Just 10 years ago, being an Instagram influencer wasn’t a career. Today, marketers spend over $570 million per year on Instagram influencer marketing. So it’s easy to understand why more and more people are trying to figure out how to become an Instagram influencer.

Seeing photos of people traveling around the world, working on their own schedule and seemingly getting paid to have fun seems like the dream job. But what does it take to get there?

Just posting a bunch of random photos isn’t enough. If you’re interested in getting a piece of this rapidly growing industry, here are eight tips on how to become an Instagram influencer in 2019:

1. Choose Your Niche on Instagram

Unless you plan on following in the footsteps of the Kardashians by becoming Instagram famous just for being famous, you’re going to want to find a “niche”.

When you think of most influencers on Instagram, they have a certain speciality or niche they fall under. Even many of the more general “lifestyle influencers” cater to a specific audience whether it be fitness, beauty or motivation on Instagram.

Choosing a niche allows you to stand out and attract a more targeted audience, which is what most brands are after when looking for Instagram influencers to work with.

Keep in mind you don’t have to be an “expert” in your niche. For instance, Grace of Gracies Journey became a fitness influencer on Instagram by documenting her journey of losing over 100 pounds.

She didn’t gain over 500K Instagram followers because she was a health and fitness guru. She gained her influence by motivating other people with her journey as she posted progress photos and insights into her daily life.

Also, contrary to popular belief, fitness, health, fashion and beauty aren’t the only niches on Instagram. Your niche could be writing, being an introvert, life after a divorce or literally anything else that’s unique about you.

Data scientist Lillian (@BigDataGal) became an Instagram influencer in the big data niche, which just goes to show that whatever your interests, lifestyle or hobbies are, there’s an audience on Instagram for it.

2. Switch to a Business Profile

If you want to become an Instagram influencer, you need to start treating Instagram like you’re a business. And that means switching from a personal to a business profile.

When you have a business profile, you get access to Instagram Insights, which is the app’s native analytics platform.

You can use Insights to learn more about who your audience is, how your page is performing and other stats that’ll help you grow your account.

Plus, once you get to the point where advertisers are interested in working with you, they’re going to want to see data and hard numbers to justify paying you—beyond your follower count.

As you grow, you can also consider using a third-party tool for even more analytics on your page. But in the early stages, Insights should be more than enough.

Another potential perk of switching to an Instagram business profile is it may make it easier for you to get verified. While Instagram is pretty secretive about their verification process, one thing they’ve made clear is it’s reserved for public figures and brands.

Using a business account rather than a random personal account can help you get one step closer to showing Instagram you’re a legit brand.

3. Pick Your Brand Aesthetic

Have you ever looked at an influencer’s Instagram page and noticed it seems cohesive and well put together?

Chances are the photos didn’t just randomly fall into place on their feed in the perfect order. They likely decided on a specific aesthetic for their page.

If you take a look at copywriting influencer Laura Belgray’s Instagram page, you’ll notice she uses templates for some of her posts.

Her quote posts use the same template, down to the font. You can easily make something similar with a tool like Canva.

You can also use specific tones, Instagram filters or surroundings to create an aesthetic for your Instagram feed like photographer Jeff Mindell. Notice how his feed is sunny, bright and uses a lot of greens and blues.

Using a consistent Instagram theme won’t magically get you 100K followers. But it helps you establish your brand, so people will start to associate specific colors, angles or types of photos with you.

4. Be Authentic & Genuine

Although there may be some people faking their lives on social media, if you want to become an Instagram influencer with a truly engaged following, authenticity is key.

In fact, data shows that 43% of people trust influencers because of their authenticity.

So how exactly do you showcase authenticity?

It starts with being vulnerable and honest. As tempting as it may be to only take photos with the perfect angles or when life is great, you need to showcase the entirety of what you go through.

For example, Nancy Gonzalez has been documenting her weight loss journey on Instagram for over a year.

Rather than only posting photos of low weigh-ins or other victories, she’s not afraid to let her followers see her insecurities that are difficult to disclose. That authenticity only brings her audience even closer to her.

Your Instagram page doesn’t have to be a highlight reel of your life. In order to become an Instagram influencer, be willing to show your audience other parts of your life that might not be as glamorous, because they’ll be able to relate to it. In fact, we’re hardwired to feel each other’s pain and have empathy.

5. Engage With Everyone

It’s easy to get so focused on getting more followers that you take your current followers for granted.

However, if you want to become an Instagram influencer, you need to build relationships in the early stages. Instead of being upset because you only have 150 followers, start engaging with them and create a community.

The key to getting more Instagram followers and eventually becoming an influencer is to get people to engage with your content and recommend your page. If each of those 150 followers can get one of their friends to follow you as well, you could instantly double your follower count.

Foodie influencer Alix Traeger consistently takes the time to reply when her followers comment on her photos.

Even if you don’t write out long responses, sometimes even an emoji can speak volumes. The key is to show your followers you value and appreciate their comments.

The larger your account gets, the more difficult it’ll become to reply to every comment. So take advantage while you’re in the early stages and spend a few minutes every day replying to any comments you get on your posts.

6. Start Building Relationships

You’ve probably heard of tactics like “shoutout for shoutout” or even engagement pods on Instagram. These techniques all revolve around the same concept, which is connecting with other Instagram accounts to help each other grow.

Building relationships leads to collabs and getting tagged in posts from influencers with larger followings than you.

An easy way to start building those relationships is just to comment on other people’s posts. Not just a one-off comment once a week. But routinely comment on their posts so they keep seeing your name and become familiar with you.

Try focusing on people in your area first. This will open up the possibility to meet up in real life and potentially get photos together, where they’ll be likely to tag you.

You can find nearby influencers by doing a search in the app, under the Places tab. You can search a specific city or landmark to see recent photos taken in the area.

At the top of the search results, you’ll typically see posts from popular accounts and influencers. Go through those posts and follow the accounts and start engaging with them.

You could even send some people a DM letting them know you’re a fan of what they do and you’d love to meet up sometime (assuming they’re nearby).

Over time, as your relationships start to grow, there will naturally be opportunities to take photos and videos together. That’ll help give you some exposure and give you the chance to network with other influencers.

Fitness coach Chris Jones regularly tags people in his photos, which has helped them grow their brands and following as well.

Even if you don’t currently have a ton of followers, it’s never too early to start networking.

7. Tag Brands in Your Posts

Most people want to become Instagram influencers in order to work with brands and advertisers. Creating sponsored content allows you to turn your influence into revenue.

But what a lot of people don’t realize is brands don’t always just come knocking at your door once you hit 10K followers. There are things you can do on your end to attract advertisers to you.

When brands see you actually like and promote their products for free, they’ll be more inclined to work with you on paid campaigns.

Take a look at Rachel Lohrmann’s Instagram account. Notice that she tags the brands of all the clothes she wears in her photos.

Even though she’s not currently sponsored by Nike or Gymshark, showing the brands that she’s a customer and actually likes their products will put her on their radar and make them more likely to want to work with her at some point.

Aside from potential sponsorship, tagging brands can also get you featured on their page which can put you in front of thousands of new people.

Brands love posting user-generated content because it requires fewer resources on their end and they know that consumers value third-party opinions more than advertising messages. One study showed that people find content created by consumers (UGC) to be more authentic than branded photos.

Take a look at women’s fashion brand Aerie for instance. They often regram photos from customers who have tagged them in photos wearing their clothing as a part of their #AerieReal campaign. And the photos aren’t always from huge influencers with large followings.

This photo features a picture from a photographer that isn’t Instafamous. But she tagged the brand in her photo to support their movement. In return, Aerie featured it on their page.

And as you can see, she’s received a ton of support from Aerie fans who may go and follow her.

Just make sure your photos are high quality and worthy of being regrammed, otherwise, your chances of getting reposted will be slim.

8. Automate the Right Tasks

As a casual Instagram user, you can post leisurely whenever you feel like it, or completely stop using the app for weeks if you want.

But when you’re trying to become an influencer, you need to treat Instagram like a job. That means dedicating a certain amount of time every day to doing some of the things we’ve mentioned like replying to comments, engaging with other influencers and building relationships.

As you can imagine, that takes a lot of time. But luckily you don’t have to do it all manually.

One of the first things you can automate is posting. Thanks to tools like Later and Buffer, you can schedule posts ahead of time.

This is a hack most people don’t realize Instagram influencers use. Often times they’ll have a photo shoot where they take multiple pictures, then schedule them to be posted over the course of weeks or even months.

Another time-consuming task you can automate is commenting on other people’s posts. As we mentioned earlier, commenting is a good way to build relationships. However, in order to see real results you need to be able to do this at scale which takes up a lot of time.