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Jacklyn Dallas, the 19-year-old CEO of NothingButTech, shares her advice on building a YouTube channel and a personal brand
While most 19-year-olds are busy thinking about college courses and internships, Jacklyn Dallas has already established herself as a YouTuber and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of NothingButTech–a startup she founded to produce YouTube videos. Her YouTube channel has over 147,000 followers.
Dallas does tech reviews, mostly of smartphones. What makes her channel alluring is how she simplifies technical concepts. Her aim has always been to make tech easily understandable, simplifying things to the point where even her grandmother can understand it. But at the same time, she also ensures that her videos are informative and entertaining.
She started out at the age of 13 after multiple relatives asked her for help solving simple tech problems.
“People were constantly texting me like, ‘Could you help me update my phone?’ or just really simple tech things that someone that’s really interested in tech would find easy, but people outside of the space may be daunted by,” says Dallas.
In response, she sent short video tutorials to friends and relatives in need of help.
“I would send my grandma a video on how to reset her email password; I would send my friend a video on how to change the resolution on their phone for the camera,” she says.
Realizing that more people may need similar assistance, she started posting her tutorials on YouTube in the form of screen recordings and voice-over instructions. But this format wasn’t creatively fulfilling for Dallas, which is why she made the jump to tech reviews. This allowed her to shoot videos from different angles and play with lighting.
More than just filmmaking, Dallas’ journey has been one of building a fan following and a personal brand–no small feat for a young adult. She shares her advice for aspiring YouTubers.
Dallas’ first warning is that subscriber growth is very low initially, but tends to rise quickly once there’s a little traction.
“It takes a really long time to build an audience because you’re relying on YouTube recommending your content and search and all these factors,” says Dallas.
“Plus, most people, when they start on YouTube are not great, like my videos were absolutely terrible. So it’s hard to build an audience in the beginning, but then, once you grow an audience, it just continues to snowball,” she adds.
Her own meteoric growth is a case in point. She had only 3000 subscribers at the end of the first year. But that grew to 22,000 and then 50,000 subscribers by the end of the second and third year respectively.
Adding to this, being a YouTuber often amounts to years of unpaid labor, making persistence a key trait. For the first two and half years, Dallas didn’t earn any money from YouTube. Later, whatever she earned was invested into renting an office space and buying equipment.
“After a couple of months, I only had six people subscribed to the channel, [and] I think a lot of people would have been like, ‘Okay, this obviously doesn’t work,’” says Dallas. “And I think if you’re in that position, and you’re reading this article right now, just stick with it, because growth is gradual.”
Know your audience
“I think a mistake that a lot of people make when they’re starting a YouTube channel is that they try to be too broad in an effort to reach everyone, [and] they end up reaching no one,” says Dallas.
When she started her channel, her audience consisted of people who did not necessarily care about technology but wanted to solve a problem.
“It was someone like my grandma who just wanted to figure out how to reset her email password. She wasn’t necessarily interested in why certain things worked, or exploring how to do complex things on our phones,” says Dallas.
Dallas’ team does a small exercise to ensure her content matches with her audience’s interests: they come up with an avatar–an imaginary person who represents her audience demographic.
“[The team] comes up with a name, and age and all these other attributes of someone that we think would watch this video,” says Dallas. “And I think that’s super important. Because, if you specify and you try to reach one person, you’re much more likely to connect and reach an audience.”
Spend time on your video title and thumbnail
“The title and thumbnail are the two most important things that you could do with a video,” says Dallas. These act as packaging for a video, stimulating interest and curiosity.
“You need to make sure that you’re promising something engaging,” says Dallas. She explains using a simple example: while reviewing the iPhone 12, she would not title the video “Buy iPhone 12,” since it gives away the video’s entire narrative and leaves no reason to watch it.
“Instead, if I made the video [title] ‘iPhone 12: should you buy it?’ I’ve created a question that you want an answer to,” she says.
Dallas says that YouTubers often make the mistake of ignoring the importance of titles and thumbnails and lose out on their audience.
“The thumbnail should also pique interest…the core idea is that you want to be able to tell the full story of the video in one single frame,” she adds.
The dos and don’ts of personal brand building
“I think building a brand for everyone is kind of different. For me, building a brand was really just about being authentic,” she says. “So for me, that means I want to make all my videos entertaining, and not just informative.”
This was ultimately key to her brand–curating authentic content and building a channel and a community around it. In 2020, Dallas started a Discord server for NothingButTech subscribers, which they use to engage with her and with each other, forming a close-knit community.
“You can’t just have your audience only like you. You need them to also feel like they’re part of a community,” says Dallas.
Last but not least, “You have to be really careful not to put all your eggs in one basket and to diversify,” says Dallas. Outside of YouTube, Dallas has also started a podcast with a friend this year. She’s also a public speaker, and attending conferences has become a big part of her business for over one year, she says.
Ultimately, Dallas’ success and business savvy show that entrepreneurial pursuits aren’t too far out of reach for anyone with the skills to start something up and the resilience to make it work. Persistence, as the saying goes, pays off.
Originally published in Jumpstart Magazine Issue 31 as ‘The Youth Perspective: Success in YouTube and Entrepreneurship’