How to become a freelance food critic

Do you have strong opinions about food? Maybe you often assess dishes for flavour, quality, and overall presentation? If so, a career as a freelance food critic might be an excellent choice for you. 

Food critics get paid to eat and judge cuisine. But if you see this career in your future, you’ll need a few skills and strong dedication to succeed. If you’re wondering how to get started, we can help. 

This guide covers how to become a freelance food critic, including:

  • Everything you’ll need 
  • How to set up 
  • How to organise your career 
  • How to earn money 

What you need to become a freelance food critic

There are plenty of opportunities for a food critic. But what exactly does the job entail? Food critics review dishes based on the following: 

  • Flavour 
  • Appearance 
  • Quality 
  • Pairings
  • Atmosphere

Let’s go over what you’ll need to get started. 

Research the market 

To thrive in this industry, you’ll need to know it well. So, conduct market research to learn about the food criticism environment. With your research, consider looking into: 

  • The market size and demand – how much does it earn annually, and how many people work in the industry?
  • The major competitors – popular or award-winning food critics
  • Earning opportunities – companies and publications that hire freelance critics
  • Your target audience – who are you writing for; who reads culinary reviews?

Develop the right skills and education

You may have a natural talent for cooking and reviewing food. But it’s easier to succeed as a food critic if you develop the right skills and earn concrete qualifications. 

Here are some essential skills for food critics:

  • Cooking abilities – it’s important to know a lot about food to write about it well. A culinary degree or course in food science will expand your knowledge. Otherwise, read culinary books or gain experience in a kitchen.   
  • Writing abilities – You’ll also need strong writing skills to create convincing food criticism. Consider reading On Writing Well to sharpen your sentences.  
  • Decision making and argumentation – To criticise food, you’ll need to be able to make precise judgements on the strengths and weaknesses of each dish. 
  • Photography – Readers typically expect a visual to accompany food reviews. So, you may want to brush up on your photography skills to enhance your work.  

Find your niche 

To stand out as a freelance food critic, you may want to find a speciality that distinguishes you. Do you have a particular culinary interest or a unique angle you could take with your writing? For example, you might focus on:

  • A speciality diet – such as vegetarian, vegan dishes, or gluten free.  
  • A particular culture or cuisine – like Italian, Japanese, or something more niche.
  •  A unique audience – such as the picky eater, easy-to-make dishes, or luxury cuisine. 

Start a food blog 

Before you earn paid criticism opportunities, you’ll need to earn a bit of experience and practice. 

With a website, you can publish your written reviews to a blog, develop an audience, and show potential clients your talents. The blog gives you somewhere to put your criticism and showcase your work. 

First, design your website using a tool like WordPress or Squarespace. Then, visit restaurants in your area or try popular recipes. When you write critiques, take pictures of the dishes to accompany the article. 

You may want to post several times a week to maintain and grow your blog. Consider using a content calendar to keep you on track. 

Write a business plan 

As you plan your path to freelance food criticism, write your ideas into a business plan to guide you. This plan can cover your research and niche while defining your values and goals. 

Include a starting budget in your business plan to outline how much you plan to spend and earn for your business

How to set up your freelance food critic career

To turn your food criticism into a freelance career, you’ll need to follow a few essential steps. 

Register your business

Start by registering yourself as a sole trader through the UK government website

Sole traders are self-employed people who work for themselves. They can keep all their profits after-tax rather than earning a salary from an employer. But they’re also financially and legally responsible for their business.

If you work freelance, the government may already recognise you as a sole trader. 

Still, you’ll need to register if any of the following are true:

  • You earn over £1,000 annually 
  • You must prove self-employment for benefits 
  • You wish to make Class 2 National Insurance Payments

As a sole trader, you’ll also need to pay taxes based on how much you earn. To do this, submit a Self Assessment tax return

Protect your business 

Copyright protection can secure your original food criticism work. Luckily, original or intellectual property automatically earns copyright in the UK

So, if you notice someone profiting from your work without permission, you can hold them accountable. 

Apart from copyright protection, you may want to insure your business to shield it from financial risk. You might find insurance for your digital data or any expensive equipment you use. 

How to organise your freelance operations 

Structured operations and strong time management will help you flourish in your freelance food critic career. We’ll go over the main things to think about.

Set your rates 

First, consider how much you’ll charge for your work. Your earnings may vary depending on the project and contract. But, it’ll be challenging to make your business profitable if you don’t form clear expectations

For example, you might charge by article or by word. Knowing your rates will make it easier to negotiate with clients. 

If a sponsorship offers you £200, you can gauge if this job is worth it or negotiate with your typical fee. 

With that said, leave some flexibility in your fees as some clients may have set rates of their own. A magazine might offer writers £100 for articles, so asking for more might be out of the question. 

Schedule your workday

Since you don’t have a boss guiding you, be sure to create a reliable schedule to organise your day

You might want to use a tool like Google Workspace to keep your calendar, meetings, documents, and communications together. 

Then, you could use a project management platform like monday to stay on top of everything you need to do. 

See also: How to prioritise workload as a freelancer.

Manage your finances 

It’s also essential to organise your financial management to remain aware of the money coming in and out of your business. 

To start, you may want to open a business current account. With this current account explicitly made for businesses, you won’t risk mixing your personal finances with your freelance ones

Beyond that, it’s important to track and understand your financial habits. A tool like Countingup can help with that. 

Countingup is the business current account and accounting software in one app. It automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for thousands of self-employed people across the UK. Plus, it can simplify your tax process.

This app offers great features like:

  • Automatic expense categorisation and receipt capture
  • Ongoing cash flow insights 
  • Year-round tax estimates
  • Unlimited and quick invoicing on the go

Save yourself hours of accounting admin so you can focus on growing your business. 

Start your three-month free trial today

How to earn money as a freelance food critic

Running a food blog is a great way to get yourself out there. But if you want to turn your food blog into a lucrative business, you’ll need to find sources of income. We’ll explain a few ways how. 

Develop a personal brand

Personal branding will help you grow visibility with potential clients. You can use a consistent tone, design, and a story or values that make you memorable. 

For example, you might focus your blog on a particular value or type of cuisine, such as vegetation, organic, or traditional Italian dishes. 

Then pick a colour scheme and use that across your website and communication channels to create an identity for your brand

With the right personal branding tactics, you’ll represent yourself professionally. As a result, people will more willingly approach you with work opportunities. 

Social media marketing

Social media marketing can help you expand your brand and engage with your target audience. You could use platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to post pictures and videos of your meals with snippets of your criticism

Additionally, social media posts could develop your brand personality.

If you want to develop a professional and knowledgeable voice, consider posting cooking tips or your favourite recipes. If you want to appear funny and personable, you might share anecdotes, cooking fails, and memes. 

As long as you post regularly and consistently, you can grow your audience on these platforms and lead them to your food critic blog. Be sure to interact with relevant users and reach out to people within the industry. 

Sponsorships and influencer marketing

Turn your following into earning opportunities as you grow your brand. The stronger your food critic reputation, the easier it will be to earn cash from it. 

You may seek out sponsorships or influencer deals to promote the products or services of relevant organisations and companies

Restaurants, food delivery companies, or appliance companies may pay you to post about them. Plus, you could take on partnerships and affiliations to mention in your food blog. 

Build a portfolio 

As you write more reviews, collect your best work into a portfolio. You can share this file with potential clients or present it publicly on your website. 

Say a magazine reaches out to you for a freelance piece. They might ask to see a writing sample. A winning portfolio can help you convince them you’re the right person for the job.

Network within the food industry

Networking is the best way to find clients as a freelancer. Consider using LinkedIn and attending food industry events to build relationships with people in the media and food business. 

You may spark a conversation with the editor of a food-focused magazine at a wine tasting or meet a restaurant owner at a soft open. The more people you know within the industry, the more paying opportunities you’ll encounter. 

To join a beneficial community, think about joining an organisation like the Guild of Food Writers

Pitch yourself to publications 

Pitching your food criticism to media sources can lead to paid opportunities. You may want to reach out to several publications that fall within your criticism niche. Here are a few options you could contact:

There are plenty more food-based publications you could consider, both big and small. If you want to build your professional brand, first you may want to reach out to small or local journals. 

When you pitch to magazines, try to make it as easy for them to accept your proposition. Introduce yourself briefly, outlining your niche, main qualifications, and previous publications. 

Then suggest one or two potential topics you write that fit within their journal. Finish your pitch with an estimated due date. Remaining reliable and organised can help you secure jobs that build your income.   

Turn your food criticism skills into a successful freelance career

Hopefully, this article can guide you on towards a successful career as a freelance food critic. With a bit of planning and commitment, you can turn your love for food and flavour into a steady income. Remember you’ll just need to:

  • Gather all the essential knowledge and sharpen your skills 
  • Register as a sole trader and prep for taxes
  • Organise your daily operations and finances
  • Build your brand to find paying clients 

To make the most of your freelance lifestyle, you may want to check out our article on how to stay motivated as a freelancer next.