Blogging, freebies, hard work – and how it all began with a brownie cookbook press and journal mexican chimichangas recipe

I often picture myself lying on a sandy beach with a cocktail in my hand or traipsing round a mediaeval city with a map all in the name of “work”.

And of course I would be so popular that companies would be bombarding me with ads for my site so I could live like a queen the rest of the time.

In reality, in order to make a living from running a blog and social networking accounts you need to be dedicated, hard working and prepared to be asked for a lot of freebies.

Claire jessiman, or the foodie quine as she is better known, started off posting pictures of her carefully crafted recipes on facebook and inundating her friends with posts about where she had recently eaten out.

Following in the footsteps of mary berry, who started off her career as a demonstrator for the hydro board, claire’s mum used to travel the highlands and islands showing people how to cook on electric hobs while her dad was a farmer in the black isle.Foodie quine

But it was not until she was made redundant, after working at the lemon tree in aberdeen, that the stay-at-home mum found she had some spare time.

This allowed her to move away from social media and start a blog where she could keep a diary of her food loving adventures without “boring” her normal followers.

“both my grannies were into baking and were in the WRI. There was always food around me and I was always interested in cooking but I got brownie cookbook from santa one year and that’s kind of like how it started,” she said.

“I used to pour over cook books, but at that time catering or cooking wasn’t seen as a real job. I was basically told I was doing too well at school to ‘just’ pursue a career in food. I loved home economics and did higher food nutrition but the careers advice was basically ‘you are too bright to do that’.Blog social

She added: “after I was made redundant my kids would have been six and three and I was kind of like, ‘they have been in child care it would be quite nice to have a little bit of time with them’.

“I did a few bits and pieces and volunteering both with charities and the kids’ school. But where the blog started was, I was on a yoga retreat in marrakech with a group of girls and one said ‘you are always at foodie events and cooking food and putting it on facebook you should really write a blog’.

“at the time I would have only been on facebook. I certainly wouldn’t have been on twitter or instagram or any of that. So I started with only my friends and family reading the blog and it just grew from there. I mean it was very different then to what it is now.”

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Fast forward six years and claire now has almost 19,000 followers on instagram, more than 11,000 on facebook and nearly 10,000 followers on twitter and has managed to build a brand off the back of her readers which is being lapped up by food and drink companies across the country.

Shops, restaurants, big brands and national chains have all approached claire asking to pay her to be featured on her blog and social media accounts.

These have so far included iceland foods, warburtons, cole & mason, heinz, the works, bertolli, red tractor, tate & lyle, quality meat scotland, scottish shellfish, crisp ‘n’ dry, spam, blue dragon, scottish pelagic sustainability group, jamie oliver bakeware and schwartz.

The foodie quine produced a series of five recipes for lidl scotland in the run up to christmas which were published on the website and printed in the weekly instore leaflets which were distributed across their 99 scottish stores.Social media

Sainsbury’s magazine also featured articles she had written which included one focusing on holidaying in scotland entitled “what to buy and where to eat”.

When claire is not blogging she uses her brand, which has turned her into a “local celebrity”, to carry out food education classes, cookery demonstrations and has hosted a number of events.

She said: “I really wanted a nod to scottish. When I basically sat down and decided to start up a blog I put no thought into it. If I did it again, clearly I would go for something else, because it is so local, it is so doric. I have started to say foodie quine rhymes with wine for those who don’t know how to say it.

“for example when paul hollywood was up he read out my tweet and he said ‘foodie queen’.Foodie quine everyone there was immediately like it’s ‘QUINE’ so that was quite amusing.

“I did think at the point when I was getting the branding done, ‘should I change the name of the blog to make it simple?’ but it’s become known now and I am occasionally seen as a bit of a local celebrity so that can be a bit strange.

“what I have done is added my real name onto the tag line to a few things like facebook but I think it’s safe to say food quine is here to stay like it or not.”

As blogging becomes more and more popular firms are becoming aware that they can market their brand through social media influencers with just the promise of a free meal, beauty product or bottle of gin.

Claire said: “it started as a hobby but I got to the point where I had to decide if it was just that or if I needed to look to see if it was something I could do on a commercial basis.Social media

“they asked me what my business plan was and I had no idea. To me at that point it was just a hobby which had grown arms and legs but I wanted to see if I could make something of it if I could.

“there are still a lot of projects I will get involved with because I am passionate about them, and there is no money changing hands or anything but at the same time it gets a little bit difficult when everyone else in media is getting paid for the work but you are not.

“but you know what, if someone sends me a bottle of gin I can’t pay the mortgage with a bottle of gin if that is all someone has sent me all week.”

And while claire is hoping to grow her business she is adamant she does not want to forget her audience and why they started following her in the first place.Foodie quine

As a result she runs her site www.Foodiequine.Co.Uk and accounts as not only somewhere for people to go to learn about food but also as a place where they can read about all good things happening across the region.

When out and about in aberdeen and aberdeenshire she will often share her experiences of cafes, restaurants, bars, festivals and parks so that others are aware of all the north-east has to offer.

“whether that’s a farm shop doing something good or a retailer is doing something good or an independent restaurant is doing something good I think there are places for all of those but by working with some who are paying for those means I can support the smaller businesses who don’t have the marketing budget behind them.”

So being a blogger – a successful one at that – requires some technical expertise, even if it’s basic and claire says she is in the process of hiring someone to propel her into a new digital realm having built up her business on free site blogger.Foodie quine

She said she was keen to look at how to progress the brand but said she is not sure if she is quite up for turning into a video blogger (vlogger).

So what other pearls of wisdom has she uncovered on her delicious dinner odyssey and what does the future hold for our very own foodie quine?

She added: “one piece of advice that sticks with me was from craig wilson at eat on the green who said ‘be careful you don’t become a busy fool.’

“there is a lot of value in investing in blog coverage. Where you could have once said that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip wrappers the internet allows for evergreen content.

“it’s also difficult to know where my brand will take me in the future. The whole vlogging thing is massive at the moment but I am not hugely comfortable in front of the camera.”

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So it seems like the foodie quine has all the makings of a good recipe. All it takes to become the next blogger of the moment is the right mixture of business acumen, a little bit of technical know how and a few good ingredients.