Krystle Ng-A-Mann is a Toronto-based fashion, lifestyle, and food blogger. She writes for her website, www.dineandfash.com, and is also well known for her Instagram, where she has over 27,000 followers! Before her journey into blogging, Ng-A-Mann spent close to a decade as a corporate lawyer at some of Toronto’s best firms. She now works full-time as a blogger.
Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you went from law to blogging?
I’ve been blogging full time since June of last year. Prior to blogging, I practiced law for nine years. I first got into blogging through Instagram. Whenever I went out, I would take pictures of my food for my Instagram account, and I officially started "insta-blogging" around November or December of 2015. Originally, my Instagram was a personal, private account, and I wanted to transition into a public account, but was a bit nervous to. Once I figured out a better name to change my account to, I decided to make it public and post more frequently on it. I began posting consistently, and the account began to get some traction. A few months later, in February 2016, I launched my actual blog—Dineandfash.com. By about November/December 2016, I began to generate income from my blog and Instagram account.
Once I really got into blogging, I felt like I was working two full-time jobs. I put all my spare time into my blog, whether it was shooting and editing photos, writing blog posts, or answering emails. It all got a little hectic, and I burnt myself out once or twice. I was also doing this while planning my wedding!
I always thought that it would be nice to leave law to blog full time but told myself to see where it might be able to go first. By May of 2017, I realized I was working way too much and had a wedding coming up—I needed to be present. At this point, I had had about three months’ worth of steady income from blogging and saw it’s possible to earn a full-time living from blogging, if it continued on that way. So I decided to make the jump and leave law.
I didn’t plan my exit or have a financial plan. I took a leap of faith and now I hope I never have to go back to law. I’ve been running my blog full time for a year and a bit, and it has really been busy. It’s getting to a point where I’m looking to expand and take on additional writers or an assistant to keep up with everything.
Photo by Krystle Ng-A-Mann
What are some of your favoruite places in Toronto?
This is actually a tough question to ask a Toronto food blogger! In no particular order: KOST Toronto, Lavelle & Hotel X Toronto for great rooftops; Buca for Italian; Kiin, Pai & Sukhothai restaurants for the best Thai in the city; Café Cancan, Oretta, SoSo Food Club, Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen for cutest/prettiest restaurants interiors; Grand Electric, La Carnita & Playa Cabana restaurants for good Mexican food; Electric Island for awesome music festival; Diner en Blanc is one of my favourite yearly events; Sofia Yorkville for a pretty patio and good food; Dineen Outpost for cutest coffee shop; Her Majesty’s Pleasure for a beautiful place to get your nails done and sip champagne; and Bacchanal for good French food and a pretty interior.
Where did the name Dine & Fash come from?
The name Dine & Fash is a play on dine and dash. I wanted something that was witty and had to do with eating. I thought about a play on Latin terms in law, or possibly combining "lawyer" and "foodie" somehow. But then I decided on Dine and Fash: dine for food and fash for fashion, which is another of my interests. When I thought of the name, I was on the subway on my way to work. As soon as I got off the subway, I checked to see if it was available and jumped on it!
Among the photos on your Instagram and blog, which one had the craziest story behind it?
Earlier this year, I was working with Presidents Choice. I’d done a few campaigns with them and they're really great to work with, so I wanted to go above and beyond. This campaign focused on al fresco dining, and I went all out. I orchestrated a whole Bohemian picnic in the park in less than a week, including food, décor and little details to make it special. It involved so many aspects that I had to juggle on my own (something a team of people would normally put together for a print advertising campaign).
I had to get additional food and materials, plan the location, line up a friend and a photographer. I personally picked up and arranged table cloths, lavender, plates, napkins, and flowers. All the food was then prepared by me the night before, and on the day of, I packed it all into suitcases and headed to the park.
The way it came together, I was really proud of it. As mentioned, normally a stylized shoot like this would need a whole team. You'd have food stylist setting up the food, makeup teams, photography teams etc... But when you're a blogger, you have to wear all these hats, yourself.
Photo by Krystle Ng-A-Mann
How would your blog change if money no longer mattered?
If money didn't matter, I don't think it would change the direction of my blog. I'm really happy with where I'm at. Three years ago, I would have never imagined that I could make a living off of this. The blog is about my life and what I do, and that’s why it’s such a privilege for me to do this.
In your career as a blogger, where you need to document almost every moment of your life, is there such a thing as work-life balance?
Believe it or not, I work more now than when I worked in law. It sounds wild, but it's true. In certain situations, most people would put away all their work to enjoy their personal time. However, I still feel the need to work because of the nature of what I do. I do my best to not impede on enjoying my personal life too much. Although I work around the clock, because I enjoy doing it, it doesn't feel like work.
How did your parents react when you told them that you were leaving law to pursue blogging full time?
My parents kind of knew that my jump to full-time blogging was coming. I had been thinking about it for a while, and when the blog was gaining a lot of traction, it was a light at the end of the tunnel. I have a good relationship with my parents, and I kept them informed about how I was feeling. My parents just wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t run into any financial issues if I were to leave my job.
Initially, they were worried, especially since blogging isn’t something they're used to. My parents are used to the traditional approach of getting a good education and then a good (‘professional’) job. But in this day and age, there are so many ways to make a good living, while also feeling fulfilled in your career. I think there's been a real shift, whereas for our parent's generation, you had to be in a profession and make a good amount of money to be happy.
When they saw me working with different brands like Tim Hortons, which my dad loves, that was their idea of ‘making it’. And when they saw I was able to pay all my bills and live comfortably in this career, they came around. They could also tell I'm really passionate about it; and I think ultimately, they just want all their kids to be happy.
Photo by Krystle Ng-A-Mann
Did you find any challenges going from legal writing to blog writing?
Yes and no.
Out of all the bloggers I know, I probably write in the most formal way—I can never really divorce that part of myself because of all my years in law. I’m so used to writing that way (i.e. a bit more formally). However, when you have a blog or Instagram account, you should also write in a genuine way, in your own unique voice and also in a way that is relatable to your audience. I’m still learning to do this and I think part of the blogging journey is finding your unique voice.
I am thankful for my professional background, though. I've been told by several clients and brands that they are really impressed by my professionalism and they enjoy dealing with me.
What skills did you learn as a lawyer that helped you in your career as a blogger?
One thing that law taught me was to treat everything with professionalism and to prioritize. I treat my days like a workday. I'll wake up at a certain time—at 6:00am or 6:30am—and go to the gym. I'm in front of my computer by 8:30am or 9:00am answering emails and writing blogs.
Contract negotiation and contract reading are two important skills I learned as a lawyer, as well. Probably 90%-99% of bloggers don't understand all the contract terms or fully read their contracts. I don't say this to make myself seem super intelligent, but it’s just that most people don’t encounter contracts in their daily lives in the same way I did when practicing corporate law.
There have been many situations where I have had extensive negotiations, whether that relates to exclusivity, or other important contract terms. I'm really happy to have my legal background, which has assisted me greatly in terms of formalizing agreement with brands.