Why I blog
You’ve heard some form of this story many times before, recounted on many bloggers’ “About” pages. Flipped-Out Food came about, in part, because:
- My family and friends love my cooking,
- They love the food photos that I gratuitously post on Facebook (or at least, they say they do), and
- I already write for a living.
THEM: “You should start a food blog!”
ME: But I don’t have anything original to say. There are a bazillion food bloggers, and they’re all better than me. I’m scared to put myself out there. What if people are mean to me?
These are just a few of the insecurities I struggled with in the beginning. I continue to struggle with them even 4 years in. But food and writing are things I’m passionate about. So, I decided that I’d always regret it if I didn’t at least try to start a food blog.
One toe in the water
I took a “stick-toe-in-water” approach to food blogging. By this, I mean that I didn’t dive in, start a food blog, and put my all into it. Instead, I launched Flipped-Out Food as a subpage of my already existing website, AdeptifyMe.com, which I use for my freelance writing/grants consulting business. I figured that if I stuck with the blogging, I’d grow Flipped-Out Food into its own site after a year or two—and here we are.
By observing other bloggers, I learned that building up a social media following was an important first step. I set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page (though I have to admit that I haven’t put much energy into Facebook). Much later, I caved in and joined Pinterest, Flipboard, and Instagram.
As the months passed, Flipped-Out Food became a larger and larger parasite on AdeptifyMe.com but continued to languish as a subpage. I doubted that many people even knew my blog was there. This feeling was reinforced by the fact that any followers I might have had couldn’t comment on the site. For this reason (and many others that will be the subject of a future post), I was also starting to realize that the web development platform I was using, Wix, was not ideal for a food blog.
This was a huge demotivator. I was now realizing that I’d have to manually move all of my content to a new platform. Moreover, the more content I posted on the old site, the more content I’d have to move. My blog posts became more and more infrequent. I felt stuck in “hobbyland”: unable to make food blogging a bigger, more profitable part of my life.
At about this time, I started having discussions with the hubster about building a new website for Flipped-Out Food. There would be some overhead involved, so we needed to agree on an acceptable return on investment and what the timeframe for that ROI would be. Phil, as always, was very supportive and offered a lot of great suggestions and ideas for staying on track.
In light of my experience with Wix, I began doing heavy research into what platform I should be using and what themes work best to start a food blog with. A platform that offers logical recipe organization functionality is critical. The blog posts I read in my search for ideal food-blogging platforms pointed overwhelmingly to WordPress.com.
Moving to WordPress
In my own research, I discovered that WordPress sites seem to “play nicest” with social media (I experimented with tweeting, pinning, and flipping content from a variety of sites—Wix really falls down in this area). Having zeroed in on WordPress, I found that the blog layouts I liked best had often been created using the Genesis Framework by StudioPress with the Foodie Pro Child Theme (though I also liked some sites built with Brunch Pro).
I’m not sure what made me decide to finally pull the trigger and re-launch Flipped-Out Food as its own website. It’s very likely that after months of research, communicating with other bloggers, and being inspired by their stories—not to mention realizing that it would take me months to transfer all of my content to the new site—I finally decided that it was time.
Setting up flippedoutfood.com
Help from other blogs
Although I have set up my own website before, I am not a web designer. This, again, is where the food blogging community was absolutely invaluable. A number of bloggers have developed how-tos on how to start a food blog and set up your site (NOTE: these are NOT affiliate links, just a well-deserved shout out to some really awesome, helpful bloggers). I found the tutorials on Minimalist Baker to be especially helpful for setting up my homepage and recipe archives, and doing even nitpicky things like changing the footer credits. Pickled Plum, Delicious From Scratch, and Food Bloggers Central also offer a ton of helpful information for setting up and monetizing a food blog. Nowadays, Productive Blogging is my go-to fount of information on SEO and blogging best practices.
When I hit a snag, Codeable saved the day
I do know enough about finding and changing specific code snippets in CSS files to make me dangerous. I discovered this when I went a non-traditional route with my header (contrary to what is coded in the Foodie Pro theme, my header spans the entire page). After changing the necessary coding (I thought), the results looked fantastic—until I checked in another browser. My image looked stretched and awful.
Let me back up a bit: if you choose to start a food blog with the Foodie Pro theme (or any theme) and modify the existing code, you should really know what you’re doing. (If you don’t know what CSS and snippets refer to, for example, definitely don’t modify the existing code.) You will find out, as I did, that the developers—understandably—will not help you out if you screw something up. I never quite panicked: I had saved the original CSS and PHP files, so that I could revert back—but I really wanted flippedoutfood.com to look different from all the other Foodie Pro-based sites out there.
After much searching around for the solution to my issue, I turned to the fine folks at Codeable. This is an on-demand service in which you explain your coding issue and specify a maximum budget, and Codeable’s WordPress experts submit bids to do the necessary work for you. You select an expert based on the bid. The expert I picked agreed to show me everything he was doing so that I could learn. I couldn’t have been happier with the service.
With the exception of the header hiccup, I was able set up Flipped-Out Food myself, with the help of the resources I mentioned earlier. It’s still a gigantic work in progress. My goal was to re-launch Flipped-Out Food on New Year’s Day 2017 and see what I could do in a year to build my following, monetize, and finally leave “hobbyland” behind.
Should you start a food blog?
I have learned quite a bit since the day that I decided to start a food blog. This is how I decided on the answer to that question and what I did to make it happen.
- Do you like to write?
- Are you good at it?
- Do you have a cooking-related passion that you’d like to write about?
- Do you have the time to make it work?
Then start a food blog.
That being said, ask yourself what goals you have in mind for your food blog. If it’s simply an outlet or hobby, you can create a very nice site using free WordPress themes. You can always upgrade and change themes later, if you choose to expand your horizons. If you want to make a living at it, you’re going to need to monetize the blog—and likely work on it all the time. I would say that I’m in the middle of the spectrum (by which I mean that it’s my second source of income).
I highly recommend that you look around—extensively—before you take the plunge and start a food blog to see what other food bloggers do. You’ll find that many bloggers in the food blogging community are very honest and open about their experiences. These wonderful people do not pull up the ladder behind them when they “make it”. Quite the contrary: many go out of their way to help and encourage newbies.
One option for learning the basics you’ll need to start a food blog is Food Blogger Pro: a subscription-based online community launched by the blogging duo at Pinch of Yum. There are literally hundreds of instructional videos available, discounts for tools and services, and access to a lively community forum where you can ask questions and interact with other food bloggers. Although FBP’s enrollment is currently full, you can join the waiting list here.
I have been inspired by one blogger in particular, to whom I reached out with questions and ideas, and who responded with encouragement, great feedback, and suggestions.
Decide upon your blog’s focus and name
Sure, there are hundreds of millions of blogs out there. The challenge is obviously to stand out from the blogosphere “noise”. Decide what you want your focus to be. Think about this very seriously: is your idea a niche that you can build an interesting, engaging website around? That you’ll be wanting to write about 2, 5, even 10 years down the road?
Don’t pigeonhole yourself: you don’t want your focus to be too narrow. As an extreme example, say you decide to start a food blog about a fad diet. Remember the one from the 80s where the main thing dieters ate was cabbage soup? You can probably imagine that you’d run out of cabbage soup variations rather quickly. And be bored to death. Say, on the other hand, that you decide to blog about healthy living habits and following a gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan/diabetic diet: this is a much broader topic to write about—and it will still be relevant many years down the road.
Along those same lines, you must carefully think about the name of your blog. Will people get an idea of what your blog is about from its name? Although this isn’t absolutely critical, keep in mind that readers tend to have a short attention span: if the name isn’t at least interesting, they may not click through to see what your blog is about.
Your blog’s name and focus also need to have long-term relevance. Here’s what I mean:
When I first had the idea of starting a blog, I was going through a divorce and looking forward to the idea of turning a new leaf and finding happiness by myself. I was going to name my blog “Bliss For One” (Bf1: isn’t that soooooo cute?!): I was going to devote it to decorating in small spaces, balcony gardening, staying fit, cooking for one…you get the idea. The only problem?! I met Phil a few months later, fell head-over-heels in love with him and his three kids, and now we’re a happy family of five. Obviously, my focus changed completely and I’m very glad that blog failed to launch.
Once you get started: producing great content is key
Quality of writing
If you do decide to start a food blog, the best pieces of advice I can give you is to create great content, and do it consistently. Here’s a harsh reality of blogging: good writing is critical. Readers will click away from your site in a big hurry if your writing is sloppy, choppy, or just generally bad. Enlist friends or family members to edit your work. Quality is always better than quantity: take the time to do it right.
Another critical piece to a successful food blog? Have a lot of beautiful food pictures. You need good lighting, decent camera equipment, and the nuts-and-bolts of good food photography (for example, Pinch of Yum’s excellent Tasty Food Photography eBook is a great crash course).
I am still working to improve my food photography, though there’s a world of difference between my pictures from 2015 and those that I’ve taken more recently.
Keep your chin up
Finally, don’t get discouraged by the number of food bloggers that are out there, or how many of them are more interesting/better/farther along than you. Imagine a world in which nobody tried anything new because someone else was doing it better. How boring would that be? How would most of us even get out of bed in the morning?!
Have you decided to start a food blog? (I talk EVEN MORE about the nuts and bolts here.) If so, I wish you all the best: I hope that you find it to be as rewarding an adventure as I have. I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments, or feel free to reach out via Flipped-Out Food’s contact page!
I am linking this post up with #BrillBlogPosts at Honest Mum: you’ll find a variety of lifestyle reads here.