Me wearing leather skirt and ankle boots

Cat’s out of the bag: I earn money from posting sponsored content on my Instagram account and blog. Shocking. I’m sorry to sound so sarcastic, but I want to get real with you guys. I want to contribute to an open dialogue around sponsored posts and influencer marketing because it’s what I do for a living.

Wearing striped shirt, black leather skirt and Chelsea boots

It’s been a little over 3 months since I left my full-time job as a corporate lawyer of 9 years (!). I took the ultimate risk and decided to pursue my passion as a full-time blogger/content creator and entrepreneur – another shocking fact not all of you might have known. No in between, like transitioning to working part-time while blogging. Like, full on, quitting my day job and jumping in FEET FIRST!

It’s not at all something I’m ashamed of or have been trying to keep a secret. I’ll explain why I decided to quit my corporate law job in another blog post (HINT: it wasn’t for the money).

Now that blogging is my full-time job, I feel it’s important for you to understand what I do, why I do it, and to generally address a lot of the SHADE that people throw at this industry. When I post a photo on my Instagram account with a caption that ends with #ad or #sponsored, DON’T HATE. And let me explain why…

Wearing striped shirt, black leather skirt and Chelsea boots

Outfit Details: Shirt & Skirt – H&M (purchased) // Boots – Geox Etienne Chelsea boot (gifted)

First, What Exactly Is Influencer Marketing?

There’s been lots written on the subject, so I won’t explain in detail. In short, as part of my job as a blogger, brands approach me to promote their products and services on my social media accounts and blog for money.

Lauren of This Renegade Love wrote an excellent post on this very topic, which I’d encourage you to read here.

Influencer marketing is part of a brand’s digital marketing strategy. Just like advertising in print or on TV, it is meant for the purpose of communicating a message to consumers and is worthy of respect as a viable form of marketing.

I consider brand content creation to be a privilege – something that I am fortunate to be able to do because brands and PR companies hopefully understand what my own brand is about, and the hard work that I have put into building my organic audience over the last year and a half.

flatlay with my hands and yogurt and example of influencer marketing

Created for Liberté Canada Greek Crunch yogurt

Why Does Influencer Marketing Get Such a Bad Rap?

Now that influencer marketing has been around for a while, the negativity has started to surface – the misconceptions, assumptions, judgements, and internet trolls. There is a stigma.

Why? First and foremost, because of the oversaturation of the blogging industry.

Bloggers post a highlight reel of their lives and create beautiful imagery. People see this and assume it’s easy, so everybody and their mother wants to be a social media influencer. That, coupled with the increasing number of brands working with influencers and not doing their research first or letting things slip by quality control, could make for a bad combination.

It’s an easy formula to understand:

More bloggers + the normalization of influencer marketing in brands’ marketing strategies = more ads being promoted on Instagram

So, hey, I don’t blame you for feeling like every time you scroll through your Instagram feed, ads are being shoved down your throat! It’s because they are.

There are other reasons influencer marketing gets a bad rap too, like celebrities and bloggers not disclosing their relationships with brands, which has led to a lot of mistrust. There’s also some really, really BAD influencer marketing out there, and partnerships that make no sense whatsoever. Like, if I see one more overly staged picture of a former Bachelor contestant holding up a FabFitFun Box, I swear I’m going to lose it!

Common Myths about Being an “Influencer”

These are some of the common misconceptions being cast on bloggers these days and my response to them:

1. You’ve sold out because you do brand partnerships.

Why? Because I’m able to make a living by doing work that I’m passionate about and because I endorse products that I already use and love?

If a product doesn’t align with my own personal brand and story and vice-versa, it’s not worth it for me to put my credibility on the line. I’ve said no to many more offers than I’ve accepted – everything from activated charcoal teeth whitening to invisible bras, even including clothing and beauty products that I don’t wear or know anything about.

flatlay of charcuterie

Created for Maille Canada. I use Maille products regularly. I also consume everything pictured here (well, maybe not the olives), and as someone who regularly blogs about food, this makes sense.

Photo enjoying Grey Goose outdoors with my husband

Created for Grey Goose. As someone who regularly enjoys alcohol, this also makes sense, and I consider myself lucky to be able to work with one of my favourite alcohol brands.

2. You’re only in it for the money.

Only about 15-20% of my content is sponsored. I post twice a day on my Instagram account and have been blogging about 2 times a week since going FT, including weekly recipes just because.

Hand pouring syrup over french toast

One of my favourite recipes and examples of food styling to date, and all completely not sponsored.

That means, I’m producing a hell of a lot of non-sponsored content! Why? Because it brings me happiness! Because it’s my passion. Because I love cooking. Because I love photography, and want to get better at it. Because I want to share with you, and I genuinely love connecting and engaging with my audience (just take a look at my Instagram account and you’ll see that I try to respond to every comment).

Figo restaurant interior

One of my favourite things to do is post restaurant interiors because I like to show my, predominantly Toronto-based, followers beautiful places in the city. Most times, I am not invited to these places and I spend my own money.

3. You don’t work hard.

When I was practicing law, I used to spend all of my free time on weekends and evenings creating content and blogging. And guess what. Now that I blog full-time, I STILL work hard. Whether it’s part-time or full-time, bloggers work really hard. Period.

There is a lot of planning and behind the scenes work that goes into content creation – waking up early on weekends to shoot, going out to different locations and restaurants, investing money in food, clothes, and don’t even get me started on how much money bloggers spend on equipment, like cameras, lenses, lighting, props etc. It takes a lot of time and lots of things can and do go wrong.

I, personally, will work even harder when producing sponsored content because I want to impress the brand and show the brand and my followers what I’m capable of producing.

photo of me and my husband on a bike

Created for Boursin cheese. We had to drive outside of the city to borrow this bike, and while I was at my friend’s house, my phone fell in her toilet. I had to bring the bike with me on the subway because it couldn’t fit in my husband’s trunk. I also hired a professional photographer, Laura Clarke, to capture this image, and did all of the creative direction before shooting, including styling our outfits, buying the food, flowers and other props. It also was pouring rain before this, but we still went out to shoot on the wet ground and grass.

So for this reason, whenever I see another blogger posting sponsored content, I make sure to like and comment because I know and appreciate the hard work that probably went into creating it.

There’s also the social aspect of blogging, like attending events and networking to build relationships and connections (which can be tiring as hell!). And then there’s the whole business aspect of blogging, like pitching, the admin and accounting, managing the sheer amount of emails, and negotiating contracts. Bloggers simultaneously wear multiple hats and should be respected for it. I don’t even know how all the mommy bloggers out there do it! It’s truly inspiring!

So, Here’s What I Want You to Understand about Influencer Marketing

There are some bad apples in the industry, but don’t let that ruin it for all the other hard-working bloggers. Bad apples and cheaters aside, someone doesn’t become an “influencer” over night. Someone becomes an influencer because he or she has worked really hard to build his or her influence and is a great creative storyteller.

Take Elise of A Piece of Elise and Daniel of Mr. Daniel Ocean – two of my favourite content creators – as an example. I swear to god, any time either of them post sponsored content, I’m either like, “I want to buy that product!”, or “How the hell did you manage to create such quality work in that environment?” – um, like in a field, or at a music festival, or in the dark, or even just making sitting at home on the floor look so damn cool. That’s talent!

Bottom line, content creators shouldn’t have to feel nervous about posting branded content because you’ll immediately jump to negative conclusions when we disclose that it’s #sponsored.

The next time you look at sponsored content, think of the work that went into it. Assess the:

  • Photography – is it a beautiful image? It is well-composed and edited? Is it professional or semi-professional?
  • Creative direction and storytelling – Is there a real story, or is the photo overly staged and ridiculous?
  • Fit – How seamlessly (or not) does the product fit with the influencer and does the partnership make sense? Do you believe this product really fits this influencer’s lifestyle and ethos?

So, please show some love for influencers and respect this as an actual line of work. Just because it’s new or seems like a millennial thing doesn’t mean it’s not legitimate.

I’d love to know your thoughts on influencer marketing in the comments below!