As my five year blogiversary is coming up, this has been on my mind quite a lot: How do you define a successful food blog? And would I consider my blog successful?
"Oh, you have a blog? That's cute. So what do you do all day, scroll through Instagram and post pictures of your lunch?"
While I've never had anyone say this to me, I know that's how a lot of people feel about bloggers. They don't realize that blogging can be a serious full-time business that can bring in real income, challenge your mind, and help you grow and learn just like any "real" job.
It took me several years of blogging to be able to proudly tell people about my food blog. I used to kind of mumble and change the subject - "oh yea I have a food blog, I mean, it's just a hobby, you know, something to play around with. I'm not even that good a cook, I just like to post my recipes." I was almost apologetic for admitting that I have a blog. As if I was saying:
"Sorry for taking up space on the internet."
But that started changing over the last couple of years. And that's because I now consider my blog a success. And you should too!
My food blog does not have a million page views per month. Heck, my blog doesn't even have 100,000 monthly page views (although that's my goal for 2019). But while my blog may not be as obviously successful as some of the bigger blogs out there, I do consider this food blog a success. And you should consider your blog a success, no matter where you are in this blogging journey. Here's why.
Blogging success is... traffic growth
I am successful because... I am seeing constant growth on my blog. The page views keep increasing every month. Well, there are some ups and downs depending on algorithm changes and the season. But overall, the trend is up, up, and up!
Blogging success is... improving your photography
I am successful because my food photography is constantly improving. I mean, look at these two pictures side by side of the same recipe. Enough said.
Blogging success is... being an expert in everything
I am successful because I am constantly learning. Bloggers have to wear many hats. We have to be knowledgeable about SEO, food styling, food photography, photo editing, marketing, branding, social media strategy, legal contracts, and so much more. There are people who make each of these jobs into a whole career, and here I am able to do all of these things by myself. Companies hire experts to do these things, and I learned how to do these on my own from scratch.
Blogging success is... providing value to your readers
I am successful because my readers make my recipes and say the most encouraging things. Just last week I got an email from a reader who was looking specifically for a Butternut Squash and Beet Soup, and after finding it and perusing my blog she wrote me the nicest email saying "go write that cookbook! don't stop at the blog!" I mean.... maybe?
Blogging success is... being happy
I am successful because this blog brings me joy. I love thinking of recipe ideas. I get so excited when a recipe comes out exactly as I imagined it. I get excited when I am able to get good photos of a recipe. So the fact that I am able to continue working on something that brings me joy every day is a huge success in my book.
Blogging success is... understanding the blogging industry
I am successful because I understand the food blogging and influencer industry. I understand what it takes to successfully work with sponsors and clients. I know how to negotiate contracts and understand some legalese when talking about exclusivity and ownership.
I have a good grasp of the overall blogging industry, food blogging trends, and what changes are coming that might change up blogging as a business altogether.
Blogging success is... helping others
I am successful because I know enough to help others. To me, this is one of the true markers of success - being able to give back. When I was starting out, I joined every Facebook group for bloggers and absorbed all the advice from other bloggers. And then slowly I started noticing that I know most of the answers to the questions people post, and as my confidence grew I even started replying to some questions.
And then one of my friends started coming to me for blogging advice. And then another friend wanted to talk to me because she was starting up a food business. And that's when I realized how much I know. You don't have to be #1 to help others, you just need to have some experience and the will to help.
Blogging success is... loving your job
I am successful because my passion and excitement about this blog keeps growing. The more I work on it, the more ideas I have, the more things I want to do with it, the more I want to keep working on it. Not everyone can say that about their job, and it feels awesome.
Blogging success is... making money
I can't write about success and not mention money, right? I am successful because I keep making more money with my blog every year. While I am certainly not making a full time income (yet), my blog income keeps growing every year. And I do see it increasing by the thousands over the next few years. I mean, the first year of blogging I was super ecstatic when I was paid $2 for a post and got 5 free cheese vouchers (it was organic, non-GMO cheese! haha). Now I won't accept a sponsored post for under $300, and even that is my absolutely lowest rate that I would only accept for a brand I really love that I am trying to woo into a long-term partnership.
Blogging success is... new opportunities and experiences
My blog keeps bringing me new opportunities. Because of my blog I've been able to do some freelance recipe creation, freelance food writing, social media management for a local publication, attend restaurant soft openings and brand events. All of these are paid gigs that I am adding to my resume.
Blogging success is... gaining confidence
My blog gives me confidence in myself and confidence to pursue a new career. In addition to the smaller gigs mentioned above, my blog gave me the confidence to realize that I. can. do. anything.
I have a strong curiosity in marketing. So I took my blog experiences, added them to my resume, and got a contract as a senior writer for a creative agency for the last few months. And I just applied for a marketing specialist position, pointing out my experience with content creation, branding, WordPress, Lightroom, SEO, keyword research and all these other things I learned thanks to blogging. Will I get the job? I don't know. But a few years ago I didn't even know where to start if I wanted to get into marketing. And now I am ready to jump onto an opportunity, and I am confident I have the experience to succeed.
So think about where you are now versus where you were a year or two ago. Think about how much you learned. Think about how much you know. It's amazing, right? And own your success.