Mandurah food blogger Claire McEwen makes $300k a year

ENTREPRENEUR: Blogger Claire McEwen says pasta and chicken breast recipes always do well. Photos: Supplied.
ENTREPRENEUR: Blogger Claire McEwen says pasta and chicken breast recipes always do well. Photos: Supplied.

Claire McEwen says she wouldn't go on Master Chef because she would be crying by the first episode.

"I like to stay home in my pajamas and cook food," the Mandurah mum says.

When her food blog, Sprinkles and Sprouts first started making money, it was $400 a month. Now it makes $300,000 a year and it's growing - and she's still cooking in her pajamas.

She's not exactly sure how her blog took off but says there was definitely a lot of luck mixed in with a lot of hard work.

"I wish I had a plan and formula as to how it works because then I could write a blog on how to become a blogging millionaire," Claire says, laughing.

A high school science teacher by trade, she started the site sprinklesandsprouts.com to keep busy while her then husband worked FIFO and her children, Arthur and Wilf, were young.

"I would include with the recipes, personal stories about what the kids were up to - something my family on the other side of the world could read or their dad while he was away."

At the time she didn't dream the site would make her money but thought down the track she could perhaps use it to spruik cooking utensils.

Enough to pay for school fees

When her youngest child started school, she wanted to contribute and set herself a goal of somehow making enough money to pay for school fees.

In 2016 she enrolled in the Mumpreneur course that was being offered by the City of Mandurah, run by Secret Harbour entrepreneur Belle Lockerby.

"That changed everything for me," Claire says. "Belle had so many ideas, she saw things big, she gave me confidence to do more and to try more."

In 2018 she went to a blogging conference in the USA which opened her eyes to an industry she had no idea existed.

"I found out that people were not only making money but employing others to blog or do their photos, videos, be their PAs. It's still not quite an industry over here in Australia. I came back with so many ideas and so much I wanted to do."

Jet lag and tea

She returned from the USA not just with ideas but with jet lag, which turned out to be her blessing in disguise.

Since she woke at 3am anyway, she would start working at 4am and before her children woke for the day, she had put in a solid 2-3 hours work, drinking tea so she wouldn't wake the children with the coffee machine.

Naan bread and homemade gravy

"Back then I posted whatever I fancied and what my family liked to eat. Now I write about what people search for."

Recipes that always do well for her are pasta and chicken breast dinners. Last year during the height of COVID lockdowns, readers also couldn't get enough of naan bread and homemade gravy.

A screenshot from sprinklesandsprouts.com.au

A screenshot from sprinklesandsprouts.com.au

Until COVID hit she was posting three times a week. She explains the process and it's a lot more work than it sounds. First she thinks of a recipe, then makes it, tests it a second time and if everything works, the third time she will try to photograph the process. That's a lot of food being prepared and she is always giving her friends containers of it.

When Claire started posting, readers followed bloggers and were interested in their personal lives.

"Now people are not invested in you, they just want to make dinner," Claire says. "They don't want to know about how the goat ate the pajamas."

Working with an agency

Ad agency Media Vine has been taking care of advertising on her site for six years, giving her a percentage of commission. The agency requires a minimum traffic level of 25,000 people a month to take on a blogger. The percentage goes up every year as a loyalty bonus. When Claire's website hit 5 million hits a month, her commission went up another 5 per cent and when she hit 10 million, it went up another 2 per cent.

"I'm conscious I work in an industry that could change at any time. If the bottom falls out of blogging, I want to have enough in the bank."

She says she wouldn't go back to teaching because working for herself lets her be there for all her children's highlights and lowlights - and she can work in her pajamas, of course.