How To Make Instagram Your Side Hustle

As today's most successful Instagram Influencers have shown, if you devote your days, nights, and entire career to the platform, you have the potential to make millions. But even if you've got a day job to pay most of your bills, with a little know-how, you can successfully turn the photo-sharing app into your side hustle. The trick: knowing how to make your account stand out from the crowd. "You need to define who you are and what you're looking to do," says Erica Domesek, an Instagram influencer and the founder of lifestyle brand P.S. — I Made This… It also helps to know which apps to use to monetize your photos. Whether you choose to put in the time on weekends, or before or after your weekday gig, here's how to be a savvy 'grammer and make some spare cash.

Find Your Niche

There are many strong Instagram accounts, so it's vital that you distinguish yours through your voice and your photos. "It's important to think about a point of view," says Evan Asano, founder and CEO of the influencer marketing agency, Mediakix. "What are you sharing about, and why do people want to follow you?" Asano recommends looking at other accounts for inspiration and, when you do figure out what your unique take on fashion or food or travel is, be sure to engage with your audience. Comment on other people's accounts and respond to comments on your photos. The more you can interact and treat Instagram as a community rather than just a business, the better, Asano says.

Make Your Pics Strong

You don't have to shell out tons of cash for expensive camera equipment — many Instagram influencers use only their smartphones. However, editing your photos can play a key role in how much attention they get. Two of the most popular editing apps are Snapseed and VSCO, both of which offer unique, high-quality filters. Snapseed also includes professional-level tools, including one that lets you adjust the brightness in specific parts of the photo. Instagram influencer Sam Ushiro of @aww.sam uses VSCO to plan out her Instagram grid ahead of time so that she can colour coordinate and see how her photos look when grouped together.

Tag & Hashtag Like A Pro

While it's always a good idea to include some popular hashtags on your posts, it's also smart to add less popular ones. Your post can get buried beneath others that feature the common hashtags, but it will stand out more with a unique identifier, says Jessica Hirsch of the Instagram account @cheatdayeats. Iconosquare is a great place to get more data on which hashtags are up-and-coming and already trending. Your tags can also earn you money. By linking your account to Like To Know It, or by downloading the Cosign app, you can earn money when followers buy something that you've featured in a photo.

Reach Out To Brands

In an ideal world, brands will come to you with great opportunities for featuring their products in your posts. But, since you usually have to develop a strong following before a brand will take notice, it's worth it to start doing the legwork yourself. Even though she has 178,000 followers, Hirsch says that she still finds herself reaching out to brands. "There are so many people on Instagram that sometimes, a brand might not see you," Hirsch says. "You want to let people know that you're willing to work and want to work with them." The app Popular Pays is a great place to start. Brands such as Nike, Google, and Starbucks will post different jobs, and you can apply directly through the app to create content. Best of all: It's totally free. Even if you don't get accepted for a job, you won't lose money applying, and can apply to as many opportunities as possible.

Sell Your Photos

If you're less interested in going the Influencer route (i.e., representing brands with sponsored posts) and would prefer to sell your photos, you're in luck. There are lots of great apps that make it easy to upload and sell your photos for use by others as stock photography. A few commonly used ones to try are FOAP, where you'll make $5 (£3.50) for every photo sold; Twenty20, where you earn a full or partial commission for each photo; and Snapwire, where you can earn money through photo challenges and direct sales.

Anything better than super mini emoji food beads? Nope! ??????

A photo posted by @psimadethis (@psimadethis) on

The Bottom Line

The best part of Instagram is that you don't need to have photo cred already to find success. "You never know who's going to see your photo," Domesek says. "In the world of hashtags, we end up finding random people's pictures. It doesn't matter if you have a million followers or not." So, what are you waiting for? Tap into your creative side, and who knows — your side hustle could someday turn into a full-time job.

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