How I Started A $15K/Month Food Blog For Fitness Enthusiasts

Start A Food Blog
About The Company
Coming Up With The Idea
Building The Product
Launching The Business
Growing The Business
Revenue + Financials
Lessons Learned
Recommended Tools
Books & Resources
Advice For Founders
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$15,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
Kinda Healthy Rec...
from Austin, Texas, USA
started April 2017
$15,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
216K
alexa rank
399
followers
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advertising
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Mason Woodruff, and I run Kinda Healthy Recipes, a food blog with around half a million sessions per month. We create recipes, guides, and resources for food-loving fitness enthusiasts.

Our revenue comes from display advertising, exclusive content via Patreon, affiliate marketing, and the occasional brand partnership. In total, the blog brings in $15k-$20k per month, and revenue has roughly doubled every year since going full time in 2018.

And as of this year, we’re now a 2-person, husband and wife team.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I started the blog in 2014 while wrapping up a degree in nutrition. Instead of pursuing a postgraduate dietetic internship to become a Registered Dietitian, I started a personal training business. The blog was a side project and portfolio for freelance writing until 2017 when I decided to take the leap and work on it full time.

Perfect is the enemy of good. If I’d waited for perfection to start, I’d still be waiting.

While the blog was only making a few hundred dollars per month at that point, I’d read a ton of success stories and saw huge potential in blogging. So I quit everything else, cashed in enough savings to give myself a 6-month runway, and started publishing as much content as possible.

In the beginning, I was still writing about training and performance nutrition. But it didn’t take long to recognize recipes and food content performed much better. By the end of 2017, I’d shifted my content to nearly 100% recipes and food. I knew I had something as I started growing a small Instagram following.

My Instagram was approaching 10k followers in early 2018, but revenue was growing slower than expected. In an attempt to create new revenue streams I reached out to the nutrition coaching company Stronger U about an affiliate partnership. Somehow, that evolved into a side gig doing recipe development for their members. It was my lucky break, extending my runway and exposing the blog to a new audience. I served as their food dude for a year until my blog hit an inflection point and I had to give it every bit of my focus.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Our product is content, and I’m a believer in the “quantity leads to quality” way of thinking. Early content was rough, and I’ve since culled lots of content from the first few years of blogging.

Food photography was one of the biggest struggles early on, and it’s something I continue to work on every day. That said, I managed to get by with iPhone food photography until mid-2019 when I made the shift to shooting with a DSLR. If you’re getting into food photography, my biggest tips would be to always use natural sunlight, use Pinterest for styling inspiration, and check out The Bite Shot to up your skills once you’re ready to dive deeper.

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Two years of practice made a slight difference when shooting shredded chicken thighs and a Cheesy Gordita Crunch copycat.

Perfect is the enemy of good. If I’d waited for perfection to start, I’d still be waiting. And oddly enough, some of my best performing posts have photos taken on an iPhone.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Blogging as a business has low overhead and very small startup costs if you’re decently tech-savvy. Combine that with the fact I was a young guy with cheap rent and no kids or major responsibilities, and my 6-month runway looked something like a cool $10,000. I viewed it as a low-risk, high reward move. The worst-case scenario was getting another job or taking on personal training clients if it failed.

As far as the $10,000 startup funding goes, I was always a saver and lived below my means with roommates. Ramen profitability becomes much harder to achieve as you go through life. So if I had any advice it would be to start something as early as possible. Like, today.

Once I leaped to work on the blog full time, the earliest path to monetization in my eyes was a membership offering where I could offer everything from training programs, nutrition coaching, and recipes all under one roof. I went as far as to build out a membership section of my site and had a mildly successful launch with the small audience I had at the time.

But after a month, I realized I was monetizing too soon and didn’t have an adequate content library. So I shut the membership section down, refunded all my founding members, and offered it all for free on the blog. The membership idea evolved into what is currently our Patreon, where patrons receive early access to new recipes and our entire cookbook library.

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Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I currently have 165k followers on Instagram but ~70% of revenue comes from Google and Pinterest traffic. Now, I don’t want to discount how much the personal brand I’ve built on Instagram influences the others. I just like to point out how much blog traffic you can generate without the primary “social” networks.

My biggest tip for growing on Instagram would be to post your most valuable content for free (full recipes for me), 3 times a day, and spend as much time as possible on the platform. I responded to every comment and DM for years, and I did weekly video Q&As in Instagram stories. It’s not easy to grow on Instagram, and you won’t have much luck early on. I also think it’s not for every niche, and the time spent could be better spent elsewhere for some people.

Pinterest is our not-so-secret weapon. You definitely have an advantage with content in the food, DIY, or travel niches, but I feel other niches are underserved on Pinterest. In terms of Pinterest tips, I wouldn’t get too far in the weeds.

I create multiple pins for blog posts using a tool like Canva and publish new pins to my own boards every day. The boards are organized like a recipe index, giving Instagram followers a reason to go check them out. Keywords and SEO for Pinterest are important, as some of my most shared recipes are years old and still make the rounds. Examples: baked chicken tacos (580k shares), air fryer carrot fries (50k shares), beef baked tacos (80k shares)

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While I’m no SEO expert, I can say that my blog posts with tons of Pinterest share all rank really well on Google as well.

In addition to my early content’s rough looks I mentioned above, it also had zero SEO strategy behind it. New content ideas came primarily from audience requests. I started doing keyword research and creating new recipes strategically in 2019. In 2020, the blog has seen 1.5M organic sessions, a 150% increase YoY. I target low competition keywords (<20 kW difficulty in Ahrefs), focus on boosting well-ranking posts with internal links and content improvements, and drive traffic to well-ranking posts via social.

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SEO side note: I’ve contemplated a domain change and rebrand over the years since the current “masonfit.com” isn’t indicative of what the blog’s really about these days. But the domain has some decent authority thanks to starting in 2014 and freelance writer for several years. Some will say your domain doesn’t matter, and I agree to some extent. That said, if you’re starting, put some thought into a brand-worthy domain name. But not so much thought you never get started. Worst case, you can do some brand tweaking like how “Kinda Healthy Recipes” lives on masonfit.com.

Going back to social, one of the best assets the blog has is a Facebook group. There are more than 15,000 people in the group now, and 95% of the content is user generated. Protoners (members) share their photos of recipes they made, ask for product recommendations, and create conversations about food/fitness. I spend time daily approving group requests, moderating, and commenting on posts. This is my go-to place for announcements and connecting with “true” fans.

And lastly, I’ll mention that I think email marketing is the king, but I’m an email marketing peasant. It’s something I’ve tried to outsource unsuccessfully and hope to one day crack the code for my business.

As a creator, your core audience is the ultimate asset in your business. As they say, earning trust takes forever but destroying it takes seconds. If you’re unsure about a partnership, don’t do it.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

A big goal when I started was to eventually bring my wife on board. And in June, that became a reality. Working with a spouse isn’t for everyone, but we oddly enjoy spending every minute together. It’s gross. And they say you’ll never find someone who cares about your business as much as you do. So I went with the second most invested person as a partner.

The blog is on pace to see around 10M page views in 2020. We plan to continue creating more content and driving more traffic moving forward. We also plan to continue diversifying revenue streams and improving our exclusive content offerings on our Patreon. Sponsored content is one of my least favorite things in the world. So developing a product or brand under our own roof is always in the back of my mind.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Influencer marketing is still underpriced and underutilized. If you have a product, influencers are talking to and earning the trust of your perfect customer every single day. Find them, create a campaign tailored to their audience, and offer a healthy affiliate commission. I’d also encourage looking for ongoing partnerships as opposed to single paid posts. My best partnership is with a supplement company, PEScience. I’ve published 50+ protein powder recipes using their product over the last 2 years.

We’re planning to work with influencers shortly to promote our free cookbook email opt-in. This will be primarily for brand awareness and email subscriber growth, but the free digital cookbook has a link inside to purchase a hard copy version that currently drives a small amount of revenue.

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Coming from the influencer side, I like to think I’ve been very selective with my partnerships. Before I do any sponsored work, I research the company, try its products, and look through customer reviews. But even with research, bad partnerships are bound to happen. My advice is to be as selective as possible, charge double what you think you should charge, and look for ongoing partnerships. It can also be helpful to look for other influencers who are promoting a product and look at their track history.

As a creator, your core audience is the ultimate asset in your business. As they say, earning trust takes forever but destroying it takes seconds. If you’re unsure about a partnership, don’t do it.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My big 3 would be Canva, Ahrefs, and Bigscoots. We use Canva to design all our Pinterest pins, cookbooks, and blog graphics. It’s a non-designers best friend. I’ve not tried every keyword research tool under the sun, but Ahrefs has everything I need and more. And while I know hosting is a touchy subject, I can’t speak highly enough about my time with Bigscoots. It’s one of the only “tools” I’ve often said I’d pay much more for.

The blog itself runs on WordPress, and the only plugins I view as must-haves are Create by Mediavine for recipe schema and ShortPixel for image optimization. I’ll also mention that I use Mediavine for their full-service ad management on the blog.

Beyond that, I’m not much of a tools person. I have a simple workflow that I’m a grumpy old man about. No need to complicate my productivity with productivity tools, but I’m aware that I’m in the minority on that one!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, podcasts are my go-to resource. Theory of Content, Do You Even Blog, and Noah Kagan Presents are some of my favorites in the blogging and business space. I owe a lot of credit for the SEO success I’ve had in the past year to the Theory of Content podcast.

As for books, I’ve read over 100+ business books and couldn’t pinpoint particular books that were helpful. I think they’re all floating around in my head, but the stories of businesses are the ones that stand out. Shoe Dog and the story of Nike is one example that really stands out. Though it’s unlikely you’ll read about a solopreneur blogger in a mainstream book. I like to find individuals that have built something I’d like to build. Most of them just have blogs like Nat Eliason and Jon Dykstra.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

Know what you want from your business from the start. Building a big team and scaling looks great, but there’s nothing wrong with being a solopreneur. I knew going in that I didn’t want to be a manager. So every decision was geared towards keeping things small and in-house. That meant being a jack of all trades in my business at points, which came at the cost of growth I’m sure.

To keep things, even more, specific, I feel starting a blog is one of the best things you can do professionally. It doesn’t have to be a niche blog around a topic you’re passionate about. It could be a personal blog where you talk about the things you’re working on, learning, or interested in. You can do it on the side (like I did from 2014-2017), and I think you’ll be surprised what could come of it in the future.

And as a final tip, I’ll just say that starting a business is exponentially easier when you have your personal finances in order. Stop spending money on things you don’t need. But you already knew that.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

If you’re reading this and feel confident you could rock out with the Kinda Healthy Recipes email newsletter, let’s chat.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Mason Woodruff,   Founder of Kinda Healthy Recipes

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