There Is No Such Thing As A Free Meal. This Is The Cost of Food Blogging.
I have to get this off my chest. Only because too many people have come forward to say “Being a blogger is great. They get free this and that. Free travels, free haircut, free food.” My personal friends would say similar things to me, “You have a good life. All your meals are free.”
The answer is: Yes and No. My meals are free. But no, they are not free.
The topic that few bloggers talk about – The cost of food blogging. To set the record straight, I am writing this on the presumption that people are looking into turning blogs into a money-making venture to sustain a feasible career and lifestyle. Turning blogging from a hobby to a career.
As the saying goes “There is no free lunch in the world,” and I still believe in it. Let’s start with the technical bits.
To be a professional blogger, I do not recommend using a free blogging platform – because it means a restriction in placing advertisements and customization. The costs involve would include getting a blogging platform, domain, blog design, and web hosting. My blog hosting fees ALONE are easily more than a hundred dollars per month. I went with a cheaper host before, but they were unreliable and could not sustain the volume of traffic.
Cameras (a decent DSLR please), laptop, photo editing software, equipment such as flash, light boxes, and props. You know the prices, the total can cost up to $10,000, or more.
Education and Training
I do not believe a blogger, or any professional for that matter, can sustain without undergoing continual training. I have invested in photography, writing and blogging books, and workshops on basic to intermediate photography and review writing which set me back by a couple of thousands. And the learning does not end there.
I spent $1000 reviewing this restaurant.
Labour Cost and Time Invested
And how about the ‘free’ meals and travels?
Yes, the truth is, a popular blogger can particularly get a FREE food invite (or much much more) every single day. I am not exaggerating to say if every food invite is accepted, your meals the entire year can be settled (and there will still be spillovers).
The funny thing comes: Suddenly, there is the assumption time is FREE. It is not.
Food Blogger A spends an average time of 4 hours writing a single post and editing photos. Food Blogger B who is known to write EXTREMELY FAST, also spends slightly more than an hour.
A normal food tasting can last anything between 90 minutes to 3 hours, though 4-6 hours is not unheard of. If we go by the average of 2 hours of tasting, an hour of traveling, plus 4 hours of writing and photo editing, that is 7 hours of work time.
If that blogger is paid $10 per hour (very very very conservative sum) professionally, using that time to blog would mean that the $50 ‘free’ meal is not worth it because he is in fact losing $20.
Of course there is the argument that food bloggers have to eat anyway. But again, we should look at the premise that this is going to be a professional career. And trust me, some official food tastings are hardly an enjoyment. No offence to the restaurants.
Cost Of Food Tasting
Plus, a food blogger just can’t go for free tastings all the time. It just doesn’t work for your readers or credibility of the blog. There are some restaurants we need to write about, and have to pay out of our own pockets.
To review a restaurant, I think it is only fair enough we try the bare minimum of 3-4 items. Similarly, we cannot write about a café after drinking one cup of coffee (though I have seen that happening).
An average restaurant bill can cost anything between $50 and $150. You know how expensive it is to dine in Singapore.
As for the compilation pieces, for example the 5/10 Best XXX (fill in food name) in Singapore. You go figure how much it would cost and time it would take to eat 10 different cheese cakes, or noodles. A food blogger who wrote on the Best Nasi Lemak in Singapore shared how she had to travel from Changi Village to Boon Lay. Think about the petrol money, or the cab fare.
Some of the bloggers who do this professionally are hardly solo individuals, they usually come with a help or team of help – be it a writer, marketing or administrative assistant. There is really A LOT of work involved. Hiring additional labour cost money. Some get around it by getting their spouses, boyfriend, girlfriend or bff. That has to be sustainable in a long run.
How about free travels? Sounds like a good deal.
A travel blogger shared that he travels on sponsored trips only there is an additional honorarium or blog advertorial fees. I personally think that is a fair request. Going for a week of ‘free’ blogging trip would mean 7 days off work, which is really a huge income loss incurred for freelancers.
Many travel bloggers can attest that media travel trips are both physically and mentality exhausting. Surely they will instagram the picturesque highlights and drool-worthy food of their travels. Who would talk about waking up at 3am, or returning back to hotel only close to midnight because the itinerary was simply too packed?
I am happy for fellow bloggers who managed to turn their hobbies into a career. Seriously, I admire all their energy and passion. However, like entrepreneurs, only a very small percentage makes good money to sustain a living. And it is not a job with stable income at the end of the day.
Behind their more glamorous parts, are years and years of hard work that goes unseen. Years and years. Bloggers do not make money the moment they start a blog. I still encourage people to be one, but do not let money be that primary driving force.
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