Posting about my low-paid job on TikTok helped me earn big. Now I can do what I love without worrying about money.


During my sophomore year at Duke University, I opted to relocate to France for a six-month pastry school. At that time, I was majoring in biology but had lost interest in the degree. My passion has always been in cooking, particularly baking, which led me to take a break from college to explore this interest. Since my studies at pastry school, I've been working as a pastry chef and simultaneously building a baking-focused TikTok account alongside my degree. Surprisingly, my side hustle as a creator has proven more profitable than my actual kitchen work, but I don't plan to become a full-time content creator right after university.

I spent my semester-long break from Duke in 2022 attending École Ducasse in France to earn my pastry diploma. This institution stood out as the most modern among the pastry programs I had considered. Instead of relying on my parents, who were funding my education, I used the semester's tuition money for pastry school. During my time there, I acquired fundamental pastry techniques and learned to make various French desserts such as chocolate, croissants, and ice cream. We attended school six hours a day, four days a week, and studying in rural France was a refreshing change of pace. This experience felt life-changing, and I feel fortunate for this opportunity. After completing the program in June 2022, I did a stage—an unpaid internship—at a patisserie in Paris.

I was determined to finish my bachelor's degree and thus returned to Duke in August. The following January, I started a part-time job as a pastry prep cook in a restaurant close to my campus to keep honing my baking skills in a commercial setting. A month before heading to pastry school, I downloaded the TikTok app and began creating baking content. Though I initially made a few TikToks, it was in France where I documented the chef's demonstrations, showed my pastries, and filmed myself tasting them. These videos quickly gained traction, and within a month, one hit a million views. Posting daily, I captured significant interest, and upon returning to the US, brands began to approach me with promotional deals.

Most brands I collaborate with operate in the lifestyle niche, aiming to target college-aged audiences. I've created ads for a TV show and a language app, often incorporating cooking or dessert-making that aligns with the promoted product. While restaurant work expanded my skills, content creation provided a more substantial income. My part-time restaurant job paid about $17 per hour, and by the end of the school term in May 2023, I had earned approximately $3,000 over five months. In stark contrast, five TikTok ads for three companies brought in $23,600, proving that being solely a pastry chef might not be financially viable in the long run. 

Currently, I have nearly 350,000 followers on TikTok, 260,000 on Instagram, and 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. Beyond brand deals, I earn roughly $500 a month from these platforms through various revenue streams. Content creation has provided an additional income source, easing concerns about future salaries. While the field of pastry requires a high level of skill and is often underpaid, content creation has allowed me to sustain my passion. However, this freelance work's inconsistent income can be stressful.

I graduated from Duke in mid-May after switching my major from biology to visual media studies. For now, I plan to find a traditional job while continuing content creation. I'm considering an internship in marketing to diversify my experience and then possibly return to a pastry shop when I miss baking. Content creation has lightened the financial load on my parents as I now cover my college tuition expenses. This additional income offers me professional freedom; I can pursue pastry work without stressing over low wages, thanks to my supplementary income from content creation.  

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