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Utah Business

While working less than 40 hours a week.

Whitney Oliver, a well-known Utah-based wedding photographer, makes thousands of dollars every month from social media.

This Utah-based wedding photographer makes thousands of dollars per month

Whitney Oliver, a well-known Utah-based wedding photographer, makes thousands of dollars every month from social media.

Whitney Oliver is a booked-out wedding videographer, social media consultant, and TikToker. Altogether, she has over 80,000 followers on her Instagram and TikTok accounts. 

Her social media success, though, wasn’t planned. It started with a bet.

“My husband and I had a competition to see who could get more views on TikTok,” she says. At the time, the couple was working as social media managers. On the job in Hawai’i, they each recorded a short video and posted it to their personal TikToks.

“I dominated him,” Oliver laughs. “Like, totally dominated.”

Her video—a collection of clips of her husband playing with babies with the text “pov: my husband tells me he wants to have a baby…every single day”—got 18 million views within a few days of posting. Oliver quickly harnessed the traction, putting together a strategy and posting consistent marriage and “couple goals” content for a rapidly growing audience on her personal account.

“The very first pieces of content I shared were very personal,” she says. “And people were responsive to that, so we just kept doing it.”

"LESS PEOPLE I KNOW IN REAL LIFE ARE ON TIKTOK. I FEEL LIKE I CAN BE MORE VULNERABLE."

A big part of Oliver’s strategy was splitting up her content. Today, she has two TikTok accounts and two Instagram accounts—@WhitneyFilms for her wedding videography and @whitoliver_ for…everything else.

“I’ve found that on social media, it helps to have a page where people know exactly what they’re going to get when they follow it,” she says. “I didn’t want people to follow for wedding films content and then wonder why I keep posting about my husband.”

It’s not just the handle that decides what kind of content gets posted, though. Oliver says she treats the platforms very differently.

“I’m pickier about what I put on Instagram,” she says. “I want it to be better quality and less…I don’t know what word I’d use. Cheesy? Weird? I take less risks there…I still think everyone on my Instagram knows me in real life. I was posting there before I became a creator, and my family and high school friends are on there.”

Oliver’s Instagram layout screams “photographer”—perfecly angled shots, gorgeous beach fronts, and cozy couple photos fill the grid. It could almost be a coffee table photobook. Her Instagram story highlights are more of the same, like a collection of stories from her wedding day and her trip to Maui.

That is, of course, by design. 

“Before a post a Reel or a story, I ask myself, ‘What if grandma sees this?’” she laughs. “It’s something I’m trying to stop doing, a roadblock I need to just get over. I know she probably isn’t scrolling through my Reels.”

On TikTok, though, she’s less afraid of what people think.

“Less people I know in real life are on TikTok,” she shrugs. “I feel like I can be more vulnerable.”

This “vulnerable” content is seemingly more relatable. On her TikTok, Oliver asks her followers for advice training for a marathon, reaction videos, and story times.

Most of Oliver’s following across all four accounts are girls around her age. She says her audience interaction is with female followers that have boyfriend and husbands, or girls who are seeking a relationship.

“It tracks with my content,” she says. “I don’t feel like teenage boys who are really into sports would follow my wedding accounts or my ‘couple goals’ personal pages.”

While Oliver has over 18,000 followers on her wedding photography Instagram account, most of her following is on TikTok. She chalks that up to Instagram’s recent algorithm changes.

“It’s hard to get people—your followers and anyone else, really—to see your Instagram content,” she says.

“Harder” is putting it mildly. Oliver says she reposted that bet-winning TikTok—the one that garnered over 18 million views in a weekend—as a Reel. It just hit only 50,000 views.

"IT'S HARD TO GET PEOPLE—YOUR FOLLOWERS AND ANYONE ELSE, REALLY—TO SEE YOUR INSTAGRAM CONTENT."

“When I posted that TikTok, I had 100 followers,” she says. “And then somehow, those views materialized.”

Oliver’s Instagram, in contrast, was well-established—she had 5,000 followers and a healthy amount of interaction when the Reel went up.

“It makes you question why you’re on the app,” she says. “It’s like, what’s going on? I know from TikTok that I have an audience, so why can’t I reach them here?”

Oliver says those stymied view counts negate even the more positive parts of Instagram, like the Reels Play Bonus program, a recently-unveiled compensation structure for creators on Instagram based on view count. It’s designed to motivate creators to post more Reels, ideally making their short-form content a strong competitor against TikTok.

“You can make more money from Reels than other short-form content, but invites to be paid for Reels are completely random,” she says. “At least, I can’t find a pattern to it—my personal Instagram, which has less than 10,000 followers, got an invite before my wedding account did.”

In the end, Oliver says it doesn’t matter which account gets invited when neither of them has serious reach.

“I know I’m not the only creator who feels this way lately,” she says. “To build a following, to get my audience’s attention, I have to be where they can actually see what I post.”

That place is TikTok, Oliver says. Here, you can grow your audience far and wide…and still not get paid for it.

“All those views don’t translate into a deposit,” she says. “Definitely not.”

The TikTok Creator Fund, criticized by many a content creator for its pithy payouts, similarly skimped Oliver.

“While TikTok is a lot clearer about who gets invited, I was surprised how little we get paid,” she says. “Over the past six months, multiple TikToks got over a million views, likes and comments, and think I’ve made about $700.”

This money, of course, isn’t nothing—but it’s not rent, either.

“That experience opened my eyes,” Oliver says. “I guess I just assumed that these career influencers were making money from the apps, but they’re not. They just can’t be. It must come from working with other companies or paid deals.”

Instead of posting ads for skinny teas, Oliver is selling services. She’s done freelance social media consulting for some brands and even taken over others’ social accounts.

“When you have organic social media growth and obvious success on the platforms, people just trust you,” she says. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with a handful of clients in the last year and help them grow in the same way I have.”

Depending on the client, Oliver charges around $100 per Reel. Her consulting packages range in price—usually upwards of $1,500 a month.

While all of that is nice pocket padding, most of Oliver’s monthly income comes from wedding videography. When young women in her audience get engaged, they want to book her wedding packages. Oliver’s DMs are full of followers who want to nail down specific dates.

"WHEN YOU HAVE ORGANIC SOCIAL MEDIA GROWTH AND OBVIOUS SUCCESS ON THE PLATFORMS, PEOPLE JUST TRUST YOU."

“I usually do about four a month, and I try to book out about 9 months,” she says. These packages can cost up to $4,000 each. “People try to ask even further than that, but I don’t think that far ahead. How am I supposed to know what I’ll be doing in a year?”

The future, Oliver says, is kind of a toss-up.

“I love training and consulting work, but I wonder what it would be like to just go all-in on my own brand,” she says, mentioning the potential income boost as part of the draw.

Though she gets paid to post to social media, Oliver is hesitant to call herself an “influencer.” 

“I work around 30 hours a week and we’re in a good place financially, so I’d say I’m a ‘video creator.’ But ‘influencers’—it’s a joke how much money they earn from their accounts. Even considering what I make now, it’s kind of ridiculous what you can get if you do this full-time.”

Oliver is still in college—she’s working toward a degree in marriage and family studies—but she says if her husband got on the full-time content creator train, she’d be right behind him.

“I’d need his help to keep everything going,” she says. “We’ve started having conversations about it.”

Oliver is also thinking about coming full-circle from her first viral TikTok—by becoming a mom.

“Social media is a unique job because you can do it anywhere, at any stage of life, however you want,” she says. “To me, no matter where we end up or what I end up doing, I know I’ll find ways to keep being a creative.”

Jacqueline is a Master of Accounting graduate from the University of Utah. Specializing in tax, she's interested in business, government, and the intersection of the two. When she's not studying or writing, she loves to run, play Candy Crush, and read novels.

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