Charting Kayla Itsines's overwhelming success over the past two years has been a remarkable case study in what it means to be highly successful in our social media–driven world. The fitness guru is a self-made star—someone who was able to key in on something that resonated with the masses, build a grassroots strategy around it, make that her business plan, and in turn build an empire that even she probably couldn't have anticipated. Now, Itsines, along with her cult-loved workouts, is a household name—truly astonishing for someone who was an unknown trainer in her native Australia just a few years ago.
As such, we were hardly surprised to see that Itsines topped the "fitness" category of the first-ever Forbes Top Influencers list, a (frankly, overdue) spotlight of the most lucrative names in the digital sphere, including a detailed look at their earnings. Itsines, for example, pulled in $17 million in 2016—and that's just the revenue from her Sweat With Kayla app alone.
For many influencers like Itsines, a standalone business is actually secondary to the financial pull of maintaining a wildly popular Instagram or YouTube account—or at the very least, it comes later. Consider Huda Kattan as another example, who found fame as a beauty blogger and vlogger before launching her highly successful Huda Beauty makeup line, which is now stocked at Sephora. In some ways, Kattan is actually the exception to the rule: She maintains that she rarely publishes paid posts to her social media feeds (she boasts 19 million followers on Instagram alone) in order to maintain as much credibility as possible with her community.
But for the majority of the others who populate the Forbes list, paid posts are often the primary source of cash flow. Rachel Brathen, also known on Instagram (and in print) as Yoga Girl, disclosed that her price tag for one sponsored post is typically around $25,000—and believe it or not, this is actually on the low end of the spectrum for someone of her stature (she has more than two million followers). A top digital star could make up to $150,000 for one sponsored campaign on Instagram, and YouTubers can make twice that much for a video partnership. Even if your follower count lingers around the 100,000 mark, the going rate is $5000 per post.
It's all simply a sign of the times that the right kind of self-branding, entrepreneurial spirit, and social media savvy can add up to a highly lucrative career. Make no mistake in thinking that any of the success stories on the Forbes list simply fell into those highly covetable positions because step one was recognizing their own worth—and step two was capitalizing on it.