Have you heard this advice before: “Follow your passions!” “Do what you love!”?

And have you thought, what if my passions are my hobbies? Things that I could never be paid for?

For some, the advice to “do what you love” seems possible only if you have a passion for things like finance or accounting or coding. Well, I’ve been happy to find that it’s possible to follow your passions into a career, no matter what those passions may be. With social media, you now have a platform to do what you love—and to make a career out of it.

I found 15 amazing entrepreneurs who built their entire businesses and careers around social media, many earning $100,000 or more. 

I’d love to share their stories with you—and how you can follow their lead to turn your passions into a career, through social media.

new career social media

How to Earn an Income Doing What You Love on Social Media

It sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it?

Posting photographs or tweets a few times each day to launch a lucrative career doing what you love.

And you might be wondering how these social media entrepreneurs make money. Because after all, a career requires an income.

I’ll get into the specific stories of 15 entrepreneurs below. First, I thought I’d share the many number of ways—the specific avenues and channels—that they use to make money on social media.

How to earn an income on social media

1. Sponsorships

Sponsorships are responsible for a lot of the money earned through social media, especially for those just starting off. Brittany Furlan, Caitlin Turner and Shaun McBride all started with sponsorships.

Sponsorships occur when brands pay to be associated with you. When a tourism board pays Instagrammer Lauren Bath to work with them and feature their location, they are sponsoring Lauren.

Podcasts are usually funded through sponsorships as well. The sponsor will pay to be featured on the podcast at some point during the episode.

2. Advertisements

Advertisements are another popular method of monetizing social media. YouTubers like Liz Meghan use ads to make a living through their social media accounts.

Advertisements differ from sponsorships in that there’s usually not a long term relationship with the entrepreneur.

3. Selling products

If you have a product based business like an eCommerce store, this is perfect for you.

Social media can be a great place to sell your products – or, at the least, build up a following and redirect those followers to your website to buy your products.

4. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing allows you to work with brands to help them sell their products, earning you a commission each time somebody buys through your affiliate link.

Many social media channels allow affiliate links to be placed within a post, and when the follower clicks on the link and makes a purchase through it, the poster gets a portion of that sale.

5. Promoting services

If a service-based business is more up your alley, you don’t want to look past social media as a marketing channel.

From hair stylists who post their work on Instagram to coaches who use Facebook as a platform to engage with potential clients, there is a lot of opportunity on social media to promote your services.

6. Boosting your visibility as an artist

If you’re an artist, writer, or creative entrepreneur, social media can be an amazing tool to boost your visibility.

Artists like Us the Duo, Grace Ciao, and writer Jeff Goins all have used their social media channels as methods of boosting their visibility to book gigs and sell their art.

Why Social Media Works

Creating social media content every day. Scheduling it at the right times. Analyzing what followers respond to and what they ignore. The time it takes to manage a social media marketing strategy can be significant.

Here are two reasons why the time is well worth it, especially for those looking to build a new career.

1. Social Media Expands Your Reach by 1,000x

How many people visit your website each day?

200? 1,000?

Those aren’t bad numbers. And it may make sense for you to spend time on your own website rather than social media because your website is like your online home.

But think about it:

  • Instagram has 100 million active users
  • Twitter has over 135 million active users
  • Youtube sees over 1 billion active users each month

Even if only 0.1% of the people on those channels are interested in what you’re doing, you’ve still amplified your reach by over 1,000 times by using social media to spread your message and share your passion.

2. Social Media Establishes Your Expertise 

The lifeblood of social media is content.

Even if you’re posting a 6-second video on Vine or a photo on Instagram, you’re posting content.

When you’re consistently posting content about a specific topic, you establish yourself as an expert.

Take, for example, two mathematicians who love numbers. Who establishes herself as an expert?

  • Mathematician A, who loves her work but avoids social media, or
  • Mathematician B, who teaches others how to do math on Youtube and has 200,000 followers?

They’re both experts, but Mathematician B has established herself as an expert. She has built an audience, and provides value to others by demonstrating her knowledge on social media.

15 Entrepreneurs Who Built New Careers Through Social Media

1. Brandon Stanton

The creator of Humans of New York


In 2010, after losing his job, Brandon Stanton began to take candid photographs of people on the streets of New York and post them to Facebook.

Self-taught, Brandon took photos that reflected his passion, and these photos quickly began to gain traction on Facebook.

Humans of New York now has over 12 million Facebook likes, and it has launched a speaking, photography, philanthropic and media career for Brandon.The revenue generated by HONY prints sold goes directly to charity, and Brandon makes a living from the royalties of books sales and new freelancing opportunities. He went into a bit more detail about the specifics in a Reddit AMA:

How are you able to pay for your daily needs? Does HONY support you financially?

I’ve said publicly that I don’t want to “cash out” or “monetize” HONY. I like to say it publicly because I want my audience to keep me on mission. HONY print sales have raised nearly $500,000 for charity in the past six months. I want to further monetize the site for non-profit ventures. I honestly want to “give” HONY to New York in some way.

Freelancing and book royalties are keeping me afloat now. I get money for collaborations, occasional magazine pieces, occasional speeches, etc. And I signed two book deals which pay the rent. Also, I live cheaply.

2. Jeff Goins

Author and Blogger behind Goins, Writer


Two years ago, Jeff Goins quit his day job to pursue his passion for writing full-time.

He now has built a tribe of over 100,000 people, and has just launched his fourth book, The Art of Work.

This is all made possible by social media.

Jeff began writing on his blog, Goinswriter.com, and continued to work in his day job. He then began to earn more on his blog doing what he loved part-time than he was in his full-time job.

My blog (which accounted for less than 10 hours per week) was now contributing more income than my full-time job (which took up at least 40 hours per week).

His first product—a $2.99 ebook—earned $1,500 in its first week, convincing Jeff that his hobby could be a business.

His blog gave him a platform to follow his passion and do what he loves.

3. Grace Ciao

Fashion Designer and Artist

grace ciao

Grace Ciao is the ultimate accidental social media entrepreneur.

Since she was a little girl, Grace has had a passion for fashion design, and one day, she noticed a flower a boy had given her was dying. So Grace created a fashion illustration out of the petals of the flower.

She took a photo of her illustration and posted it on Instagram, which quickly became popular.

Grace earns a living as a full-time illustrator, and has used her platform to book engagements for events.

4. Michael and Carissa Alvarado

Husband and Wife Singers, Us The Duo


Michael and Carissa Alvarado were making music before they began posting 6-second videos on Vine, but nothing has skyrocketed their careers more than Vine has.

The couple was already trying to gain more traction on Youtube when they decided to put snippets of their covers on Vine, which served them well.

They now have 4.6 million Vine followers, and signed a record deal with Republic Records in 2014, allowing them to follow their passion by getting their start on social media.

5. Rosanna Pansino

Nerd and Baker at Nerdy Nummies

rosanna pansino

If you’ve ever thought the only way to pursue your passion for baking is by opening a bakery or through feeding your family, think again.

Rosanna Pansino built a career on social media centered around her love of baking when she was egged on by friends (pun intended) to start a Youtube channel.

Rosanna’s Youtube Channel, Nerdy Nummies has over 3.6 million subscribers.

6. Justin Halpern

Comedian from Sh!t My Dad Says

Let me guess.

It seems as if every time you open Twitter, you’re instantly barraged with links to mediocre blog posts, pictures of people’s lattes and announcements of what the newest member of oversharers-anonymous is having for lunch that day.

You could never imagine Twitter as a platform to build a career, right?

Well, Justin Halpern did just that.

He took his comedy writing career to the next level by starting the popular Twitter account Sh!t My Dad Says, where he began to Tweet snippets of conversations with his father.

The Twitter account quickly gained traction and morphed into a television series and book.

7. Lain Ehmann

Scrapbooker and Blogger from Layout a Day

If you’ve ever felt as if your interests or hobbies were impossible to build a career from, you may be inspired by Lain Ehmann, who built her career from a blog about scrapbooking.

Yes, you read that right.

She’s built a six figure business around a niche that is traditionally a hobby niche, teaching others how to scrapbook and holding live online events through her blog.

The power of the internet allows us to connect with people who are interested in the things that we’re interested in, and if we can provide enough value to those people, Lain proves that lucrative careers can be built.

8. Shaun McBride

Artist and Snapchatter


Shaun McBride learned how to draw by looking at other artists’ drawings and trying his hand out at the craft.

After Snapchatting his drawing/photo mashups, he was featured on some popular websites, which boosted his career.

He now can make tens of thousands of dollars from one advertising deal with a brand through his Snapchat account, according to Forbes, and “several thousand dollars per image”.

9. Shawn Stevenson

Health Enthusiast of The Model Health Show


If text or images doesn’t interest you when it comes to building a career on social media, maybe audio does.

Shawn Stevenson runs the #1 health podcast on iTunes, the Model Health Show, allowing him to follow his passion for fitness and health through a different medium.

Instead of taking the traditional route of personal training, Shawn interviews guests on his podcast, creating content and giving listeners the tools to live healthy lives.

10. Lauren Bath

Traveller and Professional Instagrammer

lauren bath

Lauren Bath has arguably the best job in the world. Not only is she paid to Instagram, but she also gets paid to travel.

Lauren was the “first professional Instagrammer” of Australia, and quit her job as a chef to pursue her passions for photography and travel.

Lauren works with tourism boards and brands to provide exposure through her huge Instagram account to make a living.

While she doesn’t reveal her rates in interviews, she tells Successful Blogging that she works with brands such as Nikon and Tourism Boards to offer them sponsorships:

Well I can’t talk for others but for me I charge a base rate to travel away from home and that rate includes posting whatever images I like with all content available to the client.

11. Joey Korneman

Animator and Teacher from School of Motion

school of motion

Joey Korneman is the founder of  School of Motion, where he teaches his students through online courses to animate using the principles of motion design.

Most of Joey’s traffic comes from Vimeo, as he tells Pat Flynn’s mastermind group in a recent episode of the Smart Passive Income Podcast.

He has 5,000 followers on Vimeo, which is high for that social media channel, and, as he tells Pat’s mastermind group, “Vimeo is very high-quality traffic for motion design”.

Joey makes a living teaching motion design by directing his Vimeo followers to his website, where he sells courses.

12. Mignon Fogarty

Grammarian and Podcaster at Grammar Girl


Passions come in all shapes and sizes, and Mignon Fogarty’s passion is unique.

Mignon has a passion for grammar, and works full time in the field by teaching grammar principles to her rabid fans of her Grammar Girl podcast.

Through social media, she has been able to build an amazing career around grammar, as she blogs as well.

13. Caitlin Turner

Yogi and Instagrammer GypsetGoddess

Gypset Goddess

Caitlin’s passion for yoga has provided her with the unique opportunity to build an entire career from it – on Instagram.

Catlin’s Instagram account is still relatively new – about three years old – but she still has earned over 220,000 followers.

Caitlin told Yoganonymous that “Instagram has definitely been a huge career chance for me. It’s connected me professionally to different brands and people I wouldn’t have found before because I had no reason to. This is my career now.”

14. Brittany Furlan

Actress and Vine Comedian


Social media has helped people like Brittany Furlan launch comedic and acting careers in a way that was never possible before.

Brittany used Vine to launch her career in comedy and acting and now has 8.9 million followers on Vine.

Brittany told The Wrap that she makes a comfortable living through her Vines.

Those videos — which include a repertoire of outlandish characters (“Ghetto Dora De Explora“), quick-to-the-punchline sketches or pranks on the unsuspecting public — are worth between $7,000 and $20,000 to brands targeting Furlan’s massive audience.

She’s now gone on to partner with Seth Green to create a sketch show.

15. Liz Meghan

Youtuber and Makeup Artist

Liz Meghan

Liz Meghan had a passion for makeup, and she channeled that passion into Youtube.

With over 672,000 subscribers on her Youtube channel, Liz makes a living doing what she loves through makeup tutorials and sharing what she’s learned about makeup over the years.

Liz tells the Huffington Post that she makes a living off of her Youtube channel because Youtube pays her to put ads on her videos.

There’s no better time than now to do what you love

As these inspiring entrepreneurs demonstrate, by building a following online using social media, you can:

  • Get paid to do what you love
  • Establish yourself as an expert and
  • Grow a following around your passions.

There’s no excuse to not get out there, pick a social media channel, and start posting.

Have you found success in building a career or a following on social media? Are you inspired by others who have taken this route to follow their dreams? I’d love to hear more about what you’ve experienced and learned in the comments.

Image sources: Pablo, Unsplash, IconFinderHumansofnewyork.comArt of Work BookRyanseacrest.comNewmediarockstars.comShonduras.comiTunesLaurenbath.com,
Vimeo,  Gypsetgoddess.comThewrap.comYoutube.com

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Written by Sarah Peterson

Sarah Peterson is the author of Unsettle.org, where she encourages people to never settle for careers they don’t love. Sign up for her free course to find the perfect idea for a lifestyle business so you can gain flexibility and freedom and do work you love.

  • It’s very cool how our need to consume great content can lead to unlikely careers for those producing that great stuff.

    While I’m not making a living off of my personal accounts, I have turned a number of them into nice revenue streams. Finding your niche can lead to quick growth and a wonderfully engaging community. The trick is finding not just what sets you apart but what makes you stand out.

  • As Sarah, great post. As I do yoga and follow a healthy fit lifestyle and also on a vegan diet, I think Instagram made Rachel Brathen one of the most followed yogis ever. Check out her profile, 1.3 million followers: https://instagram.com/yoga_girl/
    I’m not sure about the other channels as I follow her only there, but she travel all the time and teaches yoga. Pretty awesome way of living 🙂

  • Awesome stories, some familiar faces, and some new ones. Great post.

  • Really enjoyed this articles, as a blogger and freelance social media strategist I find this incredibly inspiring. I personally follow and enjoy many of those you mention on this list. Grazie for sharing!

  • This is one of those articles that I can use for inspiration. Thank you! 🙂

  • Me llaman difícil

    i assume your examples range people in the US.
    do you think this works in all countries?
    it is hard for me to extrapolate…

  • Great article!

    I like how you took examples from diverse social media channels. I completely forgot about Sh!t My Dad Says but it was brilliant. They kind of failed the TV show though.

    I think video networks are a gold mine nowadays. I know a few beauty vloggers who are earning good money thanks to brand parternships. The other niche that you didn’t mention here but is super lucrative is video game commenting. I was surprised to see most of the best paid youtubers are gamers.

    It’s so inspiring when you start following a vlogger or blogger and you start seeing them becoming more and more popular and earning new deals with brands and so on. I’d say this is the modern american dream (and it’s a global one :)).

  • Following our passions and using social media to achieve them is truly a green pasture. Our dreams call to us and it is on us to answer with action. I am currently following 2 of my passions with my social media business Hedstrom Internet Consulting and Disc Golf Hats! Following our dreams lead us to our higher purpose of why we are here.
    Great post Sarah and have a thankful Thursday! 🙂

  • Easier said than done. Most of your examples have bigger back stories often with luck or right time right place kind of stuff. I am very against sponsorships. It takes objectivity away from content and makes it biased (who will upset a sponsor with honesty huh? Also the shit My Dad Says TV series was very short lived. My guess is of the 15 examples in 5 years half will have different careers much social media success is short lived.

    But what I take most umbrage with is making it sound like when people post so many people can or will see the post. The fact is in any network on all platforms if 5% see a post that is stupendous success. I will never see any of the tweets or fb posts that are being posted as I type this comment. You need to be honest with your readers about that.

    I don’t disagree people have used Social Media for personal success but most people can’t…most as in 99.9% of users. The chances of success are less than your chances moving to hollywood and trying to be an actor. People have to live in reality.

  • Startup Champ

    Though we do believe that career in such a filed is possible but it isn’t as easy as it seems. All the examples that you gave are of people who started a long time back in U.S. The niche wasn’t crowded, few bloggers and even fewer youtubers were there. Art of good photography was rare but now, everyone is doing all these things. At such a time, you need to make huge efforts and need to have quite a lot of experience to pursue such a career.

  • Carinne Bird

    Thank you Sarah, this post is really inspiring. They get paid by doing their own passions, they enjoy what they’re doing. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing this awesome article 🙂

  • These are some pretty amazing stories. Love the first one especially (Brandon) and the way he turned around the challenge of being let go into an amazing opportunity around his passions. Brilliant all of them and it show how anyone can take their passion with Social Media and Hustle to make a living and live the lifestyle you want.

  • ChevsLife.com

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Meg McGuire

    Nice post, Sarah. I like the diversity of examples you gave for where they got their starts through media. I especially loved the scrapbooker. I’ve told people for YEARs that I would loved to be paid to scrapbook all day. It was really inspirational to see it can actually be done! I’m always urging other people to follow their passions! Thanks for urging ME!

  • Social media expands your reach, true. But we forget about how it changes us when we meet new people.

    Furthermore, it’s those cultivated relationships that help businesses every single day.

    Social media does give you street cred, helps you get found in a Google search, and business has come into our doors because of it.

    But you have to put in the work.

    Like they say in rehab programs, “It works if you work it.”

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  • Hannah Virtue

    These are very interesting stories, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Entrepreneur’s Education

  • Mateo Garcia

    Love reading this. I’m starting to make a career from Social Media as well. There are so many businesses and sales people who need help getting started on Social Media. I’ve been able to do that with training and a few hire me to take care of it all for them. Thanks for sharing these stories! – Mateo #beNICEmedia

  • M Haz

    Stupendous. Thank you.

  • Ana Miller

    5 ways to earn money with instagrams http://goo.gl/T2AJTq

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    Instagram secret you get money systematically http://ow.ly/ViXsj

  • mekumasan

    There are social media like TSU which you will paid for your activities such as like your friends posts, share posts, commenting etc. Then you will not waste your time and it add a value to your effort with $$.

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  • Great, inspiring article Sarah!

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