The TikTok stars making money from short videos

Gideon Musau,

Gideon Musau.

Photo credit: Pool

When Tik Tok was launched in 2018, money was the last thing on the mind of its users. In fact, monetising the short video-sharing app wasn’t the norm.

But a 2020 report by Forbes reveals the staggering amounts some users are making from the app, which boasted of over two billion downloads globally by 2020.

According to the report, TikTok’s 7 Highest Earning Stars, 19-year old Addison Rae Easterling earned a whopping $5 million (Sh545 million) in 2019.

The TikTok teen who posts funny dance videos on the Chinese-owned platform was the top earner thanks to her 54.1 million followers then – the number had grown to 84.1 million by Thursday.

Her makeup line – Item Beauty – and deals with American giant corporates Eagle and music streaming platform Spotify got her the money.

Dance videos

Seventeen-year-old Charlie D’amelio first posted on TikTok in June 2019. The dance video got traction and ever since she has had a series of dance videos go viral. She teamed up with her 20-year-old elder sister Dixie D’amelio to create more dance videos.

By the end of last year, the two siblings had struck a number of sponsorship deals with various companies that saw Charlie earn a staggering $4 million (Sh436 million) while her sister took home closer to $3 million (Sh316 million).

When Loren Gray who sits fourth in the list started out on the list, the 19-year-old budding model and singer had to go through a string of bad talent managers whom she accused of misleading her and in the process botching some early sponsorship deals.

Nonetheless the teen rose from the ashes to take home $2.6 million (Sh284 million) having landed sponsorship deals from Virgin Records, Hyundai, Burger King and Revlon.

Michael Le, 21, came sixth having made $1.2 million (Sh131 million) from sponsored content deals with Bang energy drinks.

“I know how to pull it all together. To make every video be a skit, be something that’s more than just putting your phone down” Le bragged to Forbes.

American beatboxer, 28 year old Spencer X made as much as Miachel Le, having secured deals with Oreo, Uno and Sony.

Monetising fame

The seven viral content creators, have just begun to monetise their fame primarily through sponsored content for brands as well as sales of personally branded merchandise.

Closer home, a number of local content creators on the app have also seen the light and are already making some good money.

 According to data from Tik-Tok Kenya management, these are some of the top TikTok creators in no particular order. Tik Tok clarified that the list is based on engagement with fans and consistency and not necessarily on the number of followers.

 Gideon Musau, 23 (Mr Mbilimbili)

 The Statistics in Computing degree graduate has been creating content since 2017 on Youtube. In August 2020 he joined TikTok following the buzz the hype had created.

 “I have always loved acting and creating content so when TikTok launched and became the talk of town I made the decision to shift my content to the platform” Mr Mbilimbili as he is popularly known says.

 The comedian actor enjoys a huge audience on the App with over 483,000 followers. His consistency has seen him secure a number of deals with various companies such as Falco Link and Prime Movers.

 He has so far worked with over seven brands and taken part in a number of commercial campaigns earning him enough money to pay his bills.

 “Averagely in a month I make up to Sh400,000 a month from all the sponsorship deals and campaigns that I take part in. Its helps to take care of my bills because. But I don’t work alone, I have a team of four, all content creators whom we work together with and I have to look after them too.” he adds.

Azziad Nasenya 21,

Azziad Nasenya

Internet sensation Azziad Nasenya.

Photo credit: Pool

 She is probably the most popular Tik-Tok star known in the country with over 1m followers. Her limelight breakthrough came when she did the Utawezana challenge, from the famous Mejja featuring Femi One hit song Utawezana released in April 2020.

 However Azziad had been on the App long enough having been inspired by her boyfriend to join who is also a content creator.

 “She joined just to have fun because at the time she was doing theatre plays, lip syncs, dancing and monologue.” A close source told Saturday Nation.

 Utawezana's hit song came just at the right time, transforming Azziad to a celebrity overnight.

 With over one million followers on both Tik Tok and Instagram, Azziad has become one of the most bankable and sought after brand influencers having partnered with a number of brands such as Bic, Phillips, Cortex, Phillips and travel agencies.

 “Azziad makes about Sh500,000 from brand influencing in a month. The amount goes up considering she has a day job as a radio presenter.” added the source.

 Azziad also runs her YouTube channel ‘Shoe Game with Azziad’ that targets celebrities. The vibrant channel attracts an average of 30,000 views per post and boasts of over 142,000 subscribers.

Ajib Gathoni, 22

Ajib Gathoni

Ajib Gathoni.

Photo credit: Pool

 When the pandemic hit last year, Universities closed and the Computer Science student found herself idling and bored at home.

 “I joined TikTok in early March out of curiosity. Everybody was talking about it and I had the time, I wanted to kill boredom and pass time because there wasn’t much I was doing with no school” she says.

 Gathoni started creating goofy dancing videos and sooner than later the video gained traction and with it she gained more followers day by day who are currently over 400,000 on her verified account.

 Gathoni wasn't aware that she would make money from her content creation until one day someone approached her to take part in a campaign.

 “I can’t really remember what the name of the initiative was but it was a campaign to highlight menstrual health. I was paid some amount and at that point was when I realised I could make money out of this.” she narrates.

 Ever since she has worked with a number of artists such as Dufla Dilgon, Kagwe Mungai to push their songs who in return pay for her services.

 She has also secured a number of sponsorship deals having partnered with the likes of Bata, LG and Safaricom and the returns have been amazing.

 “I can't give an exact figure but I make between Sh50,000 and Sh100,000 depending on the deal. I didn't expect this progress, I am super surprised with the journey.” she adds.

  Alma Mutheu 23,

Alma Mutheu

Alma Mutheu.

Photo credit: Pool

 Mutheu who holds a Bachelor's degree in English and Literature joined TIkTok in January 2019 to showcase her talent.

 “I love acting and creating content, I just wanted a platform to showcase my talent. Never in my wildest dream did I ever imagine I would make anything out of it. I just wanted to entertain people.”

 Little did she know, artists started approaching her to push their new releases and were willing to pay and before long brands came on board too.

 “I make between over Sh30,000 depending on the deal and I’m really grateful because I am just getting started.” she says.

 Mutheu who has over 282,000 followers on her verified account has partnered with Nivea, Co-perative Bank, Khetias Supermarkets and Kitchennette Bistro & Cafe.

 Cindy Kipsang 21,

 Cindy Kipsang

 Cindy Kipsang.

Photo credit: Pool

 For 2 Cindy who enjoys over 400,000 followers on her verified account, she joined TikTok in 2016 long before its global launch in 2018.

 “I joined TikTok a long time ago sometime in 2016 because I love creating content and having fun. At the time it was known as Musically and I would create content for my loyal 300 followers.”

 When it officially launched and created a buzz, Cindy who had taken a break from the App, came back with a bang.

 She learnt about monetizing content from her fellow top content creators.

 Cindy is however cagey to disclose how much she makes from her deals but one thing she concurs with her peers is that there is some good money from the App.

 “Right now I can’t talk about the money because I am in school and I have taken a break. I haven’t taken any jobs for a while as I focus on my studies. But one thing I can assure you, there is some good money out there on Tik Tok”


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