Thanks to a new trend, you don't have to be a creator or an influencer to make money on TikTok — well, kind of. Millennial financial experts are posting videos on TikTok featuring tips and tricks to make big bucks from home, with minimal work. Videos with hashtags like #financialfreedom and #onlinebusiness, #makemoney and #passiveincome have hundreds of millions of views. In these quick-take videos, entrepreneurs describe how they're making money online, how you can make money online, and how well their business is doing — and yeah, they're showing receipts.
If you naturally cringe at claims that remote gigs can provide you the opportunity to make thousands of dollars without lifting a finger, the financial entrepreneurs of TikTok don't blame you — and they're also not trying to change your mind. "Never trust 'get rich quick schemes' you hear about," Sharon Tseung, 29, a passive income and online business entrepreneur with 140,000 followers on TikTok, tells Bustle. "Passive income does take hard work, which may sound ironic," she says.
This TikTok trend might be particularly appealing in a pandemic where job rates are only just starting to come back from a steep decline. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in July, 31.3 million workers reported being unable to work at some point in the last month due to the pandemic's effect on their workplace or trade. And as of August, there were 13.55 million people unemployed in the U.S., down from a high of 23 million in April, but still way more than 5.79 million in February, pre-pandemic.
"Due to the effects of the pandemic, my platforms have dramatically increased in traffic and following, because people are becoming curious about expanding the amount of income streams they have," Tseung says.
How TikTokers Make Money Online
TikTok entrepreneurs share the various ways they make money online in a combination of story-time videos and quick-cut slides, adding screenshots of dated revenue reports as proof. They share these videos both to share their experience, but also expertise. Many finance Tok-ers also offer educational and consulting services as another hustle — meaning, they're making money by telling their followers how to make money.
But a lot of these income streams are passive income, or money that makes itself. "It can require a decent amount of work to get started, but not much to maintain," Tseung tells Bustle. For example, becoming a landlord takes a lot of preparation to get your property rented, but once a lease is underway, you make money without much added effort. But you don't have to be homeowner to access passive income streams.
"I started making passive income as a freelance writer on Fiverr. It has now grown into a freelancing empire, with a few online courses and ebooks as well," Alexandra Fasulo, 27, an online gig worker with 132,000 followers on TikTok, tells Bustle. On Fiverr, you can earn money for different editing, illustration, and content multi-media creation-related tasks. "I started to sell my editing for only $5 and thought to myself, if I can earn $40 per month, I bet I can earn $100, $200, $1,000 — and I did," Fasulo tells Bustle.
The value in passive income, according these entrepreneurs, is that you can diversify your income, work for yourself, and adjust your output to fit your lifestyle. "I realized that if I could make money work for me and not the other way around, it would free up my life to spend more time with my loved ones, create the passion projects I’ve always been interested in, and travel when I wanted to," Tseung says. She offers creative services like logos for apparel via Merch by Amazon. She also sells digital downloads on Etsy (like Photoshop or Microsoft Word templates that she makes herself), and collects Google AdSense revenue on YouTube video views and blogpost clicks.
"I always advise gauging your time, capital, strengths, and passions before you choose any side hustle," Tseung says. If you have a block of time to create some products, like designs or digital downloads, you can put that into motion with little maintenance required. But if you have extra time on a more consistent basis, you might want to experiment with blogging, making YouTube videos or creating content that you can collect regular ad revenue on. (Unlike multi-level marketing schemes, which are often touted as quick ways to make passive income, these types of revenue streams don't hinge on your ability to sign people up to sell products under you. )
While Tseung has graphic design skills that she's honed in Photoshop, she says you don't need to pay for software or have design skills to create sellable work. "You can create these products through free software like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Canva." If you're not an artist, you can create budgeting templates, meal plans, recipe books, e-books, courses, and worksheets, and so on. "If you have knowledge in a specific niche, think about what types of digital files could provide value in your area of expertise," Tseung says.
"I would suggest freelancing while working your other job. I did this for one year," Fasulo says. After that first year, she saw enough growth from her online gig work that she was able to transition fully. "The first year I made about $36,000. The next year it was $67,000, and then $90,000, and then six figures," she says.
"If you’re dependent on only one income source, you’re putting all your eggs into one basket which can be extremely risky. I prefer diversification," Tseung says, adding that the more you branch out, the bigger your safety net gets.
How Women Are Carving Out Space In A Male-Dominated Field
The vast majority of TikTok's finance personalities — jazzed-up entrepreneurs giving tips on how to make money online and retire young — are male, as a quick scroll through any of the hashtags will tell you. There's only a handful of women who are breaking through the algorithm, and even so, they have significantly fewer followers than their male counterparts. The women who are a part of this trend say that representation, even on TikTok, is key to help other women achieve financial security and confidence in their ability to make money.
"I have received comments that made me feel undermined as a female entrepreneur and investor. It’s not always the case, but there are times I feel I have to work harder to be respected as an equal," Tseung tells Bustle.
"I think it's important we normalize that women can make just as much money as men today," Fasulo tells Bustle. She explains that she often receives negative or discouraging comments from men on TikTok, especially when she shares her income stats. They express disbelief and blame her success on her looks, she says. "They leave comments saying I make the money using OnlyFans or say I must have a rich man behind the scenes," she adds. "I think if more women supported other women and their financial expertise on TikTok, it would create a culture in which women and men were comfortable seeing a woman earn six figures."
"When there’s less support and less people like you doing something, there’s more fear in trying," Tseung says.