Kaluhi's Kitchen

Life. Love. Food

Lessons and Musings – Blogging 101

One of the questions I receive most be it on email, or through direct messaging on my social media platforms is how to start and run a successful blog, more specifically a Food blog. While I do not consider myself a master of blogging, I do know I have learnt a lot along the way and the little I know can help you in one way or another. This blog post is for you, who may want to start a blog, needs a bit of direction and maybe wants to make it their full time job. I will try summarize all I have learnt, and hope to help in one way or another. So here we go!

” How can I start a [food] blog?”

Well, that is a very broad question that I get most of the time. In this day and age, you can literally get information on how to make anything on the internet. For example if you search ‘how to start a blog’, you will get millions of results on the same. Read extensively on what you can. Sift information and get out of it what you feel will work for you. The articles you read will give you direction, but they will not spell out for you what you word for word need to do. That will be up to you and the direction you want to take.

-Blog on a topic you are passionate about; is it food? is it religion? is it environment? is it politics? You have to be passionate about what you are blogging about; not just doing it because you have seen someone else do it.

-Decide which platform you want to use (wordpress? blogspot? tumblr?)

-Decide how you want your brand to look, you decide how you want it to feel and the general vibe it has. This should be unique to you, do not copy someone else’s blog because it will not be unique to you and you will not connect with it. As a result, you will not keep it up. And trust me, people can sniff inauthenticity 2000 miles away.

-Decide how often you want to churn out content. Decide how many words, if at all, you want your posts to be. Decide how you want your photography to be and it’s mood. There are no rules, you decide. Do you!

“But I do not have money :((, what can I do?”

Let me be real: blogging can be as cheap or as expensive as YOU make it. Start with what you have; start where you are and improve as you go along. Do not go broke without checking out cheaper or even free alternatives.

I did not have money to pay for a self hosted site at the beginning of my journey, so I started with a free wordpress theme and a hosted one (google those terms for more info). Later on I moved to self hosted. When I started out, I did not have a DSLR camera, but I had the small pocket camera we had as a family so that is what I used for my pictures. Later on I bought my camera. And nowadays, if you have a high end smart phone, you can take really decent pictures and you can start with that.  I did not have a laptop, so I used my sister’s laptop. She was doing her Masters at the time so I had to limit myself to 3 hours a day so that I do not inconvenience her. I had to make it work with what I had! Later on I bought my laptop. I could not afford a web developer then, so I learnt how to build my site all by myself. The internet teaches you a lot of things!!! I couldn’t afford a photographer then, I still cannot afford to work with a fulltime photographer now, so I learnt how to take my own pictures and developed my own style. Would I have pushed through all that if I was not passionate about what I was blogging about? No. But since I love what I blog about, I kept at it.

Start with what you have, and grow form there, do not make it an expensive affair. What you have is enough. Just start.

photo credit: sitemap

“I have a blog, but I do not know how to grow my audience :((“

From a personal perspective, my audience grew when I stopped focusing on numbers, and started focusing on the kind of content I put out. Do not obsess about numbers, but by all means, be OBSESSED about the kind of content you put out and by constantly improving yourself.  Your audience will grow when you focus on growing yourself and on giving them nothing but the best. By sharing your content, that is of excellent quality, your audience will grow. Also, being consistent will grow you. Maintain a consistent posting schedule in order to grow.

“Do you edit your pictures?”

Honey, even pictures in Vogue are edited :DD. But let me be clear, editing a picture does not mean it looks completely different from the original. Editing is there simply to enhance beauty of a picture not to change it into something completely different. For my pictures, I edit the sharpness, saturation and clarity. Everything else is usually stays the same. For food photography especially, I have learnt that natural light works best. Do not take food pictures with flash. Do not take food pictures under that orange or red bulb light. No child!! And for Christ-sake, DO NOT PUT FILTERS ON FOOD PICTURES!!!!!!!!!! I cannot stress that enough. You can use filters on an outfit post maybe if you are a fashion blogger, but honey, never ever try that on food pictures.

Below is an examples of a picture unedited (left) and edited (right). Slight difference, since the only thing I adjusted was saturation, clarity and sharpness then adding a watermark of my blog URL. Everything else remained the same.

For food, learn how to plate nicely and cook food that looks beautiful. Just be neat. For some, that comes naturally without much effort. If for you it doesn’t, you will need to work on that. Coz lets face it, ugly food that’s plated so poorly and looks atrocious, no matter how delicious, will not draw anyone in. If your original image looks bad and picture composition is poor, even with the most expensive editing software or the most expensive camera, it will still look BAD in the end. We eat with our eyes first, so make that first impression a lasting one.

There are editing software that you can buy to edit your pictures like Lightroom and CaptureOne, but there are also equally good free online editing software like pixlr, snapseed, picmonkey and picasa. It is up to you and the state of your pocket to decide which one you want to use. I use the free ones.

“How do you make money from food blogging?”

Another common question. There are many ways to monetize a blog. But before one gets to that stage, I will encourage you to focus on growing your brand in terms of excellent content and quality. It takes quite a long time (I am talking a couple of years) before you make money from blogging that you can comfortably live on. But again, if you like what you are blogging about, you will just keep putting content out and some years or months down the line, then money will come to you. If you are getting into blogging for the money, I can guarantee you that you will stop doing it in under 6 months. Let the money be a result of what you do, and not a reason for doing it.

You can make money by selling advertisement space on your site. You can make money through brand collaboration when the time comes. You can make money by taking on other projects e.g. as a food blogger, you can have an eBook or physical book which you sell. As a fashion blogger, you can have your own fashion line. The options are limitless. It is up to you to decide how you want to monetize your brand.

Besides the common questions above, allow me to  give you other pointers that I have learnt and have helped me along the way:

  • Quality trumps Quantity any day!!! – You are better off putting out one brilliant post each week than putting out six mediocre posts in a week. Excellent quality of your work will speak volumes and take you to heights you never imagined. Churning out mediocre content on  a regular basis will not only burn you out, but will also not get you where you want to be or deserve to be.
  •  Be *expletive* original – Kenyans are particularly notorious for copying. People can literally lift content from your site, even take your very name, and plaster it on theirs, and wonder why they are not growing SMH. Please, be original!!  This will be hard, but worth it. If you have that gift of originality in you, you have it and it cannot be taken away from you. Do not build a brand with pictures lifted from the internet. Take your own. Yes, you can get inspired by someone, but do not copy them. Mutua Matheka, Nancie Mwai, Lyra Aoko and other Kenyan giants would not be who they are/where they are if they stole images/work from other people to build their brands. When you offer something different and unique borne out of your own mind, the world will notice. Trust me!! Put in the work.

  • Learn other skills that will grow your craft – To be successful in the long term, you will need to learn other skills that come in handy  for blogging. You will need to learn the basics of HTML, CSS and how to run your site. You will need to become a master marketer of your content and your brand. You will need to learn how to do your own photography and your videos, because you won’t always have your photographer with you if you are working with one. You will need to become a little bit of everything
  • Find what you want to contribute in the blogging scene and let that be what sets you apart- This is where to know where you fit in. What do you feel is missing in the food/fashion/tech/photography/political blogging scene? Can you fill that gap? If yes, get right in. You may also feel like the field you want to enter is flooded, but remember there is only one you in a sea of other individuals. What you can offer, no one else can. Get in and give it your best.
  • You will spend plenty of time on social media, plenty of it– A large part of being a creative is sharing your art. Thank God for social media which makes that easy.  Embrace social media. Of course you cannot be on everywhere (if you can, props!), so stick to the platforms that work for YOUR brand. If something doesn’t work for you or doesn’t feel right, simply focus on those what does. You will get a lot of ‘advice’ from people, most will mean well, but at the end of the day, you make the final decision for your brand. Trust your gut. I personally have never liked Snapchat, and stuck to what has worked for me. Some people do not like twitter, and it is ok. As long as you have at least two platforms where you can share your art, stick with them and grow your name from there. Make your presence felt. Engage genuinely with your audience.

  • It is not easy but very rewarding– IT IS NOT EASY!!!!! IT. IS. NOT. EASY!!!!!  Blogging is not like writing a text message or an email as some people believe. Yes, you love cooking. Yes, you can take pictures of your food. Yes, you have access to the internet. But to have a successful food blog takes a lot more than just that. It actually takes a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication to build a strong brand from the ground up. Do not give up and put in the hard work. Nothing will be handed to you.
  • Make mistakes, but learn from them – It is part of the journey. You will stumble. You will start out a bit shakey. You will make bad business decisions at times, but let all that serve at lessons and stepping stones and not reason to wrap things up.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses– In as much as I am all for learning how to do as much as you can by your self, you are not superwo(man) and you will need help where you fall short. If you are not good at writing, but shine on video, turn your focus on your strength. If you have a way with words but not so much with pictures, find a way to make that work in your favor.
  • Your quality standard should be global– Even if your audience is primarily Kenyan (or of your native country depending on where you are reading this from), because your work is on the internet, your are broadcasting to the entire world. Put your best foot forward. Your quality standards should be global, not local. Give it 100% or nothing. For me, it is either my work looks spectacular or I am not putting it out at all. Trust me, [big] people are watching! Ask yourself, as a fashion blogger, if Vogue editors see your look book post, will they like it? As a food blogger, if Food Network producers see your blog, will they be won over? If you are a photographer if {insert dope photographer’s name} saw your work, will she get super inspired and want to work with you? Your quality should be that good.
  • Constantly improve– Do not get comfortable. Always improve. Always fine tune your craft. Your videos in February 2018 should look better than they did in February 2017. If your pictures have remained the same for 4 years with no growth or improvement, there is a problem… Allow your brand to evolve when the time comes. Aim to beat your previous best. Below is my photography growth; where the picture on the left was taken January 2016 and that on the right July 2016. It is embarrassing looking at my past photography, but the story is in the journey.  Growth is real LOL! Push yourself to improve always!

Lastly, dedicate all you do to God, commit all your plans to Him, let Him guide your journey, work VERY hard, and you will prosper! Remember, nothing will be handed to you and how far you go depends entirely on you.

Blogging will challenge you. It will stretch your creativity limits. It will be fun. It will be rewarding. It will be a pain in the butt at times. But if you  are passionate about what you are blogging about, every ebb and flow will be worth it!

In case I have left anything you are curious to know (I know I have left out pleeeeenty!), leave a comment below :))

Much love!

-K


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34 Comments

  1. Love the article! Many truths here ?

  2. I love how detailed and honest you were about it. It is sure to help a lot of people out there☺

  3. This post is on point. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. So many great tips!!! You have given me the encouragement I needed 🙂 It’s tough at the beginning but it does get better; you’re proof!!! To Infinity and Beyond!!

  5. I liked how you mentioned learning new skills as you carried on blogging. It’s a good article. Nice pointers!!

  6. Good morning Kaluhi, i have read so much on how to start a blog, tried reaching a few bloggers who have made it but in vain. This post is amazingly special. Keep up the good work. Wish you all the best every step of this journey. Much respect girl

  7. Excellent advice. Thank you for sharing

  8. Hi Kaluhi, this is really a great post, I love it! 🙂 Just got into this post by accident but it kept me reading. I also teach people how to start their own blog on my site http://kickstartblog.com. I feel like you love helping people just like me, therefore I hope you don’t mind me sharing the site in the comments. Have a great time! D

  9. Hey love the article. Which camera and lens do you use? Thank you

    • kaluhiskitchen

      March 3, 2017 at 11:50 am

      Thank you! I use Nikon D 3100 and the lense I use is the one that came with it (forgotten the specs)

  10. I needed this. thank you.

  11. This was an awesome post!!. Lots of good advice, thanks 🙂

  12. Great tips. People keep asking me these questions, and since I am too lazy to come up with such a post, I know the link I will be giving them. Just to replace ‘food blog’ with whatever they (want to) blog about.

    • kaluhiskitchen

      March 13, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      Yes. The knowledge will still apply regardless of genre. I will keep updating it as time goes and as I remember key points. Asante!

  13. Hi K,
    It is true on the part where you say {not in these exact words -but} “Don’t start a blog for the money, the money will come to you if your quality of work is perfected. I truly believe in that, and support it.
    .
    This is a very informative post, talks to us through your experience – I love it.
    .
    FOODIES : http://tastiedine.com/2017/03/24/moist-banana-bread/
    .
    Ms. Biwott

    • kaluhiskitchen

      March 26, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      It all comes down to the quality of work you put out!!! And loving what you are blogging about. The money aspect will always take care of itself :)). Glad you enjoyed the read <3

  14. Hello Kaluhi,

    Fistly, congratulations for being selected mong 30 top Food bloggers IN THE WORLD! Your blog is an amazing work of art and a true inspiration! You deserve it!

    Following our previous conversation on instagram, seeing this blog post put a smile on my face and I instantly said to myself, let me learn afew tips from the Guru! 😀 Looking at where you started and where you are now is very motivating and I aspire to “be like you!”.

    Thank you very much for this post. Its educative, inspiring, motivating and I really enjoyed it!

    Asante Sana! 😀

    ~ Mondo Amos
    (www.simbasjiko.com)

    • kaluhiskitchen

      April 9, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      As Kenyans would say “kila mtu huanzia mahali”. Keep at it, keep improving, keep pushing yourself and you will surprise yourself with how far you can go! :))

  15. very good advice. i like what you said that starting doesn’t have to be expensive, start with what you have…i love your passion for food, its very evident .

  16. Nice post and straight to the Point!
    Making Money Online: It All Starts With YOU. (Not Methods. Not Google. YOU!!!)

  17. Thanks so much,this helped me

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