Running a blog is hard work. Like many of you I began blogging because I have a huge passion for food, photography and love sharing it with the world. After four years of blogging I still feel this way, in fact my passion has intensified. All of us that run blogs know how many countless hours of hard work our passions involve, and I also think we would all agree that earning some money from our hard work and passion is something we all welcome.
Today I want to share with you an invaluable source of knowledge on how to monetize our blogs. This wealth of knowledge comes packed in a 170 page e-book titled “Publish Your Lunch: How to Earn Money Food Blogging” written by Mike and Patty Hultquist. I have read much on the subject but find that this book is one of the very best sources of information. The authors cover everything from building your blog to SEO optimization, income source generators (not just ads), food photography and keeping motivated — the amount of information is mind blowing.
I was interviewed for the “Profile of a Successful Food Photographer” section (page 154) so look for me there. The opinions I’ve expressed are here and in the interview are my own. Okay, let’s get some tips from Patty and Mike on how everyone can monetize their blog.
1. Hi Mike and Patty! Can you tell us a little bit about you and your blogs?
MIKE: We run several web sites, the most popular being Chili Pepper Madness, Jalapeno Madness , and Habanero Madness . Chili Pepper Madness is really the mother site for a number of spin-offs with focused niche interests. I am a web developer/designer, as well as a writer with a lot of published work and have a major love of food, especially spicy food and obviously chili peppers. It’s a happy obsession of mine. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and have no plans on stopping, so several years ago we decided to see how we can earn a bit of an income while doing what we love.
PATTY: At first Mike did the blogs all on his own. I am a web programmer and didn’t find much of a need to contribute since Mike is the cook and writer – he was handling it all on his own. As the sites began to grow into a business, however, we decided to focus on monetizing them and optimizing them for search engines and social media. These are my specialties with our web business so I began to contribute much more time to the sites. I also have a strong interest in photography, so have been able to contribute in that area as well. We’re both learning to be better food photographers.
2. Your websites and cookbooks evolve around a chile theme. I’m curious what your favorite peppers are and what is the hottest you’ve eaten?
PATTY: I typically am at a jalapeno level but before all this began I was a complete wimp and couldn’t handle any spiciness at all. Mike has completely converted me into a chilehead and I now crave spice. I really love habaneros because they have a great citrusy flavor but can only handle a small amount of them. Luckily a little goes a long way.
MIKE: I LOVE LOVE LOVE spicy food and peppers of all types. I can handle major heat compared to most people, but that doesn’t mean I want every meal to melt my tongue. I have favorites based on flavor and utility over heat. I love poblanos for their use in stuffing, like the classic chiles rellenos. Jalapeno peppers were my first chili pepper love. They’re absolutely perfect with a bit of a kick, flavor, wall thickness and “stuffability”. Poppers anyone? Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets are amazing with their fruity flavor and compliment so many dishes, plus they bring the heat. But when you want some REAL heat, I go for either the Bhut Jolokia (ghost pepper) or any of the 7 Pot pepper varieties, which have a real sweetness if you can get through the heat level.
3. Mike, you are an established screenwriter, cookbook author, and recently added “Publish Your Lunch” to your resume. Can you give us a brief description of your latest book?
MIKE: “Publish Your Lunch” is meant to help food bloggers monetize their current food blogs, as well as help those who may have not yet started a food blog but are considering doing so. It details a lot of our experience as food bloggers and professional web site developers, what has worked for us, new ideas to consider, and more. There are so many ways to earn money as a food blogger and we discuss a lot of those ways, as well as providing details on how we do it.
4. Why did you write “Publish Your Lunch”?
MIKE: I’ve had many people react with strong interest over the years when I tell them I’m a food blogger. After all the chili pepper questions (which I’m always happy to talk about), the subject turns to some variation of, “Do you make money at it? How?” We’ve both also received many emails from other bloggers, as well as our clients in other industries, wanting information on monetization. We do this for many clients, so figured we can also do it for ourselves. I wanted to write the book because I write about what I know – whether it is a new screenplay, a horror novel or story, or an article on cooking with chili peppers. This was Patty’s first book and it couldn’t have been done without her knowledge. I hope the book helps people learn to build a new and steady income stream to make life a little easier.
5. Who will most benefit from it?
MIKE: This was written specifically for food bloggers who want to earn an income, or who have tried to earn an income but haven’t realized the success they would like. We talk a lot about different ways to earn that income, but also how to approach the concept of your blog, your content and more.
6. How soon after you began blogging did you start monetizing your blog? Do you feel there is a specific timeline bloggers should follow?
PATTY: Right from the start is the smartest way because when you see results it will just motivate you more to optimize and work on increasing the revenue. Another method would be to establish yourself as an expert and work to drive traffic and build your audience first. Then when you start to monetize you’ll see some great results. The benefit of this method is that you are focusing on establishing your brand and content as the priority rather than making income the priority. Some people may give up if their sole focus is earning income and they aren’t seeing the results simply because they aren’t getting much traffic to their site to begin with.
MIKE: We didn’t monetize immediately. I started on my own as a hobby because I’m simply obsessed with chili peppers, and as mentioned, I would be doing this anyway, money or no money. I wrote a small jalapeno pepper themed cookbook as well several years ago. When Google AdWords appeared, we both thought, “Hey, that looks interesting. We might give that a try.” So we popped a couple ads on the site and it began to earn an income almost immediately.
As we grew our web site development business, we began to also apply what we learned on client work to our own sites. Ads are only one way to earn an income. There are many other ways to consider. As for a timeline, I personally don’t think so. You have to love what you do first. Focus on building great content, cooking and sharing your passion, and the income will build. Whether you’ve had your foodie site online for 10 days or 10 years, you can monetize if you want to.
7. Often times I receive emails from fellow bloggers who are skeptical about monetizing their blogs, what would you say to them?
PATTY: Some people may be skeptical because they think the only way to earn money is by littering their content with flashy ads that will take away from their site. There are plenty of ways to incorporate tasteful ads that do not distract from the site. Or they can use other methods besides ads like writing and selling cookbooks. If they have a lot of traffic on their site then people think their content is good and would be willing to pay for it.
MIKE: Yes, I agree with Patty. There is absolutely nothing wrong with blogging for no other reason than loving your subject and food. Honestly, it’s one of the most favorite things I do. I started out doing it for fun, too. The money part came years later. It is the same with any writing. I have published short fiction in non-paying anthologies. I’ve written spec scripts for major studios that never went anywhere. Why? Because I love it. However, there are so many ways to turn your passion and hard work into an income stream, it seems foolish to not consider them, or even educate yourself to the possibilities. Don’t like ads on your site? No problem. Consider writing a cookbook instead. Every good food blogger has a cookbook inside of them. How about sponsorship? Collaborating with big brands?
8. What section in “Publish Your Lunch” do you feel is the most valuable to food bloggers?
PATTY: Everyone will have a different focus and find something that they think will fit their blog and work well. For some it will be food photography, for others, learning about where to place ads to make the most money. It all depends on what the person’s skills and interests are.
MIKE: Yes, Patty is correct. Also, I think the interviews with successful food bloggers and writers, as well as the interview with you (Spicie Foodie – on food photography) will be of great interest.
9. You’ve been blogging for a long time, what is your best advice for those looking to start their own blog?
PATTY: Be passionate and dedicated. Without both you won’t stick with it and no one will keep going back to a blog that isn’t updated often.
MIKE: You have to love it. If you stop doing it for fun and only focus on the money, forget it. It just won’t work. However, if you want to start your own blog and earn a bit of an income doing so, you need to think of it a bit like a business. You want to blog about food? Great! We try to get you to consider your audience first in developing your site and content. Find out what people want, then give it to them.
10. Where can people find you and your blog work?
The main sites are:
• Chili Pepper Madness
• Jalapeno Madness
• Food Blog Madness (This is where we are starting to focus on information dealt with in our book)
Most of our other sites are offshoots from those sites. We hope you’ll check them out!
Thank you so much Mike and Patty for sharing this very helpful information and for writing a fantastic book to guide us food bloggers in monetizing our blogs. Also thank you for including me in your project.
Mike is quite a prolific writer, here are just a few of his published cookbooks available in print and digital formats.