How to Make Food & Lifestyle Blogging a Successful Business

It’s all the rage to become a full time pro food & lifestyle blogger. It means you get to travel the world, dine at the most fabulous restaurants, meet amazing people, get free stuff, photograph it all & social it out for the world to see. Oh, and you also get paid to live this life of pure bliss. Now let’s talk about the reality…   First let’s define what a food & lifestyle blogger is. This is someone who creates & posts recipes (anything related to food really), restaurant reviews, style trends, design ideas & travel. Sure it’s the best job ever, but how on Earth do you really get to do all these things & get paid for it? Let’s face it folks, blogging sounds great at first until you actually publish your very own blog. Delusions of grandeur slip away & you might get frustrated when you realize it’s tricky to attract readers. And tough to keep them. These 16 tips are always on my mind. The things I do that help me run my business. You guys often ask me behind the scenes questions, I thought it would be helpful to share tips in one place. For your convenience & mine. Work like you mean it! This job is super fabulous…but it takes a lot of work to get where you want. And then even more work to get bigger & bigger. At the beginning there are countless hours of crickets & frustration thrown in the mix. How do you make your mark? Socialize online & in the real world. Blogging took me out of my shell. It’s taken me around the world & back again. I’ve met amazing people & been forced to put on a smile even when completely exhausted (i.e. 24 straight hours of travel followed by a media dinner). Be prepared to work super hard, no matter how small or large your audience is. Learn how to be your own boss. Perhaps you have all ready had a job(s) You have worked with others & learned how to play in the sandbox. You have read documents, completed projects & gotten paid to do so. You have had team meetings. Worked overtime, gotten up way early to make deadlines. Guess what? Pro blogging is exactly that, except more as you are your own boss. You will need to set that alarm, work on weekends. You will have days & weeks of no pay. Yes, you will have expenses too. Then again you are your own boss, so set your own boundaries. Learn how to work with clients. Once you have claimed your blog space & your reader numbers start to rise you might get contacted by potential clients (Thats the point right? This is a job).  Set your boundaries in your house, coffee shop or wherever you choose to work. Make sure you have a quiet space to concentrate & take important phone calls. Learn to listen & speak clearly. Take notes before your conversation to help with clarity. Take notes during the conversation so you can refer to them after. There are always follow up emails, make sure those are clear & you understand the full scope of the project. Never be too shy to ask questions. There is nothing worse than working hard on a photo shoot & blog post to find out it’s not what they wanted. Clear things up at the beginning. Treat your clients with respect & they will treat you the same. Get business Savvy. Learn how to read legal documents with a fine tooth comb. Remember, the docs that are sent to you are likely written by large corporate attorneys to benefit….the client! That’s right. Before you pen your name to something, get to know exactly what is is you are signing away your rights to. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the contract & never be afraid to make changes that will suit your needs. The client will likely oblige if they really want to work with you. As a matter of fact, they will see you as super smart & very valuable. I’ve had contracts that have been passed back & forth with changes multiple times until we got it right. Hire professionals when needed. As you grow, so will your income (hopefully!) Expenses, visibility & potential issues will arise. Be sure to have a great accountant, lawyer, publicist and agents (though you don’t pay for an agent) Also, never be shy to ask your blogging friends their opinions on issues. There are many forums out there to do this. Ask them how they have dealt with things. Also try to help others when they have questions. As mentioned above…hire the right people & you will be in much better professional hands. Learn how to take GREAT photos. Your job as a food & lifestyle blogger is to share the most fabulous aspects of life…through your own eyes. How do you do this? Through gorgeous, captivating & tempting photos. No matter what the subject, your job is to make it shine. This is essential in our visually stimulated world today. No matter how great your writing is, people have short attention spans & LOVE pretty pictures. Pictures are worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to the social dynamo Pinterest. Learn how to use your camera, understand lighting and take classes when needed. Wear all hats. I call myself a “Jill of all trades” You will need to learn how to be editor, content creator, photographer, graphic designer, stylist, commentator, interviewer, etc. Grasp basic graphic design programs. Figure out that camera. Take workshops in areas you want to learn more about. They can be soon helpful. Lots of popular bloggers share their wisdom at conferences, trade shows & workshops. Keep your eyes peeled for these. Find your passions & run with them. I blog about food, skiing, cocktails, family, worldly travels, hunting and way more. You are not confined to a box folks. Your blog is your real estate. Your special place to share with the world all the things you LOVE! Steal like an artist. Have you ever seen that book? (Steal Like an Artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative) It’s fabulous. A pocket sized handbook of reason & reality. Let’s face it. How many ideas out there are completely original? Never been done before? Not many. Sure you must make things your own, you can’t be an all out copycat. But….inspiration comes from whats around you. If you love a magazine or another blogger, study their style & make it your very own. That brings us to… Open your eyes (and ours!) I’ll never forget when I was sitting in my favorite Mountain Film Festival here in Telluride & I saw the first opening trailer. The song Open Your Eyes by Snow Patrol played while the most gorgeous & inspiring film clips floated by showing all sorts of adrenaline sports. I was mesmerized by the athletes on skis, snow boards, mountain bikes…I wanted to get out there, get active & make my mark. In the world of blogging, same applies. Open your eyes to all the beauty around you. Want to write a blog post on snow? Do it. Want to write about your favorite makeup find? Do it. If you open your eyes, you will help to open ours. Act as if. I’m not telling you to be arrogant or like a know it all. But act like you know what you are talking about. Claim your voice & space. These days it takes just minutes to learn something new online. Research, find answers when you don’t know them. Most importantly, ask questions. Always ask questions. Claim your very own cyber space. There’s enough real estate out there for all of us. Claim your piece of the pie. Once you have your domaine name figured out set up all of your other social media channels immediately! You need to claim your space & start posting asap. Remember to post throughout the day. Also if you want others to fall in love & share your content, be sure to share theirs too. This is a job of give & take. Be a good neighbor. Step out of your comfort zone. I’ll never forget how I used to cringe when I would hit the “publish post” button. All sorts of nervous feelings would surface. It was like I just stepped onto the stage into a large audience packed playhouse with a bikini on. My heart would race. I wondered if anyone would see my work. If they would like it. If the recipe was written correctly & if there would be any hecklers (by the way, there will always be those. Learn to love ’em. Or just to deal with them & hit delete.) That brings us to….Don’t be afraid of rejection. Or try not to. Things not going your way? Head outdoors, take a walk & get some exercise. It will clear your head & put you in a better space to keep working. Pet your dog. Do something other than work to clear your mind. I am a believer in stepping out of your comfort zone & trying something new once a day. Makes you a stronger person & better blogger. Find your right time of the day to work. I have things loosely mapped out. I write best in the very early morning, I cannot even compose a sentence at night. I work social media throughout the day: Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Facebook. I schedule Facebook posts when I have a few extra minutes, this does not happen every day. My window to shoot photos in natural light is large, thankfully my house sits on a hill with loads of natural light….even in the peak of winter. If you don’t have that luxury make sure you time your recipe testing and photos with your light. Also be sure to have supplemental light. I have Litepanels LED lighting & love them! Invest in yourself. Not to overwhelm you, but down the road you might need to spend money to make money. All businesses large & small require some kinds of business expenses. To get stories you might need to invest in your own travel. You might need to hire the professionals described above. You will have to pay for camera gear, insurance, props & a slew of other things. Just do it. Congrats, you are now a business owner. Act like one. Just started a blog? Congrats! You now own a very important business. Be sure to treat it that way. You have now become a public figure. Everything you post, tweet, pin & share will be watched & potentially reshared by the masses. I tend to have a more flamboyant way of communicating. Every now & then I’ve deleted a social comment after publishing it. That’s your call, always edit yourself. The brilliant thing about a blog is that you can always change a post even after published.  Hold integrity & honesty close. A brilliant business person with great integrity is a huge asset to both your readers & clients. Good luck in this exciting business. I love what I do day in & out! Let’s Stay in Touch! Now that I’ve given you all these pointers I would love to connect with you beyond the blog! Find me & follow me here too…xo


~ Marla Meridith

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25 thoughts on “How to Make Food & Lifestyle Blogging a Successful Business

  1. Great post! As someone who is considering starting a blog, it’s really exciting, but also very scary. It’s nice to get an inside look at how others have been successful.

  2. This is so helpful!! I started a makeup blog a few years ago and gave up on it because i got bored, and i recently just started a food blog, but I’m my own worst critic and tend to be lazy writing posts. This has inspired me to revamp and not give up. Thank you!!

    1. Evelyn, that is FABULOUS news! It can be really tough at the start. Glad to hear you will give it another whirl. Best of luck with your new food blog!

  3. Marla this is such a thoughtful and extremely thorough post…so impressed!!! Everything you said from working weekends, setting boundaries, going over contracts with a fine tooth comb, to knowing when you personally work best to managing lighting in your house (love Litepanels, thank you!!) to working like you mean it…I found myself nodding with each sentence. Such a great and honest and helpful post! Thanks for doing this!

    1. Hi Averie! Glad to hear you concur with these thoughts. Been wanting to write this post for some time now. Once I got rolling on it, was hard to stop! Have a most wonderful weekend 🙂 xo

  4. I, too, had started a blog a couple of years ago. Even had a few non-family & friends followers. But I haven’t done anything with it for a long time. Not because I didn’t have fun with it but because it was an unsustainable topic. At least it is right now. Maybe I’ll go back, tweak it a little, and work towards getting it back to what I envision it to be.

  5. Marla, Your post is filled with fantastic advice for both new and established bloggers! I have been blogging for three years now and everything you talked about really resonates with me. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and for being a inspiration too!

    1. Thank you Shelley! I’m so glad to hear that this post serves as both inspiration & education. I love learning from others & passing down info I’ve learned as well.

  6. Great post, Marla! Blogging is a tremendous amount of work and each step of this journey involves commitment. Thanks for providing a roadmap for success!

  7. These are very practical tips. I’m a full time blogger but recently have started working on a personal/lifestyle blog, and I can vouch that this is all really helpful advice. If only I’d read it way back when I started blogging ;). Would’ve come in handy.

  8. Very insightful. Im looking into starting my own food and travel blog very soon, my husbands in the army so i see lots of places with him. And I extremely enjoying trying new foods especially in my hometown New Orleans. Just don’t know where to start with this blog..