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“Do you make money from your blog?”

This is possibly the second most common question I got asked from people, people like journalists, PRs, other bloggers; people with the ambition of quitting job and thinking of turning blogging into a full time career, or people who are just curious, and also people who think I am living a high life by simply running a blog. And I can tell you now, the answer is “No, I don’t make money from this blog.” And, definitely don’t live a high life.

Okay, that might not be 100% true. If you scroll the blog back up, you will see a big ass banner on top, yes that is the revenue of this blog. When I am talking about banner advertising revenue, I am talking maybe like $50-$100 a month if I am lucky. It is a nice pocket money and I know one meal this month will be paid for by the banner ad. It is a nice thought after all. So, if I only rely on the coins and cents that being chucked at me on every single click by you on this blog, I’d rather be a farmer, at least is more sustainable.

If you are not a regular reader of my blog, that’s okay. And for those who have been following my blog for a while, first of all, thank you very much for dropping by and your visit has just put another cent in my cyber-piggy-bank. Secondly, you would know that I’ve been running this blog for over 5 years. It may not be as old as some other blogs, but it sure feels like a long long time. And yes, it takes 5 years for me to get this blog up to what it is today now. This blog is not the most popular site in Sydney, actually far from it. But that’s okay too. Sometimes is not about being on top, but is about the journey to reach as far as I can.

If I am still poor, and not making money from this blog, why the hell am I still doing it? That’s exactly right, why am I still doing it? If you ask the same question to any food blogger out there, they will simply shrug their shoulders with a blank answer, “I don’t know, I just love food, I guess.” Not many will say, “I want to make a living out of it, is my full time job now.” If someone answered you that, you are allowed to punch him in the face to stop him daydreaming.

Of course, there are a lot of successful bloggers out there, making a living simply by writing a blog. Really? Just by writing a blog, sitting in front of the computer tapping away and the dollars and cents will fall from sky? I really doubt it, but don’t quote me on that. Bloggers don’t make money from blogs, bloggers make money from other projects through the blogs. Food blogger picked up a Julia Child’s cookbook, blogged about all recipes she wrote and suddenly turned into a movie, another food blogger started using his blog to showcase his photography and now he is a successful food photographer for big clients like Target, and not just the food bloggers, even a fashion blogger has now turned into a model. These are the successful stories and kudos to them. Some may say is sell out, I see it as opportunity by using one’s talent to its full potential, via one simple platform – ‘blog’.

Now, back to my story, as I mentioned that the blog itself doesn’t really generate that much of a revenue to make a sustainable living, it is how I using it to generate side projects from time to time to keep me going. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t use the blog as a money making machine, I still loving blogging about food, my travel and anything that tickles my fancy. Else, why would I still be sitting here at my desk at 1.52am, writing a long post about how broke I am?

It’s true, the blog itself gets a lot of invitations to free meals, free trips, sometimes even free bag of rice. In returns, not always but sometimes they do expect a blog post or review on the blog as a return favour. It is no difference to the old medium like newspaper or magazine, cookbooks or products will still be sent to editors to get reviewed and plugged in the newspapers, travel trips will still be accepted and an article or story will be expected being featured in a glossy magazine. Without going into the whole blogger VS journalist boring meaningless debate, by accepting freebies doesn’t make bloggers or journalists rich. And at the end of the day, journalist receives a bag of rice, and get paid to write about it; blogger receives a bag of rice, and blog about it, gets nothing but a bag of rice.

Through this blog, I am very lucky and very grateful to have met so many nice people. Whether they are food bloggers, farmers, PR chicks, journalists or even just someone who reads my blog, I get to meet them, work with them and learn from them one way or another. Sometimes you do have to believe in six degree and things come to a full circle, and most of the time, I still couldn’t believe my luck and got some real exciting projects from this humble little blog called A Table For Two. One good example was, I got invited to visit South Australia for the Tasting Australia event back in May 2010, and that’s where I met Paul, an editor from Hardie Grant Publishing. It was all rather casual, one of those greet-and-meet function where you probably won’t remember their names the next morning. Then later that year, somehow I found myself on Masterchef, disappeared from the face of the earth for a good six months, busy filming, cooking and pretty much keep secrets from the public. Cut long story short, while million of Australians watched me got kicked out from the show in July, out of the blue I received a text message from a guy named Paul and it says, “I didn’t know you are in Masterchef, does that mean I have to sign you up for a cookbook now?” I think I just replied jokingly, “You bet!” Well, somehow the joke worked and Paul became my editor and we published my first cookbook in September last year. Through the cookbook deal, it was possibly the biggest pay check I’ve ever received from a side project through this blog. Since then, Paul has also assigned me to photoshoot two other cookbooks for them, one is Gelato Messina The Recipes book, and another one is BBQ Bible by Ben O’Donoghue. And that’s where the money come from, not the blog.

To be honest, I still see this blog just another simple blog about a man who likes to travel, eat and take photos. I never think I am better blogger than others, and also don’t believe in food blog rankings. Once you got yourself into that chasing Hall of Fame game, it is inevitable that the blog will slowly turning into a marketing tool, you will write about what they want you to write, and what they want the others to read. If being on top does give your blog more exposure and get you more money, then go for it.  Then ask yourself again, do you write a blog is it because you want to make money at first place? Or simply because it is just for fun?

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong about making money from a blog, we all have to eat sometimes. However, there should be a balance of the two and understand how to do it. Most PR agencies out there would know that I rarely say yes to dinner invites in return of blog reviews, let alone a bag of rice. I would say yes, if the event is interesting to me, if the media trip is a right fit at the right circumstances, if the product is endorsed with an exciting campaign with a different angle. Again, most of the time with these invites, I still don’t get paid to do it.

I love travelling, so most of the time I will say yes to media trips because seeing the world is more valuable than money to me; but I did declined a trip recently as they asked me go to Thailand to promote a luxury destination for honeymooners and couples but I’d have to go to experience it all on my own. “This place is perfect for honeymooners, and tonight there will be a candlelit dinner for one.” just doesn’t sound right. I like working with PR agencies who are creative and enthusiastic with clever and engaging ideas on how to promote a product. And yes, a participation fee would be nice, and not a bag of rice. And I don’t mean, “Can I give you $500 and you write nice things about this bag of rice?” That, you will get a punch in the face too.

It is now 3.07am, I actually don’t even know where this post is heading, I just know I am tired now and I should sign off soon.

Anyway, here I would like to share with you some of the photos I’ve taken for the Gelato Messina The Recipes book, and also to let you know that I have Food Photography Workshops coming up in Sydney and Melbourne. So if you are interested, please do sign up where you can learn a few tips and tricks how to take better photos. Your contribution will also pay for my bag of rice.

Oh, one more thing. If you are wondering what is the question I got asked the most, it would be “Is the food cold when the judges tasted them on Masterchef?”

The answer is “yes“.