TikTok vs. YouTube Shorts vs. Instagram Reels: Which Platform Makes You Money?

by Nicholas Bouchard · Published Mar 31, 2023

The TikTok bug has spread — what used to be a short-form video app where teens dance to the latest trending sounds is now a platform worth copying. YouTube has Shorts, Instagram has Reels, and some other platform out there is probably looking for a way to outshine the rest. When you’re a content creator, it could be tough to determine where to dedicate your time and energy, and know how much money you could make from different platforms.

Let’s go over the top three players in the short-form video game: TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts. Read on to learn how each platform is rewarding creators for their work, and figure out which one you should focus on.

Monetization at a glance: TikTok vs. YouTube Shorts vs. Instagram Reels

Here’s a quick overview of the different ways you can make money on these platforms through short-form video.

TikTokYouTube ShortsInstagram Reels
Ad revenue-sharingYes, through TikTok Pulse.Yes, through the YouTube Partner Program.No revenue sharing on ads.
Creator fundYes, through the TikTok Creator Fund.No, it’s shut down.No, it’s shut down as of March 2023.
Live donationsYes, through LIVE Gifts.Yes, through Super Chats and Super Stickers. Yes, through Instagram Badges.
Paid membershipsNot exactly, but TikTokers can use Series to put content behind a paywall.Yes, available through channel memberships.Yes, available through subscriptions.

Note that most of these options are monetization tools available specifically for short-form video or live streaming. Each platform also supports branded content in its own way, either through a dedicated creator marketplace — like on TikTok and Instagram — or external partnerships.

How to monetize TikTok

TikTok has single-handedly brought short-form video to the mainstream, with some of its top creators like Khaby Lame earning as much as $10 million in 2021. So you’d think that the platform has figured out the monetization problem, right?

Well, not really.

For many TikTokers, a large chunk of their income still comes from outside the platform, whether that’s from external brand deals or investing in completely unrelated ventures. In fact, that revenue diversification is often key to their success. That said, there are a few ways to get paid directly on the app.

TikTok Creator Fund

First announced in July 2020, the TikTok Creator Fund was one of the app’s first programs designed to reward creators financially. The fund was initially worth $200 million, but TikTok estimated it would reach $1 billion by 2023.

With that said, there have been some criticisms of the fund from creators, specifically about how small the payments are and the lack of in-depth analytics. Still, if you’re eligible for the program, it doesn’t hurt to enroll and get those payments. Even if the fund doesn’t pay much, every little bit helps.

Wondering how much you could make from the TikTok Creator Fund? Use our free TikTok Money Calculator to estimate your earnings.


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TikTok Creativity Program

To address complaints about low payouts from the Creator Fund, TikTok announced a new monetization tool called the Creativity Program in February 2023. Currently in beta, the program is supposed to be a revamped creator fund, though details about how it works is still sparse.

However, TikTok did share some basic eligibility requirements for the program:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Meet minimum follower and video view requirements — although it’s unclear what the exact numbers are.
  • Must be posting longer videos of over one minute
  • Have an account that’s in good standing.
  • Follow TikTok’s Community Guidelines.
  • Be located in the U.S., France, or Brazil.

As of publishing, the Creativity Program is invite-only. However, if you’re enrolled in the TikTok Creator Fund, you should already have the option to switch over.


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TikTok Creator Marketplace

If you want to create branded content, the TikTok Creator Marketplace is the place to be. It’s a full suite of tools for creators that’ll match you with brands, give you support for creating branded campaigns, and provide tips for creating the best content you can.

Of course, being part of the Creator Marketplace doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get brand deals, but it’s a first step.

TikTok Pulse

TikTok Pulse is an ad revenue-sharing program that rewards creators for making top-performing content. Here’s how it works: once you’re signed up, TikTok will put branded content next to your videos if they’re in the top 4% of all TikTok videos. You’ll then get 50% of the ad revenue that your content generated.

Here’s what you need to be eligible for TikTok Pulse:

  • Have 100,000 followers.
  • Be based in the United States.
  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have posted at least five videos in the last 30 days.
  • Join the TikTok Creator Marketplace.

Want more tips for getting paid on TikTok? Download our free guide on how to make money on TikTok.

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How to Make Money on TikTok

Your pocket guide to making TikTok work for you.

How to monetize YouTube Shorts

To make money on YouTube, the best way had always been to follow a two-pronged approach. First, you needed to grow your channel until it was eligible for enrollment in YouTube’s Partner Program — 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours. Then, once you had some momentum, you would work with brands to create sponsored content and rake in some cash that way.

So, how does YouTube Shorts fit into this process?

With Shorts being one of YouTube’s newest features, it wasn’t exactly clear how it could contribute to a YouTube creator’s success. Sure, these bite-sized videos were a great way to increase engagement and broaden your audience, but they didn’t exactly bring home the bacon.

Well, now that’s changed.

YouTube Partner Program

During the Made on YouTube live event in September 2022, YouTube announced that it’ll allow creators to begin monetizing Shorts through ad revenue sharing. Ads will play between Shorts on a user’s feed, meaning the onus isn’t on creators to somehow introduce branded segments into their 60-second — or shorter — videos. Revenue made from these ads will be lumped together, then distributed to creators, who get to keep 45% of the revenue. How much money a creator receives will depend on how many views their Shorts get.

To start monetizing Shorts, you’ll first need to join the YouTube Partner Program. While you’ll still need at least 1,000 subscribers, you can apply to the program if your Shorts got 10 million views in the last 90 days.


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YouTube channel memberships

YouTube channel memberships are a great way for your subscribers to show their support with monthly payments, the same way they might on a platform like Patreon. Here’s what your channel needs in order to be eligible for memberships:

  • Have at least 1,000 subscribers.
  • Be part of the YouTube Partner Program.
  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be based in one of the places where memberships are available.
  • Have a community tab.
  • Your channel isn’t set as “made for kids.”

With all that in place, you can create Shorts that contribute to your channel’s overall growth, and bring in revenue through memberships.

YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium doesn’t just allow viewers to get more out of the platform, it actually helps creators get paid, too. When you’re part of the YouTube Partner Program, you’ll get a share of the payments that go towards YouTube Premium. It works a little like ad revenue — the amount you get paid depends on how many views you get.

As soon as you qualify, you’ll start seeing recurring payments at the beginning of each month, at the same time as your ad revenue. So if you want to make more with your YouTube Shorts, encourage your viewers to get YouTube Premium! It’s a great way for them to support you.

There are other ways to make money on YouTube, of course. But since the platform is mainly focused on long-form content, creating Shorts won’t necessarily contribute to all of the possible revenue streams.

How to monetize Instagram Reels

Instagram is coming for TikTok’s spot as short-form video king. The platform recently rolled out a number of changes to try and emulate its competitor, though it quickly reversed some of those updates — like full-screen feed — due to user backlash. However, it’s probably only a matter of time before Instagram tries something else to close the gap.

So, as a creator, how can you make money off your Reels?

Until March 2023, the Instagram Reels Play bonus program was one of the best ways to monetize short-form videos on Instagram. However, Meta recently discontinued the program, so that’s no longer an option.

But there are still a few ways you can make some money from Instagram Reels.

Instagram subscriptions

With Instagram subscriptions, your followers can pay extra to access exclusive content. They even get a sweet purple badge to show off their subscriber status! As a creator, this is a great source of recurring income as you’ll receive payments monthly.

To start monetizing with Instagram subscriptions, you need to brainstorm exclusive content your subscribers will pay for. If you’re a beauty creator, for example, you might want to create more advanced makeup tutorials, or give your honest opinion on beauty products in a subscriber live. This will require putting in few extra hours of content creation, but it’s a way to unlock a new revenue stream on Instagram.

Branded content

You probably know this by now, but posting branded content is one of the best ways to make money on Instagram. And because all video content on Instagram now falls under the “Reels” umbrella, you’ll likely find more opportunities to earn from branded content through Instagram Reels than on platforms where short-form video is secondary — like YouTube.

Launched in July 2022, Instagram’s Creator Marketplace is dubbed a one-stop-shop for creators who want to make a living by partnering with brands. It’s designed to make you more visible to brands who want to work with creators, and it keeps all messages for potential partnerships in one place.

However, a recent report by Insider has suggested a few weaknesses of the Creator Marketplace. A number of Instagram creators interviewed by the publication said the marketplace has few big-name brands and not enough quality brand deals. Some were also disappointed by the low pay rates of offers available on the marketplace.

For instance, two creators shared with Insider that a brand asked for five Reels, two posts, and 50 Stories for a total compensation of just $100.

Besides, it’s worth noting that Instagram’s Creator Marketplace is still invite-only. But considering the experience of creators who already have access to the feature, you might be better off making deals directly with brands.


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Which platform should you focus on?

Like many of life’s great questions, like whether you should get bangs or not, it depends. If you’re a content creator, no matter what that means for you, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions before you make that call.

Is short-form video your best form of content?

Not all creators are created equal. If you love keeping up with TikTok trends and can put out quality content that capitalizes on them quickly, then you’ll probably be better served by that platform. However, if your niche is long YouTube video essays, you might not want to go all-in on TikTok.

What are your goals?

Is content creation your main game, or does it contribute to a larger business model? If you’re a photographer, for example, a platform that’s purely focused on short-form videos might not be your best bet. But if you’re a content creator through and through, then you’re free to pursue the platform that pays the best for what you do.

What revenue streams do you have?

Ask any YouTuber, and they’ll tell you that YouTube’s Partner Program isn’t exactly reliable. Videos can get demonetized, false copyright strikes are a plague, and ad revenue could sometimes be laughable. If you’re making a career out of content creation, then you’re probably already on the lookout for additional revenue streams. So ask yourself which platform has the best opportunities for building these diversified sources of income. For example, YouTube is working on a new feature that’ll allow creators to sell online courses within the platform itself.

Figure out what’s best for you!

No matter what kind of content creator you are, it’s becoming clear that short-form video needs to be part of your overall strategy. With each platform trying out new monetization systems to appeal to creators, it might be tough to know which one’s best for you. Remember that this is just a part of your creative journey, and you should pick platforms that work for you — not the other way around.

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Nicholas Bouchard
About the author

Nicholas Bouchard

Nick Bouchard is a content writer and marketer with a passion for creation. His hobbies range from writing fiction to wrestling. He can only be photographed in national parks and on mountains, and pictures of him usually come out blurry. Some wonder if he even exists at all.
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