Instagram has more than 800 million users, but not all of them have figured out how to make money from their feeds.
However, Viktoria Altman, the blogger behind TravelTipster, is a social media maven who has cracked the code. Since she started using her Instagram for business purposes in late 2016, Altman has built a following of over 33,000 fans by sharing breathtaking images from around the globe.
I spoke with Altman to learn how she turned her love for travel and photography into a source of income (which, by the way, brings in over $1,000 per month).
Here’s how Altman earns money from her travel photos, along with her advice for aspiring Instagram influencers looking to follow in her well-traveled footsteps.
1. Capture your passion with quality photos and equipment
One of the best day trips from Madrid is a visit to the Escorial Monastery, easily accessible by public transport. This huge palace is reminiscent of Hogwarts and even has an on premise elementary school, so the illusion is complete. Wander the grand halls and gardens to witness the place that was a seat of power and glory during the Spanish Renaissance. The library here boasts 4,700 manuscripts and 40,000 printed books, one of my favorite rooms. We were lucky to visit when the weather wasn’t great, lucky because we almost had the whole palace to ourselves, rarely encountering another wanderer in the great rooms. The security here is very strict about the no pictures rule, although truth be told I did sneak in a few. When you walk downstairs watch out for the ghosts – many famous notables rest here, and some, its so told, wander the halls. 🙂
These days, Altman works full time on her blog and Instagram feed. She also deals with other platforms, including Pinterest and Facebook.
But Altman didn’t start out as a blogger. She began as a full-time traveler.
“The more places I visited, the more inspired I felt to try and create something that would help me preserve memories and help others to create their own experiences,” said Altman.
She initially took pictures with her cellphone. But in November 2016 she decided to take her photography up a notch to produce exceptional images for Instagram.
“Start with buying a good DSLR [digital single-lens reflex camera] and a starter lens,” she advised.
Now Altman uses her website and Instagram to inspire others and help travelers build their own adventures.
“I provide lots of travel tips, talk about places to visit in a location, how to save money, and how to get the most out of the experience,” said Altman.
Focusing on practical tips also helped her stand out in the travel blogging and Instagram world.
“Having a unique voice [on] Instagram and [in the] blogosphere is very important to grow your following,” she said.
By choosing a field you’re passionate about — whether it’s travel, fitness, food, or whatever else — you’ll be more likely to add value and a unique perspective.
2. Boost your photography skills with free online courses
Of course, Instagram isn’t just about the information you can provide. It’s primarily about the quality of your images. That’s why Altman made it a priority to improve her skills as a photographer.
Once you’ve secured the right equipment, take advantage of free online tutorials to sharpen your skills.
“There are a million free videos on YouTube, and the best way to learn, I find, is to watch the videos about photography and then practice on your own,” she said. “Same works for Photoshop and Lightroom. There is a learning curve, but it’s very doable without any expensive classes.”
Altman has also improved her photography skills by taking advantage of the “social” part of social media.
“I have been able to make friends with great photographers through Instagram and Vero,” she said. “I often ask them for advice.”
Without standout photography skills, you’ll be hard-pressed to succeed as an Instagram influencer.
“It’s a very competitive world,” said Altman. “Making a living as an Instagram influencer means you need to constantly work hard on yourself and your skills.”
3. Find your tribe and engage with them
I am currently in the beautiful Antigua. For my in the moment adventures please be sure to check my stories, and check back here shortly for pictures. This elephant family in Tanzania got very protective of the baby the moment I approached. Can’t blame them. She does look quite cozy in there, doesn’t she? #elephants #baby #traveltips #travelwriter #traveltipster
Along with mastering the art of photography, you must also grow your following and boost engagement.
“Instagram has always been about community, and by finding a group of like-minded people whose work you admire you can help yourself grow,” said Altman. “I am networking with many big landscape photographers who also follow me and comment on my pictures. This means the Instagram algorithm favors me and helps me grow faster.”
Along with growing your following, you should also focus on building engagement. This could mean following other Instagram users or responding to any comments left on your photos.
“You would start to create your Instagram family by following bloggers whose work you admire, commenting on their pictures, and building a relationship,” said Altman. “Building a genuine community is the No. 1 step to becoming a professional Instagram influencer.”
4. Collaborate with companies offering products you’d use
You don’t need thousands of likes per picture to monetize your Instagram feed, Altman said. She said clients will start to approach you once you steadily have about 700 to 1,000 likes per picture.
Of course, you can also reach out to them when you’re ready.
“Every brand has a PR team,” said Altman. “Send them an email, tell them you love their product, [but] only approach companies you would genuinely use.”
Some clients will give you products in exchange for a post, while others will pay you for a campaign.
“On average, an Instagrammer with 30,000 followers and a strong blog can expect to make $500 to $3,500 a month depending on the month,” said Altman. “An average campaign probably brings in about $1,000 for an Instagrammer of my size.”
5. ‘Under promise and over deliver’ for your clients
One of my favorite things on a trip is running into people who can educate me on the local culture and history. I always get super lucky and meet people like that on almost every trip. I met some amazing people in Bali, but the one who probably educated me the most on my host country is my Ubud based driver Nick @sumartawatoetnick. He knew some really cool hidden spots, such as the rice fields nobody visits – as opposed to the paid rice fields full of tourists. He was very patient with all my photography and helped me get this shot. In addition, his fantastic English and patience allowed me to ask my million and one question about the Balinese people. One thing I learned which I did not expect – Balinese (who are Hindu, a religion they share with many Indian people) all believe there is only one god. All the gods they refer to are actually “manifestations” of the same god, the same god of all the other big religions. The way Nick explained it to me, right now I am a driver but when I get home I’ll be a husband and I’ll also be a father. I am still one person but I can perform many different functions and go by many different names. This made so much sense, and I found the thought comforting somehow. If you’d like to hire Nick as a driver while you are in Bali I am happy to give you his whatsapp (just dm me) or you can dm him directly via his insta. He and his wife also run a cute little hostel in Ubud, so if you are looking for affordable accommodations you can get in touch with him for that as well. #bali #theglobewanderer #eclectic_shotz #visualambassadors #theimaged #thegramslayers #beautifuldestinations #travelingthroughtheworld #thediscoverer #wonderful_places #igtones #wanderlust #luxurytravel #luxury #familytravel #bali #sheisnotlost #dametraveller #girlslovetravel #womenwhoexplore
Once you start getting clients, Altman said it’s important to “under promise and over deliver.”
“If a client asks for three Instagram posts, I try to deliver four,” she said. “If a client asks for just one article, I try to add one more as a guest post on a different blog.”
The world of Instagram influencers is a competitive one. By exceeding clients’ expectations, Altman ensures they keep coming back. And a happy client can turn into a source of referral.
“Make the work great, put your heart and soul into it — and they’ll be back and refer others,” said Altman.
She also said you can’t expect to score lots of clients right away. Building a customer base takes time, so be patient. If you keep at it, you can make money doing what you love.
6. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new platforms
Rather than sticking solely to Instagram, Altman said it helps to also create blog posts, Pinterest images, and YouTube videos. Building up several sources of influence will help you bring in the most income from your online business.
Additionally, Instagram influencers should also be on the lookout for the next great platform.
“Everyone knows that Instagram is huge,” she said. “But consumers can change their habits. Remember Myspace?”
For her part, Altman has been experimenting with the social network Vero. Since it’s still fairly small, she feels she can score big clients by getting in on the ground floor.
“Be open to new media,” Altman advised. “Instagram users who got on Instagram at the very beginning had a huge advantage. I am always looking for new networks and trying new things.”
So while there are tried-and-true ways to get big on Instagram — great photography and engaging with your community being two of them — you also can’t be afraid to experiment.
By trying new things, you can carve your own niche in the Instagram influencer space. What’s more, you can turn your passion into a lucrative job that brings in hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per month.
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