News / Canada

The economics of lifestyle blogging: Turning ‘likes’ into cash

Blogging is now a multimillion-dollar business.

In world full of Facebook 'adds' and Twitter 'RTs' it's now possible to turn insta 'likes' into a business with hard work, says Marissa Anwar, founder of Sparks Sessions, a successful non-profit that hosts the country’s only conference dedicated to blogging.

"The blogging and online business is growing and it only makes sense for it to make its way to Canada," she says referencing the ever-increasing number of brand collaborations with bloggers across Canada. "It's a multimillion dollar business for those who can make it."

Renowned online social media stars such as America's Michelle Phan (who launched her own makeup line in 2014), Bryanboy (who transitioned his blog into a gig on America's Next Top Model) and Canada's own Nicole Wilson (a.k.a. @DaintyGirl_TO) who collaborates with various media outlets and brands, all started their enviable careers with a blog.

With social media personalities that rival traditional celebrities, these online stars have carved a niche for themselves in a competitive field with sponsorships that were once exclusive to Hollywood celebrities. Good blogging extends beyond regurgitating press releases and retweeting others. Bloggers who do their job well add a unique voice to their work

"It's not easy, says Wilson with a laugh about her online success. "I always tell people I do it with a little sleep and a lot of concealer." Despite still working a full-time job she spends up to 30 hours a week maintaining her blog.

"I look at my blog as a hobby because it keeps my interests diversified. I'm not sure if I would be able to create blogs everyday that I enjoyed if I knew I had a quota or number to hit."

The Spark Sessions conference, which pulled together the country's most prominent bloggers, influential PR companies and high-profile brands from across Canada, hopes to offer insight for entrepreneurs who want to make it big in the blogging world.

"It's definitely a business in itself now and that's not only because of the time commitment," says Anwar about the entrepreneurial 'hustle' it takes for people to get noticed.

In just one year the event's organizers have seen how demand for knowledge about high-profile blogging has grown after seeing over 250 people register for the 2014 event, more than double last year's attendance.

"Landing the campaign is the destination, blogging should be the journey," he says. "Concentrate on developing content first."

When it comes to business partnerships, most bloggers shy away (or in some cases are prohibited) from disclosing compensation they receive, which in most cases stops at free products for reviews. But in recent years, being paid as much as six figures isn't unheard of for some of the world's more prominent online stars. In most cases, the majority of bloggers earn revenue through ads on their sites or through sponsored posts.

Despite how glamorous the life of a full time blogger may seem, it also takes a lot of work for those high-profile campaigns, says social media expert Sean Beckingham, Founder of Branding & Buzzing a public relations company.

"You have to develop specific content about a campaign, write about it and share online," he says. "You have to do your research, your work and constantly engage your audience... it may seem easy, but it's not."

"To make it a passion is not enough," says Marilou Moles, creator of the blog 20 York Street. "Passion, commitment and dedication [are] a must.” The Ottawa blogger has parlayed her blogging success into stints on TV, radio and glossy profiles in Canadian magazines.

Her advice for entrepreneurs who want to turn their passion into a successful blog and enduring career is to look for ways to stand out.

Her fashion website is dedicated to the professional working woman, which helps her brand and blog shine a little brighter than the rest.

"Most fashion blogs when I started were for teens … feathers, sequins and fur might work for a night on the town, but not for the office," she laughs. "Keeping my focus on my audience is important and helps it grow.”

Despite what some may think, blogging is like any other business where it's necessary to work with people to get ahead, she adds.

"Blogging is an open eco-system. It's a business where you don't just work by yourself, but alongside PR, brands and other bloggers … the sooner you realize it, the sooner you'll start growing."

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