Do you Write For Food And Do You Think You Really Should? Ask Chef Dennis

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Do you write for food?  Have you ever done a post simply because a company sent you a free sample, or promised you one to give away?   I want each of you that has done this to stop for a minute and ask yourself, if it was really worth your effort.

I ask this question, because as a new blogger I was so eager to be liked by my readers, that I thought give away’s were the answer.  Every company that came down the pike that offered me product was promptly answered with an enthusiastic Hell Yeah!

But after awhile, I started to see a pattern,  bloggers like myself that were too new to know better, or just so anxious to find that magic bullet that would propel them to the next level were simply being used.   When you stop and think about it, we really are being used when we agree to write a blog post for a box or two of cookies, and if you don’t think you are, your only kidding yourself.

To better illustrate my point I thought I would come up with a few Truths about food blogging (but remember they’re what I perceive to be the truth)

1.   Blogging should be fun!  For as much work that it becomes, if it’s not fun find another hobby (or business)

2.   If someone told you they were getting rich blogging, they lied!  While you can make a supplemental income, the few that do make it to the big league are few and far between.    (this is why it needs to be fun)

3.    Your time is valuable!   This should really be number one,  because if you don’t value your time and your hard work, no one else will!

4.   Food doesn’t magically appear in your refrigerator, you have to spend your money on it, So don’t give your posts away!  (if food does magically appear in your refrigerator or cupboards please send me detailed instructions on how you got it to do that)

5.  You are special and companies will want to feature you using their products, because you write well, take good pictures, and make kick ass dishes!  ( but the PR people who do the minor giveaways know what their target market is, and they will always prey on the new overly enthusiastic bloggers, or bloggers looking to increase their readership)

6.  The Truth is, doing giveaways will only temporarily increase your readership, and actually in the circles we run in, most of the increase will come from other bloggers. (I’ll let you in on a little secret…shh….while I dearly love all my fellow bloggers, they’re my friends, my inspiration, and my support system…..but they aren’t the readers we’re looking for!  You want regular every day people to read your blog, those that will actually make your dishes, and tell their friends about you……real people, eating real food! And sadly these people will more than likely never hear about your give aways}

7.  Stay true to your voice, that’s what’s going to increase your readership.   (the only people that really benefit from give away’s are the winners, and the Companies that got all that free advertising from you)

8.  Remember Number 3, that should have been Number 1,  well I’m going to tell you again because it’s that important.   Your time is valuable, you should be paid for your work.  The people asking you to do the give away’s aren’t working for free, so why should you?

Okay, that’s about it for this list, I mean I could go on, but those are what I consider the most important points for you to think about.  Now I’m going to add a little disclaimer in here, because there are always exceptions to the rule!

These truths don’t apply to give away’s that have true value.  If Kitchen Aid, Villeroy and Boch (or only in my dreams Viking Range) approach you, that’s a whole different story, major players in the industry pick the cream of the crop to represent them, and they’re giving you merchandise that has value, so in essence you are being paid for your work.  The other exception to the rule is that every now and then you find a company that you really like, and that really likes you, and it’s almost like your going steady, because you develop a relationship with them and  enjoy working with each other…….should you still be paid, yeah you should, but sometimes your happy just being part of the company, they may feature you, use your recipes, and promote you.  If they do all that for you, again there’s value there and its a fair trade.   I have a relationship like that with Chobani, they’re really nice people and I truly like the product and enjoy working with them, and they send me product without any expectations.

So you say okay Chef, you tell me, my time is valuable and I should be paid, but no one’s offering to pay me, what I do I do?   Well, let’s look at the reason why companies aren’t offering to pay for your services or the advertising that you do for them, and I think you know why, because when we start out blogging we’re so desperate for attention and so grateful to anyone that wants to give us anything, that we jump on the chance…….and that’s why they don’t offer to pay for our services.   Why should they, when we’ll write for food.

How do we stop this?  Again, you know the answer…..we stop working for free.   When I get those emails now, and they don’t come as frequently as they use to (remember they want the overly eager new bloggers), I thank them for their kind offer, but explain that if they would like me to review they’re product and write a blog post about it, that I will send my rates.  I also offer ad space on my blog on a monthly basis.   Now you’ve set the tone, most won’t return the email, and some will ask for your rates.   Now here is where I wish we had set rates, that would make life so much easier, (mine run from $50 -$150 a month)   I wouldn’t set them too high at first (not that your time is less valuable when you start, but you have to crawl before you walk), and for me it also depends on what the product is.   Remember to not only charge for your time, but also for other ingredients you will be using, heck even if they sent you a visa gift card for $100 that would be the cheapest advertising they would ever do (except your  free posts)

Think about what ads cost in newspapers and magazines, they are very costly, so asking for compensation only makes sense.    While were on the subject of blogging for food, the same holds true for your images.   The elves didn’t leave that new camera with the macro lens, or those  photo lights and all the props you’ve acquired, so if someone wants to use one of your images in a publication or for advertising, charge them!!  Give them rates for a one time limited use of your image, I would start that at around $125 and that’s still cheap.  Remember if it was that easy to get the picture they wanted,  they could take it themselves.

Now we do have exceptions as before, if they give you credit and it’s in a publication that’s going to really get your name out to the public, and increase your readership, then that’s a pretty good trade.  Everything is negotiable , just remember that you deserve some type of compensation for your work even if it’s in the form of  a trade of services.

So once again I ask you…….Do you write for food, and do you think you really should?    Think about it, just remember if you want people to see value in what you do, you have to first place value on it yourself.

This is the busiest week of the year for me at school, that and the fact that were all exhausted has made for a very interesting week,  I could tell you soooo much more, but I think I signed papers saying I wouldn’t divulge that information….lol    Hang in there with me please, I promise some very tasty posts next week!

See you soon!

Comments

  1. How timely a post is this! We JUST had a discussion about that in #foodbloggersnetwork on FB. I think ultimately if you lose sight of WHY you started blogging in the first place, you will burn out and shut your blog down before the year is up. The giveaways I have done to date – 2 to be precise with one ongoing – were both self-financed and relevant to what I’m doing.

    You actually inspired the first one – remember the discussion we sparked here about not posting in imperial. I noticed meanwhile you amended the recipe, and I have since posted in both systems. I think I owed it to my readers, so THANKS.

    • Chef Dennis Littley Chef D says:

      and I learned a valuable lesson as well, that not everyone measures like we do in the US… I need to be more vigilante about posting in metric as well!

      • I should add, too, that I am on a crusade to convert the US to metric, one enthusiastic baker at a time. Locally, I have managed to get a few people to buy scales… :)

        • Love this Sofie! I spent time in British Columbia (from California) and used only metric. It ended up being easier and more accurate. Once back in the states, not much is metric. I find myself converting most all my baking to metric and when I post, starting to include both US and metric. You’ve got a big task on your hands but I’m behind you ;-)

  2. Wow, well said! I am very happy to find a fellow blogger that feels the way I do about this issue.

  3. A thoughtful post, Chef! Couldn’t agree more.

  4. Dennis this is such a great post. I just turned down an offer with a company because they wanted to work with me but didn’t ship to Canada. They were willing to send me stuff but how do I promote something to my fellow Canadians they can’t actually order in Canada. At first I was so excited like you said, then I stepped back and realized it was not worth it on so many levels. I kindly turned them down. I too wish there was a standard we all adhered to so it was easier. I used the photo trick on some of the people who took my photo like you suggested and it worked like a charm. Keep these post coming my friend. It’s nice to have this info out there for all of us to ponder. It also helps the new bloggers figure this wild world of blogging out.

    • Chef Dennis Littley Chef D says:

      I just don’t understand what the problem is with our friends in the Great White North! Canadians are people too you know! Now all rise while I sing Oh Canada (which i know almost in entirety from Hockey!)

  5. Well said Chef! As always, you offer sage advice and it is greatly appreciated. Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy.

  6. I tend to write for food, but I only choose hi quality products that I truly love. I turned down a job that wanted me to produce brand new recipes plus pictures where I get no credit & that were never published all for the whopping price of $50/recipe where they bought 25 recipes at a time! Can we say bend over & grab my ankles???!!!

    • Chef Dennis Littley Chef D says:

      I know exactly what you mean, and comon’ at least take us out for dinner and drinks before you try to bend us over….lol!

      Everyone has to do what’s right for them, I just want everyone to remember that your time and efforts are worth something! I do have a few favorite companies that I treat differently, its that relationship thing, and as long as you’re having fun, it’s a good thing!

  7. Great tips – #4 made me laugh!

  8. Thank you for sharing this valuable insight with us! While I have never written for food I have posted great reviews on products I like and I have had a few offer for me to “purchase our popular products and feel free to post about it!” So the plan is that I buy the stuff AND agree to post about it??? Please. I may be overly nice but I’m not an idiot.

    I’ve had seven (yes seven) offers for smaller companies to send me sample sized products for me to use and review. I never did respond but I think I’ll follow your example and send them my rates. While I have been blogging for a little while I am not sure why they think I am brand new but I am grateful for friends like you for education like this. :) I hope you are having a good week my friend!

    • Chef Dennis Littley Chef D says:

      I don’t think they see you as a new blogger, I still get requests too, but I don’t think I’m really the target they look for anymore, because of ACD posts, not all my posts are food driven.

      I wish I could say this was a good week, they just keep getting worse….sigh

  9. Another excellent post Chef. Thank you! I really appreciate all the blogging advice. :)

  10. At the moment I’m getting a lot of free feed, but I only write a personal opinion on the ones I’d really recommend. Chocolates are nice. Restaurant invitations as well, if the experience is good. Not sure if it’ll continue like that or if I’ll ask a fee, but I have a full-time job that provides plenty of what I truly need.

  11. I feel the same way about magazines that use facebook to get free recipes and ideas. Most pay nicely, but the competition is fierce. When I see, “What’s for dinner tonight?” type questions, I cringe. I can’t blame them for the approach since there are a lot of eager home cooks out there looking to get published.

  12. I have hosted a few giveaways without giving it much and now I think enough thought. Of the total of six prizes (three giveawys) four were won by bloggers so you are certainly correct in saying that is where most of the action comes from. You have given me food for thought and I am leaning towards your way of thinking on this.

  13. I’m waiting for Viking to make me an offer, too!!! As always, an informative, well written post!!!

  14. Yes I do believe that drawing non-food bloggers is the hardest thing to achieve, however, I would not give up my community circle of food bloggers. There is so much in the unknown pile…how many lurkers are out there that say nothing or actually make the recipe and say nothing!
    We would all want tabs on that.
    As far as giveaways, I sometime think people will follow as a point to enter the giveaway and then after the giveaway quit following. I have never done one. Thanks for another informative post Chef!

    • Chef Dennis Littley Chef D says:

      I would never give up on food bloggers, they are the heart and soul of what we do, and I would be lost without them. I just know that as much as I would like to try some of the delicious dishes that I see prepared at other blogs, I have my own set of priorities just as all food bloggers do, and I rarely get to re make it. But regular day to day people who are looking for ways to spice up their kitchens are the ones that will drive our readership up, there the ones who will tell their friends, relatives and co workers and that’s when we really start to increase our readership.

  15. Hi Dennis,

    Great article! So very well said. In fact this is something that should be sent out to all new and seasoned bloggers. Those willing to work for nothing actually hurt all of us in the long run. It appears to me that more and more companies have caught on to this and it’s getting harder to find companies willing to compensate us for our work. What a shame. I hope many bloggers read your article so that we can improve things for all of us. Thanks :)

    • Chef Dennis Littley Chef D says:

      Thanks Nancy! We really need to work as a group to so that we all can succeed, those that give away there work, just make it difficult for the rest of us.

  16. It’s really a cool and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Thanks for sharing this information with the newbies! Very much appreciated.

  18. This was excellent info and your “truths” were true for me, too. (Lol about going steady… made me feel like a teenager again.) :) For the past year, I’ve been blogging about food for the sheer joy of it — have considered converting to an “ad friendly” blog format to bring in a little dough, but I’m doing my research and intend to be selective if/when I do. Great advice, Chef Dennis!

  19. This is a great article, Chef Dennis. I feel exactly the same way about it. I’ve turned down some truly absurd giveaway offers. I wouldn’t even enter to win most of the things for which they want free advertising. On the other hand, if Viking wants to sponsor me, I’ll write about them every day!

  20. Ha! Either I’m a completely lousy blogger or people are scared of me because I have only ever received one request from a company. Which I turned down. This is very good advice to both new and seasoned bloggers. Sometimes we forget why we do it in an effort to build our readership, improve our photographer, be in the Top 9, or whatever benchmark of “the grass is greener” we’re using. When we really need to have fun and stay loyal – to ourselves!

    Well said!

    • Well I’m going to have to go with the second choice, because I know for sure your a darn good blogger!

  21. GREAT post! I definitely do not write for food… and anytime I agree to review a product, I tell the company that if I don’t really like their product, I will not post about it. Thanks so much for this thought-provoking post… it’s great to get back in touch with our personal motivations for blogging!

  22. When I started blogging, I was totally dazzled by the fact that people wanted to send me things–for free! So I accepted just about everything. Not only are you on point about the actual work involved (and the fact that these “free” products end up being anything but), but I also realized that my readers didn’t care–I got so little traffic on those review posts because I think people just see them as ads. Once I started being pickier, my traffic increased and I found that I got better offers. It’s so important not to underestimate ourselves as bloggers!

  23. Dennis – You are on a real role about blogging – another ineresting and thought provoking post.

  24. Pam Hopper says:

    I rarely post on anyone’s food blog because I am not a professionally trained chef nor a professional photographer. Having said that I do like to cook ALOT for my family and friends and post the pictures & the recipes on FB. I am relatively new to your blog, Chef Dennis, and I really enjoy reading your posts. I had no idea of all that is involved in a food blogger’s world. I can only aspire to one day to be among you all. I do cook alot of recipes from food bloggers and have only ‘enter a drawing’ a few times but have never won so have decided to give that up because there is such a huge amount of competition. I didn’t realize that alot of food bloggers were also entering these contests. I really like to use food blogger recipes as an option to cookbooks because they are seasonal, different, current, and show different ways of cooking. I am in my mid-50’s and a Southerner. My peer group can get in a rut with the tried & true Southern recipes so reading food blogs has opened my world up to new recipes and new approaches to food. I hate to say this but I never pay attention to the ads on the food blogger sites and now rarely does a competition get my attention. I like to subscribe to food bloggers by email first and have the picture of the food pop up when I open my email. The ones that make me go to their website to see the pictures & read about the recipe rank the lowest for me because of the added step. I
    also’like’ food bloggers on FB because they will show a picture of the recipe first then you have to click on it to read the recipe. Thefood bloggers that do not offer email subscriptions or FB options and only the ‘rss’ feed stuff I never read because I have to go on the web every time and look for them. Frankly I can’t always remember their names. Thanksfor the insight into the food bloggers’ world!

    • hi Pam

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving such an insightful comment! You seem to be doing everything right and I do agree with you the email subscriptions, I send the whole post and always will, I may lose a few hits, but I don’t upset anyone in the process.

      I hope you’ve tried some of my recipes and if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

      Cheers
      Dennis

  25. As a new-ish blogger I definitely wished that someone, anyone would contact me for a giveaway but have recently reevaluated this and realized that whenever I read posts like that, they seem cheap and uninteresting and that is definitely not what I’m going for. Blogging has been a great exercise for me in finding out who “me” is and then being exactly that, as well as taking my personal values and actually using them in real situations, like not writing for food. Who would’ve thought that blogging was more than just posting what’s on your mind?

  26. Very sound advice! Thanks for this piece, Chef Dennis! This is a classic and so true. You hit it right on the mark when you said the food does not magically appear in our refrigerators ~ we have to BUY it. So true with everything else — the internet service, the domain name, our printer toner (gosh that alone costs a ton!), our phones and tablets….we need all these to stay abreast and on the cutting edge. It’s all a big expense, but we keep on blogging because we love it. Enough said. You’ve summed it up superbly.

  27. What a valuable information for bloggers, Chef! As a new blogger, I do not want to make mistakes that I will regret in the future. You are right about being paid for out time. It takes me a while to get one post done ( I have three kids and a dog and a house to take care of ). But I love blogging and sharing my recipes with others. Thank you so much for taking on this subject!

  28. Great food for thought, Chef Dennis. I’ve never thought about making my time as valuable as you have mentioned. If I ever get approached for advertising, I will keep this in mind

  29. Thanks for this wonderful post! I’m so glad I met you and found your blog last year.

    I’ve been blogging for almost three years and I’ve been approached for all kinds of strange and trivial giveaways. The one time I gave in I ended up having a winner who never contacted me to claim her prize. After that I decided that it’s just not worth the drama. I have a primary career where I’m well-compensated. Food blogging is just a hobby. Why would I waste my time dealing with a company for a bag of pretzels?

    On the other hand, I did get the opportunity to blog for a company I love and I found it to be very rewarding. I got to go to fantastic events, meet great people, and try lots of new foods. I agree that you need to find out what’s in it for you, the blogger.

  30. This is a tough one because it takes all of us working together to make sure companies pay adequately for the services they receive. If a few bloggers (and often more than a few) do it for free, they’ll keep getting away with it.

  31. That is a very insightful post Chef, thank you for taking the time to write it.
    Living in Jordan, not many companies are enthusiastic to ship me stuff but still now I know what to do when they contact me

  32. Great post as always, Chef. I realized pretty early that a lot of the products companies wanted to send me had nothing to do with what I liked to cook. Obviously there have been exceptions, and those are the giveaways I end up hosting :)

  33. I get paid for most of my sponsored posts…but if I really believe in a company and know that they don’t have money to pay bloggers, I might still work with them. I have one company whose sweetener is my fave low carb sweetener. They send me free product, I do posts for them. It’s a win-win because their product is expensive!!!

    • it sounds like you have everything under control Carolyn, and with the sweetener you’re getting something of value that you like to use, so it is a win win! I agree about helping small companies get established because if they do become successful they will remember you. It’s the companies that hire PR firms to get us to work for free that bother me.

  34. lovely post and information I think blogging should be fun once it becomes a job it is hard to enjoy it

  35. Thanks for your thoughts Chef. Whenever I start feeling stressed about blogging, I have to pull back and remind myself why I started it and who my audience is. You are right, we’re doing this to help REAL people.

    Peace, Nana Clare

  36. Excellent post Dennis, thanks for giving plenty food for thought! I’ve never did any sponsored posts, but I do see the allure in it and there are a lot of companies that would like to get ” a free .ride” especially with new bloggers

  37. Hi Chef! Here you are with another informative post. The only giveaway I’ve done was for two of my friends who started their own companies selling handmade items that I totally dig. It was a fun way to support their new ventures and introduce their products which are food related (one makes very groovy eco-conscious bags in the always convenient wine bottle size and the other makes wood coasters, cheese boards, etc…). My friend who makes the bags, Alistar is her company, actually sends me a bunch several times a year and says I’ll have a stock for life which is ridiculously cool of her. Now…if I could just get some free wine! Also Viking anything…yes, please!

    • It’s always nice to support small businesses especially when they’re friends. And were all waiting for that special call from Viking or better yet Wolfe!

  38. Great post Chef Dennis! I completely agree and have from day 1. I have done 2 giveaways in the 10 months that I have been blogging. My husband and I have sponsored both. Perhaps someday Wusthof will contact me about a sponsorship, but in the meantime I will stick with what is working.

    Thank you so much for posting rates. We get that question a lot and it is really hard to give a set price, every blog is different. Have a beautiful weekend Chef!

    • Thank Donna! I didn’t know whether to share rates or not, I’m sure others get more and some get less, but I thought for those not sure at least it offered a starting point.

      Have a happy weekend!
      Dennis

  39. Interesting post, Chef Dennis! I have never written for food and in fact have never been offered anything from any company, perhaps because I have never monetized my blog. I blog because it’s a fun hobby, a way for me to pass on recipes that my friends and family may enjoy, and a place to meet other folks who have interests in food and food production and growth. The Internet world of foodblogging has given me a visual and written way to learn new cooking skills … it’s a fun place to share and communicate with like-minded people. When money gets involved, for me, the pressure becomes too much. I have stayed away from looking for advertisers or company connections for that reason. I just want to have fun and become of bit better at cooking, photography, and writing …

    Your advice, though, is valuable for all of us to read and think about!

  40. Dennis, you totally hit the nail on the head! One of the huge names in blogging is also a resident of my city and and I asked her for advice early on. She said the same thing – very few actually make a real income from this. For most of us it’s a bit of supplemental income but it’s by far mostly fun. I’ve quit worrrying about the other bloggers (with the exception of you, Christiane, Liz, Gina, Elliot and a couple of others) and am focusing on my own voice and my non-blogger readers. Thank you for once again telling it like it is :-) Hope you have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

  41. I have never done a give-away on my blog. I have done a few of the Tastemaker posts but that is because I – honestly – either wanted to try to product or wanted the coupons. Hey, I’m on a tight budget with my medical issues, so everything helps. ;.)

    Honestly, maybe I’m in the odd minority but the few I have done HAVE brought in outside readers. But maybe that is because I added video? A few of those are my number 1 posts. I have no expectation of making ANY real money blogging. The reason that I am doing this is because because having a blog forces me to write and create several new recipes a week. The ones I don’t put on the blog I enter into cooking contests and or send for publication. That’s been working out okay for me, too. I am working on a cookbook idea.

    I think you just have to find the reason why you do this; stay true to yourself and have fun! For me, the joy in this is that I’ve gotten to “meet” people from all over the world. Nothing makes me smile more than when someone from Isreal or Greece posts a commnent on my blog about how much they enjoyed reading my recipe… to me, that is what it’s all about… yeah… ;.)

    • it sounds like you’re having a good time with your blog Mary Kay and that’s what its all about. There is nothing wrong with getting product to work with for from companies as long as you remain true to what you are doing. I’m glad that you’ve gained readership from your posts, that is the ultimate goal, so keep doing what your doing and have fun!

      Dennis

  42. Couldn’t have said it better myself! anne

  43. I did it once when I first started, but it was because I actually wanted to try the product and they just said I should try it and write about it…which I probably would have done anyway. I haven’t done it since, though since it’s usually not worth the hassle. Now, I only write what I want when I want to…it keeps it fun. My income is supplemental to my husband’s. It’s a great ay to stay home with the kids while also paying for groceries and it’s doing something I love anyway…so …yeah. I’m a pretty boring person, ethically speaking. I’m not too easily influenced or affected by what others are doing…or even if I’m liked or not. It doesn’t make much difference. You can never make everyone happy, so you might as well just please yourself.

  44. Very wise words! Thanks so much for the advice!

  45. This definitely hits home! I used to be the blogger that would jump at every chance I got to deal with “free” stuff. But in the end, you’re right. It’s not worth it at all. Most of that “free” stuff aren’t things that I would normally buy at all. I was just using them because I was “given” them. So now I try to post what I like. I try to post real things that matter in my life. And although my readership may not be the highest, I find I’m a happier blogger for it =)

  46. Very useful info…thanks so much for sharing!

  47. Hi Chef!!
    I am catching up on all my blog-reading (can’t catch up fast enough with a new baby) :)), and I just wanted to thank you for an excellent post!
    Have a great day!!

    • Kate

      its so good to hear from you!! Congratulations on the addition to your family, how wonderful! You have been sorely missed in our community, and I know everyone is going to want to see pics of the baby soon!

      Have a wonderful week my friend!
      Dennis

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