During a recent mini cruise on the Queen Mary 2 (you can read all about that here) I was delighted to meet fellow blogger and Cunard guest Christina Soong.
Not only because she's lovely in every way but because she also has a great blogging success story to share.
So of course I begged, grovelled and pleaded until she kindly agreed to share her blogging story with us along with those all important blogging tips. I told you she was lovely.
Christina is a food blogger so this post is a must read if food is your blogging niche but there are plenty of tips here to inspire other bloggers too. I hope you enjoy Christina's interview and blogging success story as much as I did.
Please introduce yourself to the SB team first
Thank you. Now, let's get personal! Where do you live? Do you have a family? What do you do for work and play?
I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I was born here and grew up here but then moved away and worked overseas and interstate for 12+ years. I moved back here three years ago so my kids (aged seven and four) could grow up with family around them.
I love Adelaide – there's an amazing food and wine scene. Everything is pretty close together, too – we live two minutes from the beach, 20 minutes to the city and an hour to the Barossa Valley.
Re work: I work as a freelance writer, photographer, recipe developer, stylist, consultant and food blogger. I work mostly with food, travel, media and tourism companies
Re: play I like to meet friends for dinner and drinks or cook for people – good conversation over a nice meal is always fun. I love practicing yoga regularly and go for a walk along the beach when I need to de-stress. Travelling is one of my greatest joys and I love exploring new places.
All About The Hungry Australian Blog
What's your blog about? Who reads it? How long have you been blogging?
My blog is about my pursuit of a delicious life. It focuses on food and travel so I blog my own recipes, trips and exceptional dining experiences.
Food lovers, travel enthusiasts and photography buffs read my blog. My mother reads my blog today, too, which makes me happy!
I've blogged for over 2.5 years.
Ah, that's great. My mum gets her friends to print out my blog so she can read it! So what do you offer your readers that no one else does?
That's a good question. From reader feedback I'd say that people find my blog inspiring – whether it's because of the photography and styling, the writing or my enthusiasm and attitude towards food and life.
I also write honestly about things that are difficult – like my separation and divorce – and this is not that common for a lifestyle blog because the emphasis is usually on how fabulous everything is.
My life is fabulous at times but it's also a constant juggling-act, messy and complicated, too. And I'm not scared to share that stuff.
I like to think that only I could have produced the posts that I blog because no-one else has my life and work experience, skills and knowledge. Blogging is such a personal thing – I think people become loyal readers partly because want to learn something new and be inspired but also because they like you as a person and want to find out what you're up to.
I totally agree and love that you share your personal story. It's very brave but also so important to get readers on board. How much time did you spend setting up your blog?
Oh, not much time at all. My first few headers were horrendous. I just dived in and then figured it out as I went along.
Did you design and set up your blog yourself? What work did you outsource?
My original blog design /setup – yes. My current blog design/setup – no. My blog is currently part of the Servved network and I worked with the talented boys in the Sydney Stockholm office on the design.
How often do you update your blog and how many unique readers do you have each month?
I generally blog twice a week. I have 20,000 uniques/month.
That's a healthy readership. Where do most of your readers come from? Google search? Social media? Other sites? Guest posts?
Pinterest, Google search, other sites (including food photography sites) and social media.
Do you have a big email list too?
Not really. That's something I'm keen to grow.
What are the three most popular posts ever on your blog?
It's really interesting how different posts are popular in different ways.
In terms of comments, the most popular post is How to Blog About Food – useful tips for new, emerging and aspiring bloggers with over 100 comments.
In terms of attention, Exploring Dubai: Spices, Gold, Diamonds and Fruit & Vegetables won the Outstanding Use of Photography Award at the Best Australian Blogs 2013 competition.
Congratulations Christina! I'd love to hear more about your blogging successes so far. What kind of good things have come to you from blogging? Please tell us your blogging success story.
So many things! It's brought all sorts of amazing people who love food into my life and some of these have become close friends. It's led to media trips intrastate, interstate and overseas, and opportunities to organize and speak at conferences.
Blogging has allowed me to work flexibly from home while my kids are small. It's led to me working with all kinds of amazing clients. It's given me a platform and a profile.
The act of creating recipes, photography and writing for my blog is a joyful thing – creating new work makes me really happy. And I love hearing from readers who have made my recipes for their families and friends. The thought of people reading my blog and then cooking and eating food from it is incredibly heart-warming.
I'm incredibly grateful for all the good things blogging has brought into my life.
It sounds so rewarding and I can see you have a real passion for food blogging. Do you make a full-time living from blogging?
Last year I earned a (low) full-time wage from all of my work. Most of my paid work happens off my blog but it's my blog that generally brings new clients in.
I'd say that's common for bloggers and why I recommend blogging as a great way to sell services as you do. Would you mind going into a bit more detail about how exactly do you earn money from your blog?
My income is mostly commissions to produce content – I get paid to write stories, produce recipes, create images and style food. I have also created and managed websites and blogs for clients.
I also get some income from sponsored posts and some from advertising. 85% of my income last year came from long-term contracts with clients to deliver an agreed amount of work each month.
That's great to hear. Now let's move onto the all important blogging tips. What's the best way to get new readers to a blog?
Create awesome content that is either inspiring or useful or both. And then promote it effectively without being annoying (too many updates or repeat promotion of the same content is a turn-off).
What are your recommendations for other bloggers who want to monetize their blogs?
- Do your best work because you never know who is reading your blog.
- Have a good About page that tells your story in a way that inspires trust and confidence. Don't hide your ‘other life' from readers – whatever you do when you're not blogging is part of your story. Include a good photo of yourself so people can see what you look like.
- Make it clear that you are open to offers of paid work and/or advertising.
- Set up a separate portfolio site to showcase your work, clients, case studies and testimonials.
Those are all excellent tips. Do you have any special blogging tip for new bloggers?
- Read as many blogging books and posts about blogging, writing, photography and social media as you can get your hands on. Then practice as much as you can.
- Invest in the right gear and training in a gradual and sensible way.
- Reach out to other bloggers. Leave comments on other blogs and share their best work. Join blogging groups and meet ups. Attend blogging conferences and get to know your tribe.
Have you got any writing or photography tips?
- Write a blog post and then edit 30-50% of it out. Every first draft can be made tighter, clearer and better.
- I have so many photography tips I don't know where to start – I will have to start a blog series! 🙂
- I use Bufferapp sometimes to schedule social media posts.
Interesting. I haven't tried Bufferapp because I use Hootsuite to schedule social media updates but I'll check it out. Can you share one last blogging tip?
Blog because you are passionate about something and you want to share that passion with the world.
So true. Where can people find out more about you? Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I'm also doing two talks in the next few weeks:
- I'm doing a talk called ‘Blogging for Fun and Profit‘ for the WordPress Adelaide group on March 31st. So if you're a member of WordPress Adelaide (you need to be a WordPress user to join) please do come along. Register here.
- I'm also part of a debate/dinner called ‘Eating Their Words' for the Adelaide Food & Wine Festival on Tuesday 8th April. Writer David Sly (Australian Gourmet Traveller, SALife Magazine), chef Phil Whitmarsh (The Daniel O'Connell Pub & Dining) George Ujvary (The Foodologist) and I will be debating food writing responsibilities and ethics, blogging, social media and the often complicated relationship between food writers, food bloggers and chefs. Entry price includes top nosh and drink at the Daniel O'Connell. More info and tickets here.
Thank you so much Christina, I'm sure those talks and events will be as popular as your blog. Thank you so much for your time and generosity sharing your blogging success story and your blogging tips and tricks. I am most definitely following your blog and looking forward to seeing where this journey takes you.
If you haven't already done so check out The Hungry Australian here but be warned, it will definitely make you hungry!
Which of Christina's food blogging tips are the most useful for you? Or maybe you're a food blogger and have something else to add?