15 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Who Built Careers Around Their Passions and Social Media
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
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 toturn your passions into a career, through 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.
Sponsorships are responsible for a lot of the money earned through social media, especially for those just starting off. Brittany Furlan, Caitlin Turner andShaun 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.
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.
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?
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
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-timethan 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 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.
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.
Nerd and Baker at Nerdy Nummies
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.
Comedian from Sh!t My Dad Says
"Don’t focus on the one guy who hates you. You don’t go to the park and set your picnic down next to the only pile of dog shit."— Justin (@shitmydadsays) June 28, 2010
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.
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”.
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 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 Bloggingthat 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
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
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 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, IconFinder, Humansofnewyork.com, Art of Work Book, Ryanseacrest.com, Newmediarockstars.com, Shonduras.com, iTunes, Laurenbath.com,
Vimeo, Gypsetgoddess.com, Thewrap.com, Youtube.com