A guest post by Amy Sherman
Right now there’s a lot of buzz about how hard it is to earn an income from food blogging. I find it hard to be part of those discussions because I have never looked at blogging as a way to earn a living. I think of my food blog as a marketing vehicle and a platform and it’s led to a thriving career.
I started my food blog, Cooking with Amy, in 2003. There were no ad networks, no ads that I can remember, no sponsored posts or spokesperson deals. Food bloggers weren’t getting book deals or TV deals — let alone movie deals — and they certainly didn’t expect to be paid for blogging. It was all about “citizen journalism,” something no one talks much about anymore. Blogging was for people who had something to say, and they were finding a new way to say it. Enthusiastic writers and recipe creators didn’t have to write a book or wait for a magazine editor to take a pitch. We could share our writing, recipes and photography with an audience beyond our friends and family. It was the reason we blogged, and the reward.
Mainstream journalists felt threatened as blogs became popular and they threw stones. They said blogging would kill journalism. They said bloggers weren’t professional and even worse, we weren’t ethical. But after a while they decided if they couldn’t beat ‘em they would join ‘em, and newspapers, magazines and television networks jumped on the blogging bandwagon. Just as it is in other media, advertising on blogs slowly became commonplace. Over the last few years, making money became the primary focus at many blogging conferences .
While I don’t take ads, only Amazon affiliate links for books I choose to review, I’ve found plenty of opportunities for income based on my blog. In 2004 I began writing for KQED’s new food blog and in 2005 I began writing restaurant reviews for a local online site. That same year I got my first recipe development assignment with a major international brand. In 2007 I became a guest contributor at Epicurious and I signed my first book contract. The book was work for hire, but included my byline and was a truly great project. I knew from those experiences that I wanted writing about food and developing recipes to be my career and slowly transitioned from my previous line of work in branding.
Today my income comes from editing and writing books, developing recipes for brands and commodity boards, and writing for magazines and websites. I still do a few copywriting and consulting projects but they account for less than 20% of my income. I am not going to tell you my job is easy or lucrative, or that anyone can do it. But after working in various careers, it’s by far the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.
Is it possible for a food blogger to make a living without accepting ads and creating sponsored posts? Yes. It’s the path I chose. Many of my clients find me through my blog and see examples of my work there, but more importantly, it’s a place where I share my enthusiasm for all things food related. While I may not always blog as frequently as I once did, I still have no plans to make money directly from my blog or to ever stop blogging.
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Amy Sherman is a San Francisco–based food writer, blogger and cookbook author. As the publisher of Cooking with Amy, she also writes for Amy’s Fork in the Fog at For Yellow Pages. She has written online for CitySearch, Fodor’s, FoodNetwork, Frommer’s, Epicurious and Recipe.com. She has also written for 7×7, AirChicago, Avianca (inflight magazine), Gastronomica and Via. She is the author of Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Appetizers, WinePassport: Portugal and A Microwave, A Mug, A Meal.