1. Free meals. This will be funny to those of us already blogging but somebody actually came up to me at an event a few nights ago and asked me to tell them about this blogging thing so they could get in on the free food. HAHAHA! For the occasional free meal, free course, free event fee I have gotten for being a blogger, I have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars of my own money and time on restaurant checks and volunteer time supporting chefs and causes that I believe in. I actually struggled with this for awhile when I first started blogging because it seemed to me in Austin there was a certain set of bloggers that got invited to all the hot openings and fancy parties while my little blog was overlooked. My great friend and mentor Kathryn from Austin Gastronomist pointed out to me that the reason I was not on the “list” was because I was not friendly with all of the P.R. and Marketing firms in town but I did know many of the chefs. I’ll tell you now, it is good to know the chefs! If your goal is to be first on an opening list, pursue a relationship with a firm that caters to that but beware that some invitations come with certain expectations. As much as I want to get a hot scoop on a new restaurant, I also value my reputation for fair and accurate report of a restaurant and opening night, let alone opening month. It is not a fair reflection of what a restaurant is capable of. Better to base a review on repeat visits on your own dime to a place.
2. To get a book deal. God bless Pioneer Woman, Orangette, Julie and Julia, Chocolate and Zucchini, Chez Pim, Gluten Free Girl, Steamy Kitchen, and David Lebovitz plus my buddy Babbette at Bakespace that is helping others self publish. These ladies (and gent 🙂 are wonderfully self-effacing, highly encouraging, evangelists of the blogger life but they are by far the exception and not the rule. Every one is talented and deserving of the recognition for their hard work, especially since most started blogging when it was in its infancy. I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of them and while I appreciate their success, I recognize that it is as similar as me taking up basketball to become a member of the NBA. Anything is possible but maybe we shouldn’t bet the farm on it.
3. To make money. This is a constant consternation to bloggers. There are costs just to publishing a domain name every year. Now add on the costs of meals, photography equipment, your time (please don’t ever underestimate that), plates, textiles, event costs, and on and on. Marketing firms find that providing bloggers with free products and tastings are easy ways to secure positive feedback for their clients. Traditional media makes money from advertising but criticizes small bloggers for accepting free meals. Click through adds pay pennies while junking up your page. It is all a fine balancing act. My best advice is to pay attention to that internal voice. If it seems hinky to you, it probably is. Better to pass on an opportunity with strings than risk your reputation. You do what you do because you love it, not because it makes you money. Don’t risk your self respect to become profitable.
4. Because it is easy. Blogging is one of the most difficult hobbies out there. You are expected to keep up on the latest restaurants, be an expert food photographer, including food styling, be a social media guru, be able to relate national trends to local activity, all while balancing family, friends, and a day job. Blogging is not easy. You have to grant yourself permission time to learn a task, or better yet, time to focus on yourself or your family despite the demands of a blog. You can always return to a restaurant for a meal but you may not always be able to cheer your neice’s soccer meet. Every decision involves a sacrifice. Just make sure yours are worth it.
5. You want to become famous. As talented and dedicated as you may be, there are hundreds of thousands of others looking to be heard as well. Don’t forget that as well written and designed as your blog may be, getting out in your community and connecting in person goes a long way. Use your voice to support your fellow bloggers, food artisans, and restauranteurs who care as much as you do about local, fresh, organic, and delicious. Volunteer for a local charity that supports the causes you are passionate about. And always have a card with your blog name on it to hand out. It may not get you your own cooking show but people with like passions recognize honest enthusiasm and will remember you. As much as I want to hang out with Eric Ripert and Tony Bourdain, it is still pretty flattering to be remembered by a favorite local chef.
Food blogging is a rewarding, frustrating, expensive, and fun. It requires dedication and passion. The biggest rewards for me have come from the community I have found offline here in Austin. I admit to an occasional jealousy over another bloggers recognition or reward but focusing on my own strengths and learning from the successful approaches of others have helped me expand my blog as well as my definition of success.