How To Make Money On TikTok – A Guide For New Creators

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make money on tiktok

TikTok is the hot social media platform of the moment. Some of the most popular TikTok creators have leveraged their popularity on the platform into lucrative multi-million dollar careers.

But… how?

Sure, TikTok struck social media gold with dance challenges, leading to the careers of now-household name influencers like Addison Rae.

But you don’t have to be an influencer with tens of millions of followers to have influence on TikTok. And having influence with your account on social media means a business opportunity.

It’s no secret that TikTok is a money making machine.

You don’t need an expensive online course to learn how to make money on TikTok.

Step One – Be Original

This is a universal principle for making money on TikTok or any social media platform, really:

Have something to say. Or, even better on a video-first visual platform like TikTok, have something to show.

Yes, you can trip into success or fail upwards at the winds of the algorithm. But almost always, being consistent with a strategic creative direction for your TikTok channel is a major starting point.

The defining factors for making an impactful TikTok is your channel’s creativity and originality with content, along with cultivating an engaged audience that feels like it’s part of a bigger community.

Simply put: Make great original content using the platform’s best practices that focuses on a truly unique niche or category. (IE: make-up, beauty, video games, pizza, basketball, motorcycles, business, travel, sneakers, hiking, sushi, fashion, coffee, comedy, golf, music, personal finance, off-roading, etc).

Creating content unique to a category is important because it’s develops audience. So pick a lane that you’re interested in and passionate about.

All of these factors lead to building an audience with high audience intent. Cultivating an audience with high intent means opportunity!

The best way to make money on TikTok is by making your fans want to buy the products or services you are recommending. The more they trust and value what you have for sale, then the easier it will be for them to part with their hard-earned cash!

This is how serious TikTok creators make money on TikTok.

Unlike other social media platforms, there are no shortcuts for building an engaged and meaningful audience on TikTok. It’s an extremely powerful and influential platform at this point – TikTok is incentivized to keep high quality standards for content. They’re thinking about the big picture, the sum of all parts and how it keeps the machine running smoothly – Great original content made by creators that feel like they have some agency on the platform is just good for the overall TikTok community and ecosystem.

In fact, TikTok’s powerful algorithm, in fact, punishes those who try to take shortcuts by reposting someone else’s content or those who make low effort content.

How To Make Money On TikTok

Now that we have some basic principles for creating content on TikTok established, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Aside from being an influencer, there are actually a lot of ways to make money on TikTok. Here are some of those:

Think like a creator

Be one with The Force, The Content.

Most creators focus on multiple social media platforms to develop their audience so they can drive them to multiple revenue streams. Once they start to see cash flow from their content on one platform, they tend to make that the centerpiece of how they create.

TikTok is a powerful distribution tool – it gets whatever you’re making in front of a huge audience. Use TikTok to drive audience to content on other platforms where you can monetize that audience with advertising or direct subscription.

For example: A blog (like this one!), a podcast with advertising or a paywall, a YouTube channel, a Patreon, an e-mail newsletter.

The opportunities are limitless.

Use TikTok To Sell Something 

Be a business, man.

This goes back to thinking like a creator. Ask yourself, “what’s my thing?” This will give you focus to leverage TikTok into an opportunity for yourself.

For example, can you expand your mini media empire with a unique audience into a drop-shipping business? Can you sell t-shirts or something original via Shopify, Etsy, or another platform?

Just remember to think of your entrepreneurial endeavors on TikTok as you would any business. No shortcuts!

@hustlyinvest.com

Hit the (+)! #dropshipping #dropshippingproducts #amazon #sidehustle #stockmarket #invest #makemoney #adultmoney #ProjectCar #fyp

♬ Blade Runner 2049 – Synthwave Goose

Selling something doesn’t always have to be a physical object, either. The most successful creators find lots of business success and opportunity in getting their online audience off-line.

For example: Maybe you’re an aspiring comedian who can turn their viral success on TikTok into selling tickets to your comedy show. Or a talented guitar player who can use TikTok to show off your skills and sell guitar lessons to students on a platform like Lively. Or a food creator who can get people to a pizza or sushi restaurant in their city for a special promotion.

Affiliate marketing is another popular way to make money on TikTok. As you grow your account’s following and authority, you can refer them to buy a product from another brand and earn a fixed percentage of each transaction.

 

Ask for support on Patreon (..or OnlyFans)

Paywalled content has become mainstream in recent years. Rather than putting all your best stuff out there for clout and views, consider a TikTok strategy where you’re putting content behind a paywall for your fans and power users. It doesn’t have to be everything that you do, but many creators are leaning into these platforms to monetize their presence on one platform, like TikTok.

 

Influencer Advertising For A Brand

Advertising can be an easy way to make money on TikTok – once you finally hit your stride.

That said, easier said than done.

But dream big, future TikTok star!

The process of being big enough on TikTok to earn advertising deals is a classic chicken vs. the egg dilemma for content creators. You have to be popular enough on TikTok to justify receiving influencer advertising dollars first. So how do you do that?

Get the reps in. Keep making TikToks over and over and grow your channel.

When you’re advertising something as a creator on TikTok, you’re basically being paid to be a spokesperson for that brand or product.

Many people growing their following on TikTok say “I want to be an influencer!” without thinking about what this actually entails. You can thank The Kardashians and years of Instagram models hawking questionable weight loss supplements for that terrible attitude. These days, you can’t just hold up a picture of a product while wearing a bikini for it to resonate with an audience.

This is a good thing! Brands and businesses can see right through the days of lazy, effortless influencer marketing. In the immortal words of Rhianna, “work, work, work, work, work, work.”

Being “big” just for the sake chasing clout is the entirely wrong attitude for turning your TikTok fame into a viable advertising business enterprise. As a TikTok content creator, you need to train your brain to not see dollar signs without thinking about why a brand should invest in you to fit their marketing needs.

You have to make content that shows true value to a brand.

So ask yourself that question over and over again in the back of your head with the content you’re creating: Why should a brand invest in you to be an influencer? What can you do for them that serves a truly unique need different from everyone else out there?

The reality is that, once you hit your stride, advertising opportunities often FIND YOU – as long as what you’re doing is original and unique enough. There are entire layers of the marketing process for big companies dedicated to identifying creators that could be potential “fits” for a brand’s overall goals in reaching new customers.

As you find your focus and your audience grows, in-bound opportunity for collaborations will come with it.

Usually, the opportunity comes with small, niche businesses reaching small, niche audiences around a specific affinity – something someone likes.

For example, a Jeep enthusiast making TikToks about their favorite hobby, off-roading, who eventually partners up with an after-parts brand to make content about why they love using that product on their Jeep for their own adventures.

Cha-ching!

That’s a viable advertising opportunity.

The other reality is that you need to be able to quantify why you’d make an excellent creator for a brand with deep pockets to partner with. This involves lots of followers to your account and a positive, engaged audience and being able to properly communicate that to a brand.

Spend some time thinking about the presentation for your TikTok channel. Think about your elevator pitch to a brand in the event they reach out to you or vis versa. Make sure you can speak thoughtfully to your stats and reach.

The TikTok Creator Marketplace

TikTok has in-house influencer program called the TikTok Creator Marketplace. This hub allows brands to connect to the right creators, as well as an opportunity for creators to market themselves and their content to brands. TikTok, of course, makes money as the middleman in this advertising transaction.

Once you feel confident enough in your short-form video skills, this is a great place to connect with potential advertisers for TikTok influencer campaigns.

Big brands like McDonald’s and Pepsi Co use the Creator Marketplace for influencer programs on TikTok. For big brands with big budgets, it offers a vast catalog of data that individual creators simply don’t have access to on their own.

 

Keep This In Mind

… A rule of thumb for anyone looking to get advertising dollars on TikTok as a content creator:

Brands looking to spend money with influencers hate controversy.

Savvy advertisers use a term called brand safety in making a decision on whether or not a partnership with a digital creator can potentially hurt the brand. If you’re trying to make money on TikTok via advertising, make sure you’re always reading the room and doing what’s socially and culturally acceptable with your content. Don’t be deceitful, don’t be clickbait, don’t hurt people or groups of people, don’t be toxic.

If you have a problem with that, maybe look in the mirror and reflect on that, as a person.

This goes without saying, but follow all laws, best practices, and ethical boundaries in whatever you want to create.

Brands don’t want to partner with anyone that they perceive as toxic. It’s a tremendous liability for the brand to partner with someone that has a dubious or questionable reputation.

There are many examples of what this has looked like over the years and how it’s blown up in someone’s face. A notable and high profile recent example: David Dobrik. Even though the popular LA-based creator had billions of views across all his channels, including TikTok, he was still quickly dropped by brands like Chipotle, EA Sports, and Dollar Shave Club for misconduct allegations of his Vlog squad. Some of the questionable content decisions that, in some ways, propelled him to fame also came back to bite him, costing him future opportunity.

Brands don’t want that heat. There’s too much at risk – including people’s jobs, lawsuits, and shareholder value.

Sell TikTok Content Services To IRL Businesses Like Shops And Restaurants In Your City

If you’re good at making TikToks, you don’t just have to be good at making TikToks on your channel!

Another way of thinking about how to make money on TikTok: Sell your services as a content creator to an existing business to build their channel and create value with content for them.

Once you’re savvy enough to sell your services to someone who can really benefit from them, go for it!

That’s skill that can be applied to other businesses looking to leverage their organic presence on the platform into a valuable marketing opportunity. Not everyone has the time, energy, or patience to make thoughtful and engaging TikToks about their business. If you can’t do it yourself, pay someone to do it, much like you would a plumber or electrician.

Here’s the opportunity:

Many businesses see explosive growth when they go viral on TikTok. They need to then capitalize on their viral moment in the platform to keep the momentum going.

For example, Toronto restaurant Light Cafe hit “the algorithm lottery” when someone posted about their “brunch boxes” and it went viral. This resulted in a long-line of customers wanting to try it out.  Light Cafe had to lay off half of their staff in 2020, but they were able to rebound and thrive with the sale of the brunch boxes, causing them to hire more people. They even introduced an online pre-ordering system to reduce wait times and crowds.

Restaurants and bars have seen breakaway success with organic content on TikTok, bringing new customers in the door. Many restaurants talk about “the TikTok bump” that comes when a community is served content from a place, usually from a customer. It’s part of the product-to-content cycle: A restaurant makes something that looks and tastes delicious, a customer makes content about that item and promotes to their channel, more people want to come try it.

Often, this is a valuable business opportunity for the savvy creator to come in and start making content on behalf of that restaurant so they can have some longevity before it fades away.

Retention is everything in long-term business success.

Having 1000 new customers come on one-day is a wonderful financial windfall, but have 100 reoccurring customers come over and over again every day is more lucrative and way easier for a business manage in the long-run.

A TikTok strategy can help with this, speaking to their customers on a platform as the business.

In marketing, the practice of selling content services for a brand to use is called whitelisting. You’re being paid by a business to make something on behalf of a business to fit their overall needs.

The process usually involves the content being approved by the principle within the business, along with following the business’s overall brand guidelines and practices.

Once you win your first customer for such a consultancy, congrats – You’re now basically a social media agency of one!

One thing to keep in mind, as a social media professional:

Managing expectations with clients is everything.

Going viral is never guaranteed on TikTok or any other social media platform. Make sure you’re effectively communicating this to anyone who isn’t savvy at social media or the opportunities on social media for a business. That said, following best practices and creating content that’s engaging enough to go viral is still a skillset that takes time and knowledge of the platform.

A true social media professional creates the elements for partner content to go viral vs. guaranteeing going viral.

How much should you charge? 

You’ll need to learn how to sell your services as a TikTok creator for other businesses.

How much to charge varies often varies from business to business. Your time is valuable. Think about the scale of the opportunity commensurate to the business. There’s a scope of the work you’ll have to do.

Building a pitch and submitting a proposal is standard procedure for most managed services businesses. Once you’re established enough with successful case studies on your work, referrals will start to come to you.

The TikTok Creator Fund

Yes, you can make money on TikTok by just making TikTok videos and literally nothing else.

It’s probably the hardest way to make money on TikTok, even though it’s certainly the most enticing.

TikTok Creator Fund is a program implemented by TikTok to award high quality creators for their efforts on their platform. As a content creator, it’s somewhat analogous to YouTube’s monetization programs, as well as the Snapchat Spotlight program.

TikTok’s program is still in early stages, but as of 2021, the platform says it has committed to £231 million to the Creator Fund over the next three years.

If you’re focused on making educational or teach-able content on TikTok, know that a separate $50 million TikTok Creative Learning Fund exists for this high-utility content.

Here’s an example of the kind of high-quality content TikTok is supporting with the Creator Fund. Look for the #TikTokPartner to identity this kind of content:

@feelgoodfoodie

How to make juicy chicken kabobs / shish Tawook! #tiktokpartner #learnontiktok #chicken #mediterraneandiet

♬ original sound – Feel Good Foodie

The TikTok Creator Fund programs comes with some pretty significant barriers of entry – it’s something many committed TikTokers aspire to. The overall goal of the program is to help creators “foster a livelihood through their innovative content.”

Starting March 25, 2021, TikTok said that eligible creators will need the following to join the Creator Fund program:

  • Are based in the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain or Italy.
  • Are at least 18 years old
  • You need at least 100,000 followers
  • Have at least 100,000 video views in the last 30 days
  • Have an account that fits with our TikTok Community Guidelines and terms of service

What does that take?

This means you’ll have to be extremely dedicated to making TikToks just to get in the program. Scaling your account to 100,000 followers involves creativity and consistency. You’ll need to build a vibrant presence community on the platform.

According to TikTok, there’s no maximum or minimum amount you can earn once you’re in the program:

The sky is the limit! There isn’t a fixed amount of money that we’ll allocate to creators and we don’t put a cap on the amount of funds released daily.

Unlike YouTube’s monetization programs, the calculus for how much money you can earn on TikTok is somewhat vague. There isn’t a fixed CPM or payout per number of views – a couple of key performance indicators (KPIs) are at play. via TikTok:

The funds that each creator can earn are worked out by a combination of factors; including the number of views and the authenticity of those views, the level of engagement on the content, as well as making sure content is in line with our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service.

No two creators or videos are the same, and there is no limit to the different kinds of content we will support with the fund.

The Creator Fund total varies daily and is dependent on the amount of videos published by our community that day – so this will fluctuate based on the amount of content being published.

You can apply to the TikTok Creator Fund in the app:

Navigate to your Creator or Pro Account in the Settings menu > Click on ‘TikTok Creator Fund’ > If you meet the eligibility criteria, you’ll see an option to apply.

Read more about the TikTok creator fund here.

 

Make Original Music and License It

TikTok has transformed how the music industry thinks about content. If you’re a talented audio producer or musician, your ear worm could be work a gold mine if “hits the TikTok lottery” and becomes a viral sensation. Since all of the music is licensed for use on the platform, there’s a value ascribed for its use – much like Spotify, YouTube, and other platforms license music from the intellectual property owner / artist. Even though it’s just fractions of a cent per play, it’s still money at the end of the day.

A song going viral on TikTok can spark a viable music career. For example – Tai Verdes is the artist behind the TikTok mega hit “Stuck in the Middle.” The 25-year-old was working as a Verizon Store employee in Los Angeles before his song went viral on the app. Now Verdes has a record deal with Artisa Records. “Stuck In The Middle” has accumulated over 150 million streams and over 2.6 million TikTok creations.

That said, a lot of the legwork to make this happen is falling on the backs of record labels. These record labels are working directly with TikTok to promote their music for use as soundtracks in videos.

In 2020, TikTok says over 70 artists launched successful music careers from going viral on the app.

If you’re an independent artist or producer, there’s a lot to learn about music distribution, music publishing, and marketing for getting your intellectual property on the app and properly monetized for use. Still, there’s a plethora of resources to help audio creators, including turnkey ways to get your music on the platform.

 

Manage Influencer Campaigns For Brands

You can walk the walk and talk the talk. But how you do you make money on TikTok once you hit a ceiling with your own content and account?

By managing others.

Some of the best working content creators know how to leverage their creative visions for a brand by using their network of fellow content creators.

 

tiktok influencer

Think your management skills are better than content creation? Then figure out how to be an agent for a brand and channel their marketing needs into rising star power. There’s a huge opportunity to be a middleman between up-and-coming TikTok creators and big companies like Nike or Starbucks.

This is an entire business in itself!

You’re practically building next great talent agency a la CAA or WME! Way to go, Ari Gold!

Just like other managerial roles, you would be responsible for tasks such as:

  • Scouting promising content creators
  • Creating an agreement that would be favorable for the content creator and for the company
  • Onboarding content creators
  • Tracking the content creators’ progress and assessing if it is on track to meet the campaigns’ goals.

You can charge an agency fee for putting together all these creative puzzle pieces.

Just remember, though – this is an ambitious task. Hundreds – if not thousands – of agencies and talent managers are trying to do the same thing.

It requires a shark-like strategy and instinct to do it well and do it right.

TikTok Away!

Making money on TikTok can be a fun experience.

Remember: TikTok is a tool with its own processes. If you want to be profitable on this platform, learn to use them.

Author
B. Carlisle

Contributing editor at Wealth Gang. An entrepreneur at heart, he's passionate about meaningful ways to leverage technology and social media for business opportunities and side hustles.