Google any recipe and you’ll get links to well-known sites including Food Network, AllRecipes, and New York Times Cooking. Near the top of the results page, you’ll likely also find a link to Sally’s Baking Addiction blog.
Sally McKenney started the blog in 2011 and over the past decade it has gained exposure on par with some of the most profitable kitchen brands. Search for “pavlova recipe,” “pecan pie recipe,” or “lemon sea bass recipe,” for example, and Sally’s is among the top three results.
McKenney, 36, was working in finance in Baltimore when she started blogging as a side hustle. Now it’s his full-time gig. “I support my whole family through this business,” she says.
She employs six people to help run the site but still develops all the recipes herself.
“I needed an outlet”
Before making blogging his full-time job, McKenney spent 25 hours a week on his side, in addition to 40 hours a week at his job in finance.
“What I was doing [full-time] didn’t really tap into my creative side, so I needed an outlet,” she says.
On the weekends, she cooked for her friends, who then asked her for the recipes. Instead of sending them individually, she simply compiled them on a website and sent this link.
“No other thoughts went into it other than, ‘That would be fun,'” she says.
The site has grown in popularity over time as it has added more recipes. She also started writing general baking tips to answer questions readers left in the comments.
McKenney has gone from 100 page views a day in March 2012 to half a million a day now, she says.
This dedicated following has opened up financial opportunities: she earns money from advertisements on her blog and has written three cookbooks.
“It’s very difficult to be your own boss”
Many people who dream of turning their side hustle into their sole source of income see freedom as one of the biggest draws. But for McKenney, the added flexibility was difficult. “What surprised me the most was how difficult it can be to be your own boss and set your own schedule,” she says. “You have to have a lot of discipline.”
Transitioning to freelance work, McKenney was struck by the difficulty of managing her time.
“A lot of people would say you can work whenever you want,” she says. “You can work as much or as little. There’s no cap, but there’s no one behind you to hold you accountable.”
To make it work, she set herself some ground rules that she says can help other budding entrepreneurs as well.
1. Schedule breaks
“It sounds silly, but if you’re doing something you love, it’s very easy to get lost in it,” she says.
Overwork can cause you to do below average work. “If you’re in a creative job and you have to be creative, it’s hard to tap into that if you’re so mentally exhausted,” she says.
Scheduling breaks into your day can help you complete tasks with a clear mind.
2. Close Instagram
For McKenney, social media is a way to conduct research and see what other bakers are doing. But it can also backfire on you.
“It’s easy for me to get lost in Instagram and compare myself to what other creators are doing, and then start having that negative mindset,” she says. “You can go down a rabbit hole of negative self-talk.”
Now she is limiting her time on social media and just trying to focus on her work.
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