How to Turn Your Instagram into Cash Money (Without Selling Your Soul)


Get paid to post up a storm.

This post originally appeared on Girlboss.

Not sure what the next step is in turning your Instagram into rivers of gold? Candice Kumai knows, and she’s here to help.

It’s official. Instagram is the platform we are all addicted to. Brands are paying major money to those who know what they are doing on their smartphones. Essentially, IG is a free marketing platform, open to literally anyone.

Here’s some actionable advice I have to give, compliments of all my years of trial and error, in becoming a person who managed to monetise my Instagram.

1. Define who you are and what your message is

Remember when The Caterpillar asked Alice that? Pretty simple question, right? But if you’re lost like Alice was, the answer isn’t so clear. I was Alice at many points in my career.

A simple way to determine the most authentic self you want to “be” online is to think about what you are selling and what the “message” behind that is. What does it say about you? Is it personal advice, beautiful photography, travel retreats, content, your abs, a product?

2. Who is your audience?

Find that out, and the give them what they want. Inspire them with your personal story, engage them with questions, entice them with giveaways. Treat them with respect, and that’s what you’ll get back. Connect with your audience by engaging with them, research who they are, check out their interests and, again, give them what they want.

Utilize IG Insights (you can do this by connecting your Facebook page to your account and making it a business account). IG Insights gives you free and smart info on which posts perform the best, what your audience replies to, plus a breakdown of who your following is. Knowing who they are, and what performs, will help you sell.

3. Invest in a new skill

Before I ever knew I wanted to shoot a camera, learning how was the best gift I ever taught myself. Actually, my dad, who is a quiet and reserved nuclear auditor helped spot me a Canon Rebel 8 years ago. Because of that investment in the camera, I felt a duty to learn how to use it.

I’ve taught myself how to be a better photographer (slowly and diligently over the past eight years). After writing five books, I finally got the courage and experience to shoot my newest book, Kintsugi Wellness. It saved me approximately $30,000. All because I took the time to learn how to shoot. Start practising your skill set now. Use patience, realistically you won’t see “Insta cash” anytime soon. You will have to build your brand, and take time to make it good.

Learn to be self-sufficient. Learn to shoot a camera, start a podcast, launch an incredibly smart and unique blog, and nail that newsletter to make money.  Then, keep it solid and consistent for a few years, and you’ve got yourself a business. Brands are looking for individuals who have a voice, who can manage all sides of content: production, photography, writing, directing, social, engagement, etc.

Go out and make an investment on a used Sony A7 or Canon Rebel, and just start. Learn about the lenses and adaptors (metabones can be used between a Sony and a Canon). Sony shoots amazing video content. Lean more on gadgets and apps that can help you to improve your camera skills, and like Steph Curry does, shoot with confidence. Practice makes perfect.

4. Get these apps

I highly recommend teaching yourself Lightroom, VSCO Cam, Google’s Snapseed (it’s free) or try Photoshop to start. Take courses that are available to you and learn how to expand your photography skill set.

5. Create original content

Look to your personal experiences, your stories, your life’s purpose. Many of us think that we should look around for more content, or perhaps, we think we should be posting more content. When actually, we should be focused within for meaningful content. What do I mean by that? Your story and your best natural gifts usually make for the best content.

It took me five really basic “clean eating” and “wellness” books to figure out my Japanese upbringing was truly what I knew best, lived and practised better than anything. Why wasn’t I talking about that? After a healing trip to Japan seven years ago, it clicked. This is what it is – my heritage is ME. I honoured myself and my family’s heritage and suddenly I have brands like Shiseido, Ito En, Chanel, Belvedere and Adidas to partner with.

It was Japanese food, practices and traditions – part of my culture, and how my mum raised me and sis. It was my family trips to see the cherry blossoms, the temples, the monks and forest bathe within the bamboo, since I was five years old.

I suppressed what I knew, who I was and how I grew up because of painful childhood memories, but that was always part of my story. Don’t be afraid to show where you come from.

6. Now that you have paid partners…

Be professional! Turn in your copy on time, make sure it’s done right, stick to deadlines. Always do your best (in Japanese, we say, “ganbatte!”).

Respond and reply, with clean and concise emails, in a timely manner. Button up – I say this because I tend to create content that’s a bit more “buttoned up” or “classy” to “boost” the quality of content I’m creating and producing for paying clients. It’s not a boozy brunch, it’s a classy dinner.

7. Designate real time to your posts

Give them your best work. Do not cut corners (this will only come back to haunt you). Invest in quality work. When you are ready to turn in your content, ensure it’s done right the first time. I view my Instagram account as my mini blog. Curate your content, beautifully. Be confident and proud of your work.

8. Invest in education and experience

Does your dream require you to go to culinary school, get marketing or PR experience, design school? Putting in time in your field of choice matters.

The most powerful women I work with – top executives, boss babes, self-sufficient women – we all did one thing in common: We put in the time. Experience and education will get you so far in this life, and beyond any app. Go enrol in a class, go get that degree, go intern at your dream job, put in time. You will learn so much.

One of my dear friends and work colleagues studied as a psychologist before giving out actionable advice on IG. I, myself, went to and self-funded my way through culinary school (post university), and then, I cooked on the line at restaurants in Southern California and was on staff as a writer at several major publications in New York.

It’s important to invest time into your dream career, before giving yourself a title. The more real experience you gain, the more brands will want to pay you that paper.

9. Be accountable and reliable

Don’t forget that what you say on social matters, even if you go back and edit. So take my mum’s best advice, “Always be honest; it will keep you out of a lot of trouble.”

10. Double tap, comment, follow

Who you associate with on social matters. Interact with a posse, you must give love on Instagram to receive it. Again, be sincere in who you follow and how you comment.

11. Ditch that ego

Regarding brands that want to pay you: show, don’t tell; produce, don’t act. And if you want to be reliable and trusted, be honest. It is best to let your work and IG speak for itself.

Candice Kumai “the golden girl of the wellness world” (Elle Magazine) is a trained chef, writer, and author of six books, including, Kintsugi Wellness, which drops in 2018.

Candice Kumai



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