This story is part of CNBC Make It's Six-Figure Side Hustle series, where people with lucrative side hustles break down the routines and habits they've used to make money on top of their full-time jobs. Got a story to tell? Let us know! Email us at AskMakeIt@cnbc.com.
The idea behind Morgan Eckroth's social media business is simple: Create the "warmness and comfort of a coffee shop" online.
She's pulling it off, if her six million TikTok followers are any indication.
Eckroth launched her account, MorganDrinksCoffee, as an experiment to hone her social media marketing skills in June 2019. She never intended to make a living from it — but now, her videos recreating orders and reenacting coffee shops earn her up to $9,000 per month, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.
The 24-year-old's side hustle involves posting on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Her revenue comes from ads, branding deals and merchandise sales. It only takes her about eight hours per week, and it's far more lucrative than her other time-consuming jobs, she says.
Eckroth is also a competitive barista and marketing strategist for coffee brand Onyx Labs, where she makes $45,000 per year. Last year, her total income was $141,000. But turning what you love into work can be dangerous.
"I've had to put boundaries in place so I don't burn out," she says.
Here, Eckroth details how she built her six-figure side hustle, what those boundaries look like and what you should know before trying to make money on social media.
CNBC Make It: How did you learn how to create content that would attract an audience of more than six million followers?
Eckroth: My high school experience was very shaped by being on Tumblr, so I've always been pretty aware of the social landscape and things that trend online.
While I was getting my degree [at Oregon State University], I always knew I wanted to go into media marketing and digital advertising. I started making TikToks as practice, and it was a very natural progression.
My content on TikTok and Instagram is short-form, vertically oriented sketches focusing on barista life — like how baristas really react when they say, "Enjoy your drink," and you respond, "You, too!"
I started my YouTube channel for my capstone project in February 2020, and it gradually gained traction. My YouTube has always been geared toward [videos about] skill building and the actual technique of making coffee.
How does having a successful social media business affect the way you consume social media?
I try my best not to consume my own content or other coffee content online. Otherwise, social media starts to feel like work all the time. That was a small shift that made a really big difference.
There are times, like days when I'm filming, when I need to scroll through platforms to be analytical, research and find inspiration. Those timeframes are strict now. I don't drag filming into the evening when I'm not brewing coffee.
I do track numbers and pay attention, but I think I do it a lot less than other [content creators]. I only create content that feels authentic to me — and what I think will connect to other people in the service and hospitality industry — in hopes that people will follow along with it.
I've also had to carve out hobbies for myself that are not monetizable. When I'm not doing my multitude of jobs, I'm usually in vintage bookstores, looking for science fiction and fantasy books.
I enjoy creative writing, too. And I have tons of ongoing writing projects that aren't anywhere on the internet. Those are just for me.
What should people know if they want to start their own social media side hustles?
Social media [as a side hustle] is cool because there's a pretty low barrier to entry. But I do hesitate to say anyone can do it — or rather, that anyone should do it.
It's very easy to lose yourself, your voice, if you're just online and posting what everyone else is. I think you need to have a thesis for why you're making content. It's great if that's "I want to sell more of my product." For me, I want to translate the coffee experience online.
Having that written out for yourself is really helpful, because then you can align every video against that thesis. I always ask myself, "Am I accomplishing what I set out to on here?"
That's kind of like a boundary, too. Put those boundaries in place as soon as you can, so you don't create something that will drag you down into burnout.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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