Thanks for taking the time to chat with SIW. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog.
Shumaila : I am Shumaila, the writer, baker, cook, photographer and stylist behind the blog The Novice Housewife. The Novice Housewife is my online collection of recipes and stories and my space to put my love for food photography and styling to good use. It is my space to rant, to create, to explore my creative side, to experiment. I love baking and decorating and have recently opened a home based business for customized cakes, cupcakes, cookies under the name “The Pink CakeBox” in Chandigarh, India.
What makes your blog so unique and why should people read it?
Shumaila : Well, I think every blog is unique in its own way. It has a bit of the blogger’s individual personality imbedded in it and since each individual is different, each blog is different- in its style, writing, the kind of recipes it has (if it’s a food blog) and the way all of it is presented on the world wide web. How I think my blog is different- well probably the way I write and present it. Most of my posts carry a back story, or a little snippet from my life- my blog is my diary too. Not a really personal diary since I don’t want my private life that public but small snippets and memories related to the food I am sharing. I try to be as honest and frank as I can with each recipe, and you will occasionally also see recipes that quite did not make it in the taste department. Probably that’s why you should read it- to get to know a little about me. And hope you enjoy reading it.
How often do you blog?
Shumaila : I try to blog at least twice a week. I have a series called Garam Masala Tuesdays that features an Indian recipe every Tuesday. And I try to get in another post during the week as well. If I have been extremely lucky in the kitchen and dished out more successful dishes, the readers of my blog get three posts in a week, but sometimes life gets the best of me and the blog takes a back seat.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
Shumaila : The Most Dangerous Chocolate Mug Cake recipe. The post includes a recipe for a 5 minute nutella mug cake, which is not only a breeze to make, it is also super delicious and every person on a weight loss program’s worst nightmare. But its been hugely popular. Nutella. Chocolate. Decadent Cake in Five minutes. What else do you need.
What do you find most challenging about blogging?
Shumaila : To constantly create something new is a challenge. I have to look for inspiration everywhere- pinterest, forums, restaurant menus, cooking shows, parties, facebook, my childhood. Sometimes I get pretty excited about an idea of a dish, and make it, photograph it only to find out it tastes horrible. It is disappointing. Also since food tastes best when fresh, finding time to shoot a freshly cooked dish becomes difficult. Sometimes I only have a 5 minute window to quickly shoot the dish being served. That means a lot of pre planning in terms of styling the shot and setting all my gear up.
What are some of your favorite author blogs and why?
Shumaila : I have many. For photography I love to trawl Playful Cooking, Journey Kitchen, Indian Simmer, Local Milk, Veronica Studer, What Katie Ate, Cook Republic, Tutti Dolci, Bakers Royale to name a few. I am sure I am forgetting many others.
For recipes Sinfully Spicy, ecurry.com, Kevin and Amanda, Add a pinch, Sweetapolita (big blog crush on her), Sweetopia, Sally’s Baking Addictions, My Baking Addiction and the list really is endless.
I also love reading through Indu gets cooking, Bam’s Kitchen, Farm on Plate and Food, Pleasure and Health, Kiran Tarun and found in them some great virtual friends.
What are your favorite books that you would recommend SIW family?
Shumaila : I might sound like a food geek but my favorite books are cookbooks. For cake recipes I love The Cake Bible. For bread making Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Tartine Bread. Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan is another favorite. Besides cookbooks I have enjoyed reading the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adam, The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini. I love my copy of “All My friends are Dead” which was given to be my friend and is a treasured piece in my library.
Can we really make a living by Blogging? If yes, how we can do that?
Shumaila : Well, you can and some people have successfully done it as well. But it takes a lot of work and commitment and it might be slow at first.
For me, I will be honest; the blog is more a source of pocket money. The money hasn’t been consistent enough to make a living out of it. Some months are good, some not so much. But through the blog I have learnt a lot more about myself and that has made me foray into my own baking start up and in a way the blog has helped me do it. Probably without the blog to record my day to day experiments, I would not have gained the experience, knowledge and confidence to start my own thing.
But like I said before, yes you can actually make a living by blogging. There are a lot of advertising platforms that you can tie up with and some of them pay good money. Blogher is one such platform for women bloggers. They keep doing campaigns and if they find your blog suitable, some of the campaigns pay good money. If you pay attention to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you can get quite a lot of page views to your site and google adsense would love you for it and pay accordingly. I only recently started paying attention to SEO, but even now sometimes I can’t make a post a SEO rich post because I feel it restricts my writing. If I have to share a memory about a food I can’t have the focus keyword appearing 10 times in one sentence so that google search result shows it. It’s a choice I have made. Some articles I can find a balance between the two, but for some I just let it be about the food and not about the hits. But that is my personal choice and if someone else does want to really make money they can really take advantage of SEO and other ways to promote their website and get a huge fan following. But remember content is king. Without good content there is only so much that promoting and advertising can help.
My photography on the blog has also on occasions landed me with magazines or other sites ready to buy images and recipes which can be a substantial amount. But then it’s not everyday and it hasn’t been consistent for me to make blogging my sole profession.
What advice would you give to young women readers of SIW who want to follow a similar career path as you?
Shumaila : Be original. Be true to yourself. Credit people wherever you can. And accept that you have to start somewhere. Do not compare yourself with established blogs that have lakhs of viewership. And blog because you love it.
With respect to food blogs, I understand everybody can’t be a great photographer but try to present the food nicely. It makes a huge difference to your viewership. I had horrible photos earlier on my blog- used flash, sometimes my phone to click pictures, no styling, horrible close ups and yellow bulb lighting. But when I started improving my photography there was a huge change in the readership I got. Plus with today’s success of image rich sites like Pinterest, instagram, tumblr, and foodgawker it’s important to have a decent photo to go along with your recipe. It needn’t be great but it should be good. People eat with their eyes first and even if your recipe is excellent, it might not get the attention you like if it’s not presented well. So just take care of that.
And remember blog because you enjoy it.
Blog URL : novicehousewife.com
All images are property of “Shumaila” and required permissions have been taken to publish it on www.smartindianwomen.com website.
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