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:

552 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!!!
    Janet

  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: https://www.blackbusinessreviews.com

    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!!

  20. Thanks for sharing your story! It is so encouraging and just what I needed to hear. Blogging is truly a journey and like most things you’ll only get better with practice.

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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

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