How to Make Money on TikTok Without The Unrealistic Hype

New to Monetizing TikTok? Here's Everything You Need to Know

How to make money on TikTok? Is it really possible?

Whether you’re a TikTok user or just a casual observer of the phenomena, that is TikTok. In that case, you might have asked yourself these questions.

In answer, Forbes magazine recently published an article on the top-earning creators / TikTok influencers, and the result probably won’t surprise you:

  1. Addison Rae Easterling, $5 million (84.3M TikTok followers)
  2. Charli D’Amelio, $4 million, (124.3M TikTok followers)
  3. Dixie D’Amelio, $2.9 million, (55M TikTok followers)
  4. Loren Gray, $2.6 million, (54M TikTok followers)
  5. Josh Richards, $1.5 million, (25.5M TikTok followers)

High-profile TikTok creators are raking in some major dollars. Not only that, but the popularity of TikTok itself has exploded over the past year. You might recall the rise of the sea shanty, the lip-sync challenges, or the “Tell me without telling me” challenge.

Popular TikTok trends like these have established the platform as a unique video creation tool that's starting to edge out its competitors. In fact, a report by App Annie confirmed that Americans now spend more time on TikTok each month than either Facebook or Instagram. They further predicted the app would reach more than one billion average monthly users by the end of 2021.

All signs point to the fact the platform is here to stay, but the question remains: How exactly are people making money from TikTok?

How to Make Money on TikTok: The Basics

First things first, the average TikTok creator doesn’t receive direct payments for producing and uploading TikTok videos.

That said, TikTok does offer funding through its Creator fund. But, to be eligible, your TikTok profile needs at least 10,000 followers and 100,000 video views in the last 30 days. Not to mention, these payments also take into account the number of views and your audience's engagement rate.

Even if you're in the fortunate position where you're eligible for TikTok's Creator Fund, most TikTok creators don’t solely rely on this. More commonly, TikTok’s highest-paid users monetize their accounts through multiple income streams⁠ (more on that in a sec).

But, before delving into the nitty-gritty of how to make money on TikTok, there are a few things you should know first. So, below we've provided some sage advice to help you lay the foundations for your TikTok monetization strategy:

tiktok page example

Audience

Did you know, as of 2021, TikTok now has over 689 million monthly active users worldwide, overtaking competitors like Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest?

TikTok is purported to be ‘the platform’ for Gen Z’s and millennials, with 62% of TikTok users in the US aged between 10 and 29. Gen Z, in particular, is the focus of a lot of media attention and with good reason. They already represent 40% of consumers worldwide.

But more interesting for us, as budding entrepreneurs, is that studies have shown that this generation spends more time online than ever. So it's no surprise that TikTok's exploded in popularity with this demographic, with reports that it kept more than 100 million users engaged during lockdown conditions.

What's TikTok's Draw Over Other Social Networks?

According to HTG, one of the major reasons for TikTok’s popularity is its unique algorithm. TikTok uses AI and machine learning to provide users with content they actually want to see based on user interactions and wider trends. Not to mention, TikTok has successfully created a feeling of community for users and content creators alike.

By understanding some of the unique features TikTok offers and the predominant demographics using it, you'll better position yourself when it comes to creating TikTok-friendly content. Of course, this is a fundamental part of making money on TikTok, but how exactly do we find our audience?

TikTok itself recommends taking the time to get to know your space as a creator. If you're just starting out, look at whether there are already creators making similar content to you.

Next, determine what sort of niche you'll generate content for. During the early stages, it’s best to experiment with different content to get a feel for what your audience is interested in. Then, once you start gaining traction on some of your videos, you can drill down on the content that's performed the best and expand in that area.

Once you’re more confident about your niche, it’s time to work on developing a community space. You can think of it as a curated gallery. You’re putting on a show, and all the works fit into that seamlessly. But it isn’t just a matter of turning up and leaving. Instead, you need to engage with your viewers. Answering comments is one thing, but your aim should be to build lasting relationships with your audience so that they come back for more.

Going live is one way to respond to your viewer’s questions and comments. You could also give shoutouts to loyal followers and react in real-time to emerging trends. Not to mention, ‘lives' are an excellent opportunity to learn more about your audience using Tiktok's built-in analytics tools. For example, suppose you have a TikTok Pro account. In that case, you can retrieve data about your viewers' gender, location, and activities. You can then use this information to make your content more appealing to your specific audience.

Lastly, although staying in your niche is important, but don’t forget that TikTok is all about trends. Whatever your niche, you have to be flexible enough to respond to trends while maintaining your own sense of individuality. This way, your content is more likely to be shown to a wider audience and potentially garner you more followers.

How to Make Money on TikTok: The Creator Economy

Now you know TikTok's primary audience and the appeal of the platform itself, what about the industry holding it all together?

Cue, the creator economy 

Creator economy is the term used to describe the ecosystem where creators can monetize their interests and creativity. In the past, when a person had an idea, whether it was an entire business, service, or just a product, they often had to go through several third parties to reach their consumers. Today, this isn't the case. Instead, you can position your ideas in front of your target audience within a matter of clicks.

In a study of over 50 different social media platforms over the past ten years, creator earnings reached over $10 billion. What’s more, the number of creators on these platforms increased by a whopping 48% year-over-year.

The moral of the story? Creating content has become its own economy.

More and more people are leaving their regular nine to five jobs and relying entirely on the internet to generate their own income.

However, becoming a creator isn’t just about generating money – be it on TikTok or anywhere else online. It’s also a way to explore creation itself. It’s investing in a passion and finding others who share your beliefs. As such, business models have to change accordingly to meet this market.

We no longer rely on conglomerates to advertise specific products or services; instead, people are now marketing their authenticity. As Paul Saffo, a Stanford University forecaster, so aptly put it:

“Mass participation became the new normal. Stuff is cheap; status comes from creation. Value is created by engagement.”

What Does This Mean for TikTok Creators?

So what exactly does this all mean for you as a TikTok creator, and how can leveraging the creator’s economy help you make money?

For starters, when you set out to make money on any social media platform, TikTok included, don't view or treat your audience as consumers. Instead, remember, these are people you're trying to make a connection with. The focus on audience engagement is integral to how you advertise, monetize, and grow as a creator.

Instead of focusing on scoring one-time purchases (typically an associated outcome of traditional marketing methods), concentrate on building longer-term relationships with your audience.

Just remember, your audience wants:

Authenticity

Use your genuine interest, talents, and passions to draw in a crowd. There’s room for everyone on TikTok. Find your niche and enjoy it with your audience. Studies have found that 60% of TikTok users felt a sense of community while on the platform. They also felt more motivated, confident, and entertained. Users want a place where they feel accepted and can express themselves. That's the type of environment you want to cultivate through your content.

Engagement

Think of unique ways to engage with your audience. Interestingly, 79% of users mentioned in a comment take the time to read the comments on videos. So, of course, answering comments and questions is a good start. However, adding a personal touch to your communications is even better for generating rapport and a sense of connectivity with your audience. Perhaps crack an in-joke or respond using the commenter's name? These are just a couple of the many ways you could customize your responses so that they seem more personal.

Value

It's not enough to post content you like. You have to give your audience what they want – and regularly! Like we've already said, it's wise to stay on top of TikTok trends. Remember that 88% of TikTok users discover new content they enjoy while using the app. So, think of your posts as an opportunity to add value and attract new fans.

Monetization

With all that in mind, here's the section you’ve been waiting for, monetization.

Now you might be wondering why this wasn’t our starting. The reason is that it’s important to keep in mind the overarching rules of the game. As we've already said, first and foremost, content creation isn't just about money making; it’s about leveraging your ideas and passion.

That said, three monetization strategies that work really well on TikTok:

  1. Affiliate marketing
  2. Influencer marketing
  3. Selling your own merchandise
  4. Subscriber donations/subscriptions
  5. TikTok advertising

How to Make Money on TikTok: Affiliate Marketing

First, there's affiliate marketing.

In basic terms, affiliate marketing is where you push people to purchase third-party products and/or services, typically via your ‘affiliate link.’ Then, if you successfully make a sale, you’ll make a commission.

According to entrepreneur and influencer Neil Patel, affiliate marketing can be a lucrative way to generate a passive income. By passive, we mean you just need to lay the groundwork, then once you’ve done that, there’s the potential to get paid again and again with minimal effort on your behalf.

The first step in affiliate marketing is to join an affiliate network or contact your favorite brands to see if they have an affiliate program up and running. If you opt for the former, the network works as an intermediary between the affiliate (in this case, you) and the company you’re promoting. Examples of popular affiliate networks include Clickbank, Amazon Associates, and the eBay Partner Network (EBN).

amazon associates

When it comes to affiliate marketing on TikTok, you can use the platform to promote affiliate products/services, i.e., by recommending them to your subscribers, reviewing the product, using it naturally in your videos, etc.

How to Make Money on TikTok: Influencer Campaigns

Influencer marketing is when companies and/or solopreneurs collaborate with creators to endorse or mention their products to their following.

As such, for this marketing method to have much effect, the creator needs a high number of followers. Helpfully, TikTok has a creator marketplace where brands and creators can partner together on projects. For the TikTok creator, this might result in fruitful collaborations with payment for sponsored posts or other sponsorship deals.

Whether you post a straight-up advertisement, review the product, or naturally incorporate it into one of your regular posts – whatever the case, remember: your audience has to come first.

Think about whether your partnerships are in keeping with your brand. Also, ask yourself whether it will add value to your audience’s experience. You don’t want your audience to feel like you’re selling them a bad deal, as this will only damage your relationship with them.

TikTok creators

How to Make Money on TikTok: Selling Your Own Merch

If you’re struggling to find a third party to collaborate with, or you’re looking to diversify the way you monetize TikTok, consider selling your own merchandise. While some creators go as far as to develop their own product from scratch, merchandising can be as simple as using print-on-demand companies like Printful, Printify, and Lulu Express to create t-shirts with your name on them. The benefit of a print on demand is that you don’t have to splash out on inventory or warehousing costs.

Alternatively, if you have a creative streak and you’re using TikTok to showcase your talents, audience members may be willing to buy one of your creations. This is where resale apps like Poshmark and Depop and online marketplaces like Etsy have become lucrative outlets for many TikTok creators.

On the topic of things you can make yourself, if you're creating educational TikToks, there's enormous potential to sell things like online courses and ebooks. Or any other educational products that may appeal to your audience.

If you’re looking to design and launch a fully-fledged online course and sell it on a marketplace, there are sites like Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera where you can do that.

To market your course, you could live stream snippets of your course content on TikTok to give viewers a taste of what’s on offer. Not only is this an effective lead magnet, but you’ll likely get some feedback from your audience, too – win-win!

ptintful pod business

How to Make Money on TikTok: TikTok Advertising

Once you have a product, you know your audience will like, consider launching a paid TikTok ad. Advertising on Tiktok isn’t only great for increasing interest in a product; it’s also about expanding your brand by reaching more people and building relationships built on mutually established trust.

In light of that, it’s no wonder that TikTok experienced a 500% increase in advertisers running campaigns in the US last year. Participation in the “hashtag challenges” and the variety of ad formats have proved particularly popular for brands. More recently, TikTok has also experimented with new video lengths to diversify its offerings and expand into eCommerce. Earlier this year, TikTok partnered with Shopify to bring live shopping and product catalogs to the app. Soon users won’t have to leave a stream to make in-app purchases!

TikTok has an ad manager feature where you can set up paid ad campaigns. But, first, to design a campaign, you’ll need to create a TikTok account.

TikTok ads create account

Once you’ve done that, you’re free to compose your ad, starting by defining its objective. Then, TikTok’s ad manager will give you options for optimization. You’ll also need to specify your budget and your ad's format, i.e., video, photo, etc. Next, you can drill down on your audience of choice to ensure your ad’s shown to your target demographic.

TikTok ads manager

If you’re looking to take advantage of TikTok’s paid advertising, here are a few tips:

  • Instead of constantly running the same ad, TikTok recommends updating your ad every seven days to avoid audience fatigue.
  • If you decide on a video, ensure the resolution is 720p or higher.
  • Add an audio track to your video as well. You want to catch people’s attention.
  • Short videos are usually best – one in four top-performing videos lasts between 21 and 34 seconds.
  • Finally, for video’s make sure they’re full screen. Also, vertical videos tend to work best.

TikTok reported that 61% of users feel that paid advertising on TikTok is unique from other top social and video platforms. Namely, because advertising on TikTok is more authentic and fun than other social channels. Additionally, people are more likely to buy from brands that blend advertising with their other content. That way, people don’t feel like they’re being sold to.

How to Make Money on TikTok: Subscriber Donations/Subscriptions

The last monetization method we’ll discuss relies on the relationship you have with your audience. You may have heard of the company Patreon. For the uninitiated, this is a subscription service that enables followers/subscribers to tip their favorite creators or subscribe/pay a certain amount to receive bonus content.

TikTok itself also has a live gifting feature where followers can show their appreciation in real-time by sending virtual gifts, which can be redeemed for payment. There are also tipping platforms like Tippee and Kofi where you can redirect loyal fans who want to show some love.

Alternatively, suppose you have a project in the works that you need support for. In that case, consider crowdfunding companies like Kickstarter or Go Fund Me.

With this monetization method, always be 100% transparent with your audience. Don’t take advantage of their generosity, and ensure you’re always giving the best service in return for their hard-earned cash.

How to Make Money on TikTok

Are You Ready to Start Making Money on TikTok?

In summary, it’s imperative that you understand TikTok as a platform, what makes it unique, and the kind of audience it attracts. Then, with this knowledge at your fingertips, you’re much better positioned to build a business model accordingly.

That said, let’s look at some of the key takeaways from this article:

With any monetization method on TikTok, you want to be careful about overloading your audience with promotional content. TikTok is geared towards personal connection. As such,  you need to adopt a content-first mentality that enables you to form genuine and personalized relationships where you can explore your shared passions. This is key to solidifying your place in the growing creator's economy.

Whether you’re a newbie Tiktoker or one of the many full-time TikTok stars with an established following, a healthy understanding of the creator economy can only benefit you. Monetizing your content should be something that flows organically through the space you carve out for yourself on the platform. Then, once you’ve cultivated a community of supporters, you can explore new ideas and interests.

If you have any remaining doubts, maybe you should take a look yourself and see what all the fuss’s about. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll make some real money along the way. Just be sure to read TikTok's community guidelines first to make sure you comply with the platform's rules and regulations. Good luck, and let us know how you get on in the comments box below!

Rosie Greaves

Rosie Greaves is a professional content strategist who specializes in all things digital marketing, B2B, and lifestyle. In addition to e-commerce platforms, you can find her published on Reader's Digest, G2, and Judicious Inc. Check out her website Blog with Rosie for more information.

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