6 Things They Don’t Tell You When Starting a Food Blog: learn about the hard truths, honest life lessons, pitfalls and secrets to success for starting a food blog. From a blog with over 20 million views.
When I started my food blog 4 years ago, the internet was a totally different place. Kids didn’t have toy review channels with billions of views on them, being a YouTuber wasn’t a for-real realistic profession for most, and grocery delivery by robot was not a real thing. Okay, is that a real thing yet? 😉
I spent so many hours reading about the personal lives, quirky stories and just fun chat from my favorite food bloggers. A recipe was just one aspect of food blogging. Nowadays, writing about more than just the recipe is cause for getting nasty comments. Now, food blogging is a business. Now, internet everything is a business.
Sometimes I see trailers for movies that show what it’s “really” like to be a food blogger—glamorous & huge gleaming kitchens, perfect hair & makeup everyday, baked goods that look like they came straight from heaven. But the truth is… food blogging can be quite the opposite.
There are times when I don’t go outside for days. I’ve recipe tested in the tiniest, darkest, oldest kitchens. Sometimes I work on a recipe for 3 days straight, running dozens of trials and I still end up scratching the whole thing. Sometimes I’ve recipe tested, photographed and written for 16 hours a day for 3 straight weeks and just feel like crying.
And sometimes, I just feel like giving up. Or just taking a mental health day (or month).
And then a sweet reader leaves a comment that literally brings me to tears–good tears. And it’s all worth it.
If you’re thinking about starting a food blog and wondering what they didn’t tell you…I’m here to spill the beans. Perhaps something from my experience can help you decide if it’s worth it, or even just make you feel less lonely if you’re food blogging already.
Are you ready? Let’s do it!
Starting a Food Blog Truth #1
Starting a food blog does not equal overnight success or even money in the 1st year.
So and so blogger made over $50,000 in her first year of blogging!! And she didn’t even do it full-time! <— Real talk: that is super unrealistic and highly unlikely to happen. When I was starting my food blog, I saw all kinds of articles about this kind of overnight success.
Instead of being inspirational, I found it terribly discouraging. At the time, I was very concerned about being able to make a living not only for myself, but also for my mom. So every day that I wasn’t on track to making $50k in my first year of blogging, I felt ashamed. Then, when I didn’t make that my 2nd year of blogging, I felt even more ashamed.
Then, I realized that I was being ridiculous. As one of my favorite bloggers, Sally, always says, “Comparison is the killer to joy.” How true is that?
When you start your food blog, just remember—no one is on the same path as you. No one is going through the exact same thing. Focus on your goals and your achievements. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You’ve got this!
Tip: Learn how to start a food blog here.
P.S. Truth Bomb: Many of the stories I’ve read of overnight sensations turn out to be folks who are starting their 2nd, 3rd or even 6th blog. They are literally pros at this point. So don’t compare yourself to them! They’re just pretending so they can sell eBooks and courses. Lol.
Starting a Food Blog Truth #2
Organization is just as important as creativity in food blogging
Oh my YES. We eat with our eyes. As graphic and awkward as that sounds, it’s true. But what good is a beautiful photo of beautiful food if you’re not organized enough to publish it on time?
When I first started my food blog, I received all kinds of advice on how to focus on my food photography and buy ALL the food styling equipment.
Then, I quickly realized that all the food styling equipment in the world wasn’t gonna help me keep track of the billion of things that I needed to stay on top of to keep my food blog running smoothly. Here is a sampling of one day’s worth of tasks in the life of a food blogger (okaaaaay, mine):
- Write 10 recipes + 3 variations of each for different trials (in case of recipe fail)
- Respond to 30 comments on the blog
- Respond to 70+ comments and IG mentions
- Edit 14 sets of photos in Lightroom & photoshop
- Answer 25+ emails from potential sponsors, readers and the lawyer
- Check on 16 current recipe tests: what is the texture like on Day 3 for the double chocolate cookie recipe? Day 2 for the no bake bites recipe? Does the no bake chocolate PB bars in the fridge equal better texture than room temp?
- Prepare grocery list for 14 recipe testing trials in two days
- Wash 500+ dishes
- Do search engine optimization on 40+ potential recipes, then scrap 20 of them and feverishly do more research on 20 new ones.
If I wasn’t organized to the max, I’d be so confused, frustrated and stressed at any moment. (Okay, that’s a daily thing for food blogging…but I’m less confused, frustrated and stressed lol). Point is: the more committed you are to the blog and your readers, the more organized you have to be in order to make it all work.
Food Blogging Tip: One of the hardest areas to organize is your finances, so I strongly recommend signing up for Quickbooks Online and using it to keep track of all your expenses. You should also sign up for a business credit card, so you can keep your food blogging expenses completely separate from your personal expenses. I use the Capital One Spark card (which has 2% cash back on all purchases), and it’s been a wonderful tool for helping keep my finances organized.
Starting a Food Blog Truth #3
Food blogging is lonely
One thing they don’t tell you when starting a food blog? It’s lonely. It’s kind of a tough thing to swallow… but it’s honest. If you’re food blogging casually and maybe publishing 1 post a month, or choose to take months off at a time, you might be able to have a social life. There have been times when the only person I talked to for days were the support agents at DreamHost or ConvertKit (and Erik!).
But to start a food blog, keep it growing, and make it successful? It’s just like starting any other kind of business. It takes a lot of time and commitment.
And even if you make friends in the food blogging community, you’ll likely not meet them for years. But when times get tough, and you don’t think anyone understands what you do—they’re there. Virtually or otherwise.
And some of the friendships you make here will lead you to the kindest, most understanding and wonderfully unique people ever–and a lot of them are your loyal readers. ❤️
Starting a Food Blog Truth #4
People are going to experience recipe fails and that’s totally normal
The first time I received a reader comment stating that my recipe was a total fail for them, I deleted the recipe.
Don’t do this. (Okay, some of you are like, “Duh, Demeter!!”) But as a bit of a perfectionist, and as someone who is sometimes too empathetic, I was horrified at the idea that my recipe caused someone displeasure.
But, over time, and increased standards for rigorous recipe testing, I came to realize that recipe fails are totally normal! On my part, I tested recipes way more, asked friends and family to try out my recipes in their own kitchen, and got feedback from readers around the world on what worked and what didn’t.
If you’ve done all of that, and the majority of feedback from your readers is positive, and a small amount of recipe fails are still happening, just know that they are normal. Without being in the kitchen with that reader, you can’t know the millions of factors that could have gone into their experience. Ask, takes notes and move on.
Be honest with yourself, improve and have confidence in what you do.
Starting a Food Blog Truth #5
Starting a food blog means doing a lot of things manually. Unless you invest in the right software & services
When I first started my food blog, I didn’t want to spend a cent. My whole thing was, I’ll do everything by myself and by hand until the blog makes enough money to pay for it.
Then, when the blog made some money, I felt bad paying for any services because I already knew how to do everything manually. Oh goodness… the time I spent. For example, for a period, I insisted on being on Pinterest constantly—every 10 minutes, I’d pin a pin onto a new board. Then, I’d browse around Pinterest, because why not? I’d have to be there in another 10 minutes anyway.
Let’s just say, that didn’t work out too well. I signed up for BoardBooster and that changed everything. I could finally plan my life in more than 10 minute increments!! Lol. Then BoardBooster got shut down. And I now use Tailwind to keep my sane.
Trust me, your time and your life is totally worth it. Sign up for the necessary services you need and save yourself a huge headache. You can also try out some during the free trial period and see if you need it, and weed out the ones you don’t.
Here are a few of the online services and tools that I’ve used and recommend:
- Social schedulers: MeetEdgar & Buffer
- Pinterest scheduler: Tailwind
- Dropbox (a MUST for backing up your work)
- Email List Management: AWeber Email Marketing or ConvertKit Email Marketing
- Accounting Software: QuickBooks Online
- Reliable web hosting DreamHost or Bluehost
A Note on Web Hosting and Doing Things Manually: Without question, things are going to go wrong with the web hosting from time to time. And that’s totally okay, as long as you have a reliable host like DreamHost or Bluehost to help you get through it. There will be mysterious outages caused by plugin updates, theme changes that make your recipe card disappear, and pockets of downtime (aka the site is unavailable–nightmare mode!!) that come when you least expect it. That’s why it’s so important to have a hosting provider that you can depend on, such as DreamHost and Bluehost, that will work with you to figure out what’s happening and get a fix in place.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into some kind of problem with hosting, and all I had to do was start a chat with DreamHost support and the issue was resolved pretty quickly. So, don’t try to take on the behemoth that is self hosting all by yourself. Sign up for a host you can trust and it will make your life so much easier.
Starting a Food Blog Truth #6
It takes everything you’ve got and what you didn’t even think you had to start a food blog and make it a SUCCESS
I’ve been putting off writing this post forever. How real would I be when it came to telling the truths about starting a food blog? When it came down to it, I’m glad that I shared my honest experience with you.
To be honest, starting a food blog takes everything you’ve got and what you didn’t even know you had. There are days that seem impossible, days where you wish you had a boss to tell you what to do, a health insurance plan through work, and coworkers to talk to (or a friendly cubicle to walk by).
But there are days when you feel so free. You make your own schedule. You choose your next projects. You pick the days you take off. You’re the BOSS. You don’t need anyone’s approval to work on a new idea. You don’t need to request permission to change your work schedule. You can do anything you want. Because: you’re the boss.
And that makes it all friggin worth it.
You’ll learn that you’re stronger, smarter, and heartier than you thought. You’ve got what it takes. You have a unique voice. Your voice is important and special.
For those of you starting a food blog, good luck! You’ve got this.
Sending you all my love, well wishes and maybe even a dove, xo Demeter ❤️
For my tips for success, details on my food photography equipment and best recommended tools, check out How to Start a Food Blog (UPDATED).
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