How I Make Money With My 1M-Follower Instagram Account

A person holding a smartphone in the air with an Instagram account showing. In the back are tall buildings.
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Instagram followers don’t really want new content.

This was the first thing I realized. The previous owner of the account was spending most of his time ideating brand new content for his account, creating custom posts. One of my core beliefs is the Pareto rule, so I decided to apply it here. Rather than constantly creating new content, I took the top 20% of posts from all the previous content with the highest engagement and performance and scheduled those. That bought me around 3 months of time while I figured out what I was doing.

Many DMs waste your time.

As I learned what @thegrowinginvestor’s audience really wanted, I started collecting data about how to monetize the account. I got tons of DMs about paid shoutouts, but I quickly learned they fell into one of two categories: the profitable ones, and the time-wasting ones.

Never give your client a first-time discount.

My marketing teacher taught me that lesson, and it stuck. He told us how one of his students offered an expensive machine to a client at cost because it was their first partnership, in the hopes of luring them back for more business. The client came back and wanted 10 more — at a lower rate for the bulk purchase. That student ended up losing money due to a low-profit margin.

The Instagram shoutout business model.

I spend about 15–20 minutes a day scheduling posts, but most of my time is spent in conversations with advertisers. I post four times per day to my account and mix in shoutouts from other accounts with those. This model works well for both investment and growth — advertisers tend to give me their best-performing stuff to post, in a bid to get more followers to their account. This makes my existing followers happy because its high-quality content. It also helps my account attract new followers. This model earns me around $80k per year from this one Instagram account, a number that is steadily growing as I gain new advertisers.

  1. Always look for ways to add value for existing clients. This holds true throughout all my side hustles and business ventures. By keeping existing clients happy and impressed with my work, I keep a stable and growing income.
  2. The world is what it is, not what you want it to be. The previous owner of the Instagram account believed his followers wanted new content. It may be hard to accept, but the strategy that does best is simply posting your popular content. Your hard work creating new, original content might be a waste of time that your followers don’t appreciate.
  3. The long-term win-in is worth the wait. Now that I’ve grown the account to over one million followers, I’m ready to try something new — offering both my followers and my advertisers more value. I plan to do this by upgrading the content I offer to make it deeper and more valuable. As I experiment, I expect there will be fluctuations in performance both from Instagram as a platform and my followers as my content strategy shifts. However, if it works, I’ll have developed a more satisfying business model for everyone involved.



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