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. thanks for sharing. That’s the first thing i notice when i started reading your blog, i got so impressed that you actually took time to answer to peoples comments eventhough you seemed to have soooo many readers and you right, it is so important, and appreciated 🙂

  2. First off, CONGRATS Sally! I love your blog and you have been a great inspiration to me as a new food blogger who also has a degree in business and marketing and I just recently quite my corporate world job to be a full-time blogger. I wanted to focus on my blog that started as just a way for me to share my recipes with my friends and family. About 3 months ago I decided to sharing my love for baking and photography with the world (aka Pinterest) and it’s been SO exciting to see my blog GROW leaps and bounds in only 3 months. It’s been so FUN but at the same time I find myself feeling like I am on my own food blogging island, until I found your blog and have already learned so much from you on how to be a successful food blog publisher! ( I love that, people asked me all the time “what do you do all day” and they always look at my weird when I say I am a blogger!) I have so much to learn but thanks to you, I feel like I have some direction (it’s not like there is a college degree in food blogging-wish there was!) Please keep writing these great posts about blogging and as always I enjoy all of your yummy recipes! 🙂

    1. A few things:

      1) Congrats on your new full time job as a blogger! Your professional experience in the corporate world will come in handy. As well as your business/marketing degree. I am so thankful for all the course I took in marketing, communication and advertising.

      2) People think my job is so weird. But I tell them I own my own business and started from the bottom. That gets them interested in hearing more!

      3) As long as you are having fun, that’s what is most important and will help you build your blog and readership. Readers can tell if you enjoy what you’re doing. In fact, the most common thing I hear from readers is “it’s obvious in your writing that you love what you do.”

      4) College degree in food blogging. LOVE that idea. With the way social media is growing, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that came into existence one day.

  3. Thank you for writing such an inspiring post, Sally! I really look up to you and think you’re one of the most inspiring bloggers out there.
    Cheers to you, because you do deserve all this success! It’s so nice to see how someone who has put so much effort into something gets a reward!
    Thanks again, and have a beautiful day! x

  4. This is an amazing post. I’m not sure that I will ever get to the point where you are at but it is still nice to know how you did it!

  5. Sally – I’m not a blogger and i enjoyed all that you had to say and again i’m not a blogger and i appreciate all that information you are willing to share about becoming successful with others….not everyone is so willing to share their success at all. I truly enjoy your blog and your recipes and I wish you all the best with your change in career.

  6. Great post Sally, love all your ideas!

    I started my blog in July. I put all my favorite recipes and ideas on it. At the beginning, i didnt even know you could make money from blogging! I just loved the idea of sharing recipes, when I bake 24/7! This post has really helped me, and I feel more determined to work harder now!

  7. Sally, you really are such an amazing inspiration! This blog post is so unbelievably helpful for us newbie bloggers. You clearly are a smart, business savy woman. Your content just keeps getting better and better. Congratulations on the success :).

  8. Wow! I can’t tell you how much I can relate to what you wrote. I’ve only been a food blogger since February and I’ve been trying to soak in as much information to improve me and my blog since day 1. And I still continue to do so. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your wonderful tips! I’ve said it many times before to you, but it’s worth saying again…you are truly a wonderful inspiration. 🙂

  9. Sally one of the first posts I stumbled upon from your blog was when you gave tips for better photography. I became a follower and have loved your recipes. I really appreciate how you modify your recipes until you know it really is the best! To me, that’s quality! Thanks and congrats on a successful beginning!

    1. Thanks Jaren. All the recipe batches before landing on a “perfect” one to post = huge grocery bills. It’s all worth it though! Thanks so much. I appreciate your kind words!

  10. Thank you for this post! We have so much in common it’s ridiculous. I also have a diploma in marketing and a dream of opening a bakery…..BUT I also farm and have 5 kids. Someone suggested I started blogging a little over a year ago….and I didn’t actually read any blogs or know anything about blogging….but I just did it. I started to tell our farm story…and I bake along the way. Then I started reading other blogs and I realized that people actually make money doing this….but I didn’t really know how. I realized that it’s all a competition for ‘numbers’…and really I’m not very competitive. So then I was thinking that maybe I shouldn’t be blogging at all. But people told me just to keep blogging…..it’s NOT for the money….just do it for fun. After reading this post I won’t think about doing it for the money anymore….at all. Thank you. I will just continue to do it for fun. I won’t worry about numbers. I don’t have the time or energy to do what you do. You amaze me. Congratulations.

    1. Hey Brenda! A few things:

      1) CONGRATS on your blog!
      2) Yes! Do it because you love it, not for money. Like I said, build your product before selling it. (if making money is your goal)
      3) It is a competition for numbers. But I don’t compare myself to others. You’re only going to be let down. Someone will always be better, no matter who you are or how popular your blog is.
      4) 5 kids AND a blog? You deserve a medal.

  11. Wow. I knew there was a lot of work involved in blogging but not that much! I love to bake but I am only a recipe follower, not a developer, which I’m ok with. I have made quite a few of your recipes and they are always a hit at work. Your food photography is beautiful. The cookies always looks so perfect! I can not wait for your cookbook to come out. Congratulations on your success!

    1. Thanks so much Annette, for the kind words about my photography, recipes, and being excited about my cookbook. I appreciate it!

  12. You’re an inspiration Sally,you truly deserve all your success. I remember some of your very first post,just shows hard work and dedication pays off. Congrats on such a fantastic blog(honestly one of my favs!), wishing youeven more sucess in the future x

  13. Hi Sally,
    Thanks so much for publishing this post. You are such an inspiration.

    I would love to be a full time blogger someday, but I know that is not likely to happen. My family doesn’t really support it.

    I’ll be looking into the books you suggested! One quick question I’d love you to answer if you have time. Do you have any suggestions on winter lighting? It is always cloudy/rainy where I live and I usually eat what i make before I get a sunny day lol.

    Thanks for all you do!!

    1. Hi Krystie! Winter lighting is so, so tough. I don’t have very sound advice on the subject, but I found this helpful post (with a ton of links): http://www.learnfoodphotography.com/how-should-a-food-photographer-prepare-for-winter/

  14. Sally
    Good for you! You are a wonderful example of a hard working young woman. A lesson our younger generation needs to learn! We have always told our kids to find something they love and do it well! I have forwarded this to my own daughter. She has a passion for photography and copy writing and I hope one day she can follow her dream. Love your recipes! And your enthusiasm!

  15. Great post! You have us a lot of great information and I just love learning the back story of how people start their passions. Can’t wait for your book!!

  16. This is a fab post, thanks so much for sharing your experiences so honestly.
    I’m currently taking baby steps into the world of food blogging and your advice is so encouraging!
    Thank you! 🙂

  17. I feel somewhat bad leaving you another comment to read, but I just had to say that I distinctly remember the first time I found your blog and how I have been hooked ever since! As a college student with a love of baking, I don’t get many, actually ANY, chances to bake in my dorm, but that doesn’t stop me from perusing your recipes almost daily (sometimes during boring classes…) and planning what I will make when I go home on breaks. My boyfriend and I have had a deal going for a few months that when I’m home, we will make your Super Crumb Coffee cake and feast after a nice run. I realize this comment is a bit rambly, but in conclusion, I want to say thank you for your creativity, passion, and hard work, because your blog truly brings joy to more people than you can imagine!(:

    1. Caroline, the fact that you still read my blog and can’t even bake some of the goodies makes my day. 🙂

      Love that super crumb coffee cake! You’ll need those carbs after your run for sure.

  18. Sally, you are such an inspiration! I think your blog is wonderful and you are always baking up beautiful, tasty looking sweets! I have four young children and my blog is just under a year old and it’s hard to manage it all. I loved reading this post! Thanks for sharing your journey so far:) I know what you mean about the dark chocolate cookies! I made some a few weeks ago and you are right- it’s very hard to get a good picture. If only people could taste or smell them through the computer:)

    1. Shannon, more power to you. For running a food blog AND being a mommy. Dark chocolate cookies, hands down, are the worst to shoot!

  19. Great advice Sally, I love blogging posts from successful bloggers – shows lots of the behind the scenes work that many people don’t know about. Enjoy your upcoming Saturday off! 🙂

  20. Thank you very much for taking time and posting this information. My blogging will only get better with all the information you’ve shared. I’m looking forward to learning and growing. Best of luck to you.

  21. Hi Sally,
    I just wanted to say how much of an inspiration you are to me. I have been following your blog for quite a while and although I don’t comment on every post, I do read every one of them, and your blog is one of the reasons I want to blog. Thank you so much for sharing all this information, because I have been struggling to find myself in the blogging world, and fell into the wrong type of blogging, which I’m sure has set me back a bit as far as food blogging goes, bit I am hopeful that I can turn my blog around and get to the point where I can be a full time food blogger. I know it takes a lot of time, patience and hard work, all of which I am ready for. I jusy hope that I can be a success some day. Again, you are truly inspiring as a food blogger, and thank you so much again for sharing all this wonderful information. I can’t wait to dig into some of these resources. Stay fabulous and have a beautiful, blessed day!!!

    1. Ashley, it’s so hard to “find yourself” in a blog’s content. I didn’t really like my own writing style until it began to come from the heart. It does take a lot of time and effort, but if you are passionate about it, big things could come. I appreciate that you read all of my posts AND that you took the time to leave such a sweet comment today. Good luck with it all!

  22. Thanks for taking the time to share these thoughts and insights. SO very helpful and it’s great to see your success. All the best!

  23. Thanks so much for taking the time to write the extensive but very interesting blogpost Sally. I am a big fan of your blog and am in the making of a food blog myself 🙂 So all these tips are really helpful!

    Thanks again,
    Susanne

  24. Thanks for a great post. I believe it’s bloggers like you, who share what you have learned, become successful because you are giving back. Thanks for all the information you put in this one. All great points.

  25. Sally, this is just an amazing post! You work so hard, and that shines through–you have definitely earned all of your success. And thank you so much for sharing all of this great information with the rest of us…seriously, you are my blog idol. 😉

    Working full-time + mommy duties + blogging…it’s so hard to balance it all! But I do it because I love it, and for no other reason. Thanks for that reminder – and the reminder to continue to dream big!

    xoxo

  26. I loved this post Sally. You’ve always been so open and honest with your writing and it has inspired me in so many ways. I referred to your blog quite a bit when I first started out because I look up to you so much. It’s a huge help for us younger bloggers!

    It can be so exhausting to balance blogging on top of a full time job but you’re right, you have to work your butt off to achieve success.

    I will say that I think baking blogs seem to gain popularity faster than other food blogs. People love their dessert!

    1. Thank you so much Sarah. I am so happy to have helped you! And yes, cookies are always more popular than salads. I posted a quesadilla recipe the other week and while it had caramel with it (sounds weird), it wasn’t as popular as my cupcake recipes.

  27. Thank you so much for this blog. I love coming here and looking at the wonderful tasty creations you have made. Now to come here and see what it takes to make this happen is min blowing. A friend told me the other day, “Bonnie, you should start a blog and post the great treats you make.” I thought about this for a bit…It looks like a lot of work. From your perspective it looks like it is so rewarding it may be worth a try! Thank you for your insight!

    1. It is VERY rewarding. Hearing from a reader who made my cookies with success, when he/she usually messes up cookies, makes my day. It’s a lot of work, but so exciting to interact with bakers around the world!

  28. This post was so helpful and inspiring! As a busy college student, it does get stressful trying to build my blog. But I love cooking and am so passionate about what my blog stands for, it is worth it! Making time for real life, outside of blogging, is so important!
    If you are truly passionate about the subject/content of your blog, it will be successful! I loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Nichole, I couldn’t imagine building a blog in college with everything going on. More power to you!

      And you genuinely LOVE to cook. That’s important for food bloggers!

  29. I loved reading this post, Sally! And thank you for putting us readers first! It’s always great to her feedback and interact with the blogger behind the blog. I really enjoy reading your blog and learning more about you. I’m so happy you’re loving your job and enjoying all of the time and effort you put into it! If I could do anything, I would definitely own my own bakery so I understand your inner passion to do so! <3

    1. Lauren, thanks for saying you enjoy learning more about me. I get a lot of traffic from Pinterest, where people are really just clicking over for the recipe. So hearing that folks are interested in learning more about ME and not just chocolate chip cookies means a lot!!

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