How I Turned my Cocktail Instagram Into a Career - The Social Sipper

How I Turned my Cocktail Instagram Into a Career

I started The Social Sipper on Instagram in 2018 and in 2019 we were able to turn it into a 6-figure business from connections we made on Instagram alone. One of the questions I get asked all the time is “how do you make money as a food or drink blogger?” If you’re hoping to monetize a food blog or turn your Instagram into a career, keep reading!

I’ve never really shared exactly what brings money into our business and I think now is the perfect time to spill the beans.

You might think I have a glamorous life of getting paid to sip cocktails at home but there is a lot more than that!

One of the biggest tips I have for anyone that is looking to turn your food or drink blog into your career is to diversify your income streams. Diversification happened kind of accidentally for us, but once you know the different ways you can get paid for your work, it’s easier to be more intentional.

I’m going to share the different ways we get paid and a few other ways to diversify your income and monetize a food blog.

Our Main Food Photography Income Streams

When we started The Social Sipper, we really focused on Instagram and had 2 main income streams in our first few years in business.

Brand Partnerships

Brand partnerships AKA collabs or brand deals are when you get paid by a brand to promote them to your audience. If you have high quality photography and an engaged audience, you can start working with brands with as little as a few hundred followers. I deep dive into this on our post on How to Get Brand Partnerships Without a Large Following.

Brand partnerships were generally the “gateway” or how a brand found us. Promoting brands on our IG accounted for around 20% of our income from Instagram. 

In our first few years, 95% of the brands that we worked with approached us. We were able to attract brands by focusing on a very narrow niche and consistently sharing high quality content.

Content Creation for Brands 

Creating photo and video content for brands is our largest income stream. As I mentioned, most of our clients started as brand partners. Once we had a strong relationship with a brand as a partner, we let them know that we also offer packages to create content for their own use. When creating content for a brand, we really focus on getting to know the brand, it’s style and customers. We offered food & drink recipe photos and videos, product photos/videos and lifestyle photos and videos.

What we found is that most of our brand contacts managed multiple brands so one strong relationship could lead to working with multiple different brands. 

For example, our first partnership ever was $100. In 2020, that same company paid us $26,983. Similarly, a $225/post relationship in 2019 turned into a $26,147 project in 2020. By focusing on building strong relationships, it’s possible to turn even small partnerships into valuable relationships.  

Our Other Food Photography Income Streams

In addition to our main 2 income streams, there are a few other ways that we get or have gotten paid. I don’t recommend focusing on a bunch of different revenue streams as a long term strategy but it can be helpful when you’re starting out.

Recipe Development

If you have a specific expertise, like cooking, baking or cocktails, you can also get paid for creating recipes. I recently created cocktail recipes for 2 different brands.

When providing recipe development, here’s what I do:

  1. Provide a few general recipe concepts for the brand to choose from if they don’t approach me with a specific recipe idea in mind.
  2. Purchase ingredients.
  3. Test and create the recipes.
  4. Provide photos of the ingredients and the final product. These can just be simple phone shots.
  5. Write out the final recipe .

Recipe development isn’t a large part of our income but is definitely something you can offer to brands to diversify your income.

Social Media Support

We don’t market social media services but we do provide social media support to some of the brands that we create content for. There are 2 ways that we have supported brands:

  1. Caption Writing: We have written captions to go with the imagery we create
  2. Basic Social Media Management: We create content calendars, curate content, write captions and manage posting and engagement

This type of work can be time consuming, which is why we don’t accept many clients. But if you have some extra time and social media expertise and are trying to transition to more consistent recurring revenue, this is a valuable way to support brands.

Food Styling

My background is as a professional food stylist and though I drastically minimized the styling gigs I take so I can focus on The Social Sipper, I do still take some styling jobs. If you get hired as a food stylist, you work side by side with a photographer. Food styling includes shopping, cooking, plating, styling scenes and more. 

If you’re interested in taking on food styling seriously, I highly recommend training as an assistant to a food stylist. Being a food stylist is WAY more than just plating food. It requires a large array of tools, knowledge of all different types of food and an understanding of how commercial photography and videography work and what the expectations are.

Image Licensing

Full transparency, stock photography only brings in a few dollars for us currently but licensing the images you already have is a passive way to bring in some extra money. 

If you have a large amount of photos, you can work with a stock agency or add your photos to a stock photo site. You can also charge a licensing fee when people reach out via social media to use your images.

Workshops 

I don’t do many workshops but I have been approached by businesses to do virtual cocktail making workshops for corporate events. In person or virtual workshops can be a fun way to show off your expertise and make some extra money. 

Other Ways to Monetize a Food Blog

I haven’t tried any of these yet, but there are several other ways to earn money as a food or drink blogger including:

  • Blog advertising: Display advertising on your food blog or website
  • Affiliate Marketing: Including affiliate links in your social media or blog posts 
  • Ebooks or Cookbooks: Selling your recipes through a cookbook or ebooks
  • Photography for other bloggers: Taking photos of another blogger’s recipes for their site

Which is your favorite way to make money from your food or drink photography? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you.

If you’re interested in making more money with your food photography, we share our whole full system for shooting photos that attract brands in our food photography program! Check out the details here.

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