Maja Topcagic

This Is How You Turn Your Instagram Selfies Into A Full-Time Job

If you're like me, you probably spend way too much time on Instagram. Whether I'm filtering my latest picture or scrolling down my feed, I spend a good chunk of my time every day on this social media site.

What if I were to tell you you could make some extra cash off your Instagram account? I'm dead serious. There are major brands out there that would kill to post your images and collaborate with you. You just have to know the right steps in order to make this happen.

I've worked with many Fortune 500 brands to solidify their Instagram strategies, and I'm here to let you in on some secrets to getting discovered by these major brands. It's not just big companies, though.

There are medium and small-sized businesses that are clamoring for your content as well. They also want to get their products in front of your audience.

Brands are paying Instagram star, "The Fat Jew," $6,000 for a shout out in his photos. The food entrepreneur, @inspiralized, makes $70 k per year off Instagram. What's holding you back?

If you truly love Instagram and consider yourself talented, follow the steps below in order to start making some cash:

1. Compelling Content

This seems straightforward and obvious, but quality content that people appreciate is the foundation behind a successful Instagram strategy. Your pictures have to stand out amongst a crowded field.

Go back through your history of pictures and identify which images received the most likes and comments. You will start to identify trends that will help further increase your engagement.

Spend an hour at a coffee shop, and plan out your upcoming Instagram posts. Creating a game plan for your social media pictures can lead to much better content.

Tip: Invest in a DSLR camera. Even though iPhones can take great pictures, investing in a DSLR will take your Instagram game to the next level.

2. Engagement

Too often, Instagram users post great pictures. But then, they forget one of the main fundamentals of social media: interacting with others. If you're a photographer and take amazing pictures of American flags, interact with other people who are using hashtags like #America and #USA.

There is no foul in engaging with strangers, especially when they could be your potential customers or most valued followers. This will build your audience and engagement, as well as carve a niche within the sector you're looking to get into. It will also make using Instagram more fun, as you'll start to build friendships and relationships with other users.

Tip: In order to get noticed by brands, you will want to surpass 10,000 followers. Engaging in content is a great way to grow your following. This takes time and dedication though, so plan to spend between an hour or two per day not only coming up with great posts, but also interacting and engaging with other users.

3. Proper Tags

Everybody knows hashtags can generate more exposure for your Instagram posts. I think few people actually realize how vital hashtags are when it comes to growing one's following and connecting with like-minded users. A lot of brands find influencers by searching for hashtags related to their brand, and a lot of users search for new content and accounts to follow in the same way.

Be very strategic with the hashtags you select. Make sure to tag the different products you're repping in your picture. If you're wearing Nike shoes, tag the brand. If you have a Herschel bag, tag it. Tag your location, and use hyperlocal hashtags so that you can connect with others in the same market.

If your pictures are outstanding, brands will notice and potentially get back to you. Don't be afraid to overuse hashtags. Be creative and think of as many relevant ones as you can.

Tip: After you tag a company in a picture, reach out to said company via direct message. Someone checks that inbox, so make sure you let the company know you've tagged it and are promoting it. If you're selling a good story, someone will buy it.

4. Your Personal Brand

It's important to know your worth. If you have 30,000 Instagram followers, do your research to find out which brands would be willing to pay for you to post to your social following. Could you try and package a deal to get more money for a series of five posts? This is your time to be business savvy.

So many influencers I reach out to have awesome media kits that allow me to learn about both their personal brands and pricing. This instantly tells me they have their sh*t together. It also tells me about the other brands they've worked with, along with their success stories.

Start viewing yourself as a brand, and make sure you're prepared when someone wants to align with you.

5. Free Of Charge

If you've never aligned yourself with a brand before, try offering your Instagram skills for free in order to build your portfolio. If there's a local taco shop that has an awesome vibe, see if it'll let you and your friends eat for free if each person shares a cool picture from dinner and tags the location. Having past experiences with other brands and knowing how to pitch to a company will help you start to make money off Instagram.

Tip: Instead of asking for money when you first start out, ask for testimonials about the services and value you provided. These will be very valuable once you do start asking people to pay you for your services.

6. A Diverse Portfolio

According to Hootsuite, people share 70 million photos per day on Instagram. Only 8.93 percent of the posts on Instagram are videos.

If you have the ability to shoot and edit quality video, you instantly separate yourself from the competition. Additionally, if you have over 3 million YouTube views outside of Instagram, your value is immensely greater to any company.

With Instagram, imagery will likely be your main focus. Don't forget about other channels, though. A diverse portfolio is the best long-term play.