A Food Influencer Reveals How Much Money She Makes Per Year — And Holy Cow

In 2024, being a food influencer seems like a pretty great gig. Influencers get to sit at home and bake delicious food, take pictures and videos of it, and then eat it (or give it to their friends, who will love them extra for it). As their follower counts grow on Instagram and TikTok, their feeds and Stories become populated with ads, for which we all assume they’re getting a solid chunk of change. But how much, exactly?

According to Alice, an influencer and cookbook author whose name has been changed here to protect her identity, the truth is that it varies widely. Alice has about 500,000 Instagram followers, but pay rates don’t always depend on the amount of followers someone has.

“There’s a super broad range — I know influencers who have 500,000 followers and are making $150,000 a year, and I know ones with the same following who are making a million dollars a year,” she said. “It’s all about your engagement and how you monetize.”

While Alice asked to remain anonymous, she was willing to get real about how much money she makes as a food influencer and recipe developer. Read on for all the juicy details, like how much she actually gets from ads, what her expenses look like, and exactly how much money she made in 2023 ― and how that stacks up against the mental health toll of being an influencer.

Here’s how much someone with 500,000 followers is probably making from Instagram ads

You know that sponsored reel you just watched in your favorite influencer’s feed? They probably made a lot of money on it.

“If you have 500,000 followers, you can probably expect to make about $10,000 to $20,000 on an Instagram reel, but that will depend on your engagement,” Alice said. By “engagement,” she means the number of people actually liking or commenting on posts. An influencer can have a lot of followers, but if those followers aren’t engaging with their account, a brand knows they won’t see much conversion from that.

For Instagram Stories, Alice says an influencer will probably make a little bit less. “For three to five Instagram Stories, you can probably expect to get between $1,000 and $5,000, but again, there’s a range.”

Expenses are steep

While influencers might make a lot of money, they’re also spending it.

“Expenses are high, especially for recipe development,” Alice said. “But I think a huge expense people don’t think about is looking good on camera, so lots of influencers spend a ton on hair, makeup and clothing, and feel a lot of pressure around how they look because they’re on camera all the time. I probably spend around $1,000 a month on all of this.”

She also has a team of people helping her out, and they get a chunk of her monthly revenue as well. “Your manager or agent will take 15%,” she said. “If you’re an author and have a literary agent, they take 15% of your earnings. If you pay for PR it’s $5,000 to $10,000 a month. And lawyer costs (yes, lawyers are advised) are between $10,000 and $30,000 per year.”

The exact amount of money Alice made in 2023

Now, the question you’ve all been waiting for: How much did Alice make in 2023? “I made about $900,000,” she said. “But that’s before expenses and taxes. And I had a lot of expenses last year.”

Alice also noted that while she has published three books over the past seven years, including one in 2023, they don’t bring in much money compared with what she makes from social media and other avenues. “Books are great brand builders, but they’re not huge moneymakers,” she said.

She added that for people who are pulling in salaries like hers and higher, there’s usually more to their income stream than Instagram ads and cookbooks. “The people making the most typically have other income streams like Substack, podcasts, merch, or a company they started.”

Does Alice make more money than most of us could ever dream of? Sure. But she also emphasized that there’s a mental health toll that comes from being always “on” and feeling the need to produce content for her followers 24/7 — not to mention the negative comments and messages that an influencer can expect to receive regularly.

“I took zero days off last year,” she said. “I think if you’re going to talk influencer income, you also need to talk about how the vast majority of influencers are dealing with huge mental health issues from the job.”

So while the world of influencing may be high-paying and glamorous, Alice is the first to admit that it comes with a price — and not the price you’re paying your lawyer or literary agent.

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