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. Hi Sally!
    I love how open you are about your career so far as a food blogger. I am one myself but still work that 8-5. I have had ad networks approach me and am currently hosting ads with google adsense and lijit. Media.net reached out to me and wants to know what my CPM is. With the other networks I just did whatever they wanted but now I feel like I really have something to give. What number do you suggest I give them? I want to make some more money but I don’t want to shoot too high. Any advice would be great!
    Thanks!!
    Kelsey

  2. Hey Sally! Thank you for this great post. It was truly inspirational and had lots of awesome articles. I just started my baking blog last week, so the timing on reading this was perfect.

  3. What an amazing post! I love your site and this information is so helpful and inspiring. Keep up the amazing work!

  4. THANK YOU so much for this post. I’ve just started my blog (September 1) and it’s so inspiring to see how far you’ve come. Great information & really motivational!

  5. Thanks for the great advice. I was reading about your revenue streams and was wondering if you ever do anything with YouTube and monetizing videos on YouTube? Do you think its a value to your blog to do something on YouTube? Thanks again!

  6. Great advice and am interested in moving to next step so thank you for all the info. Just published my first cookbook so am anxious to see where it leads. Blessings, trudy

  7. Who knew that by looking for a great chocolate chip muffin recipe, I would stumble onto an inspiring article about how to start a food blog! Thanks so much for taking a step away from writing food recipes to writing a very helpful, informational recipe for success!

  8. Sally, thank you so much for this fantastic post! I have just started food blogging recently, and am hoping to one day turn this into a career, but had no idea where to start! This post gave me so much to think about, and so many great ideas. It also gave me the realization that I can do this!!! Thank you for sharing your experiences and for cramming so much quality information into this post. You’ve inspired me, and I’m so excited to get started!

  9. The great successful story of yours is a huge inspirational one that fills my spirit with enthusiasm of hard work and dedication to make dream come true.

  10. Hi, Sally! Thanks for this post. Very interesting, insightful and useful! I’ve just started my baking blog and, even though, I do not aim to make money from it, it was very inspirational to see how you manage yours!

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This article was just what I needed today. I absolutely love coming up with recipes and taking photos, but sometimes I feel like a lost novice in this high-tech world of blogs. I can’t wait to use this advice 🙂

  12. Hey Sally,

    I love when I read this kind of online journey!!! A lot of people don’t believe it but if you really focus and work hard your website become success full just like yours. Congratulations.

    P.s Still don’t understand SEO?

  13. I’m coming across this blog post on a search for how to get started and while the amount of work to get to where I’d like to be is most certainly daunting, you kept my enthusiasm up the entire time! I have just barely created my dinky free page on WordPress and haven’t even written a post yet, being as it is just past my son’s bed time. My question to you is how you develop your recipes; do you find a base recipe and build off of it? Do you create them entirely from scratch? I tend to make stuff up off the top of my head from what we have in the fridge and until now I haven’t measured, only going by sight and smell.

    Thank you for posting this and helping to inspire a newbie to work her little (okay, who are we kidding?) butt off!

    1. Congrats on your new blog Emily! Yep, I bake and cook my recipes from scratch based off my experience, mistakes, and knowledge of what works and what does not. It requires a lot of studying, testing, and retesting. Good luck with your new blog!!

  14. Hello Sally,

    I know you’ve heard so many praises and thanks but how else do I compliment you. I just stumbled onto your site as I was looking for food photography tips. I’m a start-up blogger on local food and culture of my province Iloilo in the. Philippines (www.iloveiloilo.com). I don’t know the direction it’s taking but I just decided to post as regularly as I can, as a release from my taxing teaching day-job.

    Anyway, thank you for such candidness. I am learning a lot from you. God bless you and more power.

  15. Thank you so much for this! I also started food blogging as a creative outlet and to share recipes but decided to monetize my site earlier this year. I have been working relentlessly around the clock and although I do love it so much, I do agree, it can be a bit challenging at times! This post really inspired me and there are some new tools I need to check out as well. Thank you for sharing! ^_^

  16. Hi Sally, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and picked up some great tips!! I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I am a huge fan and love your nibbles. You are fantastic at what you do!!! Warmly, Nic

  17. Lovely post! Thank you so much for all the tips. In the meantime, I would like to add another example (from Finnland) what food blogging can lead to. A quite large-scale event 😉 :

  18. Great post, I really resonated with a lot of what you said here. I’ve had my blog for about 5 years but haven’t gotten anywhere near where I want it to be. Ive been super frustrated by this but I’ve also learnt to accept that I’m still a student and I’m putting an equal if not more time into getting my bachelors of Dietetics. Thanks for showing me that hard work and dedication can get your blog to where the “big leagues” are.

  19. That was a great write-up and very inspiring for start up bloggers like me. I love food and everything about it. I also enjoy cooking and experimenting with food. Started with a FB page posting some pictures of the food I cooked and got requests to share recipes… which was a pleasant surprise and that’s how I started blogging. I am sort of addicted to it now and quite intrigued by the number of amazing food blogs out there.. the recipes.. the creative pictures.. I am completely hooked.. Your write-up is very motivating for bloggers like me who are just starting up.. Thank you for sharing those tips.

  20. Wow, you are awesome! I was searching if I should use text and labels in the photos and came across your post. Thanks sharing! 🙂

  21. Thanks for this article! I just began my blog yesterday; needless to say, I’m totally lost and it looks like crap! Trying to just figure out how to set the page up to look nice and be readable for now. I’ll probably head out to the bookstore today and grab one of your book suggestions. I just lost my job, so I have time on my hands right now, maybe too much time! 🙂 Your blog looks awesome and pictures are sooooo tasty looking; I do need a good camera! Happy new year and happy baking Sally!

  22. This is a terrific, informative post! I’ve been blogging for a little over a year and haven’t done anything (yet) to introduce advertising on my site. I did have an Australian company sponsor a post for barbecues — and they paid me (very cool). But I didn’t want to muddy up my content with ads if it wasn’t going to be $$$ worthwhile. My traffic has improved moderately and now I think I may be ready for it. Thanks for your guidance — if it’s ok, I may contact you again with questions. Best to you!

  23. Hi Sally! Thank you for taking so much time to write all this and in such a personable way! I just started researching how to start a blog and found your site to be a wealth of information. Since opening my own cafe over 6 years ago, I’m ready to sell and take a break, looking to find more balance from the 20 hour exhausting work days, 7 days a week. Can you say total burn out? While I love baking & cooking, I still want to be in the industry in some way but at a level more suitable for me. Best of luck to you and thank you for sharing!

  24. Thanks for this honest and helpful post Sally. It’s not something common, that blogger’s would share with others, so I appreciated you taking time out and writing something like this. I’m just starting out with my food blog, which I’m starting purely for the love of sharing food with others and using it as my creative outlet. It’s great to know though that eventually something like this can potentially be a stable, sustainable income. I would like to eventually make food my full time, so I’m definitely admirable of how much you have achieved and hope I will be as successful . Thank you once again Sally !

  25. Hi Sally!
    Thanks so much for this amazing and very informative post! I am new to the food blogging world (4 months in) and get so much satisfaction out of it. My whole life I have loved food and my husband is a professional chef so it is a huge theme in our household. I think long and hard about how to monetize my blog and eventually turn it into my career. This post REALLY helped me so I want to thank you for that! One question that I have is did you contact the advertising networks that you work with or did they contact you. Thanks again for all of our help already. You are such an inspiration!

    Xoxox,
    Caroline

    1. Congrats on your blog Caroline!! I got in touch with them– check out their websites to fill out applications or contact them directly.

  26. Hello Sally,
    I don’t have a DSLR but am currently charging the battery on my Panasonic Lumix – its’ the best I got, so I’m gonna use it from now on for my food photos. I started my blog a few months back, trying to find my feet as a British mum to three little ones living in Singapore. It’s a great journey so far into a new cookery world of ingredients, flavours and histories. Hope you get to join me on my journey sometime @FeedingtheFriedlanders. Best wishes, Elaine

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