This blogger didn’t do much to market her blog, but setting the bar really high for what she published seems to have done the trick.
So you’ve had this great blog for a while now, about rare vinyl records or crafts made from recyclables, or just funny pictures of dogs. It’s always on your mind and you’re starting to get more followers than just your mom’s friends. Maybe you’ve even started running some Google advertisements and the money coming in is now covering for your weekly beer budget. Not bad, eh? But what if you could turn your side hobby into your career?
For Deb Perelman, 35, that’s exactly what happened. Perelman started her cooking blog, in 2006 while working full time as a journalist. With stunning photography, witty, down-to-earth writing and to die for yet easy to follow recipes, her blog gained a cult like following and has been by everyone from Martha Stewart to Gwyneth Paltrow and every magazine and blogger awards in between. In June 2008 she quit her full time job to work on the blog and has a cookbook on the way this fall.
In this interview, Perelman explains her path from hobby blogger to full-time blogger and how she made it all work.
Why did you start your blog?
I just really like to cook. I’m also a bit obsessive in that I will fuss over a recipe until it’s exactly the way I had hoped it would taste. And then I have to blab about it because I want everyone else to make it, too.
I know that most people will tell you that you need to promote your blog, and they’re probably not wrong, but I never have. It’s just not my personality. My hope was that if I put something good out there, people would find it; that I wouldn’t have to tell people to come check it out.
For me, it was about my blog’s income exceeding my day job’s income. Because I was a low-level journalist, and not say a partner at a law firm, this may have happened sooner than it would for someone else. It’s hard to measure popularity but out of curiosity, I just pulled up my page views from the month I quit my job (June 2008) and realized that they’re now over eight times higher. If you’d told me that then, I would have fallen over and not recovered.
Ads are the source of site income. I’ve always had them. I’ve always believed that content creators should try to get paid for their work, and that they deserve to.
How did the cookbook come about?
I had been approached many, many times (which I hope doesn’t sound braggish; this is very common when a blog starts getting attention) by various literary agents and editors nearly from the first month the site was up. However, I had zero interest in writing a book for several years. It felt too soon to me, that I was just getting started, that I didn’t have my sea legs yet. As of this point … I am glad I waited. I felt I had a lot more options at my disposal — more publishers interested, so I could pick the one that I felt was the best fit; plus, things were on the negotiating table that often aren’t earlier on, such as getting to have input in the design.
I had a friend that was an editor that helped me weed through the offers I’d received to find my gem of an agent.
Absolutely. I had been at a point in my life where I had no idea what I was doing anymore. I imagined all of the years from then until retirement spilling out before me and it bummed me out that I might never find work that excited me. And then I did. And even though I am now constantly swamped with work, months behind on almost anything that one can be, it’s hard to feel grim about waking up each morning and cooking whatever you feel like that day.
I hope that [the blog] continues to be as fun as it is now, and that I don’t wake up one day out of ideas … I don’t see a great career as the singular goal, however, but having a good life. So, if this stops being enjoyable, I hope I’ll be able to find something else that I’m as excited about.
I’ll just have to see what happens. I’ll say this: I’m not in the least bummed by the status quo. I know a lot of bloggers see their blogs as platform to get them elsewhere. I don’t. I actually like doing the site itself. It’s fun to add things to the mix, like the cookbook I have coming out this year, but for me, the center of what I do is the site. Plus, I miss it when I get too busy with another project to update more often.
You should make sure, at every step, that you’re doing it because you love it, because it inspires you, because you’re just at the tip of the iceberg of what you want to share. To do it because you want to be successful will be much less fun; it becomes a numbers game.[T]he best approach is to just try to keep the bar really high for what you’ll put on your site, and make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. It doesn’t matter if everyone wants a turkey burger recipe; if you don’t care for turkey burgers, there are better places to put your energies. Write instead about something you’ll fight for, that you won’t tire of perfecting.
is a recent graduate of two degrees from the George Washington University. Born in Israel, raised in Arizona and now living in D.C., while she looks for that dream position.