Food Blogging, The Best Non-job Job I've Ever Had
Monday, November 28, 2011 • 12:00am
Food Blogging - The Best Non-job Job I’ve Ever Had
I like to tell people I’m a food writer. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s creative, it’s sexy. People think it’s cool, and that makes me cool by the transitive property. I get a lot of “what a great job” or “I’d love to start a blog.” And then I get to talk about food, writing and social media for an hour. Good stuff.
Problem is, I don’t get paid. I write for ego fulfillment and to feel like I am working and using my brain when my main job involves children and housework. To answer the stay at home mom’s dreaded question “what do you do?” I now have a response that is legitimate. I do it but I don’t get paid.
My next challenge is to figure out how to turn my hobby of writing about food into a paying reality. I know it is possible, I heard all about it from five prestigious food & wine bloggers who crossed the chasm last week at the So You Want to Be a Food and Wine Blogger? seminar at the Adult School of Montclair. Mashable thinks food bloggers are here to stay. Is it worth it? For now it’s complicated.
I’m consumed with food, I love to write, I make a lot of observations and like to capture them with my lens. I was meant to be a food blogger. It’s the best non-job job I’ve ever had. I eat and I cook. I learn, I listen and I talk. I watch, I read, I taste, I write. I walk around with an ipad and a notebook and I snap photos everywhere I go. I usually have 3-4 stories writing themselves in my head at any given time. I keep a dry erase board in my kitchen with different colored markers to track my thoughts for multiple articles. I write 2 columns and 1 blog, plus I maintain active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google. I tweet, I post, I like, I link, I share to the tune of approximately 10 hours a week. It’s a part time job with one serious drawback: I don’t make money (yet).
Two years ago I didn’t make money either, as a stay home mom without a blog. I wanted to do something smart but I had no focus. Now I am the Westfield Foodie. I have a brand, a voice, a following and over 5,000 images in my mobile photo library. I get paid in self-esteem, and I have something to talk about at dinner parties other than the kids. You all know what I mean. My other job of running a household with 2 busy kids, a husband and a dog is satisfying and fulfilling on many levels. It also can be frustrating, anger provoking and under appreciated. So I created a job that doesn’t pay but makes good cocktail conversation, is fabulous for networking, and gets me out of the house and into the community. But I want to take it to the next level and make some dough, not just roll it.
Last week I attended a food blogger seminar, So You Want to Be a Food and Wine Blogger? at the Adult School of Montclair. I went to learn from other food bloggers, and to support my editor Deborah Smith of JerseyBites. She is a whiz on food writing and social media. Also on the panel were Sharla Blanz, NJ Monthly; Peter Conway, Manoavino; Sue Guerra, Gary’s Wine; Melody Kettle, Hot From The Kettle; Rosie Saferstein, MJ Monthly and moderated by Karen Schloss Diaz, SDC Communications. All powerhouses and veteran food bloggers. This was going to be good.
Rosie Saferstein, who writes Table Hop With Rosie for NJ Monthly, starting things off with the opening line “don’t quit your day job.” Uh Oh. The panelists agreed, there is some money to be made, but it takes a lot of time for a little revenue, and you end up writing and reading less and editing and selling more. The complexities of taking a passion and making a living were addressed and discussed among the panelists who have been covering food & wine for years. Rosie started on Prodigy in 1989, before the internet! Advice from the Alice Waters of the food bloggers was loud and clear. You can grease the wheels and have some spending money, but don’t expect this to pay the bills.
Steve Jobs said that you can only connect the dots at the end, by looking back and seeing how the seemingly random actions and events in your life led to you a particular point. More importantly, you need to believe that the dots will be connected, to have faith in yourself. Steve Jobs inspired many and believed. I am a food writer, and can’t deny it. If I do what I love, I will love what I do. I have to believe this is all leading me somewhere. Somewhere where there is income.
Five days later I learned I came in second place in a writing contest that was based on number of page views. Even my binary engineer husband couldn’t deny that the numbers are encouraging. My column A Foodie State at The Alternative Press received 646 views in the month of October. That’s almost 650 different people reading my column. It’s not me or my mom sitting in a dark room hitting “send” over and over. (Actually, I can really only speak for myself, but only 1 view per unique ISP address will count. Sorry mom.)
A friend told me recently that the career you choose needs to hit 2 out of these 3 criteria: money, fulfillment & ego. Two out of three ain’t bad?