“She told me I was worth every cent,” said Trishna Goklani.
Prior to her friend’s advice on making money off of her Instagram account, Trishna was plagued by doubts and uneasy about setting her rates. She revealed, “When I started, I was doing things for free. I knew I had to, since I was still building [my online brand presence] and figuring things out.”
The 22-year-old fashionista, who’s jetting off to the London College of Fashion to study fashion journalism this coming September, spoke to Vulcan Post about her process, “Then I started charging, but I’d charge super little, because I felt I wasn’t worth so much and I was afraid that my engagement wouldn’t justify the amount of money a client pays. It was something that bothered me quite a bit, until a friend gave me a bit of a pep talk.”
Why So Secretive?
With 16,500 number of followers on her Instagram account (@trishnarawr), anyone would think that charging for a sponsored post on a popular (and marketable) social media account would be a cinch – but for Trishna and other influencers like her, this was far from the case.
In June, when Refinery29 spoke to Sam Ushiro (@aww.sam), a product designer and photo stylist based in New York, she let slip that she initially had no clue on how to make money off her growing account.
So much that even when she had thousands of followers, she was only charging a measly $30 per post.
We’re familiar with Instagram big kahunas like Danielle Bernstein (@weworewhat) and Aimee Song (@songofstyle). With millions of followers under their belt, they can easily earn up to $5,000 – $50,000 per post. But lesser-known influencers like Sam and Trishna tend to slip through the cracks. We never hear about how much they make.
Sam admitted, “A lot of people will say they make money off of sponsorships and blogs, but they won’t say how much. It’s very secretive for some reason.”
A Grey Area
22-year-old Brenda Ng (@brenwho) also agrees it’s not as simple as it looks. She admits, “There’s always going to be a grey area in terms of charging for collaboration.” Fortunately for Brenda, she had assistance in this area. She heaved a sigh of relief, “Thankfully, my social media agency helps me with the liaising!”
After receiving her first advertorial gig on June 2013, Brenda decided to take her online brand presence to a higher tier. Currently, she has 30,100 followers.
Passion Triumphs Money
Daryl Yow (@darylaiden), known for his work at Everyday People and Andrea Chong’s breath-taking shots, has a much straightforward and different approach. “I feel that as a photographer, I charge my clients based on how much I value my work and also, how tedious the shoot would be.”
With 24,500 followers, the talented photographer continued, “As for collaborations, I don’t usually charge as I’m really selective of which brand, model or blogger I work with. So, for me to agree to work with either, it would mean I’m really passionate about the collaboration.”
The 25-year-old cut to the chase, “I don’t see a need for monetary talks.”
Opportunities, Inspiration, and New Friendships
Despite the complications of making a living through Instagram, it’s impossible to ignore the high points of the social networking service. Brenda’s online presence has led to several exciting career opportunities – such as dipping into videography and photography at SHOUT.
She shared, “My Instagram profile, in some ways, steered me in the direction and helped me discover what I really liked doing — writing and creative jobs.”
She continued, “I think one of the best things about being a part of the Instagram community is that I get to connect and meet people from everywhere else in the world. It’s also a go-to platform for me to gain inspiration through the works of other users that I follow.”
Like Brenda, Trishna’s Instagram profile also helped boost her career. She said, “It helped me figure out what I like and also pushed me to see how much I can achieve. But I wouldn’t attribute my successes to my Instagram profile. Hard work and passion go a long way for me, but Instagram gave me a little push.”
Daryl quipped, “I receive quite a bit of emails from followers telling me how much they like my photography, how I started out my journey as a photographer, and if I have any pointers to share with them. I’d usually chat with them and before I know it, a friendship is born. I have made so many friends through Instagram, some really close to me today.”
Still, one can’t ignore the elephant in the room.
There’s no fixed solution to how an influencer ought to charge their rate. There are wrong ways, but there is certainly no fixed ‘right’ way. Transparency, reach, and user engagements are the keys here.
As marketing strategist Tana Nelson succinctly put it, an influencer has to be be able to make the right business decision (i.e. knowing their worth and charging the right figure) for their brand.
Right now, the title Instagram or Social Media Influencer may be a foreign term. But let’s keep our fingers crossed – two, three years down the road, it’ll make head-ways into an acknowledged job category and become less of a private issue.
Featured Image: @trishnarawr, @darylaiden, and @brenwho