If you’re always the one at the office party or cookout who is always being asked for your recipes, think twice before revealing your secret ingredients. You could be paid for that! Becoming a professional recipe developer is a fun and creative way to earn a side hustle or even launch a new career. Recipe developers work for a variety of companies, from newspapers to magazines to food brands. They are mostly freelance positions and are paid by the recipe. Most food companies today are looking to connect with their customers online, and providing recipes featuring their products is a popular choice. There are literally millions of recipes out there, and someone had to come up with them. For you, that means an unlimited amount of potential gigs. Not all of them pay well (or at all), so finding your niche can be a little tricky.
When I landed my first regular recipe development job, I had absolutely no training in culinary arts or journalism. I didn’t even have any experience with other companies! You truly do not need to be a famous food blogger or even have a large audience to start pitching your recipe writing services. All you need is a love of cooking and a little persistence. Here are 5 steps to get you started
Start a food blog
While you don’t need the most beautiful or popular food blog, you will need some samples of your work. Setting up a blog is a cheap and easy way to accomplish this. Not only is it a living, breathing portfolio of your work, it’s a way for potential clients to find you. Aim to have about 10 recipe posts ready before launching your blog. You’ll want a rich sample of different dishes. If you’re interested in going with a particular niche, such as slow cooker recipes, feel free to stick to that.
If you already have a food blog, make sure you have a “Hire Me” page in your main menu. All this page needs is a picture of you and any services you would like to be paid for. Some examples include original recipe development, food photography, food styling, social media management, etc.
Break out that camera
To truly stand out to potential clients, you’ll need to include pictures with your recipes. It does not matter if you’ve come up with the most delicious lasagna in the world. If the dish looks blurry and gray in the picture, no one will be interested. We first eat with our eyes, so the pictures matter. That being said, don’t throw down thousands for the best DSLR camera just yet. You can still take beautiful, bright, clean pictures with a point and shoot camera or even an iPhone.
Start by looking on popular food blogs or Pinterest for inspiration. Take note of colors, food placement and styling that you like. Aim to always shoot in natural light and have fun with it. Once you’re happy with your pictures, use a free service like PicMonkey to edit them. There are plenty of YouTube videos to teach you exactly what to look for.
Practice and practice
Just like with any skill, the only way to get better at cooking and photography is practice. Pinterest is great for recipe inspiration. If you’re at a restaurant, glance at the menu and try to recreate the dish at home. There are thousands of food bloggers out there, so you need to hone your skills to stand out.
When writing the recipe, try to keep the instructions as simple as possible. Limit each step to no more than 2-3 sentences. Always proofread your work to make sure the recipe flows, and you’re not jumping from one task to another and back again.
Now that you’ve built up a solid portfolio comes the fun part – pitching! It’s helpful to remember that pitching is truly just a numbers game. The more you pitch, the more jobs you’ll receive. In the beginning, I’d recommend pitching 10 companies per day. I know that sounds like a lot of work (and it is!), but it’s the fastest way to get your new career up and running.
If you’re not sure who to pitch, think global and act local. Start by pitching local newspapers, magazines and companies in your city. My first recipe development job was with our local parenting magazine, and the editor loved that I was a local mom. I’ve now worked with them for years.
Another way to get noticed is to reach out to local press. The morning news shows often have cooking demonstrations, and you never know when they’re looking for new talent. Email producers at all the news outlets to start building up your resume.
In your pitch, introduce yourself and make a mention of why you’d like to work with this particular company. Give them a genuine compliment, such as you love reading this column every Sunday or cook with this product every week. Then provide a link to your blog and explain what ideas you had for this company. Always keep the focus on the company’s needs and how you could meet them.
When sending pitches, the most crucial step is the follow-up. When I was first starting out, this was my biggest mistake. When I didn’t hear back from a company, I just assumed that meant they were not interested in me.
The truth is that people are busy, especially editors. They could receive hundreds of emails in a week or day, so don’t think that an unanswered letter has anything to do with you. Keep track of your pitches so you can send friendly follow-ups on the regular.
After I send a pitch, I always check-in 1 week later, then 2 weeks, then 1 month and monthly after that. I aim to keep following-up until I receive an answer. I keep these emails short and friendly. I want to be noticed, but not for being a stalker.
Landing your first recipe development job is the hardest part, but following these steps will get you there. Once you receive your first one, the next will be much easier. As you start building up your client base, companies will start coming to you!
Carrie Madormo is a freelance health writer and recipe developer, as well as a registered nurse. Her work has been featured on Livestrong.com, MetroParent and The Healthy Mom’s Magazine. She shares her tips for creating a freelance career from home on her blog, The Healthy Work at Home Mom. Carrie lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and 2 children.
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