How Do Influencers Make Money?

I hope it’s no surprise to anyone anymore that influencers make money from their work and some of us make A LOT! But probably not many in the public know the different ways we make that money.

I remember a time when the term “influencer” didn’t exist. There were only bloggers. And when “influencing” became a thing, it also very quickly became a bad word thanks to some ill-behaving individuals and social media accounts that were exposing that behavior to the world. You can absolutely see the best and the worst in humanity, and everything in between, when it comes to social media influencers but what’s undeniable is the existence of the industry and the fact that people make a full-time living out of it – and then some.

It is a legitimate business, albeit misunderstood. There are a lot of assumptions about how influencers make money. There are even a lot of influencers who have the wrong or incomplete picture of how they could be making money. I will break those down for you. Feel free to add to it in the comments with any additional ways you can make money as an influencer that I clearly didn’t think of.

Brand collaborations

This seems to be the most common assumption for how influencers make money. And it is not wrong. Many influencers make money by partnering with brands in exchange for creating content and promoting it on their social media accounts. It is also the way that many up-and-coming influencers aspire to make money.

It’s not my favorite way. Yes, there are brands that are wonderful to work with or are the epitome of what my own personal brand and account represent. I would love to work with them. However, brand work isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and I found that out very early in my career.

Working with brands involves being beholden to someone else and their requirements. The brand dictates how you create your content and what your messaging is. There is a lot of back-and-forth negotiation. There are contracts to sign, previews to submit for approval, deadlines to meet, revisions to make, etc. It is hardly what I would describe as being “your own boss.” The larger your following, the more leverage you have over the process but ultimately, it’s mostly unpleasant and stressful. Not to mention the mostly negative reaction the public has towards sponsored content. This could be a topic for an entire blog post.

Affiliate links

This is my personal favorite way of generating income and the focus of my LTK Course. I realized pretty early on that if I focused my time and attention on earning from affiliate links, I can be very successful. So successful that it blows people’s minds – 6 figures from affiliate links only. I know influencers who are millionaires from affiliate links only. By LTK’s CEO and founder Amber Venz-Box in 2023 there are 200 LTK-only millionaires.

I am confident that the general public doesn’t realize how lucrative affiliate commissions can be. Sadly, not many influencers know that as they continue to focus and strive for brand partnerships instead. One of my goals in demystifying the influencer industry is to make people (influencers especially) of what huge potential affiliate commissions have. Last year, 90% of my income came from affiliate commissions.

Let’s assume that you are able to make the same amount of money with affiliate links as you do from brand collaborations. The upside of affiliate linking is that you truly are your own boss. No one else to answer to, no one controlling your expression, content, messaging, or timing. These are all up to you to determine. Your audience loves and appreciates your recommendations because you can remain true, authentic, and honest. You share what you like and love but you can also share what you hate and absolutely don’t recommend. They will love you for it!

If you are interested in learning more about how to earn from affiliate commissions on LTK or how to scale your earnings to those big numbers, check out my LTK Course.

Stefana Silber sitting on white chair with laptop

Ad revenue – blog, YouTube, Meta, podcast

Ad revenue is when publishers – usually bloggers and YouTubers – make money from ads that are placed on their content by a third party. When you watch a YouTube video, you have to watch an ad (commercial break) and YouTube then pays the creator based on the minutes of watch time. If you have ever tried to get through a recipe or any online article, you’ve had to fight your way through ads in between the paragraphs, in the sidebar, and in pop-ups. The publisher (blogger) gets paid by the advertisers for the number of views on their ads. Podcasts are another platform where one can earn ad revenue.

Recently, social media apps have started offering ad revenue to creators. You can earn from ad placement on your Facebook content (reels, videos), and I think Instagram as well (in Beta testing).

Besides affiliate commissions, Ad revenue is my other favorite way to earn money as an influencer/blogger. It is currently not a substantial part of my revenue but my goal is to make it so. This is an even better way to earn because it has one huge advantage – it is passive income. That means that you don’t have to do anything to generate it provided you have enough content published already.

Stefana Silber in white kitchen

Digital products (e-books, courses)

Many influencers also offer a digital product in the form of an e-book or a course. Anyone can put a digital product out on the market but if you already have a substantial audience, marketing and selling it becomes that much easier. Not only do you have the eyes and attention of a large number of people but they already like you, have bought into your brand, and consider you an authority. It is much easier to convert this audience into customers.

The LTK Course I offer on how to make more money is a digital product. I made it harder on myself because it’s not a product I can market to my large general audience. It is specific to a small subset – other influencers.

Stefana Silber with laptop

Physical product

Selling a physical product comes with its challenges but the same marketing advantages listed above apply. Think of influencers who have published print books, or have boutiques and online shops.

Design, styling, or consultation services

Oftentimes an influencer’s expertise cannot be monetized in terms of physical or digital products but they have a skill set that can be offered as a service. Those could be interior design or fashion styling services, business consultations, etc. There are probably other niches that can offer a service – feel free to share examples in the comments.

Royalties from branded product sales

This is when an influencer partners with a brand to create a line of products branded with the influencer’s name. The manufacturing, fulfillment, and distribution are carried out by the brand. The influencer usually contributes to the design process and of course, leverages their large audience for the marketing of the product. The brand pays a royalty fee to the influencer – a percentage of every product sale. The royalties are different (and could be in addition) to any affiliate commissions. Examples here are the Loloi rug collections co-branded with @chrislovesjulia and many other high-profile ones with fashion influencers. Or my own drape collection with Two Pages.

Stefana Silber + Two Pages printed drape collection


This is a more recent revenue opportunity for influencers. There are social media apps entirely based on audience members paying for access to influencers – Patreon. But more recently, traditional social media apps like Instagram and TikTok started offering a paid subscription feature. Subscribers pay a monthly fee for special exclusive content or access to the influencer. I don’t personally know anyone making a significant income from this but I imagine there are influencers out there with large and loyal followings that could be making a pretty penny from subscriptions.

Social app prizes, stars, tip jar

This is another example of a newer feature adopted by social media apps after the example of the likes of Patreon. Prizes, stars, or whatever they are called in each respective app, are ways for the audience members to pay creators as a gesture of appreciation. Of course, the host app takes a cut of that income. It’s hard to imagine anyone making a ton of money this way but I’m sure people are doing it. I follow an ASMR creator on TikTok who does Lives every evening. Fans send her monetary gifts through the app. I tried to calculate the value and total she was making each night based on the gifts I was seeing sent to her and it’s probably a couple of thousand dollars per night.

Content creation incentives inside apps

You have probably heard of Reels Bonuses. Meta was paying creators directly for creating reels. There was a similar program for Pinterest Idea Pins and one had been rumored for YouTube shorts. The Reels bonus program has since been suspended in the US and Pinterest also pulled theirs. This is not a long-term reliable way to make money as these incentives were always temporary. But I know some people were able to make a good chunk of change while the programs were still active.

Speaker fees

This is not very common or widespread to earn money from speaking but conceivably, experts in any industry could be paid to attend conferences and be paid speakers.

Feel free to share other ways that influencers earn money in the comments!

You might also enjoy reading my post on What Is The Difference Between Influencer, Content Creator, And Blogger.