The Ultimate Guide to Making Money as a Creator

In today’s digital age, the rise of influencer marketing has created the opportunity for creatives to turn their passion into profit. Thanks to social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, influencers are now making thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars a year. Many Gen Zs and Millennials are increasingly aspiring to become full-time content creators, thanks in part to the expanding opportunities in the digital landscape.

However, a lot of work goes into it —especially when you’re just starting out as a creator. If you’re curious about making money as an influencer, you’re in luck. We’re breaking down how to make money creating content and the steps you need to take to make it happen for yourself.

1. Create High-Quality and Engaging Content

If you want to be successful as an influencer, your ability to create high-quality, engaging content is crucial. You get one first impression with brands, so you want to make sure you’re proud of the work you’re putting out. Whether your niche is fashion, fitness, food, or travel, your content should resonate with your audience’s interests.

To build an audience, focus on consistency. While many influencers use expensive, professional cameras, there are plenty out there who swear by their iPhones, so don’t feel the need to go out and spend thousands in the beginning. Instead, focus on what will make the images captivating to your audience. What will draw them in and make them become loyal followers? What makes you different than the existing influencers out there? These are the questions to ask yourself as you put together your content calendar.

Once this audience is built, your focus should be on engagement rate and reach. These are the analytics that are going to matter most to brands. That’s why you’ll discover that some micro-influencers have brand deals with big names. They may have a smaller following, but they’ve harnessed a level of trust with their audience, which turns into bigger buying power. Having 100,000 followers doesn’t matter if it doesn’t convert into engagement and sales for the brand.

2. Building Brand Partnerships: From Start to Success

Many content creators begin by establishing partnerships with brands to showcase their unique voice and style. While initial collaborations might not always come with a monetary reward, they can play a pivotal role in building your online credibility and demonstrating your potential to brands. Such collaborations can bolster your portfolio, highlighting your ability to create and share engaging content.

If companies have yet to reach out to you because you’re in the earlier stages of your future career as an influencer, don’t be afraid to share products that you already own, genuinely love, and use on a daily basis. Tell your audience why you love them and how they benefit you (while sounding as natural as possible) while also tagging the brands. This puts you on their radar —and who knows, maybe they’ll reach out later on when you’ve grown your audience more.

3. Sponsored Content and Brand Ambassadorships

As your following grows, you’ll likely attract the attention of brands interested in reaching your audience. Sponsored content —one of the main ways influencers make money —involves creating posts or videos that promote a brand’s product or service. A brand may pay you to review a new product or line they have coming out or just create your own content to boost brand awareness.

Several factors determine how much you should charge for a sponsored post, with various guidelines suggesting different rates for platforms like Instagram and TikTok. It’s worth noting that these recommendations can be a subject of debate among influencers! As you become more established and recognized, you have the leverage to negotiate higher rates. The brand’s stature also can plays a role; household names usually come with larger budgets compared to emerging or lesser-known brands.

If a company likes your work enough, they may offer you a brand ambassadorship, which establishes an ongoing relationship. The more work a brand offers you, the more money you will make. In many instances, these contracts last a few months, though it’s also not uncommon to see year-long contracts. If you accumulate a large following, a brand may even offer to co-create a product line with you.

4. Exploring Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is another avenue that influencers can use to earn money. This strategy involves promoting products or services using unique affiliate links. When a follower makes a purchase through your link, you earn a commission. Countless platforms are available and easy to use, such as LTK (formerly RewardStyle), ShopStyle, Amazon Affiliates, and more. If working one-on-one with a brand, they may also offer you a specific link or discount code for your audience that gives you a commission as well.

Affiliate marketing often allows you the flexibility to promote products that truly resonate with you. If you’re enamored with that new shacket from Revolve, or if a new face roller has become a mission-critical part of your skincare routine, you can share these favorites with your audience using affiliate links. However, it’s worth noting that in certain campaigns, brands might specify the products or services they want promoted. This balance ensures you can often showcase items you genuinely appreciate, while also meeting the requirements of specific brand partnerships.

Having said that, don’t rely solely on affiliate marketing to make money if you don’t have a large audience. Because commission percentages tend to be fairly small, it’s going to take quite a few purchases to make you money. The more followers you have, the better the chance you’ll sell more products you share.

5. Create and Sell Digital Products

Although this can be more difficult depending on your industry, consider developing your digital products if possible. E-books, online courses, presets, and downloadable resources are all great examples of products that cater to your audience’s interests. Not only are you displaying your expertise in a field, but you’re also creating the opportunity for passive income.

Some examples of digital products in different niches include:

  • Food – E-cookbook
  • Travel – Travel guides for different destinations
  • Finance – Budget spreadsheets or software
  • Fashion – Style or gift guides

6. Pick a Social Media Platform

Each social media platform has its own unique strengths, and becoming an influencer on these platforms requires uniquely tailored strategies. You may also want to become an influencer on multiple platforms. Regardless of your end goal, these are a couple of things to keep in mind for each:

  • Instagram – Focus on aesthetic and visual appeal. High-quality photos, consistent themes, and storytelling captions go a long way in engaging your audience.
  • YouTube – Create informative or entertaining videos that resonate with your target demographic. Long-form content can provide in-depth insights, while shorter videos can quickly capture attention.
  • TikTok – Leverage short-form video content to showcase your creativity, humor, or talent. Quick, engaging videos can rapidly boost your follower count.

No matter which platforms you choose, stay consistent, even if you’re struggling to grow the audience as quickly as you’d hoped. With algorithm changes and new trends constantly coming and going, it can feel impossible, but hard work pays off.

7. Join an Influencer Network

There are plenty of influencer networks, including Sway Group’s, that can help bridge the gap between you and potential brand deals that will advance your content creator journey. Regardless of your audience size, becoming a part of these networks can be incredibly rewarding, because they have the potential to propel your career beyond solo endeavors. Through these platforms, you gain access to exclusive paid content opportunities and invaluable networking avenues you might not encounter otherwise.

How Much Can Influencers Make?

If you’ve ever considered being an influencer, you’ve probably Googled how much influencers can make multiple times. And we’re here to say that it’s hard to pinpoint a specific annual number. However, Business Insider interviewed multiple influencers and found that two micro-influencers (follower count undisclosed) earn six figures every year. Another influencer, with almost 500k, earned over $1 million in her first year of content creation. The moral of the story is–while numbers will vary depending on each individual–you can make a livable income as a content creator.

The Future of Influencer Marketing

As influencer marketing continues to evolve, new opportunities are likely to emerge. Keep an eye on trends in the industry, such as new social media platforms (looking at you, Threads). Adapting to these changes can help you stay at the forefront of influencer marketing and continue to generate income. Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and although the market may feel saturated at times, there’s still plenty of opportunity for those willing to put in the effort.

Food nano influencer preparing food and setting a table.
Woman sitting at computer with delighted expression on her face.
Reaching the pet market by engaging pet owners through influencer marketing.

Let Sway Group Help

From creating high-quality content to exploring various monetization strategies, you have the opportunity to build a sustainable income while doing what you love. Sway Group wants to help make your dream come true by connecting you to opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else. Ready to get started?