The Steps to Becoming a Professional Instagrammer

Some Instagram power users have amassed a small fortune by acquiring a lot of followers. So should you quit your day job and dedicate the entire week to selfies and food pics?

Instagram has over 400 million monthly active users and counting¹, and they are the leading social platform for young consumers from ages 12 to 24.² Last year Instagram ads pulled in $750 million and experts estimate that it will be $3.2 billion by the end of 2016.³ Advertisers know that a person with over 100,000 followers reaches more people than any other type of traditional campaign.⁴ Some brands approach multiple influencers at a time with products so that it feels like a trend.

Yes it is possible to become a professional Instagrammer who may or may not make one to 43,000 dollars per month, plus fringe benefits such as press trips to exotic locations and “free” designer merchandise.⁵ But in most cases it is wrapped up into a larger online presence heightened by razor sharp business acumen. Consider if you will the following useful qualitative and quantitative data relevant to the emerging career field.

Step 1) Create an Instagram account

For the purposes of becoming Internet famous, we have to exclude anyone one who counts as a real celebrity, because they have an unfair advantage of being discussed regularly by all the major media outlets. This includes successful television personalities, actors and actresses, recording artists and professional athletes. Probably the President of the United States as well, and any royal families. These people will fall into a category called “celebrities.” (See the infographic below.)

The remaining Instagram users with a lot of followers can be considered “Instagram Almost Famous.” How did they do it? Many of them happened to be in the right place in the right time — that is 2010 with an iPhone when Instagram first came out, plus an eye for detail and an appealing theme. Travel photographers Cole Rise (@colerise) and Liz Eswein (@NewYorkCity) fall in this category, and they have roughly a million followers each. Rise designed the original Instagram logo, in addition to some of the filters.⁶ Other pro-Instagrammers include Myha Luong (@lovely.mimi), a Capital Heights, Md., manicurist who went from one to 759,000 followers in less than a year after signing up in 2015.⁷

Step 2) Attract at least 10,000 followers

In order to be considered an Instagram influencer you must have at least 10,000 followers, and this is the bare minimum for extra bonuses such as complimentary merch from the occasional promoter. Coincidentally this also the amount of followers that a model has to have in order to get booked these days. Models with this so-called social capital are more valuable to modeling agencies.⁸

Remember there are over 400 million active monthly Instagram users. Socialblade provides a list of the Top 100 Instagram Users by Followers that is regularly updated.⁹ Of the 100 most popular accounts on Instagram, the follow count ranges from 9,941,991 million to 75,021,207 million followers on Instagram, or about ten million to 75 million followers. The most followed person as of this post is Selena Gomez. (Note that @instagram has over 151 million followers, but that we are not counting them.) About 75% of regular Instagram users live outside the US.

Of the top 100 users, only five can be considered what we call Internet famous. Leading by far is @9gag, a social media website founded by four Hong Kong businessmen that I only recently heard about because I am over 24 years old. It is a humor oriented feed with the occasional shameless food or cute animal picture, geared toward people that are still in school. They have more than 29 million followers.

The second most Internet famous person on Instagram is Dan Bilzerian (@danbilzerian), a professional poker player/social media personality with over 16.6 million followers. It is a hedonistic feed of expensive vehicles, vacations and sexual exploits with high class call girls.

Zach King (@zachking) is a 26 year old film maker who gained notoriety from his 6-second Vine videos that made it look like he was doing magic. His Instagram is pretty much the same thing, and it has over 13 million followers. He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife.

Next is Huda Kattan (@hudabeauty), a make-up artist and beauty blogger based in the United Arab Emirates, and the only woman in the top 100 at 12.2 million followers. Her make-up line Huda Beauty is used by Kim Kardashian, ironically the sixth most famous person on Instagram with over 67 million followers, who was named the Best Instagram Account by Rolling Stone.¹°

Cameron Dallas (@camerondallas), who has 11.4 million followers on Instagram, also rose to fame using the app Vine. He has a funny Justin Bieber thing going on, and has appeared in four movies since 2014.

There is no right way to attract over 10,000 followers on Instagram, and someone could invent a new way at any moment. Generally it helps to use basic photography techniques, and edit the image in a way that makes the colors really pop. Consider a niche theme such as cute animals, foodie, travel blogger, comedian, video game geek, eccentric artist, rich person, glamour model or hippie stoner.

steps to becoming a professional instagrammer

Step 3) Convince people to give you stuff

Once you have a large following more people will be interested in appearing in your Instagram feed, or interacting with you online. One blogger from the Guardian reports that she receives so many packages in the mail that she has been stressed out because there is no way to incorporate it all into her feed. If she does not return the unused gifts at her own expense then she risks ruining her reputation.

Last year Netflix announced they were hiring a professional Instagrammer onto their staff.¹¹ Other companies depend on their social media manager or outside agencies. If you want one of these jobs then it would help immensely to have a sizeable social network.

Step 4) Profit

Instagram has the highest engagement rate of any social media platform, and there are no funny algorithms, banner ads or links to interrupt the user experience. This makes it a powerful direct marketing tool. Over 60% of Instagram users surveyed said they use it to learn about products and services. And 75% said they would consider taking an action such as visiting a website to go shopping.

In addition to product placements, pro-Instagrammers can make money through commissions from links in their blog, public appearances, and anything else a creative public representation professional can imagine. Like any business person, they do have expenses, such as professional photography equipment, three staged restaurant meals per day and organic food for their adorable pets.


Have you ever looked at someone’s Instagram feed, and wondered how the hell they have time to do all of this stuff? It may be because someone is paying them cash money to do it. To answer my earlier question, I would not quit your job just yet, but do continue putting effort into your social media feeds.



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Posted by blackbettyblog

Elizabeth de Moya has a BA in Linguistics from UC Berkeley. She has contributed to DJ Mag, DJ TechTools, LA Weekly and Thump (Vice). Check out the new women's street fashion and music blog for people that love EDM and music festivals:!

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