If you are a freelancer, you already know that you need to use every tool in your wheelhouse to keep business flowing and stand out from the competition. Social media platforms like Instagram are one of the best ways to find new customers and promote your business. More than 70% of freelancers use social media to promote their work, with 21% of freelancers using Instagram to reach their goals.
If you’ve been neglecting your social media presence for some time, there’s no better time to refocus and revitalize your accounts and gain new followers. Instagram is the 7th most visited website in the world, with more than 2.9 billion visits every month and 90% of Instagram users follow at least one business.
Why do Instagram followers matter?
Instagram is an open platform that uses a very simple algorithm that enables users to make a name for themselves, no matter who they are and what they do. Instagram accounts grow according to the number of Instagram followers you have, which can help you build brand awareness, increase your online visibility, draw attention to your services, drive traffic to your website, and even improve your social proof and credibility in the market.
Whether you are looking for new business, or just need to revitalize your existing brand, having more followers means that you rank higher in the algorithm, sending more views and appreciation your way every time you post Instagram content.
If someone follows you on Instagram, there’s a good chance they’ll become customers down the line. 58% of users say that they are more interested in a brand if they’ve seen it in a story and brand stories enjoy a 86% completion rate, indicating that followers are truly interested in what companies have to say.
If you are stuck in a rut and don’t know how to find new followers, don’t worry: we’ve got a handy guide to help revitalize your Instagram profile and gain followers.
How to get more followers on Instagram
You don’t need to hire a social media manager or spend a fortune to gain more followers on Instagram. You can gain a significant amount of Instagram followers through simple and consistent posts that generate steady, quality growth for your Instagram profile.
1. Create a business account
Don’t mix business and pleasure - keep your private and professional Instagram feeds separate. Create an official Instagram business profile, with a professional photo, your logo, your username and a link to your professional website, blog post or LinkedIn page. Make sure to include a solid bio detailing all of your skills and contact information. Your potential clients should be able to look at your profile and know exactly which services you offer. If you work in a highly visual field, e.g. graphic design or photography, Instagram is the perfect vehicle to showcase your portfolio. If you work in a more service-based industry, e.g. accounting or copywriting, use the space to share testimonials, client photos or handy tips related to your industry. Lastly, make sure that your account is public and can be viewed by anyone.
2. Project manage your account
Posting at random isn’t a good strategy. You need to keep your audience engaged by posting regular, consistent content. This is much harder when you are busy with your day-to-day projects, and social media can easily become an afterthought. Start by managing your social media like any other project. Add it to your task lists, set reminders, and work out a solid content calendar that you can follow. Bear in mind that most brands don’t post more than a few times a day (or even a week) to avoid spamming their followers, but keep posting consistently. You can also spend some time researching the best times to post to Instagram according to your industry. For example, if you are a wedding photographer, you might want to post after work hours when brides are at home putting together their mood boards, and you shouldn’t skip weekend posting.
3. Avoid fakes
There are plenty of companies that offer opportunities to get more Instagram followers by using bots and fake accounts, but it’s never a good idea. Sure, you’ll have a larger following, but they won’t be as valuable as legitimate followers and could harm your account’s credibility. Those fake followers will never purchase anything, or even like or comment on your account. Instagram will eventually clean up your account and delete bots, which will make your page seem like a virtual graveyard with zero engagement. Growth should be organic and meaningful, centered around relevant users.
4. Cross promote your content
If you use more than one social media platform, start cross-promoting. You’ll save time and resources, while boosting brand awareness. Whether you are creating short TikTok tutorials or longform vlogs on YouTube, share your content as far and wide as possible. You may find that as you grow on one platform, you’ll grow concurrently on the other. If you eventually invest in paid marketing, this tactic can drive down the cost of lead acquisition. Bear in mind that not all channels allow cross-promotion. Instagram Reels can be repurposed as YouTube Shorts or Pinterest Stories, but Instagram won’t promote Reels that have a TikTok watermark on them.
5. Put the fun in functional
As a freelancer, your main goal is to promote your business. However, most people don’t go to Instagram to watch adverts. They want to be entertained and informed. Your content should blend functional, educational content with fun and entertainment. Reels are a good tool you use. Adding audio and effects can help bring your message across without feeling like an infomercial. Research trends on Instagram and put your own spin on it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be high-quality or highly produced, just make it watch-worthy! Try to share facts and tips, rather than going for a hard sell in your reels. Just make sure to use Instagram analytics tools like Instagram Insights to keep an eye on your performance, and learn from the data you track.
6. Share your Instagram
Don’t forget to promote your Instagram on any other digital channels you have. Add social media buttons to your blog or website so that your existing clients know where to find you (and so that your existing network can share your work). Define your social media strategy early on and set benchmarks and goals to reach to grow Instagram followers for your profile.
Try to do more than just asking for a follow. Make sure that there’s a compelling reason to send your clients and potential clients to Instagram, like handy tips, user guides or a comprehensive and engaging portfolio.
7. Use hashtags that pack a punch
Hashtags are the best tool for getting followers on Instagram. Designed to help others discover relevant content, it can be a powerful tool for discovery and can extend your reach considerably. Start by finding hashtags that aren’t too populated. Trying to stand out among millions of pictures and videos isn’t easy. Instead, focus on hashtags that your audience is most likely to check out. Branded or unique hashtags are a great way to group your posts, e.g. #AskBriannaTheAccountant, #MakeMoneyMonday, #DesignTipsForSMBs. It will also give your fans a reason to keep coming back and viewing your content.
Bear in mind that Instagram has a limit of 30 hashtags per post, so mix up generic tags with niche tags, e.g. pairing generic terms like #wordsofwisdom and #quotes with professional terms that businesses might look for #freelancecopywriter or #seowriting. Don't forget to tag relevant users or to post user generated content that matches your business goals.
8. Follow Instagram best practices
Instagram is a highly visual medium, and the quality of your posts matter. You don’t need to be an expert photographer, although it goes without saying that if you are a graphic designer or photographer, you can’t afford ANY bad photos on your feed. If your budget allows, make sure that you take a few professional photos to share on your profile. If not, lean into the basic principles of photography. Focus on one subject at a time and use negative space to your advantage. Try finding interesting or different perspectives, and look for symmetry before you take a snap. Make sure to spend a little time editing your photos before uploading. Instagram has its own editing capabilities but they are very limited, so try to put your photos through a few photo editing apps elsewhere first.
9. Work on your brand voice
If you really want to reach new Instagram followers, you have to find the right brand voice. Photos and videos are very important but so are captions and comments, as well as the way you respond to your followers. If you are using Instagram to promote your work, you should aim for a balance between sounding professional and credible and relatable and friendly. Keep your audience in mind. Stay consistent and natural in everything you do - your audience will soon pick up if you aren’t being authentic.
Great Instagram captions are clever or witty, include calls to action and use branded hashtags and emojis in a clever (and sparing way!). Posting a beautiful picture with a never-ending string of hashtags is no way to build your brand or engage your audience. Your call to action doesn’t have to be a link to your website or a push to close a sale, either. Remember, you are trying to grow your Instagram followers. Why not ask your audience to double-tap if they agree, or drop a heart emoji if they love what you’re saying?
10. Curate your grid carefully
Instagram captures a moment in time, and your followers aren’t very interested in what you’ve posted in the past. If you want to increase Instagram followers on your profile, you have to keep them interested in what you will post in the future. What exactly will they get if they decide to follow your account?
Think of your Instagram bio and your last nine posts as your homepage. This is what potential customers will see if they click on your profile, so it has to create a good first impression. Now evaluate your Instagram grid objectively, including the aesthetics. Are these images consistent? Do they showcase your work effectively? Do the colors match?
Posting consistent images can create a much more pleasant aesthetic and communicate your brand personality more clearly. If you start thinking about your grid more regularly, you’ll probably spend less time and effort creating content and more time converting followers into leads. There are several tools you can use to plan out and schedule the look and layout of your feed, and task management tools to ensure you are posting consistently.
11. Experiment with different mediums and keep it interactive
Once your account is up and running, keep an eye on the content that receives the most engagement. This could be interactive content, lives, relatable quotes, videos or photos. Try experimenting with IGTV, IG Reels, Stories, Live, Highlights and other tools within the platform. You might need to post several different types of content to find your best performers, but once you know which content formats connect to your target audience, you can start perfecting your content.
Don’t forget that Instagram is meant for one-way communication. Follow your followers’ and potential followers’ accounts, interact with their content and ask questions. What’s the first thing you do when you get a new notification that someone has started following you? You check out their profile! Being an active participant in the community is the best way of generating views and followers.
12. Team up with influencers and brands
Speaking of joining the community, it’s a great idea to start collaborating with accounts that have similar audiences to yours. This not only introduces your brand to a new set of followers, but builds credibility for both brands. Your direct competitors might not be eager to share the limelight, but there are plenty of others you can approach. For example, if you are a talented graphic designer, you probably share a similar audience to copywriters or photographers. Why not partner up to get both your brands out there? Make sure that it makes sense for both your businesses and that you both stand to gain equally from the exchange. Vet your collaborators carefully - you don’t want to recommend someone to your audience that’s going to do a bad job.
13. Turn brand followers into brand ambassadors
Most freelancers would be hard-pressed to hire a celebrity influencer to endorse their brand, but you can turn your existing customers or even other brands into authentic, powerful brand ambassadors. These are people that genuinely support your company and believe in what you do. You can encourage your followers to tell a friend about your brand on Instagram in exchange for discounts, free goods, or even just as a gesture of goodwill (it never hurts to ask). These posts will have a real ring of authenticity and will be a valuable endorsement for you. If you have a loyalty program in place, you can also encourage your customers to earn posts or discounts by following and sharing posts.
14. Run competitions
You can grow your Instagram followers (and engagement) by running competitions that ask fans to follow, like or comment on a post. You can extend your reach even further by asking people to post their own content about your brand or a topic related to your business on their profiles.
The prize doesn’t have to be huge. It could be a free consultation, a T-shirt or a mini-photoshoot. If you are running a service-based business, try not overcommitting yourself by giving away a year’s worth of bookkeeping services, for example. You’ll end up spending a year slogging away on an account for free, without any return. Try to keep your prize small and manageable (e.g. once-off tax advice for one hour).
15. Go Live!
Live videos disappear when you stop filming, but it’s hugely popular and a great way of building your Instagram audience. You can share unscripted, unfiltered commentary with your audience and receive comments and questions during the entire video. You could also collaborate with other accounts or influencers to host your Live to grow your followers even more. It’s a great way to talk about your business and answer any questions or address doubts potential followers and customers may have. You can also increase Instagram followers by giving away free stuff during your Live!
16. Be your own influencer
We’ve already said that you should keep your personal and business accounts separate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t send your followers from your personal account to your business account from time to time. You don't need to spend money on influencer marketing if you can be your own influencer. Keep the content separate but by all means let your followers know that you have a pro account they can join to show their support. You can use your personal account to share the behind the scenes process of your work and your funnier side, while your professional account presents the polished completed project.
17. Make your way onto feature accounts
Instagram feature accounts curate the best content in a specific niche, e.g. @theartofvisuals captures the best photography content. These accounts have a massive following and it’s easy to get new Instagram followers on your profile once you are featured. There are accounts for virtually every niche. Approach them directly, tag them in your best Instagram post and study them carefully so that you can create content that matches their aesthetics.
18. Use geotags
Aside from hashtags, use geotags wherever it's relevant—either where you are based, or which city you’re in. Locations not only have their own Instagram feeds and many people prefer supporting small local businesses, so it’s well worth contributing to. (You can use the location sticker in your Stories, for example). If you think being a local service provider can give you a real edge, post regularly to these feeds and engage with customers that are based in the vicinity.
Instagram users are equally interested in content that educates as they are in content that entertains. Use Instagram slides to create educational content about ideas or topics from your industry, or sharing case studies.
All you need is a simple concept and engaging slides that can be shared on your stories, and reshared by your audience. This not only builds followers, but positions you as a thought leader - even in a small way. If it's a complex topic, invite followers to read more about it on your blog or website.
Be prepared. You may spend time and effort building your Instagram account, making changes, adding hashtags, revising your bio, and filming Reels…and nothing much happens. Here are a few benchworks you should be aware of. The average Instagram business account grows its followers by 1.69% every month. The average engagement on an Instagram business account is 0.83%. It’s important to temper your expectations against benchmarks and to focus on quality as well as quantity. For example, business accounts with fewer than 10,000 followers enjoy higher engagement than brands with 100,000 followers. Sometimes, less is more. Don’t be discouraged if your brand takes a little longer to take off. It takes time and patience to learn what audiences respond to and who your most valuable audiences are.
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Now that you know how to gain Instagram followers, make sure that you have the right tools for the job. You can gain more followers by posting regularly. Use task management tools to keep on top of your Instagram marketing strategy and ensure that your follower count keeps growing. Instagram growth takes time and you'll need to do a lot more than just post pictures, but once you've grown your audience and are noticed by Instagram's algorithm, you will reap the benefits.
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