It’s no secret that there is money to be made in food blogging. A number of bloggers have brought some level of transparency to this area by publishing their income reports. However, there are a number of ways food bloggers make money.
But if you’ve ever been lost as to how it is done, then read on. Or if you are a seasoned blogger looking to expand your income streams, read on also.
Why Food Bloggers Monetize
“Why do you run so many ads on your site?” is a comment that some of us have gotten from time to time. Regardless of how you feel about ads, it covers a simple truth that any of us are familiar with: it’s not free to run a food blog. But at times it’s a public service that some people expect.
But behind the fast loading, magazine-worthy pictures, and how-to videos, are expenses that most who visit food blogs don’t really see.
To keep up with expenses many of us have to monetize to at least keep up with the monthly recurring items: hosting, social media scheduling services, buying a DSLR, editing software, a better lens, and the list goes on.
How Food Blogs Monetize
Below is a completely incomplete list of ways that food blogs tend to monetize. If you are just getting started, start with one or two of these. As your journey progresses then you can add other ways of monetizing.
Each method of monetizing is not without consequence. Each of these has pros and cons to using them.
Other than Wikipedia, there are few webpages we visit that don’t use display ads. This is one of the easiest ways to monetize. The vast majority of bloggers don’t do the work themselves, they instead rely on ad companies who take a cut of the revenue.
While Google Ad Sense or WordAds have low barriers to be monetized, there are other ad networks that pay substantially more. However, if you have traffic and can meet the thresholds for qualifying Mediavine and AdThrive are excellent monetizing options.
Bottom line: These impact the user experience by disrupting paragraphs and slowing your site. However, many of us are almost blind to these so you’ll have to weigh out the loss of site speed and user experience with the money coming in.
Affiliate marketing is companies that offer a certain amount (either fixed or a percentage) when an individual buys a product or service through the link you post. Maybe you’ve seen bloggers who love and adore a certain mixer, blender, or other kitchen product and link to it. Those are often affiliate links. If you want to see how to do this properly, then check out this post.
Bottom line: This relationship needs to be disclosed via FTC guidelines and Google Guidelines as these are paid links and therefore unnatural. As a blogger, if you fail to follow these there can be consequences from the FTC, Google, or from the Affiliate program. In terms of your reader, only recommend products that you truly love, adore, and would buy using your own money.
This is new and emerging. But brilliant at the same time. Perhaps you’ve been working on an email list. Perhaps you field questions all the time about how to do things on a blog.
You have knowledge that other people are willing to pay for. Maybe you will hope on a call or Skype with your clients.
But if you aren’t a beginner and you have traffic, then you’ve cracked the code of blogging. That might not be a skill that everyone WILL pay for. But the ambitious few will know that paying for an hour will save a newbie potentially hours in the long run.
Some bloggers offer group coaching or even packages for one on one services bundled together for hundreds of dollars and up.
Bottom line: If you are going this route, just realize this might not appeal to the majority of your readers. You would only be appealing to those who aspire to be like you. This might take more than a blog post, but a segmented email list would serve you, in this case, to keep it just to the people who are interested in starting a blog.
Also, as a proof of concept, you’ll see a lot of bloggers who also publish income reports as well as offering coaching services. How do you convince people that you’ve made it in the blogging world? It comes down to being able to monetize your blog.
If the kitchen is your natural habitat, then this might be up your alley. You might be able to develop a recipe for a brand, company, magazine or for other bloggers. Yes, there are some bloggers who love food blogging but may need to outsource the recipes that are published on their website. There are even virtual assistants who will sell both recipes and pictures on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.
Bottom line: If you live to make something creative, this may be a great outlet to market to those who don’t have the time or value an expert in this area to come up with solid recipes that will resonate with your readers.
If you go this route, be sure to have a good contract. Spell out the terms, conditions, where the recipe can be published, and if it is exclusive. Price accordingly. Your time is worth something.
Perhaps you have a bunch of recipes and a brand, company, or online outlet has an interest. Usually, they would be interested in the recipe as well as the pictures. Why not license your existing content?
Now clearly, you are going to want to invest in a pretty solid contract or in an attorney when they send a contract your way, but this has the potential to squeeze just a bit more profit out
Bottom line: With a good lawyer or contract you can squeeze that much more out of the existing content that you’ve already worked so hard on. However, some brands and companies are not as honest (or will straight up take advantage of you) as they should be. Don’t skimp on reading your contracts ever.
I know what you are thinking, but YOU offer photography services. I do, however, this is not the only way to put your skillset to use. However, since food blogging is very time consuming and there are only 24 hours in a day, then some might choose to outsource this task.
However, restaurants and brands are more than willing to also pay for photography as well. Cookbooks need photos too. So there are options beyond just photography for other bloggers. You can also sell your photography on various stock photography websites.
Bottom line: No, you aren’t limited to reaching out to other bloggers. Restaurant, menu, bakery, and brand photography will always be in demand as long our society is social media and websites need this. Smaller restaurants and establishments won’t have quite the budget that larger brands and establishments will and you will have to give up some creative control to make the customer happy.
You’ve seen this on blogs and if you are on social media you might have seen these types of posts. Either a blogger has approached and company (or perhaps the other way around) to feature a certain product or service in exchange for money or product.
You aren’t limited to just a blog post. You can choose where the sponsored posts appear whether it is on your blog, an Instagram story, or on other social platforms.
Bottom Line: This relationship always needs to be disclosed to those reading your posts according to FTC Guidelines. As exciting as it might be to be approached by a company, only recommend a product or service you genuinely love. Selling out to an unworthy company can lead to your readers trusting you less. Choose products wisely.
This may seem like a repeat of the first item I mentioned with ads, however, if your ad network offers video ads, this is a highly lucrative unit.
If you’ve ever noticed a site with the recipe video off in the sidebar or as a sticky unit, then you’ve seen this type of ad. Often times there is an ad that plays at the beginning, middle, or between videos.
How lucrative is this single ad? For my main blog, this has added another 15+% to my monthly income. EVERY MONTH. This is why you need video if you are already on an ad network.
Bottom Line: On desktop, this ad placement is less intrusive, however, on mobile if it is a “sticky” ad it can block a reader’s view and take away some of the experience of reading your post.
Once again, there are only so many hours in the day. And it is time-consuming to learn certain social media channels to build an audience. If you’ve mastered a certain platform, then there are plenty of people who are willing to pay to get this task off of their hands.
Bottom line: If you are good at a certain platform and enjoy spending time on it, then why not let other people know. Trust me, there are plenty of bloggers who loathe social media and self-promotion. But we all love the traffic that it generates.
This is a relatively unexplored area in food blogging. However, if there is a product (food, cookware, etc.) that you absolutely love, why not pitch them. Watch an episode of American Idol or a number of other shows and you’ll see certain shows have altered packaging. Others you’ll see the Coke cup staring you in the face. Perfectly straight. Every time.
It’s not an accident. Because of the audience size of a television program, this is a well-known option. However, watch YouTube and you’ll see quite a bit of collaboration there too. Can this transfer to the food blogging space? Absolutely.
Bottom line: If you’ve built an audience, then this might be an avenue that is worth exploring especially as blogging becomes more complex. But as always, if there is a financial relationship between you and a brand when in doubt, disclose.
Is there a certain skill you’ve mastered that pertains to cooking or blogging? Is it something someone is always asking for help on? Why not put out an e-book?!
Maybe your readers aren’t ready to throw hundreds of dollars at your for coaching or e-courses. But they may be willing to test the water with a lower priced item. I’ve bought a number of e-books before jumping to more expensive products.
Bottom line: It is time-consuming to create, but this can quickly become a simple stream for passive income. Plus, your blog isn’t the only place you can list your e-book. Amazon can also be another way of getting your product out there.
Maybe the reason you got into blogging was to build up an audience for publishing a cookbook. Now, more than ever before you can choose to self publish or go with a publisher to get this done. Several bloggers have written successful cookbooks like the Pioneer Woman or Gina from the blog Skinnytaste.
Bottom line: Cookbooks are all major undertakings and not always profitable compared to the amount of time spent. But a cookbook might have a wider appeal than “how to be a blogger” related content.
Membership sites charge monthly rather than offer lifetime deals. While they may be a good income stream you’ll need to constantly add value each month to retain your users. And it is better to retain your current customers rather than constantly seeking out new customers. If what you are teaching is constantly changing, this may be a better route to go down rather an e-course.
Bottom line: While a recurring monthly income is more stable than single sales, the expectations are that you’ll continually be providing your readers with value each and every month. You’ll have to figure out ways to maintain members from month to month.
Speaking or Classes
Perhaps being somewhere other than behind a computer or cell phone screen is for you. Maybe you want to teach or lecture in person. There are a number of conferences out there or local culinary schools that might want your expertise either in the kitchen or in the digital space.
Bottom line: As a food blogger, you have a number of skills that can be transferred either through in-person speaking engagements or in classes. This can help your credibility and get your name out. It can also give your raving fans an opportunity to meet you and learn from you in person.
While not an easy stream, there are a number of podcasts that have been monetized through sponsorships and ads. Ads on podcasts work similarly to regular ads except it is based on downloads. You’ll need to work out what your RPM is. The more downloads the more you can command.
Podcasting is one of the least competitive spaces. In the food space, anything that you can do to put yourself out there to expand the awareness in your brand can only benefit you. Like blogging, this might take time to monetize this way, however, the rewards seem to go to the early adopters of new media.
Maybe it isn’t possible or there isn’t a market near you about a topic that is near and dear to your heart. It can be food or blogging related. It needs to be an area that you have mastered.
Now there is no mastery police or expert police, but it should be something a beginner would find value in. This is a record once (possibly tweak as you go along) and you are able to sell it regularly.
Bottom line: While creating an e-course should not be taken lightly and is a ton of work, once you’ve created a course this is the perfect item to market to people who might find what you have to teach valuable.
Teaching a Course in Person
Unlike an e-course which you might be able to record once and you are pretty much done, the impact of human connection to meet the people who admire and follow you can’t be understated. This can be a once in a lifetime experience for some. In addition, you can show real people that you are in fact the real deal.
Bottom life: If you want to get out there, meet your fans, earn some real in-person credibility, and improve your teaching skills, then having a course on an area is a great avenue for you.
Patreon or Crowdsourcing Sites
Maybe a video or the behind the scenes aspect is for you. Maybe you want to offer exclusive content on a different platform that is paid. Then maybe Patreon is for you. You set up how much you are looking to charge for this content and Patreon gets a cut of your monthly income.
Bottom line: Because of how much content is out there, only your most raving fans will probably be willing to pay up for this. Plus you’ll be expected to push out content regularly to justify the monthly cost for your readers. Also, keep an eye on fees for sites like this.
The Last Word
There are quite a few bloggers who publish income reports. Some do it for credibility. Others do it to bring a measure of transparency to the field. Read those income reports and you’ll notice one thing: all of them use multiple streams of income. As a beginning blogger pick one or two of these to start. Once you master them, then you can continually build out to other avenues.
If you are a more advanced blogger, maybe this list has given you new ideas for monetizing. If you are monetized, then you might look for extra avenues or making just a bit more. Or you might find yourself using that money to hire out the services you don’t love doing.
And if you want a breakdown of how bloggers of different income levels make their money you can check out this Blog Income Study.
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