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Making TikTok videos isn’t cheap.  Inside one creator’s wallet

Making TikTok videos isn’t cheap. Inside one creator’s wallet

Making TikTok videos isn’t cheap.  Inside one creator’s wallet

For some people, social media is a much-needed distraction from the workday. For others, it is the workday. Estimates value of the creator economy at $20 billion to $100 billionand as influencer-friendly business models go mainstream and the pandemic normalizes work onlinethat number will probably continue growing.

A Hollywood-based artist who’s trying to make it big on TikTok, Sam Pocker told The Times that he would “like to be able to get to a point that [he] can do the TikTok as a full-time gig.”

But despite repeatedly going viral, Pocker’s fast-food-themed comedy videos are so resource-intensive that his TikTok account is currently losing him money. From bribing a 7-Eleven employee $5 for extra pizza boxes to spending an estimated $3,000 on gas last year, his viral fame is proving quite costly.

A man holds packets of various sauces.

A bag of assorted Chick-fil-A sauces comes out to a flat $5, pretax, for Sam Pocker — one of the many expenses he might incur during a day of work.

(Brian Contreras/Los Angeles Times)

In October, Pocker tracked a week’s worth of his TikTok-related expenses for The Times. What follows is a record of that period:


  • $17.41 at Taco Bell for two videos in which he crushes hard-shell tacos by hand (1,640 views and 95 likes)




  • $41 at Jack in the Box for supplies to make five videos — two in which he assembles an oversized sandwich (1,742 views and 113 likes) and three satirizing popular TikTok foodie Emily Mariko (1,649 views and 114 likes)


  • $3.29 at Jack in the Box for a video in which he dumps different sauces on tacos (616 views and 16 likes)
  • $4.50 at Taco Bell for two more sauces-dumped-on-tacos videos (4,113 views and 108 likes)
  • $5.45 at Burger King for two videos in which he shoots dipping sauce into and onto chicken nuggets with a syringe (2,015 views and 75 likes)
Sam Pocker is trying to make it big as a conceptual artist on TikTok.

Scrolling past one of Pocker’s TikTok videos, it can be easy to forget that it probably cost him money to make — potentially quite a bit.

(Brian Contreras/Los Angeles Times)



  • $8.75 at Burger King for a video in which he covers a hamburger in sauces (941 views and 55 likes)


  • $9 at Smart & Final for mayonnaise packets (no video made)
  • $10.21 at 7-Eleven and $3 at ampm to make five videos for the #OneSliceChallenge, a TikTok trend sponsored by 7-Eleven (15,480 views and 1,271 likes)

Pocker spent a total of $134.71 over these eight days. The videos he made got 1,926 likes and 29,882 views, for a total cost of about seven cents per like and just under half a cent per view.

The day before he began recording this log, on Oct. 1, Pocker received a $160.71 payout from the TikTok Creator Fund. His next payout wouldn’t arrive until Nov. 1 — leaving him with just $26 to fund three more weeks of video production.

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