Today is a very special day because it just happens to be my One Year Blog Anniversary! I started this blog last year and it has grown into a passion I never could have imagined. To celebrate, I’m sharing a recipe for the absolute BEST Vegan Funfetti Buns AND my Top 10 Tips from my first year of blogging. Keep reading because this is going to be a post filled with plenty of sprinkles and blogging/food photography tips!
Skip to the Recipe: Jump to Recipe
One Year of Blogging. WOW. Time literally FLEW by and here I am 57 recipes later!
Before I go into the details of these Vegan Funfetti Buns, I want to take some time to tell you more about what I’ve learned this year. I remember when I first started a blog that I read a ton of “how to start a blog” lists. I’ve tried to make this list different and include more about what to do once you’ve actually hit publish on that first post!
10 Tips for New Food Bloggers:
1: Make Pinterest a BIG Part of your Growth Strategy
When I first started my blog, I only focused on Instagram. I definitely have Instagram to thank for a lot of my loyal followers and brand partnerships, but I have Pinterest to thank for most of my blog traffic.
I actually didn’t set up my Pinterest account until I was 6 months into blogging, but I recommend you set this up from day ONE. Now that my Pinterest is set up I also use Canva to create my Pinterest templates. I make sure to include one image with text in every blog post to optimize for Pinterest.
When I first started on Pinterest, I pinned A LOT and did it all manually. I would say I was pinning 20-30 pins a day where 50% was content from my blog and 50% was content from other blogs. This was taking me about an hour or so every day and honestly some days I got too busy to do this or just forgot. Using this manual method, I was able to organically grow my reach on Pinterest to about 200-300k a month.
Then, about 2 months ago, I heard about Tailwind. I started off by just using the tribe’s feature where you could post a limited amount of your content weekly for other bloggers to share. Most of these tribe boards require that for every pin you share, you share 1-3 more pins from other bloggers. However, since I had started to make money from my blog, I decided to buy a year of Tailwind to try it out last month. I’d heard great things and the cost was less than $200 so I figured I would give it a shot. Using Tailwind, I’ve been able to double my Pinterest reach to 800k+ monthly and it is still growing. It hasn’t doubled the traffic to my blog yet, but it has increased quite a bit as well. I’d say now I try to stick to posting 60-75% my content and 25-40% of other bloggers content.
If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend using Tailwind’s Free Tribes to start. However, once your blog starts growing and you have a decent amount of content to share, Tailwind is truly a great tool to invest in!
2: Focus on Growing Your Email List & SEO
Let’s face it, while Instagram and Pinterest are great, they are tools you use to drive more traffic to your BLOG. There is no better way to get continued traffic to your blog than through an email list of loyal subscribers and great SEO.
I’m not going to lie, these are both things I didn’t do a great job of in my first year of blogging, but it is my main goal for year two. All I know is I wish I had made both of these a priority from day 1.
It doesn’t have to be complicated either! MailChimp is a great service you can use for FREE today. Over time you can build up more targetted email campaigns and maybe even downloadable e-books.
Also, I have found MonsterInsights and Yoast SEO to be the absolute best FREE plugins to help optimize my website with SEO. With MonsterInsights/Google Analytics I am able to keep track of my main blog metrics in WordPress and see what terms people are searching when they come to my website. With Yoast, I am able to select keywords to focus on, create blog descriptions that show up on search, and optimize my content for SEO. Honestly, SEO is still a beast I am learning, but using these tools is a great place to start.
3: Find Recipe Sharing Sites that Work & Submit Regularly
Finding ways to spread your blog content outside of Instagram and Pinterest can also help drive traffic to your blog. Most of these sites do have criteria around having decent photography and relevant recipes to be approved. Below are the three sites I have found to be most helpful to provide traffic to my blog:
In addition to these sites where you can submit your content, it’s also helpful to tag feature accounts on Instagram. If they feature your photos, these accounts will actually give you good exposure and more followers! Here’s a short list of a few accounts that I have found give excellent exposure when they feature your content:
4: You are WORTH being paid: “Exposure” is not worth it 99% of the Time
No matter your experience level, you are WORTH being paid. Does this mean you can quit your day job tomorrow after blogging for 1 year? Probably not. However, it does mean you should not be creating recipes and photography for brands for free or in exchange for free product.
When I first started this blog my goal wasn’t necessarily to get paid, but I did love the idea of turning this blog into a viable business. About 1 month into this journey, I was so excited to hear from my first brand who wanted to partner with me in exchange for product. I said yes because I felt incredibly lucky to get this opportunity. While I don’t regret one of these projects I did for free, I regret doing the other two for the free product alone.
Honestly, it was a lot of work and essentially took time away from building content for my audience when I was still so new. I will admit, my photography and my social media/blog following were tiny at the time, so I probably wouldn’t have been paid much or even at all. However, I wish I had just said no and spent that time focusing on building recipes and content for my own blog. In the end, getting a more engaged following and building up your own blog is what will enable you to ask for more money down the road anyways!
Five: Regarding Pricing, It’s Okay to Start Small
When I did take on my first paid project this year, it was only for $100 and I was ecstatic! Sure, I wasn’t making much and was pretty much just covering costs, but I was also a novice and still honing my skills. Even just a few months later, after focusing on improving my photography, I have been able to significantly increase my price. Just remember- everyone starts somewhere, everyone is a beginner at some point, and you can ALWAYS raise your rates later! Also, if you are going to raise your rates, make sure to let brands you have been working with know well ahead of time. Creating and maintaining great brand relationships is such a key thing to do!
Six: PHOTOGRAPHY. Is. QUEEN.
People eat with their eyes. Think about the last time you saved a recipe or liked a picture on Instagram. What was it that stopped you in your tracks? I’m going to guess it was a drool-worthy photo that made you want to take a bite through the screen or a beautiful photo that brought you to a serene setting. When you invest in photography, the rest will come. By the rest, I mean paid brand collaborations, followers, blog subscribers, and an increase in blog traffic. For me, a pivotal moment in my photography journey was investing in a good lens and taking Foodtography School. These items did cost money, but I have already paid back these investments in just a few months!
Here are a few of my favorite resources for Food Photography:
- Foodtography School. This course was a game changer for me and taught me so much about composition, editing in Lightroom, and how to charge for my work. I highly recommend this course.
- TwoLovesStudio. Rachel has a free 7-day course in addition to an e-book you can buy. Her work is stunning and her advice is invaluable!
- The Bite Shot Youtube Channel. Joanie gives SUCH good advice including how to use artificial lighting, how to create your own food photography backdrop, and how to master using a tripod. Her Youtube channel is truly fun to watch and has taught me so much.
- The Little Plantation. Kimberly’s weekly newsletter contains amazing advice and she also has a podcast where she talks with other leaders in the food blogging and creative space. You can also join her photography Instagram challenges which are a great way to find new ideas if you’re in a creative rut and also discover other photographers and bloggers to connect with!
Here is my Photography Gear:
My DSLR Camera: CannonEOS Rebel SL2
My Favorite Lens: Cannon EF 50 mm f/1.4
My Tripod: Manfrotto MK055XPRO3-3W 055 Tripod
Seven: Community Over Competition
The food blogging community is awesome. I’ve even been able to meet a few people in person and form real life friendships through this community. So here is my advice. Put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to ask for help even from “famous” bloggers, and always value community over competition. This means: DO NOT copy other people’s work or steal their content. Always give credit if you were inspired by another person in your Instagram posts and especially in your recipes.
8: Back up your Content
This is a rather boring piece of advice, but none-the-less it is really important! Find a way to back up your photos and your blog content in the cloud or on an external hard drive.
I use SiteGround as my web host and backup my blog weekly or whenever I post a new recipe to the blog. Also, back up your blog before adding any new plugins or doing a WordPress update.
I also use Lightroom for editing and store my content there. In addition to Lightroom, I also store my images on an external hard drive. I almost lost all my images once, but luckily was able to recover them. Don’t be me and be smart from day one!
Nine: Consistency Really is Key
When I first decided I wanted to start a blog I had so many ideas. My main passion was plant-based cooking, but I also wanted to share my knowledge of health, food science, sustainability, and more. I also started my first few months of blogging by sharing recipes randomly and whenever I had time to post.
As my blog grew, I realized I needed more consistency for myself and for my audience. I decided one recipe a week would be doable. While I switched that up in the summer and even have some weeks where I share two recipes, I always share new content on Wednesdays. I also share on Instagram between the same two hour time frame so my audience knows when to hear from me. I focus only on plant-based food and mostly post desserts. Sure, I put a little more of my life in my Instagram stories, but if you look at my feed and the pictures on my blog it is a pretty consistent story.
As a new blogger, I recommend picking a schedule that works for you and sticking to it. Whether that be posting once a week, every other day, or once a month just keep it consistent. This also means sticking to your niche and branching out later! Your brand doesn’t define everything about you, so it’s okay to start small and expand your band as you grow.
10: The Magic Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone
The most important thing I learned during my first year of blogging though?! How to cook with yeasted dough! Kidding…well kind of.
This year I’ve created some epic bun recipes including Vegan Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls, Vegan Carrot Cake Sticky Buns, Vegan Cranberry Orange Sticky Buns, and even savory Vegan Pizza Buns! Before blogging I had never dared to touch yeast dough and now it is my favorite type of baking to do. Also, I had never used a DSLR camera, but feel so comfortable working with one now!
None of this would have been possible without taking risks and pushing outside of my comfort zone. In Year 2, I really want to tackle videos and YouTube. I plan to work with even more brands and hope to get a recipe featured in a print magazine. Does this all scare me? You bet! But, I know my life is so much better for trying.
If you are reading this and have thought of starting your own blog, here’s your push to go out there and do it. It won’t be perfect and you’ll have a lot to learn, but you’ll never know if you’ll love it until you try.
Vegan Funfetti Buns to Celebrate!
Since vegan buns are by far my favorite recipes to create, I knew it was only appropriate I celebrate this monumental day with another bun recipe. VEGAN FUNFETTI BUNS that is!
These Buns start with a sprinkle filled dough that is filled with more sugar & sprinkles for an epic sweet treat. Then, I topped these funfetti buns with my favorite coconut whipped cream and, you guessed it, more sprinkles! Seriously, if you came here for a healthy recipe today, walk away now. However, if you’re here for a decadent treat, you are in the right place!
I hope you love these Vegan Funfetti Buns as much as I do. Here’s to many more years of blogging and connecting with all of you wonderful people!