Creating an Epic Food Blog on a Budget

For those of you that follow my site – this post has been a long time coming!  I’ve been trying to determine the “how, when, & why” I should start sharing how to create an epic food blog!  I’ve been stressing over creating pots about blogging for two reasons:

#1 – I seriously love learning about blogging, marketing, social media – all that stuff that most people consider a snoozefest!  So I’ve been worried you won’t care either!
#2 – I don’t want to “upset” the folks who are only following me for my food and recipes!
I finally realized if I love talking about food blogging, and sharing food blogging with my readers (some of you have even started food blogs!!!) – there’s no reason not talk about it more!
Now, for those of you that only love the recipes – don’t worry, I’m not going to stop cooking up delicious recipes anytime soon!  And, for anyone reading this that is looking to start a food blog or learn more about food blogging – I’m glad I could be here to help!  So in today’s first “blog post about blogging”, I’m going to give you the complete low down on creating an EPIC Food Blog on a Budget.
**Please Note: This post contains some affiliate links – I get a small commission if you purchase services or products through them.  However, I only recommend and stand behind products that I trust and believe in!**
 
Creating an Epic Food Blog on a Budget

How Much Do I Need to Spend on my Epic Food Blog?

When I first started blogging – I was a full time student, working a part time job, trying to pay rent, buy good food (for me and my dog!), and still have extra money on the weekends to have a good time! I hardly had two extra pennies to scrape together – so I swear, I understand when you say you don’t have extra money to spend starting a blog, or that you just aren’t ready to put the money into a food blog.  So think about this:

This weekend, someone reached out to me to ask for my best piece of advice I have to someone that is looking to start a food blog, so today I’m going to share with you what I told them.

“Take a second to ask yourself, ‘Am I starting this food blog for fun, or because I want to be a serious food blogger.’ ”  

Based on the answer to that question – my advice is to either get serious – or just throw caution to the wind and just have fun with it!  Now be honest with yourself – it’s easy to say, “I want to be a serious blogger” But remember a serious blogger stays up til 2a in the morning editing blog posts, creating images for Pinterest, networking on Facebook, and so much more!

The way I see it there are some essentials for each type of blogger:

Essentials for a “Serious Food Blogger”

  • A Domain Name (a .com)
  • Hosting (we’re gonna chat about this)
  • WordPress Themes
  • Dedication, the ability to keep going when it get’s tough!
  • Perspiration, the willingness to work late, absorb knowledge like a sponge, and do whatever it takes!

Essentials for the “Just For Fun Food Blogger”

  • A Good Attitude

As you can see, when you do it just for fun, it’s just that – for fun!  I’m assuming that if you’re reading this and you want to start an EPIC blog – that makes you a “serious blogger.”  We’re going to spend the rest of this article walking through the essentials you need, and the non-essentials to consider so you can get your epic food blog up and running without tapping into your savings!

Food Blogs Aren't Free

Lots of up and coming food bloggers ask me the same question – what do you think about just starting a free blog (Like Blogger.com)?  Here’s my answer: Don’t do it!  If your in this just for fun and your blog is for your mom and some friends then it doesn’t matter, but if your serious about your blog – spend the money on a domain and hosting!

On a free blog you don’t have the same abilities that you do on a paid blog!  You can’t use certain advertising platforms, you can’t promote or sell your own ebooks, and sometimes you don’t even have rights to the things that you put on your blog – that’s right your ideas might not even be your property!

So do me a favor okay, spend some money on a your up and coming epic food blog – even if you don’t have a lot of money when you start, promise?  I don’t like to assign a number for a starting “budget”  because everyones budget, needs, etc are different but, since I get asked all the time:

If you are going to get SERIOUS about starting a blog set aside at least $150 to sign up for your first year of hosting, and possibly some upgrades when you get started!

The Essentials:

First I want to share with you the things that – in my opinion – you need to get when you start your epic food blog!

 

Essential #1: A Domain Name

Your domain is the .com piece of your Epic Food Blog!  For example: MyEpicFoodBlog.com

Owning a domain name is a yearly expense.  Normally the first year is a few dollars and then it ranges from $9.99-$14.99 per year after that!

I know what you’re thinking – “Zach, what the hell do I name my Epic Food Blog?”  Well I would suggest you take some time to think about what you like, your interests, what the focus of your blog is going to be.  If you were a Mom, a Vegan, and you eat healthy because you run, maybe you decided to go with “MommyRunsonPlants.com”.

The No Fuss Vegan
(My Domain is Currently ZachSpuckler.com)

Take about 15-30 minutes and come up with a list of ideas.  Narrow it down to a few that you love and bounce them off of a few friends – and when you find one that fits jump in!

With blogging lots of times I see bloggers who never get to “the next step” because they get  so caught up in making a mistake, or doing something imperfectly!  Trust me – nothing in blogging is permanent – if in 3 months you hate your domain name, you can change it (but that’s another blog post haha).  I myself went through 3 different domain names before arriving at this one – and I might even change it again to match my brand even better!

Before you buy a domain – if you’re using this as a step by step guide – check out the next blurb about hosting!  Many times when you sign up for hosting, the first year of your domain is included at no extra cost!

Pro Tip: Check to see if your Domain passes “The Radio Test” – if you tell someone the name of your site is it clear, concise, and easy to understand – i.e. can they repeat and spell it back to you?  If you have a crazy last name like “Czechlingman” now probably isn’t the time to use it in your blog domain!

Best Places to Buy Your Domain:

  • GoDaddy – This is where I buy most of my domains
  • NameCheap – They run tons of sales and offer great prices, many bloggers love using them!
  • BlueHost – This is the hosting company I recommend, but they include a free domain with new hosting packages!

Essential #2: Hosting

Think about your domain as your dream hose that you build, starting from nothing! Hosting is comparable to the land that you buy to build your home (or blog and domain) on!  Hosting is a monthly expense, but most companies have you pay for it annually or offer a nice discount if you pay annually!

As I mentioned earlier if this is your first blog or your first time setting up hosting, you will likely be given a free domain when you sign up for hosting!

Bluehost

Pro Tip: Spending money on an entire year of hosting can feel like a lot – but if you want to get serious and build an EPIC blog – you are making a commitment!  Really commit – both mentally and financially – to sticking this out for a year and give it your all!

My Recommendation for Hosting:

  • BlueHost – This is the hosting company I recommend, not only because they have great customer service, but because they are one of the cheapest options and they include a free domain with all new hosting packages!

Essential #3: WordPress Theme

WordPress is a “platform” – it basically means that you can format your blog to look pretty, add posts, and manage your content without learning to code.  Trust me on this one – WordPress is the way to go! It’s free to use, highly customizable, and all the top bloggers and companies are use it!

A theme is vital to you Epic Food Blog!  If your WordPress is a car – the theme is a paint job!  It’s your way to take a blog and make it your own!

Themes range in price from FREE to $200+ for fully custom themes!  Most themes you buy or download for free and then simply tweak and customize them on your blog!  There are literally thousands of themes available out there – so start looking!

themes

Pro Tip: Spending money a theme can be daunting – BUT you are not bound to a theme for life – in fact it takes just minutes to change it!  Additionally paid themes often have better features and support!  Basically, a theme is one of the best investments you can make in your blog – don’t cheap out if you can afford it!

Best Places to Get Your Theme:

This is company create the theme I’m currently using – a theme called Daily Dish Pro on the Genesis Framework from StudioPress.  Anytime someone is looking for a premium theme, this is where I send them first!

I don’t personally use Elegant Themes, however I do have a lot of blogger friends, and clients that love it!  I can say that they are a top notch company that offers excellent products and support!  Their themes are a little more “girly” so this is great if you want a more flowing and flowery design!

If you’re not ready to spend money, or hosting and your domain ate up your budget – that’s totally cool!  Wordpress has a bunch of free themes that you can use until you’re ready to upgrade!

Need a Step-by-Step to Get the Essentials Done?

I’ve totally got you covered!  I’ve created a Tutorial called How to Start a Food Blog in 20 Minutes – in about 20 minutes you can have all the essentials of an EPIC food blog done!

Next I want to jump into the rest of creating an Epic Food Blog, the “non-essentials” of an epic food blog.  These are the things that it’s nice to have, but it’s not a “necessary” to get started!  Read through them, decided what you need and then jump in!

Non-Essential #1: A Logo & Brand Colors

For some reason – so many of us want to work on the image of our food blog first, and I was no different when I started!  Some experts say that bloggers don’t need to think about their logo or brand colors until they have a good stream of viewers, but with a food blog it’s a bit different!

Food blogs are very visual things – so it’s understandable that you want to have a good visual appeal! You can see my logo in my header, having a nice logo gives a blog a little extra “pop”!

What are brand colors?  As you may have noticed – nearly everything I put online I try to use the same colors!  I know exactly which shade of green to use, what shade of gray I use, and I have a set of preferred fonts!

Mood Board Sample

The great thing about logos and brand colors is that you can create them yourself (it’s how I did it!) or you can hire a designer to do it for you if you have the extra money!  Either way – they are a great asset because now when I publish something on Facebook, Pinterest, or even Instagram, it’s usually clear from the photo style, colors, and logo that it’s from me!

Pro Tip: Take some time to just play around creating color palettes, logos, and images to see what you connect with – if you never make progress, THEN think about hiring someone to help!

Tools I Used for My Logo and Brand Colors:

  • PicMonkey – this is a great too for editing photos without the need for a high level of skill – but you can also go in and play around with colors, images, and more!
  • Canva – I love using Canva for social media images or big projects that I want to have my colors, images, and logo on!  It’s one of the best free image tools around – though sometimes it can be a temperamental and glitchy!

Non-Essential #2: A Nice Camera

I still vividly remember the day that I pulled out my wallet and spent $400 on a used DSLR camera. My food blog was only about 2 weeks old, but something told me this was going to be one of the best investments of my life!  I had to dip into my savings account and ask my dad to by part of it as an “early birthday present!” (Thanks Dad!!!)

Now, there are tons of people who run food blogs for months with a nice point and shoot camera, or with today’s technology even just an iPhone!  But I will say that once I got – and learned to use – my DSLR camera, my photos dramatically improved:

Before & After
(Before and After My DSLR, and after JUST STARTING Digital Photography School)

A big barrier that comes with a nice camera is that when you first get it – every button might as well be in a foreign language – you have to learn how to use it, how to edit pictures, etc.  It’s an investment of both your time and money – but if you have extra money (or one lying around the house) whip it out and start learning:

Pro Tip: 99% of people suck at food photos when they start (myself included) practice, practice, and keep practicing to improve!

Tools and Resources for the New Food Photographer:

  • Cannon T3 DSLR – The Cannon T3 is definitely a “lower end” camera – but I use it and LOVE it – you can usually get them pretty cheap on amazon (even new), and if you can find them used – they are even less!  (Some people don’t mind buying used, I’m one of them haha)
  • Digital Food Photography School – This is an online video class offered by Minimalist Baker for $99!  It’s decent cost especially if your just starting your blog, but in just a few videos it CHANGED the way I photographed, edited, everything – it’s the best $99 I’ve spent after my camera purchase!

Non-Essential #3: A Planner, Calendar, and Note System

I was so tempted to put this under essential – but really I went months without using any so really it’s not “essential” but within the first 6 months I got my act together!  Trust me once you sort out your life, schedule, and notes – blogging get’s easier!

As a new to the game serious blogger you don’t start out with 40 hours a week to dedicate to your blog – usually!  And as you learn, read, and do – you’re going to find exactly what works for you and your audience.  Basically a planner & system of notes let’s you figure out when you have time to get tasks done, and the notes show you what you have to get done!

Pro Tip: Get a small notebook and always have it with you – as a food blogger ideas for posts and recipes will strike EVERYWHERE you want to write them down!

Tools and Resources for Planning:

  • Evernote – this is a digital notebook system that I love!  I take notes when I learn from other bloggers, I jot down posts ideas, and the best part is it syncs to my phone!
  • Moleskine Journals – I always have a small notebook with me, when inspiration strikes I write down a recipe idea, including ingredients, cook time, and anything else that strikes me – if you don’t write them down, I promise you forget them!

What REALLY Makes a Blog Epic?…YOU!

I’m going to be totally real with you here for a second!  People have loved my Asian Orange Tempeh, Broccoli Soup, and other recipes – but I promise there are tons of similar vegan recipes out there!  The only thing that makes my recipes unique is that little something that I only I have…ME!

I put my own unique spin on food blogging, doing vegan recipes that are oil-free and refined sugar-free – then I sprinkle in some personality!  People follow people – they don’t follow food – so don’t be afraid to REALLY run with your personality!

My friend Levan over at My Wife Makes does a wonderful job letting his personality shine through! From memes to off color jokes and pictures of his cats – he makes his blog his own!  That husband and wife team are unapologetic, authentic, and real – THAT is what people want!

Now What?

As I said earlier – the biggest issue I see among bloggers is that they know what they want but they wait, or they let fear hold them back!  This post has broken down how to start a blog, given you links to step by step instructions, and shown you how you can be up and running for under $100 – so what’s stopping you!

Your next step is to START YOUR EPIC BLOG! Take time this evening, or schedule it this weekend to sit down and do it!  Let nothing hold you back – you have the next epic food bog in your head, it’s time to put it online!

P.S. If you’re going to come back to this later – why not start a blogging board on Pinterest and pin this on there!

Any Questions, Comments, Feedback?  Comment Below and Let Me Know!

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Comments

  1. Sara says

    How is it possible this has no comments yet? Here you go: thank you!!! This post was like karmic or something and it made me very proud of myself. You see, last week or so I had that moment when you just say “I totally gotta do this – go!”, started browsing available domains, called my boyfriend who’s a computer scientist and has done this several times (not with food but whatever) and blurter: honey, I’m gonna buy a food blog, will you help me? We scheduled a videoconference on hangouts and in about two hours came up with a domain name, bought it, signed up for hosting and added installed a wordpress theme. It was waaay easier and faster than I expected. In the end I was already testing logo colors precisely on Canva! Then I realized my photography sucks and started reading tip lists – I still have to work on that and ask said boyfriend for help setting up my logo in the right place, which will require some coding.
    I actually found this post because I follow your food, not because I was searching for tips right now, so I don’t think you have to worry about doing this, it’s just extra seasoning, not the main dish! So, all in all I loved your post, it gave me some extra confidence because I already did most of this initial part and I ended up doing it almost exactly the way you suggest, the next day I went out and bought a small notebook and everything (and some nice pens for extra motivation) to braistorm recipes and keep stuff together. So now I’m totally looking forward to your next “blog post about blogging” ;) Stuff you suggest and I *haven’t* done:
    1 – get dslr (I think my grandma has one hanging around – coming)
    2 – photography school – breaks my bank but I will most definetely end up doing it, it looks awesome.
    3 – Pinterest… here I have hesitated because my Pinterest account is pretty active and I already have 5 food-related boards full of food someone else (you included =) created and I’m not sure how to articulate that with my stuff, especially, being totally honest, with stuff that might have been clearly inspired by some of the dished that are on those boards. So, yes, I’m hesitating and threading carefully because I still don’t fully understand what’s acceptable and what’s a violation of someone else’s copyrights. Or how to protect my stuff either. Very confusing. Sorry for blurting this all out but I felt like I could talk to you and that you’d appreciate the feedback.

    Keep up the good work and I’ll be here to learn if you have more to teach =)

    • says

      Hey Sara!

      WOW! It sounds like you’ve gotten so much done – I can’t wait to check out your site once it’s up – and I’ll definitely be working on more “blogging” content for you to enjoy to! And you’ve made all the big investments so focus on what you’ve got in front of you and if you need to do the photography school LATER that’s okay (I waited 7 months ;) ) – go with the flow, have fun, and be EPIC!

      Zach

  2. Sara says

    I will! At least I intend to ;) Right now its finals month around here so it’s moving slowly for now, but I’m sure I will have fun and if nothing else, at least learn a lot. The blog is in portuguese and I’m not very proud of how it looks just yet but I’ll be sure to share when the time comes. Btw, I thought you would like to know that this link http://spucklerfitness.com/about/ is not working, you should check that out ;)

  3. says

    Love this! I look forward to more food blogging posts! I’ve had my blog for a while now, but I always love reading posts about food blogging and seem to always find something new. Also, how amazing is the Food Photography School?! I was hesitant to pay for it, but it was so so so worth it! It totally changed my photography for the better.
    Have a great day!

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