It is August 2016, and when I look back I am pleasantly surprised that it has been little over two years since I started blogging, although only a year since I have been doing it really seriously. As a newly married woman, in a country far away from home, I used to call either my mom or my mother-in-law from time to time to consult on ingredients or cooking tips of different recipes. I used to mentally remember the things they said, but as time passed on my memory would fade. To address this, I decided to put together a personal repository of recipes. Instead of writing the recipes down in a book or a word processor, I decided to write it in form of a blog. Honestly, until then I had very little knowledge about the large food blogging community that was thriving online. It was only when people started visiting my blog and started leaving comments was I introduced to this beautiful food blogging world.
The food blogging journey has been thrilling to say the least. It is almost akin to a roller-coaster ride at your favorite theme park. Lots of ups and downs, but the end feeling has been nothing but awesome. I still consider myself as a novice, continuously learning new things along the way, and I hope to continue with the same fervor for several years to come. Often, I receive email and personal messages on social media seeking advice on how to start a food blog. The frequency of such requests have increased manifold in the recent past, and I am very excited as always to know that we have fresh new talent joining our community, who I hope will not only introduced us to new recipes which we haven't seen before, but also wow us with new twists and improvisation of popular recipes that are already available online.
While there are some resources already available online, I decided to share some of things that I have learnt along the way in the form of small posts. One question that I often get asked is What are some things one needs to know before starting a food blog? So, for today's post I decided to compile together some of my email responses and present it here. While my response has been specifically in the context of food blogging, I think several, if not all, would also be true for other blog genres.
If you already have a food blog, please do share your comments and remind me of any points that I might have missed. Let me start with the cons first
- Support from family: During several occasions I have had to counsel and provided words of encouragement to bloggers who sought help because they had either completely stopped food blogging or had trouble keeping up with it because of lack of support from immediate family. This is an obvious deterrent to be motivated to pursue one's passion. This should therefore be the first question you need to ask for yourself before you begin your food blogging journey. Make sure you passionately (and lovingly) communicate your plans with concerned family members, take them into confidence and infact make them a part of your journey.
- Regular updates: Starting a food blog is very easy. However,
if your goal is to reach a large audience, if your goal is to have regular visitors to your blog it requires a long term commitment from your end. This means you will have to post new content on a regular basis. The optimum frequency of posts is a subjective opinion, but a general rule of thumb is to have a minimum of three posts per week, at the very least you should aim for at least one post per week.
- Expenses : You will have to pay a hosting service to host your website. Along the way, you may decide to buy a camera, lenses, and lighting. You will have to regularly make small investments on utensils and other photo props. You will also have to expect a minor inflation in your grocery bill. If you are doing videos there may be several other things to consider, which I have not included here.
- Technical knowledge : A self hosted food blog (e.g. WordPress, sometimes even Blogger) requires you to occasionally deal with server-side issues, installing and regularly updating plugins or other applications to your blog, taking regular backups of your website and so on. This requires certain amount of technical skill, and as far as I know most of my friends are either self taught, and/or take assistance from their better-half's in these matters. Thus you should be aware that there is a moderate to steep learning curve depending upon your / your family's technical background.
- Social media : Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest to name a few, are the major drivers of traffic to most food blogs. Therefore if you want your content to reach a wide audience you will have to be active on social media on a regular basis. Every social media platform and several public groups have their own set of rules when it comes to sharing your content on their platform. Thus you have to spend a lot time building your network and being an active participant in all communities.
- Critiques : You should have thick skin, or work towards developing one quickly! Hundreds if not thousands of people are going to try your recipes. While many of them will appreciate your recipe and write good comments, its only fair to expect that some of them will not like a dish and give a constructive criticism. But there will be a small fraction who may convey their displeasure in the meanest and harshest way possible. It is important to remember that when it comes to food, every person has a different liking, similar to the way that each person expresses pleasure or displeasure differently. As long as you can remember this, I think it will be easy to take positive critiques in your stride and ignore the mean ones. Remember we are all here to learn from one another, and learning to ignore is also one of them. I know it is easier said than done, but it is important to keep trying until you master it.
- Feeling dejected: Several popular photo sharing websites and websites that feature blogs are often partial towards certain popular bloggers, and this can be demotivating. But, remember every photo sharing website or blog featuring website or those that give our awards have their own business model, they want an audience for themselves and it is only fair that they decide what is in their best interest. If your content is unique and worthy you will still get traffic, so keep submitting your entries and do not feel dejected.
- Plagiarism: Lot of recipes and photos will be copied and the credit will not be given to you. Sometimes even if a cursory credit is included, it will be only after your recipe has been copied word to word, and some people don't even do that. When you are an influential blogger, and if you find out your content has been plagiarized you may as well decide to take action, but if you are just starting out it can be really hard choice. Look, as a food blogger everyone understands that more than 98% of the recipes will be common among all blogs. The reason for this is because every blogger is an artist and he/she gives a personal twist or variation to a recipe and presents it to the audience, and this is perfectly fine. But copying word-word, sometimes along with images is a big no-no. Seek advice among your peers if you encounter such instances. You definitely deserve credit for the time and effort you have put into creating the content.
But does that mean you should not have a blog. Definitely not. Because the pros of having it outnumbers the cons.
- Plethora of possibilities: You will come across several types of cuisines, dishes/recipes you have never heard of. You will recreate some of these recipes in your own style to cater to your audience. You will gain a lot of expertise in cooking and learn new styles of cooking.
- Continuous learning: I never baked anything before I started blogging. I never owned or operated a camera before. I never hosted a website on my own. I was new to food products like quinoa, tofu, wines, sauces, cheeses etc. I read a lot, experimented in the kitchen, I experimented with photos, I learnt from my failures. I must tell this is true even till date, and this is what keeps me grounded, I know I will always have new things to learn and I am sure its true for everyone.
- Innovative: Running food blog is challenging and to be successful you will always have to be innovative. You will not only learn be creative with your preparations, but you will also become a good thinker and writer too.
- Connections: As you begin your food blogging journey, you will come in contact with some wonderful people. Some of them will be your peers, some will be vastly experienced in this craft. But the beauty is most of them will treat you as equal, they will be your friend and your guide without expecting anything in return. And then its your audience - trust me when I say this that audience is the King. People love to eat good food, and I truly believe food connects people across borders, ethnicity, religions, and all other social barriers. Introduce delicious food to people and they will definitely show that love back.
- Several reasons to smile: People will try out your recipes and will write back saying how much they loved your recipe. They will share their happiness, they will share the compliments they received when they served your recipe to their family and friends. That is the purest form of pleasure you will experience as a food blogger.
- You'll stay motivated: Your first accepted photo in a popular photo sharing site, your first featured blog post on popular media outlets, your first nomination to an award, your first award, your subscriber list, your traffic, your first guest post, sponsored post all this will provide a lot of motivation to keep going on and on and to stay positive.
- Friends unlimited: You will have lot of new trust worthy friends. They will help you a lot and give you true feedback.
- Keeps you busy: If you are a homemaker and passionate about cooking then food blogging will keep you busy. You will never be bored.
- Memories for a life time: Blogging is seriously great source for keeping good memories. Like mentioned before there will be a lot of firsts when you tread this path. Whenever you will look back at all all your creations, you will realize that you have grown in several ways and you will feel satisfied.
- Health conscious: It will make you got to gym regularly 🙂 I really don't know if this good for all but for me it is a plus. I love to eat but remain fit at the same time.
- Family: Whether it is your husband, your kids, your in-laws or your parents will always be proud about what you are accomplishing. You will gain a lot of respect and love, they will appreciate the effort you put into your craft and often times help you by providing honest critiques, as well as lot of sweet compliments. They will help out with the technical aspects of the blog. They will gobble up the cooked food and also help clean up the mess in the kitchen 😉
Even after writing so many pros and cons, I feel that I have skipped some points. If you do decide to start a food blog, I welcome you heartily with all the love and I wish you all the success. As you go through this beautiful journey of food blogging, do not forget to drop in a few lines sharing your comments and experience. I am sure your feedback will be useful to future food bloggers. Peace!