Everyone wants to make money doing what they love. We love photography, and for many of us, getting paid to take photos is a dream. I never wanted to be a photographer; I liked it, but shooting full-time was never a goal I had early in my career and still isn't. That all changed when Instagram came along, and after a couple years of posting nearly every day and unknowingly honing my skills, people began coming to me specially for posts on Instagram to share about their brands. Here, I explain how that occurred, how you can find clients, know your value, and make money posting on Instagram.
Be warned that the tips here are not foolproof and can't guarantee you paid gigs on Instagram. I do hope they can help guide you down a better path in getting paid for your work and also help educate those clients that you might pursue through social media that say they don't pay for Instagram work. In the end, you are selling your photography and for many companies, that is seen as a great asset in the longterm.
Finding Clients Specifically for Instagram
An easy way to see whether a client finds value in Instagram is simply checking if use it? Is it regularly? How often? The more they post, the better. If the quality of content is lower than you think you can offer, then that drives value in your quest to help them. There are hard facts showing that great quality content with a strong message and cohesive look and feel will drive more followers, likes, and in turn, sales for companies on social media.
Some fun ways to find clients that already see value in Instagram is by looking directly. There is an outrageous amount of brands using Instagram today, and even though many of them may not have a budget to begin with, it is your job to at least begin those conversations and get them aware of the market value of photography. To find new and interesting brands, you can start by finding local brands or smaller brands that don't have huge followings. Anything under 10,000 is perfect. Once you find one of those brands and have reached out via Instagram direct message, email, or phone there is a little secret to finding more like companies within the app. Below, you can see a brand's page and to the right of the "Following," there is usually a upside-down triangle icon. Clicking this will reveal like brands within that same umbrella of style and following. Obviously, DJI is a larger brand but you get the idea for smaller brands.
Yes, I have taken product in trade for a post on Instagram. Starting out, I took a gamble in reaching out to between 20 to 30 companies per week that I found on Instagram in hopes that they might see my work and find it appealing. Many of which of course did not have a budget, but I made sure my time was not wasted. I worked with watch companies, shoe brands, alcohol labels, and even local museums and organizations, all of which found value in photography and also in Instagram. Making sure my time was not wasted and that it was worth something, even for trade at the beginning, I would send my overall photography package pricing, and if they said they didn't have the budget, I would make sure we worked in trade for that exact amount or over what my cost was in product. The handful of brands I worked with in the end eventually paid me for my work as I continued to hit them with photography packages as their brand grew on the platform and as they needed more content.
Another great way to get work specifically for Instagram is through social apps such as Popular Pays. These types of apps send you brand requests and allow you to pitch your work and value. The only downside is they are usually low paying, and there is not much back and forth with a brand for negotiations. This is why I find far more value in reaching out to brands directly through Instagram.
What Your Posts Are Worth
For any negotiations with clients, you essentially want to show you have value and can provide a quality service that they will want to use and represent for a long period of time. Photography is a fantastic tool for many brands, small or large, to build a library of content they can use for print and web along with sharing on social media, though it's not as easy as asking them to pay and them immediately saying "yes." I almost always enter talks with new and even old clients on negotiations and payment structure for campaigns or single posts on Instagram.
What should you charge? That all depends on a few things. Does the client have a budget? Do they find value in social media and photography in general to pay enough for you to be well compensated for your time? For many photographers on Instagram, if you have a following of 500-3,000, you are in a strong starting point to begin to pushing for paid posts on your page. Starting out, I did a simple thing in pitching to companies that I thought needed photography work, and at the bottom of my packaged deals, I would set a certain amount of social posts as a bonus. In some cases, I used them as a line item at the very bottom of the email, mentioning: "if you are interested in extra exposure on Instagram, I charge this much for each post." Give them a deal if it goes over 5 or 10. A good starting point if you have no clue what to charge is between $50 and $150 per post. If you think that is too small, look at pitching big and create a campaign or collection of images or posts to sweeten the deal for yourself and the client.
For a more immediate search on hard numbers to charge for your Instagram shots, you can look at free sites like Whalar or even a pro service like Iconosquare to gauge a specific, algorithmically based cost to each of your posts. Now, these types of sites are strictly looking at your followers, likes, comments, and overall engagement stats to make up a number. Though these numbers may be mathematically correct, they may not account for examples like myself who have charged a wide variety of dollar amounts for each post. Also, be warned: outside of these two examples, many sites like these want you to sign up with basic information and then also verify they can use and also sometimes post or comment on your behalf via Instagram.
How to Reach Out
Reaching out to clients via Instagram is incredibly easy. I do this a couple ways. I simply send them an Instagram direct message with a sample shot of my own that links straight to my page so it's easy for them to get to my work. Then I comment on their most recent post with something like "love to chat, just sent you a direct message." If they have an email or phone number available, I also send a quick message with my packages and social post costs either baked into the photography package or separate to see if they were interested in photography, Instagram, or even both.
I still believe Instagram is the king when it comes to social media. The ease of use and the vast number of people and companies on there you can reach with a simple message or comment is incredible. Don't let your number of followers drive whether or not you can reach out to a brand. When I started working with brands, I had well under 3,000 followers, I started local and expanded from there. I always pitched my photography work first and social second or as a bonus line that they could add for a small fee, many of whom only used the social because they found value in a single photo and a share on my page that reached other local people.
If you have any questions, be sure to hit me up in the comments below or directly on Instagram.