How to Become an Instagram Model

  • Melissa Keen

Along with Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, with over 23 million users in the UK alone.

While it is used for sharing and liking user-generated content in the form of photos and videos for everyday users, businesses use it for Instagram marketing; this includes advertising, branding, communicating with customers and even reaching out to prospective ambassadors.

Then there are those who make their whole living on Instagram. These are the influencers and content creators, sometimes amassing thousands and even millions of followers by sharing content.

An Instagram model fits into this category. They share regular images with their audience and are able to make money by being a brand ambassador, product deals and advert campaigns. With such a seemingly luxurious lifestyle, it’s not surprising many people covet the position Instagram models have.

So how can you become an Instagram model? What does it entail? Let’s find out!

Who Can Become an Instagram Model?

Models can come from anywhere. The most popular types of Instagram models are beauty, fitness and lifestyle, and they post user-generated content to their Instagram feed in order to grow their followers.

Whilst anyone can become an Instagram model, it’s important to have a huge amount of grit and determination. Becoming a model on social media isn’t easy, and you likely won’t be paid for a long time when starting off.

Instagram models are not just a pretty face; they’re photographers, editors, social media experts, managers of photoshoots and writers, all usually done alongside a full-time job. Creating perfect Instagram photos is hard work and not as easy as it looks! Beginners spend many unpaid days working on their content. You need to build up a large, loyal amount of followers before snagging those brand deals that will make you money.

Instagram Models Vs Runway Models

There are a fair few differences between traditional runway models and modern Instagram models.

Firstly, runway models are usually signed with an agency that finds them work. Runway models work with professional photographers and make-up artists, while Instagram models will have to do everything themselves (hair, make-up, and photoshoots).

Photoshoots will be arranged for a runway model, while an Instagram model will have to arrange everything themselves. Instagram models may eventually be able to afford to pay for this, but it will be out of their own pocket.

Instagram models have less pressure on them to look a certain way. There is a bit more freedom because they can choose to wear a certain brand or size and can be sponsored to do so, whereas a runway model will be told what to wear and in what size.

It also doesn’t matter how tall they are, whereas runway models are expected to be a certain height. An Instagram model will have to sort all the post-production of their Instagram photos themselves; this is time-consuming, but ultimately gives them the power to choose the outcome.

A runway model’s photos are edited for them, and they don’t get a say in how the final image looks.

The core message shared by runway and Instagram models are very different. While Instagram models promote body positivity, runway models promote a fairly unrealistic, luxurious ideal that is unmanageable for most to attain.

Famous IG Models & Runway Models

There are also many runway models who also use Instagram as a platform, like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. As successful runway models, they already have a fan base that allows them to amass many followers quickly. Fans follow their Instagram accounts for an insight into their everyday lives (remember, though, that they will be sharing their very best images and it is therefore not a realistic representation of their everyday life).

Famous Instagram models include Sierra Skye Egan (@sierraaaskyee) who, despite working with Boutine Los Angeles and Plumeria Lingerie, received her modelling reputation via Instagram, not the runway. Alexis Ren (@alexisren) has also become incredibly successful due to her Instagram account.

How to Grow Your Instagram Follower Count

Making money on Instagram requires a decent follower count – and this can take time. Brands like Chanel won’t work with influencers who have a small fan base. Brands want to see that you have a decent audience for them to advertise to; your followers on Instagram will be the first thing they look at before deciding whether to hire you.

They will also look at your post engagement, and whether you have any “bot” (or fake) followers. NEVER purchase followers – it’s very easy to tell when they are fake, and you will lose credibility (and potential work!)

To grow your Instagram following, there are several things you can do:

  • It’s important you post high-quality photos and videos regularly and consistently.
  • Keep up to date with algorithm news in order to make the most out of each post.
  • If you haven’t already, learn how to use photo-editing apps to add more light and colour into photos.
  • Ensure you engage with other social media influencers, followers and other accounts, ideally daily.
  • Follow similar accounts and like/comment regularly on photos. It’s important to be as active as possible as this will help encourage Instagram’s algorithm to boost your profile and images.
  • Use Instagram hashtags with every picture in order to reach a wider audience. While you can use up to 30 in one post, it’s better to use a handful of very optimized ones. Use sites like All Hashtag or RiteTag to help you create the best Instagram hashtags for your post.
  • You can also follow Instagram hashtags that are related to your niche. Find Instagram hashtags by researching which ones other Instagrammers follow and use.
  • Research Instagram marketing and user-generated content in order to fine-tune your Instagram photos for the right audience. Being media savvy and understanding the more technical side of Instagram will really help improve your efforts.
  • Share your account on other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. You have Twitter followers who would love to follow your content on Instagram, too.
  • Run campaigns. Campaigns can range from collaborating, giveaways, competitions and more.

And don’t just post images! Make the most of Instagram stories, Lives and Carousels – and don’t forget about shopping on Instagram as well.

The Instagram Algorithm

The Instagram algorithm is the technical way that apps like Instagram allow people to see what content is being featured. It will “push” what it believes to be relevant posts to the top, while the other posts get pushed down the feed, therefore having less chance of being seen.

If you stay up to date with algorithm updates, you can learn how/when/where to post in order to get a higher chance of being seen. Working with the algorithm will really help boost your Instagram marketing success.

These algorithms are changing constantly and most of the time these updates are not made visible to the public, so lots of trial and error needs to be done. Fortunately, there are plenty of people out there who will do this for you – it’s your job to research their findings and implement them into your own account.

The 3 main factors that the Instagram algorithm currently takes into account are:

  • Loyalty. If a past user has engaged with your content in the past, it’s more likely they will be shown your Instagram posts.
  • Interest. If your posts are similar to a users interests, they are more likely to see your content featured.
  • Timing. While Instagram has gotten rid of its chronological order, newer posts will be prioritised and pushed to the top over older, “stagnant” posts.

So according to the above, this means you need to be focusing just as much as building relationships with followers/potential followers as well as communicating with relevant brands/people.

You also need to post high-quality content to your Instagram feed and arrange for these to be posted when more people are likely to see them.

How Instagram Models Make Money

Making money on Instagram is fairly simple once you have amassed a decent following. For the successful, a single Instagram post can earn hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Instagram posts need to be regular and often scheduled for a specific time according to the brand’s wishes, so bear this in mind.

You can make money via Instagram in several ways:

Brand deals, or sponsored posts, are very popular; this is when a brand pays you to promote or endorse something, like a product or event. This can range from doing a single Instagram post to doing multiple posts or videos about them.

This can lead to being a brand ambassador, when a brand pays you continuously to promote them over a period of time. A brand ambassador may be expected to turn up to certain events and post regularly about the brand on your Instagram feed. You may also have to do a certain amount of Instagram stories about them. Instagram stories have a swipe-up feature which can link directly to the product.

You can also become an affiliate. An affiliate receives a personalised code from the brand that they can share with followers. If a follower clicks through and purchases something via the code, the affiliate receives a percentage from that purchase.

Another way you can make money with Instagram is by collaborating with other influencers. By working together, you will reach a larger audience which should not only result in more potential sales for the brand, but may give you a spike of followers, too.

Enabling shopping on Instagram is an easy way to make money from things you sell yourself, or link to brands you are advertising. This will enable you to add tags/stickers to your images, so viewers can click through and be taken to a product description page where they can purchase the product.

For example, if you model a bag for the brand Chanel, you can add a product tag to that product. Shopping on Instagram provides your followers with an immersive, hassle-free storefront.

Pro Tip

Remember – each brand agreement and contract is different depending on what the brand wants, so make sure you read it carefully before agreeing or signing anything.

If you have been asked by a brand to take a photo for Instagram posts, you are being paid to post this photo to advertise the brand/product/event to your followers (likely at a time and with a caption specified by the brand). This does not then give the brand the right to re-post your image. Another charge should be requested if the brand intends to use your image for their marketing. Read contracts carefully to avoid hidden agreements, as brands tend to hide this in the small print.

How to Approach Brands

Some Instagram models/social media influencers are lucky and are approached by the brand, however this is usually when they are fairly successful. Most models start out by connecting with brands themselves, whether it’s via an instant message or a more professional email/phone call.

Be sure to approach brands that fit your aesthetic and account (if you’re a fitness model, you’re unlikely to want to promote McDonald’s on your account as your followers will likely be the wrong audience.)

It’s also advisable to take a professional, formal approach. Take the time to find the right person to contact and send them an email/call them. This tends to be seen as far more respectful than quickly sending a misspelt message on Instagram. It shows the brand you are serious and trustworthy.

Don’t pester brands you don’t hear back from – the request will likely go to a busy marketing or social media manager with plenty on their plate! Instead, try to arrange for a phone call to discuss working together. Chase a week later if you hear nothing back, and again a week later. After that, you may have to assume they are not interested.

Don’t take it personally if a brand doesn’t want to work with you, and always leave things polite and formal (in case they change their minds in the future). It’s always a good idea to be polite as you want to be remembered positively.

Create a Media Portfolio/Media Kit

It is worth making a PDF “media portfolio”, aka a media kit, to showcase any information the brand may want; this should include an introduction about yourself, your followers on Instagram (and how fast this is going up, if applicable), how much engagement your photos get, any past deals and endorsements, and your rates.

How Much Money Can Instagram Models Make?

Making money on Instagram shouldn’t be your primary goal (you’ll get bored very quickly), but it is a huge pull to Instagram modelling.

How much money an Instagram model makes varies hugely from person to person. It’s dependent on the number of followers on Instagram, the brands they work/have worked with and how good they are at business deals. Popular influencer Zoella reportedly makes up to £20k for one single Instagram post! Some influencers, particularly those starting out, make around £25 – £100 per featured post.

If you’re just starting out, don’t be greedy. You can’t expect to be paid to promote something when you have 300 followers and no marketing impact. Some social media influencers accept freebies as their payment to begin with, especially if it gets them experience and exposure (and a lovely product or two!)

Once you are confident in your number of followers, however, don’t let brands use you for free; you deserve to be paid. If you are able to show a great return on investment, you will be able to charge more. Make sure you use analytical tools like Google Analytics to regularly track your account’s success.

How to Become an Instagram Model

Building your modelling business requires time, dedication, motivation… and did we mention time? It is a lot of hard work and you need to really think about whether you have the time, patience and drive required to make it a success.

Ideally, posting daily to social media is required to help build your following more quickly. You want to increase your organic influence as much as possible, and this is done with consistent, high-quality posts.

Once you have established a decent following who engage with you, you can post three to four times a week. Many successful social media influencers schedule and prepare their posts well in advance.

Unfortunately, there is no overnight success with Instagram modelling. Be consistent and work hard to do well.

What Not To Do

Don’t let the pressures of Instagram get to you. You might feel pressure to look a certain way, but it’s important to have a healthy mindset. The media can be unforgiving, so ensure you have a strong, positive mentality in order to brush off negativity.

Do encourage post engagement with your followers – you can do this by accompanying the photo with an emotional caption, or asking a question.

Don’t act like a spammer or purchase followers. This can negatively affect your algorithm and also lose your credibility. Asking for followers is also not professional; you need quality followers who will engage with your posts.

Don’t re-gram other people’s photos and videos – use original content that you did yourself. If re-posting someone else’s content, always be sure to ask their permission first and tag them in the post.

And do remember to take time for yourself – it’s easy to get so caught up in posting that you forget to take time away from the media platform and just enjoy yourself! Make sure you have some “me” time away from the phone screen.

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Posted by Melissa Keen

Melissa's experience in the beauty and fashion world as a writer and blogger spans over five years. Her other interests include reading, yoga and music.