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What is TikTok?

TikTok, a video-sharing social network service, allows users to make and share short-form videos with their smartphones ranging in length from three to 60 seconds. Think Vine for Gen Z.

The app was originally launched in China in 2016, but made it to the United States in 2018 and has gained immense popularity in the years since. It has surpassed 2 billion mobile downloads globally, with about 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone.

TikTok videos come in a wide variety, ranging from dancing, educational and prank videos. Some people even set up accounts for their pets.

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Build your TikTok presence

For most people, gaining a large enough following to make money off your TikTok account isn’t going to happen overnight. You’ll need to put some time and effort into building up your presence on the app.

Think about what would make you stand out from other creators.The space is not just about dancing and lip-syncing. Zach King, who TikTok dubbed a breakout star in 2019, amassed 54 million followers with the help of his quirky digital magic tricks.

From a marketing perspective, you’re also going to need to invest in a few things before you’ll turn a profit.

Make the investment

There are a few essential items you’ll need to get started. Of course, a smartphone and internet connection are the basic requirements.

But if you’re serious about launching your TikTok career, you may consider investing in things like a ring light and a tripod for your phone to help boost the quality of your videos.

Make sure you do your research online to get the best equipment within your budget. To help you get the most out of that budget you can use a browser extension like Capital One Shopping that can take some of the work out of finding deals on the things that will help your TikTok account take off.

You may also want to spend some time familiarizing yourself with some editing software. TikTok has its own in-app basic video editor, but if you want to take your profile to the next level, there are at least a dozen other apps you can download to refine your videos.

Some of the top free options are ViaMaker, BeeCut, Zoomerang and InShot.

With the help of an editing app, you can add filters, crop, add music and add special effects to your videos.

If you find that video editing isn’t something you are comfortable doing right away, there are options. You can use an online marketplace like Fiverr to search for freelancers who fit your budget and posting schedule.

Create your brand

This is essential. You don’t have to be tied to the exact same topic every time you post, but it’s important to carve out your own niche to set you apart from other users.

Do you have a lot of knowledge or experience in one particular area? From health and wellness to dance to comedy, there are many topics or genres your skills and content could fit into.. Think of comedian Sara Cooper, who leveraged her lip-sync imitations of President Trump into her own comedy special on Netflix.

Spend some time thinking about what you have to offer. When it comes to social media, almost everyone has something marketable to offer.

Create the content people want

Now take some time to think about your intended audience. Figure out what people like, whether that’s “slice of life” type videos, dance tutorials or heavily edited narrative stories.

There are also some written (and unwritten) rules of TikTok:

  • Upload your videos vertically.
  • Make sure their aspect ratio is 1080x1920.
  • Give them clear descriptions and relevant hashtags.
  • Make sure they have an exciting thumbnail.

If you’re committed to growing your following, make sure you are producing consistently. Build a schedule and stick to it so your audience knows when they can tune in for new content and you don’t leave your followers hanging.

As a new user, this means you may want to start out by posting multiple videos a day to gain some traction. You can always prep some videos in advance of officially launching your account so you have a few in the can to keep your supply up as you work on new videos.

Engage with your followers

In addition to curating your videos to your followers’ desires, be sure to engage with them. If you’re talking in any of your videos, make sure you sound conversational.

You should like and reply to the comments on your videos.

You can hold contests or polls, ask your followers questions or encourage them to ask you questions.

Generally, make yourself accessible to others so they enjoy following and interacting with you.

From a marketing standpoint, there are certain hours of the day and days of the week that attract more video traffic. Do a little research about what works for accounts similar to yours and follow that schedule.

A lot of your scheduling will depend on where your audience is located and when they’re awake. If it doesn’t match up with your own schedule, there are some online resources that allow you to automatically post your videos at preset times.

How to make money on TikTok

Now that you’ve managed the fun part, it’s time to get down to how to get paid for all of this content you’ve created.

There are a number of different ways you can make money off of TikTok. And we promise they don’t all rely on having an intimate understanding of how the platform works.

1. TikTok ads platform

Are you not entirely interested in specifically creating content? If you work in marketing or have a product to sell and your target audience is on TikTok, you might want to get some of your ads on the platform.

Just like with other popular social media platforms, you can easily sign up to access TikTok’s ads platform and get your ads in front of the right eyes.

2. Influencer marketing

This is similar to running ads on the platform, but it’s a more integrated approach. If you have or work for a brand that has an intended audience that falls in the same demographic as TikTok users, working with influencers is a great way to get your product in front of them.

“TikTok made me buy it” has become a commonly used phrase on the internet.

With a little help from some popular users, you’ll soon find your merchandise on lists of “products I never knew I needed until I saw them on TikTok.”

3. Sell branded merchandise

As a content creator, once you’ve achieved a certain level of success on any social media platform, brands will be tripping over themselves to work with you.

But one of the best ways to tap into your success is to sell some branded merchandise. Think of Kylie Jenner’s lip kit endeavors that helped secure her status as an almost-billionaire.

Some standouts on TikTok in the field of merch are Loren Gray and Chase Hudson (aka Lilhuddy). Both of those users have capitalized on their online success to promote branded t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, hats and even phone cases.

But you don’t have to have millions of followers to capitalize on this idea. There are accounts of all sizes that sell short runs of branded merch like hoodies, t-shirts and hats for their most dedicated fans.

4. Donations

TikTok creators can collect donations from viewers. On the platform, users can buy a currency called coins. Coins are available in bundles of 100 to 1,000 and range in cost from 99 cents to $99.99.

Once you’ve reached 1,000 followers, you can start to collect coins or virtual gifts every time you go live. Those coins can then be turned into diamonds (one diamond = two coins), which the creator can then exchange for real money using a PayPal account.

5. Management services

Here’s another option if you’re more of a behind-the-scenes creative.

While we realize we said before that success on TikTok doesn’t usually happen overnight, sometimes it does. One morning an average content creator may wake up having gone viral to millions of new followers.

You might remember Nathan Apodaca (better known as Doggface208 on TikTok) whose viral video of skateboarding to work drinking cranberry juice while lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac exploded late last year.

Apodaca quickly received intense media attention, sponsorship offers and millions of new followers. To help field all the attention and brand requests, he’s brought on a manager.

If you have a background in production or storytelling, you can offer these overnight sensations some help with their content or creative strategies.

6. Consulting

If you have a real keen understanding of what works on TikTok, you may be able to use that insight to help other users who want to become TikTok famous boost their strategy.

This relies on your having a solid understanding of the platform and some level of expertise, but once you have that, people will certainly pay for your consulting services.

And if you help launch any clients to success, you may be able to negotiate a cut from any deal or agreements they make as a result of your help.

7. Manage influencer campaigns

Even if you haven’t been paying attention to the social media trends, you may be familiar with the term “Instagram influencers.”

Instagram users with large followings can become brand ambassadors or market specific products through their accounts. But when they’re super popular, the amount of brand requests these influencers receive can be overwhelming.

Sometimes a TikTok video can go viral very quickly, leaving the creator unsure of what to do with all of the new attention and opportunities. That’s where influencer agencies come in. They serve as the go-between for content creators and the brands that want to work with them.

If you have some skills in this area, there are plenty of TikTok influencers (and brands) that would benefit from you managing campaigns and ensuring all deliverables are met on both ends.

While TikTok has an internal influencer program built in, known as its Creator Marketplace, the company does take a certain percentage of the profits. Your edge here would be offering these brands the same service (getting products in front of the right influencers) at the right price.

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How do I get my money from TikTok?

Once you’ve accumulated enough coins, you’ll exchange those into diamonds (remember one diamond = two coins). Diamonds can then be transferred into a PayPal account.

How many likes on TikTok does it take to get paid?

TikTok requires you to wait until you have the equivalent of $100 to cash out your coins/diamonds. To get to $100 in cash, you’ll have to have accrued 200 diamonds (400 coins) or the equivalent of that amount in virtual gifts.

When your TikTok presence starts pulling in some money, it can be tempting to spend it right away. But it is never a bad idea to put some of your earnings in a savings account for when you may need it to further build your brand in the future.

How do TikTok stars make money?

TikTok stars make money through a variety of ways: coins during live streams, brand deals and developing and selling their own merchandise lines.

On social media, especially TikTok, once you achieve a certain level of success, your brand and your image are your most powerful assets.

Addison Rae Easterling, currently one of TikTok’s biggest names, has even leveraged her TikTok success to make money in another field: beauty. She launched her own beauty line, Item Beauty, in July 2020.

How does TikTok get paid?

TikTok is worth about $50 billion, according to a report from Reuters. The company certainly isn’t hurting for cash flow.

Some of the big ways TikTok brings in revenue is through running ads on the platform. The company also takes a share of the coins its users make and influencer deals that it helps facilitate.


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Sigrid Forberg Associate Editor

Sigrid’s is Moneywise.com's associate editor, and she has also worked as a reporter and staff writer on the Moneywise team.


The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.