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So, you want to be a blogger? Some tips and some thoughts

So, you want to be a blogger?

I’ve been getting many emails from new bloggers and those that want to start blogs asking for tips and guidance. Rather than email every time, I thought it better to write a post about it. And here it is.

First things first. The anthropology of food blogging! We’ve been around for a little while now and some patterns exist. Food blogging is a broad field comprising two very different types of blogs and within this a sea of individuals. There are grey areas of course, and sometimes some overlaps, but generally they are split into two – the restaurant bloggers and the cooks.

The restaurant bloggers often don’t cook (although some do) and they eat out a lot. They tend to be urban, where most restaurants are. They vary from those focussed on geography (like the restaurants of a particular city area) to those that collect the high end restaurants, visiting the worlds 3* restaurants for example.

The second area is the cooks. These tend to be enthusiasts who like playing in their kitchen, writing recipes, obsessing over cookbooks and cooking for themselves and for friends. They aren’t tied to geography, or anywhere, they generally can be found in a kitchen or exploring food non-specifically elsewhere. This is where I started and mainly reside.

Food (well EAT like a girl :) has always been the focus of what I write here, and it’s where my passion lies. But it’s all encompassing. It’s what I eat at home, see in markets, reviews of restaurants that I like and want to recommend, and increasingly, (and very happily) the food that I see on my travels. I adore travelling and I get a buzz from all of the new foods that I encounter as I do. I love to recreate them at home, then go and find some more.

So, blogging about food – the practicalities. What should you do if you want to start one, or are a new blogger finding your feet? Here are my tips.

The first question really is WHY?

It’s an important question. You probably won’t make money, most don’t. In fact I don’t know anyone who makes more than a small amount of money to fund their habit through advertising. These have generally been blogging for a while. Some make the crossover to food media and earn a living that way, but there are no guarantees, and it’s an increasingly crowded field. You really need to have a passion and a burning desire to write about food and to blog, and that should be the only driving factor.

CONTENT

The most important thing (and it’s really obvious) is: write what you are passionate about. You can’t really write anything interesting otherwise, can you?

FREQUENCY

Write as often as you want, there are no rules regarding frequency of delivery, but if you are trying to write every day and delivering half hearted posts as a result, well no-one will read.

It may seem a cool occupation, and there are a lot of fun aspects, but the reality of it is, that it’s you at home in front of your lap top, cooking at home. It’s a solo occupation. You have to really love it to do it, and do it well.

FIND YOUR VOICE

Be as independent and individual as you can be. It’s a cluttered landscape but indivduals do stand out. Give yourself time to find your voice, don’t expect to be perfect straight away (or ever!). It takes time to build an audience too so don’t fret too much about that.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Photos aren’t absolutely necessary (as the lovely Simply Splendiferous illustrates) but I like to include them and they are a key part of my blog. If you choose to include them, and can, invest in a decent camera.

An inexpensive Lumix (with the excellent Leica lens) is a superb start. Portable and sharp they are superb value for money. Panasonic Lumix FS 30 (currently a bargain £130 on amazon) is compact, has  a wide angle lens and an impressive 8X optical zoom. It will do everything you need. My second camera for the blog, and one I used for well over a year, was an earlier version of this camera.

You could of course spend that little bit more and get the even better Panasonic Lumix TZ8 which offers a wide angle lens but a better one, an excellent 12X optical zoom and is currently 42% off on Amazon at only £174.90).

Should you want to get more serious, I would highly recommend the Canon EOS 500D. If you are photographing food at home invest in a macro lens like the inexpensive Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens, again reduced by almost 40% on Amazon. I find this really good for food photos at home in daylight. Most of the food photos I have published in the last 5 months have been taken with this lens.

You can of course spend a lot more and get more, I have chosen to start small and add more lenses when I can. I also buy on Amazon or in second hand camera shops as they tend to be a lot cheaper. That way I have more money for food & travel :) If you are starting out, it’s probable you have similar objectives.

TWITTER

I find Twitter a fantastic resource for meeting other bloggers and sharing information. Set yourself up on there and talk to other food bloggers, it can be a lot of fun. Don’t expect everyone to follow you back automatically, most won’t. Talk to people, let them know you are there, but never ever spam. Spam? Don’t send people your links directly, never send auto dm’s. People will unfollow/block if you do. Just normal friendly conversation is all that’s required.

BE RESPONSIBLE

Always write honestly, and carefully, when reviewing. We may not be bound by journalistic codes (yet) but I do think we should at the very least, consider them.

ENJOY IT

It’s just a blog after all. A little creative expression, entirely your own, if it’s a labour of love you’ll adore it. Don’t take it too seriously and enjoy it. Otherwise, why bother? Life is short, after all. :)

My second camera for the blog, and one I used for well over a year, was an earlier version of the frist Lumix. So, it’s fine.

Posted by

I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

35 Comments

  1. well said, and totally agree with you on the camera front! i use a panasonic lumix tz7 as my portable/backup and a now sadly rather aged nikon d80 with f1.8 lens as my main camera/lens.

    nicely photographed shots make a vast difference to the post when including photographs.

    though it must be said that i’m as turned off by bad photography as i am poorly written content. if you’re going to do something, try to do it well!

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  3. Super article .. I often get emails asking for advice .. I’m just going to send anyone who asks a link to this .. i couldn’t have written it better myself!

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  4. Thanks so much for this post. My blog has been up and running for a couple of months now and it’s quite daunting reading everything else that is out there. I automatically compare the writing, the photos, the style the elegant mastheads etc and my humble little thing always seems to come up wanting.

    My ex-journo husband also mentioned the importance of finding my own voice and while I’m slowly finding it, it can be a very self-conscious process. Camera-wise I’m struggling with a crappy old Nikon Coolpix but really taking the effort to stage the shots properly. And early efforts have really emphasised the importance of daylight photography!

    But I’ll keep at it. I’ve left a lucrative industry to retrain in an area that I’ve loved since I was about 10 but if the only benefit I ever get out of it is 12 followers and lots of good food I think I’ll be happy.

    Q: in light of the Cooks Source fiasco what is the etiquette of posting a recipe that you have adapted from somebody else. At the moment I am crediting and linking back to everything but do I need to if I originally used a recipe, say over 5 years ago but have been constantly adapting it since?

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  5. I totally agree with so much of what you’ve written. I believe it’s all about passion… obviously there’s a small voyer in all of us… but essentially it should be the passion that drives us… and being prepared to be up till 2am writing, catching up on blogs and getting creative… the one thing I’m still getting to grips with is twitter… I find it a little frivolous and very basic and i have a busy life outside my blog that takes up a lot of time and I believe that if I gave nothing to say I shouldnt just tweet for the heck of it… anyway, love your work x

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  6. I cannot stress how helpful this post has been. As a newbie to the blog circuit, I need all the help I can get.

    My impetus for starting my blog was a mixture of my love for food and writing, and my desire to turn them into a career. That is why I am handing my notice into my current job tomorrow (eek) and now putting all my efforts into gaining some work as a food writer. Fingers crossed and thanks again for the great advice!

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  7. Can I just also add to all those would-be bloggers out there…

    Stop sending us all the same email, asking for advice. I’ve gotten a few of those lately and they’re lame. You can tell that people are just copying/pasting the same email over and over again, and sending it to all the same bloggers. (I’ve called out a few on this–one just the week before last–and have been totally right.) That makes it more a publicity ploy than an honest attempt to ask for mentoring from a blogger that you honestly admire.

    Ouch I’m being harsh. It’s obviously been bugging me lately! That being said, it’s not like a million people have been doing this…maybe five, tops. But that’s five too many. It’s almost as bad as the #PRFails.

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  8. Good post Niamh.
    Krista: I recently has a similar email. From someone who didn’t have me on their blog roll, which instantly showed that while they wanted me to spend time giving them advice, they didn’t like my blog enough to have it on their blog roll.
    Now I can just send a link to Niamh’s post!!

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  9. Look at your breaking all the rules by (i) doing awesome recipes (ii) doing great reviews (iii) a bit of food travel journalism.

    Bravo however!

    As a boring aside, I’ve always been curious as to what is the optimum number of posts per week. I like 3 but Jen feels that is too many (and you do get tired). Perhaps 2?

    Tom

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  10. Such a great post, I am very new to blogging and do it because I love food and would like to document my learning and trying new things (as I used to be a very fussy/boring eater)

    I agree with everything you’ve said… feels good to know I am on the right lines…. I think!

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  11. Great advice, Niamh. Especially about asking yourself *why* you want to start a food blog. The endeavour is a time, money and calorie suck, for sure, so you’ve gotta love it.

    For the record, while I fall into the restaurant/travel niche, I also cook and entertain at home quite often. I just don’t blog about it. : )

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  12. Thanks for this very useful post, Niamh.

    I am an ex-journo, now PR, working in a niche area of food and starting to use blogs/Twitter and chat to people like you (hi!) more regularly.

    Mostly this is about finding out what’s going on and what’s new in the world on food, but in certain cases I am also beginning to involve bloggers in press announcements, lunches and events.

    I’d like to get more involved – do you have any thoughts/advice on what you find the biggest PR #fails and what (if anything…) is most useful from people like me?

    Cheers

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  13. A great guide Niamh. I just started off writing about things that interest me, be it restaurants, food tv, recipes, etc. A tryle evolves over time.

    @Tom There really isn’t an optimum number of posts. I find it hard to keep to a specific number per week as it depends on how much time I have.

    @Dom Food PRs should just spend more time using social media to create a relationship with bloggers and anyone else in your audience you are trying to engage.

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  14. Hi Niamh, thats really great article, I started following blogs and was inspired by yours, you of course have a fantastic way with words whcih helps! Mine is just random foodie experiences from home cooking, eating out & of course drooling over dishes in cookbooks! Luv your blog, Vick

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  15. Niamh, thanks for this. As a blogging newcomer this seems like excellent advice. (A nice bit of hand holding too . . . thank you!)

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  16. This is a lovely encouraging post to all of us (relative) newbies out there. I started my little blog as a continuation of a travel blog, where I (unwittingly) documented absolutely everything that I’d eaten on my travels. I initially put a huge amount of pressure on myself – this must be a success! look at all the good blogs out there! eeek! – I then got paralysed and stopped! Silly me.

    Then for some reason I relaxed, and realised that it could essentially just be for me (and any friend readers) – I started setting myself little projects to learn from (e.g. following etsy instructions to help me create a photoshop banner which, whilst still a little shoddy is better than nothing), and just relaxing has made it a fun project, as opposed to a pressure. It is also just generally a good creative platform, for me to seek inspiration – in life and in food!

    I’m a teensy bit ashamed of my photos though – a decent Camera is on the Christmas list – t’would seem my paltry iPhone pics won’t cut the mustard….

    Thank you!

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  17. Great post! I’m still relatively new to the blogging world, but I really enjoy it, though sometimes I’m embarrassed that my writing isn’t that good or interesting. But I’ll keep going! Definitely have to invest in a better camera!

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  18. Niamh (feels weird using your first name when I don’t know you, but anyway) this has been a really useful and interesting post. I started writing my blog last year, mainly as a way of recording my time and food adventures now I live in Barcelona. I started off shy and not interested in telling anyone I was doing it, but after being pushed I put it out there and it has become a labour of love and has released a creative outlet I didn’t even realise I needed. Having good feedback has also helped boost my confidence. For me I just write what interests me in food and being here, what I eat and what I think about food politics and society. That’s about it really.
    I especially agree with what you say about being responsible, especially when reviewing. I have no critiqueing experience, have not been formally trained to cook and feel I have to be careful when writing about places as I’m not a professional, just a customer with opinions.
    Keep up the good work.

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  19. hello Eatlikeagirl, love the post…funnily enough i’ve just posted one about the joys of twitter aptly titled my date with @puddingface, and we all know who he is… anyhoo, you are inspiration to me! My blog is just over a year old, i love it, it’s an escape, it’s self wallowing/indulgent and gives me a chance to tell everyone else about what i get up to with Mr Predictable in and around our beautiful city of Edinburgh. I find it funny, not sure if other folk do but hey, i’m not in it for the money!

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  20. Pingback: So, you want to be a blogger? Some tips and some thoughts « Topicco – Find, Read, Share

  21. Very interesting post, which answers to many doubts I had!
    I have recently started a blog reviewing recipes from various blogs and I think photos are necessary, I never try a recipe without having seen the picture of the final result first!
    You mention twitter, I see many people on facebook too, why do you prefer twitter? Just wondering as I’m not very familiar with them

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  22. Many thanks for your tips, Niamh, they make so much sense. I first came across your blog when researching and trying to get book reviews for my book designer (turned publisher) son’s first cookbook, “Black Pudding & Foie Gras”, and realised, through reading your blog, how much I had missed out by not being aware all the great food blogs around. It was a whole new world for me – and I gradually came to the conclusion that food had played an enormous part in my life without me realising it (although I loved everything to do with it). I grow it, I nurture it, I cook it – for myself but I love cooking it for family and friends even better, and have put to one side my 125,000 words for a historical novel and have now taken up writing about food – and I love doing it.
    I must also confess (although this is not a bad thing) that when starting a food blog, the food at home gets even better looking. Me and my partner in life and the blog have loads of laughs because just as we are about to take the first mouthful of our meal, one or the other whisks the plate away, remembering that we now have to photograph the meal before we are allowed to mess it up on the plate.
    We only started at the end of May 2011, and are still adding information and recipes etc., so although it is public, we haven’t yet officially put it out into the big wide world, but we find we both have so much to say, and reading your tips for new bloggers has reinforced our belief that we are hopefully going in the right direction. Time will tell.
    Many thanks for your generous article on the subject.
    Regards Angela (or alter ego on site, Astrid!)

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  23. Thanks for the helpful tips!In the process of setting up a food site so your blog ideas will be used and are appreciated. I follow you on Twitter and love your tweets.
    Kind regards
    Helen Herbie.x

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  24. I’ve held onto this for the longest time and enjoy re-reading it often. I think this is probably one of the best written blogs ever and I take my hat off to you. Absolutely wonderful that you share this information with us. Much appreciated!
    Ciao,
    All the best,
    Pen

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  25. Great advice, sorry to see you aren’t appearing at Traverse event Newcastle – was hoping to attend your workshop/talks!

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