According to some very optimistic experts, the top TikTok creators are set to make one million dollars a post by 2021. But for now, we’ll have to settle for the likes of Loren Gray, a 17-year old lip-syncher-turned TikTok royalty. With more followers on TikTok than anyone else, she is currently poised to make the most money, with some of the most generous estimates at almost $200,000 USD a post. Not to mention, Byte, TikTok’s arch-nemesis and Vine 2.0, is offering creators $250,000 USD for videos starting in April.
A popular ranking called the TikTok Rich List also has Baby Ariel and Zach King in second and third place, respectively. (The buzzy list also predicts that Aashika Bhatia will ultimately topple Gray as the richest of them all.) But these are all estimates. There is currently no definitive way to know how much money TikTokers make. Namely, because talking about money is still taboo. Also, content creators don’t make a habit of adding price tags to their sponsored posts or announcing the value of their partnerships.
The first thing to know is that brands with big pockets have heart eyes for TikTok. If you build a relatively big, engaged audience on TikTok, you have something those brands want. If you can help them reach and understand your peers and followers, you can make a pretty penny, too.
A lot of the creators making big bucks on TikTok right now were already making big bucks on other platforms like Vine, Instagram, or YouTube. Gray was originally a Musical.ly star. David Dobrik started on Vine and kept his momentum going on YouTube before joining TikTok and landing lucrative deals with Chipotle. Zach King perfected his short optical illusion videos on Vine, and Anna O’Leary, aka Glitterandlazers, was already earning a living on Instagram but found bigger opportunities on TikTok.
Advice From A Working TikTok Creator
“I was successful on Instagram and YouTube before, but not as successful as I am on TikTok,” O’Leary tells Refinery29. “I had about 300,000 followers on Instagram and about 200,000 on YouTube when this all came to be.” O’Leary currently has 4.3 million followers on TikTok, an audience she estimates is way more global and diverse than on her other platforms. But how much money does she make from TikTok? O’Leary isn’t able to share specifics, but she does explain that the platform is becoming more and more lucrative. “It is a growing part of my income,” she says. “It’s a good amount. Enough for me to prioritize it.”
You’ve probably heard a million times that TikTok is the wild, wild west of social media, and only the authentic survive. Yes, authenticity is key. But so is being authentically versatile. Most of the financially successful TikTokers do it all: dances, memes, reenactments, duets. The Hype House gang leans in hard to the duets, the lip syncs, the dances, and each creator is able to jump into any challenge or viral trend, churning out content several times a day. Much like any employee of the month. Also, some TikTok lights never hurt.
Become A Gen Z Consultant
TikTok is the internet’s fountain of youth where marketers, brands, and creators come from far and wide to drink from the well of knowledge that is Gen Z. So, a lot of brands approach TikTokers, yes, to create partnered content, but also just to mine their youthful brains for expertise. The Gen Z consultant – someone born on or after 1996 whose job is to have colored hair and lots of followers – stands to make a lot of money if they meet the right people, and a robust TikTok audience can help you do just that.
A lot of TikTok’s well-off creators do consulting on the side. Cosette Rinab is very popular on TikTok but behind the scenes, she’s the 20-year old responsible for managing two very huge TikTok accounts: Blossom and So Yummy. It was her youthful know-how that made these Facebook-native hack accounts thrive on TikTok. Then we have Noen Eubanks, the internet’s moodiest e-boy: The 18-year old moved to a house in LA to be the face of Kyra TV, all because he has 10 million followers that prove just how cool he is. Then there’s Brittany Tomlinson, AKA “Kombucha Girl,” who rose to fame for doing a double-take on kombucha (and stayed there for her spot-on impressions of Love Island contestants). As one of the few native TikTok stars, she’s been so booked and busy, she recently created a TikTok “finsta” just to goof off on. For a new batch of creators, TikTok is a launchpad, and Brittany flew all the way up to a major Super Bowl ad for Sabra.
Evan Horowitz is the CEO and founder of Movers + Shakers, the go-to agency for brands making moves on TikTok. “As we are doing more and more TikTok campaigns with our clients, most projects have a creator component where we’re looking for creators to partner with,” he observes. So, for every brand looking to create a viral challenge or launch its own account, there is an opportunity for a creator.
Keep An Eye On TikTok Marketplace, A Search Engine For Creators
Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok is almost as invested in your success as you are. Over the past few years, it has been working hard to reach out to standout creators and connect them with brands that want to be on TikTok and want to learn the Renegade. TikTok clearly realizes that the creators make the platform, and as the new kid in town, it wants creators and brands alike to feel supported.
One example of this is the TikTok Marketplace: a new database for deep-pocketed folk to shop for creators to work with. A TikTok spokesperson told Refinery29 that a lot of creators have dual roles with brands, often working as creators and consultants, both creating content for TikTok and sharing their bigger picture know-how. The marketplace is currently in beta, so only invited brands, agencies, and creators are currently in it, but soon it will be a place for brands to search creators by follower count, engagement, type of TikTok, and a number of other parameters.
So what can creators do to stand out? O’Leary says pursuing her interests and going outside the box took her the furthest. Her first big TikTok partnership was with a makeup brand. “Prior to TikTok, I had very few make-up opportunities. I’ve seen that door be completely shattered. So I’m seeing a literal shattering of walls that I have either built around myself or the industry has built around me completely fall to the ground,” she explains.
If you ask boomers, they’ll tell you that Gen Z is overly preoccupied with influencing and creating content for money. (Then, they’ll turn around and say we are fruitlessly pursuing law degrees.) So we’re better off just turning any useful skill we have into a hustle until we can figure out how to steady ourselves in this big bad world. TikTok is a futuristic platform with tomorrow’s sense of humour and in this economy, it’s only smart to know what can be turned into cash.