How I Turned my Food Blog into a Career

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Food Blogging As A Career -- tips and tricks from

Warning: this is a very long post.

The year of 2013 has been 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. Better grab a cookie as I do that…

My Favorite Cookie Recipes

Ok, I’m back.

Around March of this year, 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 top quality content everyday, rather than dedicating my entire weekends to it. (Read my thoughts on quality over quantity.) I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Be a baker just like my grandma. Inspire others. Be an entrepreneur. Grow something on my own. Build my own business. Even open a bakery!

And work damn hard doing it.

My dad always told me that no matter what I do, work hard and be irreplaceable. Stand out from others and show your worth. I knew it was time to make Sally’s Baking Addiction my career.

Dreams Don't Work Unless You Do

As I reach Sally’s Baking Addiction’s second anniversary in December, I want to take a break from the recipes and chat about food blogging. Running this blog is not all rainbows and sprinkles and cookies. With Kevin taking classes and working full-time, I am able to dedicate an enormous amount of time to my food blog. That may not be the norm for me in a couple years when we start a family, but for now – it works.

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, writing about my baking addiction, if it were not for you.

thank you


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. 😉

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What I Actually Do for a Living.

There is a lot more to being a food blogger than making cookies and posting them online.

(1) There is the constant connection with readers, which I treat as my #1 priority. 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. Surely you know how many Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies I made until I found the perfect (non-cakey) one? I am up to my arms in food every single day and luckily have Kevin’s coworkers, Kevin’s old coworkers, our neighbors, dog park friends (the owners!), family, friends, and church donations to help with the extras we do not eat.

If we ever meet in real life, I’ll probably bring you baked goods.

(3) Food styling and photography. Investing in a DSLR camera, lens, editing software, and lighting equipment that when combined – cost more than 4 months rent. I know pricey photography gear is not an option for everyone, but I wanted premier equipment for the shooting of my cookbook and the growth of my food blog.

– Also, keeping a variety of food props (there is now double that amount shown in the photo – I’m a food prop hoarder!) so my photos are interesting, unique, and complimentary to my food. And then learning how to actually style my food. That’s a whole other realm of food photography I’m still trying to master.

(4) Social media marketing, which is a beast! Luckily marketing was my college major, so I am able use a considerable amount of those studies today in my career. The marketing of my food blog includes:

  • Updating my social medias several times daily and answering as many Facebook comments as I can.
  • Responding to tweets and Instagram questions as soon as I can.
  • Submitting my photos to sharing sites like Foodgawker.
  • Keeping my Pinterest boards updated.

(5) Answering comments, questions, and emails. Responding to questions that come through my blog as comments is very important to me. It takes quite a bit of time, but I try to check in as much as I possibly can. I also try to handle emergency recipe problem emails with grace and in a timely fashion. Weekends are an exception – I’ve begun to take the day off from my inbox on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes I travel the weekends too, so I make sure to have an auto response so readers know that I cannot get back to them until the week.

(6) The writing. This includes working hard to keep my content engaging, personable, flowing, and comprehendible.  Here’s some information about my writing style:

  • Last year I wrote a very detailed post about why I feel quality content is so important for my own food blog. I feel as though quality of content is more important than quantity of content. That post includes how I handle writer’s block, my two favorite words to use, and my least two favorite words to use.
  • Sally’s Baking Addiction’s writing is focused on the food, but I do feel that sprinkling some personal tidbits from my life into my posts helps readers and I connect a bit more. There’s more to my life than baking cookies, so it’s so wonderful to find things we all have in common. After all, I’m not a robot – I’m a real person. Starting a conversation about non-baking things is an easy way to keep readers intrigued and connected.

 Remember, this is your dream.

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)

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How I Make Money From my Food Blog.

When I first began Sally’s Baking Addiction, it was not to earn money. The purpose was to share my recipes with my friends and family. Within time, I was able to start earning a salary and quit my job in the corporate world to dedicate myself full time to SBA.

Do not start a food blog for money; do it because you genuinely love it. Creating an income from a blog isn’t something that happens easily. It takes a lot of time, hard work, and focus. I did not earn a single check from my blog until 8 months after I first hit publish. And it was for only $80.

Here are my current income sources (with the exception of my cookbook advance and royalties)

(1) A large majority of my income is through advertising. I am able to host advertising on my blog because my website is self-hosted.  Read more about self-hosting here. All of my advertising pays per impression. This is called CPM (cost per impression). I make anywhere from .50 to $25 per 1,000 page views. The $25 is quite rare though. Some ad networks are based on CTR (Click through rate), which is calculated on how many clicks the ad gets.

As of today, I have 3 advertising networks filling ad space on my website:

  • BlogHer – BlogHer Publishing Network is the largest source of my advertising income. Their ads must be featured above the fold. I began working with BlogHer in 2012. Sometimes BlogHer will offer its publishers (you) extra revenue earning opportunities, like working with one of their companies for a sponsored post or campaign.
  • Lijit – I run a few Lijit ads on my sidebars. Lijit is wonderful, they are very easy to work with.
  • Technorati Media – Technorati holds a small ad below the fold on my sidebar.

Here are some other ad networks you can look into: Glam Media, AOL Advertising, Federated Media, AdSense, Foodie Blogroll.

(2) I accept paid sponsorships for some products on my blog. However, I am very strict with what I feature on my blog. Products I feature on my blog are those I love organically and are not forced to use. Sometimes readers can tell if you’re featuring a product just for money.

  • A few companies I’ve been paid to worked with – Chobani, Red Star Yeast, Raisinets, Werther’s, Nestle Toll House, Bozzuto Real Estate (the owner of my old apartment building!), and
  • If there are companies that you want to work with, contact them. Tell them who you are, what you do, and what you can offer them. Send them a media kit which holds basic information about your blog, stats, press and any associations you have with brands, your contact information, and social medias. Kind of like a little resume.
  • If companies want to use your blog to feature a product you love, always ask for monetary compensation. Since my food blog is how I pay my bills, I cannot simply work for exposure or a bag of chocolates. Don’t be afraid to be ask for payment. Your hard work deserves it. Be confident and know your worth!

(3) Creating content for other company’s websites. This means writing content to be published for other websites, companies, magazines, and blogs. I have earned money from creating recipes and writing content for Bed, Bath, & Beyond as well as Peanut Butter & Company. Approach companies you want to publish content for by using the same bullet points that I mentioned in #2.

(4) Affiliate commissions. I am an affiliate for BlueHost, who was the website server for the first 9 months of my blog’s life. I highly suggest BlueHost to host your blog if you have under 25K views per day. It’s so affordable! Read here about how to become a BlueHost affiliate. I don’t earn much, but a little paycheck every now and then is nice. I know a lot of bloggers who are affiliates for Amazon and their Thesis theme or Genesis theme for WordPress.

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Other Ways to Make Money from a Food Blog.

  • Publish an eBook.
  • Product sales (t-shirts, magnets, notepads, stickers, mugs).
  • Participate in local bake sales and bring a few business cards for your blog.
  • Contact local coffee shops and see if they allow local bakers to sell baked goods.
  • Private advertising (working directly with companies).
  • Write a cookbook (read this amazing, thorough post about how to get published).


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 feel as though I go to the grocery 12 times a week.

Other expenses:

  • Website server fees
  • Groceries
  • Technical assistance
  • Website designing
  • Food props
  • Bakeware & kitchen supplies
  • Camera & lenses
  • Lighting equipment
  • Photography editing software
  • Extras like Rafflecopter (for giveaways) & Viraltag (for Pinterest organization), business cards

 You won't accomplish anything by doing nothing

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.

I’ve written about the subject of blogging before and how to grow your food blog. If you’ve never seen them, check them out. If you have seen them, I’ve recently updated each post with more information.

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How to Stay Sane.

As you can see, this career takes a lot of time and effort. I’m able to fit it all in because I try to manage my time as best as I can, keeping in mind that I should keep a practical blogging/real life balance.

I’m going to admit that I miss having a structured schedule at my office job (and the people too – my only coworker at this point has 4 legs). I was able to leave work at the office and not bring it home. That’s not the case with my blog. While I’m not complaining in the slightest, my blog can’t “close” at night and on the weekends.

Even if you’re not a blogger (thank you for even reading this post!), you know how difficult it is to disconnect sometimes. Put down your iPhone, iPad, tablet, laptop, Instagram, Facebook, twitter, etc. Real life is what is happening now!

Enjoy Life. Right now

Being a food blogger 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. 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. I lean on Kevin, my family, and friends to have some fun. It was so nice to take a break and travel to some great spots like St. Lucia, Utah, and Deep Creek Lake this year.
  • 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, take a walk outside in the fresh air with Jude or break out my yoga mat.
  • Me time. Having time to yourself (or with a loved one – 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. For me this includes things like planning our wedding, treating myself to a manicure, meeting a friend for coffee, watching my favorite TV shows, having a glass of wine, or taking Jude to the dog park.
  • 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. I grew up in the kitchen with my late grandmother, my parents and sisters. Baking and sharing my recipes make me happy. It’s important for me to enjoy my time doing it. The moment I begin to feel it is a chore, I take a break.


Love Life and Life Will Love You Back

My 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.

Always remember that your readers come first. Sure, it’s nice to earn money from a blog. But I wouldn’t have this career if I didn’t have readers. Show your readers you love them.

Here are some wonderful articles on the subject of food blogging as a career:

Here are 4 books I own and highly recommend to all food bloggers:

Be sure to check out my other blogging pages.


All Comments

  1. Thank you for this – I really enjoyed it and found it really informative 🙂

    Congratulations on all your success – I’m only a few weeks in and starting to find my rhythm – appreciate the advice

    Hannah x

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!! It has answered all of my questions in terms of blogging, AND it has given me some encouragement (in terms of taking my Blog to the next level!). I have almost all of the links opened in another window…going to read all those now! 😉

  3. I’ve been a fan of your blog for years and came across this article by chance. I’m super happy to see how far you’ve gone and grown! It’s very inspiring since I’m on that journey myself!

    best of luck to you, Sally and to every other blogger who loves what they do for a living. I will be checking out your Candy Addiction book! 🙂

  4. What about copyright and trademarking? Did you go through these processes for your blog? Is it necessary to copyright and trademark your Brand(blog name) So overwhelming trying to get this process up and running. Thank you!!

  5. “food blogging is not all sunshine and smiles” that is SO spot on. Every single point. I loved reading this, thank you for making me giggle and reminding me that I’m not alone in feeling this. 🙂

  6. What would you say about a teenager who loves cooking and writing, to start food blogging? As a way to make a little extra money. She knows it’s risky, but would like the money.

  7. Thanks for all the insights. I am in the beginning stages of setting up a food blog. I have the domain and will be starting to put the site together next week. Eventually, I would like it to become my full-time career. Your post has answered many of my questions. Happy New Year!

  8. Thank you for sharing this information. I am planning on taking my food blogging a little more serious , with intent to make money from it and possibly make it my full time job when I retire (if not sooner). You helped me a lot with useful links and provided me with enough information on your write-up that answered all the questions I had right now 🙂 Happy New Year and all the best with you.

  9. I can’t thank you enough for this article. I found it as I was in tears. Feeling overwhelmed and looking for direction. I have had my blog going since October and I constantly compare it to established blogs that are doing well. I get discouraged with the process and how it takes time to grow. I have been putting so much effort into it as I try to juggle life and find out what it means to do this as a full time job. Your tips were really a blessing to me. We are a celiac hosuehould, but I love your recipes and find them so easy to modify to gluten free. And you are a sweetheart. You are such an example of success through hard work and finding joy in what you do. I want to be you when I grow up! 🙂 Thank you for the transparent and helpful information.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!! It has answered all of my questions in terms of food blogging for my new bakery I’m setting up. I’ll take all of your tips into consideration. Also if you don’t mind I have some bakery sayings I thought where really neat and would love to hear which one is your favorite! I’ll share them here: Bakery Slogans

  11. You’re so inspiring! Thank you so much for being so candid and for all of your insights. I’ve been a journalist forever, but I’m just getting into blogging and it seems like I’m coming super late to the party. But from what you said, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, no matter what state in the process you’re in.

  12. I’ve been writing my kids cookery food blog for a year and will be using this information to help me make my blog really sparkle. Thanks so much for sharing these invaluable tips!

  13. This was such a great post and answered many of my questions..I love your creations so much Sally all of your hard work really pays off keep it up! 🙂

  14. I want to thank you for such informative information. It is so refreshing to see people who are successful share the in’s and outs of their journey. You went far beyond that in sharing, not only “how to” but where one can look to find the support they need financially and emotionally. Kudo’s to you Sally! I feel quite blessed to have found your blog at such an early stage of my gathering information to start my journey in blogging. Inspired I am!

  15. I have been following your blog for quite some time now ( I can’t even remember the year ha!). Cooking is my passion (since I work full time in banking sector) and based on the requests of my Family & Friends I’ve decided to start a blog. I’m soooo still at the beginning though and your tips and tricks will serve me as a guideline 🙂

    thanks for sharing Sally. Continue to be this Great :-))))

  16. I know this is such an old post and you might not even get notifications about it, but thank you! I’ve just started blogging about what I’m cooking because I love cooking and I actually want to remember my recipes. This makes me think my love may turn into something bigger one day. For now though, I’m happy just sharing with anyone who stops by. 

    Thank you for sharing! This is so great!

  17. Hi,
    I love your blog and find myself compulsively baking after I visit.

    I was going to email a question to you but you wrote that you prefer questions to be left as comments on your blog posts, so here’s my question, if you don’t mind.

    I’m starting a blog focused on Christian devotions and home life and I want to include recipes to help women (and men) prepare Sunday dinner ahead of time. So occasionally I want to post menus and I may compile my recipes into an e-cookbook which I would probably give away but may consider selling on my website.

    My question is about recipe development. There are many ominous food blog posts about stealing authors’ recipes, and I am absolutely NOT doing that! My recipes will be common recipes like pot roast and lasagna and yeast rolls and chocolate cake. These are so basic that I don’t think any blogger can claim they are proprietary recipes unless they are offering a truly unique variation on the recipe. I will make each recipe in my kitchen, photograph it myself, and write the recipe in my own words.

    Do you see any ethical issues here? I know you’re not a lawyer so I’m not asking for legal advice – just advice from an advanced food blogger to a novice.

    Thank you!!!

  18. Thanks for  sharing! I blog about creative living (not full time, though I had hoped to once!) but realise that I spend almost every evening researching food recipes so am about to start my own food blog! Hope I can one day be as successful as  you are Sally! 🙂

  19. Came over here from AJ Kumar, he wrote a great article featuring you. The story of your beginning is pretty standard, but what I really liked was the informative resources that you posted. A LOT of reading is ahead, but really would like to experience birthing and building something successful that connects with people like you have!

    I just started a restaurant review website that focuses on one niche, so I’m going to take some of these tips to build my audience:

    One thing I would love love love is if you did a followup on this advice, especially since it’s been 5 years and things change so quickly online. Some of the people you posted are legendary (ProBlogger, Pinch of Yum), and I remember that back then (10 years ago) it was much easier to get started and differentiate yourself. In the age of social media, I wonder how hard it is to build an audience to a WEBSITE when so many look to Instagram and facebook, and many even use those places as their default web presence. Please consider doing an update! Thanks for the info!!

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About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally