Happy Birthday to Make It With Missy! I posted a few things in April 2016 to test my site and its layout, but my official launch was May 1, 2016. Hard to believe it’s already been one year!
I love reading about the journeys of other bloggers, but I’ve noticed many posts share a common theme. They all start out with an intro that says something like, “I had no clue what I was doing. I’ve never blogged before, and I didn’t realize you could really make money from blogging.”
Well, I can’t relate to statements like that. I’ve been a writer for more than 10 years, and during that time, I’ve helped numerous clients launch successful websites. I’ve also had a few websites of my own. I understand the importance of SEO, and I know how to monetize a website.
But I don’t know everything there is to know about blogging for a living, and I quickly realized that after I launched Make It With Missy.
I made so many mistakes at first, and that’s okay. I’m still not perfect, and that’s also okay.
Each day, I wake up and do the best I can. Some days, I have around 1000 visits to my blog. Other days, I struggle to reach 100. Sometimes I schedule posts weeks in advance, and sometimes I struggle to balance my full-time writing career (the one that doesn’t include this blog) with raising my kids and managing Make It With Missy.
Do I have days where I’m too exhausted to even look at my laptop, let alone turn it on?
Do I ever regret creating this blog?
I’m here to stay, folks. I’m slowly revamping my blog to include other categories, but I’ll still mainly focus on cooking, baking, and food in general.
Many of you have questions about running a food blog. I’m going to answer a lot of your blogging-related questions in a separate post, but I’ll address some of them below. I’ll also share some things that surprised me as I found my place in the food blogging world.
Grab some tea and get comfy, because it’s time to discuss the 7 things I’ve learned during my first year as a food blogger.
Here we go…
1) Photography is Important
Some of you are reading this and going, “Duh. You have a food blog. Of course photography is important.” Yeah, I knew it was important from day one, but I didn’t realize how much it mattered until I’d been blogging for a few months.
If you’re feeling brave, check out the photos from one of my very first posts. It’s a recipe for chicken tacos with fajita veggies, and it’s delicious. Unfortunately, not that many people are aware of how tasty this recipe is since its photos are awful. Photos matter if you want people to save your recipes on Pinterest or click on them during a Google search. Photos also matter to advertisers if you’re trying to join an affiliate program or score sponsors for your blog.
In my opinion, food looks best when it’s photographed in natural light. Apparently numerous food bloggers share this belief, and that’s why it seems like people on Instagram eat 99% of their meals outside. It’s not just because we love fresh air and sunshine (but just for the record, I totally love both of those things).
Seriously, take a look at most of the stuff on Pinterest and Instagram. You’ll notice many food bloggers photograph their meals on a porch, deck, or lawn. They try to distract you with cute tablecloths and patterned plates, but they’re outside photographing food on a slab of marble or a wooden plank. Hey, no judgment here – you can often find me doing the same thing.
2) Props Matter
You can’t just slop some food on a paper plate or neatly arrange it on that scratched-up dinnerware you’ve had for years. You need cute dishes, preferably in a variety of patterns and styles. For example, you can’t photograph spaghetti on red plates or put salad on green plates. You need cute stuff that complements your food without overpowering it.
You also need tablecloths, towels, serving trays, and anything else that makes your recipes look tasty. You want your photos to stand out in a sea of millions of Pinterest Pins and Instagram pics, and using food-related props helps.
3) You Won’t Get Rich From AdSense
I’ve been an AdSense affiliate for 5 or 10 years, so I monetized my blog right away. I’m 99% sure that I already had a few ads on my site as soon as I put up my first few posts.
There was really no need for me to rush, though. The page RPM and CPC for recipes and most other food-related topics are generally low. (I apologize for using blogging jargon in this article, but I’ve linked the terms so you can learn what they mean.)
When I say “generally low”, I mean almost always. I blog about financial topics and legal stuff regularly, and those often have rates that are much, much higher than food-related keywords – like seriously 10 or 20 times higher. I wish I had done more research and realized this sooner.
It’s all good, though. I earn most of my money from promoting the Ibotta rebate app and rebate apps like Ibotta. I also bring in some money from other affiliate programs. Currently, I’m an affiliate for the following brands/companies:
- Ibotta (as you already know)
- Checkout 51
- Mobi Save
- Berry Cart
- Paleo Meals to Go
- Food Blogger Pro
- Katz Gluten Free
I may have forgotten a few affiliates, but this should give you a good idea of potential revenue sources for a food blogger. Jane doesn’t sell a lot of food-related stuff, but I still post their ads regularly because most of my blog’s audience likes the stuff Jane offers.
I’m going to place some actual affiliate banners below so you understand how I make money with a food blog. If you buy anything from them, it doesn’t cost you an extra money, but I earn a small commission. I’m legally required to tell you that. Seriously.
Here we go:
I earn money if you apply for a debit card or a credit card from Target. I also get paid a percentage of your purchase if you buy anything through my affiliate link. If I share a link for sugar but you click on my link and buy cereal, I still get paid.
Need some new clothes? I’m an affiliate for Jane, and I actually wear their stuff. It’s cute and budget friendly, so I was super excited when they approved my affiliate application.
Katz products rock. My family buys their gluten-free donuts regularly, so that’s why I chose to promote this company on my blog.
Making paleo meals can be a pain if you’re busy or tired. This company makes it easy for you to enjoy delicious paleo meals on the go.
I could share a bunch of other banners, but hopefully you get the idea. I wish I could become an Amazon affiliate, but they banned that program in my state. Argh.
4) Link Share Parties Are a Thing
I was shocked when I learned that many of my favorite bloggers aren’t as popular as I thought. Sure, there are tons of food bloggers who get organic traffic from Pinterest and Google, but there are also many who ramp up their numbers with link share parties and groups. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these groups; in fact, I belong to a few of them myself. They’ve helped me connect with a few other bloggers in the same niche, and it’s been awesome to have that support.
If you’re not familiar with link sharing, you might not know what I’m talking about. Basically, bloggers are like, “Okay, I’ll comment on your post if you comment on mine.” There are also social media groups with bloggers who trade follows for follows or likes for likes. I don’t personally object to this, because I get that they’re just doing what they need to do to boost their traffic.
Some of you are probably wondering if that means all their traffic is fake. Nope, not at all. Let’s say that I have a recipe that isn’t getting much traffic. If I share the Pinterest link to that recipe in a social media group, 10 or 20 (or heck, maybe even 100 depending on which group you join) people might Pin it to their boards. This helps other Pinterest finders see the recipe, and then people who actually want to make the meal end up finding the post.
5) People Are Nosy
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a writer for more than 10 years. Many people don’t hesitate to make assumptions about what writers do all day or ask them how much they earn. I detailed my experiences with these issues in a post called “The Same 10 Things People Always Say When They Find Out I’m a Writer.”
I quickly discovered that food bloggers deal with the same personal questions and rude statements that regular writers experience. I’ve had numerous people ask me how much I make from my food blog. I’ve also had to deal with the whole “Your job is so easy” and “You’re so lucky. Must be nice to sit at home all day” comments that I’ve heard as a regular writer. I’ve also had people make comments about how freebies don’t pay the rent after finding out that a company hooked me up with some food or cookware.
I try to ignore those comments, but it irks the heck out of me that some people think running a blog is easy. It’s not. I invest a lot of time and effort into this blog, and it still has a long way to go.
6) There’s a Reason Some Bloggers Have Flawless Food Pics
Ever make a recipe and wonder why it looks nothing like the one you saw online? It’s because some food bloggers transform ordinary dishes into Pinterest-worthy masterpieces with a few hacks.
Here are a few hacks I’ve learned from other bloggers (and no, I’ll never reveal their identities, so don’t ask):
- Use raw chicken or ham for photos and spray paint it brown
- Photograph cold or frozen meals because they look better, but pretend they’re straight from the oven
- Add food coloring to enhance the colors of yogurt, ice cream, or other foods made with “natural” ingredients
- Glue makes a wonderful glaze for cinnamon rolls and donuts
In case you’re wondering, I don’t personally do any of these things. I’m a single mom and can’t afford to waste food – and even if I could, I wouldn’t.
7) Creating Your Own Blog Helps You Land New Clients
I didn’t create this food blog to find new clients. I have a digital portfolio and a LinkedIn profile for that.
However, it happened anyway. Clients find me through this blog and then hire me to do articles about nutrition, fitness, and health. Some of them even hire me for completely unrelated topics (which I’m okay with!).
I’ve also landed 10 or so sponsored posts (you guys haven’t seen all of them yet because I’ve scheduled some of them for May and June). When I write a sponsored post, a company sends me merchandise in exchange for my honest opinion. Some companies also pay me a placement fee or a social media fee for my efforts. I only promote products I actually like because nobody can pay me enough to fake enthusiasm about something that doesn’t interest me.
I’ve learned lots of other things over the last 12 months, but I’ve already taken up enough of your time. Thank you so much for supporting me during my first year as a food blogger! It means a lot to me, and I’m grateful you’ve all been along for the ride.
Got questions about life as a food blogger? Post them below!
Want to Pin this article and read it later? Here’s a pic with a giant pic of my face (kind of weird, I know) you can save:
Disclaimer: I’m an Ibotta affiliate. That’s a fancy way of saying I earn money to support my blog’s hosting fees if you join Ibotta (which is totally free, just so you know). I’m also an affiliate for some of the other companies listed throughout my blog, including, but not limited to, Target and Checkout 51. All opinions are my own – I never trade my integrity for cash.