You Do What?
If I had a nickel every time someone asked me what I do for a living and then turned their head in confusion. I'll be honest, before I started food blogging, I'm sure I was oblivious to this as a career choice. But over the last few years it has turned into the best decision and is ABSOLUTELY one of the best choices for me.
What does it take to run a food blog?
You might be thinking, ok, you make food, take some pictures, post it and make money? Well, let's take a step back and really delve into the WAYS to make money in this industry and why it's more than just snapping a few photos for the 'gram.
Blog Ad Revenue: You see those ads floating around on the page - they are a source of income. Think about watching your favorite show on TV (well maybe in the olden days) you'd see a commercial pop up every 10 minutes or so. Those commercials help the network make money. In today's streaming services - commercials aren't as relevant, but instead you are paying a monthly fee to NOT see commercials. Come to most food blogs and the content is free so ads help to drive revenue. If you want ad-free content, buy a cookbook! And just know, that 90% of the time there is a "jump to recipe" button!
Sponsored Content: A lot of revenue can come from sponsored content. Brands reach out to content creators to use their product, cook with their product or create a recipe using their product. Typically sponsored content is coupled with recipe development, photography as well as social media boosting. This package deal comes at a price and is charged to the client. More about pricing below!
Photography: Do you need a blog to make money? Well, it depends on what your end goal is. There are many people that are food photographers vs recipe developers or bloggers. They may be working on product photography or photography for dishes they are not promoting but rather for a brand's website or marketing materials. Straight food photography can be an entirely different career path.
Social Media: Social media has become one of the largest platforms for influencer marketing. Instagram, YouTube, TikTok are some the areas where you'll see people making a steady revenue stream. Most of this revenue will come from sponsored content and is more geared toward influencer marketing. Brands reach out to accounts with large followings to recommend a product and may do an affiliate link or a set amount they are paid. Bloggers with YouTube channels are also earning money for the number of views and ad revenue on their channels.
Affiliate Marketing: I began touching upon affiliate marketing above. Affiliate marketing can work in a number of ways. The first is working with Amazon or another shopping service to create custom affiliate links for products. For example, whenever I have a product that I use regularly, perhaps my Instant Pot, I may include a link and for each person that click and purchases I receive a very small amount of money. It doesn't cost you anything but it gives bloggers a bit of additional money for taking the time to recommend items. Another form of affiliate marketing is where you have a product or service that you use and the company offers a discount or promo and for each person that uses your code, you receive a small stipend. For example, as I was researching phone stands for videos, I came across Arkon Phone Mounts, I became an affiliate with them and now each time someone uses my code: cosette20 they get a 20% discount and I get a small kickback.
Education: As you become an expert in your field, selling knowledge can be extremely profitable!! For food photographers some of the best known classes include ANY course from The Bite Shot (PS, she has a book coming out - click here to pre-order), Two Loves Studio, and Eva Kosmas Flores in the world of food photography. Producing content to sell that pertains to a particular field is extremely profitable. You can also begin consulting one on one or in small groups.
Books: If you've made it this far, perhaps you've come to point of writing and publishing your own book. It could be a print book of course but many bloggers self-publish eBooks and sell them right on their website. A great way to increase your traffic and make some money with no printing costs.
Online Classes: Back to education, but in a different format. As a food blogger you have knowledge of cooking, creating and working on recipes. Teaching cooking classes is another natural way to earn revenue - could be in person, small parties or online, which has now gained traction.
Stock Photography: Did you know you could sell your photographs online? Working with an online company you can actually submit and sell your photos online for use. Buyers pay a flat fee depending on digital size and that's money in your pocket for work you already created for your blog.
Sources for learning about blogging and income
I am by no means an expert in all things blogging. A lot of things have taken time, patience and growing in some areas quickly and others slowly. There have been some amazing individuals that have taken the time to publish their income reports for spans of time to help guide new bloggers on their journey and give some hopeful success stories. Knowledge is power so I highly recommend checking out some of these pages for more details.
Pinch of Yum: Pinch of Yum is definitely one of the original bloggers - they have been at it for years and have grown a substantial business. You can find an archive of their income reports on their site if you're curious, how they grew and a wealth of other information!
A Sassy Spoon: My friend Jamie from A Sassy Spoon is a badass that has done incredibly well on her blog growth. She also shares tips and tricks of how to grow your blog and has begun offering courses. You can find some income reports on her site as well as other resources.
Midwest Foodie: Another incredible food blogger, Midwest Foodie shares her monthly income reports regularly. She has grown her blog so wonderfully! She also sells a Pinterest eBook to help your Pinterest game!
How to Price Yourself
What if I told you I turned down a $15,000 contract recently, would you think I was crazy? Sure - the money sounded FANTASTIC, until I actually looked at what I would be offering in the end and it didn't match my hourly rate and expertise. I have to account for my time, experience and not to mention the inability to work with competitors for a length of time.
So how do you price yourself? When this question comes up among food bloggers it is typically in reference to sponsored content. How much does one food blogger charge versus another? What is too much? What is too little? Do I work for free? There is no cut and dry answer unfortunately - except the working for free - JUST DON'T! A few months ago I reached out to some of the blogging community to get an idea of the range bloggers charge for sponsored content. Before I share some of that, here are some factors to consider as you are pricing yourself.
Your Time: First and foremost, you must decide if this contract is worth your time. Does the final product you're being asked to produce match what you are paying yourself per hour? Taking a job that pays less for the same deliverables is not worth your time! Adjust deliverables to match their price but don't reduce your own price! I have had to talk myself out of doing too much work for too little of a price. I will generally offer clients a variety of options so that they can choose what fits their budget - it may not be everything they want but they will have choices.
Your Niche: If you are promoting a product, how does it fit within your niche. I turn down jobs REGULARLY, not because I don't want the money but because I don't feel they fit within my brand. For example, I probably won't ever promote tofu (you're welcome) but I will tell you all about beef and lamb!! I pride myself on staying true to companies that I work with because I want a good user experience for my followers and my own blog content. This space is about recipes that I stand behind and cook regularly!
Charge Your Worth: This is a tricky area and depending on your experience, influence and client needs it can vary greatly. But NEVER, EVER work for free!!! If you start taking gigs without payment, that sets the tone for the rest of the industry. And while one company is getting their promotion for free, why would they want to work with someone else that charges? It sets a precedence and as a collective industry we want to maintain rates that closely follow.
When I started inquiring about income in the blogging world there was so much interest. It has become this elusive area that we don't talk about. If you google what a marketing executive makes in San Francisco, you'll get a salary range. But with food blogging and photography it can vary greatly especially when looking at sponsored content.
Initially this was geared to gain more information about how people charge for sponsored content, but I quickly realized that many bloggers no longer do sponsored content because of their blog success. But again, much of our sponsored content comes in the way of promotion and very much on Instagram. The sample size for this survey was 50 people - all in the blogging industry. Not every question was answered by all 50 bloggers. Check out the results for yourself and I would love your comments!
I asked participants to share anything else about blogging/social media in regards to money. You'll see comments are very varied and there are folks that do not have a strong social presence and focus entirely on their blog for revenue.
We only have 6k IG followers but are a $150k/year company. That always surprises people. I feel like a lot of people focus on the wrong metrics. I also think we need better options for affiliate $ - when we ran our numbers we learned we drove about $100k in revenue to Amazon last year. I honestly had no idea we referred that many sales. If we collectively redirected Amazon efforts to small women- and BIPOC-led companies we could change the freaking world.
I don’t do ad revenue because I don’t want it to overwhelm my readers. But I think I’m missing out!!
I blog very part time, and my blog is just a hobby because I earn a 6 figure salary with benefits and pension at my full time job. I have no desire to blog full time, and that is likely limiting what I could earn from the blog.
It is entirely possible to make some money from blogging even with low pageviews (I only have about 30K/month) and a small social following. Provide quality content for brands and they will pay. The most I’ve ever made from blogging (sponsored and freelance that I’ve gotten as a result of having a blog) in one year is about $30K, but I’d say that’s pretty decent with a small following!
99% of revenue is from ads and it’s in the region of $500k per year.
Blogging 10 years, did the bulk of the work in the 1st 5 years. I don't put nearly as much effort in anymore. But I make so much with ads I don't even bother with sponsored posts anymore.
I make way less than $300-500 in ad revenue, but that was the lowest choice. I haven't even made that the entire time I've been blogging.
I'm just starting to fully run myself as a blogger. Trying to get companies to work with me, I am giving them a 1 time lower offer with the second (them having to sign for) at my going rate. I am doing it to get them into rotation, but also to get myself more stable work.
Where to Focus
A few final thoughts before I close out this post, I had actually intended on adding more specific information on rates but another food blogger, Barley & Sage just released an AMAZING post, about how to establish your rate, as well as two other informative pieces. I'll link her posts below so you can check them out. I'll also piggyback what Kyleigh makes mention of, why on earth would we share information like this? Doesn't it take away from competition?
What to Include in a Food Photography Contract Barley & Sage
Guide to Copyright and Licensing for Food Photographers Barley & Sage
Here's my take on it: have you ever walked down the grocery store aisle with all the pasta and pasta sauces? Yeah? Well, each one of those brands is an opportunity. Not to mention the cheese aisle, juice aisle, cereal and cracker aisle. We each have the power to decide HOW and WHO we work with in this industry. But as you can clearly see from comments and graphs, there are MANY bloggers that have completely eliminated the need to work with brands for sponsored content. The money is IN THE BLOG!!! Can you be successful at it all? Sure. But my advice to you is to find your passion and focus on one thing first. Let the others fall into place or tackle them after you've succeed in one area. For me personally, sponsored content has been my bread and butter, my new goal is to work in increasing my blog traffic for increased revenue. What will you work on?
Is it focusing on growing your blog traffic?
That means Pinterest, SEO, Keyword search and consistent content.
Is it working with brands for sponsored content?
That means having great photography, working on growing your following (for influencer marketing) and pitching brands!
Is it strict photography?
That means working on building your portfolio and pitching to companies for product photography, restaurant photography and more.
Do you have a service to offer?
That means building your course and selling YOUR KNOWLEDGE!
I hope this was helpful to you, I know it's not my normal food content but I do think it's valuable information to those either interested in knowing how I make a living, thinking of starting on their own blog or wanting to gain some insight into this new world. One thing I will leave for you - no matter WHO you are, the BEST way to support a blogger is to: leave comments on blog posts, rate recipes, support on social media but engaging in posts. All these things are free to you but make a world of difference for our industry.