How Jessica Holmes Earns Six Figures Working On Her Blog Part-Time

How Jessica Holmes Earns Six Figures Working on Her Blog Part-Time

One of the reasons why blogging appeals to so many people is because you can make money with your hobbies. Jessica Holmes launched her dessert recipe blog as a creative outlet and continued working on it as a side hustle for six years.

Eventually, Jessica’s income from Sweetest Menu passed the amount she made with her job, allowing her to leave her job. Today, Jessica earns a comfortable six-figure income, works only part-time hours, and enjoys the freedom and flexibility that blogging provides.

In this interview, Jessica shares the story behind her blog, how she grew it, and what she’s doing today to continue moving forward.

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Jessica’s blog started as a hobby, with no intention of making money from it.
  • She worked on it for six years as a side hustle until her blogging income exceeded the income from her job.
  • Jessica emphasizes the importance of believing in yourself.
  • Going forward, she’s focusing on video content and creating her first product.

Overview

Business Name: Sweetest Menu
Website URL: https://www.sweetestmenu.com/
Founder: Jessica Holmes
Business Location: Online (Australia)
Year Started: 2014
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 2

How much revenue does the business generate?

The blog makes over six figures a year in profit. I also only work part-time since having my kids. 

Tell us about yourself and your business.

My name is Jess and I’m a food blogger based in Melbourne, Australia. 

Sweetest Menu focuses on easy and approachable dessert recipes. I love to share the joy of baking with people across the globe.

I started my baking blog Sweetest Menu in 2014 when I was working full-time as a copywriter. I quickly fell in love with the process of recipe testing, taking photos, and sharing content.

After six years as a side hustle, I was able to quit my job and pursue blogging full-time in 2020. 

Sweetest Menu

How does your business make money?

My main income stream is digital advertising. The more people that come to my blog and see the ads on my site – the more money I make.

I also make a small amount of income through affiliate programs and brand partnerships. 

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

Originally, Sweetest Menu was a pure passion project. I started it as a hobby just to do something creative with my time outside of my full-time job.

I have always loved food and at the time, I was obsessed with food blogs. Since I was teaching myself how to bake, I thought it would be fun to share my cooking adventures. 

I was very shy about it though and kept it a secret from family and friends for at least six months. 

Cookie from Sweetest Menu
Photo courtesy of Jessica Holmes

How and when did you launch the business?

Sweetest Menu started in 2014, but it was not making any money until 2016. After 18 months of blogging I had grown a small readership so I decided to experiment with a few ads on the site. The first month I made $50 – I was ecstatic!

From there, I continued to grow my audience and my income. It took me six years to grow the blog, but by 2019 it was making more money than my day job. 

How much money did you invest to start the business?

Almost zero! I didn’t need much money to initially start the business. I used a free blogging platform, bought my domain name for cheap, and used an old camera I already had. 

Over time I slowly invested in the business – moving the blog over to WordPress and purchasing a better camera, lenses, backdrops, and kitchen tools. 

In 2020, I paid for a custom theme design and have been able to slowly build out a small team to help me run the business. 

Honey Cake from Sweetest Menu
Photo courtesy of Jessica Holmes

What was your first year in business like?

The first year of business was fun! I had zero strategy or goals and just did whatever I felt like. My photos were ugly but my recipes worked, and I started to find my audience.

Once the blog became a business, it achieved slow but steady growth. Since I was still employed, I wasn’t reliant on the blog income to pay my way in those early years. But as my readership grew, I was motivated to keep going! 

Since I didn’t have any kids (or many other hobbies) I was able to invest plenty of time into the blog even as a side hustle. I was easily putting in 25-30 hours a week for the first five years of the business. 

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

Initially, most of my growth was organic and through the tight-knit food blogging community. Then social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram become more prominent. Now the biggest driver of traffic for my blog is SEO or Google traffic.

In 2016, I had my first SEO audit, which helped me prioritise good search practices when creating my content. I have since had multiple audits and each time I learn something new. I try to continually grow and adapt to make my content the best it can be. 

I also use email marketing to grow and nurture my readership. And I still personally answer all the comments that come through my website and social media. I try to offer fast customer service and help people with any baking queries or questions. 

Tell us about your team.

I have two freelance virtual assistants who help me with some of my business admin and social media scheduling. I also have a WordPress support team that looks after the technical aspects of the blog – which has been a wonderful investment! 

What are your future plans for the business?

Sweetest Menu is continuing to grow and expand. I look forward to adding more amazing recipes this year and focusing more on video content. I’d also love to launch my first product soon – stay tuned!

What is your social media strategy? 

For years, I was able to rely on my photography to gain success on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. However, with the changing algorithms and priorities, I’ve struggled to move to a video-first strategy. This is something I’m looking to tackle in 2024. 

It’s also time to get my face in front of the camera more. I’ve always been more behind-the-scenes but to be real and authentic, I’m trying to pop into view more often.

Social media should always be two-way, so I make sure I chat with my audience. I also do polls, ask questions, and encourage audience participation where I can. This not only benefits me, because I see and hear first-hand from my readers, but helps foster real, strong connections. 

Do you target organic search traffic? 

My first priority is always what my readers want. But I do try to format my content in a way that is Google-friendly to get more organic traffic. I’m currently focused on providing the most comprehensive posts I can.

Since the Google algorithm or rules are always changing, it’s really important to keep up-to-date with what’s happening. I love to listen to the Niche Pursuits podcast as they do a news wrap up each week that helps keep me in the loop.

How did you make the transition from side hustle to full-time?

Once my business was out-earning my day job, I was confident I could move to doing it full-time. At first, I arranged with my boss to drop down to four days to give me more time for the blog.

After six months, when I saw my readership and my income was consistent, I quit my day job. 

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

Once my blog started to generate more income than my day job when I was technically only working on it part-time, I knew it had so much potential! 

It’s always a risk but I felt I could safely transition to doing it full time. And I was reassured that I would be able to rejoin the corporate world if I needed to.

Chocolate Butter Cake from Sweetest Menu
Photo courtesy of Jessica Holmes

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

Back yourself! It is so easy to doubt yourself, but one of the best things you can do as a solopreneur is to believe in yourself. You can do this!

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Find people who can help you! There’s nothing as valuable as expert advice – especially if it can prevent you from making the same mistakes someone else has already made. 

What motivates you to keep moving forward?

I love hearing from my readers. When someone contacts me and shares that they made one of my recipes, it warms my soul. 

Growth and numbers are motivating too, but seeing the joy my recipes bring to real families across the globe is what gets me up in the morning. 

What are the best and worst parts of being an entrepreneur/founder?

The best part is the extreme flexibility. You can start and finish work whenever you like – take a day off if it’s required or leave your emails untouched for the weekend. 

The worst part…to be honest, it’s pretty great! 

What is your favorite quote?

Comparison is the thief of joy. 

If you had to start from scratch, where would you begin?

I would find a blogger who you admire and see if they can help you get started! There’s so much information out there, and it can help to have someone point you in the right direction. 

Having a foundational understanding of both photography and SEO would also be extremely beneficial if you wanted to start a food blog today. Oh and video! If you can master video, you’ll be on the path to success!

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

I love listening to the Niche Pursuits podcast and YouTube channel. It’s wonderful for those looking to grow their blog or website and keep up with what’s happening in the world of SEO. 

I’m also a committed listener to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast and That Was Delicious is a great one for foodies! 

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