How to make money on TikTok in 2021

When the TikTok app launched in 2017, it became a global viral phenomenon within only a few months. According to Statista, TikTok was the third most downloaded non-gaming app in 2019, surpassing even Instagram and Facebook.

So, what’s TikTok?

TikTok is currently one of the fastest-growing entertainment apps that allow users to create and share video clips or do live streams. It’s almost like YouTube, but with short-form video content that is accompanied by the latest music trends.

The app has been especially successful with younger audiences like the Gen Z demographic. For example, the most-followed TikTok influencer is American dancer Charli D’Amelio, also known as the face of Gen Z.

For a creator like you, TikTok’s popularity presents a promising opportunity for building clout and earning money by selling products online.

tiktok app downloads
Global monthly TikTok app downloads.

So, if you’re wondering how making money on TikTok works, keep on reading. In this article, we’re going to talk about how to sell and get paid on TikTok in four steps:

  1. Set up a TikTok Pro Account
  2. Open a Sellfy store to sell products on TikTok
  3. Create TikTok merch with print-on-demand
  4. Build clout & sell merch on TikTok

Step #1: Set up a TikTok Pro Account

If you already have a Pro Account, you can skip this part and go to step #2. If you don’t, just follow these steps:

  1. Download and install the TikTok app from the App Store or Google Play.
  2. Open the app and tap Me in the bottom menu bar.
  3. Tap Sign up to register with your phone number, email address, or a registered social media account.
  4. Tap Edit Profile and pick a username that represents your brand or identity as a creator. Your username will also be in your TikTok profile URL (it can be changed once every 30 days).
  5. Write an attractive bio about what you do or who you are, and include relevant emojis.
  6. Tap Change photo or Change video to upload a profile picture or video clip of yourself.
  7. Add Instagram or YouTube to your profile.
  8. From your profile page, tap Settings and privacy (three dots) on the top right of the screen.
  9. Tap Manage account and then Switch to Pro Account.
  10. Select an account type: Creator (best for content creators, public figures, artists, and influencers) or Business (best for brands, retailers, organizations, and service providers).
  11. Choose a Category (Art, Beauty/Fashion, Consultant/Service, Sports/Fitness, etc.).

how to set up tiktok pro account

With a TikTok Pro Account, you get access to:

  • Options to add more business information (website, contact info, etc.).
  • Creator tools (real-time metrics on content performance and followers).
  • Creator Portal (getting started, creation essentials, foundations for success, content strategy, community guidelines and safety, getting paid to create, and featured articles).
tiktok creator portal
With a Pro Account, you get access to TikTok Creator Portal.

As you can see, you can do so much more with a Pro Account.

Step #2: Open a Sellfy store to sell products on TikTok

Before you can start building clout and making money on TikTok, you need to have a website where people can buy your products.

While most TikTokers use Shopify to sell merch, it’s far from being the only game in town. If you hate hidden fees and paying for third-party integrations to sell products like merch, then Shopify probably isn’t right for you.

There’s a much easier solution that can give you everything needed to make money on TikTok. Let’s explore that option.

Sellfy—an all-in-one eCommerce platform for TikTokers & creators

So, what is Sellfy? 

Sellfy is an easy-to-use eCommerce solution for creators wanting to sell any type of products online, whether that’s print-on-demand merch and digital or physical goods. Unlike most platforms, Sellfy’s setup process is incredibly easyyou can build a merch store in less than five minutes.

In recent years, Sellfy has taken the eCommerce world by storm. Even users across other platforms like Shopify have converted to Sellfy to enjoy the following features:

  • Instant payouts—why settle for a platform that pays once a month when you can get paid every time you make a sale?
  • Print on demand—Sellfy takes care of the order fulfillment, handling, and worldwide shipping of your merch.
  • Unlimited products—sell as many products as you want and upload files as large as 2 GB.
  • Zero hidden fees—just pay a monthly fixed price for a plan that fits your needs and that’s it.
  • Advanced VAT & tax settings—a feature that will 100% come in handy when you start selling online.
  • Premium customer support—Sellfy’s long been praised for its top-notch 24/7 customer service.
  • In-built marketing tools—made for creators like you who need to market your product.

I could go on, but these are just a few of the many benefits of having a white-label Sellfy store. Ready to open yours? 

Here’s how to sign up for Sellfy in three steps:

  1. Choose a subscription plan or start a 14-day free trial (you can upgrade at any time to access more features).
  2. Once your email address has been verified, log in and go to the Products section to pick a product type (digital or physical products, print on demand, etc.), and upload your designs.
  3. Customize your store and use Sellfy’s features to your advantage (for example, you can download Sellfy’s mobile app to check your store’s performance)!

sell on tiktok with sellfy

Step #3: Create TikTok merch with print-on-demand

Assuming that you already have a Sellfy store and an audience, the next step would be figuring out what you’re going to sell on TikTok. So, let’s talk about that.

To successfully sell on TikTok, your product should meet the following criteria:

  • Niche market demand
  • Popularity & appeal
  • No minimums

When you start using TikTok, you’re very likely to grow beyond your existing audience. Now, to keep them coming back for more, you need to put out more than just content—you need to sell something to them.

Here’s why:

Your followers are going to expect it anyway. Ever seen an influencer or creator who doesn’t sell merch (or any other product)? You probably haven’t and neither have I. 

Most fans would happily buy anything from a creator they love, especially something wearable like merch. It’s kind of like buying that Star Wars hoodie because you love Star Wars, or wearing your favorite band’s t-shirt. 

Speaking of merch, the most profitable product to sell on TikTok is clothing. In fact, most TikTok stars sell clothing (hoodies, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.). This is hardly surprising as it’s the most popular online shopping category. It’s also the easiest type of product to create and sell.

tiktok stars selling merch
Examples of TikTok stars selling merch.

Luckily for you, you can do just that and more with Sellfy: create print-on-demand merch for fans and build an automated business.

With print on demand, you don’t have to worry about manual order fulfillment, keeping an inventory, or shipping—it’s all handled by Sellfy! All you need to do is upload your designs, add them to your products and share your store link on TikTok.

So, here’s how to get started with print on demand and create TikTok merch:

  1. Log into your Sellfy store and head to the Products section.
  2. Select Print on demand and choose one or several product categories.
  3. Upload your designs and add them to products.
  4. Click Continue to name your products, set prices, and write descriptions.
  5. Hit Save product and your merch will appear on your store page.

Important note about image quality: Please follow Sellfy’s print-on-demand tips and best practices to prepare the perfect design file. This is crucial for achieving great print quality.

Pro tip: To appeal to fans, sell merch that aligns with your video content. The best way to do that is to check comments on your videos (or other social media posts) and identify which slogans and catchphrases fans have picked up from your content. Most people love stuff that is relatable or funny, so if you tend to speak or act a certain way that makes it meme-worthy, be sure to use that on your merch.

tiktok slogan merch
Example of a TikTok star’s catchphrase being used on merch.

Not sure how to turn your memes, slogans, or catchphrases into designs? You have two options: use a template, or leave the job to a designer. To find out more, read our article on how to design your custom merch.

And, last but not least, remember that you can always go beyond merch and sell any type of product on TikTok as long as you have a Sellfy store!

Step #4: Build clout & sell merch on TikTok

Creators who sell merch often earn up to 10 times more than those who don’t. So, if you want to turn that into a reality, you need to add your merch store link in bio! 

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a large following—even those with a smaller following can earn a good deal of income on merch sales alone.

Follow these steps to add your store link to your TikTok bio:

  1. From your TikTok profile page, tap Edit profile
  2. Tap Website and simply copy-paste your Sellfy store URL.
  3. If the URL is too long, you can shorten it with Bitly or use Linktree if you have multiple links.
  4. Write “link in bio” in captions to refer followers to the link and announce your merch launch in your videos.

TikTok link in bio

Now that you’ve added your link in bio, it’s time to build clout and promote your merch on TikTok! While some of the most obvious tactics are showcasing your products in videos or using social proof, marketing on TikTok is a little differentit’s all about thinking outside the box and being creative. So, let’s dive in.

Follow TikTok trends to get noticed

One of the easiest ways to get noticed is to follow TikTok trends (trending hashtags, sounds, or effects). Unlike Instagram, you don’t have to search for them—TikTok’s popular hashtags are visible right on your Discovery page!

However, when you decide to use trending hashtags in video captions, make sure that they’re relevant to your content. Fans tend to prefer consistency—after all, they’re following you for a reason—so it’s best to stay aligned with your brand or identity as a creator.

TikTok’s algorithm helps users discover content based on their viewing preferences and habits. For example, if health and fitness is your niche, you can use trending hashtags like #HealthyFood, #Fitness, or #OutdoorDining. Or, if you’re a Twitch streamer or gamer, you can use #RetroGaming, #GamingonTikTok, or #MobileGame. And, if you’re a teacher, you can use #LearnOnTikTok

Pro tip: Combine trending hashtags with niche hashtags to increase your chances of getting noticed. Trending ones tend to be high-density hashtags (more than 1B views), so, depending on your luck, your videos may or may not get lost among thousands of other videos. To prevent that from happening, combine them with niche hashtags (less than 1B views). Niche hashtags are usually specific hobbies or interests (e.g. #WitchTok, #80saesthetic, #darkacademia, #astrologytok, etc.).

Aside from hashtags, there are trending sounds (popular music or audio clips) and effects (filters) on the Discovery page. People who love a certain trending sound or effect can tap it to find more TikTok videos with the same sound or effect. So, you should definitely use trending sounds or effects in most of your content!

Then there are TikTok challenges. For example, makeup challenges like #PeachesMakeupChallenge. If you’re a beauty guru or a makeup artist, why not jump in on this trend while it still lasts?

Pro tip: Use niche hashtags to find popular TikTokers (up to 1M followers) in your niche. Explore their content to get ideas and see what hashtags, sounds, or effects they’re using.

Promote brand deals or merch in creative ways

As I’ve mentioned before, Gen Z is the main demographic on TikTok. Gen Z appreciates authenticity (old-school marketing tricks don’t sit well with them), so if you’re going to promote your merch, be careful not to oversell your product. Instead, get very creative!

While it’s totally fine to refer followers to your store link or brand deal, it’s much more effective to do so in a less obvious way on TikTok. 

For instance, Canadian TikTok star kallmekris (real name Kris Collins) promoted her recent brand deal by using the product on a made-up character in one of her comedy skits. And, you know what? It worked. People bought the product because they loved the comedy skit.

So, the key takeaway is that you can promote your merch in a similarly creative way. TikTok provides plenty of tools to help make your videos creative: stickers, masks, animations, special effects, sounds, music, makeup filters, etc. You can even use slow-motion, time-lapse, rotation, cropping, and more in your videos.

Aside from merch, working with brands can also open the door to all sorts of opportunities. If that’s something you would be interested in, you should check out TikTok Creator Marketplace. In the words of TikTok, “Creator Marketplace is the official collaboration platform to connect brands and creators on TikTok.”

However, the marketplace is only available for Creator Accounts. So, if you’re using a Business Account, you need to switch.

If you’re already using the Creator Account, you can get access through invitation or self-application. Once you meet the eligibility criteria, you may be invited to join and set a rate for sponsored videos on your profile page. Brands that want to collaborate with you will then be able to contact you and send you the campaign details as well as the contract.

Keep in mind that the marketplace doesn’t offer transactions through the platform, so creators must agree on the payment details directly with the brand. When that is settled, you can shoot a video and publish it once it’s been approved by TikTok’s Community Guidelines and the brand partner.

Collaborate with TikTok influencers

TikTok is unique for making it possible to connect with other TikTokers in a multitude of ways. You can:

  • Add video reactions (react to someone else’s video). For example, TikTok star yoleendadong (real name Leenda Dong) shot to fame after she started posting Millennial humor reactions to trending Gen Z videos.
  • Perform duets (create content together with someone else). This option is mostly used by dancers and singers.
  • Create challenges (perform a challenge and then challenge others to do the same). A challenge is often a combination of text, sound, or movement, e.g. “Tell us you’re ____ without telling us you’re ____.”

My suggestion? Try to collaborate with a TikTok star or influencer in your niche. Collaborating with a popular TikToker who has a large following will help you get noticed. Think of it as influencer marketing. It’s also a good way to form connections with people and become part of a community you’re selling to. When you’re part of something, it’s easier to get followers and lead them into your sales funnel.

Pro tip: To ensure that people will be able to discover you on TikTok, disable Private account and turn on Suggest your account to others in your Privacy settings. Make sure you’ve also enabled Duet, Stitch, Comments, and Downloads on your videos.

Use TikTok Creator Fund or Ads Manager

With TikTok Ads Manager, you can create and manage up to five different types of paid advertising:

  • TopView—up to 60 seconds of video with sound that auto-plays as soon as a TikTok user opens the app.
  • Brand Takeover—a video or image ad that pops up when a user first logs into TikTok (a tap on the ad will redirect the user to the brand’s website).
  • In-Feed—up to 60 seconds video that appears in a user’s “For You” feed and lets the user comment, like, follow, or share (this can also be used to drive traffic to internal in-app pages or external websites).
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge—a type of ad that invites the user to join in on a collective challenge (choose a branded hashtag, create a challenge, and then encourage users to participate in your challenge by including your hashtag in their posts).
  • Branded Effects—an ad that uses custom-made stickers, filters, and special effects to deliver a visual message to the user.

To get started with TikTok Ads, sign up or log in on their site and follow these steps:

  1. Select a campaign objective (drive traffic to your Sellfy store or increase merch sales) and pick your audience (create “Custom Audiences” or “Lookalike Audiences”).
  2. Set a budget (you can change or pause your campaign at any time).
  3. Create your ad with videos or images, or use TikTok’s video creation tool to create something from scratch.
  4. Publish your ad.
  5. Measure and optimize your ad with TikTok’s analytics tools.

Pro tip: Go to your Privacy settings and turn on Ad authorization so third-party advertisers can use your videos in ads.

If ads are not your cup of tea, you can also check out the TikTok Creator Fund (TikTok’s way of rewarding creators who make awesome videos). The TikTok Creator Fund is an excellent way to earn passive income by doing what you love on TikTok and promoting your merch. 

So, if you’ve ever wondered how to make money on TikTok Creator Fund, then keep on reading.

To participate, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements:

  • 18 years or older
  • Legal resident in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, France, or Spain
  • A minimum threshold of 10K followers
  • 100K video views in the last 30 days
  • Original videos in line with Community Guidelines

If you meet the above criteria, you can apply within the TikTok app. When you’ve been accepted, several factors will influence how funds are calculated for your videos. Your funds will then appear in about three days after the day in which video views were accrued. Funds can be withdrawn 30 days after the end of the month and be transferred to PayPal or Zelle.

Communicate with your followers & host live streams

And, last but not least, don’t forget to communicate with your followers! One of the best ways to do that on TikTok is by hosting live streams and LIVE gifting.

LIVE gifting is a unique feature that allows followers to show their appreciation by sending virtual gifts to their favorite creators during a live stream. How cool is that? 

For this to work, viewers need to purchase virtual TikTok coins in-app. Then, the coins can be exchanged for virtual gifts of different value. So, what happens when you receive gifts from your followers? You’ll be able to earn Diamonds (TikTok awards)! 

Creators can exchange these Diamonds for funds and transfer them to a payment method. 

In addition to LIVE gifting, you can also use live streaming to:

  • Talk about an upcoming merch launch
  • Share a personal story to connect with your viewers
  • Host a Q&A session 
  • Refer people to your Sellfy store
  • Showcase yourself wearing your merch
  • Announce updates, news, or anything else you may want to share

Lights, camera, TikTok!

If you’re trying to find ways to reach more people globally, making videos and selling merch on TikTok might just be the answer. Demand for video content is at an all-time high, so why not connect with your audience in real-time? Most TikTok stars have grown from zero to 1M followers within only a year. So, what are you waiting for? Get your lights, grab your camera, and.. action!

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