How This YouTuber With Millions of Followers Used the Platform to Create Her Dream Job Jenn Im's visual diary of her life opened the door for her to become a designer.
In this series, YouTube Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular YouTube channels to find out the secrets of their success.
Growing up in Los Angeles, 27-year-old Jenn Im was always passionate about clothes, finding gems in thrift shops and putting together unique looks. Her family thought that she should pursue a traditional career as a doctor, a lawyer or in the corporate world, but through YouTube, Im was able to create a business of her own.
Over the past eight years since she started her channel ClothesEncounters, Im has grown a following of 2.2 million subscribers on YouTube and 1.6 million on Instagram. Every week, Im shares her thoughts on style, makeup tutorials and advice about how to live your best life.
In August of 2017, Im was able to achieve her dream of designing her own clothing line with the launch of EGGIE. Im says that she knew she was never going to be completely ready to make the leap, but that if she kept putting it off, it might never happen.
"Even though I had a lot on my plate, I just knew it was time," Im tells Entrepreneur. "You could spend your entire life being prepared, but when a stroke of luck hits, you have to just have to run with it."
Im says the response from her fans has been rewarding, even more so than seeing people wearing the clothes who don't know who she is from YouTube. She says she sees the line as both an extension of her brand and a bet on the future.
"It's important to think of the long run because I don't know if I would be able to do YouTube for the rest of my life," Im says. "I don't know if I could be 40 and still be doing makeup tutorials. But I love having this option where this could be my exit strategy, where I can still be working and investing in a project that I'm passionate about."
Im spoke to Entrepreneur about getting started with YouTube, building a following and branching out.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get your start with YouTube?
I started the summer of 2010 at a time when YouTube was a small and more intimate space. I really wanted to start a blog. But it was so saturated and I thought, I'm obsessed with watching YouTube videos; why don't I showcase my fashion on this platform? So I started to show a lot of the items that I got at thrift stores or looks that I was wearing to different events. It just snowballed into what it is today as viewers requested more from me. They would ask if I could show them makeup and hygiene routines, and then it slowly got more personal. Now it's a visual diary of my life.
How do you monetize your channel?
I use AdSense. Google runs ads on your videos as they are about to begin and ads in between your videos. It's changed because back in the day there were a lot of multichannel networks. I can see that starting to slowly phase out. Now brands are just communicating directly to the influencers and their agency or management company.
The bulk of my money definitely just comes from branded content that I do. [When I partner with brands,] I always make sure that I try out the product two to three weeks ahead of time, especially for skincare, to see if I genuinely like the product. I feel like there's so many different offers that come into my inbox, so it is really important to work with brands that resonate with you, because viewers can smell if a product does not fit. If they know you don't read a lot, you can't just have a plug for Audible.
It's important to have organic and genuine content. When this whole branded campaign started, a lot of brands were specific and controlling with their messaging. They wanted to make sure that they got their messaging points across. But that's when a video or a post can be too sponsored, and it kind of distorts the whole message. Now I've noticed that successful campaigns are ones where the influencer and the brand meet in the middle. They'll send their messaging points and we'll pick out what would flow better with the content that we're producing. It's a happy medium.
How much time do you spend on a video, and what does that entail?
It definitely depends on what type of video. If it's a monthly favorites, where I talk about the products that I've been loving, that can take maybe two or three days. One day to write out a treatment and think about what I'm going to say. Then I'll film it, and that will take a couple hours. Editing is what takes the longest. It could take from three days to a week and a half, depending on how detailed the video is.
What's your content strategy?
I kind of just go with whatever I find relevant at the moment. Seasons are a big factor. So if it's summer, people are looking for makeup looks that are more sweat-resistant. If it's winter, I'll do a video about layering jackets or how to look cute in the cold. But there's a lot of evergreen content where the timing really doesn't matter. For those videos, I'll do them on whatever topics I want to do, whether it's products or recipes I love. You can even look at what is trending on YouTube, like different challenges going on. If I see those kinds of videos are successful, then I'll hop on it. The important thing is to be fast, before it dies out.
What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?
It's important to create a trust between you and your viewers. You have to time it right. You have to have a system creating consistent content on Instagram and YouTube. Once you feel that it's a well-oiled machine, that's when you have to be patient. You also need the right team that you can rely on, because it's impossible to do this all by yourself. So I'm lucky in the sense that I found the right partners and I found an amazing team. There's just so much that goes into a business, and it's important to hire people who can do something they can't do, 10 times better than you. I just focus on what I'm good at, which is making videos and being creative or styling the shoots. For other responsibilities like marketing strategy and distribution and just general maintenance, I'll have other amazing members of my team take care of that.
What do you think is a common misconception about YouTube?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that YouTubers are just constantly on vacation all the time. I don't blame them, because you look at our feeds and videos and it's we're traveling, and it's just like this amazing highlight reel. But on the flip side, part of our job as YouTubers is to make our lives look easy. When people watch our videos, it wouldn't be very fun to just see us stressing out behind the laptop and just being locked in our house for days. We kind of omit that. It's good to show it sometimes. But if I actually showed what I do every day and what actually goes into taking that perfect Instagram photo or that perfect travel video, people would realize, wow it's definitely harder than it looks.
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"I tell my story of what it was like growing up Korean American. It's important to speak up about your story and I wanted to share with my subscribers the highlights and struggles of growing up as a minority."
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"In the age of Instagram, photos are more important than ever. In this video I show 10 easy poses you can rock for your next photo opp."
"This is a video my fiance made for me. He documented the entire proposal. It's so nice being able to share these moments with my subbies since they've been there from the beginning."