This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Laura Caruk, a 19-year-old content creator known as @zaruchinatoron TikTok, about how she uses Halloween makeup to land brand deals. Insider has verified her revenue with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve been doing TikTok makeup videos since the start of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020. I was a junior in high school, and I was really bored. I decided that makeup was fun and started using some of my sister’s to create fun looks and post them on my TikTok.
My first posts were of me lip-syncing songs, and very cringy. Then I made a few videos around Halloween makeup that went viral — and I realized I’d found my niche.
I started a separate account for my makeup called @zaruchinator, and it just took off from there. I now have more than 855,000 followers and 26 million likes on TikTok.
I’m entirely self-taught — I didn’t even use YouTube tutorials. I did a lot of painting before makeup and I took all the art subjects at my school. Makeup is just another medium for me, and it’s cool to be able to express my art through that.
Finding relevant hashtags was key to growing my TikTok following
When I’m finding inspiration, I search TikTok hashtags for looks I’m interested in. For example, last Halloween I did a lizard look, inspired by the niche hashtag #lizardmakeup, and posted back to that hashtag. One of my posts, under that hashtag, received 342,000 views — around a 10-fold improvement from my other Halloween posts that week. It was nothing compared to #frankensteinmakeup, however, where I got 1.7 million views for one look.
Hashtags like #halloweenmakeup, #halloweenmakeuplook, and #halloweenmakeuptutourial are always busy, but good for inspiration and getting your looks out there.
I always look at the trending hashtags because they definitely boost your content as well. But even basic hashtags, like #makeup, are popular and show good content on the discover page.
Posting consistently was critical
People who have a big following are very consistent. I’d do a makeup look every two days and create four videos for one look. Then I’d post them 12 hours apart, so whenever someone clicks onto my page, they see that my last post was within hours, rather than days or weeks.
It was important to constantly post, message, and engage with people who commented on my content. Eventually, I began trying to contact brands and Instagram shoutout pages to profile my work.
I didn’t have much success messaging brands in my first 18 months on TikTok, but now they message me all the time. You have to take a long-term view.
The first year and a half I didn’t get any responses from brands that I messaged. I created a template for my emails — some worked, and some didn’t. It was hard to know what would make an email work, but obviously building your followers is the biggest key to success.
Part of my template read: “Being part of the ambassador or PR team for [brand name] would not only allow for me to expand my knowledge on products, but I’d also be proud to represent a [talk about brand values] brand who has helped change the makeup industry into what it is today.”
Nowadays, I’m lucky because brands tend to contact me. I get about three to five emails per day from brands, and then a lot more from fake brands pretending to give out products.
There’s a range of things you can incorporate into makeup tutorials
I’ve worked with Amazon Prime, Estée Lauder, and Lancôme — even Bailey Nelson sunglasses. I also work a lot with the Australian brandNude by Nature, and I was able to get into a competition with Makeup Revolution. I was top 15 in the world and won the Australian division, which was pretty cool.
Fortnite contacted me directly last Halloween for their Fortnitemares promotion. They had different “skins,” or a player’s avatar outfit, coming out and wanted specific creators to recreate three skins to promote the video game.
Brands are very, very generous. If a makeup company wants to promote some lipsticks, I get to choose about four. Then, they send them out for free and pay for shipping. On top of that, they pay you.
I determine rates based on what the client wants and how long it’ll take me to create a video
My fees usually range between $800 and $1,500 for a post. I used to charge $50 for a TikTok when I started — it’s hard to know what you’re doing at first.
There are other factors, too, such as my relationship with the brand and how big the brand is. Usually, if it’s a smaller brand, I won’t charge as much because they’re not going to be able to afford a lot.
I’m not really in it for the money. I work with brands if I like their products and what they stand for. My TikTok earnings can vary a lot in a month, but on average I make around $3,600.
I usually spend between 6 and 9 hours on a look
Now that we’re out of lockdown, I can’t do them every two days because I’m studying architecture at a university and still work a part-time job.
My content is very much crazy makeup looks, so it’s largely restricted to online. I’ve thought about going full time on TikTok or doing special-effects makeup for Hollywood, but it’s a very tight market that’s more about who you know than what you know. I also like to make tutorials, like the one I did about mascara application.
I have a few affiliate codes, but I don’t really like using them too much. I feel as though they aren’t a beneficial way for the creator to make money or be promoted. I’ve barely made anything from them. I prefer to be on a PR list consistently working with brands.
Halloween might be the craziest time of the year, so I need to schedule additional time to create looks
In the leadup to Halloween, I often get emails from legitimate brands who want to work with me.
Events and holidays are big for creative makeup, so people look for inspiration during Halloween, Christmas, and even Valentine’s Day. There are loads of brands like Amazon Prime who want you to promote their holiday specials, too. Getting exposure before these big days is really important.
Creators who want to get their following up should also create a big makeup series. Make posts based around themes such as popular Halloween killers or album covers. People seem to really like them.
For example, I did an audio series using clips of misogynistic men and created looks while lipsyching to their rants. A lot of people followed me because of that series.
Halloween is a great time to boost your following with something like this, but you need to put the same effort into every video in the series, or it shows. You have to be consistent posting every day, because people are going to follow you to see the rest of the series.
This year, skulls are going to be popular
Skulls are actually really easy to do, once you know how to do it. I highly recommend choosing a tutorial with someone who’s drawn the basic lines of the skull. Once you nail that, all you have to do is add a bit of shading into deeper areas of your face. Since your face is already the same shape as a skull, you’re really just enhancing the shadows and shapes of your bone structure.
The hardest thing to do is highly intricate patterns that need symmetry. Trying to be consistent with symmetry is my biggest weakness, which is why you don’t see me having many mandalas on my face.