How to Make Money on Instagram with Less than 500 Followers

How to make money on Instagram with less than 500 followers blog. Selfie of Isabel a social media marketer pointing to text.

(Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links and I may receive commissions. I personally use all of these digital marketing tools and only recommend what I love.)


Instagram is a powerful social media platform for creative businesses, but most are not using it to its full potential. You can not only share your work, but also build relationships with your dream customers, gauge interest in new offers before even creating them and grow your email list. In this blog, I’m going to share how I made more than AUD$3300 on Instagram with less than 500 followers through the power of Instagram stories.

What are Instagram Stories?

Stories are different from your posts on the main Instagram grid. They are the first thing you see at the top of your account when you’re scrolling the Instagram feed on your phone, and they will be from accounts that you follow.

Screenshot of Instagram feed showing Instagram stories at the top from different accounts and a feed post.

Below are 3 main differences between Instagram stories and posts (including Reels):

Instagram stories

  • Not shown to people scrolling through Instagram, so usually only reaches followers
  • Interactive, can include stickers like polls, Q&A or sliders to engage people
  • Recommended size is 1920 x 1080
  • Best way to use them is telling stories for connection and sales

Instagram posts

  • Shown to people scrolling through Instagram, so it reaches non-followers and followers
  • Not as interactive as stories, usually needs you to write a call-to-action to tell people what to do after viewing your post
  • Recommended size is 1080 x 1080 or 1080 x 1350  (I recommend this size as it takes up more space on the screen so people pay attention to your post)*
  • Best way to use them is to build awareness, connection and sell your work

* Reels are the same size as stories, but act like posts

How to come up with ideas for stories on Instagram?

 When I mention that Instagram stories are for ‘telling stories’ – they perform best when done in a sequence. This gives background to the story and compels your followers to come back for more, so you get more eyeballs on your work – a win-win!

I am going to share two easy Instagram story strategies that I have used personally to build my online community and create desire for my offers.

Stories for building a community of raving fans

Think back to a time when social media first came out – what were most of us using it for?

Chances are you’ll answer:

  • Catching up with friends
  • Posting photos of your day out
  • Playing multiplayer games (anyone remember Words with Friends?)

This is what your followers WANT – to connect with another person.

THE person behind your brand.

So here’s your Instagram story strategy to get your warmest followers tap-tap-tapping on your stories.

Use a poll sticker on the first story to take viewers along with you on your day

Selfie of Isabel a social media marketer with text, and a poll sticker

The first story establishes what you’re getting up to and you want people to be excited to come along – 3 simple ideas of what to use as your first story:

  • Your to-do list
  • Behind the scenes of your business
  • Your morning routine

The next 2-4 stories go into details of your day.

Finally, finish the last story with an appropriate call-to-action. For instance, if you’re showing a BTS of a new product you’re creating, ask people to DM you to get added onto a waitlist for that product.

Jade Warne, whose Small Business Growth Club I’m a part of, is a genius at having fun with IG stories like this.

Stories for creating desire

If you’ve ever been one of those businesses that post a screenshot of a client testimonial to your story without any context, PLEASE STOP.

This isn’t how you want to win new clients over.


Instead, tell a before and after story of working with this client. Let’s break this strategy down and you’ll see why it works well.

Use a poll sticker on the first story, along with context behind your client win.

This ignites curiosity so people continue reading the rest of your stories.

Instagram strategy for selling through stories
A sequence of Instagram stories from Fairyfox Digital (that’s me) showcasing a client testimonial about Pinterest leading into a call-to-action to join a Pinterest masterclass (note: this story sequence has been shortened for the purpose of this blog)

The next 2-4 stories will break down:

  • What your client was doing before they worked with you
  • How did you help them go from situation A to B
  • What results they are getting now after working with you
  • And finally finishing with the screenshot of the testimonial, plus a call-to-action to enquire about your services

With a sequence like this, you capture the full transformation behind your work of getting your clients from where they’re struggling to success.

You can also use this sequence if you’re selling products. Instead of talking about what results they get after working with you, discuss how they felt or what they gained after purchasing your product.

Looking for more examples of story strategies like this? I recommend the Sell with Instagram Story Sequences course by May. It’s what helped me increase my stories retention to 72% and make money online even with a small following.

Can you really earn money from Instagram as a creative business owner?

It is possible to make money online through the ‘Gram. Most of my sales come through Instagram stories and chatting with people in the DMs – both sources of warm audiences who already know what I offer and want to discover whether I’m the right person for them.

My first sale was when I had around 300 followers.

You don’t need more followers to sell your work, you just need the RIGHT followers, and a good content strategy (if you want to learn more about creating content for sales, I have a free toolkit)

My trusted resources for making money on the ‘Gram

So you’ve learnt how Instagram stories can help you earn money as an online creative, but want more in-depth guidance on Instagram story strategies that you can copy and paste?

I encourage you to check out May’s SISS course. I’ve done 3 different Instagram courses and SISS is hands down the quickest course I’ve done that actually delivers results (as soon as you implement them).

It’s so good that I don’t even bother creating an IG story course of my own 😉

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