In February 2010 I hit publish on my very first blog post here on Baked Bree. Today I am sharing my best blogging advice and a look back on the last decade.
I had made a peanut butter pie and took some cute pictures of Wes and Clay eating it. I had blogged before, a personal blog to keep our family updated on our day-to-day life since we lived so far away, and got the bright idea to start a separate blog just for recipes.
We had friends over all the time and they were always asking me for the recipes of what I cooked. I figured I could just send them a link and have a place for my kids to get our family recipes when they were older.
Little did I know that decision and this little place on the Internet was going to change my life forever.
I was living in California with three very small children, a junior officer pilot husband that wasn’t home very much, 3000 miles away from everyone I knew, and this blog gave me a sense of purpose and direction.
It was something that was truly mine and didn’t have anything to do with babies or military life. I loved every second that I spent working on it.
I started this blog on a whim, not realizing that food blogs were a thing. I was so naive. I had no idea that Pioneer Woman or Smitten Kitchen existed.
My idea was not unique, but I did start at a very good time, right before the blogging bubble. 10 years ago, blogs were a lot different than they are today.
You have to remember that social media was also a baby. Facebook was in its infancy, Pinterest was brand new, and Instagram wasn’t even born yet. Blogs had very active comment sections and online communities were formed around these spaces.
We knew our readers and we got to know other bloggers. We emailed each other and our comments sections were places with lively conversation. It was a really sweet and innocent time.
I started out blogging for fun and very quickly I became a professional blogger and found myself with a new career. (I had just closed my photography studio a few months before.)
A career that was also new, no one had heard of bloggers, people in my life had no idea how I was making money (to be honest a lot of them still don’t). They thought that I was just home making cookies and playing on the computer.
One of my friends found this picture of my kids made into a meme and it was the highlight of my life.
Baked Bree has been the most constant thing in my life during the last decade. We’ve watched our children go from little kids to teenagers, moved 7 times (one of those moves was to a different continent), changed jobs, had so many crazy life experiences – and through it all, this was the only permanent “place” I had. I’ve typed away in so many different homes, hotel rooms, temp houses, Airbnbs. My little piece of Internet real estate has always felt like home.
I can’t tell you how much it means to me to know that you took the time to read something that I wrote or cook a recipe I posted. I read every single comment and email and I’m touched by the kindness you have shown me over the last decade. It brings me so much joy to know that my family recipes have become some of your family recipes.
Over the years, I’ve been asked for blogging advice. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would tell someone starting out and today I am sharing my best blogging advice with you.
I was at Wegmans a few weeks ago buying cake mix. I dropped a box and as I picked it up I looked at the back and this picture that I took 7 years ago was on the back of the box. It was the weirdest thing to see my work in the wild like that.
10 Years In // What Is My Best Blogging Advice?
You can figure it out as you go //
I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. I knew how to take pictures of people, but I had no idea how to take pictures of food.
I had to learn about food photography, styling, to make a website, to write a recipe, everything. Google is your best friend. Between YouTube and Google, you can learn just about anything you could ever need.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money, use what you have. Some of the biggest and most successful bloggers started with a blogger blog and an iPhone. The important thing is to just start.
It can be overwhelming //
The thing about being a food blogger is that you are supposed to be good at a lot of things. Writing, photography, branding, social media, SEO, styling.
And in the beginning, it can feel like a lot. It IS a lot. My advice is to concentrate on one thing at a time.
For me, photography was the most important thing to focus on first. I worked really hard to get better and over time I did get better. I practiced a lot.
When I had a good handle on that, I moved on to my writing. Then I worked on SEO. You get the idea.
I’m not super patient and I like instant gratification. I want to be great at everything and I want it all to have happened yesterday. I have had to learn to be patient with myself and remember that I am a one girl show.
I had NO money when I got started. I did have a DSLR and a cheap 50mm lens. It was years before I hired a web designer to do my site, and hired any help, I did everything that I could on my own.
Always be open to learning and trying new things //
The influencer/blogging landscape is ever-changing and evolving. As soon as you think you have a good handle on something BOOM! it changes. Use it as an opportunity to learn and experiment.
There is always a new thing – right now it’s TikTok, but it was Instagram and Pinterest and Periscope (remember that one?) and Snapchat. Sometimes they stick around, sometimes they don’t. Grab your username and play with it. If you like the platform, great. If you don’t, move on.
I’ve started series that I thought would be popular and BOMBED. And I’ve also done things that I thought that people would not like and they have been super popular. You just don’t know unless you try. Worst case, they don’t work and you take them down. No one is the wiser.
You don’t have to do all the things. If you like doing something, learn about it, experiment, and see what happens. Sometimes it’s a win, sometimes it isn’t, it isn’t the end of the world.
Make connections online and offline //
Blogging can be lonely. I spend a lot of time sitting behind a computer and working alone.
I can’t tell you how valuable it has been to make friends with other bloggers. Not only do they understand where you are coming from, but I have learned so much from them.
My blogger friendships have become some of my most valued friendships. They cheer me on and encourage me and have been there for me when I have really needed a friend.
Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. I’ve met some of the most brilliant and creative and innovative people in this space and I am a better person for it.
When I move to a new town, I do look for in-person groups to join. Or networking groups, photography classes, anything to get me out of the house and in the company of people that like some of the same things that I like.
Do what you love //
I keep hearing that blogs are dead. I don’t really agree with that. And I really don’t think that food blogs are going anywhere. People gotta eat, right? Do I think that maybe we put some energy on video? Sure. But I still think that there is a place for me here.
Even if they were going away, I’d still show up here and share recipes and snippets of my life because I love it and it makes me happy. I created this 10 years ago for my kids and it is still for them. It’s for my readers too, but if I didn’t enjoy showing up here and creating for you, I wouldn’t.
Side note – I also think that if the other platforms like Instagram and Pinterest disappeared tomorrow, I’d still have this space because this content is all mine. I think that is super important – if your an Instagrammer and there is no Instagram, what do you do then?
If you don’t like what you are doing, it shows. The work suffers. When you are feeling like that, take a break.
Schedule some time off, recharge, and rest. When you return you will be welcomed back and your readers will feel your renewed energy.
Hire out what you aren’t good at or don’t like //
When my blog started to grow, I realized that I couldn’t do everything myself anymore.
I mean it guess I could, but I wasn’t going to do any of the things well and I wouldn’t have a lot of time to create new content.
I don’t really like doing my Pinterest scheduling, so I hired out and now pay someone who is much better at it than I am. I get a lot of traffic from Pinterest and it makes sense for me to invest there. I have handed over all of the tasks that involve Pinterest and it frees me up to do other things.
The way that I see it, I make more money by being in the kitchen cooking and the studio shooting. Not by doing things that take me a lot of time and that I am not good at. It costs me less to outsource those things.
On the flip side, I get to help another small business owner grow their business. It’s a win for all of us.
There are lots of tasks that go into running this website and I’ve learned that I needed to hire some people to help me run it. Without their help, I would be stuck in the nitty-gritty and not doing anything to help me grow or expand.
There aren’t shortcuts, it’s hard work //
At a blogging event last year someone that I respect told me that if I want to make a full-time income on my blog I need to put in full-time hours. I couldn’t expect to make a full-time income if I was putting in a part-time effort.
That was eye-opening and exactly what I needed to hear.
Make no mistake, running this blog is a lot of work. There isn’t a magic formula or secret button that makes anyone successful. It’s good old fashioned hard work. I challenge you to find anyone that you find to be inspirational and I guarantee you that their success was not luck – it was time, effort, and striving to be better every day.
It can feel like it comes easy for some people. You watch them grow “effortlessly” and it can make you feel like giving up. I’ve thought long and hard about this and I really think that people only let you see what they want you to see. They have not shown you their failures or their fear or resistance. You see their end result, but not the beginning or the very messy middle.
So yes, it does look like they may have become successful overnight, but I guarantee you, they didn’t.
Stay open and creative //
Being a creative person is both thrilling and exhausting. It’s something that I have to work at. There are times when it comes easily and times when I really resist it. Sometimes I really like the work I produce and other times I can’t stand to look at it.
This is the life of a creative person. Like I said, thrilling and exhausting.
I’ve realized that creativity is a muscle I need to work just like all of the other muscles in my body.
For me it means taking lots of classes, creating work for myself, creating other kinds of art that doesn’t involve my camera, being inspired by artists outside of my field, reading, resting when I need to, disengaging from social media and distractions, anything that helps me get in touch with that creative place.
When I am open and in flow, I don’t have to fight as hard to create. When I am not, it is a challenge. And the longer I am out of it, the harder it is for me to get back in.
So make creativity part of your daily practice. Schedule it like you would a workout or time to work. It’s just as important.
Don’t obsess over numbers //
It can feel like a total popularity contest when it comes down to follower counts and numbers.
This is where I have failed as an influencer/blogger. I have flat out refused to play the game and I do know that in a lot of ways it has hurt my career. I’ve watched my peers skyrocket and I can’t compete with them anymore.
Guess what? That’s okay.
I’ve made peace with the fact that I’d rather have 10 people that really enjoy and engage with my content than 100k that have no idea what I am really about. That has also determined that I am not going to get the huge sponsorships and brand deals. I’m also okay with that too.
Maybe because I’ve aged 10 years along with Baked Bree, but I realize that those things aren’t important to me anymore.
I still have had a career that I am really proud of, I was able to be present and available to my family, contribute financially and do things and experience things I never thought possible. Even with small numbers.
Don’t discount yourself ever. You are valuable at any and all stages, regardless of your numbers.
Be yourself //
The best thing that I can tell anyone that is thinking about starting a blog is to just be yourself.
Readers connect with the blogger, not the blog.
Sure, they come for a recipe that they are interested in, but they will stay because they connect with you and your story.
I really thought that if I didn’t just talk about food then people wouldn’t want to come here, but that’s not true at all. People like to see more behind the scenes, and if I’m being honest, so do I. The blogs that I follow are the ones that are the ones where I know more about the blogger’s life.
Obviously, you only have to share what you are comfortable with, but let people get to know you.
It’s been an amazing 10 years here and I am so happy and honored that you have been with me along the way. I am looking forward to what the next ten years have in store for me.