Have you ever made a funny face in the bathroom mirror? Could you lip-sync every word from the climactic scene of your favorite movie? When your number one song comes on at the grocery store, do you dance like no one is watching—even if everyone’s watching?
What if your goofy faces and passionate lip-syncs could make you a millionaire? It sounds like a pipe-dream, but on TikTok, it’s the story of nearly every successful creator.
Apart from not launching internationally until 2017, TikTok (together with its Chinese-market counterpart, Douyin) was the 7th most-downloaded app of the 2010s. For entrepreneurs, that’s a lot of marketing potential.
If you’re looking to leverage TikTok’s massive user base in building your audience, here’s a look at the strategies of the social media platform's top creators and as well learn ho to make money on TikTok as we proceed in this article.
Who makes the most money on TikTok?
Last summer, Forbes published its inaugural list of the highest-paid TikTok stars:
- Addison Rae Easterling, $5 million (84.3M followers)
- Charli D’Amelio, $4 million, (124.3M followers)
- Dixie D’Amelio, $2.9 million, (55M followers)
- Loren Gray, $2.6 million, (54M followers)
- Josh Richards, $1.5 million, (25.5M followers)
- Michael Le, $1.2 million, (50.1M followers)
- Spencer X, $1.2 million, (54.7M followers)
In just a year, each of these users made over a million dollars—but how did they do it? Let's look at some of the ways TikTok's highest-earning users make money.
Do you get paid for uploading videos on TikTok?
TikTok does not compensate producers directly for creating and uploading videos. The TikTok Creator Fund (more on that later) does provide income for artists, although the amount paid fluctuates depending on factors such as the number of video views, the level of engagement, and the authenticity of those participating with the post.
There are most cases where brands might pay a popular influencer to create videos, but TikTok’s highest-paid users usually monetize their accounts through multiple income streams.
How do you make money from TikTok?
There are several ways to make money on TikTok—including brand sponsorships, selling merchandise, and creating in-feed ads. Multiple income streams provide greater security, but when deciding how you’ll make real money on TikTok, the greatest factor is your audience.
First, understand your audience to make money on TikTok
On TikTok, your audience is likely to skew younger. A majority of users (62%) are under the age of 30, and a whopping 32.5% of users are under 20. A lot of people tend to think of TikTok’s popularity with Gen Z as its defining characteristic, but this could change quickly.
Recent surveys from Fortune magazine show a growing number of millennials joining the platform, and social networks tend to be most popular with teens at their inception—As a result, getting a jump on catering to TikTok's older customers now could provide you a significant edge in a few years.
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The content of TikTok differs greatly. What works for one group of people may not work for another. Your material should be led by your audience's interests, but there are several common aspects of TikTok content that its user base is more likely to respond to:
- Authenticity. The most successful TikTokers have a diverse set of skills, ranging from dancers to comedians to philosophers, but one thing they all have in common is a willingness to be themselves.
- Participation of the audience. TikTok has a variety of innovative methods to interact with your audience, including a Q&A feature, duets, and video responses to comments. Users of TikTok anticipate a more "personal" touch, hence these elements are widely used.
- Frequent posting. A steady stream of content will keep you on your fans' thoughts, provide value to your content in the eyes of TikTok's algorithm, and increase your chances of becoming viral and expanding your audience.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to TikTok, but having a solid understanding of your audience will put you in a better position to find the best ways to monetize your following.
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8 ways to make money on TikTok
Once you have a better grasp of your target audience, deciding how to monetize will be much easier. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to monetization, but the wealthiest people typically have multiple income streams.
Let's look at some of the most common ways TikTok users generate money:
- Join the TikTok Creator Fund
- Sell merch to your fans
- Go live and collect virtual gifts
- Partner with influencers or other brands in the TikTok creator marketplace
- Create in-feed ads with the TikTok ads manager
- Crowdfund projects by collecting donations from fans
- Collect “tips” from your audience
- Start a Patreon and offer fan subscriptions
1. Join the TikTok Creator Fund
As we touched on earlier, users who’ve built up a substantial following might consider making money through the TikTok Creator Fund.
The Creator Fund's revenue varies each user and is determined by factors such as the size of your audience, the quality of your user engagement, and the frequency with which you post.
To join the TikTok Creator Fund, you’ll need meet the following criteria:
- You must be at least 18 years of age.
- You must be based in the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, or Italy.
- You must have a minimum of 10,000 followers.
- Your videos must have 100,000 video views in the last 30 days.
- Your account must adhere to the TikTok Community Guidelines and terms of service.
If you already have a following, the Creator Fund is a terrific option, but it can be highly exclusive, and consistent payment is not always guaranteed.
There are many additional ways to monetize your account if you're just getting started. Even if you've joined the Creator Fund, having alternative money streams is still an excellent idea.
2. Sell merch to your fans
Selling your own products is great for monetizing nearly any type of content. Any creator—whether they’re a dancer, singer, or comedian—can make and sell merch to their most loyal fans.
And with a wide variety of print-on-demand companies, there’s a ton of merchandise to choose from. You might sell t-shirts, tote bags, pillow cases, hats, coffee mugs, stickers, notebooks—or any combination of products.
Selling print-on-demand products even has benefits beyond revenue. Owning branded merch gives your fans a more personal connection to your work, and every follower that wears your gear in public creates new opportunities to spread the word about your brand wherever they go.
Get inspired: Unxpectd
Unxpectd was started as a classroom project for six high school seniors. However, their lives were irrevocably changed when the gang used TikTok to promote the garments they were hand-crafting in their parents' basements.
Unxpectd's TikTok account scored its first viral success in December 2020, and its following exploded in just a few months. When they're not generating new TikTok content, the team has relocated to Los Angeles, where they still dye and embroider their own products.
Unxpectd's TikTok account succeeds because it is rarely used to actively market its products. Unxpectd, on the other hand, enables fans to get to know the brand's founders on a more personal level, bringing them along for the ride.
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3. Go live and collect virtual gifts
Live gifting is one of TikTok’s most useful features for creators looking to monetize their content through livestreaming. Most social networks have a livestreaming feature, but what makes TikTok unique is that it enables followers to show their appreciation in real time by sending virtual gifts, which can be redeemed for payment.
Here are some pointers to help you make the most of going live on TikTok:
- Choose the appropriate time. When the majority of your followers are online, you'll want to go live. To check when your audience is most active, go to your profile settings and select the Analytics tab from the drop-down menu.
- Stay alive for a longer time. Although not every user will stay for the entire time of your live stream, being live longer will allow more viewers to log on and watch your show.
- During your live stream, make a comment. TikTok prompts users who see the video in their stream with a link to your live broadcast when you submit a short video while live, helping to build your live audience.
- Use hashtags from TikTok. Users, like those on other social media platforms, routinely explore hashtag sites in search of new accounts to follow. To improve the reach of your videos, use TikTok's hashtags.
- Examine your internet connection as well as your other equipment. The technological aspects of going live should not be overlooked. Check to see if your internet connection, lighting, and sound equipment can be used for extended periods of time.
- Keep yourself safe. Always keep in mind that TikTok allows you to filter comments, mute users, and ban viewers. Don't be hesitant to utilize these tools to deal with those who aren't participating in the discourse in a positive way. Nobody should be subjected to bullying or harassment.
Engaging with users in real time is great for building valuable relationships with your fans. Audiences that have a strong and firm connection to a creator tend to develop a personal stake in their success, which therefore means that going live can as well help you to boost other monetization streams.
Get inspired: Habits 365
Founded by teenage brothers Eli and Spencer Zied, Habits 365 is a New York–based apparel company centred around the mantra that success is built by nurturing positive habits—with the brand’s optimistic young founders acting as the perfect ambassadors of this philosophy.
Habits 365's success stems from the founders' openness to allow people get to know them personally. They frequently use TikTok's live feature, recording short videos of themselves working late at night on their business.
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4. Partner with influencers or other brands in the TikTok creator marketplace
TikTok's creator marketplace is one of the most innovative methods for its creators to generate money. The creative marketplace connects the appropriate businesses with the right influencers, making collaborations quick and painless for both parties.
Brands interested in running an influencer campaign can explore the marketplace and rapidly sift through content created by producers they know are open to collaborating with them.
The creator marketplace functions as an influencer agency, enabling both parties to signal their readiness to collaborate, alleviating some of the awkwardness that marketers may encounter when approaching influencers on other platforms.
Get inspired: Peace Out Skincare
Peace Out Skincare, like so many great enterprises, began when its founder came across a problem for which there was no solution—until he invented one.
Enrico Frezza began investigating the skincare product creation process and developing his own brand of skincare products after battling with acne and hyperpigmentation, among other skin disorders.
5. Create in-feed ads with the TikTok ads manager
TikTok has a ton of great organic marketing opportunities, but if you’re willing to spend a little to expand the reach of your content, you might consider creating your own in-feed ads with the TikTok ads manager.
TikTok ads appear in users’ “For you” feeds and auto-play like any other TikTok video. With paid ads, you can make sure your videos are reaching audiences that are most interested in your products.
Get inspired: Luxe Collective
Luxe Collective is a Liverpool-based luxury fashion business that sells current, pre-worn premium items at a fraction of the cost of other stores. Luxe Collective's initial success in increasing its social media audience was on Instagram, not TikTok.
But in the last year, Luxe Collective has fostered a huge TikTok following, seeing it grow to nearly triple the brand’s number of followers on Instagram.
Luxe Collective's TikTok account is jam-packed with fashion advice, tutorials, and the newest news from the world's most prestigious fashion houses. Luxe builds a social media account that acts as a news source for the exact population that would be interested in purchasing its items, allowing the character of its audience to influence its content.
6. Crowdfund projects by collecting donations from fans
One of the most accessible routes for creators trying to generate real money is crowdfunding. You put a lot of time and effort into developing material for your followers, so giving them a simple, no-pressure option to give back is a wonderful approach to ensure a steady stream of cash.
Crowdfunding can take many forms, depending on what type of funding you’re looking for. If you’re looking for startup funds for a specific project, you could rally your followers by setting up a funding goal and hosting live fundraising events.
Here are some crowdfunding platforms to check into if you're trying to fund a certain project:
- Kickstarter. Kickstarter is the web’s most widely used crowdfunding platform, so the volume of supporters and knowledge of the brand is its biggest asset.
- Indiegogo. If you don't have a specific financial goal in mind, Indiegogo may be a better option, as it allows you to set a more flexible fundraising goal and collect funds after the deadline.
- Fundable. Fundable is an excellent tool for finding investors because it allows entrepreneurs to give stock in exchange for money. Fundable is currently only available to users in the United States.
- Crowdcube. Through their Crowdcube Funded Club, Crowdcube gives enterprises who meet their fundraising targets exclusive privileges from its partner organizations.
- Crowdfunder. With a network of over 12,000 venture capitalists and angel investors to connect with, Crowdfunder allows businesses to raise funding through qualified investors.
- Mighty Force. Mighty Cause's easy-to-use platform is perfect for quickly generating a funding page to collect donations because there are no costs or waiting periods for approvals before launching your campaign.
- SeedInvest. On their websites, SeedInvest allows non-accredited investors to invest in enterprises. Your backers on SeedInvest are investors, not fans, therefore funds are offered in exchange for equity.
7. Collect “tips” from your audience
Crowdfunding platforms may not be the best option if you don't have a specific project in mind or aren't ready to give equity to investors. Consider employing a tipping platform to receive donations quickly and easily.
Platforms for tipping are a more personal finance choice. They function exactly like a real-life tip jar. The option is available to fans, but it is not required, and they can donate any amount at any time.
Here are some amazing tipping platforms to check out if this sounds more enticing to you:
- Tipeee. Tipeee doesn’t offer subscriptions, but its strength is in its simplicity. On Tipeee, creators can set up a page for their fans to directly “tip” any amount they want, whenever they want.
- Purchase a coffee for me. Buy Me a Coffee takes pride in being designed for artists rather than businesses. Its strength, like Tipeee's, lies in its simplicity. Followers are directed to a page where they can buy as many "coffees" as they like for the creator. In this scenario, "coffees" are $1 contributions sent to the artist through PayPal or online banking.
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- Ko-fi. Ko-fi offers tips, memberships, and ways to offer users commissions for personalized content, like a custom tutorial or video chat.
8. Start a Patreon and offer fan subscriptions
Crowdfunding is great for major projects, and tipping is the easiest way to get money fast—but what if you're searching for a more consistent source of income? In that instance, a creator-based subscription site like Patreon would be a good fit.
Membership-based revenue models are ideal for content providers because they allow you to keep individual subscription fees low while focusing on building your subscriber base.
To a single, devoted fan, a low-cost subscription of, say, one dollar a month is an easy sell. Those funds start to mount up if you have a large number of loyal fans.
Patreon was the first significant network that allow creators and influencers to earn money from their most devoted fans through paid subscriptions. You may create membership tiers on Patreon to give your largest supporters access to unique content.
Alternatives exist (most notably Ko-fi, which also includes a tipping feature)—but Patreon has the added benefit of brand awareness, which adds a level of trust from prospective supporters.
If you’re thinking a subscription service might be the best way of monetizing your TikTok account, here are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Be transparent. Success on Patreon involves building a high level of trust with your audience, so be transparent about the amount you’re making and how your funds are being spent.
- Entice your fans with rewards. Audiences are likely to increase their donations if they’re getting something worthwhile in return. Reward your biggest supporters with alluring benefits, like exclusive content and free merchandise.
- Thank your supporters directly. Make your fans feel appreciated and they’ll be more likely to keep supporting your work. Reply to comments, tag users, and give video shout-outs to your supporters as frequently as you can.
- Promote your Patreon profile. Fans can’t donate if they don’t know you’re accepting donations. Link to your Patreon page from your TikTok profile and mention it in your videos, especially if you’ve recently gotten a lot of new followers.
- Keep subscription costs low. It’s easier to get $1 from 50 followers than it is to get $50 from one. Keep your subscription costs low and focus on growing your number of subscribers.
- Create new content consistently. Paying audiences have higher expectations when it comes to how frequently you release new content. Keep a content calendar and release new content regularly.
How to “sell” without annoying your audience
The tricky part of using social media to sell products is not overdoing the amount of promotional material. Your fans understand that you need funding to keep creating the content they love, but no one wants to follow an account that just feels like it’s advertising constantly.
This is especially true with TikTok, since the platform itself is so geared toward forming personal connections with your audience.
Users appreciate good content, so it might help to take a “content-first” approach. Rather than starting with your sales pitch and building content around it, create the content first and let it inspire the best ways to monetize your account.
Get inspired: Partly Sunny Projects
Partly Sunny Projects is an online plant retailer that ships beautiful California plants all across the country. Sonja Detrinidad, the company's founder, started it as a way to get away from the stress of her day work as a mortgage broker.
She began thinking about strategies to direct visitors to her store after quitting her job and deciding to work on it full-time. That's when Sonja decided to use TikTok.
It didn’t take long for TikTok audiences to fall in love with her captivating personality. Sonja’s no nonsense approach to gardening is just the type of authentic content that perfectly resonates with TikTok audiences.
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Final thoughts on How to Make Money on TikTok
Making money on this social network isn’t easy. If it was, we’d all be Addison Rae. (It’s cool to joke about that—she herself acknowledges how many folks don’t think she has a real job. And she does it with the self-assurance of a 20-year-old who makes 5 million dollars a year.)
If you get shut down by one brand or influencer, keep trying. Hard work pays off—literally.