How I Turned my Food Blog into a Career

 

Food Blogging As A Career -- tips and tricks from sallysbakingaddiction.com

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

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!

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

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.

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:

549 Comments

  1. It’s been a huge struggle for me lately to set aside time for my blog and having a sick daughter hasn’t helped at all! I truly don’t know how other bloggers with kids do it!

    It blows me away to see all you’ve accomplished in two years! Very inspiring, but I can see how much work you put behind everything.

    Go Sally 😉

      1. HI SALLY !!!!!
        I’ m so inspired by all your recipes and the spirit with which you have written about yourself. I’m a mother of 2 beautiful children and working full time in the corporate world but i always make time to cook for my friends and family and love to see their reactions when they enjoy my food. Iv been a fan of baking and creating my own recipes and would love to share my recipes someday.GOOD LUCK with your passion i do hope someday i see myself answering to blogs just as you are.

      2. Thanks Sonya, that’s so nice of you! I wish you the best of luck too and hope you can follow your dreams someday!

  2. Hi Sally!
    I just wanted to tell you that you are an inspiration to me and I am so happy about all the success that the food blog is bringing you! I am a freshman girl in college who absolutely loves to bake and cook and I love to make other people happy through my food. You have reminded me that my love for baking may not only be a hobby, but it could result in a career one day too. I am a hospitality major and my dream has always been to be a restaurant manager or own my own bakery someday. I follow all of your Pinterest boards and have repined just about every single recipe and I always start my day by looking for new recipes to try! Keep up all of the hard work that you put into your food blog each and every day, its truly paying off and I can’t wait to see where your passion and talent for baking takes you in the future! God Bless!

    1. Casey, this is totally cliche but if you can dream it – you can do it. Just work hard for what you want and things will come (maybe not as expected, but they will come). I’m so happy you enjoy following my blog. It sounds like a bakery or restaurant is in your future!

  3. Thank you Sally for taking the time and writing this long and detailed post, I truly enjoyed getting a glimpse into the behind the scenes secrets of your blog and the tarde 🙂 I simply can’t believe your blog will turn just 2, wow, and CONGRATS!! Keep up the amazing work, visiting your blog and checking out your daily recipes always puts a smile on my face they are so bright and cheerful 🙂 And yes, I just love browsing through your recipes and recreating them, so thank you! 😀

    1. Thank YOU! Yes, it’s hard to believe that I didn’t even have this blog a few years ago. Anyway, I’m happy you enjoy reading my blog and baking my recipes!

  4. 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!

    1. Heather, thank you so much. If you love to bake and write, a food blog is a great new hobby and maybe even career someday. I’m happy you enjoy following my blog and took the time to comment!

  5. Sally,

    I really think you are doing an awesome job with your food blog and I love getting updates of new things you are up to or working on. Other than knowing you personally, I do enjoy learning new things of or from you. I do have your oldest sister to thank to suggesting I look at your blog and become part of it. I hope you continue to do well and this favorite career of yours takes off to where you want it to go. I also can not wait to see and buy your cookbook in March. Good luck with it all!!!!

    1. So nice to hear from you Corinne! Sounds like I have Saundra to thank to – for introducing you to my blog! Thank you for all the kind wishes too. I’m happy you’re excited for my cookbook!

  6. Love this! Such great advice. And I’m guessing you can’t say enough times to just keep working at it. Your success story is such an inspiration to aspiring food bloggers but also just a testament to hard work in general! Thanks for sharing with all of us. And I’ve totally said you should open a bakery… do it!! I’d be the first in line! 😉

      1. You should! Come anytime after I return in January and I would be more than happy to show you and Kevin all the best places! And many of them involve delicious food! 🙂 (It wouldn’t let me reply to your last comment so sorry if those shows up in a weird place)

  7. Just wanted to say I found this post to be very inspirational and makes me want to work even harder at mine. Thank you for sharing your wisdom (because some big blogs don’t bother) and hope to be able to blog full time someday.

    1. Thanks Carla. I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned during this process. I had NO idea what I was doing two years ago, even 1 year ago! It’s a journey.

  8. First of all CONGRATS Sally! You have worked so hard for your success, and it’s wonderful how passionate you are about this “world” you have created. Also, this post is an incredible resource for others considering blogging full time. WIshing you many more delicious years, and can’t wait to see what comes next for you.

  9. Hi Sally! I’m so glad you wrote this post! You are kind of my blogging goal- the cookbook, ect. I see you doing it and I see you doing it so graciously (ie. almost always responding to comments and emails when a lot of bigger food bloggers do not) and I know this is what I want too. Your success is so exciting and inspirational. Thanks for sharing a little of your how tos. I’ve been spending quite a lot of time lately focusing more on the business end and the marketing and have been seeing slow growth but spending a lot of time to wondering how my favorite blogs make it work. This post has come at the perfect time for me in that sense. I’m looking forward to your cookbook and wish you and your blog continued success and happiness!

    1. Jenna, thank you. For taking the time to write this long comment! And for following along as well. I know what struggling with a blog is like. It’s so frustrating when all you want to do is grow and improve, so just know that it IS possible. Also, thanks for the excitement about my cookbook!

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience. I found it very interesting and you answered many questions for me. Keep up the great work!

  11. You my dear are a true inspiration! I love your blogs and love your goodies even more! Thank you for sharing your experiences and your recipes and the best of luck to you always! 🙂
    p.s. I am dying here with anticipation waiting for your cookbook!!!

  12. Thanks for sharing this post! Super interesting… I’ve thought about doing it for ages but you’re proof that you just need to DO things in order for them to happen! The photographs are beautiful and are a huge draw (for me) to the site. Awesome you have really spent the time to perfect your photography – it definitely shows! I noticed you went to Loyola… me too… wish you had a baking stand at Primo’s back then! Bet there was no problem getting rid of leftovers after a night on York Road 😉 keep up the great work and can’t wait to add your cookbook to my collection.

    1. “you just need to DO things in order for them to happen” – EXACTLY!

      So nice to hear from a Loyola grad. I sadly didn’t have the inspiration to bake back in my college life nearly as much as I do now. A bit too much york rd and watching MTV reality shows with my roommates. Oh and studying too! I miss Primos. But not their prices!

  13. Thanks so much for sharing all of this info, Sally! Having had my blog for more than two years now, I’ve watched it slowly take a decline as my wedding planning, wedding and full-time job have forced me spend less time on baking and blogging. Plus, how in the world is a girl supposed to get a good food picture when she gets home from work at 6pm and it’s already pitch black outside!?! Haha, that’s been my current struggle 😉 This post has really encouraged me to stick with it and put focus back on QUALITY content. I know I can do a much better job of marketing myself through social media and constantly connect with others through tweets and blog comments. I really appreciate how open you were. I feel like I got a lot of answers from this post to questions I’ve wondered about, whereas other posts I’ve read seem to be very vague about how people make money.

    Whew. Okay, long comment 🙂 But I do have one question – what photo editing software do you use? I need to find something to help me in that area!

    1. “Plus, how in the world is a girl supposed to get a good food picture when she gets home from work at 6pm and it’s already pitch black outside!?” – YES! Story of my life for 18 months, Brittany. It’s so hard!! But you just have to make it work. Maybe don’t post as often, but when you do post – make it something GREAT. Quality over quantity, you are right.

      I’m happy that this incredibly (probably overly so) long post was helpful! I enjoyed reading your comment. Keep up the hard work, it will pay off.

  14. Thank you so much for this post! It is so helpful to read all of this information. Your story is so inspiring to me and I love following your blog and seeing your progress! I send all my friends to your site 🙂 I started my blog in February and I have been learning so much. It is really hard to find the right balance, but I do love it which is what counts! And hopefully someday it will lead to some money, but if not at least I am doing something that I love and that makes me happy and proud!

    1. As long as you love it, working on growing your blog won’t feel like a job. You’ll enjoy it! I appreciate all of your readership and sharing my blog with others!

  15. Sally,

    Thanks for sharing a behind the scenes peek at what food blogging, etc is like. I’m never going to become you – but what a kind thing you have done for someone else who is dying to become the next Sally?

    I am a photographer and I like your photos – 1/2 the thing with food photography is wanting to reach through and pick up the food – you definitely accomplish it – even on things that don’t really float my boat, taste-wise.

    I know that when you jumped out of your full time finance job, that it was a BIG step but I think it was well worth it. As a colleague of your sister, I’m very proud of someone I’ve never met and wish you continued success!!

      1. You’re more than welcome, Sally. I work with Sarah in St. Louis – she’s definitely been cheering you on here. I remember when you made the jump and when you got the book deal! It was then when I really started following you a lote more closely. You’re not so great for my waistline but what a way to go!! If I’m going to do more of your baking, then I am going to have to do more running (did my first 5K this fall – i was one of those who proclaimed “only run if chased” people).

        Congrats again!

        p.s. I’m a HUGE sprinkle fan (especially those nice little round rainbow ones) so I’m glad to know that I am NOT alone!

      2. CONGRATS on the first 5K, Ann! So exciting. And I’ll have to thank my sis. She loves baking my recipes and telling everyone about it!!

  16. What a spectacular post. Although not a blogger, I love baking and your blog makes me happy! Thank you for an inspiring, beautifully written story.

  17. LOVE this post!! I’m actually planning on adding a very similar page to mine linked from my About section…. one of these days when I get around to it 😉 What a great year! You’re so amazing and inspiring, and I don’t know what Pinterest would do without your recipes!!! The world would be a much less yummy place 😛

    …and now I’m off to your muffin section!

    1. Thanks Ashton! And I love reading about your cookbook updates on Facebook. Can’t wait til around this time next year to have it!

  18. Thank you SO much for posting this. . .I am going to go back and read it again & again. I am nowhere near where you are in terms of recipe development and photography but I have to start somewhere and it’s a dream of mine to turn this into something. . .not sure what yet. I love your recipes and I love your photos and your site is awesome. And so are you.

    1. You have to start somewhere – you’re exactly right, Laurie. Dreams don’t work unless you do! Thank you for the kind words.

  19. What an informative post! Starting a food/baking/fashion/fitness (might have to pare that down, eh?) blog is something that I intend to do someday, but is one of those goals that is easy to put on the back burner. That said, your detailed explanation of the process makes it seem a little more accessible. I’ve said it before, but your dedication to engaging with your readers really does put you in a league of your own. Your readers appreciate you!

    A question I have always had: I am very much a recipe follower in the kitchen, and thus have not cultivated a whole lot of recipe development skills. That said, is it taboo within the cooking/baking blog world to start a blog that primarily uses others’ recipes (while giving them full credit) with minor tweaks here and there? Put more simply: do you have to become a recipe developer in order to become a prominent food blogger?

    1. A lot of bloggers may not agree, Madeleine – but I feel it’s important to develop your own material. Maybe not in the beginning, but once you begin to put your own recipes out there – you’ll feel much better knowing it’s “your work.” When not developing a recipe myself, I draw inspiration from cookbooks and recipes passed down in my family. That way you aren’t really taking the work from other bloggers who are in the same boat as you. I definitely got recipes from other bloggers when I first started, but now do things on my own. Maybe work up to that point?

  20. I’ve just recently (like published my first post yesterday) started my own food blog and your tips and candid discussions about your experience has helped tremendously. It is crazy how much your blog has grown in just a few years, truly a reflection of a lot of hardwork. You are a huge inspiration to me!

  21. First of all it’s very generous of you to write this post and share your knowledge and experience. So Thank you! Even though I don’t have kids at the moment, it becomes so hectic and exhausting to keep up with my blog schedule (which has been very rare btw). To make matters worse, I’m dependent on my husband for the photography part. He only gets Sundays as his day off and I’m tied up to bake on just one day. Though I’m in the process of learning food photography, it’s taking painfully long. Sometimes I can’t think of quality content for my posts, sometimes my husband isn’t in the right frame of mind and sometimes, my baked goods turn out not even worth taking photos. There’re times when I just feel like giving up on blogging, but somehow I’ve managed to hang on to it. Thanks for listening to my whining (reading in this case) and congratulations on your success. I hope and pray it continues this way 🙂

    1. I can understand your frustration Deepti! That sounds tough. But it sounds like you take a step back sometimes and have the right attitude. If you truly love it, you’ll hang onto it! Understanding photography is very, very hard and takes a lot of time and practice. I’m still learning myself. That’s something you need patience for. (And I am the most impatient person in the world, ask anyone who knows me!)

  22. Hello, Sally!!!

    I love your post. I am a food blogger from Greece. I have started my blog since May 2013 and I love it. I am trying very hard to do my best for this blog. You are so right for everything that you already said. I really feel very good reading your post and it gives me hope to continue… I have a working background in economics and finance as well, but I wasn’t happy with it.I am happy now!!! Keep up your good work and thank you for your lovely post… Sorry for my english :):)

    Have a nice day.
    Lia.

    1. Lia, I understood everything you typed! Congrats on your new blog. Sounds like you genuinely love it! That is what’s most important.

  23. Sally – Love the post. You are certainly an inspiration.

    I can certainly relate to, “I was really struggling to balance it all. I was cranky, tired, and drained. Spreading myself too thin between both jobs.”

    I have been self-employed through various avenues for the last 8 years. I have always LOVED to bake and cupcake decorate since a high school job at a bakery. I am 3 months into my baking blog and often feel panicked with how much I have to do between my blog and my “paying” job.

    Your success gives me hope that someday all my baking and “ideas” will lead me to have just one job – Sarah’s Bake Studio! 🙂

    1. It is SO hard to balance it all, Sarah. And I don’t even have children like other bloggers do! It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Just continue to enjoy working on your blog. The moment you feel like its “work” take a break. Because then you’ll just be miserable!

  24. 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!” 🙂

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