‘Bullies forced me out of school so I made friends on Instagram – now it’s made me rich’


Entrepreneur Dan James Clarke, 20, turned his horrendous experiences at school into an opportunity to make thousands of pounds. Now, he wants to inspire other kids to do the same

Dan wants to use his story of overcoming adversity to inspire others

An entrepreneur who suffered horrendous bullying at school turned it all around and now makes thousands from social media.

Dan James Clarke, 20, originally from London but now living in Lincolnshire, describes himself as an introverted kid – which he reckons was exacerbated by cruel teasing he was subject to.

“I wasn’t a very confident child, but primary school was always ok for me,” he told The Mirror.

“The troubles really came when I went to secondary school. I was very badly bullied, physically and emotionally.”

Dan said most of his friends from primary school didn’t go to his secondary school, which made him feel more isolated.

After his mum Kirstine fought for him to go to a new school, Dan hoped for a fresh start. But it wasn’t long before bullies started targeting him again.

Dan’s mum Kirstine supported him while he was going through cruel bullying


Dan James Clarke / @dan_clrk)

Dan was teased for his teeth and skin when he was at school


Dan James Clarke / @dan_clrk)

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“It stems from people who are considered ‘popular’ being nasty to someone. Other people who want to be friends with the popular kids just follow their lead,” he explained.

“I had quite big teeth when I was younger so people would call me Bugs Bunny. I also had spots as a child which made me really insecure.”

A bright student who was predicted As and A*s in his GCSEs, Dan stopped going to lessons because he was so anxious about being targeted.

He recalled: “I went back into school to take my exams but I ended up getting Bs and Cs. I failed drama because I stopped going in.

“I didn’t really have any friends. Although I had people to hang around with at lunchtime, they would also be pretty horrible to me, just because everyone else was.”

Throughout the horrendous bullying, Dan confided in his mum, who raised him as a single parent. But while she was incredibly supportive, he craved the community of a group of friends.

When he got his first iPhone, he decided to download Instagram to see if he could find like-minded people.

He said: “When I went onto social media, I saw people who had lots of followers, and I wanted some of that popularity.

“I started pursuing it to get a bigger following. At first there were apps you could use to get ‘coins’ that would increase your follower count.

The bullying became so bad, Dan stopped going to school


Dan James Clarke / @dan_clrk)

Craving friends and a community, Dan started using Instagram to build a large following


Dan James Clarke / @dan_clrk)

“But eventually I grew a following, and it kept growing. I used it to increase exposure but I also met other people and started to make friends online.

“It felt so good getting that dopamine release with the more followers I got. It started to make me feel great.”

After setting up a specific gaming account on Instagram with a large following, Dan was contacted by a company that makes gaming glasses. They offered £100 for a single Instagram post advertising the glasses.

“Back then it was really easy for things to go viral. I’d built up about 60,000-70,000 followers and the glasses company paid me to wear the glasses in posts.

Now, Dan says his experiences at school have motivated him to help other people


Dan James Clarke / @dan_clrk)

“I never started a social media presence to make money but I saw it as an opportunity to make something out of it,” he said.

As time went on, Dan was contacted by several different companies that paid him to promote their products – including the Calm app and TikTok.

“It was the early days of TikTok and they were paying a lot of money in marketing. They offered £2 per download,” Dan explained.

After promoting the app on his Instagram account, Dan said he started to make thousands of pounds every month when he was just a teenager.

“I was working in a theme park at the time but I’d come home and do the social media stuff in the evening, when things were more active.

“I’d cash out every day. It allowed me to help my mum out as well, which I couldn’t do before.”

Now 20 years old, Dan is an entrepreneur who helps companies out with marketing campaigns.

Despite going through awful experiences at school, he’s grateful for the motivation it gave him to prove his bullies wrong and become successful.

Dan also thinks the things he had to endure at such a young age have taught him how to have empathy for others, and he’s passionate about helping people.

After taking a life-changing trip to Kenya when he was a teen, Dan has been working with a charity called Harambee for Kenya, which helps young boys who are addicted to drugs into safe houses.

Dan admits that, although he’s experienced amazing things from social media, there are downsides too – and the platforms can also open people up to bullying.

“Social media is a modern day drug and there are definitely negative sides to it. Companies need to do more to make sure there’s a balance between the good and bad aspects of their platforms.”

Now, he wants to inspire other young kids struggling with their confidence that they can do anything they want with their lives.

“At times, what you’re going through will be hard. But everything happens for a reason and it makes you who you are.

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“It’s not forever and there is light at the end of the tunnel – no matter how long that tunnel may seem. At times it can seem like there’s never an end, but you’ll come out of it a stronger person.”

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