Call this post a review of sorts, in effect it is. This is a review of a year in the life of an Irish food blogger, but it also a way of sharing some food bloggingtips and tricks I picked up along the way. This blogpost was originally written in December 2012, now 2 years later I’m updating some of the information.
First the bits that may prove boring to some so I’ll keep them brief, the figures:
In the ten and half months between February 2012 & December 2012; I relaunched my food blogging life (the first post from this domain is dated 12th February 2012), I blogged 123 posts including this one. I accumulated 710+ comments and 100K+ pageviews, the overwhelming majority of which were between June 2012 & December 2012, that was 6 months since my food photography took a turn for the better.
I remember writing this blogpost nearly 2 years ago now and being amazed at the volume of readers, comments, and people who had decided to follow me on social media etc. Today? Well it’s beyond my wildest daydream.
In December 2011, I was sat at home, not long after cleaning up the dinner yet again and I was working on some New Year’s resolutions. Those included whether or not I was going to attempt to blog again as a food blogger. Up until 2011 my food blog had been sporadic, I had mainly posted about budgeting, my photographs were dire but I was in touch with a vibrant Irish food blogging community and felt part of something that I could be great at.
I felt like I needed a hobby just for myself that I could do even if I was stuck at home in the evenings, I also wanted to keep my IT skills current and up to date, challenge myself to learn new packages and share some of the information that I had picked up along the way. The blog was registered and the rest of 2012 unfolded.
A Year In The Life Of An Irish Food Blogger – What Did I Learn?
Don’t cook to blog
A major error of mine in the early days, where I cooked dishes that I couldn’t eat because I didn’t like the flavour or the family wouldn’t eat them. These mistakes also cost me money, time and great annoyance. I now only blog what I cook in the course of a regular day, although when I am developing recipes and in particular my sweet ones, I share the spoils between friends and neighbours.
There are only so many times my family will eat cupcakes in a week, no matter how much they like them.
Use a decent camera and learn how it works
I started out the year using my phone camera and the results weren’t great. I still cringe when I look back at my early posts. Mind you I cringe at my recent ones too. Once I dusted off the old, decrepit DSLR the photos improved. Then when I started to learn the intricacies of the camera itself my photos got better again. You don’t need to spend any money to learn how it works, there are a million blogs, videos and tutorials on the internet. Get searching for specifics for your own camera for starters.
It’s not just about the camera though and I have to be completely honest here. Taking a great photo depends on composition, light and you can do this well with a phone camera. I do sometimes blog using photos I’ve only taken on my phone now. Maybe because I’m more confident, it could be down to better phone camera lenses, or it just could be down to learning better how to compose pictures.
Read, read, then read some more
Food blogs, newspapers, periodicals like magazines, cookery books, recipe booklets and beyond. If you think you’ve read enough then you’re wrong. I learn about food every single day, if I don’t learn something new then I must have been asleep! I’m inspired by everything I read, even if I don’t agree with an opinion or a recipe, it helps me form my own.
Read great prose, books, stories and know when to switch off. Over the Summer I found I was caught up in a cycle of being “continuously online”. Now I try to switch off the phone in the evenings and have taken up a craft so that I’m not inclined to browse and chat online in the evening. I used to blog at night, I don’t anymore. Make time for your family and friends. It’s still just a blog.
Make friends and build relationships
Dianne Jacob, who I had the pleasure of meeting in September 2012, wrote a great blogpost on this subject. I can only hope to build those types of relationships, but I have met some amazing bloggers in the past year who have egged me on, supported me and I hope that I have supported or encouraged them in just some small way. We are a small community and not an exclusive one either.
I joined the Irish Parenting Bloggers group in 2012 and they were a brilliant support and inspiration to me.
Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong
If your recipe is a disaster, or you tried something and it failed, you posted inaccurate information or in general you made a big feck-up then admit it. You are only human, food bloggers aren’t perfect. I’m certainly not.
Likewise if something doesn’t work for you on the blog, give up and move on. I’ve changed the theme on the blog a number of times since I started the blog but significantly I dropped an expensive (to me) paid for theme at an early stage because it was too slow to load and throttling visitors to the first page they arrived at only.
Get a schedule
I just know which bloggers reading this are groaning at me. Yes, I know my schedule is far more relentless than most food bloggers in Ireland and I suppose internationally. I structure the blog around the family schedule and blog at least twice a week about food, if not more. Then there’s the writing for other sites etc that I fit in. A schedule gets people reading on a regular basis, however only if your content is interesting.
To be fair, a good touch typing speed (85WPM approx) does help me. I assemble blog posts and recipes in a “train of thought” system so I type exactly what I think. If I couldn’t type this fast blogging as often as I do would take an awful lot more time than it does already.
Don’t be afraid not to post or stick to a schedule. In August this year I had to call “time” on my schedule as I had over-committed myself to a number of projects. I was left with very little family time and no time to get on top of chores or for myself. If you find that the schedule is punishing or ruling your life then consider changing it.
Don’t expect to make money
Food blogging isn’t a profitable enterprise. I wish it was.
Be careful of it costing you more than you have to spare. I confess to drooling over the latest bit of camera kit or software. All of the software that I use to blog with is free, including my photography tools.
I often get asked what tools I use! For photo-editing I use Picasa, my office package is Open Office and I blog using WordPress. All of which are free to use, WordPress only starts costing money when you want to buy your own domain.
Ah yes but you wrote a book, you must be minted?
Ehm, no. Writing my first cookbook with no advance or expenses was not easy. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I tested, cooked, styled and photographed the book myself. It’s fair to say that so far it has cost me money, not the other way around!
Be open to trying new things
In August 2012 I started podcasting with Audioboo. Podcasting has opened many new opportunities for me that I never would have had without sticking my neck out and recording pieces of audio. The inspiration for this came from another local blogger, Peter Donegan, who I would never have heard of years ago if I hadn’t been reading, listening and discovering about other Irish bloggers, not just foodies. I’m now a member of the Sodshow team which is pretty cool.
Always, where possible, acknowledge inspiration and recipes
It’s good manners, “nuff” said.
ABOVE ALL ELSE BE YOURSELF
If you’ve learnt any tips or tricks along the way please do let me know below. Likewise if you have a question I’ll do my best to answer it.