You’ve probably come across at least one of Damilola Abisola’s stories online. But maybe you don’t recognise the name because you know her as Dammypep, purveyor of a truckload of viral stories on Twitter and Instagram.
We caught up with her recently and she shared details of her life and gave us tips on how to succeed in the field of social media storytelling.
Tell me about growing up.
My folks are teachers, and I am the first of six kids. Growing up in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state was fun and normal. My dad used to tell us stories and buy us books to read, but what people say about having teachers as parents is true: they were really strict back then. But these days, they are cool.
I guess age does that to parents.
That’s very true in my case.
What did they teach?
My dad taught economics and my mum taught agricultural science. My mum still teaches agricultural science, but my dad is now a vice principal.
What did you study and what did they want you to study?
I studied pharmacy. But I didn’t know about the course until maybe SS3; I wanted to study medicine because everyone wanted to be a doctor. When it was time, we decided to go with something that would make money. My dad said there was money in pharmacy and one of his friends said the same thing. It wasn’t until my second year that I actually began to understand what pharmacy is. Before then, I was just following the crowd.
Did you get into any business while in school?
No. I didn’t think I had the mind for it. Being an entrepreneur is for people who are really emotionally strong, especially in a country like Nigeria. I did get into acting in school, though, because I really wanted to be an actress. I joined the drama unit in my school fellowship in my second year.
Is that when storytelling came into your life?
I think that came in my third year. I was named Drama Coordinator of the National Fellowship of Christian Pharmacy Students (NFCPS), and I had to write a script for a stage drama. The first one I wrote was for a relationship programme. My first version was rejected. They said it didn’t fit with the theme, and I was really angry. But in retrospect, it was a good thing that they rejected it. I learned from it.
So did you submit another version?
I did. I started writing it by 6pm and finished by 5.30am.
What? 12 hours?
At a stretch. I slept off and then I read it after. I didn’t even believe I was the one who had written it. This time the NFCPS excos liked it. And when we acted it, my name spread around campus. Dammypep! Dammypep! Dammypep!
That’s impressive. A brief aside: How did you get the nickname Dammypep?
It was from my dad. There was a character named Peppine, I think, in something I watched. When school resumed, I told my schoolmates about it so much that they started calling me Peppine. Then when I got into school and wanted to open a Gmail account, my dad suggested I use Dammypep. I thought it sounded nice, and it just stuck.
Nice. So, what happened after that initial script?
I started writing for a freelancer, and he used to pay me around ₦5k to ₦10k. I kept writing until someone took credit for one of my scripts and got an award for it. It was really, really painful. My friends were telling me to confront the person, but I don’t like things like that.
This was in 2019, and I was in my final year. The whole thing affected me so much that I stopped writing.
Yeah. In 2021, I met someone who said he was going to pay me to write a story. I wrote about 15 pages. I met this person because I had told a friend that I write, even though I couldn’t remember the last time I had written something. He told his friend and that is how we got acquainted. Anyway, when it was time, the guy said he was expecting 50 pages for the ₦10,000 he was meant to pay.
Yes. Then, I discovered that he wanted to make it into a book and sell it on Amazon. I was really angry. He said he’d pay ₦5k since I didn’t deliver all the pages he wanted. I took back my story and told him I wasn’t interested. I stopped writing again. By this time, I was doing my internship as a pharmacist in Ibadan, so I decided to focus on my job.
What were you getting paid?
Was that your first job?
It was a pharmacy job just after school. I was paid ₦30k.
Were you saving at the time?
I had started saving before then even. I was using PiggyVest back in school. But that was for money I got from home. I wanted to get a phone then, so I used PiggyVest for that.
We are very pleased to hear that! So when did you get back to writing?
Sometime after. I was feeling stagnant. And then in 2021, I went through a very bad heartbreak and needed a distraction.
[Laughs] Thanks. I needed a distraction, and I wanted to make more than the ₦33,000 from NYSC in Akwa Ibom and the ₦56,000 from another pharmacy job. I was posted to a hospital that was an hour and half from where I was staying, so I was only going there twice a week. That’s why I had the time for the other pharmacy job.
Indeed. But I wanted more. I didn’t want pharmacy alone. I like doing other things. That plus the heartbreak plus my prayers, which really helped me, made me feel like I should be doing something more.
Then one day, someone shared a link to a Udemy course in a group I belonged to. I took the course. It was a course on storytelling. Then I saw another course and another. I gave myself some time to just take courses on content writing, copywriting and storytelling. I was buying books and courses, including one by Salem King.
What happened after you were done?
I started posting. I posted the first one, sent it to my friends and they gave constructive feedback on what to improve on. I was only posting on Instagram initially. I didn’t feel like my page wasn’t growing, so I reached out to one of the people I had learned content writing from. She suggested I post on Twitter too. Two other people suggested the same, but I was scared of Twitter.
[Laughs] I didn’t want to get dragged, and I had less than 100 followers at the time. So I started with the intention of posting on Twitter and then taking a screenshot to post on Instagram.
One day, I posted a particular story about a married couple and it blew up! It got 300 likes. I told my friends. 300 likes! I started posting frequently, but I had to stop because I started getting writing jobs, and I still have my regular job as a pharmacist.
What was the first writing job you got?
It was on Instagram last year. He told me to script a story, and he paid ₦120,000. I can’t even remember the title. I think he wanted to make a short film.
So has your price gone up since then?
Yes! I have gotten better. So the prices have gone up.
Have you worked in Nollywood?
I wrote for a big producer recently. I am also working with Biodun Stephens. No big film yet, but soon. Baby steps so far. I really want to work with Kunle Afolayan, Jade Osiberu and the King of Boys director…
Yes. I really want to work with all of them.
So where are we now financially per script?
You’re welcome. Given your viral stories, you must have gotten influencer gigs, right?
Yes. And I want to start putting my face out there more. I have struggled with it, but that will change because I think most brands want to know the face behind the account they are working with. But so far, I have worked with a few brands, writing stories for some.
I have also ghostwritten for some brands seeking engagement with their followers. Usually, the stories will go up on both my Instagram and my Twitter, which because of my last story, now has even more followers than my Instagram.
Tell me more about that.
It blew beyond my expectations. I started it just a few days ago, and I will be dropping the third part. Before then, I had about 15,000 followers on Twitter.
Just before we started talking, you had more than 57,000 followers.
That’s more than 40,000 followers in just two days. Wow.
I was surprised, too. It also gave me more than 5,000 followers on Instagram.
*Applause* What in this story do you think caught everybody’s attention?
I don’t know. [Laughs] Sometimes, the stories I put my all in don’t do well. I have to read things to get details like location and ethnic stuff correct. But this one I just started writing it and then gave it to my friend to read. After that, I put it up and here we are. I wanted to end it with the second part, but I figured I should keep the engagement going. [Laughs]
What are your top 3 tips for people looking to emulate Dammypep?
Prayer is the first one. Then consistency: you have to keep putting yourself out there. You also have to keep learning. I still read books and ask for feedback from my partner, my sister and a friend of mine. And I listen to what they say.
I was ill recently and wrote something. My sister read it and said, “It’s not giving.” I didn’t put it up.
You have quality control.
Yes, I do.
So what pays better these days? Your regular job as a pharmacist or your writing?
[Laughs] Writing pays better! And maybe I’m meant to choose one, but I am praying about it and I don’t want to choose yet. But even if I leave the pharmacy profession, I will always be a pharmacist.
[Laughs] Well, I have my licence!