How to Make Money as a Content Creator (In Theory)

I found myself Googling this exact phrase this week — don’t ask — and could not find the actual answer anywhere.

As in, the numbers of followers you need to have on each platform before you can join a Creator Fund, get ad sponsors, or monetise your content.

I’m not at all interested in all those posts that say they’re about how to make money, but they’re actually just about how to make good content. Nope, I’m all about trying to make some extra cash, thanks.

So I’m collecting the answers here, for you and for me.

This is all information collated from various sources; this is not from personal experience (sadly). As you’ll see, it’s a challenge, each platform is very different, and none of them make it terribly easy.

Let me know if you’d like me to add information from any other social media platforms!

TikTok

TikTok on the App Store

How to make money on TikTok

To join the TikTok Creator Fund, you need to:

  1. Live in the USA, UK, Germany, Italy, France, or Spain
  2. Have at least 10k followers
  3. Be 18 years old
  4. Have at least 100k video views in the last 30 days, and
  5. Have an account that isn’t in trouble with TikTok for Community Guidelines reports.

(Summarised from TikTok, 28 Jan 2022.)

How much can you make on TikTok?

The highest-earning TikTokkers in 2021 earn millions of $ per year: e.g. Addison Rae ($5 million), Charli D’Amelio ($4 million), etc.

There’s a cool calculator on Influencer Marketing Hub that estimates a range for how much you could earn for a video based on the number of followers and likes, or based on your username (I got a server error so I don’t know if this part actually works).

So although TikTok is my current favourite social media platform — and most of Gen Y and Gen Z’s — it’s actually quite hard to make much money on it, for so many reasons.

First off, 6 countries only? Come on! I’m in Australia, so I’m understandably peeved that there’s not even an option for me to apply to join (if I had enough followers, etc.).

Secondly, Community Guidelines “violation” reports are easy for viewers to make, hard for creators to appeal, and almost impossible to clear off your record. Meanwhile, videos made by actual idiots doing illegal things get millions of views. Go figure.

Thirdly, the TikTok Creator Fund is offensively small ($200m). They pay their creators a very small percentage (0.3%) of their overall revenue, and the percentage is actually going to get smaller as their profits grow but the amount they pay creators does not change.

Fourthly, unless you get a shitton of ad sponsors, you don’t make any money from the fact that TikTok shows ads — unlike YouTube, where if you monetise your content and ads play before or during your videos, you get more money.

And fifthly, only one type of creator on TikTok actually gets paid. If you make a viral video, you could get money. If you make a viral sound that gets used by 50k people in 500k videos, you get nothing.

Nothing.

In contrast, it’s a lot easier to monetise your video content on YouTube, where the Creator Fund pays its creators 50% of YouTube’s profits. Hank Green did a in-depth video explaining why:

YouTube

YouTube - YouTube

Make money on YouTube

To join the YouTube Partner Program, you need to:

  1. Live in a country that has the program
  2. Have more than 4k valid public watch hours in the last 12 months
  3. Have more than 1k subscribers
  4. Link your AdSense account
  5. Have no active Community Guidelines strikes against your channel
  6. Turn on 2-step verification for your Google Account.

(Summarised from YouTube: Monetization, 28 Jan 2022.)

Then to sign up, click Monetization in the YouTube Studio. If you don’t have enough subscribers/watch hours yet, you can select an option for YouTube to email you when you become eligible.

How much can you make on YouTube?

The YouTube Partner Program gives its creators 55% of the money generated through ads on videos. And this is a lot of money — the YouTube Partner Program paid its creators about $10b per year ($30b over the past 3 years).

Then there’s the recently-introduced YouTube Shorts Fund, which gives $100m to creators who post Shorts (videos up to 60 seconds long). And they reach out to creators proactively to tell them they’re eligible to join the fund. That’s nice.

Instagram

File:Instagram-Icon.png - Wikimedia Commons

How to make money on Instagram

To monetise your content as an Instagram Partner, you need to:

  1. Live in an eligible country (but Instagram doesn’t list these in an easy-to-find location)
  2. Not have any Community Guidelines violations
  3. Have authentic engagement, not manufactured sharing, paid views, or bots watching vids
  4. Not be a politician or government agency.

(Summarised from Instagram, 28 Jan 2022.)

On Instagram Reels, you can make money based on the amount of plays your Reel gets. To monetise your Reels, you need to:

  1. Have a business or creator account
  2. Have access to the program (not everyone does, but it’s unclear how to get access)
  3. Share Reels to Facebook and Instagram
  4. Get at least 1k views over a 30-day period on your Reel.

To request badges from your followers during lives, you need to:

  1. Have 10k followers
  2. Be 18 years old
  3. Live in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, Australia, Turkey, Brazil, and Mexico
  4. Be invited by Instagram (check in Settings > Creator > Badges).

You can also make money doing Instagram in-stream video ads, if you live in the USA, UK, and Australia.

Earning via ad sponsorships (branded content) is up to you; you don’t need to have a set number of followers.

How much can you make on Instagram?

Some creators say you’re likely to only receive free goods and services if you have 1k followers, and you can (apparently) start earning money from brands once you’ve got 2k followers and up.

The rule of thumb for creators to charge (at least the ones talking about it) seems to be $10 per 1k followers, but since some companies will pay more than $800 per 1k followers … a lot of creators may be selling themselves short.

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. I take no responsibility for the accuracy of this information, as it was gathered at the time of writing (28 Jan 2022) and is expected to change over time. I take no responsibility for the choices or results for any individual seeking to make money as a content creator. Good luck!

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