You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

I was a full-time Columbia student who posted on TikTok just for fun — now I'm an influencer making six figures

Business Insider logo Business Insider 10/5/2022 (Jordan Hart)
Courtesy of Clarke Peoples © Courtesy of Clarke Peoples Courtesy of Clarke Peoples
  • My first day-in-the-life video went viral on TikTok in May 2021, and people were fascinated with how I'm able to afford my lifestyle.
  • I've since gone on to become a full-time influencer while being a full-time student at Columbia University.
  • Now, I'm signing five-figure deals to post content online for JCPenney, Walmart, and more.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with TikTok influencer Clarke Peoples. It has been edited for length and clarity. 

As my Columbia University classmates chat between classes about quizzes and new bars they plan to try, I'm usually walking by myself glued to my phone, responding to comments on my latest TikTok video. I have more than 400,000 followers on the platform, but I try to interact with as many as I can when I'm not studying.

I also am emailing my management team, filming and editing content, or livestreaming on TikTok while I get ready for a night out, when I'm not in class.

Although this is my new life, it all still feels a bit unreal. I don't come from money, so it's still hard to wrap my head around the financial freedom and comfort I have now.

The full-time student with a full-time job

I'm a senior at Columbia University in New York City taking 18 credit hours and hoping to graduate in May 2023 with a degree in American Studies — but I'm also a content creator who has made about $200,000 in the past five months.

I put in a lot of work to earn enough scholarships to get into Columbia. I spent months writing my application essay and did whatever I could to make myself a more competitive applicant. It was the only school I applied to, and soon I was in New York living out my dreams.

During my sophomore year in late 2020, I moved into an apartment with roommates while working for a start-up and interning for jewelry company David Yurman's legal department. Neither job paid a lot, but it was enough for me to move into my own apartment after a few months. 

Then, in May 2021, just for fun, I posted my first day-in-the-life video to TikTok showing my apartment and talking about my life — and it went viral. The comments were filled with people wanting to know how I was able to afford living alone in New York as a student.

The video featured me doing mostly common things like laundry and paying my rent before I ended the night with a date with a millionaire. I think people just really liked to see the environment — me living in New York City, my apartment, everything.

I tried my best to answer questions and give viewers a peek into my life. Two days later, the next video explaining my finances went viral and a video a few days after that — another day-in-the-life —  did so, too. Two weeks after my first video, I signed my first brand deal for $250. 

Today I work with brands like JCPenney, Walmart, and DSW. Although TikTok is the reason I receive such lucrative brand deals, I'm not a part of the Creator Fund, which is TikTok's official fund that pays creators based on their video views and engagement. I make no money from posting videos that aren't sponsored by a specific brand. 

In March, I moved into a $4,000 per month apartment in Manhattan at 21 years old. 

Courtesy of Clarke Peoples © Courtesy of Clarke Peoples Courtesy of Clarke Peoples

Suddenly I had a career before I even graduated college

By late 2021, my plate was full with school, my jobs at the start-up and David Yurman, and creating content on the side. It was all way too much. 

It made sense for influencing to become my full-time job. I came out with my own digital planner in January 2022 that did really well, and I was signing brand contracts worth thousands of dollars to advertise home decor, haircare products, and dating apps - all without a manager. 

For a while, I held off on signing with a management company. I thought, "Why would I give a percentage of all this money to someone else?" I was so wrong.

Signing with Digital Brand Architects took my brand to the next level. Having an agency backing me and sifting through 20-page contracts has helped me tremendously as a creator. I'm poised to end 2022 having earned six figures.

Courtesy of Clarke Peoples © Courtesy of Clarke Peoples Courtesy of Clarke Peoples

It's only up from here

My goals started off simple: Attend Columbia, go to law school, and live happily ever after. TikTok changed my life and my plans had to shift.

I'm gearing up for the launch of my 2023 planner — including digital and physical copies— and my podcast Pajama Pod is set to premiere in December.

My new goals look different, but I still plan to attend law school. Guess we'll just add studying for the LSAT to my  day-in-the-life videos.


More From Business Insider

Business Insider
Business Insider
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon