Earning

Sally's Baking Addiction blogger began with a side hustle: Now 'I support my entire family through this business'

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Key Points
  • Sally McKenney founded the blog Sally's Baking Addiction in 2011.
  • McKenney went from getting 100 page views a day in March 2012 to half-a-million a day now.
  • "What surprised me the most is how it can be hard to be your own boss and make your own schedule," she says.

Google any recipe and you'll be fed links to big-name sites including Food Network, AllRecipes, and New York Times Cooking. Close to the top of the result page, you'll probably also find a link to the blog Sally's Baking Addiction.

Sally McKenney started the blog in 2011, and over the last decade it has gained comparable visibility to some of the most profitable cooking brands. Search "pavlova recipe," "pecan pie recipe," or "lemon bar recipe," for example, and Sally's is among the top three results.

McKenney, 36, was working in finance in Baltimore when she started the blog as a side hustle. Now it's her full-time gig. "I support my entire family through this business," she says.

She employs six people to help her run the site but still develops all the recipes herself.

'I needed an outlet'

Before making the blog her full-time gig, McKenney spent 25 hours a week on her side hustle, in addition to 40 hours a week at her 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 would bake for her friends, who would then ask her for the recipes. Instead of sending them out individually, she just compiled them onto a website and sent that link around.

"No other thought went into it aside from, 'This would be fun,'" she says.

I support my entire family through this business.
Sally McKenney
founder of Sally's Baking Addiction

The site gained traction over time as she added more recipes. She also started writing general baking advice in order to answer questions readers left in the comments.

McKenney went from getting 100 page views a day in March 2012 to half a million a day now, she says.

That devoted audience has opened up financial opportunities: She earns money from ads on her blog and has written three cookbooks.

'It's very hard to be your own boss'

Lots of people who dream of transforming their side hustle into their sole source of income think of the freedom as one of the biggest appeals. But for McKenney, the additional flexibility was challenging. "What surprised me the most is how it can be hard to be your own boss and make your own schedule," she says. "You have to have a lot of discipline."

Transitioning into self-employment, McKenney was struck by how hard it was to manage 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 is no ceiling, but there is no one behind you to hold you accountable."

To make it work, she set some ground rules for herself that she says can also help other aspiring entrepreneurs.

1. Schedule breaks

"That sounds silly, but if you're doing something you love, it's really easy to get lost in it, " she says.

Overworking yourself can result in you doing subpar work. "If you're working at 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 accomplish 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.

"It's easy for me to get lost in Instagram and compare myself to what other creators are doing and then start to get this negative mindset," she says. "You can go down a rabbit hole of negative self talk."

Now she limits her time on social media and just tries to focus on her work.

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