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Happy Birthday to my blog! I can’t believe that it’s been a year since I started my food blogging journey. It has been a crazy, fun, intense, depressing at times, and worthy year of growth and learning. For those who haven’t been with the blog since it’s early days, let me tell you the brief story of how this blog came to be and I will then tell you all of the things I have learned and the skills I have gained over this past year.
I got this crazy idea of starting a food blog when I was about 6-7 months pregnant with our first baby. There had to be a way that I could make a living from home that was still related to the food industry. I felt strongly like food blogging was something I should pursue and with tons of research and much reassurance from my hubby, I bought my domain and started blogging.
Now you all might be thinking man! What an easy way to make money! Hold it! Nope. Not even close. I am going to be super honest with you and at the time that I’m writing this post, I have made a small sum on this blogging gig BUT I have learned so many things and am feeling like this year is the year I start making back on my investment.
When I first started out this blog, I was pumping out content 3-5 days a week, just cooking in the morning and writing up posts and publishing before I waddled myself to my 4 hour shift at my job (I was about 8 months pregnant at the time; to see out how huge I was, check out this post). It was a great strategy (I thought) to build up a good sized library because I knew production would slow down once baby got here. I had my baby in April of last year and tried to so hard to post even 3 times a week. It was exhausting, and honestly, super unrealistic! I was lucky if I even got 2 posts done in a week.
About two months later, we moved closer to my husbands’ medical school and for the next few months, I really struggled with some minor depression (which was odd because I totally thought this blog would help stave off postpartum depression). It was a whole new life that I was learning to adjust to. I was dealing with a new baby, new schedule, not seeing my husband at all, unpacking our whole apartment and just postpartum hormones, which suck so bad.
I was also experiencing absolutely no growth to my blog. On a good day, I was getting maybe 15 pageviews, and I wasn’t succeeding like I thought I was going to. I had researched how to set up a blog but I didn’t research on marketing strategies or the importance of setting my content on a scheduler, so only my inner circle of friends and family were reading the blog. To keep myself from going into utter despair, I decided I needed to take a break and get myself back together and take care of my baby. That break ended up lasting about a month (which absolutely killed my pageviews) and I felt so much better because of it. I started implementing a routine by planning out my day and week so that I could better anticipate what I had going on with my life.
Taking Control of my Business
After that month was over, I felt super pumped up and was ready to tackle my blog and really start making it work for me. In October of 2016, I purchased a bundle course from Allison Lindstrom, of allisonlindstrom.com and Kristen Larsen, from believeinabudget.com. Let me tell you about these courses.
Allison is the creator of the Blogging to Win course. I first came across her as I was looking for how to really make my blog work for me and I signed up for her Blogging to Win 7-day course which was awesome! It’s free and really helped me get my mindset together on how to approach my blog as a business. I later purchased her full Blogging to Win course and, oh my goodness, it was a game changer. This really should have been available when I first started out because it was so full of rich information on how to set up a business plan, find your niche, determine your target audience BEFORE you buy a domain and start writing content.
It was amazing to take a step back and figure out who exactly did I want to write for and how was I going to reach them. She also went over how to design products for your potential customers to buy. I had many, many questions for her and wanted to share with her, also, my successes. We’ve become good friends and I am so thankful that she created this course because it seriously changed my outlook and my strategy on how I approach my blog.
If you have been wanting to start a blog (doesn’t have to be just a food blog), here is the link. Enrollment is closed for now but you can always sign up for alerts for when she starts up again.
The course I bought from Kristin was called Pinterest Presence and I figured her course was the one to go with because she was able to make a full-time income from her blog within 10 months; she quit her job and has been doing this ever since. She is the queen of Pinterest and her course is amazing. She teaches you about the importance of Pinterest for your blog and how you can make it work for yours. Kristin also goes over how to construct the perfect pin, her own personal schedule she uses to get the maximum exposure for her pins and so much more! In the first month after finishing her course, I saw a dramatic increase in traffic. It is such a game changer and I highly recommend it! If you want to take your blogging game to the next level, use this link to sign up for her course.
Upon Kristin’s advice, I signed up with a Pinterest scheduler, Tailwind, and this has been such a huge help! I can basically schedule all of my pins for the week (or month) and never have to step foot on Pinterest. I love it and would highly recommend Tailwind for anyone (food blogger or blogger in general) to use this as it has helped me save so much time and has seriously driven up my blog traffic! If you are interested in using Tailwind as your scheduler for Pinterest or Instagram, use this link to try their 100 pin free trial!
The Importance of Great Food Pictures
One thing that I wish I had researched more on was how to take good food pictures. A lot, if not all, food bloggers use a DSLR camera to take their pictures and after this year of blogging, I can see why. Because of the financial situation I was, and still am, in when I started with my blog, I have only been taking pictures with the camera on my iPhone 6. It has been a great camera for what I’ve been able to capture with it and I am hoping to get a DSLR camera one day in order to take my pictures up to the next level. I want to show you all how far I’ve come since starting this journey.
When I first started out, I was just using filters to edit my pictures, which was an awful idea. It was so bad, as you can see.
I started to read here and there and found some apps that I could download on my phone and use for editing. Once I began to ditch the filters, the game changed!
Every time I took pictures, I applied something new that I had learned. And my pictures got better.
I’m now reading a fantastic food photography book from Nagi Maehashi, The Food Photography Book, and it has seriously changed the way I stage my photos and everything related to food photography! I’m blown away by all of the things I’m learning from this book and love implementing all of her tips. Find out more about the book that changed my food photography!
As I first started out, I thought all of these food bloggers had amazing kitchens with windows in them that made it perfect for food photography and I was so jealous. I began to talk to a fellow blogger and she said that she actually used artificial lighting for some of her pictures. This was great! I live in an apartment with no windows AND I have a baby that needs my attention. It was so stressful to have everything cooked before 3pm so that I could have the best lighting possible for my pictures.
I looked into the artificial lights this blogger suggested and they were out of my price range (even though they’re on the lower end of the lighting spectrum). Then, I had the genius idea of looking for tutorials to build my own; I found a fantastic tutorial here. I now have two light boxes for less than $40.
With these artificial lights and with the help of this photography book, my photos are getting better and better. No more filters for me again, ew.
Making Myself Known
When I was about to get this blogging gig started, I asked my husband if he thought I was interesting enough for people to read my blog. He has been so sweet and supportive and said yes. I took the plunge but being an interesting read only gets you so far. What I failed to realize was that I had to flood the internet with my blog. I had to join as many Facebook blogging groups as possible, get on a good posting schedule with all of my social media and start sharing my pictures with recipe sharing sites. I can make amazing food all I want, but if very few people know that this blog is out there, I’m always going to have little traffic coming my way.
One of the tips I read when initially researching starting a blog was to join blogging groups on Facebook and to develop a tribe. THIS IS SO CRUCIAL! When first starting out, you need to join blogging groups, if, for nothing more than mentorship and learning the ropes. Here is a list of all of the Blogging Facebook Groups I’m a part of. I found that even though I’m a food blogger, it’s still super beneficial to belong to general blog groups as part of networking and also just getting support in general from other bloggers!
As far as scheduling goes for social media, everyone has their opinions about how many times a day to post to each social media outlet. I’m still fine tuning mine but consistently posting is key to driving traffic to your blog!
Getting Rid of Fear
The last thing I’ll mention that I had to learn and it took a process for me to get over, is that I can’t let fear dictate what I do. For a long time, and this will sound so silly, but I was afraid of succeeding. Why would you start a blog and not want to succeed?! Well, maintaining a blog can be super stressful. Not only am I creating new recipes, I’m writing blog posts, researching good keywords, designing pins for Pinterest (honestly, let’s reflect on how far I’ve come just in that area):
This is awful… I just… why… let’s move on.
I started styling my pins to look like this after a while; not too bad but not great either.
This is what my pins look like now (this is my best performing pin on Pinterest, pinned 720+ times).
I’m taking pictures and editing them, scheduling my social media posts to gain more traffic to my blog, networking with other bloggers and reading their posts, researching more about photography and how to do cooking videos. The list goes on and on and is exhausting. That’s what I do in my week. Every single week. I’m constantly looking forward, trying to stay ahead and now am starting to think of upcoming products that I can develop to help you all in your kitchens.
So when I began to delve into blogging hardcore and treat it like a business, I suddenly became overwhelmed and scared that if I did make it big, it would be too much for me to keep up with. The thing that I’ve learned about this, though, is that I can outsource the jobs that I’m not particularly good at, or don’t have time to do, to other people who are fantastic at it. Bye-bye social media scheduling. It will be so nice to be able to outsource tasks so that I can focus on making the food and helping build your cooking skills. Once I had this realization, I began to shed my fear and really unleash this blogs’ potential. And it has been amazing to see the progress in just a few short months.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for joining me on this journey and for the support that I’ve needed with not only starting this crazy idea but for helping me transition into my new role in the next chapter of my life.
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As always, happy eating!