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Thursday
Jan272011

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?

Love, 

Fellow Foodie

- - - - - - - - - - - - - 

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,

CakeSpy

Reader Comments (18)

Right. On. Perfectly delivered advice!! I can already predict scores of new, superstar blogs... (i posted a link on ediblecrafts.craftgossip.com, I know lots o' folks who would love this info)
What a great honest post...aka...great content Jessie ;-) Your artwork is so creative and unique, I can't wait for your book!
January 27 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie
I love this post. I figure there are two types of bloggers - the ones who are in it because they're truly passionate about what they do, and the ones who just want to become rich and famous. Sure, I wish I could blog nonstop, quit my day job and bake all day, but I'm just happy to be sharing my experiences in the kitchen (and my failures) just because I enjoy it! I will say it is really fun to get comments on things that I know I've worked really hard on in my kitchen, because it means someone else, sometimes a total stranger, can appreciate what they are reading/seeing. That's my favorite part! What a great post, keep them coming!
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline
This is super helpful...such a fine line in this blogging world of sharing the love and rudely self promoting! Like you said, its all about the content and the passion behind it!!
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterLeandra
Dear CakeSpy,

You are smart and witty and fabulous. You also give great advice. Thanks!

Love,
The Literate Baker

P.S. Will flattery get me a link on your site? Just kidding, I know you prefer cars and chocolate ;-)
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterDawn
HI there, I just thought I'd let you know that I found this really useful. I set up a blog a whole 2 days ago so am really quite clueless but enjoying the thrill of writing posts (about craft/vintage/photography etc) even though no one is reading them yet!
Love your website.
Maeve.
January 28 | Unregistered Commentermaeve
Thank you for this post! I found it to be very helpful. I just "launched" my baby blog two weeks ago, and it's quickly blooming into a passion. My favorite blogs (like yours!) are often the most sincere and enthusiastic. So that's what I'll try to stick to :-)
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterMelzor
I talk about Multiple Streams of Income all the time. It's really the best way to make a living doing what you love. Thanks so much for the great advice.
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Bray
Thank you so much for this post! I love following your blog, and you inspired me to start my own! I have had the love of food for forever, and I am even in school for foodservice, but I never really knew what I wanted. Food blogging has given me so much more enthusiasm towards my major, my hobby, and food in general. I really struggled at first, learning how to write like yourself is really difficult, but now I have a better handle on it and rarely have "writers block". If I never make money from my blog, thats fine, I just hope one day it can lead to my own business! Thank you so much for the continued inspiration, and I can't wait to see your book! :)
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterBigFatBaker
I love that you took the time to seriously write a response to this question. I love to blog; however, given a strenuous day job as a social worker, and a lack of reliable wireless connection in my apartment, blogging has been knocked down several notches on my "to do" list as of late.
But I love the feeling and idea that you covey in your response to this reader's question. And that idea is... hope. Anything is possible if we do what we love and commit to doing it well!
So, thank you!
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterLogan
I really like this post and can relate, lol, maybe I'll post something similar on my sites!

Thanks for taking the time period to do what you do, I have only a few sites that I visit more than once a week and yours is one of them. Keep up the amazing job, your love for what you do really comes through in your writing!
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterSerious Cakes
This is such a well-rounded post with tons of great advice. Thanks for taking the time to dish it out :)
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna
This is probably the best--most honest and realistic--post I've seen on blogging as a business. Doing it because it's fun and rewarding is the most important. Along those lines, I'd say the same about freelance writing, too, another seemingly easy and glamorous job; for every byline published, a lot of work goes into developing and pitching a story idea, getting interviews, writing, and rewriting/editing. It can definitely be worth it, but only if you love it!
Love the post, your blog and all of your delightful illustrations !
January 28 | Unregistered CommenterKatreece
Thanks for the great advice! I'm just starting out a blog this year, so this post came at perfect timing :) Love your blog!
January 29 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa
This made me feel better about the blog I started. It seems like I'm in the right direction so far! I've had this article saved for a while and while it doesn't relate to a food blog at all this guy did get his $25 worth out of stumble upon and thought I would pass it on.

http://wellmedicated.com/observational/how-i-got-100000-pageviews-for-25/

(I'm having internet issues, I hope this didn't post twice)
January 29 | Unregistered CommenterKorina
Right on! I love this, Jessie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would toast you with the crumb cake cupcakes on our counter if I could!
May 25 | Unregistered CommenterRice Kernel
Ok, Cakespy. You win. I want to eat all of the delicious treats you share. I started reading over two years ago and yours is one of my faves to read. Thanks for giving a treat to my eyes daily!

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