After losing 30 pounds, Kath Younger decided to share her story… on the Internet. It was fall 2007.
Inspired by an "Eat Like Me" post on a website, Younger started taking photos of every single meal she ate, three times a day. She wanted to show what healthy living actually looked like, one meal at a time. Within a few months the 24-year-old racked up a couple hundred followers of her blog, Kath Eats Real Food.
Living in Charlottesville, Virginia, she was working full-time in public relations and about to go to graduate school to become a Registered Dietician. She kept blogging but never thought of making money off of it; it was her hobby. But, at the advice of her father, in February 2008, she joined BlogHer—a blogging network that serves sidebar advertisements – and immediately started making a couple hundred dollars a month.
The self-described "first healthy living blogger," Younger says she was "at the right place at the right time."
Younger continued to share her meals in three daily posts, five days a week for the next two and a half years while attending school full-time. She was a newlywed and although she and her husband had budgeted for her to go back to school full-time, the income from her blog helped pay for groceries. It was the "perfect part-time job for a student."
Commercial blogging was in its infancy and readers responded to her daily updates. Posts could garner hundreds of comments. She estimates that during that her first year of monetized blogging, she earned between $500 and $1,000 a month.
"I couldn't find a single other person on the Internet who was documenting what they were eating," explains Younger. "I think it is because it was really hard."
Besides luck, the twentysomething was dedicated. She recalls coming home from a wedding at midnight and blogging about the festivities. Although she might have been tipsy she knew that people were waiting to see what she ate that night.
The only time she missed documenting a weekday meal was when she had a 104 degree fever. In order not to make her readers worry, her husband wrote a quick post, letting her everyone know that she was ok, but just not able to write.
Her dedication and strong organizational skills paid off. Uneasy to discuss income too much, Younger admitted that after two years of blogging, she was netting over $40,000 a year.
Some perks of healthy living blogging over the years included a trip to the White House to hear about healthy initiatives from First Lady Michelle Obama and a trip to Kenya.
Although the blog is focused on healthy living and eating, Younger's personal life outside of her daily eats is a source of intrigue for her readers. Her highest traffic week was the birth of her son, when she clocked 2 million page views. Younger says, "People were checking to see if I went into labor."
She admits that "having a baby was good for the blog."
Over the years her posting style has changed and now, the 33-year old averages five posts a week, instead of 21. Part of this is due to the fact that after her son's birth, she wanted more time with him.
However, the blogging landscape has also changed. When she first started monetizing her posts, she earned most of her money through sidebar and banner ads. Since 2012, she makes money from various streams including sponsored posts, affiliate links, sidebar ads as well as various freelancing gigs that come her way through the blog.
"Blogs are not your only touch point anymore," says Younger. She sees her website, Kath Eats as the place for evergreen content while her social media stream provides daily updates. "If you want to see what I'm eating for breakfast, go on Snapchat.
Still interested in making a career out of blogging? Here are some of Younger's tips:
Learn the business inside and out.
As blogging has grown exponentially as an industry, there are tons of services to help manage and design websites. However, in the beginning, Younger taught everything she knew to herself.
Blog about something no one else is writing about.
Younger credits a large part of her successes to the fact that she was doing something that no one else was. People wanted to see what healthy eating looked like on a daily basis and she filled that niche. While she admits it might be harder to do something unique now, as there are many more blogs on the Internet, it is crucial to find your own voice and topic if you plan on building a following.
Design an awesome website.
In some ways, blogs face more competition than ever. There is Snapchat and Instagram and Vine and YouTube and Pinterest and Twitter, not to mention Facebook. With most of these social media platforms, imagery comes front and center, which for bloggers means the days of posts without pictures are toast.
Part of Younger's success was her dedication to blogging during the first five years. Although it was hard work, she says that it never felt like a job, which is why she was able to build followers, create an audience and gain traction.
"It's how much you put into it. How much do you network? How much do you want out of it," says Younger, who admits that the enterprise is more than how many eyeballs you can pull the site on a daily basis. It is about interacting with your community.
"You are a small business owner," says Younger. "Maybe you don’t have rent to pay or inventory, but you have customers."