Ask CakeSpy: How Can I Become a Superstar Dessert Blogger?

Dear CakeSpy,

I recently started a food blog, and I have a question: how do I make my site a sweet success like yours? Cos, you know, I totally want to quit my day job and write about food all day. So how do I garner a following and get famous, quick?


Fellow Foodie

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Dear Foodie,

Well, I am sure flattered that you think I'm famous. Because, you know, other than the millions of dollars in my bank account, I'm really just like you.

I'm kidding, of course--but this touches on something I am asked all the time: "How do you make money?". Sometimes within five minutes of meeting me. For reals.

But it's ok--I don't find this rude, because I think it is a genuinely interesting thing--how do you turn a food blog into a business, from which you can actually make money?

I don't consider myself an expert, but as someone who makes a (very modest) living from a business based on my blog, let me offer up some of my thoughts.

First off, start your blog because you love it, not to make money or become an international superstar. When I started CakeSpy, I started it as a place to channel my love of baked goods, writing, and illustrating in one place. I thought I would do this while I figured out what I really wanted to do with my life--I never thought that the blog could be the springboard for a business. And I can honestly say that I would still be maintaining the blog even if I didn't make a cent from it, because I genuinely love it.

Think about content first. Because while it's a great goal to get a zillion visitors to your site, they are not going to come back if there's nothing interesting to read. So in my opinion, concentrate on providing great, engaging content first. Once you've gotten some content on your site, start promoting yourself by creating a community--leave comments and get involved in the conversation on other blogs you like, submit your posts to sites like TasteSpotting and FoodGawker, promote them on sites like Reddit or Stumbleupon, link to your posts via Flickr photos (and join like-minded photo groups), and of course update Twitter and Facebook with new posts.

Take nice pictures. It's always nice to click over to a blog and be greeted with a pretty picture, isn't it? However, don't get your panties in a twist over the equipment. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy camera (of course, it's your money, so if you love having gadgets, go for it). My camera cost me less than $100, and I've been using the same one since I started the site, and while my photos aren't professional grade, I think they work just fine to convey the rich and delicious nature of many of the sweets featured on the site. 

Of course, I should give a side note on commenting on other blogs. In my opinion it's best to leave comments on blogs you like and follow--simply spam-commenting on as many blogs as you can to increase people clicking over to your site is not only disrespectful, but kind of annoying. 

And of course, there's that bit about getting links on other blogrolls. I am not speaking for everyone here, just for my own site, but here are my thoughts on the matter. I link to several sites that I enjoy on mine, but in general, you're not going to get a link on my site simply by asking or offering to trade. I generally will link to blogs and sites that I like and think you will too--it rubs me the wrong way to receive requests to add other people's links to my site if I have never heard of them or seen their website before. However, a thoughtful email introducing me to a new website (um, not a copied and pasted "Dear Blogger" email) might eventually result in me linking to the site!

Oh, and I guess I'll come back to that money thing. I'm sure that there are some superstar bloggers who make a zillion dollars through advertising -- I am not one of them. I make a modest amount from monthly advertising, but I will be honest--the majority of my income is from other projects that have come as a result of my work on the blog: freelance writing and illustration assignments, and wholesale and retail orders from my product line, and one of these days, a book advance. It often feels like my income comes in small amounts from various places, rather than coming in monthly paychecks. I will admit, it makes tax time very painful and headache-y. 

OK. So, in a nutshell:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Start creating content that you love. Post stuff that keeps you engaged, and post regularly.
  3. Once you have a few things up, start creating a community with other blogs that you like--follow them, leave comments, link to them.
  4. Start promoting yourself on networking / sharing sites as mentioned above.
  5. Fame and fortune will follow! Or not. But it's ok, because remember: YOU ARE HAVING FUN. 

Hope this helps!

For the love of blog,