My mantra for 2024 is “leave no money on the table.” I’m making sure to take advantage of every revenue stream I have available to me, while also doing my best to minimize costs where I can. My husband and I spent most of 2023 in financial uncertainty. We went six months living off our savings and my meager income from social media. Thankfully, we have right sized and are back on track. But the experience brought me so much anxiety and heartache that I vowed to never leave my family in that circumstance again.
Which leads me to the TikTok shop.
Last year, TikTok rolled out what appears to be a rival to Amazon. It’s pretty brilliant, really. It works through affiliate marketing, same as Amazon. Creators can purchase products through the TikTok Shop at a discounted price, and if they make content promoting those products, they can earn a small commission. The app makes it effortless for creators to do this. All a creator must do is film their video and attach the link to the product directly underneath. TikTok takes care of the shipping, the customer service, and the issuance of commissions. It’s really that simple.
It took a little trial and error as I learned how to optimize my earning potential, but I think I’ve finally figured it out. Last week, I made $2000 in seven days, and those numbers continue to climb.
So, here’s what I’ve learned that has helped me to harness my ability to earn money through the TikTok Shop:
#1. There are a few eligibility requirements.
Compared to other affiliate programs, the eligibility requirements for TikTok shop are pretty easy to meet. You must be 18 years or older and have at least 1,000 followers on TikTok. Because TikTok has a nicely refined algorithm, someone starting with zero followers can reach 1,000 followers relatively quickly compared to other platforms. So, if that number intimidates you, I promise it’s easier to reach than you think.
#2. At first, you’ll have to spend your own money. But that changes.
When you’re first getting started, you’ll have to shop on the TikTok Shop the same as you do on Amazon. You’ll find products you think you’ll enjoy and pay for them yourself. Once they arrive, you can make your videos and instantly begin making commissions. Once you’ve made a few videos, the TikTok Shop begins enabling you to get products without paying for them. They often send coupons (or TikTok Shop store credits) that you can use to order products at no cost to you.
#3. You can work directly with brands through the Messenger App.
As you gain success with your videos, brands will begin reaching out to you directly through the built-in messenger app on TikTok Shop. Here, you can receive free samples and negotiate your commissions. Occasionally, you can begin building rapport with these brands and enter into campaigns that lead to even bigger commissions.
#4. You are obligated to make videos for products you receive for free.
If you purchase something with your own money through the TikTok shop, you are not obligated to make a video with that product. If you receive free product, either by using the TikTok Shop coupons or working directly with brands, you are required to make a video. And TikTok does not play around with this. From the day your order is marked as delivered, you have a window of time in which you must post a video with it. This window varies, but I’ve found it’s generally around 15 days. TikTok Shop does an impressive job keeping you organized when it comes to these requirements, in my opinion. When you log into the TikTok Shop portal, you see a window that tells you how many products are awaiting videos, how many days you have left, and even a direct link for posting videos for those products. It’s incredibly user-friendly. If you fail to post videos for those products within the window, you receive strikes against your account. Too many strikes and you risk losing the privilege of using TikTok Shop. So, be smart about how you place these orders. Don’t order free items unless you are reasonably certain you will have time to make a video within 2 weeks of receiving them.
#5. If your videos are doing well, brands will sometimes pay to promote them.
This was a surprise to me, and it’s massively improved my earnings on TikTok Shop. I recently posted a video showing some DIY Lash Extensions that I ordered through the Shop. The brand is clearly paying to promote this video, as it’s just crossed 1.4 million views, with 20k Likes, 600 comments, and 4k Saves and Shares. Not only has this resulted in a surge of commissions for me, but it has also netted me over 600 new followers.
#6. Don’t purchase “trending” products.
TikTok Shop tries to help you get started by showing you what products are currently trending. Although this can be helpful, it also creates a lot of competition, as potentially thousands of creators will begin making videos featuring those products. If you’re trying to get noticed by the brand so that they will pay to promote your video (thus increasing your commissions), you’re going to get lost in the sea. Seek products that you believe you would personally love and would enjoy sharing with your audience. Not only will you have less competition, but you’ll also come across far more genuine when you’re showing a product you actually love.
#7. Pay attention to stock levels.
This was a huge pain point for me when I first got started. Before I knew to pay attention to stock levels, I made a few videos of products that only had 15–20 items in stock. If my video took off, I only got to make a very small commission because the item was instantly sold out. I then had to field tons of comments from my viewers who wanted to know when it would be back in stock (which, of course, I had no way of answering). I ended up having to take down those videos. So, try to make sure you’re ordering products with at least 1,000 in stock.
#8. Make your TikTok Shop videos look and feel like your typical content.
It’s so easy to switch into QVC mode when you are sharing products for the TikTok Shop. But remember, your audience followed you in the first place because they loved your style and connected with you on a personal level. I’ve worked hard to make my TikTok Shop content practically indistinguishable from my typical content. Same tone, same style, same cadence. I think viewers are far more likely to purchase something that feels like the content they’re used to seeing from you than something that looks overly polished and gimmicky.
#9. Back up your TikTok Shop purchases on Amazon (and get an Amazon Affiliate Account).
There will always be people who are skeptical of purchasing through anything besides Amazon. Thankfully, many of the things offered on TikTok shop are also available on Amazon. If you have an Amazon Affiliate link and an Amazon storefront, it is easy to offer your viewers an alternative way to purchase the items you’re showing on Amazon so that you can still earn your commission. Becoming an Amazon Affiliate has a few eligibility requirements, so make sure you check those out. Once you have your affiliate link and storefront all set up, you can share the link in your TikTok bio. This way, you can direct followers to your Amazon storefront to purchase the product if they would rather buy it that way. This is also great for helping you repurpose your content—you can post the video you made for TikTok to apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and link to your Amazon Storefront.
#10. Don’t give your audience TikTok Shop fatigue.
Make sure you are curating a page that is warm and inviting, that provides useful content that requires nothing from the viewer. Making money on any social media platform is about reciprocity. If you seem to be running a page that is all about what you can gain from your audience, you’re not going to succeed. Build relationships. Build community. Offer content that does more than invite people to spend money. As you build trust and connection with your followers, you’ll not only make better commissions—you’ll also make new friends and hopefully make your little corner of the internet a better place for all who find it.
Like most things that have a big payout, there is a lot of work involved. There is no quick and easy scheme for making money that will be long-lasting and fulfilling. But I truly believe that if you commit to working hard, growing a following, and making good strategic choices when it comes to what products you show, you will eventually find a nice revenue stream that you can count on.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.