If I earnt a dollar for every time someone asked me ‘So… how DO you make money from your Instagram and food blog?!’ I’d be able to buy a heck load of cake…. like enough for a lifetime so I’ll never have to make a cake again!
Rainbow Nourishments has been my full time job and only source of income for 5 years. 5 years is a loooong time when you’re self-employed… and a loooong time in the online world. Social media was very different 5 years ago and it has changed the world dramatically… for the better or worse, your pick!
Quitting your day job
It’s becoming increasingly popular for people to quit their conventional full-time job to work for themselves. My Facebook feed is constantly filled with ads of entrepreneurs selling courses teaching you how to make a living working for yourself (targeted advertising much?!).
I always see these things with a grain of salt and wonder: But is the person in debt? Is the person from a wealthy family? Do they have any other sources of income? What are their expectations and do they really earn $20k AUD per year? That’s one quarter of the average annual income in Australia! There’s nothing wrong with any of those things but what I’m saying is:
Pllleaseee be careful about comparing yourself to someone on the internet who seems like they have it all.
To be transparent, I’ve never been in debt, never borrowed money and don’t have any investments outside Rainbow Nourishments. Unfortunately, I have relentless high standards and always compare my current income to my former public service income.
Although I’m relatively financially secure, creating a sustainable income out of Rainbow Nourishments is challenging. It’s great to have a job which you are passionate about. However, even the most passionate person will run out of steam. I’m not a money-hungry person but after 5 years of self-employment, having an adequate stable income would be lovely!
When I first left my full time job to work on Rainbow Nourishments, I dipped my toes in lots of different income streams. I know I’ve diversified my income more than the average Instagrammer or food blogger. However, my experience has taught me what I enjoy the most and what’s avenues are financially sustainable.
Over 5 years, I’ve never worked harder or been more stressed. I’ve had many health issues and lost my sanity several times. To help alleviate other people’s struggles, I want to talk about everything I did! I’m all up for community over competition :).
Like anyone, I’m limited by my own experience. If you had a different experience, leave a comment or send me an email!
If you’re interested in a particular income stream, click below:
I monetised my food products… by opening up a cake business
In the first week of quitting my stable government job, I thought I could sit back and take a break. In reality, my over-achiever self panicked and realised I needed to earn an income. While I tried to figure out how to earn money from my food blog, I created a cake business.
There was a huge gap in the local market for a vegan healthy-ish cakes. My timing was darn lucky. After a creating the scruffiest page on my website and registering with my local health council, I had a cake business!
On the surface, I was one of those overnight successes who was damn lucky. In reality, I was able to hit the ground running because I had a sizeable social media following. I had decades of tutelage from my parents who owned restaurants for 30+ years and saw them open restaurants
too sooo many times.
In the beginning, I only made raw vegan cakes but quickly expanded into vegan baked cakes (refined sugar free and conventional) and savoury food. My cake business provided a relatively stable (but minimal) income which supplemented my true love, which was food blogging! You can read why I closed my cake business here.
My advice to people who want to open up a cake business or grow:
- Make sure your business is filling a gap in your local market. What do you want your brand to be known for?
- Hospitality is hard. It’s one of the lowest paying industries out there. Only do it if you LOVE it. And even if you do love it, there’ll be aspects which you won’t enjoy as much after a while. That’s just the nature of work.
- In the first few months, you may need to do some jobs for less money than you’re worth just to build your brand. When the time is right, make sure you raise your prices so you are paid what you are worth.
If you’d like more tailored advice, I provide one-on-one consultations with small food businesses. Email me at anthea (at) rainbownourishments.com for more info!
Sponsorships and ambassadorships
Unlike Youtube, Instagram creators aren’t paid by the platform to create content. Instagram food bloggers earn money through sponsorships and ambassadorships!
These days if a person has over 5,000 social media followers, they are considered an ‘influencer’ and can earn an income from collaborating with relevant brands. It provides food influencers and bloggers a (potentially) good source of income which allows them to continue providing free recipes. Someone’s gotta pay for all those ingredients and time! People are on social media sooo much these days and brands realise they can reach their target audience by collaborating with influencers and bloggers. It should always be mutually beneficial.
Personally, I only started monetising my social media/blog when I passed around 20,000 followers. I only work with brands I personally love and/or I think my audience would appreciate. My bottom line is: will my sponsored post offer value to my audience?! If not, it’s unlikely I will collaborate with the brand. My social media and blog are NOT a billboard. My socials and blog are akin to magazines where I curate content based on a theme and may collaborate with brands if their product or service is relevant.
In my case, I approach brands and brands approach me. I’ve always provide a media kit which outlines more information about Rainbow Nourishments and my professional creative background. A media kit is kind of like a resume in the PR world!
Similar to cookbooks, the money varies a lot. While I won’t go into figures (that’s a whole other blog post), companies selling food generally have a smaller budget than companies selling fashion, beauty and other lifestyle products. That means that food bloggers generally earn less than others. There are different types of food as well – I’m sure a beef company will pay differently from a vegan yoghurt company. Also, from experience, Australian bloggers tend to earn less than international bloggers. While I know many Australian vegan bloggers who feel like they are getting the bottom end of the stick, sponsored posts can be an ‘okay to good’ source of income.
Recipe development and content creation
Even if you don’t have a large following on social media, you can still monetise your skills by working with companies to develop recipes, create content or photograph food/products. This work is usually done on a freelance or ongoing basis. It’s a great way for bloggers to expand their skills in other niches or to strengthen a style they are not so familiar with. Unlike sponsored posts, you are not often required to share these recipes and photographs on your social media.
I work with a number of small to medium organisations to develop recipes and create content for their social media. I enjoy doing this kind of work because my clients often know exactly what they want and it is more predictable than my other income sources. This predictability is often traded off with earning a lower rate than you would for, say, sponsored posts.
While maintaining the confidentiality of my clients, I have worked with companies to develop recipes for products sold in cafes, stores or supermarkets. Or I may develop recipes for a client’s ebook which they will sell to their audience.
Cookbooks and Ebooks
In this era, there are soo many free recipes online so it can be challenging to ask people to pay for cookbooks and ebooks. Basically, your cookbook/ebook needs to provide VALUE in a way that free recipes don’t. For Rainbow Nourishments, my print book and ebook contains:
- recipes that have been tried and tested at least 5 times (which is unlike my blog)
- commercial recipes that I used for my cake business and I’m not willing to give away for free.
The amount of money you can make from cookbooks depends on whether you go with a publisher, self-publish, the size of your audience, the book’s concept and other factors.
If you work with a publisher (like me), you’ll earn an advance and might be paid for photography and your ingredients. All publishers and potential books pay sooo differently. While respecting confidentiality, I’ve seen first time authors get advances anywhere from $3,000 AUD to $40,000 AUD (usually on the lower end of that scale). Your advance is basically a ‘loan’ which you ‘earn back’ through royalties. Royalties are usually only 6-12% of the wholesale price of a book so cookbook authors may earn 80 cents to $2 per book. There’s a saying that people don’t publish print books to make money… I 100% agree!!! However, publishing books may open up other opportunities for you!
On the other hand, if you self-publish books, you’ll need a bit of money to make them. You will need to cover your own time to test recipes and will need to pay for ingredients, design, printing, advertising and distribution. One benefit of self-publishing is that you’ll be able to pocket more of the profits than going with a publisher.
Ebooks cost next to nothing to make. You only need to cover your ingredients, time, design and website hosting fees. I created my ebook 4-5 years ago and still earn a passive income through it. The only downside is that there are SO many ebooks out there so there’s more competition.
Through my Instagram and food blog, people constantly message me asking if they can hire me for a day to teach them how to make cakes. I figured that I could create structured learning environments where I could teach people!
I love hosting food workshops where I teach people how to prepare everyday raw food, desserts and how to decorate cakes. A lot of my work is online so I relish meeting people in person! Workshops are a great way for chefs and foodies to connect with customers and for customers to get a personalised learning experience! My blogger friends have also done workshops in photography, food styling and similar subjects.
Workshops have a sensible profit margin compared to other sources of income. If you’re only taking into account the 2, 3 or 6 hours you’re teaching, you make a lot of profit. The reality is that workshops take a lot of time (and money) to organise. For me, I spend at least 20 hours outside each workshop for coordination, admin and cleaning!
What are the costs and logistics? You need to find and pay for a venue. In Australia, you are often required to have public liability insurance. For food workshops, you’ll also need to figure out how you’re going to transport 10 kgs of ingredients to your customers.
I’m grateful that my customers pay good money for my workshops. However, I do *everything* possible so customers learn everything I know, the workshop is a valuable use of their time and they just have fun. I try to make each session as engaging as possible and no two workshops are the same!
Workshops are like intense impromptu performances. There’s a lot of practice and preparation. You do your thing hoping that you can manage any issues that arise. And you’ll definitely need at least a few days of rest afterwards.
At the end, the time to money ratio is okay but you need resilience to workshops!
Pop-up events (dinners and high-teas)
Through my Instagram and food blog, I realise some people don’t really have the time or motivation to learn how to cook complex meals. All they want to do is eat the food I posted!
To fill this gap, I regularly host pop-up events in my local city where I hired a cafe for an evening and created a 3 to 6 course meal for guests. I usually created a menu with a certain theme like Asian fusion, Winter food or similar.
My pop-up events were organised in the same way as workshops and required a lot of work outside the actual event. In addition, there’d be an insane amount of food prep, organising run sheets and managing kitchen and floor staff.
Running a restaurant requires a whole new set of skills. It’s more difficult than running a market stall or a retail shop. What you see on Masterchef isn’t even half the picture! I didn’t realise how much I learnt from my parents growing up until I hosted my first few pop-up dinners. Imagine trying to coordinate 30 dishes to go out at once, managing staff who may or may have never worked in a commercial kitchen before, heating food, food burning, running out of a certain ingredient… gosh, you need to be on your toes and stay relatively calm.
I’ve had some amazing kitchens and some disastrous kitchens. But our main focus was always to make the customers happy!
And the money? Similar to workshops, it looks like you earn a lot of money when you count just those hours you’re in the kitchen. I’m sure people thought I was making a fortune! But when you count every single hour you worked on the event, you’re earning less than the average income. Also, the more experience you have with organising and cooking for events, it becomes easier and more financially worth it. The main reason why I do pop-up events is because I love working with people and working towards a common goal.
Whenever someone talks about earning an income as a food blogger, they always talk about display advertising. This includes the banners or pop-ups which pop up on a food blog! However, what people don’t often say is you need a heck load of viewers to make a decent profit. Profit can change depending on what advertising company you are with. For me, I get in the tens of thousands of views per month and make only enough money to cover website hosting, subscription emails, specialist plugins and other technical expenses. In the low hundreds of thousands of views per month, you’ll be making some profit to supplement your income. Your blog will need to be viewed in the millions a month to have a healthy income. These numbers are approximate as I haven’t put as much time and energy into my blog as other sources of income!
There are definitely other sources of income for food bloggers! Some that I didn’t explore include:
- Affiliate commissions
- One-on-one consultations and mentoring
- Contributing to food stock photography websites
- Online workshops and courses
- Lots more!
Things I’ve learnt
Over the last 5 years, I’ve actually been running 3 businesses concurrently and expected outstanding results in every area. I expected that I grew as fast as other Instagrammers and food bloggers, when I was also running a cake business and teaching workshops. Some part of me also hoped that I could expand my cake business to a point that I could step out of it but in reality, I was also trying to create an income from the online parts of Rainbow Nourishments.
I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge about the world and myself. I also enjoyed bridging an understanding between Instagrammers, bloggers and the hospitality industry. At the end of the day, I want to make Rainbow Nourishments more financially sustainable and not lose myself in the process. I’m not there yet but hope I’ll get there soon xo.