Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to be on the good side of a particular food blogging professional by the name of Patti Londre. She’s been around the food media block a few times and recently decided to create a pretty special retreat called Camp Blogaway. It takes place once a year in the San Bernardino wilderness and its campers are an indulgent few, eager food bloggers looking to break into the growing statistic of profe$$ional food bloggers.
Call it a justified fat camp if you want, I’m sure no one would get offended. There was Kerrigold premium cheese and premium-er wine Wente tasting, spicy Italian turkey sausages in papillote for dinner and just about all the ripe Ataulfo mangoes you can eat thanks to the girls at The National Mango Board.
The topics included in the aggressive 7 AM – 9:15 PM agenda of food-focused sessions varied from heartwarming talks on “How Blogging Can Alter Your Life’s Course” by Ben Rhau of the Bert Greene Award finalist food blog You Fed a Baby Chili and an eye-opening “Seven Deadly Sins of Bloggers” by Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy, to a tense food photo constructive criticism session in the form of a one-by-one brash bashing of individually submitted photos by the food styling veteran Denise Vivaldo.
Anyways, here are the top five things I learned from the whole experience.
1) Only seven out of 100 food bloggers are men.
I know this because I was one of the seven in this retreat! Along with Gerry of Foodness Gracious and a few other cool dudes in our cabin. I know there are brilliant dude food bloggers out there, so why aren’t there more of us out there representin’ man?
2) It is possible to make a living out of blogging, you just gotta work your ass off by either creating recipes for companies with a lot of money or had started blogging before everyone else did.
Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen revealed how blogging has become her main source of income. At one point, posting recipes five days a week to get that traffic up, going and strong. Also, she is firm believer in HIRING someone to do your web design and lay out, although, it might be an investment, it is totally worth it. Being a blogger as a profession ain’t easy, but it is possible, just gotta hustle.
3) Don’t undersell yourself and your precious work!
Amy Sherman was the motivational speaker of the event, advocating to charge big name corporations and affluent companies for every single word and tested recipe you do for them. Although, there are a few exceptions, like if you really like a product and it the free food is enough to continually “feed your family,” like Cheryl D. Lee of Black Girl Chef’s Whites pointed out. Although, that’s not what the “Working Relationships – Panel of Corporate & PR Reps” session advocated. Hmm, the point is that your blogging time is precious, so be cautious of how you spend it.
4) Bloggers get burnt out on blogging, doesn’t mean you have to quit blogging forever, just find some inspiration for writing elsewhere.
Kelly Jaggers of the Texas based Evil Shenanigans food blog and Erika Kerekes of In Erica’s Kitchen food blog led a refreshing conversation on perhaps the number one reason why bloggers of any genre are not successful — blogger burnout! We all know how that feels like. When you start to put blogging in the end of your to-do list, when going to sleep earlier sounds better than staying up to write and reaping the glory of people commenting and your followers commending you the next morning. They compiled a 30-idea list to get you out of that rut, including suggestions like “do a roundup of your own recipes featuring a specific ingredient or category” and “asking friends to guest post.”
5. Revamp your blog, keep things fresh!
Rachael Hutchings of La Fuji Mama and Dara Michalski of Cookin’ Canuck showed everyone how to keep things aesthetically fresh on their blog. They provided a premium checklist of things to make sure your blog is offering to readers in order to keep them coming back for more. Questions on the on the vital list varied from “Does [your blog design] help tell your ‘story’? (i.e., Is it YOU?)” to a mini-list of “Items to consider adding to your blog:” filled with things like printable recipes by the way of Ziplist and a FAQ page.
If anything else, this retreat is fun as hell and the clear air will do you good. Plus, you will get at least 50 lbs (not kidding) of SWAG that might or might not include a stainless steel knife and cutting board from Cutco, a dozen Ataulfo mangoes and an OXO Good Grip cherry/olive pitter.
(last two photos courtesy of Camp Blogaway website)