Despite only launching internationally in 2017, TikTok has become the authority on what’s hot in culture, politics, fashion, and beyond. TikTok is a force, growing rapidly year over year, and is expected to reach two billion users by 2024. The short form video app has attracted a sizable Gen Z user base, and for entrepreneurs, that’s a lot of marketing potential.
If you want to leverage TikTok’s massive user base in building your audience, here’s a look at the strategies of some of the social media platform’s top creators and marketers. Get tips on how to make money on TikTok, from fan merch sales to paid subscriptions.
How to make money on TikTok
Deciding how to monetize TikTok users becomes easier once you’ve gained a deeper understanding of your target audience. There’s no single approach to monetization, but the highest earners usually maintain a number of complementary income streams. From sponsored content to organic marketing, the opportunities with TikTok are virtually endless.
Let’s go over eight of the most common ways users earn money on TikTok:
1. Join the TikTok Creativity Program (formerly TikTok Creator Fund)
Users who’ve built up a substantial following might consider making money through the TikTok Creativity Program. Announced in February 2023 and launched in May, this program replaces the TikTok Creator Fund.
US-based creators with at least 10,000 followers and 100,000 authentic video views within the past 30 days are eligible to join this program, which, as of May 2023, is still in beta. The program should be available to more users in the coming months.
- Users must be at least 18 years old to sign up
- Users must meet the minimum follower and video view requirements
- User accounts will need to be in good standing
- Creators already enrolled in the TikTok Creator Fund can switch to the Creativity Program
2. Sell merch and other products to your fans
Selling your own products on TikTok is great for monetizing nearly any type of content. Creators—whether they’re a dancer, a singer, or a comedian—can make and sell merch to their most loyal fans.
And with a wide variety of print-on-demand companies on the market, there’s a ton of merchandise to choose from. You might sell t-shirts, tote bags, pillow cases, hats, coffee mugs, stickers, notebooks—or any combination of products.
Selling print-on-demand products even has benefits beyond revenue. Owning branded merch gives your fans a deeper connection to your personal brand, and every follower who wears your merch spreads the word about your business.
3. Go live and collect virtual gifts
LIVE Gifting is one of TikTok’s most useful features for creators looking to monetize their content through livestreaming.
Most social networks have a livestreaming feature, but what makes TikTok unique is that it allows followers to show their appreciation in real time by sending virtual gifts, which can be redeemed for payment.
Engaging with users in real time is great for building valuable relationships with your fans. Audiences that have a strong connection to a creator tend to develop a personal stake in their success, which means going live can help to boost other monetization streams as well.
4. Partner with TikTok influencers or other brands
One of the most innovative ways TikTok allows its creators to make money is through its Creator Marketplace.
The Creator Marketplace helps connect the right brands to the right influencers, facilitating partnerships in a way that’s fast and easy for both parties. TikTok makes it incredibly easy to create valuable sponsored content.
Brands looking to run an affiliate marketing campaign can browse the marketplace and quickly shuffle through content made by creators they know are open to collaborations with brands.
The Creator Marketplace acts as an influencer agency, letting both sides indicate their willingness to work with one another, relieving some of the awkwardness of approaching influencers that marketers might experience with influencer marketing on other platforms.
If you’re looking for an easy way to find brands to partner with, generate affiliate links, and manage your brand partnerships all in one place.
5. Create in-feed ads with the TikTok ads manager
TikTok has a ton of great organic marketing opportunities, but if you’re willing to spend a little to expand the reach of your content, you might consider creating your own in-feed ads with the TikTok ads manager.
TikTok ads appear in users’ “For you” feeds and auto-play like any other TikTok video. With paid ads, you can make sure your videos are reaching audiences that are most interested in your products.
But the best part? TikTok’s ad manager seamlessly integrates with Shopify. That means you can create TikTok ads, select a target audience, and track your ad’s performance—all from your Shopify store. TikTok really can be one of the best online marketing tools at your disposal.
6. Crowdfund projects by collecting donations from fans
Crowdfunding is one of the most accessible money-making avenues for creators. You put a lot of time and effort into creating content for your fans, so offering an easy, no-pressure way for them to give back is great for securing a regular income stream.
Crowdfunding can take many forms, depending on what type of funding you’re looking for. If you’re looking for startup funds for a specific project, you could rally your followers by setting up a funding goal and hosting live fundraising events.
If you’re looking to fund a specific project, here are some crowdfunding sites to explore:
- Kickstarter. Kickstarter is the web’s most widely used and recognized crowdfunding platform, giving your fundraising credibility.
- Indiegogo. If you don’t have a set funding target, you might prefer Indiegogo, which offers a more flexible fundraising goal, letting you receive funds after your deadline.
- Fundable. Fundable lets startups offer equity in exchange for funding, making it a great tool for finding investors. Currently, though, Fundable is only available to users in the United States.
- Crowdcube. Crowdcube offers companies that succeed in their fundraising goals exclusive benefits from their partner organizations through its Crowdcube Funded Club.
7. Collect “tips” from your audience
For a fast and easy way to accept donations, consider using a tipping platform. Tipping platforms work just like a real-life tip jar, and viewers who like your videos can thank you with a small donation. The option is available to fans, but not mandatory, and they can donate any amount they like at any time they want.
If this sounds more appealing to you, here are some great tipping platforms to check out:
- TikTok’s native tipping feature. This is the easiest way to collect tips in-app, with a convenient button on your profile users can tap to pay you.
- Tipeee. Tipeee doesn’t offer subscriptions, but its strength is its simplicity. On Tipeee, creators can set up a page for their fans to directly “tip” any amount they want, whenever they want.
- Buy Me a Coffee. Buy Me a Coffee prides itself on being built for creators, as opposed to businesses. Like Tipeee, its strength is its simplicity. Followers are sent to a page where they can purchase as many “coffees” for the creator as they like. “Coffees,” in this case, are $1 payments that are transferred to the creator via PayPal or online banking.
- Ko-fi. Ko-fi offers tips, memberships, and ways to offer users commissions for personalized content, like a custom tutorial or video chat.
8. Use Patreon to offer fan subscriptions
Crowdfunding works for big projects, and tipping is the simplest way to collect funds quickly. But what if you’re looking to secure a more regular passive income stream? Try a creator-based subscription platform, like Patreon.
Subscription-based models of income work great for content creators, because you can keep individual subscription costs low and focus on growing your number of subscribers.
A low-cost subscription of, say, one dollar a month is an easy sell to a single dedicated fan. If you have a lot of dedicated fans, those dollars start to add up.
Patreon was the first large platform built to let creators and influencers generate revenue through paid memberships from their most loyal fans. On Patreon, you can set up membership tiers that allow you to offer exclusive content to your biggest supporters.
Alternatives exist (most notably Ko-fi, which also includes a tipping feature), but Patreon has the added benefit of brand awareness, which adds a level of trust from prospective supporters.
If you’re thinking a subscription service might be the best way of monetizing your TikTok account, here are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Entice your fans with rewards. Audiences are likely to increase their donations if they get something worthwhile.
- Thank your supporters directly. Make your fans feel appreciated and they’ll be more likely to keep supporting your work.
- Promote your Patreon page. Fans can’t donate if they don’t know you’re accepting donations.
- Keep subscription costs low. It’s easier to get $1 from 50 followers than to get $50 from one.
- Create new content consistently. Paying audiences have higher expectations when it comes to how frequently you release new content.
Understanding TikTok users—and your audience
On TikTok, your audience is likely to skew younger. A majority of users (62%) are under 30, and a whopping 32.5% of active users are under 20. Many people think of TikTok’s popularity with Gen Z as its defining characteristic, but this could change quickly.
One survey shows a growing number of millennials joining the platform, and social networks tend to be most popular with teens at their inception—so a head start on catering to TikTok’s older users could give you a big advantage in a few years.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to TikTok, but having a solid understanding of your audience will put you in a better position to find the best ways to monetize your following.
How to sell without annoying your audience
The tricky part of using social media to sell products is not overdoing the amount of promotional material. Your fans understand that you need funding to keep creating the content they love, but no one wants to follow an account that just feels like it’s advertising constantly.
This is especially true with TikTok, since the platform itself is so geared toward forming personal connections with your audience.
Users appreciate good content, so it might help to take a “content-first” approach. Rather than starting with your sales pitch and building content around it, create the content first and let it inspire the best ways to monetize your account. Your TikTok posts should offer value to your audience—not just sell to them.
Partly Sunny Projects is an online plant brand shipping stunning California greenery across the country. Founder Sonja Detrinidad started the business as a distraction from the stress of her day job and took to TikTok to capture the process.
It didn’t take long for TikTok audiences to fall in love with Sonja’s captivating personality. Her authentic TikTok videos align with her audience’s interests.
What makes Sonja’s use of TikTok for her business so successful is that she is focused on creating content she knows her viewers enjoy. Sonja covers topics related to gardening, effectively capturing the attention of the exact type of follower that can be turned into a customer.
Join the TikTok creator economy
Creators aren’t just artists anymore. They’re artists, entrepreneurs, marketers, salespeople, accountants, founders, CEOs—and everything in between. In the creator economy, stars are self-made out of their own creativity, passion, and desire to build something unique.
Time is money for artists—and making more money from your art grants you more time to create. If the money itself isn’t rewarding enough, the extra time it buys will be. TikTok is one of many platforms offering creators the ability to make money online. Do what you already do best—and get paid doing it.
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