I also have to answer this question when people ask what I do. I tell them I’m a baker, or that I make cakes (to keep things simple), and they start talking about an upcoming birthday they need a cake for.
Sometimes I think I should just say I’m a freelancer or a content creator to avoid that tangent. Because as soon as I politely say that I don’t actually sell my cakes, I see the confusion on their faces.
I know they want to ask, “then what do you really do? How do you make money?” And I totally get it…how could I be a baker and not sell my cakes?!
People usually phrase their next question as “Wow, how does you business work then?!”
This is when I go into my long-winded explanation about what I actually do.
I’m a jill of all trades and have a lot of irons in the fire. While I no longer make money selling cakes (I stopped selling cakes at the end of 2016), baking can bring in money a lot of different ways. As of 2022, this includes:
- blogging advertisements (about 50% of my revenue)
- paid partnerships on social media (about 40% of my revenue)
- Amazon affiliate links (about 3% of my revenue)
- monetizing my YouTube channel (about 3% of my revenue)
- monetizing my Facebook videos (about 2% of my revenue)
- creating digital content for The Food Network (about 2% of my revenue)
- teaching private cake lesson (I taught lessons until 2021, but don’t anymore)
- hosting corporate events (I hosted events through 2021, but don’t anymore)
Keep in mind that every content creator’s business model is unique! Even mine has changed a lot over the 3 years I’ve been doing this full time.
And there’s a lot more to it then that. In this post I share all the details about how I make money as a baker who doesn’t sell cakes 😛
A lot people think the era of blogging is dead. I’ll admit, I used to think the same thing. But it’s quite the opposite. Where do you go looking for recipes?
Most people answer “by searching online”. These days, people aren’t usually baking from cookbooks when google is at their fingertips.
People are also interested in trying recipes from a chef or baker they follow on social media. When they trust someone and their recipes, they’re likely to go back to that person’s blog time and time again.
I never thought I’d say this, but my biggest (and most consistent) revenue stream is from my blog. It alone makes more than 3x my corporate salary. It wasn’t always like that though!
After I decided to take Chelsweets full-time, I spent months learning how to optimize my blog and updating old posts to get chelsweets.com where it is today (about 1M page views / month).
I started blogging a few years ago but didn’t really invest time in it until this past year.
Blogging is super time consuming. I had a hard time prioritizing my blog when I was still working full-time. Back then I had to dedicate all my remaining energy to baking, content-creation, and video editing.
I love blogging because I have control over it. While Google can change its algorithm and affect my SEO traffic, it’s still a reliable monthly income stream that I am able to generate on my own.
It isn’t like relying on brands to come to me for a partnership or waiting to see if a company wants to renew a long-term contract.
Different Traffic Sources
My blog traffic comes from three main sources:
- Roughly 20% is from from people directly typing in chelsweets.com or returning to blog posts they’ve bookmarked.
- About 20% is driven from my social channels (Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram).
- The remaining 60% of my views come organically from search.
Clearly, it’s important to make your blog SEO (search engine optimization) friendly. From researching and picking the right keyword (I use KeySearch for this), to tagging photos correctly, to adding meta descriptions, there’s a lot to it.
I also work hard to create and share engaging videos that make people want to head to my blog and try my recipes. My hope is that they’ll be inspired to make a new cake flavor or tackle a new decorating style.
It took me a long time to learn how to strategically write blog posts, and it’s always a work in progress.
Turning Page Views into Money
All of this is great, but a blog doesn’t magically make money on its own. I use WordPress (which I LOVE and highly recommend), which lets anyone opt into sharing ads on their blog with google AdSense.
But it’s hard to make any real money through AdSense, even if you do have decent traffic.
Luckily there are companies that offer full-service ad management, and help you make a lot more. Some of the top ad management companies are Mediavine, Adthrive, and Ezoic.
You have to apply to be a part of these networks and there are traffic thresholds you have to pass before you will be accepted.
I’m with Mediavine and have nothing but wonderful things to say about them. They are amazing to work with and super responsive.
They also have loads of resources (from in-depth blog posts to their podcast, Theory of Content), which have taught me just about everything I know about blogging.
To keep myself sane, I mostly focus on revenue streams I can control. However, sometimes I get approached for paid partnerships.
These are agreements with companies to create content and share it across my social channels. Usually, paid partnerships are centered around raising awareness for a brand/product or to drive sales.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some of my favorite brands, including Domino Sugar, King Arthur Flour, Maybelline, HBO Max, and JIF.
I’ve developed relationships with these brands and their agencies over the years, so they usually reach out to me when they have a campaign that they want me to be a part of.
You can try to reach out to brands you’d like to work with, but usually the cold call approach doesn’t get you very far.
A lot of times there simply isn’t budget allocated for random partnerships, so even if a brand wants to work with you, there usually isn’t any money available for it! I learned this when I managed the social budgets at L’Oreal.
It might sound a little lazy, but I prefer to wait for brands to reach out to me. When a brand reaches out, it means they have budget for an activation, they know and respect your work, and want to partner with you.
These are great if it’s a company or product you actually like and care about! This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes you have to say no to partnerships that aren’t aligned with your brand.
Some content creators and influencers have agents to help them negotiate partnerships. Agents can help you get better terms, build long-term relationships with brands, and/or negotiate higher rates.
Agents aren’t free though! They usually take a percentage (15-20%) of all incoming partnerships.
For this reason, I negotiate partnerships on my own and do not have a manager.
In my last job, I worked in corporate finance in the digital department of a PR agency. As part of my job, I reviewed influencer contracts from a financial perspective.
I feel very comfortable reviewing and negotiating my own deals because of this experience.
Affiliate links are another way I make money. I’m a part of the Amazon Affiliate program, (or Amazon Associates), which is an affiliate marketing program.
It’s free sign up for this program and I get a small referral fee whenever someone clicks on a product link that I’ve shared in a blog post (if they end up buying that product on Amazon).
I like affiliate links because I feel like it’s a win-win for everyone. It encourages me to link the products that I actually use in my blog posts, which can be very helpful for my readers.
It’s nice to be able to direct my readers to the products they need for different recipes or cake designs.
Whether I link a specific silicone mold or my favorite cast-iron cake stand, people know exactly what I’m using and where to get it.
Monetizing My YouTube & Facebook Channels
While you can’t monetize videos on Instagram, you can monetize videos on YouTube and Facebook. However, you need to jump through a couple hoops before you can place ads in your videos.
You can monetize a YouTube channel once you have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time (within the past 12 months).
On Facebook, you can monetize videos once you have 10,000 followers and 30,000 one-minute views (in the last 60 days).
The content I share on YouTube is a lot different than the short videos I share on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. I make long-form videos for YouTube that are in-depth tutorials.
They range in length from three to twelve minutes long. The videos are usually shown in real time (aren’t sped up at all) to show exactly how I make all desserts!
I don’t make a ton of money on every YouTube and Facebook video I share. However, some of my videos have gone viral and they continue to generate solid revenue.
While you never know how well a video will perform, if you continue create good quality videos, the views should follow suit.
The money adds up overtime as you continue to share videos. Once you have a solid library of videos you should start to see consistent returns.
Digital Content Contributor
My final source of revenue comes from creating content for media companies. Over the past few years I’ve had a few long-term contracts with different companies, including Hearst and the Food Network.
This differs from a paid partnership because you aren’t obligated to share the content you create on your channels. The deliverable is simply the footage of a cake being made, which will be edited and shared on the company’s social platforms.
These monthly deliverables are fun, challenging, and help push me out of my comfort zone.
Usually I’m proud of content I create, and I almost always share the footage on my own channels once I’ve edited it (even though I don’t have to).
Private Cake Lessons
Private cake lessons were another revenue stream I leveraged when I quit my job. I started teaching private cake lessons in 2019 but stopped teaching them at the end of 2020.
It was an amazing way to connect with fellow bakers. The one-on-one setting in my kitchen made a world of a difference, and I could really help people improve their cake decorating skills.
Teaching private lessons was another revenue stream that I could control. I picked how many lessons I wanted teach a month, and determined what days of the week I would teach.
I also taught larger groups at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan.
While I loved teaching, it was a fixed, static revenue stream. I’m now focusing my efforts on projects that will continue to generate passive income in the future.
Corporate Events / Live Demos
When I realized how much I loved teaching, my private cake lessons slowly evolved into corporate cupcake events.
Someone approached me about doing a corporate event, and a light bulb went off in my head. They were scaleable and quite profitable.
It was so fun to teach so many people at once! While it was a lot of work to prep and clean up after big events, they were totally worth it.
I stopped doing corporate events at the end of 2020 to focus on more evergreen revenue streams.
That’s It Folks!
So, there you have it! That’s my business model as a cake content creator and blogger. It is by no means traditional, and it definitely varies month to month. I’m constantly on my toes, and am happy to say that I’m never bored!!
I embrace the busy months and focus on content creation and strategy when things are quieter.
If you have any questions I didn’t cover, please leave them in the comments section below <3