How to Start a Food Blog from Scratch: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Start a Food Blog From Scratch

Ok, so maybe you’ve got this yummy streak going on, a sweet tooth, a baking kick. Or, ok just admit it... you’re a total wizard in the kitchen and it’s time the world knew it!

If you adore being in the kitchen and want to share your passion with the world, a great way to do that is to start a food blog! You don’t have to be a professional cook, have training from a patisserie in France, or have a massive online following to begin sharing your edible artistry online. All you need is a willingness to roll up those sleeves and just dive in, mixer and all.

So today I’m talking about how to build a food blog for foodies, home cooks, newbies, and trained professionals alike. If you’ve always wanted to share your food genius online, then it’s time to strap on that apron and build one epic blog step by step. Here’s how to do it.

So You Want to Start a Food Blog, Huh?

I like to think of Amy Adam’s character from Julie & Julia when I think about this topic. (I love that movie!)

But hey, you may even be thinking right now, “Wait, what does this girl know about food blogging in the first place?”  Well, I can’t say I’m a chef myself, but when it comes to the digital food world, I’ve totally got you! To back things up a few years, I began my digital publishing journey with MyRecipes.com, a site that features dishes from publications like Cooking Light, Southern Living, and Food & Wine. 

This was my first job in media after I graduated with my degree, and I was there for two years. I sat at this awesome desk with a floor-to-ceiling window one floor below the test kitchens where just about every recipe for Time Inc’s lifestyle brands was whipped up. Good smells were literally always wafting through the building and quite often we got to taste-test! Not a bad day at the office, right?

A year after I left web production and then ended up coming back to freelance in the video department upstairs. We produced recipe demos and web series episodes and it was so much fun getting to work alongside such a talented group of creatives.

My time in the food world was basically like this (really yummy) online creative boot camp.

So because of my background, the food world still gives me all the warm fuzzy feels. If I can help just one person build their own food blog and craft a (delicious) presence online, I’ll be pretty happy about that! 😍

If you’re sitting there nodding along and going, “Yup, that’s me!” and you want to start a food blog of your own, then definitely know that you absolutely can! And I’m going to break it down in a series of 5 essential steps.

Pour some fresh coffee and pull out a notebook, because this is one hearty jam-packed guide on how to get started! My advice is to spend about a week on each step so you don’t feel overwhelmed or rushed. Knives and forks at the ready, because here we go!


1.) Name and Build Your Blog

It’s no surprise that the first step really just starts with an idea and a name.

Food blogs in particular have some of the most creative, fun, and interesting names out there. Some of my faves are: Minimalist Baker, Well & Full, Against All Grain, and even two blogs belonging to fellow Time Inc. alums, Dishing Out Health and Beth Cakes. Food blog names are typically fun and fresh and invoke the feeling of the food that’s featured as well as the personality of the creator behind it all. Or you can always opt to have a personal brand using your own name.

Take a moment and jot down some ideas! What’s your food specialty (or niche)? Is your thing comfort food, baked goods, quick and easy recipes, or vegan food? Use your specialty (and imagination) to help whip up a great name. Write them all down, test them out, say them out loud (and ask friends & family what they think!) to find the perfect glass slipper fit.

Always be sure to check and make sure your blog name isn’t taken already, and if everything’s good to go, snag your domain!

And hey, if you’re needing inspiration for your brand’s look and feel, you can always use my favorite platform to come up with the most amazing vision boards and brand ideas to help you get started.

When it comes to building your actual blog, you can opt to work with a designer (holla!) or go the DIY route with any one of the amazing blog templates on Squarespace. (If you’re working with Wordpress, I recommend the Genesis framework with Foodie Pro or any of the Restored316 templates.)


2.) Develop Your Recipes

Your epic creations wouldn’t be nearly as great without an invitation for others to get freaky in the kitchen too (yep, awkward innuendo intended #notsorry) And that happens with sharing your recipes! So when it comes to displaying your recipes on your site, there are a few ways to do this:

You can opt for a recipe plugin if you’re using Wordpress, a third party recipe service to embed the recipes on a Squarespace site, or simply use plain text to list your recipes in a clear and concise way.

The anatomy of a recipe consists of two main sections, the ingredients, and the instructions. Something important to remember about recipes online is that even in this digital age, a lot of folks still like to print recipes out. 

For each recipe, share a little bit about where the inspiration for it came from, the story behind it, or why you love it. Use the areas above your recipe space to share photos and anecdotes that share more about how the recipe came to be, just as if you were telling a friend all about it over a glass of wine. 

Keeping it conversational like this invites your audience to come along with you for the ride and also brings them into your world in a way that feels like they’re welcomed at your table.

Such a fun part too is getting to test your creations along the way and read the comments from those who have tried them too! When each recipe is submitted as a blog post, you can enable comments that allow folks to leave their thoughts.


3.) Food Photos Really Matter

This is my opinion but I’m sticking to it. There is no other niche out there where the photography matters more than in food. We eat with our eyes first! And we’ve all seen those badly lit lunch photos that make an otherwise great beef stew look like a few wrong shades of you-know-what.

In short, your photos matter. And before you feel deflated thinking you have to go out there and invest in all this expensive camera gear before you even get started, fear not. Because while those things are absolutely worth investing in if you want to carry this for the long haul, let me just give you some tips first so you can start right now with what you have.

Food Photography Tips:

  1. Use Natural or Soft Lighting: Think about placing your creations near a window or in a well-lit space where they can catch the natural light. If you don’t have any natural light, use a bit of parchment paper loosely clipped over a large light to soften it (but be careful to not let the paper touch the lightbulb! It might burn.) 

  2. Food & Prop Styling : Add a stylish flair to the plates and place setting to add visual interest. A fun way to to this is to treat yourself to some thrift store shopping with just $20 and to find unique dishes, utensils, and linens devoted to your food blog to help your creations pop!

  3. Use Creative Surfaces: To create different surfaces for your photos on a budget, you can use items you may already have lying around like placemats, cookie sheets, linens, and even poster board to bring a fresh look to your creations. 

  4. Edit Your Photos: Use a photo editing app like Lightroom to help increase the vibrancy and contrast of your photos so they look scrumptious. Think rich colors, soft light, and clear focus. 


 
I took this smoothie photo at home and features a cookie sheet as the bottom surface and a white cotton sheet as the backdrop. See? Simple! (Photo: Jessica Colyer)

I took this smoothie photo at home and features a cookie sheet as the bottom surface and a white cotton sheet as the backdrop. See? Simple! (Photo: Jessica Colyer)

This photo was taken in a studio and is an example of using natural, soft light by placing dishes near a window. (Photo: Jessica Colyer)

This photo was taken in a studio and is an example of using natural, soft light by placing dishes near a window. (Photo: Jessica Colyer)

 



4.) Share Your Recipes with Marketing Tools 

In marketing your food blog and getting it out into the world, I’m gonna break this down into a few key areas. My suggestion is to take it all into consideration, but to focus your efforts on SEO first, then one of the other areas of your choice, and then move onto the remaining tools later.

SEO - This stands for search engine optimization. At your blog’s core, make sure your recipe titles, URLs, and descriptions are clean and Google-able. Think of how someone would search for a recipe, then title your recipes according to that. For instance, a recipe title of “Apple Pie In Traditional Southern Style” will probably not be as searchable as “Southern Apple Pie” 

Pinterest - Folks hop onto Pinterest to search for recipes all the time! Use vertical images and graphics to create pins that direct back to your blog.  To automate this process, you can use Tailwind or hire a skilled Pinterest manager to increase traffic to your blog. 

Social Media: Platforms like Instagram and Facebook make sharing your creations with others a piece of cake! Instagram Stories and Facebook Lives are also great ways to showcase your newest creations, recipe demos, or share your behind the scenes looks as well.

Email Lists: Create an opt-in for subscribers to join in your latest goodies! You can do this easily (and for free) with Mailchimp or by paying a low monthly rate for a great email service for bloggers, ConvertKit. Reach out to your subscribers to announce your latest recipes, or new offerings such as cookbooks, Facebook Lives, and more.


5.) Look for Ways to Monetize

It may be tough to make money from your food blog right out of the gate, but with consistent content, an intentional strategy, and connecting with your audience, there are many monetization options available for food bloggers. 

A few ideas to get you started: 

  • Services like in-person events/classes

  • Brand partnerships (Food delivery services, product demos, apron companies, etc.)

  • Social media partnerships

  • Product shop

  • Membership group

  • Cookbooks

  • Ebooks

  • Online courses

  • On-site advertising (Google AdSense, etc.)

  • Amazon Affiliates

  • Affiliate marketing

Come up with a monetization plan to get your blog making money (even if it’s just a small amount!) as soon as possible. Not only is this a huge confidence boost, but it provides momentum and enables you to keep purchasing ingredients to create new recipes, serve your audience better, and become supported in what you do. 


Get Cookin’ Good Lookin’

With all of these steps broken down, hopefully you feel well on your way (and not overwhelmed) with crafting one straight-up delicious food blog! Sometimes it’s all about just putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, and seeing that magic that happens.

To recap, here are those 5 basic steps to getting started with your food blog: 

  1. Name and build your blog

  2. Develop some recipes

  3. Take photos of those recipes

  4. Use marketing tools to get eyes on your blog

  5. Brainstorm ways to monetize

Food blogs can come in all shapes in sizes and bring so much joy and deliciousness to people all over the world. Get started with yours today and begin your own Julie & Julia adventure. (Ok, I’m off to go watch that movie now.  💁🥘)


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Food for Thought

Wanting to start your own food blog but struggling with taking the first steps? Share your thoughts, fears, or obstacles. Let’s talk it out.