- Former investment banker Vivian Tu began posting videos on TikTok to discuss personal finance.
- Her account “Your Rich BFF” gained traction, and she built a brand with over 5 million followers.
- This essay is part of the “5 Trends to Bet Your Career On” series.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Vivian Tu, a 29-year-old content creator and founder of social-media brand Your Rich BFF. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Every video of mine starts with the tagline, “I’m Vivian Tu, your rich BFF and your favorite Wall Street girly.” I like to think this sentence gives you a three-second synopsis of my backstory and what I do now.
I started my career in 2016 as an equities trader at investment bank J.P. Morgan. After a couple great years, my manager left, and after that, I felt like I was being undervalued.
I left Wall Street to go into the tech and media world, and began working in client partnerships at BuzzFeed. When I got there, all of my new colleagues were asking me questions like, “Are we buying the company stock options? Which health insurance did you pick?”
I got so many of these questions that I decided to put this information online, not because I wanted to become a creator or an influencer, but because I thought it would be a fun way to help my coworkers.
I posted my first TikTok video on January 1, 2021, and it went viral. I gained 100,000 followers in a week.
People always want to know what made that first video special, and I think it was the fact that it wasn’t special. I just called out all the people online who were giving poor financial advice or recommending risky options. I said, “I don’t have a get-rich-quick scheme, but if you want to learn more about money, I can certainly teach you.”
Soon after, I began making money as a content creator. At first, it was just ads on my videos on TikTok, and later on Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms.
Now, I primarily get paid through partnerships with brands — I post branded content on my social-media accounts, I star as talent for brands’ content, do interviews on their behalf, and speak at events. I also make money from ads on my podcast, “Networth and Chill.” And more recently, I got an advance for the personal-finance book I’m writing, which will be published by Penguin in December.
Taking content creation full time requires planning
A year and three months after I made that first video, in April 2022, I decided to quit my job. It was a hard decision to leave BuzzFeed. I had been there almost four years and I was being rewarded for my hard work. It was lucrative. But Your Rich BFF had really started taking off, and I wanted to do things that I just did not have the bandwidth to do.
I said to myself, “You can always come back to a corporate job. You don’t want to look back on this moment when you’re 40, 50, 60, and wonder what if.”
I forecasted how much money I would need to continue to make consistently to be able to make a living out of content alone. Before I quit, I set aside $100,000 from my corporate job to be my income for the year.
Creators sometimes get in over their skis — they have one viral video and they’re thinking about quitting their job. I don’t think that’s wise.
I was terrified of quitting. When you come from a background like mine, an immigrant family whose expectation is that you go to university and get a high-paying corporate job afterwards, to go off and do your own thing is absolutely frightening.
I started growing my team, and I realized I made the right decision. I first hired an attorney to look over my brand partnership contracts, and a manager to advise me on business decisions.
Three months after quitting my job, the amount of opportunities and inbounds grew so much that even my management recommended I get an agent, someone who could negotiate contracts and rates for me with brands and other business partners. I signed with talent agency WME, and through that, I was able to increase the rates I was charging, and start new projects to grow my brand, like the podcast and the book.
I want to be considered an educator, not just an influencer, and diversifying my platform is a way to let people learn about finance using whatever medium they prefer.
On top of that, the algorithms of social-media platforms change constantly. Sometimes you’re hot and sometimes you’re not, so I find it important to diversify my business, and meet my audience where they’re at.
My planning paid off — last year I paid myself a salary of roughly $300,000. But my business as a whole made $3 million. I obviously had to pay out my teams and reinvest into the company, but I have a great living, and I get to be my own boss.
The ingredients for a successful social-media brand
There’s always a component of luck when you succeed on social media, but I also think I did some things better than other people who create financial content.
My branding is strong. It tells you everything you need to know about my history, and about what happens in my content. It’s strong to the point where people stop me on the street and say my tagline.
I’ve also made a concerted effort to treat my audience like friends. I call them my BFFs. I take the time to respond to DMs. I like to serve versus sell. I don’t have a course, I don’t have a masterclass. I’m not selling digital. I am providing value for free.
Last, but not least, I’m consistent. Ever since I started posting, I put out one piece of content every single day. If I only made content on days when I felt like making it, I would not have nearly as much of it.
I’ve seen creators who go so hard at it for a month and then take a month off, and that way, all of the momentum you just built up goes to waste. I recommend deciding on a content cadence you can consistently stick to.