Nick Wolny is the senior editor of Financial Independence at NextAdvisor, in partnership with TIME. A self-employed…
TikTok is swimming in money – money that can end up in your bank account if you leverage the platform well.
“I have earned over $200,000 [from TikTok] for 2021 and the first part of 2022,” says Sal Farzin, a tech professional based in Austin whose TikTok side hustle, @SimplySalFinds, has 1.7 million followers. Farzin’s first TikTok post was on July 1st, 2020, and his primary TikTok monetization strategy is reviewing Amazon products and directing viewers to affiliate links.
“I realized that this is a platform with immense reach,” he says. Affiliate links are just one of many ways to make money on TikTok, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to dance or point at things in order to find traction on the platform.
We reached out to experts who are using TikTok every day to get the word out and generate additional income. Here’s what they had to say.
How Many TikTok Followers or Likes Do You Need to Make Money?
Having a lot of followers or likes on TikTok doesn’t guarantee a big financial payout. In most cases, the more lucrative approach is to focus on engagement and connect with users over time who are excited about what you post.
As with other social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube, making money on TikTok can generally be parsed out into one of three main buckets:
What makes TikTok unique is that it has eyeballs – lots of them. As a website, TikTok recently dethroned Google to become the most popular web property on the planet, according to a 2021 report published by Cloudflare, a global cloud platform that powers millions of websites. It’s not unusual for a post on TikTok to get thousands or even tens of thousands of views – even if you’re just getting started.
TikTok is an emerging platform with unusually high reach. Focus on engaging and entertaining your audience consistently and your fan base will grow with time.
The secret sauce to TikTok is knowing what types of content the app likes to prioritize. A good rule of thumb is to make your content native: Create videos that look and feel like TikTok and can be consumed and enjoyed while remaining on the app.
“TikTok rewards users who take an entertainment-first approach,” says Tiffany Rivers, senior director of social media at Media Cause, a creative agency that helps nonprofits grow and accelerate impact. “Users want to stay [in-platform] on TikTok even more than other platforms. Creators can still be very profitable leveraging paid partnerships, but we’ve found that when influencers try to drive traffic to landing pages or e-commerce sites, it’s not as effective as on other platforms.”
It takes a careful strategy to drive TikTok users to another platform, says Humphrey Yang, an entrepreneur and ex-financial advisor whose TikTok @humphreytalks has 3.3 million followers. “Conversion rates off platform are generally not great – 1% or less in my experience,” says Yang. “You need a strong video with a strong call to action at the end. Some of the best conversions I’ve seen anecdotally are really great videos that leave you wanting more; they then promote going to another platform or a newsletter for the full scoop.”
How much you make on TikTok hinges heavily on how you are leveraging the app and incorporating the strategies mentioned above. A common denominator among these strategies is to build an excited, engaged audience; when you do this, brand partners are more likely to make the first move and approach you.
“I’ve developed some really good brand partnerships with Amazon, Kodak, Panasonic, and the Container Store,” says Farzin. “The majority of these brands reached out to me, which is exciting, you know?”
When we see TikTokers putting up huge revenue numbers, brand deals and paid partnerships are usually a substantial contributor.
A Forbes report listed six TikTokers who generated $4.75M or more from their channels in 2021. They are:
It’s important to remember that this list only takes into consideration influencers who got their start on TikTok. Celebrities who adopted the app may command higher sponsorship deals or rates, but they arrived on TikTok with an already-established personal brand or following. You can make money on TikTok even if you’re starting from scratch by investing time and energy into learning the platform.
Let’s now dig deeper into three strategies you can turn TikTok posts into tangible dollars.
Clickthrough rates on TikTok seem low compared to other platforms, but Farzin, whose strategy relies mainly on affiliate link commissions, believes this has more to do with the app still being new and having unusually high post reach.
“My conversion rate is anywhere between 10 and 15 percent,” he says. “Watching the video, going to my bio, and clicking on the link, there are three or four clicks until they get to that product. It’s phenomenal that they follow through.”
Farzin emphasizes that valuable content is the key. “It’s about that value-driven content. When people land on my page, they’re able to say ‘Okay, this guy does products, but there are also some other categories, too. Maybe I should follow him.’”
TikTok profiles allow for only one hyperlink, but there are several free services that can turn your one link into many links. LinkTree, Lnk.bio, and Milkshake are popular options.
Strategy No. 2: Seek Out Brand Partnership or Sponsorship Deals
If you’re confident that you can get eyeballs on your TikTok videos, advertisers are itching to pay you to spotlight their product or brand. Brand partners and sponsors know that TikTok is a platform that has very high reach; expect awareness and quality storytelling to be two of your most important deliverables.
“Paid partnership posts that drive awareness and are centered on storytelling and entertainment are more likely to gain traction,” notes Rivers. Micro influencers – loosely defined as creators who have fewer than 10,000 followers – can land brand deals, but to do so they have to show a brand that they’re genuinely interested in representing the product and can do so effectively.
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance launched a $200 million creator fund in summer 2020, but the payouts from this fund are modest. Industry consensus is that TikTok will pay you two to four cents per 1,000 video views.
It’s never a good look for your app when a popular creator posts a video saying you suck, as Hank Green did in January 2022 with a YouTube post entitled “So… TikTok Sucks.” Since TikTok is growing like wildfire, more users mean more videos, and more videos mean more competition for the same pool of money. Consider pairing this strategy with one of the other previously mentioned approaches to diversity your money-making efforts.
Additionally, if you have a knack for making videos that go viral, you may want to take that same skill set and apply it on a platform that has heftier rewards for such a skill set, such as YouTube or Instagram.
No matter what strategy you decide to pursue, finding success on TikTok long-term will be contingent on you posting content you actually want to create week in and week out.
“Don’t try to be like someone else already on the platform,” says Farzin. “That’s rule number one. Talk about the subjects that you really are passionate about, be authentic, and be yourself.”
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At NextAdvisor we’re firm believers in transparency and editorial independence. Editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our partners. We do not cover every offer on the market. Editorial content from NextAdvisor is separate from TIME editorial content and is created by a different team of writers and editors.
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