Five years ago a simple question floated into my head. “Should I start a blog?” That one question changed everything. Food blogging has become the most enriching and fulfilling experience of my life. I get a lot of emails about blogging and whether or not someone should start a blog, but I wanted to make this post for all of you who are silently contemplating it in your head. I would encourage anyone to start a blog, food or otherwise, because it’s an incredible experience and exercise. Even if you make your blog just for you and no one else on the planet ever sees it, blogging can be a rewarding experience.
I wanted to make this tutorial that covers the very beginning stages of starting a blog to help remove some of the questions and confusion that can stop people from taking the plunge and starting a blog. I’ll touch on who should start a food blog, why you should start a food blog, what to decide before you begin, and how to secure your own little space on the internet. From there I’ll give you a few resources for more information and help along the way of your incredible blogging journey.
How to Start a Food Blog
This tutorial contains affiliated links, which means that I am eligible to earn commissions from the linked sites. Your trust is worth far more than any commission, so I would never recommend or suggest a product or service that I would not personally use myself.
Who Should Start a Food Blog?
Anyone! Food blogging has been the best experience of my life, so I would honestly suggest anyone to at least try it. There’s virtually no startup cost, which is pretty fantastic compared to most hobbies. So really, what have you got to lose? Well, maybe some time. It does require a little bit of free time.
You will also need to be at least a little tech savvy (like, you know how to use a computer and can access the internet) and have an interest or willingness to learn about photography. The internet is a visual media and photographs are critical to food blogging. No, you don’t have to be a super photo pro to start a food blog, but you should be willing to improve. I started with a simple point and shoot digital camera and slowly improved over time (seriously, look how BAD this photo is). Learning is half the fun of blogging!
Why Should You Start a Food Blog?
It’s a fantastic creative outlet! I started blogging because I needed a hobby and a challenge, but didn’t have any money. Like I said before, there’s virtually no cost to start a blog (unless you want there to be), so it’s a great hobby for those who are strapped for cash. It can get expensive later on, but if and when that happens, you’ll probably have the means to generate income from the blog to cover those expenses.
It’s an endless opportunity to learn. The part of the blog you see as the reader is only about 10% of what goes into blogging. When your blog is new and small it’s mostly automated and you can keep it that way if you prefer. As you blog grows and expands, you can learn and explore new worlds like coding, SEO, photography and photo editing, social media, monetizing, and more. I am constantly learning, growing, and building new skills. That makes me a happy camper. :D
It’s a great way to express yourself. Whether you’re blogging solely for yourself or you want to share your thoughts with the world, blogging is a great way to just get those thoughts out there. You don’t have to blog with the intent of becoming a big name professional blogger. You can do it just for you. So, whether you just need some sort of journal to record your life or you want to share your life with the rest of the world, blogging is a great way to do it.
You meet great people. I can’t tell you how many amazing people I’ve met through blogging. From readers of my blog to other blog owners, blogging has allowed me to come into contact with thousands of people that I would have never otherwise had the pleasure of meeting. The personal contacts made through the blog have also been incredible for networking and building my freelance career.
It’s a great excuse to cook and eat great food. ‘Nuff said.
Brainstorm Before You Begin…
There are a few things to consider before you actually build your blog. A little planning ahead of time can make a big difference in the end. Deciding on these fundamentals before you begin will help prevent big problems later.
Pick a subject. Focused blogs do better than unfocused blogs. Having a clear focus or theme will help readers know what to expect when visiting your blog, which will increase the likelihood that they’ll return. If it’s just a hodgepodge of random posts, there isn’t much incentive to return (unless of course your personality is so sparkling that people can’t get enough of you… but, yeah, let’s be realistic). Find your niche, stick to it, and you’ll attract readers who are interested in that same topic.
Choose a name. Names are really important. It should be catchy to help people remember it and it should give at least a hint to what the blog is about. It doesn’t have to be super specific (like mine), but if it’s a food blog it should at least have something to do with food (Love and Lemons, for example, isn’t about love and lemons, but you can tell it’s probably a food blog, right?). IMHO, you should avoid over used blog name buzz words like: musings, adventures, diary, confessions, foodie, bride, mommy, and wife. Strive for originality so that you stand out.
Now that you’ve decided what you’re going to blog about and what you’ll call your little corner of the internet, it’s time to start building the blog. Here are the four things you’ll need to get started:
Hosting is the server (computer) where all of the data for your blog is stored, or basically, where your blog lives. No, it can’t live on your laptop at home because it’s just not reliable. If you spill coffee on your computer or your power goes out, your blog will go bye bye.
Free Hosting: There are free options for hosting, like Blogger.com and WordPress.com and those are a great option for beginners. These sites make blogging automated and easy, so all you have to do is type your blog post and press go. Your hosting, domain name, and blogging platform are all tied together in a free service, so it can be difficult to branch out later if you grow and need to expand. Free services are also much more limited when it comes to design options and customization. WordPress.com is probably the best if you think there is even a chance that you’ll need to branch out and grow later on, but it will still take some effort to transition to a self hosted, independent blog.
Self Hosting: If you have at least a few dollars, and I do mean just a few dollars, I would suggest jumping straight into a self hosted blog. Self hosting means that you’re not using a free service, you’ve purchased a hosting package and own your own space. Self hosting allows you MUCH more room to grow and a LOT more options for customization. Self hosting from the start will save you a lot of issues later on if your blog ends up exploding in popularity (trust me, I learned the hard way).
Bluehost is a great hosting company for beginners. They’re reliable, have a ton of online tutorial videos, great tech support, and have super cheap options for low budgets. Plus, they are a huge company and they have several plan options, so there’s plenty of room to grow with them as your blog grows. And the icing on the cake? When you sign up for hosting with Bluehost, they give you a domain name for free. KA-CHING! Here are just a few of Bluehost’s packages:
Once you’re a bit larger and your blogging needs expand, you might look into managed hosting. Managed hosting means that you have a team of experts taking care of the back end of your blog for you (that’s a HUGE job, BTW). They help your blog run smoothly and efficiently and keep an eye out for outages and crashes.
Media Temple offers great managed hosting plans that specialize in WordPress optimization. They know what’s up when it comes to blogs and can take a lot of worry out of your blogging experience.
2) Domain Name
The domain is your blog’s address (“www.budgetbytes.com”). That’s what people type into the address bar of a browser to go to your website. If you’re using a free blogging service, your domain name is probably included in the service and is a “sub domain” of the main website (“budgetbytes.blogspot.com”). I had to learn the hard way, but it’s definitely best to buy your own domain name in the beginning if you can.
You can purchase your domain name through services like Godaddy.com, Whois.com, or if you get your hosting through Bluehost, your domain name comes free. You’ll be able to search domain name registries on those websites to see if the name you want is already taken. Once you find one that is available for purchase, they’re usually about $5-$10 per year. Not too shabby, right?
The platform is the program that displays your blog and allows for customization like comments, navigation, and design themes. WordPress is the standard platform in the industry and even big name media players use WordPress to execute their blogs. It’s free to download and then you simply install it onto your server (instructions here or via your hosting service). It’s important to note that the WordPress program is different from WordPress.com, which is a free online blogging service created by WordPress (hosting, platform, and domain wrapped into one free service). Free services are great for beginners, but again, they are not as customizable and do not offer very much room to grow.
4) Design Theme
WordPress comes with a basic design theme (Twenty Fourteen), but there are a gazillion custom designed blog themes available for download, some free and some for purchase. It can be tempting to just pick the fanciest looking theme out there, but theme reliability is a major issue to consider. Poorly designed themes can cause blog errors, crashes, and may not offer tech support or upgrades to keep up with WordPress updates. So, you want to go with something trustworthy.
Genesis is one of the most reliable themes available. Their basic theme is clean and sleek, but there are also a whole world of “child themes” (custom designed versions of Genesis, like Foodie Pro) that you can purchase so that your blog doesn’t look like everyone else’s (yay!). Check out there website and take a look at all the cool things you can do with Genesis themes.
OR, if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can hire a designer. I hired Emily White to design Budget Bytes and move it from Blogger to a self hosted WordPress site, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. She’s professional, efficient, and has a great eye for design! My current design is a custom child theme of the Genesis Framework.
The Big Launch…
Now that you have a focus, a name, hosting, domain name, platform, and a design theme, you’re ready to start blogging! Just start typing away! That wasn’t so bad, was it? I swear, it’s not that hard. I figured it out and I didn’t even have a cool tutorial like this to walk me through it!
Like I said before, there is always something to learn when it comes to blogging. There are many tutorials and help sites for bloggers on the web, but the single most valuable website I have found is Food Blogger Pro. I didn’t discover this amazing website until last summer (after I’d already been blogging for FIVE years), but it has completely revolutionized my blogging experience. Food Blogger Pro has tutorial videos on just about every aspect of blogging, from setting up your hosting and domain, to navigating Google Analytics, and learning how to use a digital camera properly. The day I discovered Food Blogger Pro I watched their tutorial videos for HOURS non-stop. All the things that I had struggled to learn over the years were laid out for me in plain English. FINALLY.
The message boards on Food Blogger Pro are a great place to reach out and connect to other food bloggers, stay up to date on the newest blogging topics, and just get that much needed support from colleagues. You don’t have to be alone in your blogging adventure!
What Do You Think?
Do you want to start a food blog? Have you had reservations about starting a blog in the past? Is there some question that has been bugging you for a really long time? Share your thoughts and ask your questions in the comments below. I’ll do my best to answer or provide resources if I don’t know the answer. I want blogging to be as an amazing experience for you as it has been for me!