From brand deals to selling merchandise, this is how much Indian social media influencers earn

From brand deals to selling merchandise, this is how much Indian social media influencers earn
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  • How much content creators make per post is dependent on a few factors such as their content genre, social media platform that they use, reach, and engagement rate.
  • Rates also differ based on the deliverables, usage rates, and exclusivity.
  • Indian Influencer marketing agencies and content creators explain how they earn money, how much they make per post on average and if there’s a need to standardise pricing across the industry.
It all starts with a barter.

Like many of us who started with an internship wherein we were paid in ‘exposure,’ social media content creators know they have arrived when a brand approaches them and requests them to post for free.

In exchange for one Instagram or YouTube shout-out, a creator is offered free brand products and exposure/reach/visibility.
From brand deals to selling merchandise, this is how much Indian social media influencers earn

Gradually, after a creator hits around 5k followers usually, finds a loyal audience and builds a niche brand image of sorts on the internet, the chances of them finding a paid deal get slightly better.

However, if you acquire a huge loyal fanbase and stable engagement rate like cricketer Virat Kohli, you can earn about $680,000 (₹5 crore) per Instagram post. There’s no upper limit.
From brand deals to selling merchandise, this is how much Indian social media influencers earn


Various roads to monetisation

There are a number of ways in which a creator can monetise their presence on social media platforms.

Mumbai-based digital content creator Rohit Sadhwani is more prominent on YouTube. He has amassed over 628000 subscribers on the video social media platform. He told us that a creator can earn through their monetised content, affiliate marketing, merchandise, branded content and platform-based revenue or in-video ads. For example, YouTube creators can earn through pre-roll skippable ads as per cost per mile (CPM), a metric used to measure the price of an advertisement per one thousand impressions or clicks.

“Facebook pays the most in terms of in-video ads and when it comes to branded content, YouTube pays the most among all social media platforms. We get a share of the platform’s revenue as per our CPM. For example, a creator will get ₹10 per thousand ad views. However, more than 70%-80% of a creator’s revenue comes from branded content,” shares Sadhwani with Business Insider India, as he humbly sits on the floor, explaining the process of influencer marketing.

Since there are no advertisements on Instagram India yet, content creators don’t receive a share from the platform. They have to rely completely on branded content. They are paid per Instagram sponsored post by a brand.

As of January 2022, Google-owned YouTube has more than 265 million monthly active users in India and 1,200 of its creators have crossed the one million subscriber milestone. Five years ago, only two creators had crossed the milestone.

Meta’s Instagram, on the other hand, had a total of 230.25 million users in India in January 2022, the largest Instagram audience in the world.

As per analytics and research firm Statista, YouTube had the highest number of professional creators globally at 1 million in January 2020, which means more than 1 million creators earned a living completely from publishing content on the platform. Instagram was the most popular platform among creators, with 30 million amateur creators monetising content on the Facebook-owned platform that year.

How is a creator shortlisted?

After a brand finalises its budget for its campaign, influencer marketing platform Deckster.Live’s founder, Shivam Agarwal says that there are a number of factors that are involved in shortlisting a content creator later.

“It is not just the number of followers that matters when zeroing down on the cost. Many other factors like the type of influencer’s content, genre, engagement rate, and audience matter equally,” he clarifies.

As per the cofounder of influencer marketing and digital agency IPLIX, Jag Chima, brands appreciate a good return on investment (ROI).

“Brands generally want to see insights and track record for conversion. Ultimately, it comes down to ROI [return on investment], so, a good return on investment can be around 3:1 meaning a 3 dollar return for every dollar spent.”

Telling us how a creator’s value is calculated by brand on the other side of the table, Arushi Gupta, business head, says, “It depends on metrics of their account like average reach, engagement, views of their recent content created. Secondly, credibility. Type of content created: How is the quality of the content created and its alignment with brand values. Relevancy of the audience and how aligned it is for the brand's objective and the product.”

GroupM’s influencer marketing and analytics agency INCA estimates that influencer marketing is poised to grow at a CAGR of 25% for the next decade, reaching a size of ₹2200 crore in 2025. It further said that nearly two-thirds of the Indian population already follow an influencer.

How much do influencers earn?

There’s a battle raging on social media. It is a war of likes and attention. On the battlefield are your favourite content creators fighting to find a space on the internet. Whoever takes the lion’s share of public attention and offers something unique, earns more money from brands.

According to, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based influencer marketing platform, micro-influencers in the 5000 to 20000 group occupied a larger share of 54.3% on Instagram across India in 2020. Influencers with over 1 million followers, also known as mega influencers, only had around 0.41% share on Instagram.
From brand deals to selling merchandise, this is how much Indian social media influencers earn
Distribution of Instagram influencersStatista

Influencer marketing agencies that Business Insider India spoke to mentioned that while the rate varies from influencer to influencer, on average, a mega-influencer with more than 1 million followers can charge over 4 lakh per post on Instagram.
From brand deals to selling merchandise, this is how much Indian social media influencers earn
How much Instagram influencers earnBI India

These costs are subject to various other factors like engagement rate, follower base, content quality, genre, timelines of the campaign and duration of the Reel.

As per Pranav Panpalia, founder of influencer marketing agency OpraahFx, “the charges may be higher on YouTube depending upon the number of subscribers and content duration.”

“Instagram and YouTube both have fair opportunities for revenue growth. However, what few Instagram influencers earn via 3-4 paid posts, a YouTube creator earns in one deal. Although the content frequency on YouTube is lesser as it requires long-format content production. Therefore, in terms of effort and revenue generation, both stand equal. However, YouTube creators have added advantage via other means of revenue generation like adsense, super-chats, super-thanks, subscription cost, etc,” adds Panpalia. is currently beta-testing a new tool on its website called ‘price index.’ It evaluates the potential cost for different types of influencer collaborations based on profile performance analytics. As per the tool, Tier I digital creator Dolly Singh can charge ₹5 lac-₹6 lac for an IGTV and ₹3.9 lac-₹4.7 lac for a Reel.
From brand deals to selling merchandise, this is how much Indian social media influencers earn

Most talent agencies try to get some percentage of this money in advance for their creator as there have been cases when brands have backed off after confirming the campaigns.

At times, mega-influencers demand full payment up-front. It all boils down to an agency’s negotiating technique and repo with the brand.

Digital creator Sadhwani says that most influencers get 50% in advance and the rest 50% is disbursed after the campaign goes live, within a month.

A few influencers, even with less number of followers, are more valued in the brandverse than others. So, what do brands prefer: mega or nano influencers?

“Influencers with niche target audiences are approached by dedicated brands and are paid higher due to the ROI that they are able to convert. Brand prefers a bunch of micro-influencers over tier I creators with huge followings, as that helps brands reach multiple targeted audiences and have higher engagement as compared to signing up with a creator with a huge follower,” says Vaibhav Odehkar, managing director, India and the Middle East at AnyMind Group, a brand enablement platform.

Creators with a loyal fan base also enjoy more attention from brands.

Aayush Tiwari, vice president of talent management and music business at Monk Entertainment says, “A loyal audience equals a significant trust factor. A dedicated audience would interact and want to buy the product their favourite influencer is endorsing. A loyal audience will always try to back the creator and show support. Thus, greater ROI from influencers who have successfully built a dedicated audience around them.”

Does the influencer marketing industry need to standardise its prices?

Most nano-creators with a follower count of less than 10,000 start with a barter deal. As they climb up a tier, they charge anything between ₹25000-1 lakh per Instagram post.

Some creators can afford to hire an external management agency and find up a better deal for the same deliverables. However, a creator who is starting from scratch, will stick to barter for a longer period of time.

Sadhwani says that while it would be difficult to standardise the pricing system in this industry, “There should be a minimum bar set for all creators — prices below, which may not sell their content, so that they don’t get exploited. However, setting an upper limit would be unfair and rather challenging.”

Content strategy and development agency Yellow Seed’s associate director of new business and growth, Angad Saimbi was enthusiastic about the idea of standardisation in influencer marketing.

“This will mean that marketers would need to quantify the value of a “like,” putting influencers in a very defined slab. This will push the influencer community to ensure that they continue to build quality content that not only resonates with their community but also builds their credibility as an influencer.”

Vipasha Joshi, country manager at Jellysmack, a global creator company, says that ‘standardising pricing in any industry is always a move in the right direction.’

“This also helps set a framework; where the creators and influencers can get more clarity on the structure of how the brand collaboration works and it would be democratised and the same for all.”

Agarwal of Deckser.Live believes it is difficult but not impossible. He highlighted a prominent challenge that the industry might face if it were to standardise its prices.

“The question really is what’s the right price? What a ₹100 crore brand is willing to pay or what a startup with a few lakhs in revenue is willing to pay. Standardising will not only benefit the brands but it will be beneficial for the creators. In this extremely dynamic industry, the biggest challenge is to find one common ground or parameter to segment influencers.”

Influencers marketing experts are conflicted on this. Some said standardisation would increase transparency and ensure that creators are remunerated fairly by brands, while others called it a pipe dream.