Nicky and Chris Corbishley run Kitchen Sanctuary, a blog full of great family-friendly recipes. This interview is a perfect example of how success doesn’t happer overnight.
Revenue of $10,000/mo
Email list size of 10,000
Founded in 2014
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
We’re Nicky and Chris from Kitchen Sanctuary, which is a blog full of great family-friendly recipes. We cover all sorts – one-pot meals, Asian food, desserts, gluten-free. It’s the place to go if you’re looking for inspiration for a tasty dinner. We live in England and both work full-time on the blog and other freelance work.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
I’ve loved cooking from a young age, and I think it’s really important to get the family round the dinner table in the evening to talk about the day. Cooking is a way for me to relax. Even when I used to work long hours at the office, I couldn’t wait to come home and get in the kitchen.
I decided to start the blog in 2014 as a way to manage the recipes I was making, and also to act as a kind of diary. Talking about daily life, sharing dinner ideas and improving my recipes.
At the time, I was working as a Disaster Recovery Lead for a large pharma company. Chris was working at the same company as a Programme Manager. I was looking for a way to step out of the corporate world and do something more creative, whilst spending more time with the kids.
I’d seen other bloggers earning a living from their blog, and so with my Chris’s support, I left my job and gave myself a year to start earning £1000 (about $1390) a month. I just about achieved that, and it’s continued to grow ever since.
Chris left his job to join me last summer, which has enabled us to do more freelance work, start creating recipe videos and start our second blog.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
We try to ensure we have multiple revenue streams, as all of them can vary significantly from month to month. January, for example, is a very slow month for freelance work. Whilst November is extremely busy.
Our main sources of income come from:
- Ad revenue from the blog. The more page views our blog receives, the more we earn from ads. This is a great source of income, as it’s passive – providing you continue to create content for your blog to keep your audience coming back.
- Freelance and Sponsored work – we often create recipes, photos and videos for brands using their product. This content can appear on our blog and social media channels, on their channels or sometimes both. This is a more active form of income – the more content you create, the more you get paid.
- Affiliate sales – this is where we recommend (on the blog) certain products or services that we use, and we receive a small commission if one of our reader’s purchases that product or service. The higher the number of people we get visiting the blog, generally means more affiliate sales.
- Stock photography – we submit some of our photographs to a stock agency and earn a small payment each time the usage of one of our photographs is purchased.
The ad revenue, sponsored work and affiliate sales are earnings made directly from the blog, whilst the freelance work and stock photography is external to the blog. However, we do include all of these streams in our income reports, as they are all related, and we often use the blog as an example of our work to help to secure freelance work.
My first income from the blog was ad revenue (around $39 if I recall correctly – that was in my ninth month of blogging).
It took me a year to get my first affiliate sale, fifteen months to get my first piece of freelance work and seventeen months to get my first sponsored post.
It takes a really long time to build up an income directly from the blog and through sponsored work. My recommendation to new bloggers would be to try to secure some freelance work (such as writing for other sites) initially, to increase income, whilst you’re building your blog.'My first income from the blog was ad revenue (around $39 if I recall correctly - that was in my ninth month of blogging).' Click To Tweet
It’s a good idea to have some good content on your own blog that you can show to potential editors, so they can get an idea of your writing/photography.
What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?
Good food photography is absolutely essential for a food blog. Those pictures are what draws people in.
Chris took all our food photos for the first few months of our blog. I slowly learned how to use his DSLR – initially on the automatic setting, and then on manual. It took a lot of time and thousands of photos for me to start taking photos I was proud of.
You then need to get those images in front of people – share on social media channels, food photo sharing websites – such as foodgawker etc. Pinterest is a really big traffic driver for me. I pin my food photos regularly to my Pinterest boards and to a lot of group boards.
Good SEO is my next priority. Use a good recipe card, submit your sitemap to google, use an SEO plugin to help optimize your content (I use Yoast). These things will all help you to appear higher in google search results.
Naturally, the more good-quality, SEO friendly posts you write on your blog, the more viewers you’ll get. As the amount of content you have grows and the quality of your works improves, so will your viewer figures.
We’re currently trying to improve our SEO – with the help of an SEO specialist. I’m also going back to old posts and improving them with new photos, updated content etc. Hopefully, this will get our older content in front of more readers.
How have you grown the email list?
We currently have just over 10,000 people on our mailing list. Our emails are currently automated, to go out the morning after I’ve published a blog post.
We offer a free ebook as an incentive to readers to sign up to our mailing list, and we have different mailing list pop-ups for desktop and mobile.
We’re currently looking into how we can make our emails more useful for our readers, by offering choices on the types of recipes they want to see and how often they want to receive emails.
How do you write great content that performs well?
I find it easier to have different days for writing and photography. We try to do all our photos/videos across two-to-three days, then leave the rest of the week for writing and other blog work.
For me, I’ll come up with a months-worth of recipes, then organize shoot days over the course of the month. Once the recipes have been tested and photographed, I’ll sit down and write the copy and edit the photos.
I often write about daily life in my blog posts, but will sometimes just concentrate on the recipe origin, recipe tips etc.
I find that I write more creatively (and enjoy the writing process more) earlier in the day. So once the kids are at school, I like to sit down with a cup of coffee and get some uninterrupted writing done. No music, no email notifications, just writing.
I find that writing my content as if I was talking to a friend works well. Have a little fun, be a little cheeky, ask questions – it makes the copy much more interesting.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
The biggest challenge I face is balancing blog work with freelance work. I love doing both, but I find that I often prioritize (paid) freelance work over my own blog. This can leave me short of time on getting blog posts out, sometimes working late at night to get work finished.
On the other hand, without the freelance work, I would never have earned enough initially to allow me to stay at home and continue to manage the blog.
There’s very little I would change. The only thing I would do differently if starting again, would be to start off on a self-hosted WordPress.org site (instead of a free WordPress.com site).
Using the self-hosted .org version means you can use plugins on your site to improve the look, usability and management of your site. It also means you have more options when it comes to putting ads on your site.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We both try to ensure we continually learn and grow. We put aside some of our earnings for books, courses and membership sites.
I’m always looking at other sites for inspiration. Lindsay and Bjork from Pinch of Yum, and Nagi from Recipe Tin Eats are my idols!!
I’ve found Bjork’s membership site – FoodBloggerPro to be tremendously helpful – with training videos, courses and a member forum (I’ve been a member for four years). Tasty Food Photography by Lindsay and The Food Photography Book by Nagi have also really helped to improve my food photography (those links are affiliate links by the way :-D).
I’ve also found it useful to make friends with other bloggers. It’s great to have groups of people who understand what you do and support you. I’ve met other bloggers at events, blog seminars and courses. I’m also a member of various blogging Facebook groups – which are great to have a chat and to get some advice.
Another thing that has really helped, was winning a cookery competition a couple of years ago. I entered on a whim, and got through to the final stage, which involved me taking part in a live cook-off on stage at a food festival. I won a kitchen full of appliances (which look great in my recipe videos!), and have also been working with the brand ever since.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
My advice would be to try not to get overwhelmed. Blogging sounds easy at first, but you quickly realize it takes a lot of effort, time and energy to build a successful blog.
Take things one step at a time, try to improve your photography and writing every day. Those two skills will be the keystone to your success.'My advice would be to try not to get overwhelmed. Blogging sounds easy at first, but you quickly realize it takes a lot of effort, time and energy to build a successful blog.'Click To Tweet
After that just take on one additional new thing at a time (for example spend a week working on your posting schedule, then the next week setting up social media profiles, then the next week learning how to use a photo editing tool).
Never stop learning. Read, check out other sites, listen to podcasts, make the most of free courses.
Where can we go to learn more?