Ever wondered what it takes to start a food blog or any blog for that matter? Often you’ll read guides on what equipment to use, programs, etc., but those guides are missing the biggest part of running a successful blog — honing in on your mission and what you’re passionate about writing and sharing with the world.
Every day I get emails in our inboxes asking me about how I become a dietitian, how I started a blog, and ultimately how I got where “I am” today. I am deeply grateful and appreciative to connect with you about those topics and thank you for asking — but I also can’t begin to share how I “got here today” in such a short post! It’s more about who I’ve grown into as a person and how my philosophy about nutrition and wellness has developed from personal needs to helping this global community. In a nutshell, it’s so much more than how I started this blog, but I do want to share you some invaluable tips I wish I knew when I started NS (even if it was just for fun when I first started!).
I wrote this simple guide on how to start a food blog, but remember, it can apply to any kind of blog you wish. All of the elements are fundamental to any type of blog and I hope you find this useful.
This is the most important “tip” that I can share a quote that celebrates uniqueness. “Be you. Everyone else is already taken.” Speak and write as though you’re having a conversation with your friend or your ideal audience. When you “talk” this way, it’s your unique voice that people hear and they’ll want to hear more of it, also it’s irreplaceable and can’t be copied by someone else no matter how much they try. The blogging industry since I started in 2013 has boomed and now it’s incredibly saturated which might make some of you who are just starting out feel overwhelmed and lost in the shuffle. I promise you, if you share your unique voice, you’ll come up with original content that only you have created and break through the noise and find your path. If you’re getting into blogging just to “blog” and repurpose other people’s content, my piece of advice would be to evaluate why you want to have a blog in the first place. I know it can be really easy to see someone else who is successful at blogging and pick up what they might be doing, but challenge yourself to harness your own style, creativity and find inspiration from within. You’re amazing and your voice should be heard, so speak it (or type it).
Find a topic that you’re passionate about.
Blogging doesn’t have to revolve around food. You can blog about your daily life in hopes that it inspires someone else, your passions about art, your city, etc. The possibilities are endless. The only mega tip I have here is write with passion, experience, and knowledge. Too often I stumble across blog where the passion is there, but the author is writing incorrect things or writing outside their expertise which can be confusing and also misleading. People and your readers will love transparency and respect your work if you come from a place of goodness and integrity. Make sure whatever you’re writing is for the greater good, is going to inspire, help, or provide some sort of good vibes to the universe. We need more of that!
Learn how to take pictures.
Photography is such an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to having a successful blog. You don’t need to be at a professional photography level, instead just take pictures of things you enjoy and that represent what you’re writing about and practice, practice, practice! Practice really makes your photography so much better no matter where you’re starting from. Here’s a personal example you guys… take a look at where I started back in 2013. This was shot with my iPhone4 and edited with nothing but Afterlight which is an editing software on the phone. Now you can look at examples of what I do all the time – huge difference in quality and I’m having a lot of fun with it.
Be sure to read my Photography Tips for Bloggers here to get a full list of tips, equipment I use, and resources that help me get to where I am today with styling. If you know that photography isn’t something you ever want to dabble in, there are amazing free or membership services like iStock or Shutterstock where you can pull from stock images that can fit the theme of your blog post. Another thing you could do is outsource someone to do your photography, a friend, an intern, or if it becomes a business hire a team member!
Find your schedule and stick to it. Whether that’s posting a blog once a week, twice a week, or daily! Do what works for you and only you, and maintain it. Your readers will start to expect and look forward to your blog post days so share that with them. From a work productivity standpoint, keep an eye out on the career category for related blog posts about building your daily work routine. As a team, we started with good ole’ google calendar to plan editorial but as we’ve grown we use a subscription program called CoSchedule which is amazing and keeps us all organized!
Using social media is a great way to let people know you have a new blog post up to read or just give your readers a little more behind the scenes action on what you do with the blog and why it’s important to you, etc. You don’t have to get on all social media if you have a blog, but try to get on at least one platform that you really love and enjoy doing such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or all of them! Do whatever works for you. Some people like one platform more than others – my favorites are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you have a food blog, you can also share your content with recipe galleries. Check out these delicious looking food galleries to start sharing your recipe creations on these sites to increase traffic and eyes on your posts: FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Tasteologie , Finding Vegan, PotLuck, Healthy Aperture.
Engage and be mindful
My philosophy, is that if you’re going to put yourself out there on social media or a blog, you should also be ready to take on the responsibility to engage with your reader and followers. That means answering their questions, talking to them, and commenting back as much as possible and in your honest way. Honestly, THIS is my favorite part of having Nutrition Stripped, connecting with you all over the world. My pet peeve is seeing bloggers or large social media accounts totally ignore their readers/followers, c’mon now why even share things if you’re not open to conversation! Okay so now that we’ve covered some simple tips from a mental/emotional side of things, let’s get to the nitty gritty of what you actually need logistically to set up a blog.
STEP-BY-STEP setup of your blog
- NAME: Use a name for your potential domain that represents you well, is catchy, easy to say, and one that you like – and obviously one that is different from others out there. I recommend doing a legal search for business names so there are not any legal issues you may get into – a good place to do that is google but also the Trademark database. You’ll be doing more damage if you use a name similar to someone who already has a large blog or following since they’ll get all the SEO priority (and it’s illegal if they’re a registered company!)
- BUY DOMAIN: BlueHost (about $15 per year) and GoDaddy (about $19 per year) are just some to choose from. Basically, you’re buying your .com and this doesn’t matter as much as your hosting site.
- HOSTING: I use WPEngine for how large the Nutrition Stripped site is now. I have thousands of images, blog posts, WooCommerce, and quite a lot going on behind the scenes! But if you’re looking for a blog only, you got it easy. I’ve used BlueHost, GoDaddy, and A Small Orange in the past when the blog was smaller (though I no longer recommend A Small Orange after the site crashed while using their serice and very disappointing customer service). I enjoyed BlueHost the most and the price point may be more reasonable if the blog is a hobby rather than part of your career choice at around $4/month. Some hosting sites/servers are $400+ a month depending on your traffic and needs. When your site grows you may consider using Cloudflare and MaxCDN, which help with high traffic spikes and keeping your server strong. I also recommend buying your own server– dedicated server versus sharing, this is what NS does now since it’s grown and it works great!
- PLATFORM: WordPress is the most used in the blogging world, followed by SquareSpace, and both great for different reasons. We use WordPress and love it. When I first started, we used themes from WP and as we grew, we’ve designed and created completely customized websites so there’s nothing else like it out there and most importantly meets our readers unique needs.
- DESIGN/THEME: Once you have your domain, the host, and now the platform, you can customize it with a theme. A theme is how your blog will look. When I first started blogging, I used the Foodie Pro theme which is so awesome, modern, and highly customizable. I also am a big fan of the Genesis theme from StudioPress. Nowadays, I completely design my site from scratch and work with my IT team on developing my vision. Again, if blogging is a hobby, finding a theme you love visually is perfect enough! Themes on WordPress can start as little as free upwards to $150 for a one time purchase.
- PLUGINS: Plugins are widgets and/or operating modules that help your site perform functions like: clicking to tweet, hover over a picture to pin on Pinterest, show off your social media feeds on your sidebar, recipe function, or get people to sign up for your newsletter so they keep in the know! These are most often free unless you get into customized plugins and advanced needs.
- ANALYTICS: First you need a Gmail account if you don’t already. Google Analytics and Webmaster tools is where you’ll want to start to track your traffic, see your progress, and have some data on what your blog is all about. Getting the Yoast SEO plugin will help you make sure your posts and content are SEO friendly and optimized for Google search. This isn’t a must have, but if you want to take blogging to the next level this is an important tool!
- EMAIL/NEWSLETTERS: I could write a WHOLE blog post on the importance of mailing lists and setting one up as soon as you start your blog! I LOVE sending out monthly exclusive newsletters that have recipes, wellness tips, challenges for the month, and special stories I only share with the NS newsletter folks – it’s also an amazing way to keep communication open and close with your community. Oftentimes I’ll have readers reply directly to an email I’ve sent from the newsletter and I can chat back (and do!) asap. I use ConvertKit and that’s really the only email marketing tool I recommend. I’ve tried so many in the past but this one is the best out there from functionality, to design, user friendliness, automations, email marketing templates, and it’s the optimal service to use for bloggers.
- CALENDAR: This might sound fancy and complex, which it can be, but if you’re just starting out try planning out what blog posts you want to share and write and stick to your timeline and keep it consistent like I mentioned before. I’ll be sharing more on how to manage time and productivity with blogging too.
- GO GO GO! Just start, just do it.
EXTRAS to think about…
- Money: How will you generate revenue from operating your blog to help cover food/operating costs and your time? Read up on How to Monetize your Food Blog (it’s an incredible resource on how to use ad networks as well!)
- Time management tools: Asana, Teambox, CoSchedule, and good ole’ Google Calendar are just a few to help keep organized.
- Mental exercise: All of the Zen Habits archive articles are fantastic to read through. Many times I’ll take a scroll through his wonderful blog posts about general mental and emotional health. Running a blog can be a lot of work, it’s important to stay in the game and know your limits to avoid burnout/stress.
I hope this helps answer your questions, let me know what questions you have, feedback, more advice, etc.!
*This content is continually updated. The last edit and update was 10/2017