The most common question I get in my job is: ‘How are you paid as an Instagram food blogger for Rainbow Nourishments?’ If I got a dollar for everytime someone asked me that, I’d be able to buy a heck load of cake/food…. like enough for a lifetime so I’d never have to cook 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!
Baked Vegan Cheesecake, one of my most popular recipes
Quitting your day job
Many entrepreuners love selling the idea that being an Instagram food blogger is lucrative, luxurious and easy. It can be when you have a very large to extremely large audience. However for most people, it’s not!
Whenever an entrepreuner sells that lifestyle, I ask: Are they in debt? Do they have a trust fund or investments? What is their idea of a good salary?! 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. Despite this, I have relentless high standards as I always compare my current income to my former comfortable public service income.
The world of social media influencing and blogging is relatively new compared to other careers. It hasn’t been easy trying to figure out how to become a food blogger on Instagram and get paid for it.
The challenge: creating a sustainable income as a food blogger
Although I’m relatively financially secure, creating a sustainable income out of Rainbow Nourishments has been challenging. It’s great to have a job which you are passionate about. However, passion cannot be the only thing driving you in the long term.
When I first left my full time job to, my Instagram food blog business had about 5 income streams. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend this, my experience allowed me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of sooooo many different avenues. It also taught me what I enjoy doing and what I definitely don’t!
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:
Sponsorships and ambassadorships
Recipe Development and content creation
Cookbooks and Ebooks
Pop-up events (dinners and high-teas)
Sponsorships and ambassadorships as an Instagram food blogger
Raspberry, chocolate and coconut cake created for Drumstick Australia
How do food bloggers make money on Instagram?
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 to their audience.
Since people spend a lot of time on social media, brands can reach their target audience by collaborating with influencers and bloggers. Collaborations and partnerships should always be mutually beneficial.
How many Instagram followers do you need on Instagram to be paid?
Instagram food bloggers can be paid to promote brands on their feed when they reach around 5,000 followers. However, this is relatively uncommon because brands will more likely want to exchange product/food for promotion. That’s what the PR world/influencers call ‘contra’.
However, it IS possible to be paid for your work if you have a smaller number of followers – scroll to the section below titled Recipe Development and content creation.
My experience with social media sponsorships and ambassadorships
Personally, I was only paid as an Instagram food blogger when I passed around 20,000 followers which was 5 years ago. I don’t work with every brand that approaches me. I prefer working with brands I personally love and/or I think my audience would appreciate.
The main way I decide whether I will work with a company is: will my sponsored post offer value to my audience?! My Instagram and blog are not billboards. I see them similar to magazines where I curate content based on a theme. If I can confidently recommend a brand to a friend, I’ll promote it on my feed/blog.
To get paid work as an Instagram food blogger, I approach brands/PR companies and vice versa. When I chat and negotiate with them, I always provide:
- a media kit. This provides more info about Rainbow Nourishments such its reach and type of audience and info about my creative background.
- a rates card with how much I charge per post, recipe, video etc.
A media kit is like a resume in the PR world!
How much does an Instagram food blogger/influencer earn from sponsorships?
The amount of money a food blogger on Instagram earns from sponsorships varies depending on:
- Where the influencer is based
- How many followers the influencer has
- The quality of the influencer’s content
- The niche of the influencer e.g. everyday family food vs Asian vegan desserts
Food companies generally have a smaller budget than companies selling fashion, beauty and other lifestyle products. Due to that, food bloggers generally earn less than others.
The budget of food companies varies a lot too. In my experience, North American food companies tend to pay much more than Australian and UK food companies. And within a country, an Australian beef company will often pay much more than a small independent vegan yoghurt company.
When I had about 20,000-50,000 followers on Instagram, the money I got from sponsorships was okay but not enough for a full-time income. When I passed the 100,000 mark, I could charge more and my time was 100% more worth it.
However, I’m an Aussie-based blogger (and get less pay) and I have friends from the UK and USA who managed to make a full-time income from 50,000 followers.
I’d strongly recommend building a genuine support network of Instagram food bloggers. Many of my Instagram friends and I openly talk about our rates for certain campaigns making sure we’re in line with each other (mostly to make sure we aren’t underselling ourselves). I firmly believe the more bloggers share, the better. We need to set an industry standard!
Pros and cons of Instagram sponsorships and ambassadorships
The main advantage is that sponsorships and ambassadorships pay Instagram food bloggers well if you have a large following or amazing content. When you calculate ‘hourly rates’, sponsorships usually pay the best compared to other blogging income streams.
The main disadvantage is that influencers never know when their next sponsorship will come so their income is very inconsistent and unreliable. Make sure you don’t spend all your money at the same time!
Recipe development and content creation
Peanut Butter & Raspberry Chia Jam Crêpes I created for Animals Australia
Instagram food bloggers don’t necessarily need a large following to earn money. Companies often pay Instagrammers and/or food bloggers to create recipes or photos using their products for use on their socials, website or advertising. This work is usually done on a freelance or ongoing basis.
This is a great way for bloggers to work in an area outside their niche of their social media and blog. I specialise in vegan desserts but I create savoury recipes and photographs for brands, such as this Thai Red Curry for Animals Australia. Unlike sponsored posts, you are not required to share these recipes and photographs on your social media.
I work with large to small companies to create recipes and content for their social media and websites. Similar to sponsorships, companies approach me and vice versa. Companies usually find me through social media or my website where I have a ‘Work With Me‘ page.
I also develop recipes for desserts sold in cakes, stores or supermarkets. Or I may develop recipes for a company’s ebook which they will sell or give for free to their audience.
Providing recipes and content for clients has many benefits:
- You get to build a longer term relationship with companies. That means less hustling and negotiation of contracts!
- It is more stable than other income sources. This stability is traded with earning a lower rate than you would for sponsored posts but I’d take that stability ANY day!
Cookbooks and Ebooks
When I got my first copy of my cookbook!
These days, 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 (unlike my blog)
- commercial recipes that I used in my cake business and I’m not willing to give away for free.
How much money does a first-time cookbook author earn?
The amount of money you make from cookbooks depends on whether you go with a publisher, self-publish, the size of your audience, the book’s concept and many other factors.
For print books, 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.
Some cookbook authors may also be paid a photography fee, get reimbursed for ingredients etc.
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!
How do you self-publish a cookbook?
To self-publish a cookbook, you’ll need to invest your own money in the process. You will need to cover your own time to test recipes and will need to pay for ingredients, design, printing, advertising and distribution.
An advantage of self-publishing is that you’ll be able to pocket more of the profits than going with a publisher.
A disadvantage of self-publishing is you’ll have to invest a lot of time into the unglamorous logistics such as negotiating with a printing house and speaking to different book shops to stock your book etc.
How do you make money from ebook cookbooks?
Ebooks cost next to nothing to make. Authors only need to cover their 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.
I monetised my food products… by opening up a cake business
A raw vegan wedding cake I made for a customer as part of my cake business
In the first week of quitting my stable government job, I thought I could sit back and take a break. In reality, I realised I had bills to pay and my over-achieving self panicked.
I had 20,000 followers on Instagram at the time. I knew it would take time to build up my audience to earn a decent income through sponsorships and ads. In the meantime, I created a cake business (ever so casually haha).
There was a huge gap in the local market for 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 also learnt a lot about small business from my parents because they owned restaurants for 30+ years – I 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 my blog post on why I closed my cake business.
My advice to people who want to open a cake business:
- Make sure you are 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 after a while. That’s just the nature of work.
- Know your worth! However, in the first few months, you may need to do some jobs for less money just to build your brand. When the time is right, make sure you raise your prices so you are paid what you are worth.
At workshops, I often show how to make and decorate cakes!
My readers often message me asking me very detailed questions about cakes or if I can teach them how to do something. I figured that I could offer structured workshops where I can teach people exactly what they want!
In my workshops, 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/foodies to connect with their audience 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 of running food workshops?
You need to find and pay for a venue. In Australia, you are required to have public liability insurance. For food workshops, you’ll also need to figure out how you’re going to transport 10kgs of ingredients to your workshop attendees. True story!
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 and hope 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 host workshops!
Pop-up events (dinners and high-teas)
Poster for a collaborative dinner I co-hosted in Canberra. Design by @riethmuller_draws.
My audience often say they don’t really have the time or motivation to learn how to cook complex meals. All they want to is to eat the food I posted!
To fill this gap, I regularly host pop-up events in my local city where I hire a cafe for an evening and created a 3 to 6 course meal for guests. I create a menu with a certain theme like Asian fusion, Winter food or similar.
How do you organise pop-up dinners?
Similar to workshops, pop-up dinners require a lot of work beforehand and afterwards. For instance, you need to find a cafe/restaurant who’d be happy to host you, find trustworthy staff and estimate how much food you’ll need for X amount of people. There’s also an insane amount of food prep, organising run sheets and managing kitchen and floor staff.
How do you run a pop-up restaurant?
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!
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. You need to stay on your toes yet stay relatively calm.
I’ve had some amazing kitchens and some disastrous kitchens. But our main focus was always to make the customers happy!
How much do you profit from pop-up dinners?
Similar to workshops, it may seem you earn a lot of money IF you only count those hours you’re in the kitchen. I’m sure people thought I was making a fortune! However, when you consider every single hour you worked on the event, you’re earning less than the average income.
IF you have experience organising and cooking for events, it’s much easier and smoother to host pop-up dinners. This means they can be more profitable than other revenues of income. If you don’t have experience, pop-up dinners are simply a huge headache and logistical nightmare! I’m lucky I learnt a lot from my parents’ restaurants but it’s not like that for everyone.
The main reason why I do pop-up events is that I love working with people!
Food blog advertisements
Buttery Vegan Brioche my only breadwinner 😉
Display advertising such as banners and pop-ups on a food blog can also contribute to a food blogger’s income.
However, what people don’t often often say is you need a heck load of viewers to make a decent profit. Profit also depends on:
- what advertising company you are with
- the niche of your food blog
- how your food blog is set up
- what country your readers are from (ad companies prefer if you have a big Northern American audience)
My experience with food blog advertisements
My website gets tens of thousands of views per month so I earn a few hundred of dollars (USD) from ads every month. However, I have to pay for website hosting, subscription emails, specialist plugins and other technical expenses. After that, I have some money but not nearly enough for a full-time income.
From the bloggers I know, when your website gets in the low hundreds of thousands of views per month, you’ll be making just enough money to survive (if you live frugally) and near the minimum wage. This can be a good supplement to your yearly income. Your blog needs to be viewed from around 1 million times a month to have a very healthy income.
These numbers are approximate as I haven’t put as much time and energy into my blog as other sources of income!
Other ways to be paid as an Instagram food blogger
Earning a decent income as an Instagram food blogger takes time, just like this vegan chocolate babka
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 would grow as fast as other Instagrammers and bloggers, although I was also running a cake business and teaching workshops.
Rainbow Nourishments has been a rollercoaster of a journey but I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge about myself and running online small businesses. I also enjoy 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.
This post was originally written in November 2019 but is constantly updated to provide relevant and useful information.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible. Rainbow Nourishments receives a high number of questions through social media and email and is unable to respond to each individual query. Comments on this post are more likely to receive a response!