Are you regularly producing blog posts but not seeing an increase in subscribers or engagement?
Do you feel stuck in a vicious cycle of working for free or little pay?
Do you wonder how other bloggers get the attention of brands for collaborations?
Do you worry about how to create sustainable income as you get older?
If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of those questions – bookmark this article for future reference. The food media industry has exploded with budding food bloggers, photographers and stylists. Popular TV shows and YouTube have ignited the world’s passion for food and drink. Setting up a basic website and filling an instagram feed with mouth watering images of culinary delights has never been easier.
The accessibility of technology and social media have lowered the barriers to entry giving undiscovered talent the opportunity to build profitable personal brands. One of the best things about this movement is you can create a brand on your own terms centered around a narrative you can control.
Having said that, some of the seemingly ‘overnight’ successes we see are anomalies. Just knowing how to use instagram filters, hashtags and get likes, doesn’t mean you will have a profitable creative business. I say this regularly to clients – ‘followers and likes are not guaranteed paying customers’. Creative blogging for business can be lonely, frustrating and challenging. Most of the frustration and confusion is about how to make money from blogging.
After discussing this issue with over 30 food creatives and reflecting on my own experience, here are 5 simple steps to monetizing your blog:
- Join a community for support.
No man or woman is an island. Community support is crucial, particularly if you’re self employed, a freelancer, contractor or small business. This is the first thing we discuss on the ‘Food Media Uncovered’ Masterclass. Why is this so important?
We all need support, connections and help when running a business. We are constantly having to learn new things, make adjustments and face uncertainty in business. The support of a community will help you survive inevitable frustrations and disappointments on your business journey. When I couldn’t find a community I fit into, I created one. Over a year later, I am continually inspired by the creativity and passion of the ‘Women In Food’ community.
The ‘Food Media Uncovered’ networking event I hosted in February 2017 was oversubscribed! Our gracious panel members candidly shared the steep learning curves and rewards of blogging for business. (You can meet the panel members Meredith Whiteley, Lorna Hall and Niki Webster in the ‘Women In Food’ community).
Networking events like these give you the much needed opportunity to make meaningful connections, discuss insights, trends and new perspectives. Networking regularly will fuel your creative and financial growth.
- Think like a business from the start.
Every business should have a plan. Your blog is your business. Have a plan. As you develop as a creative business owner, you will refer back to the plan and monitor progress against your goals and sales targets. Now don’t get me wrong, many creatives blogs start as a hobby. This isn’t a problem until you realise you have very little, inconsistent or no income.
Producing interesting content with depth on a consistent basis is not easy. This is why I recommend you choose a theme or area of interest you’re genuinely invested in. Note, I did not encourage you to follow your ‘heart’ or ‘passion’. Passion does not equal profits – just speaking from experience on that one.
A theme which both challenges and intrigues you is key. Do some research. Are there other writers/blogger covering the theme already? If so, what is their angle? How popular is this theme? Thorough research will help you get a feel for whether there is an existing audience interested in what you want to offer.
You should also have a look at the content your ideal clients, brand partners and readers already consume and share. There is little point in writing about something you don’t really care about or is so niche there is a very small audience. We go into more depth on finding a profitable niche (the riches are in the niches) in the ‘Food Media Uncovered’ Masterclass.
Don’t worry if you’ve already been blogging for a while. The need to research is ongoing and takes time. It has taken me over a year to understand and identify who I can and want to help the most. For example, the food industry includes many professions and roles. But I find helping food creatives, food brands and new entrepreneurs the most rewarding. Even more importantly, I see the biggest transformations in those clients. You can see examples of my what I write about here and here.
- Stop working for free.
This is a biggy. There are around 2 million freelancers in the UK alone in 2017. In this climate, it’s easy to worry about competition and anxiously try to prove yourself to a potential client or brand partner. A recent Guardian article highlighted creative industry freelancers are exploited and can inadvertently end up working for free or very little pay. Does this sound like you?
You may be struggling with how and what to charge potential clients, chasing late payments or being asked to work for free. The bottom line is you need to create a sustainable and consistent income. I know this struggle too well. I openly share my experience during masterclasses and my podcast shows. Working for free for far too long contributed to a deterioration in both my personal and business health earlier this year. I’m working on my money mindset and confidence and now have a clear process of working with clients without undervaluing my services.
The key is having boundaries and a clear process for working with clients and brand partners. I’ve produced content which covers the most commonly questions I get asked (this article is a good example) and direct new enquirers to my free content in the first instance. If they need more bespoke or specific help, I let them know about my paid services.
For you it could be making sure your portfolio, client testimonials and work is easily accessible and signposted on your website and/or chosen social media platform. Be firm but reasonable when negotiating with potential clients or brand partners. After all you are running a business!
- Create a clear product, service or package to sell.
This might sound obvious but follows very nicely on from step 3, so hear me out. Many of us are multi talented and have varied interests. If we started our creative business as a melting pot of these varied interests, our blog may lack focus. If your objective is to get paying clients and customers, you need to make it clear what products or service you sell.
Try and see your business through the eyes of your ideal client or brand partner. Is it clear what your zone of genius is? When they land on your website or come across your content, is it obvious what you specialise in? Are your ethos and values evident?
Remember brands collaborate with influencers and partners who show consistency. 96% of big companies have allocated around 29% of their budget to hire freelancers and contractors in 2017. If you want to get hired, the value and benefits of your service needs to be crystal clear.
This approach saves you time in the long run. When you know the value of what you sell, you can pitch to potential clients with ease and confidence. Your portfolio, content and website will also reflect your expertise giving you more credibility.
- Grow an email list. Build your own community.
Even if you have a product or service to sell, you need people to sell it to! Building an email list and engaged audience to sell to is important. I see a lot of social media courses and products promising to help business owners grow their followers and likes. There is clearly a place for building a social media following but this does not equal easy dollars and pounds. None of us own or control these social media platforms. Your account could be closed at any time – how would you then contact and communicate with your followers, if you are not growing an email list?
Converting followers directly into customers/clients is hard work and requires a solid strategy. It can definitely be done, but a sensible and far more sustainable approach is to build your own email list as early as possible. I’ve already mentioned some of the many benefits a community provides in point 1.
If you grow an email list of interested and engaged subscribers, you can share your content and sell your services directly. Don’t forget your email list can consist of the contacts details of brands of any size, readers and private clients. Be creative and find a way to keep your past, present and potential clients and customers engaged with what you do.
Ok so those are my 5 simple steps to making money from blogging. A strong foundation is the most important. Start with community and content which helps your ideal clients and customers. This can take many forms such as blogging, vlogging, photography and podcasting. You can get more tips on how to create a successful business blog in different forms here and here.
Even after you’ve reached step 5, you need to have the confidence and ability to negotiate with brands and ensure a steady flow of clients. I teach how this can be done in my exclusive ‘Food Media Uncovered’ Masterclass. Join the next masterclass and you can also network with other creatives and writers. Places for this exclusive masterclass are limited so we can really get into the nitty gritty of blogging for business success. Book early to avoid disappointment.
If you’re wondering whether this is a worthwhile investment, check out testimonials from my previous clients here. You can also drop me an email (email@example.com) and we can have an open conversation about whether it would benefit you.
Did you find this article helpful? If so, you will most definitely benefit from listening to one of the following short and free taster lessons:
Ashanti Bentil-Dhue is a Virgin Start-Up Mentor and Business Consultant. Ashanti also hosts a podcast for women in food. For a bespoke consultation for your business email firstname.lastname@example.org.