You absolutely love cooking and taking pictures so you may be wondering how to start a food blog that makes money. Your friends and family constantly ask for your recipes, and you’re beyond excited to share your culinary creations with them. You dream of having your own cookbook one day, or hosting your own Food Network show. And you’re often told that you should start your own food blog.
They’re right. A blog is the perfect platform for sharing your skills and passion for cooking, and it can set the stage for your culinary aspirations. It can be a great way to work from home or anywhere while supporting yourself or your family.
Think you’re not tech-savvy enough to start a visit-worthy food blog? Don’t worry. You can successfully work your way through this by following these steps and it is easier than you think. Plus you can make money while working from anywhere which is worth every ounce of effort.
I started my blog in the late fall of 2010 and by 2012 I was making enough money to quit my day job which was a personal trainer and nutrition consultant. It can happen for you too if you stay focused and follow these important tips.
Come up with catchy name and matching domain
This can be a bit of a challenge, as your blog’s name should be descriptive and memorable yet short and easy to spell and pronounce. But it can also be fun and exciting. So brainstorm words that describe your cooking style or philosophy. Ask your family and friends for ideas. Throw in a name or two (yours, your child’s or pet’s, your favorite thing or place). Try wordplay and puns.
A consideration is that you may not want to make it too much about yourself just in case you want to sell it someday. Also consider a name that is commonly searched such as Vegan, Paleo, Low carb to be in your name which will help people find you more easily.
Once you’ve made your pick, Google the name to ensure that no other blog has the same name. You can also use Bluehost to confirm your domain name’s availability. Plus consider if the words you are using in your title might be highly searched terms which is always helpful. You can always have a .net or .org if the .com version is taken.
If you sign up with Bluehost here, you can register your domain name for free. Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase it. I have serval domain names and often buy ones that come to me while brainstorming. Better to buy it and let it go than want it and be sorry.
Get a reliable host
Now it’s time to find a web host for your blog. Your host stores your blog so it can be accessed online, which means your blog “lives” on its servers.
While free or cheap hosting is available, this isn’t the smartest option. For one, you’ll be sharing server space with a ton of other sites. Your blog, as a result, may respond slowly or be prone to timeouts. Now what if one of your recipes goes viral and traffic to your blog suddenly surges? Then there’s a huge chance that your blog’s server won’t be able to handle the influx, and visitors looking for the recipe will get an error page instead.
That’s why you need a reliable and reputable host. For beginners seeking a low-cost option, Bluehost is the answer. Besides a free domain name, it offers unlimited bandwidth and storage, load balancing, plus 24/7 customer support with its basic package.
Bluehost’s starter plan is priced at $3.49 monthly and paid for upfront, in one lump sum. To protect your personal information, including your address and contact numbers, also get the domain privacy add-on. Sign up here or press on the blue bar below.
Install a platform
You also have to pick a platform for managing the content of your food blog. There’s Blogger, which is easy to set up but has limited customization and lacks a self-hosting option. There’s Typepad, a user-friendly and simple platform with lovely design templates and a great theme editor. The problem is that these two options will be a pain to when you grow out of them so you might as well start off like a pro, which means using WordPress, the hands-down favorite.
If you’re serious about blogging, WordPress is your best bet. It beats other platforms in terms of functionality, has an incredibly easy-to-use interface, and is as customizable as it gets.
The hosted version is free, however, you’ll be stuck with a .wordpress domain name (which isn’t ideal, SEO-wise) and there are very real limits on monetization. The self-hosted version comes with a fee but you can use your own domain name and enjoy additional customization options which will help you make money later on. And yes, it’s worth every cent.
With Bluehost, installing WordPress is a cinch. Just head to the Website Builders section, find the WordPress logo and click on the Install button. Once the installation’s complete, log in to your blog using the Admin URL, Username and Password provided.
Install a theme
Your choice of theme will determine how your blog will look and feel like. This is your chance to make it all pretty and nice!
Opt for a theme that fits your aesthetic, has the features you need, allows easy customization, is designed for SEO, and offers technical support. It’s a big plus too if the design is responsive, which means pages are resized and reformatted to display well whether they’re viewed on a computer, tablet or smartphone.
While free themes are available, premium themes go the extra mile with additional functions and options, which in the long run will save you a lot of time and trouble. The best of the bunch? Elegant Themes, WooThemes, Thesis by DIY Themes and the Genesis Framework by StudioPress.
Lear more about them here: StudioPress Themes
WordPress has all sorts of plugins that you can install as you tweak your theme and make it more functional. Some food blog must-haves are AddThis for incorporating social media sharing buttons at the end of each post, Akismet for handling spam comments, Easy Recipe for beautifully formatted recipes that show up in Google search results, the jQuery Pin It Button for adding a Pin It button to pictures, and WordPress SEO by Yoast for SEO support.
You might also want to set up the following tools: Google Analytics for tracking traffic, Webmaster Tools to ensure that your blog is running smoothly, and Feedburner, which lets visitors subscribe via RSS or email to your posts.
Learn search engine optimization
I waited way to long to learn about this crucial tool for bringing free traffic to your site. If you are just writing about what you want to write about then you can be missing the boat. Don’t get me wrong you can still write about what is important to you just be more selective about the titles of your posts so that they correspond with popular search terms. With a little keyword research you can make a title that people are searching for at the same time tailoring it to your content. A great video on how to do SEO here.
Start your newsletter ASAP
I recommend starting with Mailchimp early on or even right away. It is free for up to 2000 subscribers so there is no reason to hold off. As social media changes your email list will be the only thing that you truly own. I wish I had started much sooner on this too. You can send out a link to each new blog post to your readers to get more eyes on your content. Plus they can share it with their friends.
Social media can be a big time suck or it can be the key to success for your food blog. It can be completely overwhelming and you will never have time to participate in all the new platforms. Pinterest is one of the most popular for food bloggers. Make sure to make long images so they get the best real estate on Pinterest.
Instagram is also key for food bloggers to showcase their dazzling meals to their adoring fans. Make sure to work on your photography by using the Pinch of Yum handbook to make pinterest work for you.
Facebook can be really good too but it can also be pricey to pay for advertising for your followers. Focus on engaging posts that keep readers talking back and also video is very popular. You can share your own videos or other people’s to increase your reach.
Youtube is also one of the world’s largest search engines so if you really want your blog posts to be SEO rich make sure to add a video with the same title into your post. When adding your video to Youtube use lots of keywords in the description, plus a link back to your blog. Use the editor inside of Youtube to add links and titles into your videos easily.
Google Plus may seem old school but don’t count it out. Using it can really help SEO. Make sure to put all your new posts there so that they show up on google faster.
The main thing is that social media is always changing and you have to keep learning to stay on top of your game. Try following some experts such as Sandi Krakowski, Amy Porterfield, Pat Flynn or Chalene Johnson.
Make a Free Opt in (e-book):
Now that you started your newsletter it is important to make an opt in offer to entice your readers to give you their email address. You can put 10-15 recipes in an organized pdf format with photos such as desserts, smoothies, soups, easy dinner ideas and so on. Or you could give your best tips on eating on a budget, feeding families in a hurry, or weight loss tips. Whatever topic fits your style or personality that will really be of value and solve problems for people. Then you can upload the PDF in Mailchimp and it will send automatically when they subscribe. Make your opt in high quality though so your readers will stick around for more.
Sell Affiliate products
Selling your readers some of your favorite trusted products is a great way to make money. One of the best programs is Amazon because they carry so much stuff and most readers will have an amazon prime account so they already enjoy free shipping. Check out Amazon affiliates here. Many people also link to digital products on Clickbank or E-junkie (find my books on E-junkie here) that can be a great way to sell products that will serve your audience. Thrive Market is another good online store that has a good affiliate program for food bloggers.
Up Your Photography Game
No more iPhone pics in your dark kitchen after cooking dinner. First things first start taking pictures in the daylight with no overhead lights on. Unfortunatley that means you have to cook in the daytime which is a little less convenient. Then get a nice starter DSLR camera such as a Nikon D3200 (order here) or s Canon entry level camera (order here). The quality is so much better and there is so much to learn and grow. If you can’t deal with taking your own pictures be sure to buy them off shutter stock or Dollarphotoclub.com. Whatever you do don’t steal them from Google or you will get a mean sounding letter from a lawyer and I don’t want that to happen to you.
Ready to take your food pics to the next level?
One e-book that really helped me turn a corner and improve my blog photos was this guide. The authors break it down in an easy to understand language that even your grandma could grasp. The great thing about this book is that you can refer back to it over and over when you get a little rusty or out of practice. Don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy camera to get started, proper lighting (daylight) , props and backgrounds can go along way. Pinch of Yum can break it all down for you in this yummy food photography book! I write more about improving blog photos here.
Some people might say this info is available on for free and maybe that is true. But do you have thousands of hours to scour the internet for information? I sure don’t!!
Also much of the info out there on blogs about photography is very generalized and it is not geared toward food photography. Stop wasting time and grossing out your family and friends with your dinner slop on a plate. Get serious and start taking some tasty photos!
Get this book is from a husband and wife team who spend their whole life taking food photos.
Click here for an instant download:
Know when to outsource:
Creating content can be a full time job so you may want to hire a virtual assistant to help you use social media or other administrative tasks. You are the brains of the operation so don’t spend your time doing $5-$10 an hour job. It is better to spend that time organizing your content into online programs or e-books to create passive income. If you are always doing the busy work you won’t have time to focus on the big picture of where your blog is going. You will probably have to start out doing things your self but don’t wait too long to outsource or you may burn out and give up. I would even take money from your day job to pay a virtual assistant because it was that important for me. It just depends on how fast you want to blog full time. I use Upwork because the site handles all the tax issues for you.
Meet other bloggers:
Just like in any other field knowing the right people can really help you out when you are getting started. I met foodie friends in nutrition school as well as in a blogging group later on. Many of those people I am still friends with today and it made a huge difference in my success.
Be aware that it is a good idea to go into networking opportunities with the mindset of making friends and not what you can get from people. If you are not genuine it will show and doors won’t open for you. Be truly interested in others, and not focused on showing them how interesting you are. Follow these ideals and opportunities will start coming your way.
Many bloggers feel the need to teach after they become successful enterprenuers. My friend Hannah Healy has a course on blogging at her site Healyeatsreal.com and my friend Kelly Bejelly wrote a great book about blogging here.
Write a book:
I wrote a 432 page printed cookbook in 2014. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and I still don’t believe I did it. It has been a great asset to my business. I use it as a calling card of sorts because it is a great advertisement for my skills as a nutrition expert and as a food blogger. It still sells well and I still promote it everyday. I may write another one, you never know! Get my book Mediterranean Paleo Cooking here.
Don’t Count Out Network Marketing:
Once you have a big following, selling a product you believe in through a network marketing company can be a big boost to your income. I fell in love with essential oils in 2014 and have shared that passion with my readers. Now I am making a full time income off my essential oil business. Many times bloggers can retire from blogging because they are making so much money with MLM but I plan to keep writing because I love both!
If you don’t hear from your favorite online personality anymore they may be on an island sipping margaritas after doing well with networking marketing products. Be careful because there is a lot of junk out there offering overnight success but in reality it takes hard work and dedication. I was so fortunate to fall in with a 20+ year old company that has their own farms and distilleries making the finest health supporting essential oils and supplements in the world. Learn more about Young Living here.
Now you’ve got the basics (and more) covered. You can already begin blogging! Publish your recipes and photos. Share your stories. And let the world into your kitchen.
Getting a food blog up and running is not as hard as you may have imagined, especially with all the powerful and user-friendly tools out there. But to get far in the blogosphere. you need to find your voice, publish posts consistently, present quality photos, and of course commit to blogging. It will be a lot of work, but it can be one of the most rewarding projects you’ll ever take on. So go for it!
LASTLY, GET HELP!
If you are still scratching your head and wondering where to begin, my friend Hannah Healy of Healy Eats Real can help you! She has just launched a Full-Time Blogger Course that you can check out HERE.
Be Sure to Pin it:
Jenny Yelle says
Great article, Caitlin!
Thanks for sharing your expertise, Caitlin–this is awesome!
Arcadio (jong) pinto baquiran says
I’m really interested in learning about making a food blog
Thank you so much
I have been following you for a while, and love reading your posts. I am really interested in starting a healthy living blog. Not so much the cooking side of it, but promoting healthy living and natural products particularly the essential oils part. I have read through your starting up a blog post which is very helpful but still a little overwhelming for a total newbie. Any suggestions to make it easy for a non techie ? Also I am up in Canada if I wanted to join Young Living could I do it through you or do I need to do it through a Canadian site ?