How I Turned my Food Blog into a Career

cupcakes on a white cake stand with text overlay that says how I turned my blog into a career helpful tips from sally's baking addiction

2013 was a whirlwind. I got engaged, signed a cookbook deal, wrote and fully photographed a cookbook within 5 months, quit my full time job in the corporate world, moved to the suburbs, and my blog quadrupled its size.

Let me take a moment to let it all sink in.

This past March, I came to a quick realization. I was making enough money from my food blog to pay all my bills. And working 9-5, I was really struggling to balance it all. I was cranky, tired, and drained. Spreading myself too thin between both jobs. I began to think about what it would actually be like to quit my full time job and concentrate on growing my blog. Having enough time to produce quality content every day, rather than only the weekends. I knew that was my path: Be an entrepreneur. Grow something on my own.

And work damn hard doing it.

Life is what you bake it art print in a black frame

My food blog is not a hobby. It’s not my “work.” Sally’s Baking Addiction is my world. And I thank my lucky stars every single day that I am blessed to do what I love. And thank YOU. Thank you a million times. And then a million times more. I would not be here sharing my recipes if you weren’t here too.

What Is a Food Blogging Career?

I get a lot of strange reactions when I tell people what I do for a living…

Excuse me, you do what?

I’m a food blog publisher. I develop recipes, take pictures of them, and post them onto a website.

I don’t understand. You don’t sell anything? All you do is blog?

Yes, but it’s more than that.

Still not getting it.

I supply Pinterest with content and am paid through the advertising on my blog.

Oh, ok now I get it. 

Usually people begin to understand when I make a reference to Pinterest. 😉 But there’s a lot more to being a food blogger than making cookies and posting them online.

  1. Connection: First, there’s the constant connection with readers. What is a blog if you do not connect with your readers? There may not be enough time in the day to connect with every single one, but I certainly make an effort to pay attention to as many as I possibly can!
  2. Recipe Development: Testing and retesting until I have the best of the best recipe to share. I am fiercely dedicated to this!
  3. Food Photography: People eat with their eyes! Food photography is really important to the growth of my food blog. I’ve taken every single food photo on this blog and in my cookbooks. I’m so proud of the photography journey I’ve been on and know I still have so much to learn. Here is my Food Photography Basics post, including my current equipment.
  4. Videography: Recipe videos are the hottest trend right now and they’re not going anywhere. Setting up, shooting, and editing videos is a major piece to the food blogging pie.
  5. Social Media Marketing: Between all the social medias these days (Pinterest, Facebook pages, Facebook groups, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Instagram stories, and IGTV), social media feels like another full time job! Updated in 2019: I’m so grateful I have two assistants to help me manage this. If you have budget to hire, I recommend it!
  6. Comments, Questions, and Emails: Answering comments, questions, and emails is important because it shows there is a face/human/actual person behind the blog.
  7. Writing Blog Posts: This includes working hard to keep my content engaging, personable, flowing, and comprehendible.
  8. Cookbooks: Many food bloggers are also cookbook authors, myself included!

collage of images of sally and readers from the texas book tour

collage of images of sally and readers at a book signing

Food Blogging is Not All Sunshine and Smiles

  • It’s a 24/7 job; finding a work/life balance is tough.
  • Not everyone will love your recipes, and they will tell you that. Hey, we all have different tastebuds right?
  • Not everyone will love your photography, and they will tell you that.
  • Not everyone will love the way you write, and they will tell you that.
  • Food sharing sites will reject your photos.
  • You will make 10 vanilla cakes before landing on the best combination of ingredients.
  • You will take 207 photos of dark chocolate cookies and none of them will look good.
  • People will steal your content and all of your hard work.
  • A lot of your time will be spent washing dishes.
  • You will stalk the weather channel hoping for a sunny day when you need to shoot an apple pie. All you see is rain.
  • Trying to understand SEO. (Still don’t)

How Do Food Bloggers Make Money?

If you’re publishing free content, how can you earn money? There are plenty of ways to make money from food blogging and each depend on how you want to run your business. Here are a few:

  1. Display Advertising
  2. Brand Sponsorships
  3. Affiliate Commissions
  4. Selling a Product, eBooks, or Cookbooks

I list display advertising as #1 because that’s the majority of my income and it also pays for website hosting, email hosting, my staff, groceries, equipment, photography props, monthly tech support, domain renewal, advertising campaigns, workshops, blogging conferences, among other business expenses. My advice with regards to the amount of display ads is to always remember that user experience makes or breaks user loyalty.

Working with brands can also earn you a paycheck, but this goes back to how you want to run your business. I don’t work with a lot of brands and that’s just my business choice. Publishing organic content, on my own terms, is really important. Not saying that working with brands can’t be a natural fit– it totally can and other bloggers do this VERY well– I just prefer to keep my annual brand partnerships to a limited number. Do you. (I am not an expert on working with or reaching out to brands so I’m a really bad example here!)

You can also sell a product or recommend a product. For example, I use Silpat baking mats on my baking sheets all the time. I created an affiliate link to this product through Amazon and include the link in some of my recipes. I don’t work with this brand, but I will happily endorse their product. I earn a very small amount from this product recommendation at no extra cost to the buyer. Like, a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a penny but it can add up! Selling or recommending a product should not be overseen; it’s a method of earning money that also provides value to your audience. That’s big.

A lot of food bloggers/food photographers/food videographers can earn money from photographing/video shooting for other bloggers or brands. Isn’t that incredible? Reach out to brands or bloggers you love and offer your food photography or videography services.

Food Blogging Expenses

Because I own this business, there are quite a bit of expenses. If you decide to turn your food blog into a career, just know that you’ll be making some hefty investments over the course of time. Things I had never even imagined like… an increasing electric bill since I’m home and baking during the day… and while I thought I’d be saving money by not commuting to an office, I still run to the grocery 100 times a week.

Other expenses:

  • Monthly website server
  • Groceries
  • Monthly tech support
  • Website designing
  • Food props
  • Bakeware & kitchen supplies
  • Camera & lenses
  • Lighting equipment
  • Travel
  • Photography/videography editing software

sally in the kitchen with camera equipment

How I Got To This Point

I get a lot of emails from new bloggers asking me how I grew my blog overnight. The truth is, I didn’t. My pictures and written content were embarrassing in the beginning and not nearly as developed compared to those who had been food blogging longer. I constantly compared my baby blog to the “big leagues” and often felt bad about myself. Why compare apples to oranges though? It inspired me to just KEEP working hard.

I’ve been able to improve my photos, recipes, and content simply by of the amount of time I put into it. Learning, making mistakes, learning more, and always improving. It’s the perfectionist in me. From this work, I’ve been lucky to have my content featured all over social media.

Keep at it. Ask questions, read books (see suggestions below), make mistakes, enjoy the process of doing something you love. My post about producing quality content and how to start a food blog are packed with more blogging advice!

Stay Grounded

Food blogging can be overwhelming. Learning what to do, what not to do, dealing with technical problems, coming up with content, understanding your camera, trying to gain readership, developing recipes, etc. It’s easy to get lost in it all. Here are ways to stay grounded:

    • Have fun. Try to take a break from blogging and do something fun with friends, family, or loved ones. Have a date night, go out for a drink, a nice dinner, make Sunday brunch, get out of town, visit a friend. Your blog won’t go anywhere and you’ll feel instantly refreshed.
    • Exercise. It’s totally cliche, but exercise can really help calm your nerves. I lead an active lifestyle not because of all the treats I bake, but because I genuinely love it and have since I was an energetic little kid. If I have a baking fail in the kitchen, it’s nice to go for a run or take the dogs for a walk.
    • Me time. Having time to yourself (or with a loved one, child, or pet!) everyday where you can truly disconnect will help keep you grounded. Turn off your phone, your email, your computer. Enjoy the simple pleasures.
  • Love it. I love being in the kitchen, baking a new recipe, and sharing the joy with others both physically and virtually. When I begin to feel overwhelmed from blogging, I remind myself why I do it: baking and sharing my recipes make me happy. The moment I begin to feel it is a chore, I take a break.

heart sugar cookies with pink frosting and sprinkles

My Last Piece of Advice

Have patience. You can’t expect to earn a salary from a food blog until you have a decent sized audience. Build your product before selling it. Do not focus on the money. Rather, the smartest things to focus on are (1) publishing quality content, (2) interacting with bloggers and readers, and (3) learning about food photography. The money will follow if you work your butt off.

Check out my other blogging pages:

36 Comments

  1. Dear Sally,

    Your dedication and hard work shows! I always look forward to your posts in my email after a hard day. I love baking and I constantly find myself coming back to recipes on your site. Thank you for sharing your blogging insights! It may have been a longer post but it was very informative for those wishing to pursue any type of blogging, baking or otherwise. Keep up the amazing job!

  2. Love this post Sally, thanks for sharing your experience with us! You’re such an inspiration and I admire your hard work!

  3. When I discovered blogs about a year ago (I seriously, didn’t know they existed before that!) I signed up to about 50 baking ones in my excitement. Over the past year I weeded them down until I have just ONE food blog that I get anymore…Yours Sally!

    Keep up the good work and sending you a virtual high-five and an “atta girl!” 🙂

  4. Adriana Evangelista says:

    Sally – I’m not a blogger and i enjoyed all that you had to say and again i’m not a blogger and i appreciate all that information you are willing to share about becoming successful with others….not everyone is so willing to share their success at all. I truly enjoy your blog and your recipes and I wish you all the best with your change in career.

  5. Wow. I knew there was a lot of work involved in blogging but not that much! I love to bake but I am only a recipe follower, not a developer, which I’m ok with. I have made quite a few of your recipes and they are always a hit at work. Your food photography is beautiful. The cookies always looks so perfect! I can not wait for your cookbook to come out. Congratulations on your success!

  6. Bernadette Nolan says:

    Sally
    Good for you! You are a wonderful example of a hard working young woman. A lesson our younger generation needs to learn! We have always told our kids to find something they love and do it well! I have forwarded this to my own daughter. She has a passion for photography and copy writing and I hope one day she can follow her dream. Love your recipes! And your enthusiasm!

  7. I feel somewhat bad leaving you another comment to read, but I just had to say that I distinctly remember the first time I found your blog and how I have been hooked ever since! As a college student with a love of baking, I don’t get many, actually ANY, chances to bake in my dorm, but that doesn’t stop me from perusing your recipes almost daily (sometimes during boring classes…) and planning what I will make when I go home on breaks. My boyfriend and I have had a deal going for a few months that when I’m home, we will make your Super Crumb Coffee cake and feast after a nice run. I realize this comment is a bit rambly, but in conclusion, I want to say thank you for your creativity, passion, and hard work, because your blog truly brings joy to more people than you can imagine!(:

  8. Ashley Addison says:

    Hi Sally,
    I just wanted to say how much of an inspiration you are to me. I have been following your blog for quite a while and although I don’t comment on every post, I do read every one of them, and your blog is one of the reasons I want to blog. Thank you so much for sharing all this information, because I have been struggling to find myself in the blogging world, and fell into the wrong type of blogging, which I’m sure has set me back a bit as far as food blogging goes, bit I am hopeful that I can turn my blog around and get to the point where I can be a full time food blogger. I know it takes a lot of time, patience and hard work, all of which I am ready for. I jusy hope that I can be a success some day. Again, you are truly inspiring as a food blogger, and thank you so much again for sharing all this wonderful information. I can’t wait to dig into some of these resources. Stay fabulous and have a beautiful, blessed day!!!

  9. Kristin Threlkeld says:

    Sally,
    I’ve been “with” you since you were still fairly new at blogging, I believe there were only a few thousand followers on your Facebook page. It’s amazing, though by no means surprising, how quickly it has grown. Your recipes are great…my husband and sons have enjoyed everything just as much as I have. I remember commenting on Facebook, many, many months ago, how you should come out with a cookbook. You replied quickly, and said that you were looking into publishers. It feels nice when you actually get a reply to a comment or question. Some never respond in any way. I also love how you share “Bites of Real Life” and keep your fans informed about what else is going on in your life. Keep up with the good work, and I can’t wait to get my autographed book plate and my new cookbook. Thanks for all the hard work!

  10. Meredith Scroggin says:

    Oh, Sally, how I love you and your blog. I kid you not when I tell you that Sally’s Baking Addiction has helped and inspired me in every way. There are so many bloggers that are reluctant to share their tips and advice in a prideful manner, but you are constantly writing the best kind of real, practical advice, and always answering comments, emails, Tweets, etc. This is the kind of stuff that everyone loves and truly inspired me to start my own blog and help me grow it. It’s so refreshing to know that you started it just to share things with your family, and then with a lot of hard work, BOOM! I’m a senior in high school and I’ve been following you for a while, before I even had any concept of how to bake. Knowing that your cookbook comes out right before I graduate kind of put into effect how much your blog changed my high school career…So I know this is a lengthy comment, but I just wanted to let you know that I have an addiction to Sally’s Baking Addiction and you’ve helped me (and so many others) so much!!!

  11. What a great post! Thanks for all the tips, Sally! It’s nice to see so many cookie crazy people like me!

  12. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious says:

    What a great post, Sally! Juggling a full-time job and blogging full-time is the worst. I feel like I never had a life at that point. I’m so much happier blogging full-time now, and I didn’t even mean to do it full-time! When Jason and I moved in, I quit my miserable job thinking it would give me time to find a job in my field – public health. But in the meantime, I was blogging full-time and it worked! Financially, emotionally, and physically so that’s when I decided this was it for me.

    Anyway, I’m so happy to see your blog blossoming into this amazing career!

  13. Laura (Tutti Dolci) says:

    This is such an informative and well-written post. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and being such an inspiration! 🙂

  14. Wow, this is such a well-written and organized post…I can’t imagine how long it would’ve taken you to write it!
    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us. I haven’t been following your blog since the beginning (unfortunately), but I feel like I have been here for a large part of your blog’s journey, and I have to say, it’s been very inspirational and motivational to watch it (and you) grow. I always admire your work ethic and the care with which you treat your readers. It’s not hard to tell that you love your job, and I’m so glad that you’re able to share your love and passion with us all! It’s such an amazing site, and your site has allowed me to flex my own baking wings and try out new things, since you take such care to write your posts and answer questions. So thank you for that.
    I can’t wait for the cookbook! And best of luck with everything 🙂

  15. Thanks Sally for sharing it really shows through how much hard work you put into your blog and I love your passion for baking (and sprinkles ) 🙂 Your recipes are always creative and delicious. Your photography is amazing and makes me want to start baking the recipe as soon as possible! I cannot wait for your cookbook!!!

  16. Sally,
    I don’t know how I discovered your website, but I have been with you for almost a year. I look forward to your recipes! I know you have tested, retested, and much more before we see the final recipe.

    You are to be commended for all you’ve accomplished! Thank you for sharing your blog with all of us, and I wish you continued success and happiness!

  17. This is great information, Sally, and thank you for sharing it! I love that you only post what’s true to you and it shows. Keep on doing what you do!

  18. Hi Sally! Thanks for giving a glimpse at what goes on behind closed doors. I know it really makes me appreciate you that much more knowing how much time, energy, and love you put into this! I, like you, get SO much joy and satisfaction from being in the kitchen, and seeing someone who is truly passionate about baking be so successful is so heart warming!

  19. Thank goodness you decided to start this blog 2 years ago, I don’t know what I’d do without my favorite go to recipes 🙂
    I really enjoyed reading this post even though I am not a blogger. I had no idea how much goes into running a successful blog like this…it boggles my mind how you are able to juggle it all! But keep up the good work, and I can’t wait for your cookbook! 😀

  20. I’ll never forget when you decided to start this blog and how nervous you were with posting your first blog post. So proud of you for how far you’ve come and that I was around when it all started 🙂 Love you lolololol

  21. You’re amazing!!! Thank you! The best insight I’ve read about turning blogging into a career. Thoughtful, detailed, and helpful. Stellar post.

  22. Thanks so much for all of this information, Sally! We love your site and it is very evident how much hard work you put into it! You are an inspiration to us!

  23. This is awesome!! I have been following you for some time and commend you for chasing your dreams and passion:) you go girl!

  24. Thank YOU so much for this post. It was super informative.. I’m sitting here taking notes on my little notepad. 😉 I have to say though I immediately connected with your post.. I work full time as a financial analyst at a huge corporate tech company and have been dreaming of doing my blogging full time. *Exactly* what you did, so it gave me some more hope!

  25. I just do not even know where to start. So much incredible information and really, I am just in awe of you and thankful to have sort of gotten to know you a little better over the past few months! If only I could talk you to you in person. Man, I have a feeling we would go on and on for hours about this topic and plenty of other things! I can relate to almost every piece of this post. Right now I am currently struggling with the balance. As my blog grows I am taking on more and more work and basically never have any time. I feel like I run through my day. YIKES! I really need to work on this and I love the idea of taking Saturday off. You are just plain smart!

    Anyway, thank you for this post. SO much incredible info I just read through! You are awesome! 🙂

  26. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for taking the time and writing this post. There are ton of great food blogs out there, but your blog is on whole different level. It’s informative, fun, successful and personal. I love reading your blog! You’re a true inspiration!

  27. Sally,

    You are truly a inspiration.  I visit your blog often and have made many of your recipes -which were all successful!  I really appreciate this post as I am thinking of doing just as you did.  Quitting my corporate job and starting my own blog.  Your tips are just what I needed!  Thank you for all you do.  

    Amy 

  28. Courtney Cunningham says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. It really is hard to not compare yourself when you first get started. This is was extremely helpful and inspiring. 

  29. Lorena Kanani says:

    As someone who just started a food blog, this is great advice and insight! I’m in the process of organizing my ideas and recipes, so this article really helps me prioritize everything. Thanks for not sugar coating the journey of a food blogger!

  30. Sally I love your way ..your style. You are just the sweetest! That’s why you are so blessed!

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