How I Became a Full Time Blogger
I remember thinking about writing a post about “”how I became a full time blogger” long before I even made the transition into this dream job.
I was reading other bloggers stories and tips and following them the best I could for years! As I am writing this I am about 7 months into this self employed, no co-workers, terrifying and utterly AMAZING dream job and still can’t quite believe it. I started my blog in May of 2012, over 5 years ago when I was just a bored post grad living back at home with my parents. Now I am married, own a house, have a dog and am an entrepreneur?! Life is weird. It’s also weird that I am in a creative career. I never really thought of myself as a creative person until I realized that recipe development takes tons of creativity let alone photography and writing! Now I try to walk the walk and talk the talk but let me let you in on a secret… i’m still trying to figure this out ever day. I’m still unsure where this dream gig is going and crossing my fingers it gets bigger and more exciting, while knowing it also might not. I just know that if I keep working hard, strive to get better every day, and connect with YOU as much as possible – i’ll be just fine. I have thought about how to structure this post and I think the best way might just be to walk you through what the last 5 years have looked like for this blog.
My Blog Timeline:
May 8th, 2012: Bought the domain & hosting for littlebitsof.com via GoDaddy. I chose the name “little bits of” initially because my boyfriend (now hubby) always said the treats I made him were like “little bits of heaven”. I then went onto Etsy and searched for a “website designer”. I found Melissa at Jelly Design Studio (who was just starting out) and for $250 she set me up with a wordpress theme and designed a cute header with a photo of a kitchen aid mixer that I had drawn by an artist I liked. I remember thinking WOW I am spending so much money on this! But it was such a great deal to get started. TIP #1 – I highly recommend finding someone who is looking to build their portfolio if you are tight on money at the beginning!
And yes I thought orange was like so totally cute at the time. 🙂
May 21st, 2012: First blog post is published! And it’s not even food. See at the time I was Little Bits Of Baking, Crafting and Life! I was not on the health train back then and decided to blog about what I was passionate about – baked goods and DIY projects. TIP #2 – write about what you are passionate about!! Please don’t write about what other people are writing about because you think that is what people want to see. Someone out there is likely looking for exactly what you have to share. Share it and own it – being a genuine, real person wins over a copy cat any day.
December, 2012: After working at my first full time job out of college for a couple of months, I got my first ever Christmas bonus check (which was shocking because I had only been there for barely 2 months). It was for $400 and I felt SO RICH. So what did I do? I bought a Nikon D3100 DSLR camera from the Best Buy by my office. I had been taking photos on my iPhone/ some with my dads Nikon when I could and knew I needed to upgrade. The camera was around $500 I believe so I also used some savings and it was the best move I could have made. I still use that camera today! I am saving for a new one but it’s been working like a champ all these years. Tip #3 – invest in yourself! Especially in a DSLR. Don’t be intimidated by all of the buttons and functions. Just use the auto setting as long as you need before figuring the rest out – i’ll touch on that more later.
For the next year I would blog on and off, 3 posts one week then nothing for a few weeks. In 2013 we bought a condo and moved, I started a new job that required more attention and we were enjoying our free time in a new city. I had no real goals or plans for my blog which I believe is why it was kind of stagnant for this time. I didn’t have an Instagram for my blog, just a Facebook page with a few friends as followers and knew nothing about how important marketing was. I churned out content but as I was starting to try and eat healthier I was less and less passionate about things like Butter Cake with Chocolate Almond Whipped Cream and Strawberries (as delicious as it is). For reference here are some analytics from that first year and a half of blogging:
That growth spurt was because my Cinnamon Crumb Banana Bread recipe got some Pinterest traction and I got 3,000 views in one day!! I couldn’t believe it! But then it went back down and I was thinking I wouldn’t get lucky like that again.
September, 2014: This is when I wanted to redesign my blog and change the colors but had no money to do so. So I made a new logo for myself in a paint type free app on my computer… it was pretty bad. I think I was craving change because I was starting to eat better (per the chicken salad vs. cookies) but didn’t know what that meant or looked like. You can see in the about me section that I started talking more about balancing things.
The Turning Point:
Summer 2015 – This is when my life really started to shift. I had started cutting out processed foods and refined sugars and flours and knew I had to reflect that in my blog, which made it no longer a baking blog! I made another new logo in photoshop which I had just purchased and the new Little Bits of Real Food and Real Talk was born!
I was reinvigorated to start creating healthier recipes and start thinking about where I wanted this whole blog thing to go. This is also when I found out that my friends Lee from Fit Foodie Finds and Davida from The Healthy Maven had started a little website and group on Facebook called The Blogger Project. This brings me to tip #4 – find a community! At this point in my journey I found other bloggers who were in the same point of their blogging careers as I was and learning from each other was key!
The next 3 things I did in the Summer and Fall of 2015 turned the tables for me.
- Photography: I had been using auto on my Nikon for a long time before I started learning how to use the manual settings. And instead of taking a Nikon class or something I relied on bloggers to help me out! I purchased both the Minimalist Baker’s Food Photography School and Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography eBook and they helped my photography a ton. Around the same time I also purchased a new lens! I upgraded from the standard 18-55mm that came with the camera to a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and that really helped with better depth in photos. Pretty sure I asked for that for my Birthday because… budget life.
- Pinterest: I had always been using Pinterest but once I learned how to make a long pin in photoshop and Lee taught me about Tailwind – a scheduling app for Pinterest, my numbers started to grow!
- Ads: I had been using Google Adsense and Gourmet Ads for a while and in 2015 I made maybe 30 bucks a month with Google and 50 bucks a month with Gourmet Ads and was very proud of that! It was covering a lot of the groceries and was SO COOL to think I could make money off of my hobby. Then I learned about AdThrive which is an advertising network that takes care of all of the backend stuff and optimizes your ads to make as much money as possible. I applied to get in as they don’t accept everyone and after about 2 months, I got an email that I was accepted! They got all of my information and analytics and let me know that when I thought I had a growth spurt that year, my analytics tag was just installed twice. So you can see in the clip below… those numbers were lies! I was bummed but then again just happy to know. Ad Thrive took over in December of 2015 and I was ready for January!
2016 – I started off 2016 super goal oriented. I had just FINALLY moved my personal Instagram into my blogs Instagram and started off the year around 1,500 followers. I wrote down a goal to get to 10,000 by the end of year. I made a goal to LEARN as much as I possibly could, which brings me to tip #5 – never stop learning. The best way I did this? Podcasts!! With my busy schedule in 2016, the best thing I could do was listen on my commute, my lunch break and while cooking on the weekend. Here are some of my favorites that helped a ton:
- The Food Blogger Pro Podcast – hosted by Bjork Ostrom, hubby of Lindsay who runs the blog Pinch of Yum. He handles a lot of the back end stuff with the blog and started Food Blogger Pro to help bloggers learn from each other! He has over 100 episodes and there is so much great info in there!
- The Blissful Bites Podcast – Nicole is an amazing business woman who both owns a granola company and is a fabulous coach to bloggers. Her podcast interviews women who are crushing the game in both the online space and in the food entrepreneur space! She even interviewed little old me in Episode 164! Nicole also hosts a Blogger Summer Camp that you have to check out if you want to take your blog to the next level!
- The Chopped Podcast – This one is hostly by Marley of the blog Namely Marley! She has tons of great guests come on and talk about their experiences and expertise. I love the questions she asks – so much great info here!
- Being Boss – This one isn’t food focused but a great podcast about being a creative entreprenuer! I love the hosts Kathleen and Emily for their honesty, bluntness and truly their Badassness (making that a word) for living their dream lives and totally CRUSHING it.
I also made a goal to post twice a week, every week.
Consistency was key for me.
But you know what consistency really means? HARD FREAKING WORK. I hate to burst anyones bubble who thinks blogging is all Instagram story dance parties and blogger friends, but 2016 was ROUGH. I was working an 8-5 job with around a 40 minute commute and trying to get to the gym after work as much as I could, so weekends were all about blogging. I would shop, cook and shoot 2 recipes for the week on Saturdays, edit photos + write Tuesday’s post on Sunday, then during the week I would find time at night to write the other post. And you know what? I got 2 posts out every single week.
Pushing out consistent content upped my chances of something going viral right?! See that big jump in views in May? SWEET POTATO TOAST! One day I looked at my analytics and I had 44,000 views in one day – just on that post. And as you can see, my views were up for about 2 months, then leveled out a bit.
That viral post also led to lots of fun exposure in online and print magazines and an appearance on the Dr. Oz Show!
Knowing I was Ready – INCOME:
- Ads – switching to AdThrive was the best decision I made! Before using them I was making about a couple of bucks a day and when I transitioned (and pagviews were the same) I was making about $60 a day! That was in January of 2016 and when that happened I thought to myself, if I could make $3,000 a month on my blog, I can quit my job – and all that would take was making $100 a day! I wasn’t far off.
- Brand Partners – This was an area I was honestly terrified to get into. I wanted to work with brands but had no idea where to start. So I just thought, what do I use and love? I made a media kit and reached out to TONS of brands. I emailed every company I could think of that I liked and tried to pitch myself (even though I had no experience in it). And I got A LOT of nos and a lot of nothing back. But I also got a couple of great companies and threw out a small number that at the time it felt huge! I got my first 2 partnerships in March of 2016 and I was PUMPED. Tip #6 – Know and OWN your worth. Recipe development, photography, editing, writing, all takes a lot of time and your time and skills are worth something!
By August I hit over $4,000 (between ads and brand partners) and knew I had to start thinking about taking the leap. Between selling our condo and buying a house I couldn’t be jobless so I waited until we were in the clear and gave my notice mid November. I knew I could have stayed at my job through the rest of the year to get the Christmas bonus and a week paid holiday, but I had to get out and start prepping January content for all of you!! It paid off too because my January was epic! 🙂 I also finally hired a new designer to redesign my site at the end of 2016 and LOVE how it turned out!
Here is a snap shot of Jan 2016 – now:
And now I am IN IT. I am thinking of what is next, I am constantly trying to improve, brand myself and my blog and looking to the future! The world of blogging is a crazy one – it wasn’t very big just a few years ago and who knows if it will stay this way a few years down the line. But that is why now I see myself not only as a blogger, but a content creator, a photographer, a connector and even entertainer sometimes. And I know there will always be a need for those things, and that excites me more than anything!
Tip # 7 – You can do it too.
You might be reading this after having a blog for a year and it hasn’t gone anywhere.
You might be reading this with just a twinkle of a thought about starting a blog.
You might even be reading this thinking “can i just keep my blog as a hobby?!”
And to all of you I say YES!! You can do whatever you want with your life and now is the time to freaking do it. Or at least try? Make some goals, work your butt off, and see.
Let’s highlight my tops tips shall we??
TIP #1 – Work with what you have! There are always options even if you are tight on money.
Tip #2 – Write about what you are passionate about!! Most. Important. Thing.
Tip #3 – Invest in yourself! When you do have a few bucks saved – buy the camera, buy the photoshop, or buy the thing you think will help you take it up a notch.
Tip #4 – Find a community! Find bloggers who are around the same level are you are and write about common topics and support each other! This has been so crucial for me.
Tip #5 – Never stop learning. Read books, listen to podcasts – GOOGLE EVERYTHING. There is a world of information out there, go find it!
Tip #6 – Know and OWN your worth. If you have a skill and you are confident in your work – that is worth something! Know that and ask for what you deserve!
Tip # 7 – You can do it too. That saying “You can do anything you set your mind to” is nothing but the truth! WORK IT!
I would love to hear where you are in your journey! Comment below and link to your blog, let’s support each other!
Pin the image below to share this with the world!!
This is sooo inspiring and eye opening! You really put the work in to get what you wanted and that is amazing. I want this year to be how your 2016 was. Busting my butt to get out posts every week. I am currently at one post per week, but you have shown me that I can do more, just have to make some sacrifices. Gotta risk it to get the bisquet. Thank you so much for putting this all in words!
My blog is Youngwholeandhungry.com:)
Aw thanks so much maddie!!! You can totally do it!! I love watching your stories and you are totally on your way. Definitely gave up some fun parties and weekends but it was so so worth it. Can’t wait to watch you grow!!!
I have been eager to read this post and I woke up this morning to find in sitting in my inbox! Yay!
You are very inspiring and your tips are great! I’m working on starting up a small business to sell my homemade salsa but I’m continuously overwhelmed. This post is definitely a great resource for me. Thank you for taking the time to write it!
I can’t remember when I started following you but I think it was early 2017. My sisters and I watch your insta stories religiously and tbh you feel like a 4th sister to us! Thanks for brightening our day always!
Aw I LOVE this!!! Starting a salsa company sounds amazing! You can definitely do anything you set your mind to and even the journey of trying to figure it out can be so rewarding. Can’t wait to see it on shelves one day!! 🙂
Thank you so much for taking the time to share about your personal experience. As a blogger who is at the beginning of the beginning, this was hugely helpful to read. You really are an inspiration!
So so glad it could helpful Melissa!! Good luck and keep at it!! 🙂
Did you ever (or do you ever) hesitate sharing some of your best recipes? I’m trying to pick up my blog but sometimes I question if I should share certain recipes always wondering if there’s a more profitable avenue I could use them for. Or would you say just put the best up and it’ll be worth it eventually?
Also from your community and experience have you noticed any issues with people’s growth if they have a .net address instead of .com?
Thanks for this post!! Lot’s of good tips. 🙂
Hi Emily! I don’t hesitate sharing good recipes because I think you have to share your best for people to love them and follow along! Also I don’t know of anyone with a .net so I am not sure about that!! Good luck with everything!!
I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a few months now as my passion for healthy living has grown, and after just finishing my first whole30 and reading this I feel so motivated! You are such an inspiration Kelsey, and one of my favorite bloggers (:
So would you recommend for sure buying the domain up front? It’s hard for me to spend a lot of money, I’m in college and don’t have steady income, but I also want that freedom for my blog! Thank you so much!
Hi Leah!! So glad this could motivate you! A domain should only be a couple of dollars so for sure get whatever you are thinking of before it’s taken! The hosting can be more expensive but you can start with just a year and renew later! Good luck!!
Thanks for writing this post Kelsey! As someone who is in the process of starting a blog it was super helpful. I also found it reassuring because so far I’m essentially on the same path that you started on, so it’s good to know with hard work I can get there.
So glad it could help Taryn!! Keep at it! 🙂
Thanks for sharing this! Love reading about your journey! You inspire me!
Aw thanks so much Aley!!
Loved this post! Your journey makes me so happy and I’m so glad you’re doing what you love! I just quit my job and am now trying to figure out if I should turn my hobby into some income but have no idea how, so I loved hearing your process!! XOXO love you
Aw thanks Christina!! You are so knowledgeable and talented I have no doubt you will create a fabulous life for yourself!! You are SO on your way girl!!! XOXO!
Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been following you for awhile and you are such an inspiration to me. I have a question for you- when you say you made a media kit to reach out to brands, what does that mean exactly?
Thanks Kelsey!! So glad I can help! Here is a link to more details on a media kit but its basically a resume for your blog! Listing out your audience, followers, social following and such! http://www.melyssagriffin.com/how-and-why-to-create-a-media-kit-for-your-blog-free-template/
SO inspiring to read about your story, lady! Your hard work and consistency is paying off, and I’m so happy for you!! xoxo
Thanks so much Jess!!! 🙂 XOXO!
Kelsey! I have been following you on instagram now and it’s been so fun!! Thanks for all of the crazy good and healthy food tips. I had a question though! During this blog post you mentioned to write about what you LOVE (duh!!). Well I love exercise and I love sharing my background and knowledge with others but how did you start off your blog about what you love without blasting your social media to come look at your pages? I’m having a hard time right now finding that balance of sharing what I love, and not annoying people. Thanks girl!
I think the whole point of being on social – as your blog name- is to preach what you say in your blog! It won’t be overboard, it should be why people want to follow!
I love reading posts like this! They always push me to keep on keeping on! So thank you! I am a fairly new but now avid reader & insta-story follower of yours so thanks for the inspo!
I love to see the realistic time line and how it shows that hard work does pay off and fitting in all the extra hours around the work day and having a full time job and a side blog is worth it no matter how hard it is! Also love that you link to the POY food photography ebook as I purchased that over a year ago now and it took my food photography up a notch for sure! Makes me feel like I am on the right track if a full time blogger like yourself links back to these things that helped you in the beginning!
I am at the full time job (12hr days Mon-Fri) stage and creating/photographing/writing mainly on the weekends with a few late nights here and there! Currently it feels like a super productive hobby that has something physical I can see and look back over that makes it all feel worthwhile! My blog is just over a year and a half old and while it isn’t going anywhere quite yet in the conventional sense, it makes me happy and proud, and that’s really all I can ask for!
Any advice or constructive criticism on my blog is truly always welcome!
Thank you for posting all of this helpful and inspiring info (pretty much clicked every link…so y’ know!) Much appreciated!
So glad it was helpful! Keep doing what you’re doing, your site is beautiful!
This is such great information and allows “the lost” to feel like they have some information to start with when it comes to starting a blog and transforming it to a business. One point I had a question on was when you say you reached out to brands you liked, what did you say to them? Was it as simple as hey let’s work together?
Pretty much! It is all about pitching yourself so having a media kit with all of your blog and social stats and telling them about your love for their products and saying you would love to help their marketing needs!!
I absolutely LOVED reading this post and hearing your incredible story. Your site has changed so much in 5 years and that’s so cool to look back at how far you’ve come — I’m wishing I took some screenshots of mine now hahha. I also can’t believe it was just a year ago we were at Blogfest and you were thinking about taking the leap 🙂 I am so happy for you!
Ah seriously Kellen!! So crazy!! And I got the snap shots from this site: http://web.archive.org/
So cool to look at!! 🙂 XOXO!
Unique ..Genuine…inspiring…..Creative…passion ate…enthusiastic…….AUTHENTIC….
All that you are shines though ….and we all are cheering you on!!!
Thanks Nanc!! Love you!!
Thank you so much for sharing this post! This is my second time coming on here to read it. I feel like it’s so informational and gave me that boost I needed. I’m currently thinking of starting my own blog. Literally has just been a thought for some time but I didn’t think I could do it, let alone make money off of it. I am a mom and would love to be able to quit my job and be around a little more with my son. So this post definitely has given me a boost of confidence. I wish I could talk to you more and pick your brain haha. I watch your insta stories all the time. You are so entertaining and everything you make looks awesome. Keep up the great work. And if you have any additional info like what books to start reading, or anything helpful on taking that FIRST step. I would gladly receive it!!
So so glad this could help you!! I really poured all my advice into this so take it and run! The first step is buying that domain – you got this!
Thank you for sharing this post! I have been following you religiously for the last couple of months, and I absolutely adore your blog and instagram! This post has been so inspiring, I think that this is my 10th time reading it. As a college swimmer in my final year of eligibility, I am anxiously awaiting for my swimming days to be over so I can start my own food blog, but until then just a lot of research and anticipation. Thank you again for sharing all that you do!
Aw thats amazing!! I played water polo in college and know how hard that is!! Enjoy your last year of college and I can’t wait to see your blog out there one day!
Such a great read – I’m just starting out so these tips have been so helpful!
Hi Kelsey, this is such a great post! How did you go about finding your community of bloggers? Thanks!
I was lucky enough to know a blogger from instagram (just from following and commenting!) and she told me about a facebook group! Look up “BGB Community” on fb… although I don’t think it’s active anymore!
Congratulations on your success! Thank you for sharing your ideas and talent 🙂 Best of luck in the future!!
I came across your page on Insta only a few weeks ago, glad I did. Thank you for the tips will definitely be looking into what you have shared. I’ve been blogging for over a year now and feel it’s time to step it up. Xx
So glad it could be helpful!!
Hi Kelsey! I just have to say I really enjoy your blog and your instagram. I’m fairly new to your tribe as I t was the last time you took over the whole 30 ig that I was introduced to you. I had been thinking of starting a blog and this post inspired me to do so. so thank you. I will be starting my first whole 30 next week and taking my whole family with me. I am a single mom and that is what my blog will be about. My families health and wellness journey starting with Whole 30. (we have been on a lifestyle revamp for about a year when I decided I really needed to lose weigh) So once again Thank you!
So glad you are starting one!! Good luck, it is tons of fun!!