Starting a Business as a Social Media Influencer

Social networks like Instagram and YouTube are dominated by influencers whose followers act as a built-in audience for photogenic or disruptive brands. And it’s easy to see why — in a digital media landscape that throws ads at us everywhere we go, some people turn to celebrities and social media stars for advice on what products they love.

The question is, how can you become a social influencer and marketer and start a business based on the brands and products you share with your followers? It’s a crowded space, but for those who make it as influencer marketers, the rewards can be significant. We’ll share information on what it means to be an influencer, how you can turn that into a business, the best platforms to use and other useful advice.

How Social Media Influencer Marketing Works on Instagram, YouTube and Other Networks

Here’s how brands, influencers, social networks and end customers interact in influencer marketing.


Brand or Marketing Agency Finds an Influencer with the Right Audience

Once they understand audience demographics, a brand will look for influencers who have that audience. They will explore areas like follower counts, the influencer’s interests, the type of posts they create and various other factors. They will narrow influencers down to a short list and identify those most likely to connect with their desired target market.


Brand Identifies a Product or Service

Brands have certain products or services that they want to promote to audiences that are hard to reach via other means. For example, they may have a new clothing line targeted at women between the ages of 18 and 22. The brand decides which products they want to promote and defines an audience for each one, typically including age, gender, location, interests and similar demographics.


Approach the Influencer and Arrange Terms for Sharing the Product

This is where it gets interesting. Typically, a brand or marketing agency will approach individual influencers and discuss terms for promoting their products. This will include areas like:

  • How the brand, product or service will be represented

  • Social networks where the influencer will share their posts

  • Payment amounts for promoting the brand, product or service (on a per post, per purchase, campaign or other basis)

  • How often the influencer is expected to post on their social media accounts

  • Any hashtags and language that needs to be included in posts

  • How the results of the campaign will be tracked


Social Media Influencer Posts About the Brand, Product or Service

After terms have been agreed to, the influencer will create posts to promote the brand, product or service. They might use predesigned imagery, photograph a product themselves or work with a brand or marketing agency on other types of content. Once the posts have been created, they are then shared with the audience, typically on a predefined timetable.


Audience Interacts and Buys the Product

The post is shared with the audience and they purchase the offering based on the influencer’s endorsement. The brand or marketing agency will track the success of their social media influencer marketing campaigns based on the revenue they generate. This helps the brand understand their return on investment and which influencers are most effective.

Statistics on the Power of the Social Media Influencer Marketing Industry

Social media influencer marketing has some impressive numbers to back it up:


There were over 1.5 million influencer posts on Instagram in 2017.


Worth of influencer marketing industry in 2017, and is expected to be worth $10 billion over the next couple of years.


Almost three-quarters of influencers on Instagram are in the 18-to-34 age range.

Of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities
teen business
teen business
teen business
teen business
teen business
teen business
teen business
teen business
teen business
teen business
4 out of 10 millennials say that their favorite influencers understand them better than their friends.

Even micro-influencers are being sought out by brands, as they see higher levels of engagement than traditional celebrities and other marketing channels.

Influencer marketing generates a high return on investment for brands and marketing agencies (by as much as 600 percent).

Influencer marketing is the fastest growing promotional channel.

The influencer marketing industry was worth around $2 billion in 2017 and is expected to be worth $10 billion over the next couple of years.

As you can see, if you’ve got the makings of an influencer marketer, the size and growth potential of the industry could give you an amazing opportunity.

What It Means to Be a Social Media Influencer on Instagram, YouTube and Other Networks

If this sounds like something you want to be involved with, it’s important to understand what brands and marketing agencies are looking for. This could include:

A large follower count (preferably 100,000 followers or more)

An active presence across one or more social media networks, especially Instagram, Facebook and YouTube

A niche for yourself, whether that’s sharing makeup and fashion tips, reviewing the latest technology or having a strong opinion and viewpoint

Plenty of interactions from your followers, including onward sharing, likes and favorites

An audience that is difficult to reach through traditional marketing channels, like teens and young women

A deep, personal connection with your fans and followers

How You Will Spend Your Days as a Social Media Influencer

The main area you’ll be focusing on is creating original content. Your followers will spot when you’re just sharing generic marketing messages, so you need to personalize all of your posts. This could involve taking videos of you using or wearing the product, staging beautiful photography or creating engaging descriptions and copy.

You’ll need to post regularly as well — not just for the offerings you’re being paid to promote, but about other aspects of your interests and life. This helps to keep your followers engaged and encourages more people to become fans.

You will also be reporting and sharing from others in your social network and interacting with your followers to build personal connections. You may also be seeking out marketing deals yourself and contacting agencies and brands to offer your services.

How Instagram and Other Social Media Influencers Make Money

Influencers make money because brands and agencies pay them to promote their products or services. You may get paid in several ways based on multiple metrics:

Here’s how social media influencers make money:

  • One time for a single post
  • Multiple times, for each post you make in a particular influencer marketing campaign
  • A set amount, based on the number of interactions, likes, shares and other metrics on your posts
  • A percentage, based on the revenue generated as a result of your audience buying products and services

You should work with the brand or marketing agency to agree on payment terms that fairly represent the effort you’re putting in and the results they expect to see. In terms of how much you can make, Instagram broke down the average of what influencers were charging by follower count and category. Here’s what they found:

Average Pricing Based on Follower Count

Fewer than 1,000 followers: $83 per post

Between 1,000 and 9,999 followers: $107 per post

Between 10,000 and 99,999 followers: $240 per post

More than 100,000 followers: $763 per post

Average Pricing Based on Niche

Modeling: $434 per post

Photography: $385 per post

Food: $326 per post

Pets: $320 per post

Fitness: $306 per post

Beauty: $205 per post

Fashion and design: $217 per post

How to Become an Influencer as an Instagram Business, YouTube Creator or Social Media Master

If you’re interested in becoming a social media influencer, it’s worth exploring how exactly you’re going to turn your follower count and original content into a money making marketing machine.

The Best Platforms for Influencers — Instagram and YouTube

The best platform for influencers, by far, is Instagram. It’s designed around beautiful images and easy sharing, so it’s one of the best ways for brands to showcase their products through you. YouTube is also becoming increasingly popular, as more of us are choosing to consume content via video.

Tips on Instagram Businesses and Making Money on Instagram

Here’s a selection of advice on building and making money from an Instagram business.

You probably don’t need as many followers as you think to make money on Instagram. Some influencers in specific niches made an average of 83 a post with fewer than 1,000 followers.

Finding the right niche is essential. Choose an area that you’re passionate about and where you can develop a strong voice and personal brand.

Invest in a good camera and find the strengths in your personal style and appearance. A visual style is vital to success on Instagram.

Share posts from other influencers, the latest news, and areas trending in your niche. Become an expert Instagram curator your followers can trust.

Do your research and find the right brands and marketing agencies to work with. Approach them with a compelling pitch on why they might want to work with you.

Tips on YouTube Businesses and Creators

Although most YouTube creators make money from ads posted on their videos, there’s a growing market for YouTube influencer businesses:

YouTube success is all about being incredibly relevant to your audience. Find a niche that balances your individual viewpoints and opinions with a specialist subject matter.

Teach yourself videography, editing, lighting, framing and other video skills. It’s vital that your videos look good so you can stand out from the crowd.

Find your voice. The nature of YouTube videos means you have a little longer to build a connection with your followers. Focus on unique interactions and give your audience a reason to subscribe and follow you.

Get a deep understanding of your audience and who is interacting with you. Experiment with different kinds of videos to see what gets the most engagement; read your comments and tailor your approach.

Use search engine optimization on your videos and take advantage of the title and description for keywords, so you stand out in searches.

Your Social Media Influencer Business Needs a Plan

You need to define how you’re going to run your influencer business, market yourself, get sales, make a profit and grow. This can only come about through creating a watertight business plan. It will help you get your thinking in order and show your commitment to your influencer marketing business.

Business plans do vary slightly, but they should cover the following areas:


An executive summary with the most important points from your business plan


Your goals and what you hope to achieve with your online business


A description of your online business, background information and context


A market analysis and likely demand


An overview of how your online business is structured


Your business model


How you will market and sell your offerings


Financial projections, revenue and profitability



We’ve got the perfect guide to writing your business plan.

Choose the Right Business Structure and Register Your T-Shirt Business

Choose the Right Business Structure and Register Your Influencer Marketing Business

There are five main business structures you can have in the U.S., and it’s important to choose the right one. We’ve shared your options below. They are:

Sole Proprietorship

This is the "default" business structure and is what your influencer business will be if you decide not to create a more formal structure. We don't recommend this type of business as it doesn't give you the legal protections you need.

Partnership Company or LLC

Similar to a sole proprietorship, if you go into business with someone else without forming a legal business entity, you will be treated as a partnership. This doesn’t give you limited liability protections, so we don't recommend it for your social media business.

Limited Liability Company or LLC

The Limited Liability Company (LLC) is ideal for most marketing businesses. An LLC is easy and inexpensive to set up, and it has the least administrative requirements of any formal business entity.

S Corporation

This is a more complex type of business and isn't generally recommended for smaller organizations, like an influencer business.

C Corporation

These are the largest and most complex types of businesses and are typically far more than the average entrepreneur or business owner will need.

For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of different types of businesses, please see our in-depth guide. If you’ve still got questions, we’ve answered them to help you choose the right business structure for your social media influencer business.

In most cases, our recommendation for a social media influencer business would be to create an LLC. We’ve got a complete guide to everything you need to do. LLC formation does vary from state to state, but we’ve got you covered, wherever you are.

Rules, Regulations and Taxes for Your Influencer Marketing Business

Even though you’re running a virtual business, you can’t escape real-world licenses, permits and regulations. You will need to explore local, state and federal licenses and permits, and we can also help out with researching your business licensing needs


In most cases, you will want to keep your personal and business finances separate. We recommend a business bank account for your online business. You might also want to consider a business credit card. Additionally, you will also need to keep careful bookkeeping records and file business and personal taxes.


Taxes are a fact of life if you’re in business, and there are various ways you will need to file and pay them. This can include self-employment tax, state income tax and federal income tax. Depending on where and how you’re selling products and services, you may also be liable for sales and use tax.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend holding back around a third of your earnings to pay your taxes. We can also prepare and file your tax returns for you.


Social media has launched the careers of many successful influencer marketers. If you can find a great niche, understand your competitors and put together a solid business plan, you will have every chance for success