The world of travel influencers on Instagram looks like the dream job: feeds brim with empty tropical beaches, Michelin-starred dinners and blooms of wild flowers. But is it possible to make a living this way?
Kristin Addis, the Californian blogger behind Be My Travel Muse, provides solo female travel inspiration to over 121,000 followers on her Instagram account. Here’s how much she really earns from the social media platform.
A solo woman stands on a mountaintop surrounded by snowy peaks, with a blue-green lake below.
Kristin looking over a lake from a mountaintop in Kyrgyzstan © Kristin Addis
It’s around 1am, high in the freezing Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, and I’m still hovering behind the camera. The stars are out with more clarity and vibrancy than I’ve ever seen, and with each 30-second shot I perfect the focus and frame a little more until I’m completely satisfied. It has taken three gruelling days of dawn-to-dusk trekking across steep, snow-covered terrain to get to this spot, but for this shot alone, it was worth it.
The photo was for a campaign I shot for Visit Kyrgyzstan back in 2017. Though I’d been blogging full-time since late 2012, it was the second year that my blog and my Instagram had earned me six figures. For two years I had travelled around Asia alone – hitchhiking, diving, trekking, and living off of my savings from a previous life working in finance in California – but I continued to either lose money or break even until my fourth year of blogging.
A woman in a long white flowing dress stands on the steps to a wooden tree house looking out over rocky outcrops down to the sea.
Kristin in Bali’s Nusa Islands © Kristin Addis
It was around this time that I started to realise that maybe this Instagram thing wasn’t just a fad and was worth putting more effort into. I started posting better photos: pushing myself further to get the shot, climbing mountains, seeking places off the beaten path. I did much of it by myself, which also set me apart. There were plenty of solo female travellers and there were plenty of outdoorsy women on Instagram, but there weren’t many who did both whilst taking their own photos.
All of those years of putting in the work to build a brand for solo female travellers paid off and these days my business as a whole – including adventure tours for women, two books, my photography course, a YouTube channel, and my blog – generates a six figure turnover.
It’s hard to say exactly what I make from Instagram alone, considering that the platform is a vehicle for me to advertise my products and get work with brands and destinations. It’s part of a package deal that I offer clients, but many of them tell me that they found me via Instagram and so some of them are interested in that alone, even though my blog has way more readers and followers.
I currently have more than 121,000 people following me on Instagram and I charge $500 for a sponsored post, which is low for my follower numbers in this industry, but it’s rare that a partnership only involves a single post. Most campaigns have more to do with offering my photos, words, video, and Instagram stories as a whole package.
A woman stands on the edge of a blue-green lake surrounded by mountain peaks. The stars can be seen clearly in the night sky.
Stars over a lake in Patagonia © Kristin Addis
What I earn
Through a combination of direct sales, sponsored posts and client campaigns, I earned around $75,000 through Instagram in 2018. This year my brand is on course to make around $100,000 through Instagram thanks to the exposure it provides and the value it adds to my clients.
Amount charged per sponsored post: $500
Average monthly income from Instagram: $5000–15,000
Amount made from Instagram in 2018: ~$75,000
How to stand out from the rest
These days, Instagram has blown up in terms of those who are using it to try to make a living. So if you’re just starting out, or trying to grow, think of how you can differentiate yourself. In my case, that meant having a blog and products that I could offer as well. Although Instagram is a powerful tool, it’s tough to make a living off the app alone. It can be a very powerful part of a whole, but it can rarely be an entire income source. For me, Instagram has been a beautiful journey that has pushed me further, developed my art, and opened up the world to me in ways that nothing else has.