Food! Food! Food! No one can get enough of food and all conversations invariably lead to food. So much is the craze around all things culinary that food blogs are in fact the flavour of the season. Given the attention that this field is garnering now-a-days, to get into the Food Blogging profession seems like a great idea after all!
Keeping this in mind and with the view of letting you in on what it takes to be a food blogger, we interviewed Prachi Joshi – a food (and travel) writer/blogger par excellence. Read her thoughts and opinions on what it takes to do well in this field. And yes, your diet plans may go for a toss after all!
Name: Prachi Joshi
Company: Deliciously Directionless (personal website) + Freelance writer
Designation: Food & Travel Writer
Q1. When and why did you take the decision to start your journey as a food blogger?
I have always wanted to write. In fact, I quit my corporate marketing job of 9 years to write! I decided to start with a blog, to test the waters, so to speak. Food and Travel are two topics that are close to my heart and I thought I’d start writing about that. So one lazy Sunday in June 2012, I put pen to paper (figuratively) and created my blog – Deliciously Directionless – on Blogger.com. My very first post was a recipe for a Bread Pudding, which I could make with one hand tied behind my back! My blog chronicles my experiments in the kitchen, reviews of restaurants, travel notes as well as interviews and guest posts by prominent people in the food industry. It’s been just 9 months since I’ve been blogging, but the experiences that I have had and the opportunities that have come my way are truly mind boggling.
Q2. What is a day like in your life as a food blogger?
Let me describe a week in my life, instead – I do at least one post on my blog every week, sometimes two. So, some of my time is taken up in writing the post, researching a bit (if required), editing pictures etc. I also work at having a pipeline of posts in place – this is especially useful when I’m travelling and I cannot devote time to writing on the road. But the blog has to keep going, right? So I keep draft posts ready that I can publish from the road.
I’m quite active on social media. Social Media (SM) is a great way of keeping the conversation going with readers and peers in the industry. The food blogging community is very active on these platforms and it’s great to read what others have been writing about, sharing my own posts, thoughts and comments. Being a part of the community means you always have someone to turn to when you need any information or advice; help is usually a tweet away. Also many food magazines, restaurants and brands are on SM and it helps to keep abreast with what’s happening in the food world – both in India and over the world. So some of my time is spent reading – online and offline. Since I’m also a freelance writer, I stay in touch with what food & travel magazines / papers / writers / editors put out in SM – you never know where your next story idea or a media connection is going to come from. SM is a brilliant way of building and maintaining a relationship with your clients and community. I also use SM as a marketing tool, but I do not solely put out my content out there; I share other bloggers’ posts, interesting (but relevant) articles, upcoming events, deals etc.
A significant part of my time also goes into attending food-related events – bloggers’ meets, restaurant openings, chef’s tables, trade shows, cook-ups, potlucks etc. Some of these lead to blog posts, some are for networking and some are purely for fun. But all are a platform for meeting like-minded people and exchanging ideas (and sometimes, food!).
Q3. How does one avoid the trap of turning into a restaurant’s mouthpiece? (Or how does one stay true to the blog?)
Be clear right from the beginning – when you get an invite to attend a bloggers’ meet, tell the PR company that you’ll be giving an honest review – the good, the bad & the ugly. Even if you’re reviewing a restaurant anonymously, you owe it the readers to give a correct picture. Having said that, I usually avoid visiting a restaurant in its first couple of weeks since that’s the time the place is finding its feet and ironing out the wrinkles. Chances of hiccups (minor or major) cannot be overruled and it isn’t fair to pronounce judgment prematurely.
Q4. What are the tips you’d share with young food enthusiasts who wish to pursue a career in food blogging?
Have a genuine interest in food. Food blogging is not merely about going to restaurants and doing reviews. Learn how to cook. This will help you to understand ingredients and what works together and it’ll help refine your palette.
Experiment with photography – light, angles, close-ups. Make your images draw in your readers to your content. At the same time, don’t clutter your entire post with pictures, unless you’re doing a photo-essay!
Tell a story – even if you’re posting a recipe, give a short background; maybe the origin of the dish, or why you like to cook it, or where you learned it from, anything that adds a personal touch to your post.
Be a part of the food bloggers’ networks. There are several established ones online (Foodista, Foodie Blogroll, Foodblogs, Indiblogger etc.) and they are a good way of forming networks and interact with fellow bloggers. Many of them also run contests regularly, which are a good way of getting out of your comfort zone and writing to a brief, instead of just what you want to write.
Q5. What are the cardinal rules a food blogger must live by?
Be yourself – find your own voice and do not try to imitate anyone’s writing style. It’ll never sound real.
Be honest – without being disrespectful. This one is really important. Even if you have negative things to say, be objective about it and don’t get personal. Be courteous to your readers, your clients, your blogging community. Always respond to messages, comments and tweets (except when you’re being trolled). Being nice never killed anyone!
Never ever plagiarise – if you’re referencing someone’s work, always give due credit. Ask for permission before you use anyone’s images.
Content is king – yes, this is a cliche, but true! If you’re not offering good, relevant content why would a reader be back? Value your reader’s time by providing quality recipes and honest opinion pieces. And while we’re on the subject of content, please ensure that your piece is well written, without grammatical mistakes and glaring typos.
Write, write, write – the more you write, the better your writing will be. This also means putting up posts on a regular basis, preferably a fixed day of the week. Maintain your focus and let food be the star of your blog, even when you’re doing a travel story or an interview.
Read, read, read – find out the good food writers, bloggers, magazines etc. This will help you identify trends and be at the forefront of it. That’s how you’ll offer value to your readers. And when you really like a post, leave a comment. Build a relationship, without an agenda. Provide links to other blogs in your posts (where relevant) and share the writing of others with your readers.
Q6. Are there some food blogger myths you’d like to break?!
You don’t need to understand technology – this is myth number 1. Even if you are hosting your blog on a platform such as Blogger or WordPress, understanding how they work will help you tweak the blog to suit your requirements. And if you don’t know something, help is a Google search away. Learn the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) – how to use keywords to ensure that your blog comes up higher in the list of search results. There are plenty of online resources to help you with this.
You don’t need to market yourself - let’s face it; you’re writing so that people read you. Do not rely on just your friend network to increase traffic to your blog (doesn’t work anyway). Make use of SM – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and what have you. I find that Twitter works really well in connecting you with people – readers, clients, other food bloggers, brands etc. So make sure you have an online presence and use it judiciously.
You know everything – it’s just not possible! Be open to learning from others and keep improving – your writing, photography, blog design. Attend workshops; and go there to listen, not to show off your knowledge.
I hope this has been helpful! Good luck to all the aspiring food bloggers. And bon appetit!