Dani Kluss of Dani Dearest is a blogger and online entrepreneur who started and continues to run her business while in college. Dani started out as a hobby blogger and watched her business blossom as her following and reach grew.
Dani's primary method of monetization is through partnering with brands who want to harness the community of millennials and college students that Dani has grown through running her business.
Here is what she has to say...
Tell us who you are and what you do in 2 sentences:
I’m Dani, a college blogger over at Dani Dearest, who is focused on making an empowering community for college and millennial women. I’m dedicated to helping these women succeed in their life, careers, and studies.
At what point did you decide to take your online influence and turn it into a business?
Turning Dani Dearest into a business happened sort of naturally. As a blogger, you tend to get a lot of opportunities for things such as free products in exchange for reviews, at one point I figured out you could get paid for that and I started applying for influencer networks. One day it worked, I got in, got a campaign, and got paid for my first sponsored post! It was an awesome feeling, someone cared enough about my opinion and my influence online to pay me for it.
What did you do next?
It took me a while to start taking Dani Dearest seriously as a business. While I was making a little bit of income here and there, I was supporting myself elsewhere so I didn’t think much of it. However, I kept doing research. I love learning, especially when it’s about a passion that I have, and I started soaking up all that I could about online influencer marketing. Eventually, I started taking it seriously, putting in some real effort and marketing tactics, and it has paid off. Right now I’m starting to ease away from sponsored posts and focus more on creating my own digital products (like courses) and it’s a whole new challenge that I’m excited for!
What was your biggest struggle in getting started? How did you overcome it?
My biggest struggle has been the time commitment. I’m still struggling with that, to be honest. One cool thing about being an online influencer is that you make your own hours, you get to choose how much (or how little!) you work. However, that also goes hand in hand with how much (or how little) you make. Since I am a college student and involved in what feels like a hundred other things, finding time to commit to my blog regularly can be difficult. With a bit of scheduling, time management, and some “no, you have to do blog work” from my boyfriend, I make it work.
What has been the best part of running your own business?
My goal when starting Dani Dearest was to use it “in an attempt to become creatively fulfilled” as the slogan for my site says. I started Dani Dearest on my first day of college. I’d considered it for over a year, always craving something more in life. I can’t draw well, I don’t know how to sing or play an instrument, and I felt like there was a creative muscle in my body that wasn’t being exercised enough. Sure enough, Dani Dearest turned it into the exact creative outlet I needed it to be. At the end of the day yes, Dani Dearest is a business, but it’s also my creative passion.
What are your top tips for growing a following?
Honestly, finding the right niche and what social media platforms they are using to target them there. The majority of the time, from my experience, this means Pinterest. Pinterest has become an amazing tool for bloggers. Whenever you publish a blog post, create a “pinnable” image. Think something that would make you click on it to read the post if you saw it on Pinterest - usually with the title on the image! Pin this to relevant boards (group boards are your new best friends) along with other content that isn’t yours. It takes time, as do most things, but it works.
My other top tip: be helpful. Find a problem that someone has and share how they could solve it. Helping posts do really well and put you out as an expert in your field.
A lot of people have great content and a great following, but still struggle to monetize their influence. How do you recommend people who are looking to turn their hobby into a business get started?
If you have a great content and a great following, chances are that you are struggling to monetize your influence because you are waiting there for it to happen by itself. Unfortunately, it’s not passive. Do research, learn key tactics to monetizing a website. Affiliate links, sponsored posts, courses, digital products - learn how to do them all, then decide which is right for you. Sign up for programs, apply for campaigns, pitch to brands, create, write, publish. Be active and form a community that will be there for you when you make the change.
Looking back on your entrepreneurial journey, what factors do you think played the largest role in your success?
I think the key role for me was my passion. When you’re passionate and excited to do something, when you think work is fun, then it makes it a lot more bearable. If you’re just in it to make the money, you’re in for a hard time finding motivation.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their online business?
Research, learn as much as you can and try things out. Experiment. Get a support system, there’s some really cool Facebook groups out there for bloggers and new business owners, they’re happy to answer any and every question you have. Before you know it you’ll be the one answering their questions!
What are your plans for your business in the future?
My business plans in the future consist mainly of transitioning my blog out of the college audience and growing it up as I do. I’m graduating next year, which means I’ll be taking on the whole new field of finding a career and the college tips posts won’t be as relevant anymore. I think that my blog readers will grow up with me and will appreciate having someone to relate to as it all happens.
Dani was interviewed as a Change Maker - a featured entrepreneur in Teachable's weekly email newsletter - Make Change Weekly. The Friday roundup features curated content to make money outside of the 9-5. To sign up for Make Change, enter your email below.