10 of the richest TikTokers and what their success can teach us

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What does it take to become one of the richest TikTokers?

The social media platform surpassed 1.5 billion active users in 2022, and even though its top creators aren’t quite hitting the same monetary heights as the top talent on the more well-established YouTube just yet, they’re still raking in millions through brand deals, partnerships, and other ventures made possible by their TikTok success.

As a relatively new platform, TikTok is still a wild west of sorts in the content creation game, which can make it difficult to determine the best path to success based on those who have already found it, but it also means there are new trails to be blazed. And there are still plenty of lessons to learn from the top-earning TikTokers of 2021 — their wins, their controversies, and the luck they used to their advantage — even as we keep tabs on where they go from here.

So who are they? Let’s take a look.

1. Charli D’Amelio

Charli D'Amelio

Subscribers: 149.3 million

Yearly earnings: $17.5 million

Estimated net worth: $20 million

What she’s known for: dance and lip-sync videos

Her story: D’Amelio has quickly become TikTok’s biggest star in just a few years on the platform. She started out posting dance and lip sync videos, rising to fame for coming across like a normal teen girl just having fun on the app, although she soon catapulted into further recognition through a reality show following her family, an appearance on Dancing With the Stars, and success throughout other social media platforms.

What we can learn from her page: D’Amelio’s family was quick to take advantage of her burgeoning success and turn it into the beginning of a social media empire. Both her own branded products and partnerships with other companies have been extremely lucrative, and spreading all these ventures out so that her income isn’t tied to a single platform has been a smart move. Not everyone is poised to so easily make the most out of things when opportunity comes knocking, but for those who can, it will go a long way.

2. Dixie D’Amelio

Dixie D'Amelio

Subscribers: 57.5 million

Yearly earnings: $10 million

Estimated net worth: $10 million

What she’s known for: assorted TikTok videos, music

Her story: It’s impossible to pretend the elder D’Amelio’s success isn’t tightly intertwined with that of her younger sister, who found social media success first. The D’Amelio sisters’ paths meet more often than not, although Dixie has also tried to carve out separate space for herself as a pop singer.

What we can learn from her page: The D’Amelios aren’t the first siblings to climb the ladder to social media stardom together, and they won’t be the last. Nepotism goes a long way in any industry, and taking advantage of that is a wise choice. That said, it’s just a launching pad. While Dixie has already established herself among the richest TikTokers, her long-term viability as a social media star may rely on her finding success that isn’t entwined with her sister’s, reminding us all that even if you hitch your hopes to someone else while pursuing a career as a content creator, it’s important to build your own unique brand.

3. Addison Rae

Addison Rae

Subscribers: 88.8 million

Yearly earnings: $8.5 million

Estimated net worth: $15 million

What she’s known for: dance and lip-sync videos

Her story: Rae gained a following on TikTok when she started posting dance videos back in 2019. Like other successful TikTokers, she quickly pivoted to brand deals and partnerships as she gained more recognition. In recent years, she has started to pursue singing and acting, appearing in Netflix’s He’s All That and sparking debate about whether Hollywood should look to TikTok for its next crop of young actors.

What we can learn from her page: In addition to trying to branch out into other on-camera ventures, Rae has launched a cosmetics line and secured a number of undoubtedly lucrative partnerships with high-profile companies. Whether she has a career in acting remains to be seen, but getting a starring role in a Netflix film reminds us that being a social media star can open a lot of doors — if your end goal is something else, finding success as a content creator might be able to get you halfway there.

4. Khaby Lame

Khaby Lame

Subscribers: 153.5 million

Yearly earnings: $5 million

Estimated net worth: $15 million

What he’s known for: comedy and reaction videos

His story: Lame joined TikTok after being laid off during the early days of the pandemic, sharing lighthearted clips of himself just playing around, then starting a series of reaction videos to overly complicated “life hacks” that made him well-known on the platform. Currently one of the fastest-growing content creators on the platform, Lame surpassed Charli D’Amelio in mid-2022 to have the most TikTok followers.

What we can learn from his page: For one thing, success can come at you fast. But more importantly, Lame connected with viewers by just being casual and not coming across as someone setting out to be famous with overly produced videos following specific trends — a welcome reminder that aspiring content creators ultimately don’t need anything more than a good idea to get started.

5. Bella Poarch

Bella Poarch

Subscribers: 92.6 million

Yearly earnings: $5 million

Estimated net worth: $2 million

What she’s known for: lip-sync and comedy videos, music

Her story: Poarch is another who found success on the platform during the pandemic, starting out with lip-sync videos and quickly utilizing the newfound attention to launch the singing career she seemed to want from the jump. In the meantime, she’s still making brand deals and building an impressive and rapid following on TikTok.

What we can learn from her page: As quickly as her star has been rising on TikTok, Poarch doesn’t appear to be following the exact same playbook as the D’Amelios or Rae, who solidified their social media stardom prior to branching out into other ventures that may or may not end up being a success in the long term. Poarch, on the other hand, began pursuing a music career very quickly, which may position her to become known as a musical artist who also happens to do well on TikTok instead of a TikToker who later decided to try her hand at singing. This may or may not be an important distinction in five or ten years, but for now, Poarch is proving that if you want to be known for one thing, it’s possible to take the reins and shift the narrative without disregarding the work you’ve already done.

6. Josh Richards

Josh Richards

Subscribers: 25.9 million

Yearly earnings: $5 million

Estimated net worth: $1.5 million

What he’s known for: lip-syncing and dance videos

His story: Richards, like so many others, initially garnered attention for his lip sync and dance videos. He soon diversified into other ventures outside of TikTok, including co-hosting a podcast with controversial Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy, serving as a brand ambassador for Amazon, and co-founding both a line of energy drinks and a production company.

What we can learn from his page: Richards has split his time between pursuing ventures in front of the camera, behind the camera, and not involving media whatsoever. TikTok fame may not last forever, and seizing the moment to create sources of income and business opportunities that don’t rely on recognition of his name to sell something to the masses is a wise move. Richards may have a long career ahead of him in front of the camera, but he’s laying the groundwork to keep creating content in other ways all the same.

7. Kris Collins

Kris Collins

Subscribers: 47.7 million

Yearly earnings: $4.75 million

Estimated net worth: $2 million

What she’s known for: comedy skits

Her story: Collins started her TikTok during the early days of the pandemic, using it as an outlet for comedic character-based sketches. Her income from the platform is notable considering Canada, where she is based, doesn’t have a creators fund for TikTokers; all the money she makes is from brand deals and partnerships with the companies that have been quick to flock to her rapidly growing, family-friendly page.

What we can learn from her page: Collins’ content is reminiscent of a prior era of YouTube and even Vine, where comedy sketches made by clever and engaging creators shot the likes of Lilly Singh and JennaMarbles to fame. Though the type of content that does well on social media evolves alongside the platforms themselves, Collins’ success is proof that if content is good, there can still be a place for it, even if strategists might tell you something else is an easier way to TikTok success. And as a bonus, compilations of her videos also do really well on YouTube, expanding her audience and potential for generating income.

8. Avani Gregg

Avani Gregg

Subscribers: 42.8 million

Yearly earnings: $4.75 million

Estimated net worth: $3 million

What she’s known for: makeup videos

Her story: Gregg started posting makeup transition videos, initially going viral with one showing her transformation into a Harley Quinn-type character. She has continued creating videos related to makeup, beauty, and style on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. Gregg has also nabbed a role in a web series (Chicken Girls), hosted a Facebook Watch show, and published a memoir about going from small-town Indiana to TikTok stardom.

What we can learn from her page: Last year, Gregg collaborated with Morphe to launch her own makeup line, a shrewd move connecting the makeup tutorials she’s become known for to an actual product line her fans can purchase. She’s also expressed grander ambitions in terms of launching new products and doing makeup for celebrities like Billie Eilish, although she doesn’t seem to be rushing into all the same empire-building as some of the others on this list — and that’s okay. Sometimes TikTok, or content creation in general, can be a great way to explore passions and maybe find success along the way, but you don’t have to have everything figured out upfront.

9. Zach King

Zach King

Subscribers: 72.2 million

Yearly earnings: $3 million

Estimated net worth: $3 million

What he’s known for: “magic” videos utilizing special effects

His story: King got his start on YouTube before finding success on Vine and Instagram, and eventually migrating to TikTok after Vine’s demise. During that time, he’s grown his following posting filmmaking challenges and videos using special effects, appeared on The Amazing Race with his wife, and released a series of books aimed at middle schoolers.

What we can learn from his page: Although there are filmmakers who have launched more traditional careers after finding success on social media platforms, there are many more like King who continue to just make short content for platforms like TikTok. Social media can be a launchpad to other mediums, or it can be the endgame — and you may not know which one is the best fit for you until you’re in the thick of it. But King’s success across Vine and TikTok proves that there are many outlets available for creativity outside of the more traditional avenues, with a lot more room to do things your own way if you can carve out success in your niche.

10. Riyaz Aly

Riyaz Aly

Subscribers: 45.5 million

Yearly earnings: $2 million

Estimated net worth: $2 million

What he’s known for: lip-syncing and duet videos

His story: Aly began posting Dubsmash lip-sync videos to TikTok while he was still in school. He was inspired by his older sister, who found success on the platform before he did, although Aly has built his own social media following over the years thanks to his charm and style. The fame he found on TikTok has offered him the opportunity to be featured in several big music videos in India in recent years, and he has expressed interest in using this to jumpstart a career as an actor.

What we can learn from his page: Aly hasn’t posted to TikTok since 2020, when the social media app was banned in India. Fortunately, growing his audience on multiple social media platforms at the same time allowed him to easily transition to Instagram, where he currently boasts 27.3 million followers — a stark reminder that being a successful content creator means having contingencies and not banking everything on a single platform. As he first rose to prominence on TikTok, and may one day be able to return to it, we’re still counting him among the richest TikTokers all the same.