The Food Blogger’s Online Toolkit
For people who love to cook and create new recipes, food blogging can sound like an ideal career.
You get to share your culinary ideas with the world.
You can avoid the high-pressure setting and late hours of a restaurant kitchen.
If you’re a great cook and a good marketer, you can make a pretty sweet living. The Huffington Post reports that Pinch of Yum, a popular husband-and-wife-run food blog, netted more than $400,000 in 2016. That’s up from less than $22 per month in 2011, but everyone has to start somewhere.
If you’re hankering to start a food blog of your own – as a hobby or a business – here’s what you need in your online toolkit.
1. You need a goal for your food blog
Before you post that first kitchen tutorial or even pick a name for your food blog, decide if it will be a hobby or a budding business. Why?
Because if you plan to make a business of your blog, you’ll need to work on marketing as well as cooking from the start. You’ll also need to treat your blog like a job from the outset by sticking to a regular posting schedule, networking with other food bloggers and readers, and reaching out to brands you’d like to work with.
2. Decide what makes your food blog unique
It’s hard to find reliable numbers on how many food blogs there are, but “thousands” seems like a conservative estimate.
To stand out, think about why readers should come to your blog. You don’t need a 100% unique niche – you’re unlikely to create a completely new food, after all – but your blog needs a unique voice and personality to get readers reading.
For example, here’s how the humble waffle gets a fresh spin from four different popular food bloggers.
- At A Simple Pantry, whose theme is “easy gourmet,” Karly Gomez offers an edible-flower and berry-bedecked chocolate waffle recipe that looks fussy and complicated but only takes 20 minutes from start to finish.
- Meanwhile, at Kitchen Konfidence, Brandon Matzek combines his constant quest for foodie inspiration with a desire to help readers cook intricate dishes fearlessly. His rhubarb waffles with lemon whipped cream (pictured at right) takes more than an hour to prepare.
- Vegetarian blogger Erin Alderson at Naturally Ella offers a recipe for spelt waffles with cinnamon peaches that’s simple to make and features an unusual grain.
- Nevada Berg at North Wild Kitchen serves waffles with a Nordic flavor in honor of Norway’s annual vaffeldagen. Her rye-flour waffle recipe includes hand-harvested blueberries and plenty of butter.
How do you like to prepare waffles? Even if waffles aren’t your thing, thinking about how you make classic recipes your own is a good way to find your unique blogging voice.
3. You need a good camera, lighting, and a backdrop
Food can be surprisingly hard to photograph well.
Just ask a certain lifestyle maven and friend of Snoop Dogg. Her social media food pics a few years ago led to headlines like “Martha Stewart takes the worst food photos, ever,” thanks to dreadful lighting, a lack of cropping, and strange angles.
Even if you can’t buy a digital SLR camera right now, you can still make the most of your smartphone camera, natural light, and appealing backgrounds to make your food photos appetizing.
4. Your food blog needs a mouthwatering name (and a URL)
Choose a name for your blog that (a) isn’t already someone else’s URL and (b) tells people what’s unique about your approach to food.
For example, North Wild Kitchen immediately evokes Nordic, fresh cooking. Kitchen Konfidence offers what it says on the label.
Once you have a unique name, you’ll need to register it as a domain name. Once that’s done, you have an address for your new food blog. Learn the details of choosing a domain name for your blog here.
5. Your food blog needs a good design
As with kitchen upgrades, there’s no upper limit on the time and money a person could spend designing a site.
For most new food bloggers, and even many well-established ones like Kitchen Konfidence, a WordPress platform and theme are ideal. Use WordPress and a free theme that’s meant for showing off photos to save setup time and ensure that your blog looks good on computers and mobile devices.
Later, when you’re raking in the dough, you can upgrade to a paid theme if you like.
6. Your food blog needs a reliable, fast web host
All those food photos take time to load, and web users are an impatient bunch.
You need a host for your domain that delivers fast load times and plenty of storage space for your image and text backups. For less than $10 a month, a service like HostGator’s WordPress Cloud Hosting can back up your data and serve your delicious posts and photos fast.
7. Your food blog needs email addresses
When your blog is hosted by a professional service, you can create email addresses using your blog’s domain name.
These addresses are more professional-looking than using your personal email, and can help you keep your personal and blog correspondence separate. That’s especially important when you’re building an email list for your food blog.
8. Your food blog needs an email list
Your blog design should include an email signup form so visitors can subscribe to your posts and your email newsletters, which you can send out through a service like Constant Contact. You can tempt visitors to sign up with a treat like a free e-cookbook, as A Simple Pantry does.
“The list” is a must-have if your blog is a business.
Your subscriber count, along with your blog traffic, will matter to prospective affiliates, media outlets, and (ahem!) cookbook publishers. Email marketing can also be an effective way to turn subscribers into customers when you have a cool new offer.
9. Your blog needs at least one social media account
You don’t need every social media account.
If you’re pressed for time and want to choose just one, Instagram is a popular platform for food bloggers and foodie fans alike. Put your best photos forward to drive traffic to your blog (and to your email list).
10. You need a plan
If you’re running your food blog as a business, take stock every few months to see what you can add to your site.
For example, after you’ve earned some media mentions you may want to collect them in a Press section. You’ll definitely want a recipe index and a search box so your readers can find what they’re hungry for quickly. You may eventually open a shop and add an e-commerce page—something your web host should be able to help with. And as your audience and storage needs grow, your host should be able to help you scale up to accommodate more traffic and a bigger backed-up archive of images and recipes.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.