Danielle Finestone is a food blogger who runs the popular Instagram account @ToFoodies. If you live in Toronto and love to eat, you’re probably already one of her 76K followers. We had lunch with Danielle and asked her all about what it’s like managing a massive Instagram account, how she took the leap to freelance life, and, yep—how she makes money as a blogger.
Danielle in the Evolution Tank in Grey Truffle
It’s been about a year and half since you’ve been running ToFoodies full-time. How did you get to this point?
It really starts from when I was writing for [Toronto blog] She Does The City and they would invite me out to go cover events for them. That opened me up to this world of Toronto and food and the types of events that are here. So from there I knew that I always wanted that to be part of my life. Then I was working for a record label and part of my job was in marketing, so I started hearing about different Instagram and Twitter accounts that were turning a profit by delivering really specific content. I was looking at the food accounts that I was following, so I started one on the fly just to see what it would feel like. I started it really just as my love of food, and from there it grew organically and eventually got to the point where I thought I could take the steps to do it full-time.
Do you have any advice for people who are navigating a side hustle and want to make the switch to full-time?
Really the toughest part is just to start. There are so many ways to advance yourself, even when you have a full-time job. I couldn’t be answering emails from ten to six, so I signed with an agency so they could handle some of the back and forth during the day, and then I would go to events at night. I loved my job, but eventually, one thing was growing and it was just time to make the commitment. And I had the agency to line up some gigs and help make it possible.
Can we talk about money? I think the question that most people really want to know about anyone who becomes successful off social media is how they actually make money.
I work with different brands. Sometimes they want really specific things, like campaigns or contests. Sometimes we do “advertorials” and giveaways, which are great for the following and something they want to know anyways. That’s when a partnership is at its best. So I work with the brands through my agency, and they take a percentage of what I make, so we get paid together. And then here and there I’ll also do writing and random travel assignments and consulting and social media. There’s the side that’s directly ToFoodies and there’s the side that’s, I guess, me as a professional in my own sense.
Do you think other bloggers are doing the same? Freelancing in addition to their social accounts?
We’re all multi-hyphenates [having multiple roles or professions]. Even a fitness [blogger], they could be doing consulting, could be nutritionists, doing actual gym classes, working with brands. It’s all tied together as part of the brand that you’ve built.
What is the food blogger community like? Is it supportive and collaborative?
I do think it’s supportive. I think there’s something really unique about food blogging and food writing in Toronto, and a big part of it is that we’re eating together all the time. And just the act of eating together all the time is a really big bonding experience. We’re all together, we’re dining, maybe drinking together, maybe going on overnights together. I’ve definitely developed a lot of friendships just from going out together all the time.
Danielle in the Don't Sweat It Tee in Black
Where do you draw the line when it comes to posting about a brand?
It could be the brand itself and their ethics. It could be that we tried the product and I honestly can’t get behind it. I try to keep ToFoodies a really positive place, and so if I don’t have anything nice to say, I won’t say it at all.
Did you have to learn photography or take any courses on food photography?
I haven’t taken any photography courses but I have taken two courses that have been really helpful. Culinary 1 and Knife Skills. I do a lot of handling food, so to me, it was really important to get some foundational chef training, because I don’t want to be out there doing something wrong.
What are your next steps? Do you have any other interests in the industry, like opening a restaurant or starting a food column?
I’m looking to launch a Youtube channel soon and get into the video world. I really just want to expand everything we have been doing on social media onto a new platform. I’m hoping to launch this summer.
To find out how she grew her Instagram following (and of course, which foods get the most likes on social media) stay tuned for more stories from Danielle. In the meantime, find out what she’s eating these days by following her on Instagram here.
🐚Oyster with carbonated mushroom dashi, spruce tips, seaweed and pickled Beech mushroom + 🐚smorgasbord of coriander beef, pork rillettes, fennel salmon belly, salmon roe, quail egg, pickled veg, pumpnicklet and rye bread + 🍸"Gibson" @absolutvodka Cocktail with morel-infused vermouth, charred cedar, pickled Onion and mushroom salt 🍄🍂🍞🥚🌱🌾#EarthHour was March 24th, and @absolutvodka and @FounderBar hosted us at an event highlighting many issues of sustainability in the restaurant and service industry. From the food and drinks to the environment and decorations, everything little detail was as sustainable as could be. 🌍🌎🌏How did you celebrate #earthhour2018?!?! 🌎🌏🌎 If you want to read more about @kaythanks.productions' Earth Hour experience with @absolutvodka and @founderbar, click the #linkinbio for all the courses and sustainable details! 🌕🌖🌗🌘🌑🌒🌓🌔🌕 / 📷 credit to @kaythanks.productions #toronto #absolutexfounder #earthhour2018 #tofoodies