“Start By Targeting Your Dream Brands — And Work For Free” With Amber Kemp-Gerstel of Damask Love
“When I started my company I did a lot of work for free. I set my sites on a few brands that I loved and would ask them to send me product. Sometimes I would even purchase the product myself. Then, I would create content and tag them in the post, or email the blog link to their marketing team. Slowly but surely, this strategy allowed me to build meaningful relationships with brands that are now a huge part of my monetization.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Miami’s own DIY and craft blogger Amber Kemp-Gerstel of Damask Love. Amber has been selected as one of 8 “makers” across the country to compete in a crafting competition on NBC’s new primetime TV show “Making It,” which premieres July 31st and airs every Tuesday at 10/9 Central. Named one of the Top 17 DIY Blogs by Domino magazine and Top 10 DIY blogs by Better Homes and Gardens magazine, Amber is known for her easy-to-follow Swipetorials where she shares instructions behind the inspiration with her nearly 28K followers. She is also an on-air craft expert for the Home Shopping Network and the social media face of JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores.
What is your “backstory”?
“Blogger” and “influencer” were not job options when I was picking a career path…and if they were, my mom surely would not have approved.
I grew up with a single mom who, during my teen years, regularly reminded me that I would have to get a doctorate degree if I wanted to achieve my goal of being a child psychologist — yeah — she ran a tight ship. So I did. I went to Duke University for undergrad, then graduation from Vanderbilt University with my Ph.D. in child psychology. I’d always loved working with children and knew that I would be a good therapist to children and families facing emotional and behavioral challenges. After completing my degree and practicing as a psychologist for a few years, I began crafting as a hobby. It all started when I had to make a card for a friend’s wedding. I quickly fell down the rabbit hole and began taking my hobby more seriously. In 2012, I launched Damask Love my very own corner of the internet where I shared crafty projects. After a few years, Damask Love picked up some traction — being named a Top DIY Blog my Domino Magazine and Better Homes and Gardens. That’s when I started thinking — “hmmm, maybe I can do this as a full-time job!”
Well, it turns out I was right. After saving a nest egg, I quit my job as a child psychologist and became a full time crafter, maker, blogger, influencer!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career?
The hardest thing about being an influencer is trying to explain to people what the hell you do for a living! I laugh every time someone asks me about my business because I have no clue what’s going to come out of my mouth in response! Sometimes I say: “I’m a blogger” — to which they say “But how do you make money?” Sometimes I say: “I’m a content creator” — to which they say “What is that?” Other times, I say, I run an online magazine — which is kind of a lie but close enough to the truth to avoid any further discussion or confusion. Then there are the times I go for 100% accuracy: “I am a DIY influencer and television personality” — and that usually ends the conversation because I lost them at the word “DIY.” #bloggerproblems
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I left my job as a psychologist to pursue a career as a crafter and influencer. The irony is that my work as a therapist continues. I truly believe that crafting and making make us better. There is a pride that comes with creating. Crafting helps focus energy and thoughts that might otherwise be spent negatively. Even though I left my official gig as a psychologist, I still feel that my work reaches people and provides a therapeutic value to their lives.
If someone would want to emulate your career, what would you suggest are the most important things to do?
I find that “influencer” has become synonymous with “Instagram.” I think many influencers spend a lot of time and energy building a following on Instagram without building their own personal platform. I always remind would-be-influencers: You do not own Instagram! You do not own the access to your followers! To create and maintain a viable business based on creative content, it’s hugely important to create your own platform, where you are the boss. This could be a newsletter list, a blog or a static website where people can find you. This way, you can grow a following that is truly your own.
Is there a particular person that made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful? Can you share a story?
It sounds trite, but my husband has changed the way I think about entrepreneurship. I grew up thinking that self-employment was a dumb, risky move. It was not sustainable and could not lead to real success. My husband had been a champion of my business efforts — he’s my biggest advocate. If you run into him on the street, he will tell you all about Damask Love, then force you to follow me on Instagram — like “stand-over-your-shoulder-and-watch-until-you-tap-follow.” Consider yourself warned.
So what are the most exciting projects you are working on now?
I like to set lofty goals — this way there is always an exciting project on the horizon. Currently, I have plans to write a book and develop a line of crafting products…but perhaps my most exciting project of 2018 is the premiere of NBC’s first ever craft competition show, “Making It” where I get to compete for the title of Master Maker. Never in one million years would I expect to share my love for crafting on such a huge stage! I’m thrilled to use this television show as a platform for sharing my passion and love to creating with others who may also want to try their hand at crafting.
What are your “Top Five Ideas About How Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Start by targeting your dream brands — and work for free. When I started Damask Love, I did a lot of work for free. I set my sites on a few brands that I loved and would ask them to send me product. Sometimes I would even purchase the product myself. Then, I would create content and tag them in the post, or email the blog link to their marketing team. Slowly but surely, this strategy allowed me to build meaningful relationships with brands that are now a huge part of my monetization.
2. Find two or three people you trust…and talk openly about rates. Determining your rates can be scary, so it’s very helpful to have a squad of influencers in your niche who you can talk openly with. Right now, I have a biweekly Skype chat with three DIY blogger friends and we air all our successes, our dirty laundry and our challenges with monetization. We are not in competition with each other — rather — we support each other and can all be successful by sharing information.
3. Keep an Updated Media Kit that includes stats, examples of your work, reader testimonials and recent press. Each month, I update my media kit so that I’m ready when a brand reaches out to work with Damask Love. This shows preparedness and professionalism, both of which go a long way to securing paid partnerships.
4. Say “no.” Turning down work has always been a struggle for me, but it’s a skill I’ve had to learn in order to continually provide quality content to the brands I work with. One of my biggest “no” decisions came two years ago when I decided to remove all ads from my site. The ads were a source of passive income but they were bogging down the aesthetic that I’d worked hard to create. They were taking up space that I could use to promote my own content. Eventually, I decided to remove all ads — knowing that meant less money each month. I haven’t looked back since making that decision and it’s encouraged me to say “no” in other circumstances. When you feel like your brand identity is being diminished or you’re selling yourself short of bigger opportunities, saying “no” can be an empowering and savvy move.
5. Pitch like you mean it! I’ve found that a well-built pitch will take you far when it comes to securing the partnerships you want. When I build a pitch, it’s “fully baked.” I give all the details of what I want to do with a mood board of my ideas. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than approaching a brand with “I’d love to work together” and then have zero ideas for how to make it happen. Now, when I tell people this — the most frequent response is: Well, what if the brand steals your idea and uses it?! Yes. This is a risk, but it’s not one that I’ve encountered. This strategy shows preparedness, professionalism and dedication all of which are valuable traits for any influencer to have. In the long run, a well-developed pitch will serve you well.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)
Anytime you ask me about my dream lunch, the answer will forever and always be Tracy Ellis-Ross. In my mind, she and I would get along like gangbusters. Her humor is relatable and acumen for business and politics is inspiring.
…and if, by some miracle, I can invite a second person to this imaginary brunch, I’d definitely invite Amy Porterfield. She discusses entrepreneurship in a way that gets me fired up to hustle harder and grow my business in a smart way.
Amazon millionaire, author and business coach, Akemi Sue Fisher, has helped thousands of Amazon sellers scale and grow their businesses to six, seven and eight figures. She has quickly become one of the most trusted and sought after E-commerce consultants in the world. In only three years, her agency, Love & Launch, has helped her clients achieve over one billion dollars in sales through Amazon, Ebay and other e-commerce platforms. Her entrepreneurial spirit and direct approach continues to help elevate not only her success, but the success of her clients which range from startups to fortune 500 companies.