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How Influencers Make Money Online

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Before we can get into how to support a blogger or influencer as a virtual assistant, it’s important to understand exactly how the influencer world works. By now, you’re probably very familiar with social media and the many platforms that are available to use like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube. The influencer industry as we know it today was born in 2002, originally with the concept of mommy blogs. Fast forward to what it is today and it’s now an estimated $13.8 billion dollar industry. And with all those zeros, many people wonder where the money comes from and how it’s made. Well today I’m breaking down how influencers make money online and create 6 or 7-figure businesses online.

How Influencers Make Money Online

Affiliate Income

The answer to how influencers make money online is actually pretty simple when you break it down. There are two main ways influencers make money. The first and most common way is through affiliate income. This means that you have a specific link that you can share from a retailer. Then when someone purchases through your link, you receive a small commission for that sale.

For instance, you may see a link that your favorite blogger shares for a top she is wearing. If you purchase through her link, she receives a payout for a small commission. If it’s a $20 top, she could receive anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars. This may seem insignificant, but that’s why it’s important. You don’t have to have a large audience per say. What’s crucial is to have an engaged audience that will convert into sales.

Different Affiliate Platforms

There are various platforms that you can sign up for to become an affiliate. You’re probably most familiar with LTK, formerly known as LiketoKnow.it, or ShopStyle. What’s unique about these two platforms is that they offer many brands under one umbrella. This makes it easier for the influencer to track their sales on one central platform. The only downfall to these affiliate programs like these is that they take a piece of the commission as they too are running a business.

Aside from LTK and ShopStyle, you’ve probably seen your favorite blogger share different items from their Amazon Shop, which is another type of affiliate program. This means they are a direct affiliate for Amazon. You’d be surprised just how many retailers, programs and services offer their own affiliate programs! Usually if you’re a direct affiliate for a product or service, the commission payout is higher than through LTK or ShopStyle. However, this can get complicated from the backend side of things and is sometimes easier to just use one platform like LTK to track your affiliate links in one place.

how influencers make money online

Brand Partnerships

The nex most common way influencers generate revenue is through brand partnerships, also referred to as collaborations or collabs. If you’ve ever seen an influencer share a try-on haul, and they have the #ad in the caption or on the video, this means that they received a set monetary amount of money for sharing about that brand.

Collaborations can vary in dollar amount depending on a variety of factors like:

  • Objective of the campaign for the brand
  • Influencer audience size and engagement rates
  • Partnership history with the brand: has the influencer worked with the brand before? If they have, did they produce optimal return on investment in the last campaign?
  • Length of the collaboration
  • Number of deliverables requested by the brand

All of these factors play a role in the compensation the influencer receives, which can range from $500 to $15,000+.

Collaborations Should Be Mutually Beneficial

While some brands are more specific about their campaigns than others, the best collaborations are the ones that feel natural for the brand and the influencer.

If an influencer consistently shares their love for Nordstrom and that influencer’s audience loves shopping at Nordstrom, then a paid collaboration for Nordstrom’s Black Friday Sale would likely produce optimal results. Because Nordstrom aligns well with the influencer’s brand and that brand resonates well with the influencer’s audience, then that collaboration produced a great return for both parties. However, if an influencer has never shopped at that retailer and has never used their products, this likely won’t resonate with the influencer’s audience.

Years in the Making for Steady Income

While some people may feel a little weird about an influencer getting paid to chat about a brand they love and use, you have think about it from certain perspective. How many products, gifts, tips and tricks have you used in your own life that you saw on the internet? Just looking around my house, I can spot dozens of things that I saw online, purchased and love, all because of the power of social media.

Influencers work extremely hard to produce consistent content that is in line with the interests of their audience. It’s easy to look at an influencer who has been doing this for 5+ years, and wonder how they have such a large audience or how they’re making 6 or 7 figures. But what a lot of people don’t see is the grunt work that goes into that success. Most influencers work a few years building their community before ever getting paid, or getting paid very little through affiliate commission, to prove they’re a valued and trusted resource.

I can think of very few jobs that require you to show up every day, no matter what, with super consistent content and have a pulse on their audience’s interests.

Product Lines or Services

Eventually you may also see influencers branch out into their own product lines or services as a way to diversify their revenue streams and also serve their audience in a new way! This could be a set of digital presets for photos, or create a line of cute sweatshirts or coffee mugs. The more in tune an influencer is with their audience, the better they’ll be able to serve them content and products that they’ll love and use.

But I want you to remember that you don’t have to be an influencer with 100k followers to make money online. It’s about how engaged your audience is and how well your audience converts sales.

I hope you enjoyed this insider’s peek into how influencers actually make money online. Be on the lookout this Thursday for an extra special bonus episode, as a little Thanksgiving gift from me to you! And next week, we are diving into all the ways that a virtual assistant can support a blogger or influencer and what that looks like tactically. 

Until next time friends! Let’s be BOLD, together!

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I'm Amanda,
your new get-a-grip friend.

I'm a Southern girl with big-city sensibilities. You likely won't hear me saying "ya'll" but I do believe in Southern Hospitality. Most days I've got a baby on my hip and a quickly melting iced coffee in hand. I believe in building the life you want, one actionable step at a time. 

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