Irene KimOne recent weekday morning, New York University student Irene Kim grabbed the curling iron and began separating her hair piece by piece as she sat on the floor of her dorm room. Every so often, she got up to scan her closet in search of the perfect outfit. After half an hour of switching between doing her hair and rifling for clothes, Kim’s hair flowed with large, soft curls and she wore a peach-colored skirt and a white, lace blouse. Her makeup was done with precision with her black thin eyeliner and purple eye shadow that made her brown eyes pop. Unlike other students, Kim never ventures out in anything less than full makeup and a styled outfit. As a fashion blogger trying to build a following, she believes that she must look perfect before setting a foot out the door.

Everything in Kim’s room has a place and purpose from her clothing and jewelry to her nail polish, all of which is color-coded. Her jewelry is hung along the wall and placed on her dresser as if it was a display at a high-end jewelry store. Next to her clothing, she has another closet with her shoes organized by style from booties to heels to flats. Coordinated outfits hang in her closet ready to go.

A few months ago, Kim created her blog, Irene Anna (http://irene-anna.blogspot.com). She wanted a simple blog name that didn’t incorporate a fashion term or New York. Her posts range from photos and descriptions of her outfits to reviews of New York City restaurants, and just about anything that comes to her mind. Kim’s blog has a modern sophisticated look while also being fun and flirty. This flirty style is displayed through the skirts and dresses she is always seen wearing.

While she has just 150 followers, her readership is growing steadily and NYU students recognized her from her blog in classes and at Starbucks. “The best part is when people tell me I inspired them to do something so it’s not necessarily following trends but the idea of wearing something that you love and you feeling really good about yourself,” said Kim.

Kim has high hopes to double her followers within the next two months by adding much more content. “I am looking for what are people wanting to see and how can I inspire people.”

But it will take that and lots more to stand out among the 42 million of aspiring bloggers, according to Business 2 Community, who crowd the Internet. Fashion blogs first emerged in 2002 with two blogs–LookOnline Daily Fashion Report (http://blogger.lookonline.com) and She She Me (http://shesheme.com). Both were started simply as a fun hobby. Now, some budding entrepreneurs create fashion blogs in hopes to gather followers and to turn blogging into a lucrative sideline, if not a career. While many pursue this goal, only tiny select group succeeds to win fortune and fame. Those that do make that select top tier of bloggers snag perks like front row seats at Fashion Week and meeting celebrities. But the real jackpot comes in the form of income from product endorsements and advertising.

The reason why many people become interested in fashion blogging is because of the rewards that come with being successful according to marketing professor from Santa Clara University, Edward McQuarrie. For a blogger to achieve this type of success, they first need to gain a following. McQuarrie explains in a recent interview that, “mostly, the audience finds her.” This occurs through the blogger’s taste and voice. The goals of fashion bloggers ranges from making a living to aspiring to get a design contact to just wanting to share their ideas with an audience.

The first step to success is gaining followers, usually a minimum of 1,000 devoted readers who admire bloggers’ style. The next level of success is monetization: income from selling a product or through advertisements. This is seen as the Holy Grail. The next level of success comes when a blogger actually derives a significant income from that monetization. This whole process of achieving success takes time as well as constant, daily effort, which is why many bloggers end up giving up.

Julia DiNardo, NYU Gallatin professor and founder and editor of Fashion Pulse Daily as well as designer, has curated her own very successful fashion blog for eight years. DiNardo defines success by the number of followers, and the way to do that, she says, is by displaying a constant unique voice and style. “The blogger should have an innate creative sense and eye for unique things as well as have a finger on what is trending and how to give things a new spin,” said DiNardo. Other ways blogs can stand out is by having good branding, which is done by having a unique style that is their own and is apparent, and beautiful photography. Once they build readership, the next step is to start figuring out ways to monetize their blog. But first must come a constantly growing number of followers.

Because of the increase of fashion bloggers in the past five or so years, it’s become harder and harder to get noticed. Originally when they first emerged, the fashion industry was not too enthusiastic. “It was time for a shake up because as much as the fashion industry is meant to evolve it can also get stuck in its ways in a technology standpoint. Initially, there was quite a bit of resistance,” said DiNardo. “Now that it is understood that fashion blogs are only the future and it is not going away, brands and designers have been approving of it and utilizing bloggers and blogs.” Designers and brands utilize blogs to help them advertise, which attracts to a diverse audience. Bloggers now wield their influence even during Fashion Week, where they are often invited and sit front row. These designers hope their show will be featured on various blogs, which they use as another form of advertising.

The success of fashion bloggers has even drawn academic researchers as evidenced by an article “The Megaphone Effect: Taste and Audience in Fashion Blogging.” The article, written by marketing professors, discusses how fashion blogging has emerged not only a way for stylists to share their fashion sense but also as a way to make money and gain fame. “Successful fashion blogs represent a public display of taste, and fashion products and their brands are intrinsic to the taste asserted,” these authors wrote in this article. This taste that these authors are focusing on “draws, holds and grows an audience.”

McQuarrie, who is also a co-author of the article, believes the magic ingredient is taste, which he defines as “the power to discover and display clothing that large numbers of other consumers will say, ‘that looks good, I like to look at that.’” McQuarrie believes that the ability to know what the public will respond to is extremely rare and difficult to be obtained. That explains why most blogs eventually disappear. The way a blogger finds an audience, according to McQuarrie, is through typical marketing actions, which include good use of keywords, regular tweets, comments on other blogs, and topical and timely posts.

Journalist and fashion blogger Grechen Reiter outlined the top six ways to make money, in “The Fashion Blogger’s Quick Guide to Monetization” on Independent Fashion Bloggers (http://www.heartifb.com). These include selling ads directly, working with an ad network, Google adsense, affiliate commission, freelance/ consult and selling something. Selling ads directly requires the blogger to reach out to different brands and companies while by using an ad network like BlogHer or Glam, everything will be taken care for them from what ads are shown to where ads are place on their blog. Google adsense is based on how many clicks an ad gets instead of the number of sales made.

Affiliate commission allow bloggers to sell clothing from other companies on their site via links in their posts. Reiter advises that the blogger informs their readers that they are receiving a commission from sales. Freelancing or consulting for a brand is useful for bloggers because of all of their experience gained curating their own blog. Selling items on their blog if they have an idea for a product or special service is another to make a profit. There is no single best way to monetize a blog, say Reiter, who suggests trying any of these six ways and seeing what works best. For her, selling ads directly and affiliate commission has been more successful although she has tried everything that she suggested.

DiNardo’s blog is a great example of a successful blog that gained success quickly. “I got a mention on NBC and the ‘New York Times’ quickly,” said DiNardo. “It was also because of having a career in fashion journalism before launching my blog.” In the Times piece DiNardo was mentioned for starting a new program called Style Coalition TV that showed behind the scenes during Fashion Week in 2012. NBC spoke with DiNardo on a news segment about fashion trends appearing during Fashion Week in 2013.

Before starting her blog, DiNardo was a writer at Clear Magazine and AOL StyleList so creating her blog was not a big challenge for her because of the five years of writing experience she had. “I had already been working for several publications for five years before starting my blog, so people knew my work ethic, professionalism, voice, and the kind of work I did and was good at,” said DiNardo. “They trusted that my next project, aka the blog, would express those elements as well.” Her blog, which started with a few hundred followers, has grown to around 20,000 unique visitors now. The posts she publishes include relevant advice on current styles. In one of her recent posts, DiNardo is photographed displaying a sophisticated look that she describes as monochromatic and that is currently in style. She also tells readers where they can purchase these articles of clothing she is wearing at a cheaper price. Over the years she has become more adept at social media and photography improving the blogs design. Along with the sophisticated bright colors, are advertisements ranging from Chanel to Shopbop.

She spends at leave five hours a day working on her blog but loves every minute. “I’m a control freak and have oldest child syndrome,” said DiNardo. “I have total, supreme control with my blog. It’s fully a representation of my personal and professional point of view and taste. What could be better than that?” One of DiNardo’s favorite perks from blogging is the exclusive access she has been allotted to certain people, brands and places. For example, she has gone to Fashion Week and meet top designers like Rebecca Minkoff and Betsey Johnson.

Fashion blogs have become part of the mainstream new media business, and includes independent blogs as well as well-funded fashion blog networks. For example, fashion blogger Aimee Song who curates Song of Style (http://www.songofstyle.com) told publication “Women’s Wear Daily” that she gets paid from a couple thousand by hosting an event or Instagramming a brand to $50,000 by collaborating a deal. Even though the main platform she uses is Instagram, she has matching numbers of followers on both Instagram and her blog, which is around 2 million. She is known for creating bold but laid-back real-life outfits. Her Instagram consists mostly of posts of different outfits she has put together, which displays her sophisticated style but she does not strictly just post about fashion. Some of her pictures are of food and make-up as well. Her blog, on the other hand, is so successful because of its distinctive style. She travels a lot and has many posts dedicated to all of the places she has visited ranging from Coachella to the Philippines. She is really able to connect with her readers because of how much she discloses in her posts. In one of her recent posts, she reveals to her readers how her and her boyfriend of eight years have broken up. Throughout their relationship, Song has mentioned him frequently in her posts. Many readers who have gone through a break up can relate to what she is going through.

Not every blogger wants to achieve this type of success. “I haven’t seen myself as being exclusively just a blogger with giveaways and making myself into a sort of brand,” said Kim when discussing her future with her blog. Although Kim has no exact plan, she knows she wants to continue with this hobby for her own personal enjoyment. “I want to just keep seeing where this blog takes me into the fashion industry but also still keep up with writing and looking into fashion journalism.”