Income Streams as a Food Blogger

hi, i'm chelsea!

You'll find me just outside of Portland, Oregon, hopefully in my kitchen with a big glass of Willamette Valley red wine and sous viding salmon my husband caught that week, unwinding after a day of recipe development, food photography, and marketing freelance work. Say hi on Instagram: @the.cookbook.lab

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Something crazy: I’ve been a full-time food blogger now for over 7 months! Whoa.

Even crazier: I’ve been food blogging for over 11 years 😳 In fact, I let that anniversary pass without doing something cute on Instagram. Dang.

But all that means I was doing this for 10 1/2 years before I decided to make it my official job. 7 months in and I can say I’m not earning close to what I want to be yet and I’m still figuring out:

  • What works
  • What I enjoy most
  • How to price my services (although I will say Joanie’s Profitable Pricing course has been so helpful for this)
  • What’s “worth” my time

My Income Streams

I’ve been blogging, freelancing, and side-hustling for years, which means before I quit my day job, I had already established several streams of income. These include:

  • Freelancing. Recipe development, photography, videography, etc. I rarely do freelance marketing anymore, I find it leaves me with no energy to market my own business.
  • Brand partnerships
  • Blog ads. I didn’t qualify until May 2020 and I got in before Mediavine changed their qualifications.
  • Affiliate income. Almost all from Amazon and it’s peanuts, but it’s still something.
  • The Cookbook Lab, my digital course that teaches food bloggers how to self-publish their own cookbooks.
  • Sous Vide School, a mini digital course and more for folks who want to learn and understand sous vide cooking.
  • My cookbooks
  • Side gig working for my dad
  • Misc. consulting (pick my brain, marketing strategy, speaking, etc.)

More about working for my dad: he owns apartment buildings he’s always managed by himself. He’s transitioning to retirement, so my brother and I are slowly taking over the management of those buildings. I include this to be totally transparent! I could not have quit my day job when I did without this extra source of income.

Here’s how my income streams look as of the beginning of October 2021 for the year. This does not include money I made from my day job before quitting or any profit from my new cookbook (similar to blog ads, I don’t get paid out until 3 months after the earnings). Courses/digital products includes Cookbook Lab, Sous Vide School, and Airtable Templates.

Income Stream Performance Each Quarter

I’m really grateful for so many different streams because if something starts to dip, I have other revenue sources to rely on. Not to mention, the amount I earn from these sources rise and fall at different times throughout the year, so this many streams help keep things a little steadier (although Q4 will always be queen).

But again: I’m still totally figuring these things out.

To demonstrate these fluctuations, check out my income streams broken down by quarter:

How I Track My Income Streams

Wondering how I know how much money I bring in from each of these streams?

I use Quickbooks Self-Employed to manage my books (I do my own bookkeeping). QB Self-Employed let’s me categorize my transactions, manage receipts, record mileage, invoice my clients, and estimates my quarterly taxes + let’s me easily pay them. At the end of the year, I can export a report I send off to my CPAs for my taxes. It’s pretty dang cool.

So, how do I use it to track income streams? Tags! And I created a guide to show you exactly how I do it.

Coming Up with Income Streams for Yourself

There are so many ways food bloggers can make money. I’ve listed how I do it above, but let’s talk about the ways:

  • Blog ads
  • Brand partnerships
  • Freelance photography
  • Freelance videography
  • Freelance recipe development
  • Digital courses
  • Online cooking classes
  • In person cooking classes
  • Cookbooks (Want to create a cookbook? I can help with that!)
  • Selling food, like at farmer’s markets
  • And so much more

If you’re looking to learn more about diversifying your revenue streams, my friend Jason Logsdon of Makin’ Bacon has a free email course for that!

My Goals for My Streams

I’m still working on achieving a balance that feels good. In my case, that means a balance that relies a little more on passive income, like blog ads and evergreen sales from my digital offerings!

In the future, I’d love to see my breakdown of income look more like this:

I’ll keep you posted as I keep working towards this!

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