THE FRESHMAN GUIDE To Food Blogging

Portobello Road Market cupcake display 2009portobello road storefrontPortobello Road bottlesI WAS CONVINCED I’D GET BEAT UP IN HIGH SCHOOL. After all, I was thirteen and had just graduated with twenty-five other eighth graders from a private, Catholic school. While I knew the New York public education system would be a big change, I was looking forward to burning my schoolgirl uniform. Still, my cousins went to public school and seemed to get in fights all the time so, clearly, I was bound to get my ass kicked. The only thing to do, then, was to take karate class, which I took up that summer (and only that summer) before my Freshman year, and to READ UP on how to survive high school.

It’s especially funny to remember my teen self now, but even then I didn’t feel embarrassed. Because it worked. After all, groundbreaking advice on how to survive high school were actually basic tips on how to make friends, including:

Introduce yourself.
Everyone else is as nervous as you.

So, in the spirit of that ever-helpful guide (I think this might be the latest edition.) that I found at Strand, I give you my own rendition of the Freshman Guide, but to food blogging. I wrote these for Jeremy Jones, an aspiring international food blogger and a friend of my jet-setting friend Adam, who emailed last week in search of tips on how to get a new blog noticed on the “big food blog scene”.

Here are the suggestions I sent to Jeremy. Most are common sense and none promise to bring wealth or fame. Rather, they’re lessons I learned along the way to becoming a more effective communicator online and in person. This way, you’re ready when CNN calls to ask: “Why can’t you cook?”

Without further ado…

Be consistent. Post Monday through Friday; post in the morning; post at night; post once or twice a month. No matter when you post, be consistent. It’s hard to build an audience if you publish new pieces haphazardly. Readers like to see new posts and photos, so you should try to deliver these as regularly as possible. (But don’t become a slave to posting. I’d rather post something thoughtful once a week than put a photo up mindlessly.)

Talk about things you genuinely care about. If you don’t care about the content you create and are only doing it to throw words up on a screen, it shows. If you are mildly obsessed passionate about your topic, your readers will know.

Check spelling and grammar.

Do it for love (not the pennies). You probably won’t make money or gain an audience immediately. You should probably also know that you’ll be writing for your mom and two best friends for a while. To be honest, my mom doesn’t read English and my best friends don’t read every post right away. Riveting as my food musings may be, they’re not for everybody. But what is?

Be positive.
No one likes a whiner.

Find a niche / Be the best niche filler you can be. Provide new information. Write about a never-before-experienced restaurant experience or share a recipe you’ve created. Don’t merely regurgitate others’ content. Be original. If you can, be the only one doing what you’re doing. I met Megan of The Runner’s Kitchen last week. She trains for races and is mindful about what she eats. Maybe there are other runners who blog, but Megan is great about staying “on message” and, in effect, fills a niche. She’s super sweet and helps hungry athletes.

Be social. Use Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook to engage other bloggers, gain feedback, and to let followers know what’s new.

Meet bloggers offline. Attend blogger meet-ups, conferences, and panels where you can chat with other bloggers and share your experiences with one another. Listen and learn.

Keep up with blogs and bloggers you like. I love the focus on aesthetics on fashion and design blogs, like my friend Erica’s funny Design Blahg, so I visit them often for inspiration.

There are no rules. The blog world is still new, so nothing I or other bloggers say promises “success”. You just have to jump in and hope for the best while working to stay afloat. The good thing? No one’s watching, especially at the beginning, so who cares if you screw up?

Stupidly simple ideas work. Seriously.

amy august 10, 2010

Photos were taken at Portobello Market while visiting friends in London last year. At the time, Amy Blogs Chow was just a few months old. I didn’t know how to blog either.

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August 10, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Blogs, Europe, Travel.

14 Comments

  1. Adam replied:

    Really great tips here—for any type of blogger! Being social & meeting bloggers offline are two things that I never really thought about—until I actually did it and realized how great it was. Blogging creates a nice community.

    And thanks for the mention, Amy!

  2. Eliana replied:

    Awesome tips Amy. Could not have said it better myself.

  3. bridget {bake at 350} replied:

    Great tips….and good things to remember. I’m with you…I’d rather the post be heartfelt and once a week than “just a post” everyday.

    Stumbled. 🙂

  4. Megan (The Runner's Kitchen) replied:

    Thank you for the shout out 🙂 It was so great meeting you in BK!

    One of my best tips for beginner bloggers is to comment on other blogs that they read/like. It’s a great way to get your name and URL out there!

  5. Amy replied:

    Adam, you’re absolutely welcome! Thanks for recommending my site to Jeremy.

    Eliana, thanks for stopping by 🙂

    Bridget – quality definitely trumps quantity. Thanks for stumbling the post!

    Megan – hugs to you! I agree that commenting is one of the best ways to connect with other bloggers. It’s not only a way to leave a virtual business card, but the author of the post feels great that someone took the time to read the piece x

  6. Nichelle replied:

    Great post, food blogging rock star!

  7. Susanna Yu replied:

    Wow, I’ve just started my blog about a week ago and these tips seem really helpful. I honestly really love everything about food, and I’m excited to see where things will go! Thank you for this post! :]

  8. Andrea@High/Low replied:

    Hi Amy! Great post! I agree that blogging is not a get rich quick platform, but a wonderful way to express yourself and meet new people who share your interests (like you!)

  9. Joslyn @ missfitbliss replied:

    These are great rules. I love the one about writing for your mom and 2 best friends! I just got my first comment from someone who wasn’t a blood relative last week and I am still on Cloud 9;)

  10. Serena @ Seriously Soupy replied:

    Awesome tips! I’m still learning and these tips are super inspirational!

  11. Levi S. replied:

    Nice! thanks for the tips. During my first week of blogging, I had a hard time on thinking what to post. I found that it gets easier with time. I just jump on with it, type whatever comes to mind about things I love. Now I’m enjoying it, it has gotten easy and I’m getting addicted to it. 🙂

    Originally, I meant to blog to have extra money because of ads. But now i don’t care about having extra money, having my first page views and comments are rewarding enough for me. And what’s more important is that I enjoy it. Also I get to follow up, document and keep track of my goals/passion in life. Blogging is fun! 🙂

    • Amy replied:

      Hi, Levi! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I definitely agree that blogging comes more naturally with time and practice. Keep going!

  12. kate replied:

    Wonderful post! Your first tip struck a chord with me. Not too long ago, I came to the conclusion that I should post just one solid post per week. I work way too much, and I just don’t have as much time for my fledgling food/fashion blog as I’d like. Soon I hope to push it to two posts a week. We’ll see!

  13. Freddie replied:

    Hey Amy, Hola from Chicago. Just saw this and wanted to say thanks for posting it! So inspiring!

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