You enjoy food, you’re great in the kitchen and love creating new recipes, so how about starting a food blog? Becoming a food blogger is great because you get to share your creations, learn from others and get to know other foodies as well.
So what does it take to become a successful food blogger? For this we go straight to the best sources to learn how to start a food blog. To do this, we asked 21 food blog owners who’ve made it, and what they wished they knew when they were just starting out.
On Having Fun & Enjoying
Have fun and enjoy. That’s why you decided to start sharing your recipes in the first place, because you enjoy cooking and sharing what you’ve created with others. Like other things, there will be challenges and a number of things to tackles along the way, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey.
Alice from Savory Sweet Life
When I started blogging in 2009 I had no idea what I was doing. I blogged for the fun of it. If I go back to when I started, I wouldn’t change a thing.
There is something very freeing about not being bound by any expectations and following your own path.
Nicole from Baking Bites
I wish I knew how much fun it would be. The blogging community is so supportive and you get to know so many wonderful people when you join in. I think I would have jumped in even sooner than I did – and I started blogging in 2004!
On Planning Ahead
Becoming a food blogger often begins as a hobby. But planning for the future and the possibilities it may open is something to keep in mind when starting your food blog. Like everything else in life, something worth doing well takes time and effort, and the same holds true with food blogging.
Becca from Amuse Your Bouche
I wish I’d known how much blogging would end up meaning to me! I definitely would have put a bit more effort in early on if I’d known that blogging would eventually be my full-time job. It would be great to have better quality archives!
Carla from Chocolate Moosey
I wish I knew how much food blogging would change my life and how it would greatly impact my career as I would’ve made some adjustments to blogging well before I did.
Suzy from The Mediterranean Dish
Blogging is not for the faint of heart:-) There is something new to learn every day; and behind each published post are hours of serious work.
Before you launch a new blog, decide why you want to blog and consider what time and other resources you are able to commit to developing and growing your blog.
Tania from My Kitchen Stories
I wish I knew exactly how much time it would take up, and that I would become addicted to it and the great people of have met because of it. The older my blog gets the more serious I get about it. I want to spend all of my time on it but I have to go to work.
A blog that starts out as a hobby may turn into something more. In fact a number of the experts we interviewed for this article make a full time income blogging, with the rest earning from their blogs as well. When this happens, we start taking blogging more seriously.
So why not plan for the possibility of that happening right from the beginning. Doing so makes things a lot easier and more organized when that time comes.
One of the best ways to start out is to make a simple checklist asking yourself what you expect from your food blog and how much time and effort are you willing to put into it.
Here are some questions to start with:
- Why do I want to start a food blog?
- What short term and long term goals do I have for the blog?
- Is it for fun, to compile recipes, to get to know other bloggers?
- Is it to learn new recipes from others and share my own, or do I also want to eventually earn supplemental income/full time income from it?
- Do I want to get exposure as a writer, blogger, chef, caterer, recipe developer, or nutrition/diet expert?
- How much time do I plan to or can I allocate to blogging?
- Do I see myself still blogging after a year or more? Can I make it a consistent thing, or will I blog when I feel like it?
Answering these basic questions will give you a basic idea of what you want to and don’t want to or aren’t willing to do. Don’t worry about having all the answers at the beginning. No one does, plus things change and our goals evolve over time.
But keep the questions in mind as you go along to remind yourself of your goals and expectations.
On Starting a Food Blog
By this point you’re ready set the foundation for your blog. There’s no right or wrong way to start your food blog. In fact, we’re sure that each of our experts had their own unique experience. However, there are some ways that make the process easier than others.
Angela from Spinach Tiger
The first thing I wished I would have done is go right to wordpress.org.
The other thing I wish is that I would have started doing videos earlier. I started a year ago, and it’s a slow learning process, but a part of my brand that I believe is necessary.
I also wished I would have realized how important it was to connect on all levels of social media in a way that is intentional and giving a service to readers. For example, this year I started giving a cooking tip of the day on my facebook page and that has been so well received. It’s no longer just me putting my posts up, but giving an immediate benefit so people will more inclined to connect. It’s more authentic.
Raymund from Ang Sarap
For me I wish that I should have took really good photos at the early stages.
All off my old photo’s are not up to standard compared to the recent ones, white balance was off, no proper composition and the sizes I uploaded were small.
I also wished that I should have followed the Google recipe format from the beginning so my posts are properly indexed as recipes in Google.
What that means now is that all of those old posts have to be re-shot and re-formatted, its like repeating it all over again.
Another piece of advice is to self host your blog from the beginning its not that expensive anyways, this means you are not limited on how you monetize it and you wont have to deal with migration issues when your blog content becomes bigger.
Notes & Tips:
That’s a lot to take in so we’ll take them one by one.
The first thing we’ll tackle is hosting. There are 2 options here:
- free hosting
- paid hosting
Looking at the two listed above, free hosting definitely looks more enticing. But before deciding let’s explore each.
- Free hosting – refers to sites like Blogger and WordPress.com. You can open an account with them and start creating your blog. The account is free and you don’t spend a cent for your site, just your efforts on posting articles.
- Paid Hosting – on the other hand, means you’re paying a monthly fee to a hosting service like BlueHost, for example, so that you can use space in their servers to house your blog.
The purpose of free and paid hosting is the same, to have a place where your blog can reside (files are saved and run from). We need web hosts in order for our blogs to be available to anyone who types in our website name on their browser, from anywhere in the world, 24/7.
Our recommendation for food blog hosting? It depends.
Go for the Free Hosting sites if:
- You only plan the blog as a hobby.
- You don’t want to pay a monthly fee to maintain your blog.
- You’re okay with limited ways of making money off the blog in the future.
- You are okay with your account being closed all of a sudden, and your files with it. (This has been known to happen)
Go for the Paid Hosting service if:
- You want control and ownership of your blog and its contents.
- You want to be able to monetize your food blog in the future.
Given a choice, we recommend going with the paid host. Why?
While paid hosting means having to pay to keep your blog up and running, it also means you can do what you want with the blog. Many free hosting sites have restrictions on what you can do. More importantly, they can close an account as they seem fit at any time. This is never a good situation if you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in your blog.
Finally, web hosting is relatively inexpensive nowadays. As an example, BlueHost charges $3.49 a month to host your site.
1. Decide on your food blog name
Decide on the name of your food blog and get a domain name. Usually, they’re one in the same, for exmaple, Google’s domain name is google.com, while Yahoo’s domain name is yahoo.com.
Take your time with this one since will be your brand as well. Make it something memorable, and easy to recall so those who follow you can remember it easily. Since you’re doing a food blog, it could also be a good idea if the domain name has something to do with food, though it’s not a requirement.
2. Get a host for your food blog
Once you know what your domain name is, the next step is to sign up for a hosting service.
- If you’ve opted for the free hosting, WordPress.com and Blogger are great places to set up your site. Just sign up for an account, type the domain name you want when asked, and in a few minutes you’re ready to start blogging.
- If you choose to get a paid hosting service, we recommend the guys over at BlueHost, which costs $3.49/mo, which is quite inexpensive. They also offer a free domain when you sign up, so you don’t have to buy the domain separately.
Our experts did mention a few other things and we’ll take on photography in the next section, with social media & SEO later on in the article.
Just about all the successful food bloggers we’ve spoken to agree that having great photos of your recipes is one of the most important things needed to make it in food blogging. The images are the first things your visitors see when they visit, and also what attracts them to your site.
Later on, when we get to the promotion section, your photos becomes a tool to promote your blog and bring new visitors in. So it’s well worth taking the time to get this right.
Anjali from The Picky Eater
I wished I had known more about photography before I started my blog. High quality food photos are critical to getting readers interested in your recipes and posts
, and in the beginning I wasn’t good about taking and framing food shots in a way that was enticing to look at!
I would have learned more about photography before starting my blog, so that all of my posts would have great photos — instead I taught myself along the way and ended up having to reshoot a bunch of old posts when my photography skills improved.
Invest in a Good Camera and Photo Editing Software
Two of the things that makes a good photograph is having the proper equipment and also having photo editing software.
Barbara from Barbara Bakes
I wish I would have known how important great photos are to draw people to your site. I would have invested in a DSLR much sooner.
Tina from Just Putzing Around the Kitchen
There are a few things I’ve learned along the way that I wish I’d known earlier:
- Shoot in natural light whenever possible. NEVER fluorescent – yellow pictures, yuck.
- Invest in a nice camera if you can – it makes a huge difference in photo quality. Alternatively, get Photoshop or Lightroom…photo editing is huge.
- Make foods that you like to eat. All my most popular recipes are the ones that I made randomly, without a whole lot of thought, because I wanted to eat those things. If you make/write about things that YOU would want to eat (vs. things that are trendy or that you think other people might like), your enthusiasm will come across naturally and people will want to read about it!
There’s no going around it. A food blog is a media outlet, and the first thing that your visitors will see are the images of your food. If the images aren’t sharp or the colors are off, they’d probably not be as enticed to try the recipes.
1. To take great pictures, it’s a good idea to get a good DSLR camera.
Two good brands are Canon and Nikon. Canon has a number of good affordable models that take wonderful pictures. Nikon DSLR cameras are more expensive on average.
2. Learn food photography.
This will allow you to take great pictures that will capture the interest of anyone who sees them. There are lots of books and courses on the topic, two we like are:
3. Get photo editing software.
You can choose between Photoshop or Lightroom. Both are products built by Adobe, and great for editing, touching up photos, and making them beautiful to look at. You can use either to get the job done. They do have their differences, including functionality and cost, so understanding what you want and need before choosing is important.
To decide which one you prefer here’s a comparison of the 2 photo editing software from Digital Photography School.
4. Learn to use the photo editing software.
You have the photos and the photo editing software, the last thing to do is learn to use the software. There are tons of classes and tutorials available on the two topics, though most are often piece by piece tutorials where you need to find one by one.
To learn them start to finish, here are a couple on learning how to use each photo editing software:
For Adobe Lightroom:
For Adobe Photoshop:
At the end of her statement, Tina touches on the topic of choosing which recipes to feature, that’s up next.
On Choosing Recipes and How & What to Write About
In this section, some of our experts shed some light on how they choose the recipes to feature on their blogs, along with other tips about content.
Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Be yourself—show your personality and share yourself in your posts. Readers love to feel that they can connect—it will encourage return visits. Also, if possible, take your photos in natural light (and this doesn’t mean bright sunshine as you could see on my early, awful photos!), check out other blogs for food styling, make sure your photos are sharp (use a tripod), and let your readers see the food by taking a few closer shots.
Carol from The Baking Pan
I can think of numerous things I’ve learned over the years and wish I had known or done better from the beginning.
- ALWAYS proofread, proofread, proofread. You would rather catch mistakes, especially in recipes, than have your readers email you with a mistake they’ve noticed.
- When writing recipes, don’t assume your reader has previous experience. Give detailed instructions and make sure you’ve listed all the ingredients. I’ve seen recipes where the directions mention an ingredient, such as salt; however salt isn’t shown in the ingredient list.
- I’ve learned to step back and not to be a perfectionist in every little detail, such as spending hours looking at variations in color or font. We’re all human and nothing will ever be “perfect.” Trying to get each detail absolutely perfect before posting can be stressful.
- I keep all my posted recipes and tips in a Word document. Later if I’m looking for something it’s very easy to search through the Word doc rather than searching through my posts.
- Keep a to-do list. It’s much easier than thinking you’ll remember all your great ideas.
Katie from Produce on Parade
I wish I would have known it was okay to only do as many posts as I was happy with doing in a week and not feel pressured into doing a set number a week. Also that the most creative dishes, born out of despair and/or a lack of proper ingredients, are always the most popular!
1. Do your research.
Before jumping right in and writing tons of recipes and posting on your blog. Do some research. Just slapping on recipes and tips on a blog does not make it successful. Some things work other things don’t.
One of the most effective ways to start with is to look at successful food blogs. Take note of things they do and don’t do. Chances are they’ve discarded the things that don’t work and stayed on with those that do.
You can start with the successful food bloggers featured in this article. They each have their own distinct styles, but they’ve experimented and made mistakes to get to where they are. Use that to your advantage. See how their blogs are formatted, what topics they cover, which topics are the most popular, how they tell their stories and relate to their audience through their recipe articles.
Doing this will save a lot of time and quicken your learning curve.
2. Proofread your articles before publishing.
I’m guilty of not doing this sometimes. But taking time to proofread allows you to avoid mistakes that readers will notice. Also pay attention to details, don’t be in a hurry to post your new article. Proofread it, or better yet have someone else proofread it.
3. What to write about.
If you run out of ideas or aren’t sure what to write about next, take a look at this post on what food bloggers can write about from Pinch of Yum. It has a lot of great insights. Also, you can get some ideas from what other food bloggers are featuring.
4. Be mindful of who your readers are.
When it comes to writing instructions or the steps for making a dish, remember to be aware of the fact that your audience could be anyone, from those who are just starting out to expert chefs. Write your articles and recipes so that anyone and everyone, even kitchen novices, can follow and understand easily.
5. Make an effort to organize your files
Finally, try to organize things right from the beginning. You’re probably going to refer back to one of your old articles somewhere down the road. Having an organized filing system makes that easy and possible.
It’s More than Just Cooking and Blogging
Owning a food blog means that it’s up to you to make sure everything works. So while cooking and writing recipes are what your audience come back for, you need to be prepared to handle all the other things that are needed in managing your blog.
Malcolm from From Away: The Way Food Should Be and Pro Food Blogger
I wish I had known just how little of my time would be spent cooking.
Or for that matter, even cooking and writing a post. Instead, effective promotion of a post requires so much time that I’d rather spend doing other things.
By the time I get done submitting to food porn sites, promoting on social media, and submitting to recipe roundup blogs, it’s time to start over by scheduling old content to try and keep the archives alive. Honestly, the time I spend cooking and writing seems like a rare treat and a blessing, by comparison.
Oh, and I also wish I’d known that banner ads and premium networks were basically going to go away.
Roz from La Bella Vita Cucina
I wished that I had a better understanding of quality food photography at the launch of my blog and that I hadn’t waited to take formal photography classes until several years later.
I also wish that I had started keeping track of the expenses, obtaining a business license at the beginning, and developing a scheduling system of creating recipes and posting them.
I wish that I had attended several major blog conferences to meet other food bloggers. As a result of not networking with other food bloggers, it was difficult to develop business affiliate relationships on my own, but now these opportunities are being offered steadily after having an 8-year old blog present in the blogosphere.
Through time and patience, I have developed a following of readers who trust that the recipes I share are authentic and delicious.
Be prepared to do the other things not related to cooking or food. Among the most important things are photography, social media and connecting with other bloggers and making sure your blog is running properly. You can go through the sections of this article to see a bigger list of the tasks. We’ve arranged it that way so it would be easy to get an overview.
If you feel that the tasks are overwhelming or you don’t have enough time to get them all done, two great ways to solve this is either:
- to get a partner/s to help you out or
- find people who you can outsource tasks to.
For example, a partner who has skills that complement your cooking and recipe making skills will let you focus on the food aspect. For outsourcing, try out sites like oDesk or Elance. They have a wide range of freelancers that do everything from being your VA (virtual assistant), designing, to setting up your site.
The Back End (Operating Your Blog)
Because food blogging works online, being able to understand and operate the technical side of things is something that can’t be avoided. Like it or not, we’ll need to learn a few things about some software and hardware as well as how the internet works.
Merissa from Little House Living
I wish I would have known more about the tech aspect of blogging! I can bake and I can write and I can take pictures but if I mess up something on the blog while I’m doing all of that it’s a hard problem to solve. 6 years into blogging and I still don’t have it figured out but I try and take the opportunity to learn when I can.
Wendy from Around My Family Table
Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have known about properly setting up the back end of my site so that it functions well for me and for my readers.
After almost 5 years of blogging, I just spent several weeks going through and fixing everything that was not working properly.
I also wish I had learned about SEO earlier in my blogging career as well. I think I’m finally understanding how it all works and I’m able to adequately SEO my posts for maximum benefit.
If you’ve followed us from above, you have your domain name where people can find you and you’ve signed up for web hosting where your blog can be saved and seen by your visitors. Now, the next step is to install the software that will make it easy to write posts, upload images and tinker with design. That software is WordPress.
1. Installing WordPress
Remember we mentioned that WordPress.com was a free hosting service earlier. It so happens that they also make the software that makes it easy to blog. WordPress.com is the online version of that. For our own blog what we want to do is install the software version available in WordPress.org.
The good news WordPress is so widely used by blogs that just about all web hosting services have a quick install option to install WordPress for their customers. So all you need to do is go to your hosting account and look for a WordPress install button. If you signed up with BlueHost, here’s how to do it step by step.
2. Learn How to Use WordPress
Just like you had to learn to use the interface and functions when you first bought your iPhone or Android phone, we all need to learn to use WordPress. The good news is it’s fairly easy and user friendly, which is also the reason majority of blogs use the WordPress platform.
But because there are so many functions, it takes time to experiment and learn them. The more adept you are at using WordPress, the more things you can do with your blog.
Here are some great resources to learn to use WordPress:
Marketing the Blog and Own Services
Now that you’re starting to post content on your site, the next thing to consider in food blogging is to learn to promote your blog.
Utokia from She’s Got Flavor
Back then, she wished she knew:
How to market my blog and how to place value on my services.
Promoting Your Food Blog: Social Media & SEO
Putting up your own food blog is very similar to setting up your own restaurant or bakery. You can have the best store front, all the best food and wait staff but if nobody knows about your establishment and nobody’s coming to eat your food. The same is true with running a food blog.
You may have the best recipes, best food photos and top notch cooking tips and instructions, but if no one’s aware of it, you won’t have many visitors, at least for a long time. This is why promotion is very important.
Tiffany from Living Sweet Moments
It’s not all about the recipes. You can have the more delicious food in your blog but if you don’t know how to promote it by social channels or know a little bit about SEO you won’t be successful. In other words, sometimes it the backend of running a blog is as important as the content.
Sharon from Plated With Style
I wished that I knew the impact that social media has on one’s blog. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should not be underestimated for one’s growth. They are powerful tools but must be kept active to not only build traffic but reader engagement.
Sonja and Alex from A Couple Cooks
I wish I would have known how important clear branding and social media presence is to developing a successful blog.
Starting out, we just wanted to focus on photography and posts and almost completely ignored social media.
Along the way, we learned about the importance of having a crisp message and utilizing social media to communicate it to an audience. We still don’t love the social media aspect of blogging, but have realized it’s importance. And, we love connecting with readers through it!
Amy from What Jew Wanna Eat
I wish I knew how much non-cooking stuff was involved- social media, invoices, emailing. But I also didn’t know how many friends and cool people I’d meet. 🙂
1. Social Media
Start by opening accounts on social media. This will allow people to know your brand. Among the most popular social media platforms for food bloggers are:
Once you’ve set up your social media accounts, don’t forget to give them a good design. Your Facebook page, along with the other accounts will represent your brand in those social platforms. So making them look good will attract more visitors.
The next step is to reach out to fellow food bloggers. Also make sure to take note of who the influencers are, since they can help get you in front of a larger audience. From there start building relationships.
Don’t forget to post images. Case studies by social media experts have shown that posts that have attractive images tend to get more views and clicks. This is specially true in fields like food, fashion and fitness, where pictures, especially well taken ones, are worth a thousand words.
To get you started, here are some resources for the main social media platforms:
- Chocolate, Chocolate and More’s articles on Facebook here and here
2. Submitting to Food Submission Blogs
Aside from the mainstream social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, also submit your recipes to food submission blogs. These sites showcase recipes made by food bloggers. Because these sites have large number of members, it’s a quicker way of getting noticed.
Here’s a list of recipe submission sites to get you started. Note that there are many more outside this list.
Note that these sites don’t accept every submission you make. So be aware and ready for some rejection. One of the keys to getting approved is having great images which is why photography is very important.
3. Learning SEO
SEO is stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the process that will help your articles rank higher in the search engines. The higher your articles rank in Google and other search engines the more visitors will find you when they type in a specific search term.
The SEO resource links above cover a lot of information including what Raymund mentioned earlier about following Google’s recipe format. This way when the results show in Google’s search they look like this, instead of just the usual text we see from the search results. This makes it more attractive to those looking for recipes.
We’d Love to Hear from You
So there they are, some awesome tips from food blogging experts. This should get you started on your way to getting your own food blog up and running properly. We know that a lot of you have great experiences of your own and we’d love to hear what you wished you knew back when staring your food blog.
image from: zergev