7 Things I Learned During My First Year as a Food Blogger

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?

Absolutely.

Do I ever regret creating this blog?

Never.

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
  • Target
  • Jane
  • 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.

Daily Boutique Deals

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.

Reel in Savings! Buy 3 and Save

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. 

26 thoughts on “7 Things I Learned During My First Year as a Food Blogger

  • May 11, 2017 at 3:28 pm
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    I love food blogging and over the years my photos are getting better. Thanks for these tips.

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    • May 11, 2017 at 4:01 pm
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      You’re welcome. 🙂

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  • May 11, 2017 at 7:29 pm
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    Congratulations of your 1 year blogiversary! I love food blogs, but I do better just reading them. The cooking pics I’ve posted on Facebook are horrendous lol. Good food, just not good photography. Thanks for sharing your journey and milestone with us.

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  • May 12, 2017 at 1:51 am
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    I definitely agree that presentation matters especially if you’re a food blogger. People want to see colorful, vibrant dishes that just make them want to click the recipe/post.

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  • May 12, 2017 at 2:38 am
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    Happy 1 year! I don’t really look at a ton of food blogs. I haven’t really liked cooking in awhile. I really need to read your blog more and other ones too and relearn loving cooking!

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  • May 12, 2017 at 4:25 am
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    Happy blogaversary Missy and I really enjoyed reading this post. I have quite a few foodie blogger friends that have just started out and they are going to love the reality of what you wrote. I’ll be sharing 😉

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  • May 12, 2017 at 4:55 am
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    This is a very informative post about your first year in blogging Missy. I’m still in my first year and it’s interesting to read how things work for you in the Food Blogging world. I agree photography is super important!

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  • May 12, 2017 at 7:42 am
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    Congrats on your blogiversary. Food blogs always make really hungry. xx

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  • May 12, 2017 at 9:28 am
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    Wow, Happy anniversary Make it with MIssy! I love reading food blogs as well. Cheers to more blogging years to us!

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  • May 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm
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    Love the honesty in this post. I think a lot of people believe bloggers make millions in one day and just sit home. It takes a lot of work. You don’t just snap a photo and call it a day.

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  • May 12, 2017 at 4:31 pm
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    As a new blogger, I learned so much from this post. I didn’t know that there are different rates for adsense. Perhaps we should write about legal issues more often. 😉

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  • May 12, 2017 at 4:58 pm
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    This is excellent! I actually saved it. To be honest, I don’t understand how AdSense works, and how to even install it. I get emails from a 3rd party affiliate marketing but since I don’t understand it. I ignore them.

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  • May 12, 2017 at 5:34 pm
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    Looks like you have learned a lot during your first year! I have been blogging for years and learned some new information from your post! Photography is really important and I like to go back to my old photos once in a while and see how much I have evolved!

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  • May 12, 2017 at 6:01 pm
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    I love the tips you shared! I recently took a few months off from blogging because I had two deaths in my family and I was feeling burnt out. The break was a really good thing for me because when I returned to blogging in April, I felt more energized and creative. Since then I have been receiving more requests for blog posts and sponsored posts. Now I would like to start getting into affiliate marketing. I am still trying to learn how to do it. Also, I agree with you that having good photographs is very important for bloggers. Since this is more of a written platform, you need the visual presentation to attract potential clients and viewers. Happy blog birthday! I wish you much success in your journey!

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  • May 12, 2017 at 7:50 pm
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    Happy one year birthday to your blog! Here’s to many many more to come! That’s so weird you said that about food bloggers, I have never heard of any doing that (I know I sure don’t!). I’ve definitely heard of professional food photographers doing it for magazines, but I can’t see doing it just for a pinterest image. Yikes! Scary stuff!

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  • May 12, 2017 at 8:48 pm
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    Happy Blogiversary! Thanks for all the great tips. I still suck at accepting 3rd party affiliate marketing though. Need to get my act together.

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  • May 12, 2017 at 11:12 pm
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    Happy anniversary! I laughed at your list because I can totally relate!! I run a travel blog and some days I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m also tired of hearing the snarky comments LOL people don’t realize how hard blogging can be! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  • May 13, 2017 at 2:14 am
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    Congrats on your first year!! Keep up the good work!

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  • May 13, 2017 at 8:20 am
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    Happy one year anniversary to you. Love this post from beginning to end. The sincerity is so much. You’ve experienced so much. I’m relatively new to blogging myself and I can’t to see what one year brings. I have definitely experienced the part where some days I have nothing to post and then sometimes scheduling one week ahead of time.

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  • May 13, 2017 at 8:24 am
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    Happy blog anniversary! I still have a lot to learn about photography. I am now taking online courses to improve my skill. Thanks for these tips. Wishing you more years of blogging success!

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  • May 13, 2017 at 11:28 am
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    Photography and props are important no matter what type of blogger you are. That’s something I’ve learned and have been trying to work on over the last few months. You can definitely tell a big difference between when I started over a year ago and today, but there’s still room for improvement. And I even find myself swaying towards better looking photography when looking for something, especially on Pinterest.

    Reply
  • May 13, 2017 at 10:22 pm
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    I have been blogging part time for a few years and I have also gone through some ups and downs. When I look back at my first year, I am saddened by what I see but I also happy that i have grown alot in that time.

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  • May 14, 2017 at 5:06 pm
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    Congratulations! I definitely agree that if your photos are on point, most people will bypass you…even if you have great content!

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  • May 15, 2017 at 9:13 am
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    Great tips for those starting out. I have to agree, photos, especially for food, are extremely important. I have learned that over the 6 years I have been blogging too. Another thing I learned is having great pinable images, I do mine nice and long with text in the middle going side to side. Currently working on updating all my images to great pinable images, and sprucing up old recipe photos too. Blogging is a constant learning curve.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2017 at 2:28 pm
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    It’s really important to take good photos. Bloggers usually learn the basics just to make sure they put good photos up, even if it’s not of food. I’ve gone through some of these as well. Adsense is never really a good source of income.

    Reply

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