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. I share you opininion: have a food blog takes a lot of time and effort. We need do a lot of “small jobs”: take photos, cook meals, write recipes, social media, SEO…

    Nowadeys there bare a lot of food blogs, ans it is very difficult have a decent sized audience (i’m from Spain and here it’s also more difficult), but we need keep calm and work in it, because at the end, our dreams can  come true, like in your case.

    Congrats! 

  2. Hi Sally,

    Thanks for this post! It was shared to me by my cousin after I sent her a link to my first blog and it’s really comforting to know that maybe someday our hobbies can be more than just that 🙂 Your baking posts are so awesome and always very helpful. Keep up the good work!

    Please check out my site if you get a chance. As a new blogger, any useful comments are always appreciated. Thanks!

  3. Amazingly inspiring.I have been posting recipes on my Instagram for past two years and the first year I started, I posted a Daily new recipe for a whole year.It was hard and I did not take a holiday for a whole year.Is it been rewarding experience or am I ready to give up?Moneywise no but I am getting amazing feedback and lot of ppl are learning to cook by following my recipes.I am a foody and going to carry on cooking,writing,teaching,eating and feeding.My page is called A_foodys_kitchen.

  4. Really very helpful post.I like your detailing about the topic and thanks for sharing all links.They will help me in my food blog journey.Bookmarked your site 😉

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you a million times over!!! I’ve been blogging for almost two years, and am ready to incorporate food into my site. I have been asking around with no answers and this post is so insightful. I absolutely love the references at the bottom for books and other posts to read. Again, thank you! I bookmarked this post, so I’m certain I shall be referencing it often. 

  6. Its great tips, as a curious writer, I always have my eyes peeled and my ears perked for becoming a better blogger. I read this at the perfect time in my food blogging career.

  7. Enjoyed your post. I am a foodie and a cook and have been always I tested in food blogging. I am a cook as a hobby and good at it but currently own a printing company. We specialize in shirts but also do business cards and a bunch of promo products. I have been doing th printing thing a long time but always wanted to do something with food blogging/cooking.

    Kind of afraid to take the plunge but thought your article was great and if you ever need any printing look me up.

    Thanks

    Matt

  8. I cannot tell you how much this post means to me! It’s been my dream for a few years now to start a food blog, but the perfectionist/over-analyzer in me was always too afraid to take the plunge. Thanks to my fiance’s and friends’ constant encouragement, I finally started my blog a few weeks ago, but have since been so blog-conscious. I’ve been stressed about trying to live up to all my favorite blogs and worrying about being “good enough”. But despite all this, I’ve never been happier than when I’m writing a post or working on a recipe. This post has given me the boost of confidence I need to keep pushing through. Thank you so much!!

  9. What a great article! Wish I read it before I started my blog, lol. It is a lot of work but I love it. I am not looking to quit my job to blog full time but your story is such an inspiration. So thankful for you and your willing to share great info and awesome recipes!

  10. This was pretty informative. I’ve done blogging but have never kept it up, though I enjoy writing. Guess I haven’t found my niche. Maybe I’ll just keep at it and blog about the things I love, which include food! 🙂 Thanks! 

  11.  After working in bakeries for years I moved to Asia for a change of pace. Unfortunately, ovens aren’t really a thing over here so I have been living vicariously through yours and other blogs. As I look to moving back to the states in a few months the idea of having my own baking blog seems more and more exciting! I’ve loved reading your posts and this section on the business side of things has been most enlightening. Thank you for the food porn and the inspiration!

  12. With every 3rd or 4th sentence, I would clap my hands together really hard, really fast, and about 5 times, scream, “YAAAAAS!” SO TRUE. The other sentences are amazing too. Just, you captured the feeling of a foodblogger so well with the hard work and frustration at times- and I haven’t been doing it for nearly as long as you have (my mostly technical and SEO at this point). The passion / whole world feeling about the blog. When it’s in your blood and it’s a passion ~ it’s just there. Can’t deny it.

    Thank you for such a truthful article! Great post!! (The dark chocolate chip cookie pic comment & great color is my beef and broccoli story. I told my husband there is no way to shoot beef and broccoli well with ease. 🙂 )

  13. Thanks for all the information!  I have wondered what it takes to get a food blog started.  Your inspiration is greatly appreciated.

  14. Thank you so much for this post. I have been reading your blog for years. Your one of the blogs I go to where I know its going to be interesting and the recipe is going to work. You have encouraged me to start my own blog

  15. You should host Pop-Up Shops. 
    They are really trendy right now. 
    Have them in cities that you have a lot of followers. Have them for 3-5 days. Since it’s a limited time offer, you can boot only sell your goods for a mid-high price range and people will still come. Feature some of your favourite recipes or recently published ones

  16. Thank you so much Sally. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece. Infact i am going back to read it a second time just in case i missed anything.

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