- Content creators can earn money in many ways.
- From partnering with brands to teaching online courses, creators can build multiple income streams.
- Insider spoke with influencers about how to make money as a creator on social media.
In the past few years, earning money as a content creator and building an influencer career have become more accessible.
Creators on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are now earning six figures or more annually through a variety of income streams.
How much creators earn can depend on factors like follower count, audience engagement, and type of content they post. But it’s now possible for creators with smaller followings to make consistent and lucrative income by building a personal brand on social media. And as the creator economy has matured, the ways influencers can make money have multiplied.
Personal finance YouTuber Reni Odetoyinbo, for example, has built seven income streams with just 19,000 YouTube subscribers, and has made up to $34,000 a month throughout 2022. (Read more about how she built her business.)
Here are 11 common ways influencers earn money, based on conversations with dozens of industry insiders.
Partnering with brands for sponsored content is the most widespread way for creators to make money.
Depending on the size and engagement of an influencer’s following, they can get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars (or even millions) to advertise products or services.
But it’s not just influencers with millions of followers who can monetize their content this way.
Micro influencers — those with less than 100,000 followers — can be especially appealing for companies, as they often appear more authentic, have more engaged audiences, and tend to charge less for partnerships.
Here’s how much influencers earn from brand partnerships on different platforms:
- How much 13 TikTokers make from brand partnerships and what they charge per post
- How much 11 Instagram micro influencers earn from brand deals
- Tej Patel, a TikTok creator with 55,000 followers, shares how much he makes from three income streams
- Kirsty Ip, an Instagram influencer with 42,000 Instagram, breaks down what she earns
- John Seaton, a college football player and TikTok creator with 2 million followers, shares what he makes from NIL brand deals
- Nate White, a fashion TikTok creator with 1.8 million followers, reveals how much he’s made from brand deals in 2022
- Joel Bervell, a med student and TikTok creator, explains how he makes six figures from brand deals
With affiliate marketing, creators can earn a cut of the sales of certain products.
When signing up for an affiliate program, the creator generally receives a personalized link. They then get a percentage of each sale that is driven through the link. The percentages vary based on product type and program.
Some of the most popular affiliate programs include Amazon, LTK (formerly known as RewardStyle), and ShareASale. (Read more about the top affiliate programs for influencers.)
Here’s how much creators have made through affiliate marketing:
Starting a course can be a way for creators to supplement their income by sharing their knowledge of a specific field or industry.
When pre-recorded, courses can also become a source of passive income.
Some creators also update and strategically time the launches of updated versions of their courses to generate more interest among their audience.
“The idea of doing launches, instead of an evergreen model where it’s always available, is that you are creating scarcity,” said Catarina Mello, a travel influencer who made over $1 million in course sales. (Read more about Mello’s business.)
Here’s how much creators have made through online courses:
When it makes sense for their brand and there’s interest from their audience, some creators turn to making products.
This can mean merchandise — personalized branded items, usually apparel that can range from hoodies to plush toys — but also other types of physical products that fit within a creator’s personal brand.
For example, Aisha Beau Frisbey, a full-time lifestyle content creator with 36,000 Instagram followers, recently launched a deck of affirmation cards. Emma Downer, a DIY creator with 340,000 TikTok followers, is also working on a line of products that relate to her content niche, to release next year.
Here’s how much creators have earned from products:
YouTube ad revenue
When a creator posts longform videos on YouTube, they can become eligible to earn a cut of the revenue from the advertisements that appear before and during their videos.
YouTube creators can monetize their content through Google-placed ads on their videos when they join the YouTube Partner Program, or YPP.
To qualify for the program, they must reach 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time on their longform videos. Then, they earn 55% of revenue from ads placed on their videos, with YouTube keeping 45%.
Starting in 2023, creators who reach 10 million views in 90 days on Shorts — YouTube’s short-form video offering — as well as 1,000 subscribers will also be able to join the Partner Program.
Here’s how much YouTubers earn from advertisements on their videos:
For a full look of how much YouTubers make, read Insider’s YouTube money logs series.
Platform creator funds and bonuses
Several platforms offers bonuses or “creator funds” that pay influencers money for the views they receive on their content, primarily short-form videos.
Some of these programs include a bonus that pays creators for views on Instagram Reels, the platform’s short-form video offering, and another one for Reels on Facebook. Similar programs also exist on YouTube and TikTok.
While some have expressed frustration at these types of funds paying very little money, being an unreliable income stream, or being unavailable in many countries, they can be a simple way for creators to monetize their high-performing content.
Here’s how much creators have earned from platform bonuses and funds:
As companies and brands recognize the power of having a social-media presence, they are increasingly looking to gain expertise on how to leverage social media from the influencers themselves.
This can become a valuable income stream for creators, who get paid by companies to provide support as consultants or advisors.
Here’s how much creators have earned consulting for companies:
‘User-generated content’ (UGC) ads
In recent months, the immense growth of TikTok has led to a newfound interest from brands in acquiring the rights to “user-generated content” that they can repost on their social channels or use for paid advertisements.
UGC can be a lucrative income stream for creators who have expertise in crafting content, but don’t have the following to land big brand deals, or don’t want to flood their audience with sponsored content. In fact, some brands prefer creators with small followings because their content costs less and feels more authentic.
Unlike sponsored content that gets posted on a creator’s personal page, this UGC is used on the brands’ channels.
Here’s how much creators have made creating user-generated content for brands:
The messaging app Snapchat announced Lens Studio at the end of 2017, which enables Snapchat creators to make augmented reality lenses for the app for free.
Some creators are building careers by focusing not on posting content, but on making tools others can use to help power virtual experiences. Creators can earn money by creating branded augmented reality lenses that others can use on Snapchat.
Here’s how much creators have earned building AR lenses:
Some creators receive a payment when they are invited to events or conferences to speak, both virtually and in person.
DIY creator Emma Downer said she has been invited to speak publicly about how DIY can improve people’s ability to problem-solve and build a sense of personal autonomy, as well as how to use TikTok effectively, both for paid and unpaid opportunities.
Here’s how much creators earn from speaking engagements:
One way for creators to have a consistent income stream is to use subscription models where fans can pay to access exclusive content.
One of the most popular platforms to publish subscription content is Patreon — but there are many other ones like Fanfix, Fanvue, Fourthwall, or OnlyFans. Some creators even build their own websites to host exclusive content.
Subscription platform OnlyFans has become prominent among adult content creators, some of whom have become millionaires thanks to their presence on the platform. (Read more about how 4 OnlyFans stars have made over $1 million each.)