Let's start from the beginning...
Before The Fabulous Foodie Blog, I wrote another blog named Belle Jeunesse (meaning Sweet Youth in French). I started it on Wordpress when I was 17 years old and it became a beautiful website thanks to my boyfriend at the time who knew how to make websites. It was a heartfelt Christmas present to help turn a basic Wordpress blog into something that looked professional.
On Belle-Jeunesse.com, I wrote beauty and make-up reviews and easy and fun recipes that readers loved. There was a Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe that readers always commented on (below) and the website also included some fashion bits and pieces too. That was what the status quo was blogging about at the time. Belle Jeunesse was just for fun - but my friends and family encouraged it, saying they loved it, asking me for recipes; and the stats showed that people around the world were enjoying it too.
After Belle-Jeunesse.com took a back seat - the boyfriend who handled all the admin logins and backend of the website and I broke up and University studying got in the way, I started to miss blogging. I must have been somewhere between 20 and 21 years old when I stopped.
When I was in my third year of University, I started conjuring up fantasies of a blog that featured and critiqued restaurants. I've always loved eating out and no other bloggers were writing about food, excepting when they were making it themselves. I didn't want to make the food though, I wanted to eat food that had been cooked for me and tell you what I thought, whether it was worth spending your money on or not.
After I taught English in France in 2014, the new year presented me with some spare time and the opportunity to travel. After doing an internship at BBC Good Food Magazine, I used my teaching money to go to New York by myself and then Sicily with a friend and do what I loved and had been dreaming of. I walked around New York with my backpack alone visiting restaurants and cafes I'd found online and photographed the food and drinks to then write about it. Having a food review blog was novel at the time, and to me it made so much sense. Instead of reviewing mascara, lipstick or moisturiser, why not review restaurants instead? Everyone loves food.
Instagram wasn't as big in 2015, but Twitter was used quite widely for businesses to communicate with people and vice versa. Often before, during or after my food visit, I would often tweet the company with one of my photos saying that I loved trying their food. I built up a strong following on Twitter just from doing this every time and telling the world about my travels with food.
Compared to Belle-Jeunesse.com which had a lot of sentimental value, I loved the slick, monochrome look of my new food blog that I created myself. I had been passionate about DSLR photography for around 4-5 years by the age of 21) and I instantly fell in love with the feeling of photographing food instead of portraits which until then, had been my preferred subject matter.
I was following my dreams of being a pro-photographer, walking around New York in the blazing summer sun, photographing everything I ate and trying to find wi-fi signal to post about it.
I wrote up my reviews on brunches, cupcake parlours, American pancake breakfasts, the glorious food markets in Sicily - and by the end of the summer, I received my first ever 'press' email invite.
I had absolutely no idea what this was or why someone was emailing me, but I was so excited that someone had been reading my blog and wanted to 'sit down' to discuss ways of 'collaborating together'.
Here's the original email:
I remember shouting with joy when I received this. I was in a hotel room alone, about to go to a wedding and I couldn't believe someone felt my blog was professional enough to work with me. All I wanted to do was work harder so that hopefully, I'd receive more emails like this.
From that email about the gluten-free bakery, I continued to work hard, posting content 3-4 times a week, networking as much as possible and in all seriousness using my blog as an escape from my exams.
On one particular occasion, I had been invited to the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard in London, one of the top hotels in the city and I was so obsessed with becoming London's best food blogger that I went to the event, photographed the drinks at this new bar that had opened, went home (fairly tipsy on around 6 strong cocktails) and wrote up the article on the top deck of a bus and then in bed to post the article at 6am before going into University for a 9am lecture.
I wanted to be the first person to publish my article from the event. There were other bloggers and writers there who I knew would also be posting content; and in early 2016, the competition in London was already growing.
This was before Instagram stars had risen to internet fame based on how many juicy hamburgers they ate in a day or how great they looked in a bikini. This was when people enjoyed going to food events and writing about it on their blog.
I do miss those days.
My best year for food blogging was definitely 2016. January to July was fantastic. I worked with companies like Tesco, Waitrose, The Savoy, The Four Seasons, The W Hotel, Hungry House, KFC and so many more gaining valuable experience from something I'd built entirely myself. I spent every aching moment writing about food and drink and did a lot of free work with companies, promoting companies and helping them grow in the digital sphere. That was really the trick, I think. Free promotion for them, and great content for me, which is fine when you're at University with student loans rolling in, a room to live in and lots of free food from events.
The problem hit when I finished University and real life began. As the end of my exams approached, I was asked to write for one of the U.K's biggest tabloid newspapers, The Mail On Sunday. It's the same company as The Daily Mail and Metro, but a sister newspaper, that luckily still sells a lot in print.
I had the option to write the article myself or get a cut of payment for my idea. I chose to fly to Barcelona, interview a company and had my first article published with my photo in large. I thought I had made it and that the offers would start rolling in...but they didn't. And even when I sent endless offers for unpaid internships to newspapers, still nothing came back.
During the summer of 2016, I was trying to make my blog a full-time business but I was alone in my efforts with little knowledge of how to work effectively with companies and fleeting confidence.
I was new to selling myself to companies, and the connection between PR companies and brands working with influencers was completely new too.
It felt like skating on ice for the first time with broken skates.
By August of that summer, I was forced to get a real job. I painfully hated it and only lasted in the Facilities Management Industry as a Bid Writer for 3 months. I decided to try freelancing as a journalist back at The Mail On Sunday and working on my blog for a second-time round.
I did my best to embrace it, but I felt awkwardly self-conscious calling myself a blogger. Since my time away at work, blogging had developed a negative connotation. I'd always wanted to be an Editor or a creator of a magazine - so that was what I did...
I spent hours and hours over the Christmas of 2016 making my blog into an online magazine and started reviewing Luxury Hotels as well as Restaurants. I decided to go to Dubai (where I grew up) and reviewed a different hotel every night for a week as well as different restaurants I'd found on Instagram and on websites like Zomato.
The whole trip, although stressful, was hugely inspiring because I captured the type of content I wanted to produce; and felt in my element.
The Luxury Hotel and Restaurant work was honestly some of my best. I did make quite a bit of money overall from sponsored posts to promote companies, but still, I wasn't making enough money to live. So again, it was back to the job listings.
I was so depressed at this point. I would sit alone at my computer all day long sending email proposals for work, or go to 'meetings' with PR companies with no end results. Maybe I'd have an event to go to in the evening but I was just losing money with the transport costs.
In February 2017, I started working as a Digital Marketing Manager in Covent Garden. And by this time, compared to the previous 6 months, companies were becoming much more tuned in to the trend of working with bloggers and influencers. Soon, my inbox became flooded with emails from PR companies about Gin Distillery events, Yoga Breakfasts, Blogger Meetups. But with a full-time job, it was exhausting and I struggled to still manage it. Living in London was extremely exhausting as well so I think that didn't help, but I still dreamed of ways of making my blog work. And I've never stopped.
The importance of blogging overall, is to have an audience who always listens for you and trusts your judgement. I'm extremely lucky that I have a loyal following of readers, most of them made up of family and friends on Facebook and some who work for companies who have followed me from the beginning, but who say to me 'I have missed you, where have you been!' when I post something after a break. I am also aware I have a lot of lurkers! These are people who are friends of friends, who never speak to me, but watch every single post on Instagram or on my blog. I love you guys too!
My readership are made up of a real mix of people - a lot of them are actually 50+ and love spending money on travelling and hotels, so my travel posts really appeal to them. I then have readers who love the glitzy, glamorous posts with brands they are familiar with, The Burj Khalifa, The Ritz-Carlton, but everyone hones in on my recommendations and comes to me for advice for eating out. And I think that is far more valuable than any kind of mass following due to good airbrushing and filters.
It's why I started this blog and why I'm going to continue it; because everyone eats out and wants to know where to go based on location, cuisine and price range. And everyone loves being inspired; so I hope this blog has inspired you in some way.
My dream is to be an established food critic - and I hope that my work hard will lead me towards exciting things in the new year now that I'm back in Dubai in the U.A.E.
If you're reading this article, thank you for all the support, whether you've read my blog, mentioned it to a friend or colleague, told someone about it, even if you've critiqued it in some way, it has been the best part of my life so far and brings me more joy than you can imagine.
If anyone has any questions or wants to get in touch to say hi, please don't hesitate to contact me at email@example.com :) I always love to read your emails or you can find me on instagram at @thefabulousfoodieblog !
Share this post here: