What It's Like to Make TikToks for a Living | Career Crush

– I can spend hours on TikTok
just scrolling and scrolling
and scrolling.
But I can kind of make
myself feel better about it,
and just say it’s like
research for work.
Which it is, I do
make TikToks for work.
Every week I make one video
for HBR Ascend’s TikTok.
And it takes a lot more work
than I thought it would.
Still, I only make
one TikTok a week.
What would it be like to do that
every day as my full time job?
– I mean really
every aspect is fun.
Sometimes it is exhausting.
– I talked to The
Washington Post TikTok
guy about how he goes
about making TikToks
at work every day.
His real name is Dave Jorgensen.
And he’s one of
the first TikTokers
that I ever even knew about.
Once I started at HBR Ascend and
began making TikToks for work,
Dave was my icon.
He is what you strive for.
His videos are timely,
informative, funny.
They really have it all.
– Could you let TikTok know
there’s a debate tonight?
– Sure.
– Just do a little song.
– I don’t know if
that’s my wheelhouse.
– Go.

– The debate is tonight.
Get it right.
Bet you didn’t know,
it was tonight.
It’s on every major network,
The Washington Post, Apple TV,
Roku, and most
streaming services.
On 9:00 PM Eastern Time,
which is 6:00 PM Pacific Time.
– Yeah, that’s my bad.
– I know how hard it
can be to make TikToks.
I only have to make one a week.
But sometimes I wake up,
and I’m like the last thing
I want to do in the world
is put myself on video,
try and come up
with a funny idea.
And then rewatch it
and listen to myself
over and over and over again.
So how does Dave
do it twice a day?
And what is his
creative process like?
– I do feel like people
on TikTok realize this.
But people, like
maybe on Twitter,
don’t always understand
the amount of work
that goes into making a TikTok.
I edit all them on my computer.
So even that process
where I shoot on my phone,
then I put it on my
computer, and I edit it.
Then, I put it back on,
and then I add the text.
And I try to make
it look authentic
without being too polished.
And there’s all these
things that go into it.
But, also, just the
shooting process in general
is very difficult. Really fun,
but it takes about four hours
to make each TikTok.
So I think there is a
lot of work that goes in
that maybe you don’t realize.
And that’s good.
That means I’m doing my job,
because it looks effortless.
– Dave’s TikToks
always turn out great.
So it makes sense that he
puts so much time and thought
into them.
But, I mean, he works
at The Washington Post.
There has to be some
sort of approval process
or review before they go
out into the world, right?
– I think the main
misconception is like, oh,
this guy just post
whatever he wants.
And The Washington
Post just lets
him do that, which is like the
furthest thing from the truth.
There is a level of freedom.
And I don’t want to take away–
I’m very lucky about that.
But the freedom is that I get to
sort of write, shoot, and edit
a TikTok.
And then I present
it for approval.
Two of my managers have to
approve every single TikTok.
And if they’re not
totally sure then they
go to the next person.
If he’s not sure then they
go to the managing editor
of The Post.
And that’s always scary.
– Dave and his team clearly
know what they’re doing.
And even though they’re kind of
this legacy media organization,
they’re still doing
great on TikTok.
They have 929,000 followers.
They’re so close to a million.
– But Dave didn’t start
as the TikTok guy.
His original interest
was in comedy.
Did you kind of
always know that you
wanted to do comedy and video?
Did you always know
you wanted to do
those two things combined?
– I was really into the
idea of being a TV writer.
And so the internship I had in
college was The Colbert Report.
And it was actually there where
I got much more interested
in politics and even the
journalism side of things.
So I really got
into that, and how
they were able to use
comedy to inform people.
– With that in
mind, where did he
learn the production
skills he needed
to make that future a reality?
– One thing I really liked
about my college, DePauw–
which is in Indiana, it’s a
small liberal arts school–
is that there’s a
lot of independents.
You could literally do
independent projects.
And you really had a lot
of tools available to you
to try something.
We had nice cameras.
And we had some equipment.
But there wasn’t really any–
the downside, at the time there
weren’t very many professors
there to teach you things.
So my senior year I kind
of came to this point
where I created this late
night show at school.
And so I started to
kind of edit with that.
And start to shoot with cameras.
But I like that
experience, because it
was kind of just jumping in
the water, the very cold water,
and seeing what we could make.
– Armed with the
video production
skills Dave had from college, he
ended up moving to LA, classic.
– After college I went out
to LA before I went to DC.
So I was in LA for
like nine months.
And in that very short time
where I was trying to–
I don’t know get a
writing assistant job.
I was told all these
things you should
do, like go try to be
a writer’s assistant,
go try to work your way up
on a TV show in that way,
or go do this,
and this and that.
And I was trying to do that
and nothing was working
or happening or whatever.
And I’m seeing a
lot of other people
do that exact same thing.
And I’m like, well, why
is this the chosen route
that I have to take?
I just want to make stuff
that makes me laugh.
And I want to do it often.
And so I think that was
really important for me,
realizing that I should just
keep trying to make stuff
and eventually someone’s
going to notice if I’m good.
My buddy from college–
when I was in LA–
who I’d made that late night
show with in college was like,
there’s a job here in DC.
And I was like, I’ll take it.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Dave ended up
working at the Independent
Journal Review, where he
produced comedic video
and interviews on a daily basis.
– That to me was
much more interesting
than working at
Starbucks part time
and bothering people
with my spec scripts
the rest of the time.
– He made his way to
the Washington Post.
But he wasn’t originally
hired as the TikTok guy.
– I was hired.
And my position is still what
I was hired like officially
in work documents as a
producer for creative video.
So creative video
was a team that
started basically when I got.
There the whole idea behind
it was growing The Post video
But we were going to be
the sort of weird kids
in the back making
mini-docs, and fun series,
and things like that.
And so for two years
I was doing that.
And then what I found out
about TikTok I was like,
I have to do this.
– It took a little
bit of convincing,
but Dave eventually got the
Washington Post to create
its own TikTok account.
That was just under
two years ago.
But since the pandemic
started TikTok
has really become
Dave’s whole thing.
– So you said
something about how
you were the one that pitched
the idea to get on TikTok.
Can you talk a
little bit about that
and what that process looked
like internally for you?
– Because I’d been doing
all the satirical videos
for two years when
I pitched it, I
had a little bit
of trust built in.
And then I got the right people
in the right room to say yes.
Because I already knew
who really had to say yes.
And then on top of
that I knew the people
up top who might
have a sense of humor
and might be kind of
willing to play along.
– Now that you kind
of shifted your role
from making those YouTube videos
to making TikToks every day,
would you say that you
enjoy your job more?
Do you like your job more now?
Do you like it the same?
How does that feel?
– I think overall, I
just enjoy TikTok more.
The main reason is–
I don’t know selfish
is the right word.
But in some ways
pretty obvious, which
is that when I post something,
I get a lot more feedback
much more immediately.
Whereas when I was
making videos before I
was really proud of them.
And I still like to
go back and be like,
oh look, that was really cool.
We spent like three
weeks on that.
But the thing is we would spend
three weeks on something that
would get maybe like
300 views on YouTube.
I feel like with
TikTok I’m getting
immediate feedback
and most of the time
very positive feedback.
But also because it’s immediate,
I can adjust day to day
where I can wake up
the next day and go,
OK, well this worked
and this didn’t work.
So I like that a lot
about it, where it’s not
this big guessing game.
You really kind of immediately
know if something’s working
or not.
– So pretty much,
Dave took this role
that he was reasonably
happy with and turned it
into something that
he absolutely loves.
It got me thinking, is that
something that anybody can do?
Say you love your company
and you love your co-workers,
but maybe you don’t love the
day to day work that you do.
How do you turn
it into something
that you truly, truly enjoy?
– I feel like it’s
become generic because I
say this advice a lot.
But I stand by it, becuase
it’s been consistent with me.
Something I learned back
when I was interning
for various places was just kind
of saying yes to everything.
Because I think when maybe
you’re doing something
you’re not super excited about.
But someone asked
you, and you say yes.
And you really go for it.
People do notice that over time.
You don’t have to be over the
top perfectionist or something
where you’re trying beat
other people out for a job,
like that kind of thing.
But just being a yes-man and
trying to help, no matter
what your role is.
People notice that.
And they appreciate
it, because you’re
helping them out with anything
that they need help with.
And then in turn
they help you out.
And that kind of creates this
culture where by the time–
for me I was trying
to pitch TikTok.
There were a lot
of people around me
who were excited for
me, because we had
formed a working relationship.
And people that were my equals,
and above me, and below me,
all those things, so that
always over time does pay off.
– If you find yourself in a
position that doesn’t quite
fit your goals
and your passions,
there may be an
opportunity for you
to turn it into something
that does work for you.
Having that trust
within your company
can help you get buy in.
It might be intimidating
for your boss
to let you change your role.
But it becomes a
lot less daunting
if they know they can trust you.
– So at this point if
they came up to me–
and they probably
will soon– and said,
do you want to change
your title at the Post?
It would just be like
Washington Post TikTok Creator,
because that’s essentially
what I’m doing every day.
– Now when I watch Dave’s
TikToks I see them a little bit
You know I see him dressed
as a cicada or dancing.
What is he doing?
But I think about all of
the different things that
go into him making a TikTok.
I think about how he brings
his true self to this platform.
And how, even
though he’s working
at this huge organization that
has years and years of history,
he’s been able to build a role
for himself that he loves.
And I love that for
him, even though he’s
dressed as a creepy cicada.
Where did he get that costume?
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