How to make your pet Instagram-famous – and make money from it

Jiff the Pomeranian, who has more than 6.1 million followers on Instagram, does publicity for a movie.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

There are all kinds of jobs today that wouldn't be possible without social media. One surprisingly lucrative gig: posting pet photos on Instagram.

A sponsored post — one in which your pet is photographed with a product — can fetch from a couple hundred dollars to tens of thousands. (The pet doesn’t have to be a dog or cat. There are successful accounts for foxes, pigs and at least one featherless bird.)

If your pet can perform on video, that’s worth even more, especially if you make the leap to booking TV commercials.

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It takes more than just a cute pet and an iPhone. To find out how to make your pet Insta-famous, we consulted the experts:

  • Varisiri Methachittiphan, who lives in Corona and owns a cat named Nala. @Nala_cat has 3.4 million Instagram followers. Running the accounts for Nala and her two other cats (@white_coffee_cat, who has 1.5 million followers, and @hello_luna_rose, who has more than 295,000) is Methachittiphan's full-time job.
  • Aiden Lee, who lives in L.A. and owns Geordi La Corgi, named for the character Geordi La Forge from "Star Trek: The Next Generation." @LAcorgi has more than 238,000 followers. When Lee isn't working with Geordi, she's an art director at an ad agency.
  • Loni Edwards, the founder and managing partner of the Dog Agency, a New York City talent agency that represents Insta-famous animals. Edwards' dog Chloe (@chloetheminifrenchie) has more than 172,000 followers.
  • Colleen Wilson, the chief executive of Pets on Q, an L.A. talent management company that manages animals that star in commercials, do book deals and, yes, have massive Instagram followings. (Nala and her feline siblings are part of Pets on Q's talent menagerie.)

Here's what they had to say:

1. Know your brand

When you start your account, choose a few descriptive words and phrases for your pet's "brand." Is your pet a spirited troublemaker? Curious and friendly? Silly and a natural performer? Make sure all your photos have a similar theme so your followers know what to expect when they see your pet in their newsfeed.

For instance, if your pet's brand is "free-spirited and loves nature," don't post photos of it perched in a first-class seat with a pet dish full of Champagne.

If it's "upscale city dog," don't post photos of it sitting artfully on a log in a forest. Keep things consistent.

2. Don't trade products for posts

You can start to make money from your pet’s account once you have about 20,000 followers. Before then, many smaller accounts will be approached by brands that want to give a free product in exchange for you posting a photo of your pet with it on your Instagram.

It’s tempting — free stuff! — but it’s a bad idea. If a multinational pet chain looks at your account and sees you’ll work for free, it will expect you to work for free for it too.

If you're serious about making a pet Instagram your full-time gig, hold out for a paycheck.

3) Post regularly and use hashtags

Plan to post, if not every day, then at least five days a week. Methachittiphan, Nala’s owner, posts two to three times every day across her accounts.

Lee, who owns Geordi La Corgi, said she sets aside some time each month and takes several photos and videos, then spreads them over the next few days or weeks.

When you post, add a few hashtags in a comment so people using Instagram’s “Discover” feature can find your account easily. For inspiration, look at accounts similar to yours and see which hashtags they’re using.

4) Have fun

This can be a full-time job that makes full-time money. But if you aren't having a good time, it's not worth it. You have to love taking photos of your pet or, at the very least, like doing it enough that you can motivate yourself to get it done even when you don't feel like it.

Edwards, who runs the Instagram pet talent agency, said people tell her often how much seeing Chloe in their Instagram feed brightens their day: “It really is an incredibly rewarding experience.”