How to Start a Real Food Blog

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How to Start a Real Food Blog

 How to Start a Real Food Blog

Pour yourself a cup of tea and get comfy, this is a big one. This is a really important post for those of you that are interested in starting a blog. Over the last couple of years I have answered many how-to questions from blog readers that are ready to start their own blogs. I finally decided to write a post about it, as I think it will be helpful to many of you.

I have been blogging for close to 4 years now. I made many mistakes early on, which caused me lots of stress and money. I am here to tell you everything you need to know to get started the right way, so you can avoid unnecessary stress and experience success immediately! I really wish I had this information when I started. To say I learned the hard way, would be an understatement. By following the below steps, you can set up a successful blog from the get go.

If you are wondering, it is possible to make money blogging. I’ll provide some resources below to help you learn how. I left a well paying, high tech job to become a full time blogger. Be warned, it takes a lot of dedication, commitment and many hours of work to build a career as a real food blogger, but it is possible (and worth it!). I work more than I ever have before, but I don’t mind it. It usually doesn’t feel like work. I love what I do. I genuinely enjoy blogging and I am deeply passionate about helping others improve their health. Even if you just want to do this as a hobby (which is how I started), it is still beneficial to follow the below steps. The below steps will also help you grow your traffic, which in turn will help you get your delicious and nourishing recipes on more people’s tables!

Start with WordPress.org, NOT .com

This is probably the most important step in starting your blog. WordPress.com and wordpress.org are very different platforms.  WordPress.org is a robust and powerful blogging tool. It allows you to customize your blog, using “plugins”. Plugins are software created by different developers that allows you to expand the functionality of your site. There is basically a plugin for anything you want to do. WordPress.org does not offer hosting (which is why it is so tempting to go with WordPress.com). But, don’t worry, hosting can be very inexpensive when you first start out. You can get hosting for as as low as $5 a month, that’s like the cost of one kombucha . I’ll talk more about this below.

It might be tempting to go with wordpress.com, it’s free and user friendly. However, you will not be able to customize your site as much and as easily, as you can on WordPress.org. You also cannot run ads on wordpress.com. If you are just starting out, ads might not be of concern to you, but as you grow, you will likely want to run a couple of ads. When you are blogging seriously it can get expensive and to be able to continue blogging in the long run, you will have to earn some money, in order to support your efforts. So, you will want to have the option of running ads. There are lots of posts around the internet about the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org, google it, if you are interested in learning more. Every blogger I know, ends up migrating to WordPress.org. Unless, you are a techy, migrating is no fun, so save yourself the trouble and start on WordPress.org.

Several of you have asked me about Squarespace, although it is a user friendly platform, I don’t recommend it. I started out on a user friendly platform. Although it was nice when I was a newbie, as I grew, I couldn’t make the changes I needed and I had to move to wordpress.org and the transition was a nightmare (and very expensive) to say the least.

Logistics: How to set up your new blog
  • Purchase your domain name, this can be done at Godaddy.com
  • Download wordpress.org
  • You will have to host your own site. I recommend Bluehost to start. They offer some really affordable packages (as low as $5 a month) and they are very reliable. As your traffic grows, you can either scale up with them or move to a more boutique hosting service. Learn more about Bluehost here.
  • You will also need a “theme”, which basically means a designed website template. You can find free ones. Or you can purchase more robust ones for really reasonable prices. The Foodie theme from Studiopress is a great option. It is simple and clean and it will allow your photos and content to standout. The Genesis Framework is considered to be the best base for starting a wordpress.org site, so make sure that you purchase a theme that has the Genesis framework. Genesis has built in search engine optimization (aka it will help your blog rank better in Google searches), great security features and much more. This quick video explains exactly what themes are and what Genesis is.

 

Work on your photography skills

You don’t have to start out as a superb photographer, but start honing that skill early on. Nice photos make a world of difference. People are more likely to click through to your post or pin your recipe, when it is accompanied by a beautiful photo. If the recipe looks appetizing, they are much more likely to make it. I really can’t stress this enough. I started out taking iPhone photos. They were horrible. Even if the recipes are good, those posts get no traffic. As I take time to update the photos, those posts get a ton of traffic. Same recipe, different photo, much different results. I am now slowly working on recreating and re-shooting those recipes. Save yourself the time and start working on photography early on.

How to improve your photos:
    • If you are going to blog seriously, you need a DSLR camera. This entry level model from Canon is perfect to start with. Most bloggers I know use it. If you get really into photography, it’s really easy to sell your camera on Amazon and upgrade to a more professional model. That’s what I did!
    • Giveaway-Win-a-Tasty-Food-Photography-eBook-learn-more-about-food-photography-and-how-to-improveLearn how to use your camera. Read the manual. There is a lot of great info there.
    • The Tasty Food Photography eBook from Pinch of Yum is the best book I have found on food photography. I have several books on the topic and this eBook, is the most clear and easy to follow for beginners. Almost every blogger I know has used this book to improve their photos. You can download it here.
    • The best thing I did was take a food photography and styling workshop with Diane Cu and Todd Porter of White On Rice Couple. I learned a ridiculous amount and it was worth every single penny. If you are reading this between June 5th and June 7th, you are so lucky! Their workshops usually cost around $1,000, but it is currently available for live streaming for free! You can view it here. After the free viewing period, the price will be $99 (or $129 depending on when you purchase it). Which is still a steal! These guys are really good.
    • Look at food magazines and food blogs, not just Paleo blogs. Study their photos, save or pin the ones you like to refer to later. I even have a Pinterest food photography board, where I post pretty food photos, even if they aren’t Paleo.

 

Grow your traffic
    • Create great content. This is really important. Good content will be shared and will get people coming back for more. If you hope to make blogging your career, the first thing you need is solid traffic. You can sign up for Google Analytics. It’s a great way to keep track of your blog traffic.
    • Offer a newsletter opt in form from the start (even if you don’t plan on sending out a newsletter yet). This is the one thing I would change if I could. I wish I had collected email addresses from the beginning. Social media is great for connecting with your audience, but you don’t have control over what happens to it, such as all the Facebook algorithm changes in the last year. Your newsletter is really important. You can always access your readers via email and tell them about new and exciting stuff going on. People are busy and don’t have time to check their favorite blogs regularly. A weekly newsletter is a great way to let your readers know what is going on in your corner of the internet. Two popular services with varying fucntionalities are MailChimp and Aweber. MailChimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers.
    • Be active on social media. Connect with your audience through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google Plus.
    • Connect with other bloggers in your niche. I started to see real growth with my blog once I became friends with other bloggers. When people know you, they get more excited and motivated to share your work with their audience. Plus, it is so nice to have people to share your successes with and vent about your challenges. A great way of meeting other bloggers is to regularly leave thoughtful comments on their blog posts. Trust me, we notice! Of course, social media is great too. I have made several friends on Instagram!

 

How to Make Money Blogging

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 11.08.53 AMThis is a huge topic that needs a post of it’s own. There are a lot of creative ways to make money blogging. If you plan to do this seriously, even if you have a full time job, it will be important to make some money. Blogging can get expensive. It requires a lot of time, ingredients, props and website maintenance costs. If it is costing you money, chances are that in the long run, you will abandon it. For you to be able to do this and help people, it will be important that you make some money to cover your blogging efforts. There are various ways to make money, including running ads through Google Adsense. Amazon also has a great affiliate program called Amazon Associates. There are so many options, including working with brands directly and promoting relevant eBooks, as well as creating and selling your own products. It is really important to be authentic and only promote products that you wholeheartedly believe in and/or use. This way, it is a win-win for everyone. You can make recommendations that will help your audience live more healthfully and you can also make some income to help you keep blogging.

If you would like to make money, blogging, I highly recommend reading Earn Big Money Blogging by Kelly Bejelly. This eBook has everything you need to know about earning money from a real food blog, a health blog or even a mommy blog! You can download it HERE.

Have you started a blog? Tell us about it in the comments!

Click HERE to PIN this post!

How to Start a Real Food Blog

 


PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only recommend products that I wholeheartedly believe to be valuable or that I use myself. Rubies & Radishes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Comments

  1. says

    Hey Arsy,
    Thanks for sharing this awesome article! It’s great to have the reassurance that the tools I’ve been learning about in other training are really the ones working on the front lines! I wanted to get Kelly Bejelly’s e-book, but the link you’ve included doesn’t have an option to purchase or download…do you know why that might be? Am I missing something about how to access it?
    Thanks for any clarification you can offer!
    Susanne

    • says

      Hi Susanne,

      Are you in the US or a different country? If you are in Canada or a different country, you may have to search for the book in your country’s Amazon site. When I select the link, I see an option on the right to “Buy now with 1 click” … Do you have that on your page?

      • Ashley says

        I’m having the same trouble…when I click on either link it connects to amazon but says, “the web address is not a functioning page on our site.”

  2. says

    I started my blog about 3 years ago as a hobby. Sort-of a place to keep my recipes, since keeping track of paper and I don’t mix. After a couple years I realized people were actually reading the recipes and I figured I should put a little more effort into it! Haha. My photography was horrendous and my writing was very impersonal. Since (sort-of) fixing those two things, I’ve been working on monetizing. :p I got James Gregory’s Book Career Food Blogging, now I just have to actually read it…

  3. Amy says

    Yes!! This is exactly what I need! I’ve been thinking of starting a food/health blog for awhile but have been lost as to where to start. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

  4. Robin Divine says

    I’ve been thinking about starting a blog myself. This is very helpful. Thanks so much!

  5. Rebecca Gregory says

    disclaimer: I do tech support for a web hosting company, these are my opinions and do not represent my employer or their views in any way, shape, or form.

    Here’s some helpful tips for anyone wanting to build a blog or website, to help reduce any headache you may experience.

    -Always make sure your hosting company and domain registrar have a reachable email address for you, like a gmail or yahoo, so if something goes wrong with your site you’re still able to communicate. On that note, add a filter to your email to make sure you always get any of these emails. For example, if you’re hosting with bluehost, add a filter for anything from “bluehost.com” to be sent to inbox and never mark as junk.

    -Use a secure password. Do not use anything that would show up on a whois search for your website. Insecure passwords will cause you nothing but technical issues, such as spammers using your site, unauthorized content deletion, malware being distributed, and phising sites being hosted on your site.

    -Keep your software updated. Period. If there’s an update, do a backup and update then. Don’t put it off until something goes drastically wrong because a known security flaw was exploited. It wouldn’t have gone wrong if you did your updates.

    -Read any notifications or warnings you get when you log into your admin areas (cpanel, wordpress, whm, etc). These warnings are there for a reason. If you don’t understand, contact your tech support asap.

    -Know how much space your website gets. If you ever reach within 2 GB of your limit, either see if there’s files that shouldn’t be there (a default email address being spammed is a common reason), or increase the space for your website by calling your hosting provider. When your site is completely full, you’ll receive nothing but errors when trying to log into anything other than command line because there isn’t enough space to run the user friendly GUI’s.

    -Know who your registrar is, and how to contact them to change your DNS records. Your tech support can only guess who your registrar is by doing a whois lookup on your domain, and it’s not always correct.

    -Don’t change your DNS records unless you know what you’re doing. It will cause a downtime anywhere from a few minutes up to 2 days. No, changing it back to what it was won’t fix. No, your registrar cannot do anything about it. No, your hosting provider cannot do anything about it.

    -Use your hosting providers DNS records, or give them the login information for your registrar. Server migrations happen, and it’s easier for you and them if they can control the DNS to minimize site downtime. This also makes troubleshooting much easier, because instead of telling you to go change something with someone else, that you don’t’ understand what or why or how, they can do it all with you on the phone or in chat.

    -Keep at least $400 set aside in case something goes wrong with the website (malware, phising, restore from backup, migrations, etc). Use this to pay for web maintenance or in depth tech support. They know what they’re doing, and they’ll get it back up and running sooner than you’d be able to figure out what went wrong. It’s worth the money unless you know what you’re doing, even then it is time you have to put in.

    -Run a full backup, and download it to a computer or external drive. Just do it. It makes it easier to do migrations, and you’ll always have a hard restore point you can go back to. WordPress and cPanel make it really easy. You hit 2 buttons, then hit download. These files can get huge, but it’s your best insurance to always have the content you’ve created.

    -Make sure any information on whois is something you’d be ok with a complete stranger knowing about you. It is worth the extra money to pay to mask it. Or use a work address, google voice number, etc. Do this especially if you share lots of personal information on your website, as in plans, how many children, when you’re going on vacation, etc. It is amazing how much information is easily accessible to someone that knows how to look. It is worth the little bit of extra time to make sure you and yours are safe.

  6. says

    Thank you Arsy!

    This is such helpful information and it’s pinned so I can go back to it for reference! I actually recently started a blog in April before I went to Paleo f(x) in Austin. I’m already wanting to change things around and do some upgrading so this came at a great time! My blog focuses on my experience with gastric bypass surgery over the last 9 years and how following a whole/paleo/primal foods template has given me a huge improvement in my health! Like many bloggers out there I also have a Instagram account as Whole_Foodie_RN. My big picture focus is to make this a full time/career adventure, thank you so much again for this great post Arsy.

    Lori Newlon RN

  7. Shawn Mynar says

    Thank you so much for sharing your tips! This is extremely helpful! I started blogging a few months ago (paleofive.wordpress.com) as a way to start sharing the knowledge I’m gaining with friends and family. I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I do and would love to get more serious about it. First task…switching from wordpress.com to wordpress.org! Thanks again!

    • says

      Hi Shawn! I was in your same boat. I didn’t think I would like it as much as I did, which was I didn’t really research the best way to get started. Your blog is so awesome! Love that post about dark chocolate shopping tips.

  8. Valerie aka:cocos_paleo_kitchen (IG) says

    Love this! I have been thinking about this for a while but honestly just didn’t know where to start — this is so helpful! Thanks for posting

    • says

      I am so happy to hear that this was helpful! I love your Instagram. I am sure your blog will be so succesful! Good luck with the launch! Let me know if you have any questions.

  9. says

    Thanks for sharing that free video by White on Rice Couple! I love their blog and cannot afford to take their class so this is helpful xoxo

    I need to revamp my site, but I have no time right now, soon after a couple of months! I’m installing the genesis framework and I’ll have to tinker with some code to get my site the way I want it to be

    • says

      Jenny – Their workshop was so good. I am going to try to catch the free session tomorrow too. I am excited to see your site revamp, let me know if you have any questions along the way!

    • says

      Hi John! I didn’t do theses things until I was blogging for 2 years, but it was really worth the changes. It was such a pain to migrate everything, I wish I had known how to get set up properly from the start too.

  10. says

    Thanks for this, this is awesome! I just started my blog last week and it’s crazy how much information is out there about blogging. It can get overwhelming, so it’s nice to see it spelled out simply here. I really love the food photography information I’m going to have to check out those workshops, I know that’s an area I could definitely improve on.

    • says

      Hi Elizabeth! I am so glad that you found this post helpful. I wanted to write it because I had trouble finding something so spelled out, when I starter researching it and I was also overwhelmed with sorting through all the information. I mostly learned with lots of trial and error. I am hoping to save a few other bloggers the pain.

  11. says

    This is great info, thanks! I did just start a blog, though it’s about style, not just food. If I could eventually make money doing this, it will be the best job in the world! I’ve already made a few mistakes, and every post is still so much work. It’s harder than it looks, but more fun, too!

  12. says

    Hey Arsy! This is so perfect as I just started a blog almost 2 weeks ago. I became a member of food blogger pro which was developed by the same couple who wrote the food photography e-book you referred to and that has been super helpful! I will definitely check out Kelly’s e-book as well and I’m super excited to watch the food photography video from White on Rice. Thank you for all the wonderful tips and for just being awesome and inspiring in general

    Kiersten

  13. says

    Just discovered your website, love it and thanks so much for all the info about blogging. I’m currently studying at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in Nyc and i’m planning to start a blog this fall. It’s overwhelming but exciting! Thanks for the info again.

  14. Nicole says

    Thank you for this, Arsy! I am working on a blog and I found this post to be very helpful and full of great information. Thank you!

  15. says

    I loved this! Such great information. I started a blog to journal my Whole30 and have kept it going as we transition as a clean eating family. I started on blogspot because that is what I was used to but now I am thinking of switching over! It is still fairly early on in my blog so I am hoping it won’t be too much of a headache! Thanks so much for posting this. It is such a great help! I also have an Instagram to help get traffic to my blog and it has been a great help! (@darcieats)

    • says

      Hi Darci! Congrats on the blog! I am so glad to hear that you decided to keep it going after your Whole30. I agree, Instagram is a great place to connect with your audience and other bloggers.

  16. says

    Gah, Arsy you are so wonderful! Thank you for posting this, it answered so many of my questions!! I have made tons of mistakes since I started my blog about a year ago – one of which was starting it while attempting to complete 3 certifications and work full time, LOL!! Needless to say, I need more time to dedicate to it, but that time should be presenting itself soon and I will be implementing ALL of your tips! You’re the best, THANK YOU!!!

    • says

      Hi Heather! That is crazy! You must have been so busy. Hey – you are still way ahead of me… It took me about 3 years to figure all this out! … Let me know if you have any questions along the way.

  17. says

    I’ve been debating on switching from wordpress.com to wordpress.org for a little while though…not computer savy enough to do it myself so I need to find someone or a site that will do it for me. In the meantime, I do have one question. Lots of people mention the expense of writing a blog…thus far I have no expenses other than time….so….what are the expenses?? Can you give me some examples?

  18. Vanessa Finney says

    Arsy, I’m hosted at GoDaddy, and my site’s a combination of original food writings by contributors and, soon, my own blog. If you’re familiar with GoDaddy capabilities, I was wondering how you think it stacks up to wordpress.org. If it really pales in comparison, GoDaddy does host WordPress, but I’m already built up at GD. Thanks!

  19. Candi says

    Thank you for this post. It was recommended by one of my fellow IIN students and with perfect timing too. Generous advice and easy to understand too.
    Now I have no more excuses for putting off creating my blog. Here goes … X

  20. says

    Thankyou for this post, it was very helpful – I started blogging in earnest around this time last year, and I made some basic mistakes too…

    I have a wordpress.com blog, not a .org one, so I am going to have to work out how to migrate it, I also do not have a domain name or hosting set up yet (that is on the “to-do” list for the next long-weekend/holiday as I simply do not have time right now.

    Going to get that ebook you mentioned as well…

    My blog is successful, but I know t could be so much better, and I am sure this post will help me in my goals.

    BTW I saw your book for sale at my grocery store the other day (the first time I have EVER seen a Paleo cookbook for sale there!) and I bought it – it is beautiful!

  21. Alexandra says

    I started creating my hobby food blog via tumblr and I’ve had my fun with it, but now I want to get more serious about the things I learn and spread my knowledge to others! Thank you for this information I wanted to ask, as you have in your step by step guide, did you use special themes to make your website look the way it does now via wordpress.org? I’ve worked with wordpress.com before and I must say you did a fantastic job making your website look un-obvious from wordpress. How did you do it?

    • says

      Hi Alexandra – I actually had a developer create my theme for me. Honestly that was because at the time I didn’t realize you could just by themes and there are some really nice ones. I really learned everything the hard way! … But, I am really happy with the design she created for me!

  22. Vanessa Finney says

    Is there a benefit to going with a blogging platform like WordPress or Tumblr vs. a regular website?

  23. says

    I’m seriously trying to understand the expenses of blogging. My blog is small and only on wordpress.com so far…. So no expenses. Could you give mw examples of expenses? You mentioned props…what sort of props?

    • says

      Hi Carol! I was referring to food photography props. I didn’t buy those things when I started out. As I got more serious about blogging, I started slowly building a collection. The typical expenses would include hosting, purchasing a domain name and purchasing a theme.

  24. says

    Thank you so much for this post! I found it on IG and just at the right time. I started my blog (soft launch) in May and am working on making it more serious over the summer. I really appreciate all of these tips in one spot. I will definitely be consulting this post while revamping and taking it to the next level. Cheers!

  25. says

    Thank you! I just switched from wordpress.com to wordpress.org since this is the zillionth time I have heard it! Thank you for not making it seem like a daunting task. I started last summer trying to chronicle how our family eats through our CSA veggies each week, but I have not made the time and been frustrated with the learning curve. This summer I am going to try to keep a weekly goal for posting. I stumbled on your blog through Healy Eats Real – thanks again, this advice is SO valuable.

    • says

      Hi Kelly! I love the concept behind your blog. I started out just blogging when I could and sometimes it was only every few weeks. Just do what you can and have fun with it. Good luck!

  26. Liz Overton says

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing these tips! I’ve mulled the possibility of starting a real food blog for months and had just decided to go for it when the email notification of this post appeared in my inbox. I took it as a sign that it’s definitely time to get the ball rolling! I definitely would have made some mistakes without these tips since I was planning to go to wordpress.com to start out. Now I’m definitely going to pay the extra costs up front to begin with wordpress.org and go ahead and invest in excellence from the start. I’m doing this as a hobby, but who knows where it will lead!

    • says

      Hi Liz! I am so excited for you. I started this out as a hobby too, but once you put your work out there on the internet, who knows where things will go! Good luck!

  27. says

    A huge thank you to you Arsy, for this brilliant post. I have just published my first post on my brand new website (such an exciting moment) and your thoughts and experience have helped me SO much. I am healing an entire family through the power of food so it seemed only natural to write about it too. Thanks once again!
    Kate x
    http://healingfamilyeats.com

  28. Michelle says

    Thank you for sharing!!! I have your Paleo Foodie Cookbook and it’s great. Your story and info is really an inspiration. Michelle (IG @gratefulkitchenette)

  29. says

    Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I
    ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no back up.
    Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?