By Marco Santana
Dennis Littley doesn’t exactly like to prepare elaborate meals for himself. He’ll usually get by on a sandwich or some eggs.
But when the camera rolls in his makeshift home studio, the veteran chef — who has prepared food in executive suites, upscale restaurants and lunchroom cafeterias — comes alive.
“Chefs are definitely egotists and we perform for people,” said Littley, 61. “We love to make people happy. It’s where I get my joy from.”
Littley shoots the video footage at his Kissimmee home and posts them to a blog, Ask Chef Dennis, that attracts up to 150,000 page views in a month.
He has become part of a growing number of Central Florida residents who have turned blogging into a paying gig. It has become such a trend locally that a conference about blogs, FLBlogCon, that features several area bloggers returns next month for its fifth year.
Littley said the Web has created an avenue for more people than ever to get noticed.
“More are getting published that we would never have seen before,” he said. “There is a lot of talent out there. For just about every topic, there are people sharing things.”
In Central Florida, that has meant bloggers who cover topics as wide-ranging as Disney, food, fashion and travel, along with many others.
FLBlogCon organizer Bess Auer, who trains bloggers through her website Gotta Get Blogging, has watched the conference grow modestly from a 100-seat gathering in its first year to now selling 350 tickets.
An English teacher for 17 years, Auer started the conference, held at Full Sail University, when she failed to find any nearby blogging conferences. She said her transition from educating students to educating bloggers has been a natural one.
“Most who start blogging do so because they are passionate about what they blog about,” said Auer, who also runs the Florida Swim Network blog, which highlights swim programs across Florida. “They find some enjoyment out of it. They quickly find out that it’s a small world.”
But it can also be a lucrative one.
Jeannette Johnson, 32, has been at the helm of J’s Everyday Fashion, a fashion blog that features clothing and fashion every day.
Her work has attracted enough visits to draw advertising from some high-profile fashion companies and department stores..
The former marketer says she has earned $700,000 in revenue since the start of 2013, with about half coming from advertising and sponsorships. She said she wanted to make fashion journalism more realistic, so she started J’s Everyday Fashion in 2010.
“People can tell when a blogger is in it for the money, and I think people read my blog and think, ‘No, that’s not why she shows up every day,'” she said. “I keep it authentic and I think that cuts through in my blog.”
Johnson, who considers herself a “baby entrepreneur” because she does not have to reinvest her earnings into anything other than new clothes, said she incurs very few costs because of her blog.
She admits she had to adjust to becoming a full-time blogger, just as family and friends needed to come around to believing it was a worthwhile job.
But as she learned more about the business side of blogging, she realized she had become an entrepreneur.
“In the beginning, it was strange that I was literally taking pictures of outfits and posting them on the Internet,” she said. “It was an evolution even for myself from being a silly thing to, ‘I’m an entrepreneur and this is a legitimate business.'”
Her transition in blogging, like many, was part hobby and part necessity after she lost her job in 2012.
“I had nowhere else to go and some of my friends suggested I turn it into a business,” she said. “Within a year I was making four to five times more than I was making as a marketing manager.”
Her popularity on social media has grown along with her blog. Johnson has 13,000 followers on Twitter and her Facebook page has been liked 86,000 times. Just last week, JC Penney mentioned Johnson to its 389,000 Twitter followers.
As for Littley, the chef, he’s attracted more than 14,000 followers on Twitter. He first got serious about blogging in early 2010, when he joined a blog group and started researching the hobby.
It wasn’t until he started to receive feedback from people outside of his family that he believed he could grow the blog.
“I went from being local to being national; then on Google+, I went worldwide,” he said. “I have friends all over the world that I know intimately but I have never actually met them in person.”
But as he does watch his blog grow, he says he intends to continue writing it for himself, as he has tried to do from the start.
“Food is like this international bond that brings everyone together, whether virtually or sitting at the same table,” he said. “But I write for myself, it’s for me. I’m not trying to make it my living and be dependent on it. I share what I share and, if it’s not what you want, pass it by.”