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Today I’m moving from the kitchen to the computer and showing you how to start a food blog. Make sure you bookmark my Blogging Resources page for future reference! This page includes all my tools/products I use to run my website.
I’ve had my blog for three months now, and one of the first questions I get asked when I tell people about it is HOW I did it. The second question (after a courtesy smile) is, “So… do you make any money on it?” (Spoiler: YES!)
I’m here to help you start a food blog TODAY. I’m not saying if you follow these steps, you’ll start rolling in the dough tomorrow. I’m showing you how to set up your blog to optimize it for success and provide the right framework for a blog that can make money in the future.
This will be the first post in a series of posts about blogging and monetizing a food blog.
Anyone can Start a food Blog
Just know, ANYONE can start a blog. ANYONE with the right mindset and amount of motivation can start a money-making food blog.
You don’t need to have an audience, an extraordinary amount of talent, or tons of tech savviness.
However, blogging is not for the faint of heart. It takes more work than most people will EVER know, so I’ll tell you what you DO need to have.
PS: the content in this post has advice specifically regarding a food blog, but the set up part applies to any kind of niche of blogging! (parenting, fashion, lifestyle, etc)
What you need to know before starting a food blog
So you want to start a money-making (food) blog, CONGRATS! Before you run into it thinking all you do is write some words and post a couple pictures, let me tell you a few of things:
- Income-producing blogs takes time, work, consistency, drive, and grit.
- 75-80% of my time is spent on non-food related tasks on the computer.
- Conceptualizing, writing, testing, shopping for, making, and styling a recipe may take 3-8+ hours total. However, I spend WAY more of my time photographing, shooting video, editing, designing, writing, editing, scheduling, pinning, researching keywords, marketing, posting on social media, corresponding in emails, updating spreadsheets, optimizing for SEO, creating graphics, networking, answering comments/questions/emails/dms, and fixing technical stuff than anything else.
- Hobbies cost money. Businesses cost money but also make money. Decide what you want your blog to be.
- You need to have a certain level of skill (or willingness to learn/ability to outsource) in: computers, the internet, social media, photography, videography, photo editing, video editing, graphic design, copywriting, editing, time management, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), scheduling, consistency, and whatever subject matter you’re blogging about 🙂
- Results vary, but success (in whatever metric) is generally dependent on how much work you put in.
- Blogging takes TIME. Results take TIME. Commit to at least a year before you decide to hang up your hat.
- DON’T start a blog just to make money. If you have a passion, a topic people want to read about, and/or a genuine point of view that brings value to someone’s life, the money will follow.
Now that we’ve covered a few intangibles, let’s move on to some other items to start your blog.
Naming Your Blog
The first thing you need before starting a blog is a name. Let me tell you, I wasted about 5 years dabbling with thoughts of starting a blog. Then I wasted an additional ~10 months AFTER deciding I wanted to because I didn’t have a NAME.
Yes, it’s important.
Is it important enough to waste THAT much time?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. I cannot overemphasize this enough!
My number one regret about my blog is not starting it sooner. I’m seriously kicking myself over it on a regular basis because the most important thing is to JUST START.
How to come up with a blog name
Write a paragraph or mission statement about what your blog is or will focus on. Then start a running list on your phone or a piece of paper of all the keywords and ideas you have associated with what comes to mind about your niche/topic.
Start piecing together words and 1-4 word phrases that sound good to you. You can read more about how I landed on my blog name here.
Make Sure your blog name is available
Narrow down your list, and ask your friends and family what they think. Ask them for ideas! Tell them you’re doing this, and ask them if they can help you.
Once you’ve landed on a name (“myfirstblog.com”), type it into Google or Bluehost’s tool and see if it’s taken. If it’s not, then YAY! Hurry and go buy it (instructions below). If it is taken, try revising or slightly altering the name until you get a positive match.
Can’t think of a name?
Bluehost will allow you to sign up now and think of a name later, which I didn’t know before! Gah. I wish I had! Bluehost will give you a free $11.99 credit for the domain name once you decide on it if you sign up to get started.
What to Avoid in a Food Blog Name
Avoid words that are hard to pronounce and spell.
I read a thread the other day by someone thinking about naming their blog “caramelized pierogi.”
Great name! But she had unknowingly misspelled both words in her own actual post! If you can’t say or search for it, it’ll be much harder for people to find.
How much does it cost to set up a food blog?
Depending on what you choose, you can start a basic blog with the services I recommend for less than $100. I chose a longer hosting plan and robust framework/theme, so I spent about $300 on the very basics (hosting and theme).
I also spent an initial investment of about $2,600 on the following tools and items that I’ll explain in more detail in a later post. These tools aren’t absolutely REQUIRED the day you decide to purchase your domain name and set it up.
I’ve marked the tools I think are pretty essential with an asterisk*
- Canon Rebel T6i DSLR Camera* ($899, on sale for $588 right now!)
- 50 mm Lens* bundle ($125)
- 100 mm Lens bundle ($799)
- Tripod (The one I have was old but I have my eye on this one)
- Social Share Buttons (USM Premium, $25 one time)
- ConvertKit Email Subscription* ($24/month for first 1000 subs so $280 at the beginning- I pay more now)
- Adobe Lightroom for editing photos ($10.75/month or $129/year)
- Canva Pro for creating Pinterest images ($99/year, but they also have a great free version)
- Tailwind Pinterest Scheduler Plus plan with Tribes Powerup ($179/year) — Click here for a free month!
Having a DSLR camera isn’t absolutely necessary to start a food blog, but if you intend on a long term commitment, then I do think it is. People eat with their eyes first, so you need to have captivating photos to lure readers in.
How to start a food blog
It’s actually really simple to set up a blog. I’ll show you step by step how to start a food blog next. Starting a blog consists of a few main parts: Hosting, a Content Management System, and Design.
If Bluehost is the landlord you’re renting your space on, then WordPress is the house on your land. Genesis is the architecture or the GUTS of your house that make it work, and the theme is everything you see past the drywall (fixtures, decorations, furniture, rooms, etc.)
How to Start a Food Blog: Hosting with Bluehost
Hosting is basically renting space on the internet to house content. There are many hosts out there, but the ones I see over and over again are Bluehost and Siteground. Do your research and find what works for you.
I took a blogging course (that is no longer offered) by Brooke of Female Foodie several years ago and she recommended Bluehost (which I’ve used before for work). I also did my own research and chose Bluehost for the cost, support, Free SSL security, free domain name, and reputation for new blogs.
Their plans start at $3.95 a month (and sometimes they run random promotions for just over $2!) I chose the Choice Plus plan which is $5.45 a month for 36 months and got a 50% discount.
I committed that day to do this for the long haul, so I made the upfront investment. It’s a dollar or two more per month if you choose a 12 or 24 month plan.
How to Set up Bluehost
- Go to Bluehost.com and click the Get Started button.
2. Choose a Plan by reading through the options in the tables and clicking the Select button. If you’re just starting out, I think the basic plan is great!
3. Claim your domain name by entering it into the box, then clicking the Next button. If you don’t have a name yet, click the Choose Later! link.
4. Enter in your billing information, then select your package information by clicking the Account Plan dropdown menu. Select any package extras (I recommend at least getting the Domain Privacy Protection).
5. Enter your payment information. Click the checkbox to agree to terms and conditions, then click the Submit button.
5. Set your new Password, then Log in to Bluehost.
6. Skip the Theme Prompt
7. Install WordPress (Bluehost takes you through this automatically!)
Congrats! You now own a piece of the internet!
How to Start a Food Blog: WordPress for Blogging
I use WordPress.org as my CMS, which is the industry standard. I think something like 33% of the internet uses WordPress. If you purchase your hosting through Bluehost, you can do an automatic install of WordPress.
If you are serious about blogging, don’t start your site on Blogger or WordPress.com. Those are fine for hobby or family blogging, but you need a self-hosted site for real blogging.
How to Start a Food Blog: Genesis Framework and StudioPress Theme
After you’ve set up WordPress on your own site, you now have a blog! Before you share it, you probably want to design it a little using a theme.
There are lots of free or cheap themes to choose from on WordPress or Etsy, but I recommend purchasing a framework and theme from a reputable service that provides support and documentation/tutorials.
Each theme has a live demo version that you can click into.
I use the Foodie Pro theme, which comes with the Genesis Framework. In fact, all of the Studiopress themes come with the Genesis Framework! This framework is set up for SEO, has great support, clean code, robust features specifically for food blogging, and is optimized for mobile.
Installing your Theme in WordPress
After purchasing your theme, you’ll upload it into WordPress to give your naked site a facelift!
In the left hand sidebar, click Appearance –> Theme –> Upload –> Upload Theme.
Then, select the theme from your computer and upload. After uploading, you can go and customize it to your liking! StudioPress has lots of great videos and help documents to set it up.
I use ConvertKit to manage my email subscribers.
This is an investment, but it’s something you need to set up right away if you plan on monetizing your blog. You can listen to Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast about why this is so important to do from day 1.
ConvertKit has been good to me, and their support has been very quick and responsive. I know I’m not utilizing it to its full potential, but I understand the power and importance of it long-term so I’m willing to keep paying for it.
Why I Chose ConvertKit for my Food blog
I chose CovertKit after talking to several other bloggers and doing a lot of reading on the internet. The main thing I like about it is that it is fairly easy to use, there’s a free trial, and they allow you to use their address.
By law, email subscriptions must have a physical mailing address associated and sent with each email. Check the last email you got from a blog you subscribe to- there’s an address at the very bottom.
This address defaults to the address you put into your settings, which has to be a real address associated with you. That means using another service would send out my home address (unless I purchased a PO box) to my entire email list. No thanks.
Customizing Your Site and Adding Content
You’re ready to make your site your own! Open a new tab and type in your URL like this to quickly access your WordPress dashboard to make all your changes and add content: myfirstblog.com/wp-admin
Go ahead and tinker with the customization and settings to make it your own. Follow instructions and find help documentation for individual tools. Here are a couple of my recommendations to set up right away:
- User settings in WordPress (Dashboard–> Users)
- General, Writing, and Reading settings (Dashboard–>Settings)
- Adding SSL security to your site (Bluehost does this for free)
- Set up Google Analytics on your site
- Go claim all social channels with your new name, even if you don’t actively post on them right away
- Add ConvertKit to your theme. Foodie Pro has a built in header for a subscription, but it doesn’t do anything until you integrate ConvertKit into it.
- Customize the menus, colors, fonts, etc. and add a header
- Add Content
Content for Food Blogs
What’s a blog if not a place for high quality content? Start adding posts (Dashboard –> Posts –> Add New) and Pages (Dashboard –> Pages –> Add New) to give your readers something to read!
Prelaunch Blog Posts
Before launching and sharing your food blog to the world, I recommend having at the very minimum 8 published posts with a good variety of topics/cuisines. I think an ideal number is actually 15-25.
This number gives the reader something to go and wander around in. With 15 posts, it won’t look or feel like a brand new blog! Just don’t go crazy putting up 25 posts before your launch and then not post anything after!
In my opinion, it’s better to start with a cache of completed posts (25) and publish 15 of them. Then, publish the remaining 10 every couple of days to keep pumping out fresh content while you’re still creating content behind the scenes.
This way, you’ll stay ahead and not feel in a bind about not posting. With 10 posts, you have 5 weeks worth of content if you publish twice a week!
The thing about blog content is that it needs to be consistent. No one likes going to a blog where the last post was written a year ago (or even a month ago!) Established bloggers have a schedule and stick with it. I’m still working on this myself!
Just remember, consistency means nothing if the quality is not good. It’s better to post one high quality post a week than 3 low quality posts a week.
What should I write about?
Well, hopefully you already know what your blog is about and what kinds of things you want to share if you’re at this point.
I find creativity strikes anywhere/anytime, so I keep a running list of blog post ideas and recipes in my phone so I don’t forget. Currently I have about 30 posts I have yet to write.
Write about what you’re passionate about. But remember, while this blog is YOURS, you’re doing it for your readers. You need to make the content valuable for THEM.
Why would they read your blog if there’s nothing to gain from it for the people visiting?
Final Words of Advice
If you’re thinking about it, JUST DO IT. You’ll never know unless you try!
Don’t get discouraged
Also, don’t feel discouraged or overwhelmed by this post OR other people’s “success.” I’d never done this before, but I was able to do it. It just takes one step at a time. I’m not a pro at this, but I’m learning and improving every single day.
I didn’t start doing EVERYTHING I’m doing today for my first dozen posts. Just like raising a baby, it takes time to adjust and get used to things and get confident in your skills. But you’ll become a seasoned pro on your blog within 6 months!
The things that used to take me 2 hours in February now take me minutes. I look back at my posts and photography from just a couple of months ago and see how much I’ve improved.
Still not convinced about starting a food blog?
Now that you know how to start a food blog, you just need to do it.
If you’re on the fence, talk to someone who’s doing it. Ask them questions. Find a mentor that’s willing to share their experiences (I have SO many wonderful friends and mentors that I’ve learned from that helped me figure out my path and answer my questions!)
Like I said, you don’t have to be an expert to teach someone something. I’m certainly no blogging expert, but I just taught you how to start a food blog in one post after just a couple months of blogging!
You can do it! Just know it takes time and consistency. But if you really want it, DO IT! The results are SO WORTH IT.