Food blogging is an immensely pleasurable, inspiring and rewarding hobby or career. Being able to express your creativity through cooking and writing, and explore new and exciting food combinations all day, it’s no wonder that thousands of people are driven to start their own food blogs each year.
But it can be very hard work to get a foothold in the field, to find your loyal following and to keep up with recipe development, publicity and the regular blog maintenance required. Let alone make any money.
In this exclusive roundup, food bloggers from around the world share with Food Blogging Collective what they wish they’d known about food blogging from the start. Their honest responses are great advice for any new or growing food blogger today. Have a read; it really is quite eye-opening.
Pin me for later!
I wish I had known to not waste time in the beginning on fancy themes, logos and other branding stuff. Just focus on defining and reaching your tribe, making great recipes, taking decent photos, telling a good story, meditating when Pinterest wonks out and grasping as much SEO as possible. And have patience, lots of it.
I spent so much time in the early days of my blog trying to optimize my social media strategies, advert locations, newsletter style, etc. I wish I had ignored those things and focused on quality content – with a smaller following there’s just not enough data to draw meaningful conclusions; and at the end of the day, quality content is what keeps readers coming back. Now that my following is larger it feels like a much better use of time to nit-pick my Pinterest schedule and affiliate link placement.
#1-Just start! You can drive yourself crazy trying to get it all right at first, but you don’t need to #2-Be consistent! You don’t have to post super often, just pick a schedule that works for your life and stick with it so your readers know when to expect your posts.
I wish I understood from the beginning how important it is to focus on the basics- SEO, nailing your photography, not trying to be on 50 different social media platforms at once, site design, site speed. I fell prey (and still battle!) Shiny Object Syndrome, but a good blog grows slowly, and with a foundation in place. Otherwise, you’re spinning your wheels for so long. I have a long way to go til ‘success’, but whenever I concentrate on the basics of my blog, I find it pays off so much more!
Finding your Niche
I wish I would have found my niche sooner rather than later! I’m still working on the marathon not sprint advice 😉
I wish I had focused more on my niche – six-ingredient meals – from the get-go and not been distracted by yummy desserts and other dishes. People want easy meals: so give it to them!
I wish I had known to set goals (short and long-term), write them down and review them regularly. And don’t compare yourself to others- it’s the worst thing you can do! The 1st year is the hardest, for sure!
I wish I knew that less is more. I didn’t want to go live with my website until I had many articles covering most of my area of expertise. I write about tea of all kinds. Now, I realize that having good and extensive content is not enough. SEO and social media promotions are a big part of it. I feel that starting with a smaller website, optimizing one article at a time, would have been easier and more effective.
I wish I had known that some dishes are better known under more popular names then what I call them (European mindset is a thick soapy bubble). Nobody knows “Kaiserschmarren” outside the German-speaking world (and we are taught the opposite in these regions!). But “scratch pancakes” might be a better title to reach English speaking folks for the time being until the dish is featured in Masterchef with its proper name!
I wish I had known that you don’t have to make every recipe that pops into your head. Just the best ones.
I wish I had started studying food photography (and SEO) earlier. Once I did, it changed my blog and my blogging income.
I’m still at the beginning stage but I wish someone had told me how to properly add images to a post: the proper file size, picture size, naming it, alt text etc. I was just uploading GIANT photos with no information and it slowed my site horribly.
Don’t zoom in too close – step away from the food, people!!
Related: Food Photography 101
I wish someone told me I should buy my own domain name. I didn’t do it until around four years into blogging and I’ve been blogging for almost eight years now, so imagine how much better my ranking would be if I had done it from the start. It was surprisingly cheap and easy to set up and as well as helping me to secure more sponsored posts, it also gives my blog a more professional image.
I wish I had known about SEO and recipe cards from the get-go so I wouldn’t have to go back and fix all my old posts.
I wish I had known more about SEO – reading online articles about it has helped me learn SO MUCH! I also spent a lot of time thinking my recipes and photos weren’t good enough or that my website didn’t look good enough so it took me a few months to actually START and make my blog live! I wish I had just started – you will not be perfect when you start but once you start you will grow and learn and improve!
SEO! SEO! SEO! I was so clueless about SEO in the beginning. Getting educated in this has been a game changer. Also, if you really want to do this as your job, you have to think of it as a business, not a hobby. That change in thinking helped me hugely (pssst…that probably means you’ll need to spend money before you can make money).
Related: How to Use Yoast (for Recipes)
I think it’s important to have a Pinterest pin style. It took me almost two years to really learn what kinds of photos and graphics do well on Pinterest.
Blogging is social! Facebook makes it easy to find your tribe and your tribe is invaluable in providing support and answering questions.
I wish I had known that there are loads of great podcasts you can listen to about food blogging and online business in general.
Related: Knowing Your Niche: the Podcast
I wish I had known that it’s NOT just Food that you ought to know for Food Blogging. I mean, I wish I had known that I would be spending more time on everything apart from cooking and shooting [the pictures] for my blog. Say, social-media engagement over so many platforms, emails, SEO, website management, research on what’s new, etc. It’s like I spend maybe an hour or two on cooking and the photo shoot – but rest of the entire day on sharing it.
Related: Should I be on Social Media?
I wish I would have connected with other food bloggers sooner. The community, connection, and resource of other food bloggers has had such an impact on my own growth as a food blogger. If I would have sought them out sooner, I would have learned much more, much earlier.
I wish I had known what a supportive community is out there and how important it is to get started networking with a mindset of collaboration and mutual support. When I first started I felt like I had to figure it all out for myself, and everything got a lot easier when I began to realize how many resources are out there – FB groups, podcasts etc.! With a little humility, willingness to help others out along the way, and willingness to read and learn, you can go far!
Just do it!
Nothing has to be perfect. 1. Post something. 2. Improve a bit. 3. Repeat.
I wish I had known that while there really is SO much to learn – all I needed to do was just get started. Done is better than perfect. I needed to create the content, put it out there consistently, get the feedback, learn as I go along and continuously improve. Focus on ONE thing at a time and getting it done vs. trying to do everything at once.
Don’t give up
I would say consistency and patience are two very important factors. Not being overwhelmed by seeing all the popular blogs and wondering why I don’t get any traffic or I don’t earn anything yet is normal. It takes time, but focusing on a niche and working with other bloggers is what will help you get there. Target the right audiences and platforms (Pinterest, Yummly, etc) and keep your blog optimized for the search engines, and you will eventually get there.
Something that I still have to remind myself constantly is that you simply can’t do it all. Define your priorities, and then define the tasks, social media platforms, etc. that will help you achieve your most important goals. If the task, social media platform, new skill, etc. isn’t directly tied to your goals, then don’t pressure yourself into making it a top priority – not everything can be a top priority! It’s very easy to look around at other bloggers, especially seasoned veterans, and feel like you should be doing every single thing that every other blogger is doing, but that’s a sure recipe for burnout. Prioritize, learn, and leave behind things that don’t help you meet your goals. Trust me – not every blogger is killing it on every platform, or with every skill set!
There are 58,906,782,278 blogs out there that are more popular than mine, that get more traffic than mine, that post more regularly than me….if I compared myself to everyone I would be a gibbering wreck in the corner. I am not the best but I work hard to grow, I make a living and I am loving what I do and that is priceless.
Damn hard work!
I wish someone had told me that it really is a long-game. There is so much chatter out there in the blog world about getting views fast and making tons of money up front. While logically, I knew this wasn’t realistic, it did lead to feelings of failure and discouragement early on when I wasn’t getting the response and views I wanted. It could, in my opinion, lead very talented food bloggers out there to quit or take breaks before they really get going. It definitely is a process of building and growing and, like Field of Dreams, you have to do more than just build it before they will come. Happily past that discouragement, but those first few months were hard on the soul!
I wish someone had told me just how much work it would be. I started it for fun, but it’s easy to get swept up into the “this could be my day job!” excitement, and really want to pursue that. When you already have a day job, though, serious food blogging can literally become your second job. For me, for all of last year, it really was like a second job to me. I tried to be as efficient as possible – making dishes that we would also eat, or use as meal preps throughout the week, or having parties to feed all the people all the food I just made – so that I was getting more ‘time bang’ for my buck. But it didn’t always work out that way, no matter how creative I tried to be with it. Being a serious food blogger is hard work on many fronts – it is hard on your free time, it is hard on your wallet, and it is even hard on your waistline. To combat these things you have to sacrifice time with your family or other things, work more to have more money in the bank, and go to the gym more! And these are just the things that are in the forefront of my mind right now. ALL of these leave you with more or less time or resources to be a food blogger. Ideally, if we could all just hop into it and let it be our day jobs from the start, it could work out differently. But having a day job (even if that day job is already at home, like working from home or stay at home mom) plus a serious food blog is A LOT of work. (Said from the perspective of someone currently on hiatus due to blogger burnout.)
I wish I had known that it was a marathon , not a sprint! It takes more time and investment than I realized. But to never give up – especially when doubt comes. Because in DUE time that seed that was planted at the very beginning will grow.
Blogging is hard work and people (without a blog) really don’t understand how much work it takes. And you have to be okay with that. You have to accept that people think it is easy, that it’s a hobby and that it isn’t ‘a real job’.
Over to you
Thanks to all the food bloggers who took part in this roundup. Now it’s your turn:
What do you wish you had known about food blogging?