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:

551 Comments

  1. I can’t tell you how many times I come back to this post and reread it. There is such great information and positivity in this post that it really helps me get through the tough times. My blog will turn 1 year at the end of April, and while I greatly enjoy making the food, writing about the food, eating the food, I’m still struggling to find a consistent readership. It’s tough to find all the time needed to dedicate to my blog while working full time, but when I dig into a delicious muffin or a savory dish, it becomes all worth it. I hope for the day that I’ll be able to turn it into a full time job, but in the meantime it’s good to keep enjoying the process along the way. You’re so inspirational (and in fact you’re the reason I decided to jump into blogging) and I love hearing about all your successes since I know how much hard work has gone into it all! I wish you the best with the blog and the second cookbook and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!!

  2. Hi Sally,

    What a lovely post! I really connected with this sentence:

    “I constantly compared my baby blog to the “big leagues” and often felt bad about myself.”

    As a relatively new food-blogger, I keep on seeing these big league, long time established blogs and feel almost intimidated by them. I just need to keep focussing on what matters, good quality content that helps people enjoy food more.

    All the best,

    Gavin

  3. Hi Sally

    Wow your blog is so inspiring. I recently learned how good I am in the kitchen and I really want to start my own blog and maybe a facebook page not to make money but just to get my love for baking out there and who knows what it could become!

    Thank you so much for this inspiring article!

    Regards,
    Rehana

  4. Sally,
    I love your blog and have made over a dozen of your recipes. I am totally addicted. I just made the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Banana Bread and threw some pecans on top along with extra chocolate chips. Every recipe I make of yours comes out perfect every time. I live in Colorado at high altitude and the recipes still come out perfect.  Keep up the great work, you are very inspiring. 
    Thanks,
    Amanda 

  5. Dear Sally, 

    Thank you for this blog post – I love your can do attitude, it was a massive help for setting up my own food blog.

    Kind regards, Fraser Wright

  6. I loved this post. I have an extreme love for baking and family and friends are constantly telling me I should turn it into something even if it’s just a blog for fun. I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to be overwhelmed…it’s hard for me to decide if I want to take on a 24/7 thing even though I truly love baking or just continue to do it for fun and not share with the world! 🙂

  7. I am an amateur food blogger, and I use a free hosting service for my blog. I have to tell you that,  my friend, have inspired me! I am sure as hell going to buy my own domain and expand my blog, and someday I will be as good as you too! The world of Food Blogging is seriously great, and even though it is a major pain in the arse all the time, it does have its moments. So I hope you see this, and I wish you a lot more success!!

  8. I follow you on instagram… I HAVE consistently loved your content. You are not fake, you seem to  love what you do..and it shows! You are an inspiration for me. I’m an  accountant…who hates my job and LOVES to bake… I love making new recipes..I enjoy giving my baked goods away. I’m looking to become a food blogger…

  9. 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 

  10. Hi, I’m Deby. I am just 2 months into to this food blog and enjoying it. I live with my husband here in Costa Rica. He surfs I bake. We are retired and at 62, I thought I needed a new adventure. Food Blogging. Why not? I have been cooking for ever and loving it. So I thought I would share my life here in the jungle and my food. I loved all your information here. Thank you Deby
    PS I have sooooo much to learn. Good for my old brain. 

  11. Thank you so much for the informative post! It’s very helpful to have more information about monetizing a food blog in a way that isn’t mostly making money off other food bloggers. I greatly appreciate Pinch of Yum’s income reports and info, but most of their income seems to come from things like Bluehost, Tasty Food Photography, WordPress theme affiliations, and other things whose target market is other bloggers.

    I just started my food blog, Pinch Me, I’m Eating! and trying to work in all the cooking and photographing with my full time job. It’s good to know it can be done! Thanks again for all the tips and resources!

  12. This blog was very helpful. I have had many friends and coworkers express how I should open a restaurant or write a cookbook because my food is so delicious. While this is flattering, I do not desire to spend all my time consumed in a restaurant or in a cookbook. I wanted to do more. So, I recently started a food blog – which I enjoy doing! After reading your blog, I know I am headed in the right direction. After all, you should love what you do:) Thanks for all the inspiration!!!

  13. Hi Sally, 
    I am an absolute admirer of SBA.  Have come across your blog pretty recently,  as I am venturing into the world of baking.  A total novice at baking,  currently it’s a hobby that gives me immense joy.  Love your recipes,  always refer to your site when I am looking for something.  This particular write up is great too,  loved reading through it as someday I want to start my blog just for the love of food though 🙂 

  14. 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. 

  15. Excellent post, thanks sally for sharing your insights. Its been a year since I started blogging and I am ready to take it to next level. Your article is a perfect boost.

  16. I stumbled upon your blog as i googled food photography basics and glad i found this awesome post. I’m a chef with a design background and really interested in starting up a blog soon as i’m constantly creating dishes and posting them up on my instagram and Facebook using my iPhone.. But i know i need a better outlet, and better equipment. The information you’ve shared is really appreciated and offers so much insight to the foodie blog world. Thank you! 

  17. Thank you so much for this. What a wonderful resource from a SPECTACULAR blogger/baker! I’ll be implementing as many of these as I can with serious gratitude 🙂 xo

  18. 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!

  19. Hey there! I came across this website as I was googling on how to improve my blog.
    My blog is still as dull but this post has been a real inspiration to me. I mean it!! Keep inspiring and be awesome!! I hope to try out your recipes one day when I could afford a nice kitchen setup specifically for food blogging! Stay awesome! 

    – Eatnonstop from Singapore

  20. Though my blog is 6 months old, I feel it lacks some sugar coating but after reading your tips, I’m really motivated. Thank U.

  21. Hi Sally, thank you for this post, it was so interesting. Definitely learned a lot of stuff I didn`t even think about whilst reading your words. I started a lifestyle blog a few years ago, like you I`m fully engaged with my career and working on my thesis, so very quickly I threw in the towel, because writing, photographing and all that stuff did take so much time, especially if you try to do it all. Then I finally realized what really makes me happy is food blogging. That`s why I changed my old blog into a food blog and I`m loving it, although nobody reads it. But your words spread hope, I really appreciate what you`re saying and I totally agree that your own little world comes with a lot of work. You`ll doing a great job!

    xoxo

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