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How to make money on Instagram for business & grow your email list

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Figuring out how to make money on Instagram is one of the most common struggles for brands and business owners on the platform.

So why is it so tough to sell on Instagram?

First, Instagram is notoriously difficult to sell on because it only gives you one live link.

That’s the link in your bio.

Because of this, you can’t post an image of your product and put a link in the caption for your followers to click if they want to buy it. You have to send them back to your profile and get them to click the link there. This also prevents you from having multiple links for multiple products.

*Update: Instagram is currently beta testing “shoppable” Instagram profiles with large brands and a large group of small businesses on Shopify. With this feature, users can get more info on the products pictured in your Instagram posts and click on through to the product in your shop where they can buy it.

Shoppable Instagram on Shopify | How to make money on Instagram

“Shoppable” Instagram profiles being beta tested with Shopify stores.

The second reason it can be so tough to sell on Instagram is because most of your Instagram audience is classified as “cold” traffic — meaning you haven’t built up a lot of trust with them.

You might have built some degree of trust with certain users depending on how well you’ve catered to your audience… But in general, you need to get more personal with your followers before you can successfully ask for the sale.

Here’s an interesting statistic for you:

The average customer needs to see a product 5 to 7 times before they buy.

If you don’t consider yourself a salesperson, and you’re not used to selling to your audience, you might have tried promoting your product once or twice and then give up. Because when you put yourself out there and nobody buys from you, it can be incredibly discouraging.

Trust me, I know from personal experience.

On the other end of the spectrum:

If you promote too much or in the wrong way to your Instagram audience, you’re going to end up having a bunch of people unfollow you instead of a surge in sales.

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So what exactly is the RIGHT approach to making money on Instagram?

The MOST successful way to do this is NOT to sell to your Instagram audience DIRECTLYInstead you should be getting your followers onto your email list first.

Why you need an email list to make money on Instagram

Why You Need an Email List to Make Money on Instagram

The purpose of your email list is to build trust and establish a good relationship with each individual subscriber. You need to take your cold Instagram followers and turn them into warm email subscribers — and THEN offer them your amazing products.

You provide value to your audience on Instagram by posting lots of amazing photos, and that’s a great first step. But you’ll take things a step further with your email subscribers.

Your success rate generally tends to go through the roof when you do this, whereas selling directly to your Instagram audience right on Instagram is usually met with mediocre results.

This is especially true if you’re selling a more expensive product.

If you sell something inexpensive that could potentially be considered an impulse buy, you might get away with selling directly to your audience. Might.

But if your product is more expensive you’re going to need to build up that trust to get people to part with their cold hard cash.

Related Post: How to Create a Passive Income Stream Selling T-Shirts on Instagram

How to start your email list & make money on Instagram

How to Start Your Email List

In order to get started, you’ll need to get hooked up with an email service provider:

I personally love and use Convertkit for my business. Convertkit is an email marketing platform designed by bloggers for bloggers, so it has all the essential features you’ll need and none of the extra confusion that other email platforms are known for (I’m looking at you MailChimp!).

Convertkit makes emailing your list SUPER simple and foolproof. It has personally saved me hundreds of hours since I don’t have to spend hours fiddling with complicated settings.

Convertkit is super affordable, starting at only $29 per month for up to 1,000 subscribers. Plus you can test it out for free with a 14-day trial when you sign up using my link.

In order to get your Instagram followers to sign up for your email list, you’ll need to offer them some incentive.

Offer an Incentive to Get Your Instagram Followers to Sign up for Your Email List

Email incentive | How to make money on Instagram for your business

One of my free incentive downloads that I offer in exchange for signing up for my list.

This could be a free cheat sheet, short email course, discount, ebook, etc.

When you’re determining what to offer as a freebie, you want to ask yourself a few questions about your target audience:

What are they struggling with?

What do they want to achieve?

How can you help them get one step closer to achieving their goal?

If you can take that information and create something to help the members of your audience to get a quick win, they’re going to love you for it.


You’ll have droves of followers signing up to get it, and your email list will grow at a rapid pace!

Convertkit is great because it gives you the option to send your incentive download directly to new subscribers immediately after they sign up for your email list. This is a SUPER useful feature that I use all the time!

You’ll need to set up a sign-up form or landing page with your email service provider, where your followers can opt in to your list (Convertkit has some easily customizable forms and landing pages you can tweak inside your account).

Once you’ve done that you should be ready to share your free incentive with your Instagram audience!

How to Make Money on Instagram Promoting to Your Audience

Before you start promoting to your Instagram audience you’ll need to set up your bio link with the URL that leads to your landing page or sign-up form.

If your link is really long you can use or Pretty Link (a WordPress plugin) to shorten and clean up that link. It’ll look cleaner and nicer to your audience.

Shortened Instagram bio link | How to make money on Instagram for business

My bio link: short and sweet.

Once your link is ready to go, don’t forget to write a short call to action in your bio description to get your followers to click.

Your followers aren’t going to click the link if they don’t know what it’s for, so let them know what your freebie is and how to access it.

Promoting Your Incentive in Instagram Posts

Adding a bio link and CTA isn’t enough to get tons of signups to your email list.

You need to promote that baby to your audience!

Promotional posts can be done quite frequently, but don’t leave them up forever or your feed will become cluttered with promotional material.

People follow you for your amazing content, and you want to make sure that’s what potential followers see when they land on your Instagram page.

CTA in bio | How to make money on Instagram for business

*Pro Tip: don’t forget to include a call to action in your caption!

Further Reading: If you have a small audience, you can get your incentive or product in front of larger audiences by doing paid promotions. Check out my blog post on the topic here.

How to make money on Instagram for business

What now? How to Make Money on Instagram by Turning Your Followers into Customers

By now you should have a steady stream of cold Instagram traffic being converted into warm email leads.

It’s your job to continue to provide them extra value through your email list. This could be by sending them to your best blog posts, giving them awesome advice, and offering them discounts and perks.

But the nuances of good email marketing go beyond the scope of this article.

If you’re new to the email game and are wondering where to start, I suggest you check out this article by email marketing specialist Meera Kothand: 9 Pro-Tips to Create a Killer Email Marketing Strategy.

When the time is right and you’ve managed to establish a strong relationship with your subscribers, you can go ahead and offer them your product!

Instagram is a great platform and a great tool for building up an audience, but it isn’t the best one to sell directly to your audience on.

By using this process you’ll take the audience you’ve built, establish a great relationship with them by providing value, and ultimately turn your Instagram followers into paying customers.

If you’ve done everything right and built up enough trust, you should see an enthusiastic response from your email audience which translates into making money on Instagram, albeit indirectly.

Get My Instagram Growth eBook for 50% Off!

You’ll get instant access to the top 5 most effective strategies for growing your Instagram following from scratch — the EXACT strategies I used to grow my Instagram audience to over 100k followers in under a year.

Grab your copy of the Complete Guide to Instagram Growth

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