Okay, so I want to document my journey into becoming a full time food blogger. Are you ready?
So, where do I begin, I guess I’ll start with what I have done. For the past 9 years, I have worked in higher education, both not-for-profit and for-profit, as a recruiter. I have reached all the way to an executive level; created recruitment and enrollment plans; considered one of the highest retention advisors on my team; and made pretty decent money in the process. However, although you can say I was good and successful at what I did, I was never really, really happy or excited about my work. I would be so envious of people who was doing work that they “loved”. When I would meet people and they would talk about their jobs and say they “loved” what they did for a living, I would aspire to have that feeling. I would crave to know what it felt like to LOVE what I did for a living. Don’t get me wrong, there were many perks to my job and opportunities of fulfillment, but essentially, it wasn’t for me. In fact, I remember some odd years ago getting ready for work, gathering my things, looking for my keys, and before I hit the door I said to myself, “This is not my life. I am not doing what I am suppose to be doing”. At that time, I didn’t have much clue about what that something was, but I knew I wasn’t happy. Ever since that moment, I have chased what gives me fulfillment and joy. The one thing I always came back to, that made me happy, that would put a smile on my face was my blog. Yep, making recipes, taking photos, and telling stories about them is what makes me happy. More than that, it is what blogging affords me. What I mean is the flexibility of being at home, doing things on my schedule, answering to my own demands, no office gossip, and not having to wait to get approval for vacation time. You know what I mean. Most importantly, being at home with my son. Although the pat 5 years I have worked from home in my career, I still had a job to do that deserved my fullest attention. But with blogging, I decide when I start and when I finish and I love that freedom!
A few months ago, I was faced with a scary, bold, and faith building decision that we are only faced a few times in our lives (I think). That was to blog full-time or continue doing work that wasn’t mine. There was some things that was changing in my job that ultimately led to me being laid off. Now, to some people that would be a life altering decision that would bring about fear and sleepless nights. For me, I saw that as my chance to do something I was passionate about and change the trajectory of my career…FOR GOOD! My husband and I discussed the pros and cons and on the strength of his belief in me and my abilities, I accepted being laid off with grace and a level of stillness and peace in my spirit that could only come from God. With prayer and courage, I turned in my work equipment and left my office building with my head held high and A LOT of food blogging idea that I have been dying to implement. So now, we are here.
Let me say, I still look for jobs. Maybe it’s because I am still nervous about this jump; maybe its my way of feeling “responsible”; or maybe it’s a way of me not only putting all of my eggs in one basket. When I look for jobs I only apply for opportunities that I feel will give me that sense of joy that I am chasing, but I have not found one job description that gets me close to feeling what I feel as I am typing this blog post. LOVE.
Yes, I LOVE making food that you guys LOVE. I LOVE talking about my marriage and my kid in hopes that it will bring healing, comfort, and support to people who may be going through situations that are similar. In fact, I LOVE this thing called blogging so much, that it doesn’t feel like work. Well, there are some things that feel like work, but we will get to that in a minute. So, here is my chance to do what I LOVE and I know I am not the only one out there who aspires to JUMP and do something they LOVE to do. This post is not for people who are just looking to blog full-time. This is for anyone who wants to do something they love but is afraid to take that first step.
Now, let’s get to business.
What these posts will be are tactics and lessons that I have learned in pursuit of becoming a full time blogger. These post will not show traffic numbers or income reports. Why? Because for those of you who really want to grow and who may be going through a similar journey, it is important to not measure your success by someone else’s success as it is all relative. Not only that, I know I am not the only one who reads bloggers income reports and see that they make $100,000 in a month and get immediately defeated. What is important is not how much money or the traffic numbers someone has, but the lessons that is achieved to reach whatever level you are trying to get to. I will share my numbers by percentages and what, I believe, has helped or lowered those numbers. I want to learn just as much as I know all of you do. Got it?! Good!
One other thing I want to say, I was making pretty decent supplemental income with my blog to the point where I could see the potential of my blog earnings replacing my career income. But because I was working full time, I could never really spend as much time on my blog to get it to where I wanted. My traffic did plummet a bit due to me being pregnant, having a baby, getting married, planning a wedding, and moving into our first home over the past 2 years. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some major accomplishments with my blog these past 2 years, but I will be honest and say that my level of engagement declined due to these life changing situations. So, I am now trying to climb my way back to where I was and more. So I guess you can say I am somewhat starting over with a pretty generous head start. I said that to say I am not starting from the bottom. I have made money for a while. I wanted to say that because I don’t want anyone to feel that I am telling them to quit their job with no cushion or head start. I am building on what I started. Does that make sense? Let’s go.
So we are going to compare numbers starting from April 2017- May 2017. Why? Because May 1st was officially my first day as a full time food blogger.
April 2017—>May 2017
Before we dive into what I think contributed to these numbers, let’s define what these terms mean in case you have no clue.
Pageview: This number is the number of times a page is view or every time someone visits your site.
Users: A person who visits your site multiple times.
Sessions: This constitutes as visiting more than one page and engaging in your site by purchasing an ebook or other interactions.
Pageview Percentage: +9.9%
What happened? Okay, so between the month of April and May, these are my percentages in terms of traffic. To find out your increase or decrease, I would Google a percentage calculator that could help you with that. No I am not smarter than a 5th grader, I admit. I believe what has helped me was being CONSISTENT. Before, I would post a blog post once, maybe, twice a week. In the month of May, I made it an effort to blog, at least, 3 times a week. This is important and will make a huge increase in your traffic. People will start to visit your blog more often and, as long as you are promoting your work, you consistently have content producing and being shared by others. In addition, your Google ranking can increase because Google starts to notice that you have some consistency in your posting schedule and notices that you are not a dead website. It’s kind of the like if you were to build a relationship with someone who is selling something. The more you get to know them and their product, the more likely you are to refer people who wants what they are selling to them. Make sense?
I know Google Analytics can be a pretty scary place. Mostly, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense to most of us. If you are in that place, I urge you to sign up for Food Blogger Pro as they have a lot of videos that explains everything from setting up your website, to understanding Google Analytics, and even creating VIRAL RECIPE VIDEOS (Get the FREE E-Book Here)! Watching the videos using this service and watching videos on YouTube, I have a pretty basic understanding of Google Analytics and what certain things mean. I am no pro, but I get it.
You must not shy away from your numbers (Nicole). Numbers don’t lie and they tell a story. If you want this to become a business, either full-time or part-time, you must know how you are producing and what is working and what isn’t. For those of you who get nervous about numbers, let me offer you some advice, only check your numbers once a month. Focus on doing the work and what you love. DO NOT check you stats everyday. I don’t! I can’t! I would go nuts! Set daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and goals, be consistent, and trust in what your work.
Back to Basics
I also went back to the basics. I went back doing what I was doing when I started blogging that increased my traffic. So, I went back to posting my recipes on FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Tasteologie, Tasty Kitchen, and Foode Pix. Traffic coming from those sources are a lot different now than they were before. What does that mean? It means what use to be HUGE traffic boosters for me (these sites) are now kind of like supplemental traffic. I am not sure what happened there, but even with one post being picked up by these sites does not bring a lot of traffic my way. If you are brand spanking new to the food blogging world, I highly recommend using these sources starting out. They do help with engagement and if your photos are really good, they could encourage people to pin your images on Pinterest. This is something that I will continue to do simply to let people know that I am back and my site has some pretty cool stuff.
A lot of good things have happened on Facebook for me. I could not figure out how to bring up the Analytics to compare from April to May, but I was able to bring up the analytics for how I did in the last 28 days. Let’s explore.
Actions on Page: +300%
Page Views: +14%
Page Likes: +28%
Post Engagements: +124%
Page Followers: +21%
What I was doing wrong? Before I officially started working on my blog full-time, I seldom shared content on my page. Obviously, when I would publish a new post on my blog, that information post was shared on my Facebook page and Twitter automatically. I would also occasionally share other content from my page but I had no strategy or structure. HUGE AREA OF OPPORTUNITY AND MISTAKE! Facebook has changed their algorithm back in 2013. Anytime someone who had a page would post content, it would get sent out to the masses. I mean, everyone who was anyone would see the content. So back then, it was a lot easier to gain followers and have active engagement. Now, Facebook has taken what use to be a fire hydrant opening of sending out content and reduced to the size of a kitchen faucet. What does that mean? Well, it means unless you are posting content your readers want to see and unless they are engaging in that post by “liking”, sharing, and commenting, they are not, along with your determined audience, will see what you are posting on your site. It will appear as though you do not exist.
How do you fix this? Well, what I have done was started to engagement MORE with my audience. When someone would leave a comment, I would respond. I started sharing other content from other bloggers, and I started sharing viral videos and memes that I liked and thought would be fun and cool for my audience and you know what, it really works!!!!!!
Let me plug something into your minds real fast, the current trend, that does not seem to be leaving anytime soon are videos. If you want to increase your engagement, which is where it starts, you have to start sharing other people’s stuff. Particularly, videos. In addition, you have to start making videos. This is a lesson that was taught to me by one of my good food blogging buddies who has over 5 MILLION followers on her Facebook page, which provides 90% of her overall blog traffic. Now, she posts about 60 posts a day on her Facebook page. She posts a good mix of her content as well as others. Naturally, her followers engage in the stuff she shares so her page is constantly getting new likes and engagement. Now, don’t go crazy tryng to get 5 million followers. She has been working on her page for some years now, but her recommendations has helped me and made a difference in my Facebook page thus far.
It is really difficult to provide analytics from Instagram over a 30 day period as only a week by week data is show. However, what I can say is that in the begining of April I was somewhere around 3500 followers, now I am at 5200 followers. Why? I AM ACTIVE! I Also use proper hashtags religiously. I engage with other profiles and posts as well. I recently just decided to post recipe videos to my feed as well. So, time will only tell with this social media outlet. The key I have found to Instagram is to post really pretty pictures and hashtags. For me, now, those two things have helped a lot.
Another major win for me here.
Impressions: 25.2 K
In the past 28 days:
Tweet Impressions: +38%
I still have not figured out how people have hundres of thousands Twitter follower. Then again, out of all the social media outlets, Twitter is the one I am probably not that active with. I do schedule content to go out through Twitter but that is about it. I did start a Twitter strategy that actually DOES WORK. I plan to get back with it but I purchased an e-book by one of my fav food blogs called “Wanna Bite“ by Nate Engels. Nate is a good local food blogger that I have had the pleasure of working with on a separate project. He put together this awesome e-book and tactic that can increase your Twitter followers. I mean he does have 65,000 Twitter followers. I guess he knows what he is talking about :-). I wasn’t consistent enough with his recommendations but when I first tried his strategies I did gain around 500 Twitter followers within 1 month! It was crazy. Why did I stop? I don’t know. Life I guess.
Overall, my social media engagement has gotten a lot better due to me scheduling social media posts with Buffer!
Let me tell you about Buffer. I have tried CoSchedule, Hootsuite, and…another system that I can’t really remember, but Buffer is my favorite out of all of them. I like Hootsuite, but the one thing that happens with Buffer that I like is when you insert a link into your posts, it automatically bring up photos associated with that post so you don’t have to upload the pictures one-by-one. Also, in Buffer, all you have to do is pick the times you want your content to go out an anything you put schedule will automatically be placed in the queue at those times! It just makes things so much easier. If you decide to use Buffer, be sure to download the app onto your web browser bar via Google Chrome or Firefox. It just makes things a lot easier.
I would love to admit that I have never missed a day of scheduling content, but I would be dishonest. It is my goal this month to schedule my content so far ahead of schedule that I wont have to spend 2-4 hours at one time scheduling content. I can just go as I am browsing. This was a huge win for me and I highly recommend that you schedule your social media content as often as possible.
Excuse my language, but it is one of my lifes goals to make Pinterest my bitch.
Pinterest use to give me TONS of traffic up until about this time last year. I don’t know what happen or what they did, but my traffic from Pinterest went down MORE THAN HALF. I am not the only blogger who experienced this change either. However, because I was pregnant and miserable, I did not spend a lot of time trying to figure out those changes and adjust accordingly. So I continued to do whatever I was doing, which was no longer relevant, and received no results. Now, I am on a mission to understand Pinterest!
Here are the numbers:
Avg. Daily Imp
|Avg. Daily Views||-3.45%||-3.75%|
|Avg. Daily Saves||+80.29%||+5.50|
|Avg. Daily People Saving||+80.19%||+5.57%|
|Avg. Daily Clicks||+20.53%||-1.42%|
|Avg. Daily Visits||+21.41%||+1.13%|
|Avg. Daily People Saving Original Pins||+70.69%||-20.55%|
Let me be the first to say, I don’t really know that much about what these numbers mean. However, what I can say is that so far, for the month of June these numbers are increasing. I think what is contributing to the increase in my number is scheduling, scheduling, scheduling.
I have used a few Pinterest schedulers and I have my Pinterest schedulers that I like and I will stick with. I now use a Pinterest scheduling system through Ahalogy. You have to be invited to use this service, but Ahalogy is a marketing firm here in Cincinnati. But, what it reminds me a lot of is Viraltag and I LOVE Viraltag. I am using Ahalogy because it’s free. I also use Buffer as well. Yep. I am using two Pinterest schedulers at the same time. Let me explain.
Part of success with Pinterest that I learn is pinning popular content. Sound familiar. So I use Ahalogy to pin other content that I like that pertains to all of my boards and one image pins from my site. I use Buffer to pin exclusively my long pins. So I am constantly in someone’s feed. Yep. I stay in my followers faces. I believe that is what is helping my Pinterest traffic. Again, it take a lot of time but I plan to get my social media post scheduled a week ahead. I am going to try. It just takes so much time.
Blog Goals for June
- Plan all social media content a week ahead of the current week.
- Continue to schedule 3 posts a week.
- Engage with other bloggers.
- Create 1 recipe video a week.
- Learn more about Pinterest changes.
- Begin to make changes to site to increase organic traffic.
- Learn more about affiliate marketing.
First let me say, do not blog to make money. I most certainly did not. I got to a point in my blog where I saw the earning potential and made a decision to turn my hobby into something that will give for my family and give me FREEDOM! Freedom to be the mother I want to be to my son; Freedom of meeting others expectations; and freedom of the unfruitful corporate culture.
This blog is the mustard seed of other opportunities for me. Some of those opportunities will create opportunities for others. So you see, Brown Sugar is just the beginning. However, some of those aspirations start with me being successful with my blog and learning about social media and the new era of marketing.
What I am learning about this whole process that makes it hard is not the work, the recipes, and the photos, its ME. Do you know how many times I have doubted myself? Do you know how many times in my mind I have quitted my blog? Do you know how many times I have questioned the very passion that has been placed in my heart? But although I have quit and threw in the towel, there is something in me that won’t let me quit. My journey to becoming a full time food blogger is less about a journey from corporate freedom, but a spiritual journey in its own right. I am learning about faith, resilience, hope, prayer, and character through this process. I truly, within the depths of my being, believe that my blog is on purpose and this experience is on purpose. I don’t know where it is going, but I know that it is divine intervention. I hope you know that every post, every recipe, and every photograph I take is with YOU in mind. Most of you are women and most of you are stay at home moms who are trying to find a break from your day-to-day or a recipe to feed your families. I am very intentional about the food I share and the messages I voice because I know you are looking for something easy and solution driven. Those of you who continue to visit and consider yourself a follower, I ask you pray for me as I go on this journey and drop me an email from time to time to let me know what you like about my blog and what you would like to see more of.
-Next month I will share with you ways that I am monetizing my blog.
Okay, until July…see ya later.