I dropped out of uni to become a full-time TikToker

‘I thought if I don’t take this opportunity now, it might not be there for me when I get back’

Jake was three months into his first year studying Business at Nottingham Uni when he decided to drop out and make a living off TikTok. He’d already amassed a million followers on the app before Freshers’ Week had started. By the time he went home for Christmas, his follower count had doubled.

“All my friends were going out clubbing and partying, while I was live-streaming,” Jake tells The Tab. “Sometimes there’d be 17,000 watching me livestream. I thought, If I don’t take this opportunity now, it might not be there when I leave. Uni will always be here for me. I can go back to uni whenever – in a year, five years, whenever.”

Jake says he enjoyed freshers, but “wasn’t too interested in the partying scene,” so while his flatmates were out in places like Ocean and Crisis, he was at home making content.

@surfaceldnCan you do more keepy uppies than me? ⚽️ 🥅 get active and ##feelgood100 💜♬ FeelGood100 – feel_good100

“Something that will really stick with me is one night when I uploaded a video that got 60 million views in 24 hours. I worked it out: that’s 18 years of watch time,” he says.

He remembers struggling to make TikToks in his uni halls, and says that although he had “quite a small room,” he didn’t didn’t want to go into the kitchen where his flatmates would be cooking and start filming. He was a known face on campus and says people would frequently stop him and say “oh I recognise you – you’re from TikTok, aren’t ya?”

@surfaceldnSUPER GLUE IPHONE 11 PRANK 😂🔥 this is way too funny 😂👀 ##foryou ##lol ##viral♬ original sound – surfaceldn

Jake says he “didn’t really speak to anyone” at Nottingham before he left. One day he just emailed administration to let them know he was dropping out, and ever since has been producing content on TikTok full time. Since dropping out, Jake has more than doubled his follower count, which now sits at a bonkers 4.5 million. At the time of writing, he’s the 17th biggest TikToker in the UK.

“I want to be the biggest in the UK,” he says. “That’s my goal and I’m definitely on the way to doing it. I’m a year and four months into my career – some people have been doing this for over four years.”

@surfaceldnTHE WORLDS BIGGEST ORBEEZ 💜💕 adding soap makes these 10X the size! ##foryou ##foryoupage ##giantorbeez♬ original sound – surfaceldn

Jake is now a member of the Bytesquad, the UK’s very first TikTok house. That his call was arranged and overseen by professional management is a fair indicator of how well he’s doing. But how does he make his money?

“We don’t get ad revenue on TikToks, but we do get campaigns and brand deals. Artists, companies, Candy Crush – there are so many I can’t even name them all.”

Jake says it’s a simple matter of a company paying creators and then giving them guidelines on how to make a video. Other than that TikTok does let its creators make money through live-streaming, which the Bytesquad tells me mainly involves them chatting casually to fans. Jake says: “The main thing that drives me is I want to have enough money to support my family and things like that.”

@surfaceldnwhat’s your favourite colour!? 💜👀💕 I bet you can’t spell your favourite colour backwards! 💜 ##foryou ##foryoupage♬ Colors – 스텔라장 (Stella Jang)

Dropping out when you’ve got an audience of 2 million followers in the palm of your hand might not seem like a massive risk, but TikTok fame hasn’t come cheap.

“Getting followers on TikTok quickly is extremely hard,” Jake says. “It’s all about consistency and ultimately if you really want it, you’ll get it.”

@surfaceldnYour age is how many friends you have to tàg 💜💕♬ original sound – surfaceldn

It’s not just time and energy, either. Jake reckons he “wouldn’t be able to put a figure on the money I’ve spent on TikTok so far is ridiculous – stupid things like £50 worth of balloons. I customise shoes as well – that’s £100 a pop for a 15-second video. Once, a company sent me £1000 worth of popcorn.”

@surfaceldnThis took hours. No joke 😅 the ending though 😂♬ original sound – surfaceldn

These days Jake is loving life. Last November TikTok flew him out to Spain for the MTV European Music Awards, and he says he’s “always” getting invited to events.

Jake says he’d like to do TikTok forever given the chance, adding: “I think it’s an amazing app where everyone can be themselves. It really opens up opportunities that I never would have had if I hadn’t started this, and the community’s awesome.”

Does he regret dropping out? “I don’t really regret anything – I just take it as a life lesson,” he says.

“At the end of the day if it doesn’t go well for me I’ll be like ‘education’s the way’ and I can just go back and do it. As of now there are definitely no regrets.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

11 TikTok dances you need to learn while in quarantine

Introducing: The 25 types of people you’ll find on TikTok

These are the 101 best TikToks to fill the Vine-shaped hole in your heart

Featured image via Instagram (@surfaceldn)