Tag Archives: food

8 Things They Don’t Tell You When You Start a Food Blog

Apologies to those who came in search of recipes today.  I promise new calorie-laden foods will be available next week!

8 Things They Don't Tell You When You Start a Food Blog | JensFavoriteCookies.com

I’m not really sure who the “they” is.  After all, there’s no international board of blogging experts that you consult when you start blogging.


After a few years of blogging, and nearly two years of blogging seriously, I thought it was time I cleared the air about a few things.  Set the record straight.  Pull back the curtains of the glamorous world of food blogging.

{Sidebar: Is it glamorous?  I doubt anyone thinks it is.  I just like to pretend it is to build my fragile ego.  It’s probably why I started the blog in the first place… all the glamour.}

“Talent is cheaper than table salt.  What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” -Stephen King

Drumroll please…

1. You can’t do it for free. Yes, I realize they said you could blog for free, and you can. But what they did not say is that you cannot blog seriously for free. You just can’t. Sorry, friends.

See, you can start yourself a free Blogger or WordPress blog (I have a free one. A few free ones. Okay, I’m an addict.) but if you want to be serious, to have a business, to make money… you can’t do it with a free blog. You need hosting. You need your own domain name. You need to look and act like a professional.  Now there are lots of options when it comes to hosting. You might even be able to score some cheap hosting for $20/year, but if you’re expecting traffic, please don’t buy the cheap hosting. You’ll regret it. {Ask me how I know that.} I’m currently paying $20/month with Media Temple. They’re not the cheapest guy on the block, but you won’t regret using them. Click here to check them out for yourself.

You’ll also need a camera, with a lens, and a tripod. Maybe some lighting. Props. Backdrops. I use an old Canon Rebel that I bought used from a friend who gave me a screaming deal at $140. I use the kit lens. Lenses are crazy expensive, and I’m going to have to save up for a lens that will make me happier. My parents gave me a tripod as a gift, and it was super lucky they did, because decent tripods ain’t cheap either. This is the tripod I use. I developed an addiction to buying food photo props. Everything in the entire world looks like a food photo to me. It’s a blessing and a curse. Not to mention, you may find that photography is harder than you thought (I did) and you may want to take some classes.

Also, ingredients are rarely, if ever, free. If you’re blogging for real, you’re going to need a budget.

2. You’re going to spend half your life on social media. Y’all, I literally have accounts at all of the following: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, StumbleUpon, Google+, Tumblr, Foursquare, Vine, and probably a couple others that I have quite literally forgotten about. On Facebook, besides my page that I run, I’m also a member of dozens of blogging groups, some of which I moderate. You can’t build a following without social media, and you can’t have effective social media without spending TIME.

It’s addictive. You can lose hours doing this. You have to show up, say something, engage. Join groups, make friends, make enemies, pin stuff, tag people, ask questions, disagree, share, and most of all, know how each social media platform works. Get good at it. Be an expert. There’s no short path, you gotta do the work.

And, P.S., that also goes for SEO.  {Search Engine Optimization}  SEO is hard to understand, a lot of work to get right, and ever changing.  I’ve been using this 21 Day SEO Challenge to learn what I’m doing, and it’s been hugely helpful.  Of course, I’ll probably never be an expert.

3. You need to become an excellent photographer. This is not optional. You don’t have to be great at all photography, just your particular style of food photography. Photographs spark the imagination. They are the hook that brings people to your food blog. They get you attention on Pinterest and other social media. They can bring you traffic courtesy of food photo submission sites. Basically nothing will kill a blog faster than really bad photography.

Disclaimer: I’m not an amazing photographer, but I have worked hard to acquire the skills I have. I literally have dozens and dozens of blog posts about food photography pinned and bookmarked. {Check out my food photography Pinterest board, if you want.} I bought e-books. (Click here to see my favorite food photography ebook.) I copied other photographers. I’ve shot the food, looked through the pics, and then screamed and yelled and started all over with a new photo shoot. I’ve remade old recipes, just so I could take new pictures and re-write old posts.

P.S., You have to get good at editing pics, too. This is it’s own kind of skill, completely separate from the photographing, and every bit as important.

4. You cannot ignore the technical stuff. When I first started blogging, I figured that if I ran into technical problems I didn’t understand, my husband, the IT administrator, would take care of that for me. The real problem was that when I needed him, his reply was, “I’m not a web guy.” You don’t have to know everything about the technical side of your blog, but problems will crop up, and if you don’t want to spend your life savings paying web guys to handle it for you, you’ll need to learn a few basics yourself.

Some basics that helped me: html: For reals. I hate html, I can’t write code to save my soul, but I can figure out enough to put my most pinned posts in my sidebar, install ads, and fix some weirdo glitches that periodically happen in my posts. Plugins: You basically can’t run a blog without them. You need at least a general idea of how they work, and know how to turn them off if they start to not play nice with one another. Settings: Understanding what my blog can do and how to do it gave me a ton more freedom.

Of course, knowing what you can’t do is valuable information as well. There are some really reputable tech guys out there who specialize in wordpress blogs. You might need the number or email address of one or two on file, just in case.
8 Things They Don't Tell You When You Start a Food Blog | JensFavoriteCookies.com

5. Food Blogging is competitive.  Estimates range all over the place, but sufficeth to say, most days it feels like a good 40% of the world’s population run food blogs.  Everyone does it.  The market is completely saturated.  If you’re going to stand out, you need to be unique, you need to WORK.  Some days it will feel like every food blog out there is better than yours, and that there is no place in the internet-world for you, but trust me.  You have a voice, and someone will like you.

And persistence beats talent every time.

6. If you build it, they may not come.  If your stuff is outrageously useful, super high quality, and downright amazing, the people will come.  They will come in droves.  But just because you wrote down some witty thoughts about your last family vacation or you found a new way to customize a cake mix, it doesn’t mean people will flock to your amazing new blog.  Just because you know that you spent 25 hours designing your new theme, and that it’s way better than your old theme, it doesn’t mean anyone else knows it.  Or cares.

Even if your stuff is of life-changing quality, you will probably still go have to find the people and tell them to come.  You will need to self-promote.  Self-promoting is uncomfortable, especially at first.  It’s hard to get a Facebook page started.  You have to ask people you know to like your page.  You have to put yourself out there and risk rejection.  You have to pin your own stuff a dozen times, hoping someone with a million followers will see it and be impressed.

Yes, build it.  Build it like your life depended on it.  Be a perfectionist and make it something you will be proud of.  And then?  GO find the the people and ask them to come.  Some of them will.

7. Food blogs are not gold mines.  I’ve spent too much of my life chasing gold mines.  Blogs are not get-rich-quick-schemes.  Building a good, reliable following takes time.  Finding advertisers that are decent and pay a fair amount takes persistence.  Growing an e-mail list, and learning to sell as an affiliate, and working with brands, these things all take practice, work, and time.  Neglect them, and they will whither like an unwatered garden.

My first experience with Google AdSense was a disaster.  My first ad network paid me far less than average.  My first private advertiser stopped talking to me after one month.  My first sponsored post was offered by a third party media group.  You can make money blogging, and there is nothing wrong with it.  I will never tell you that you shouldn’t blog for money.  I believe money is a good thing which encourages people do become something better, serve other people, and work hard.  I am saying that you won’t make a liveable wage, especially not in the beginning.  You’ll need another reason or two to keep you going.

8. Your blog friends might replace your real friends.  I feel like I have this big group of close friends who understand me… and who live all over the world and whom I’ve never met.  I am in several food blogging groups on Facebook, and one in particular has been perhaps the most valuable thing to my blog ever.  There are over 100 people in this group who freely share, give opinions, offer help and encourage.  Some of them even offered to mentor me, which is a priceless gift, in my opinion.  I could not have done it without them.

I have other blog friends I talk to very frequently, sometimes about blogging, sometimes about other things.  Sometimes we even talk about renting a house in some central location for a week, so we can all get together and have a big party.

Making blog friends I care about this much was not something I was expecting.  It might be my favorite thing about blogging.  Blogging is a very creative process.  It requires parts of you that you don’t show the whole world.  Your food blog friends will get that.  Your non-food-blog friends MAY just think you are really nerdy.


I should sum this up by telling you that I mostly wrote this post for myself, to remind myself where I have been and where I am going.  To tell myself what I wish I had known in the beginning.  To prepare you in some small way for the amazing journey you might go through.

You can do it, food blogging friends.  I’m in your corner.  And if you need a pep talk, e-mail me!

BlogHer Food Conference ’12

I have officially attended my first food blogging conference, or as my brother calls it, “nerd fest.”  Apparently my son feels the same way, because he once referred to blogging as a “nerdy woman thing to do.”  I have this fantasy where my family doesn’t realize how amazingly successful I’ve become, and they say, “How long are you going to keep spending all your time on this nerdy little hobby of yours?”  and I reply, “My blog makes a gazillion dollars every year, so there!” and they all sit in stunned silence with their mouths open, only I wouldn’t actually use the word “gazillion” because I have a pet peeve about using words that don’t really exist, and I probably wouldn’t say “so there!” because it’s a little juvenile.  But I would want to.

Continue reading “BlogHer Food Conference ’12” »