content so that more people follow you and so companies see the value in your work.

Another thing to know about paid collaborations is you have to constantly be improving what you do on a daily basis. You need to be posting as frequently as you can in the beginning, especially if you’re trying to grow your audience, you have to communicate with your audience members, form relationships with them, get them to trust you, right?

It’s an effort. It doesn’t just pop into your inbox one day like, Hey, do you want this collaboration for a thousand dollars, right? There is so much work that goes on behind it for you to build that credibility for you to build those skills, those negotiation skills, to be able to land a collaboration and speaking of negotiation, when you get an offer for a collaboration, and if the company does not have the budget to financially compensate, you think about what you can do with that time that would better serve you and your business, right? Like, is it really worth getting a free bracelet where you have to spend hours creating the content, editing it, posting it for that bracelet, right.

Don’t let yourself be underpaid!

Always think about your time, what it’s worth, because it’s always better when you see the Money in your account instead of getting paid in product. And I would say that the general indicator in the industry is a hundred us dollars per 10,000 followers. And of course that depends on a lot of other factors, including the quality of your content, your engagement rate, whether you have supporting like photos and videos that you can send them after, whether you’ll be posting multiple times, whether it’s a long-term campaign. So there are other factors, but I do not want you to forget, to always negotiate, right?

You do not get underpaid as a creator because that sets the bar lower for every other creator in the industry. Right? I cannot stress that enough. I see people just accepting free collaborations all the time and it just devalues the work that everyone else puts in and don’t get me wrong, I do not mean say no to every free collaboration you get. If you really vibe what the company and support their mission, by all means, go ahead and continue working with them. But if you only rely on collaborations and don’t even try to negotiate, how are you going to make a living as the content creator?

And also you are devaluing the work of other professionals.

2. Affiliate Marekting

The second way I make money with Instagram, and this is similar to the billboard example I gave before because it still relies on the size of your audience for the most part to see a positive return, is affiliate marketing. And affiliate marketing is basically promoting other company’s or other people’s products or services. And so usually I get a custom affiliate link where it has like a unique custom code at the end where the company can track that it’s me.

And every time someone from my audience clicks on that link and makes a purchase, I would get a percentage of that sale or I would get commission. And as an affiliate, you’re basically like a sales person for that company.

Work with brands and products you can actually get behind

This is why it gets tricky because you really need to be genuine and authentic with your brand. Have you used the product yourself? Do you believe in it? Like, would you buy the product yourself? And I see a lot of creators out there just accepting all of these affiliate partnerships and spamming their page with these links that don’t really make sense. Be really careful.

I would always recommend looking into the return on time investment that you put in. Like, are you going to promote this product and B is it going to help you build your brand. Is your audience going to lose trust with you promoting this or build trust with you promoting it? You really want it to feel natural and not sales-y with the unique affiliate link I can put in my bio. I can have different stories with the swipe up link and it will automatically be tracked as someone coming through my personal link.

Usually there are also discount codes. So a company will give me a discount code that’s unique to my username or my name. And any time someone makes a purchase and uses my discount code, I will also get a percentage of that sale. And it’s really apparent with affiliate linking, because if you think about it, the larger your audiences, the more people that will see it, the more people that will buy and the more money you will make. And so this brings me back to my original point where you can’t just always have all your eggs in one basket. So if your only platform is Instagram, you can only reach the people on Instagram.

But with affiliate links, what is really beneficial is adding it to blogs or your website, because it’s evergreen. You can have one link on there and get people month after month visiting your website and clicking on it and making sales. So with affiliate links, it’s great on Instagram, but it’s also really powerful if you have other platforms to share it on. Currently I am in the middle of an affiliate marketing collaboration type thing. And if you’re a small business owner listening to this podcast, I would highly recommend you do something like this. If you have a physical product, that’s the other thing.

I’m currently co-designing a dress with a dress company and when it launches, I will be making a percentage of the sales. But this is different than traditional affiliate marketing because I’m helping with the production, with the progress and the product, right? Like I’m helping with the design; I’m asking my followers to choose the dress style and the dress pattern. And it’s very interactive and I love how the company goes about this. So instead of just offering a free product, see if there’s any way you can offer your influencer a network to help partner and design your actual product, because this way they’re going to be so much more invested instead of just like posting it once and forgetting about the link.

So I hope this is making sense so far. The first two ways I make money with Instagram you can see capitalize on my audience and audience size.

3. Create Content

And so the third way I make money with Instagram is through capitalizing on my skills and that is content creation. And this comes in the form of mostly photography because I’m more confident in my photography skills than videography, although going forward, Ragz and I have partnered to start Wanderlover by Fern Colab and so that will be our media production business. But either way, the third way of content creation is getting to a point where you are at a level with your photography skills, with your videography skills, with your editing skills to get paid for it.

So you are really a one man media production agency, right? And this is really valuable. And I feel like with Instagram, this came naturally because that’s essentially what I was doing for my own Instagram: creating photos and videos for my own page. And then when I started landing collaboration’s and needing to post photos with the product, I started selling my digital photos and digital prints. So it came very naturally to a point where when I would go to a hotel, like a really nice hotel, I would have so, so, so many photos because you never stopped shooting.

And originally it was just for my page. I wasn’t even thinking about distributing or giving all of it to the hotel. But if you think about it, professional photographers and videographers go to those hotels all the time, so why not package yourself into this two-in-one content creation and influencer marketing package, right? It’s so valuable. And as this went along, I will say, like, in my case, it came because of my audience and what I was already doing with travel, with being a travel influencer.

But with Wanderlover by Fern Colab, the media production side, we chose to really hone in on one specific target market. And that’s where we’re going – into the luxury hotel space. And I forgot to mention at the beginning of the episode, and I’m kind of only seeing it now, but with the natural progression of how my business evolved, I’ve chosen the order of these five different ways to monetize based on how much control I have over the income. So what the first two with paid collaborations and affiliate links, I’m relying on both a company to pay me and my audience to respond to my advertisement, right?

With content creation, one of the part- one of the parties, the audience piece, is not as important because it’s more about how quality the content is or the hotel or the travel brand is to be able to use it for marketing, right? Like how good I am at media production. And so with the last two ways, these are the two ways I’ve been focused on the most over the past few months, especially with coronavirus, because I haven’t been able to travel. I haven’t been able to access all these places where people are going. I can’t really take photos as much.

And so it’s been really important for me and all of the other travel industry based content creators to really think about, about how to pivot in these times.

4. Digital Products

So the fourth way is through digital products and services through your own brand and advertising on Instagram. And what’s really amazing about having your own digital products and services is you have full control over how what’s produced, how it’s presented… And literally every single detail that goes into it, you have control over. And for me, this came really naturally because for years I was promoting other people’s products through paid collaborations, through affiliate links.

And one day I was like, why don’t I create my own product? Right? And if you listen to the first episode of my podcast, you would have learned that before I started my Instagram, I actually started dropshipping. And with physical products, I have learned that there’s a lot of overhead, there’s inconveniences with inventory, with shipping. And I just didn’t really want to continue with that because it was really troublesome at times. And so I really wanted to create digital products. And so my first digital product was the travel influencer handbook. And that first came out in 2018 and I’ve relaunched it, adding new information, adding everything I’ve learned after every year to it every year.

Now its on the third edition and digital products can look like so many things, right? It can look like eBooks, it can look like e-courses, it can look like email courses. It can look like master classes or digital prerecorded workshops. There are a lot of different formats that you can sell in and that’s what’s so amazing because you essentially have to create it once. And then all you have to do is continue to market it. And what I learned from affiliate marketing from collaborations and selling my own products is you constantly have to be talking about it.

Be consistent

You have to constantly be making it visible. It can’t just be one time create launch for a week and then done, right? It’s an ongoing effort because people are going to forget about it. People are going to enter into your audience and they’ll be completely new and you have to kind of reintroduce yourself and tell them that you have a product, right? And so it’s really exciting because you have full control over what it is that you do and full control over how your market it. If you are interested in learning the ins and outs of being a travel influencer, the third edition of The Travel and Influencer Handbook is now up on my website.

It teaches you everything from growing your account, landing collaborations with brands, to getting paid for doing what you love. You can find it on my website at the And I was like debating for the longest time, whether or not I wanted to share this in this episode, but in the end I decided that it’s relevant. And I want my podcast listeners to get first dibs on the inside on everything that’s happening behind my business. So back in June, I launched the first, my first ever e-course, The Wanderlover Business Academy.

And the cart is currently closed and we are currently working behind the scenes to make sure everything that can be improved is improved. I want everyone to give me their feedback who has gone through it the first time around and I am planning to launch it again next month. So we’re currently working really hard, just making sure everything is perfect and stay tuned. So going back to the last way I make money with Instagram and this is kind of a spectrum, right? Number four was courses and eBooks, so digital products.

5. Coaching and Consulting

And the last way I currently use Instagram to make money is through digital coaching and consulting. I’ve gotten most of my business coaching clients through Instagram and I really want you to think about it as a free marketing vehicle. I was able to build my brand from nothing on this platform. And as I was growing my brand, I was also growing different types of monetization options I had in my business and diversifying my income. And every single time I built a new product or launched a new service, I had a giant audience there who, potentially depending on what they were looking for, may be interested and may convert, right?

So this is just what is so powerful about this platform. And as you can see through my journey, it didn’t stop after I landed a few collaborations, right? It didn’t stop after I landed hundreds of collaborations. I’m constantly looking for ways I can diversify my income and for ways I can get more and more visible. Okay. So let’s backtrack a little because I do want to talk a little more about business coaching and consulting or just coaching and consulting in general. In terms of time commitment, when your client gets your undivided attention, it will always be the least scalable because you only have so many hours in a day.

And if you’re just working individually with clients, you can only reach and help one at a time, which is completely fine because most often they will have the biggest transformation because they get your undivided attention. But if you’re thinking about how to grow and how to scale, really take this into consideration; If you do want a more scalable option and another option that has more of a community feel to it, I would also recommend you looking into creating a mastermind or a round table where you’re leading a group of people and you really get to build a community for support and accountability.


Okay. So now that I’ve shared the five ways I personally make money with Instagram I hope it makes sense; why visibility and just getting your brand in front of cold audience members, like people who have no idea who you are, why that is always an effort that I have in my marketing plan and why that is so important. And so I want to end this episode by just giving some ideas for you. If you’re not thinking about how to constantly be reaching new people, I hope you really start to notice different ways you can and work on that every day, because it’s just as important as interacting and nurturing your current community.

Try new things

So what I would recommend you start doing is just trying new things, right? Try things that you’ve never tried before, kind of step outside your comfort zone. You can think about going live with someone else, right? Instagram Lives. They’re kind of scary sometimes, but try it with like a close friend or someone in your niche. You guys can cross pollinate audiences because everyone and their audience is going to see who you are and people in your audience are going to notice that you are live – that’s such a good way to build community. Also Instagram filters. So this brings me back to at the beginning of the episode, when my friend was like, do you get paid for doing this?

And I guess when I had said, “No, I don’t,” I feel like there may be some misunderstanding, right? People are, people would be like, why are you doing this if you don’t get immediate financial like reward for it? But it’s not always about that especially with Instagram. Because with the filter, it reaches so many new people around the world. Just by when they browse Instagram filters, they will see me. It’s just new people and new eyes on new parts of this Instagram algorithm and Instagram platform.

Giveaways are another great option. I’m probably going to do one very soon with this.

Podcasts have people tag their friends, tag accounts, and just try to get as many people onto your page as possible. Probably doing collaborations with other influencers, collaborations with other companies, just reach out. You can even sometimes ask to do an Instagram story take over and just try to find audience members who are similar to you, right? And you really want to reach new people who would be interested in the content on your page that’s already there. So I hope this cleared up a lot of questions around how I make money with Instagram and how I use it for my business.

Again, I want to reiterate that like, this is the only one piece of the puzzle, right? Like running an online business is this whole machine, but Instagram is such a valuable tool and it’s completely free. My DMs are always, always open. I hope to speak to you on Instagram. Thank you for listening. And I will see you in the the next episode!


If you’ve enjoyed this episode, it would mean so much if you could leave a review on Apple Podcasts. This helps us spread The Wanderlover mission to those who need a dose of inspiration today, thank you!

Danielle Hu

Danielle Hu

Danielle Hu is a multiple 6-figure travel influencer, business coach, and Founder of The Wanderlover. She has traveled to over 65+ countries running her online business and surfing in remote tropical destinations. Her mission is to help creatives and coaches achieve time freedom, location freedom, and financial freedom through online entrepreneurship.

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My mission is to help you design a location-independent lifestyle through online entrepreneurship, to achieve time freedom, location freedom, financial freedom.

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