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Episode 235: Which Stats to Track, Restaurant Photography and How to Handle Criticism with Jason Logsdon and Chelsea Cole

In episode 235, we are sharing a conversation that originated from a Clubhouse room recorded on 7/30/21 where food bloggers discuss ways to monetize, critics and what to do with your blogging stats.

We cover information about the value of repurposing content to maximize your time, delving into freelance work, expanding your brand and what to do with your analytics.

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Takeaways

  • Be purposeful about creating and reusing content – one live can be used in 3-5 to maximize your content strategy.
  • Know what you’re trying to be “best” at – create that content, then reuse everything else to be good as it can be.
  • With analytics, figure out where you’re trying to go, then figured out the best way to get there.
  • Don’t get focused on day to day stats – instead look for trends or create a goal to work towards.
  • Carve out 1x a month or quarter to review analytics.
  • Remember that all data is not the same.
  • Make a pitch to a local magazine – put together a an article or a quarterly plan, serve them up some examples and submit it to the managing editor. This can be good for visibility, cross use content and also a little extra money.
  • Add As Seen in (+ the name of the magazine) to your website for authority/credibility.
  • Consulting work as a blogger, recipe developer, photographer are great other options in monetization.
  • Consider creating a separate site as a portfolio of your photography work if you want to pursue photography or consulting in the field.
  • As a consultant, look for holes in content on websites you desire to work with that you could add value to, then pitch that to the company.
  • Kill rude audience members with kindness. Ask questions so you can turn a rude comment into a teaching moment if possible.

Resources Mentioned

Transcripts are easily created by tools like Rev or Descript

Squarespace makes a great site for creating a photography portfolio and is affordable.

More Clubhouse Conversations

Megan shares how much value there is to join in on conversations on Clubhouse in episode 176.

Transcript

Click for full text:

Intro: Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. We’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta: Food bloggers. Hey, I want you to know that I myself am a food blogger. So I understand the need to find those connections and find the answers and create transformations in my business that are actually going to matter and help me grow and make more money and get more traffic and all of those good things. If you’re interested in this too, the new Eat Blog Talk mastermind groups might be a great fit for you.

Go to eatblogtalk.com to find the application that you can fill out for consideration. As Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich says about the mastermind principle, two or more people actively engaged in the pursuit of a definite purpose with a positive mental attitude, constitute an unbeatable force.

Unbeatable force. I love that. You can’t argue with that. Inside the Eat Blog Talk mastermind groups, weekly zoom calls will have the format of peer to peer learning with members taking turns being in the hot seat. Once a month, guest experts join us and they will unleash their knowledge about very specific topics relating to food blogging and being a small business owner and relating to ways that you can grow your business.

We can be in every week, we share our struggles, our wins, and we can shine and lift each other up and provide resources and input that will help the other members in the group to grow their businesses and grow as individuals as well. Again, go to eatblogtalk.com to fill out an application for consideration.

Hello awesome people. I am here today to share with you this episode, which is actually a recorded clubhouse conversation from July 30th, 2021. In the conversation with me is Jason. Logston from Amazing Food, Made Easy and Makin’ Bacon, Chelsea Cole from A Duck’s Oven, Taryn Solie from Hot Pan Kitchen and Ginain from Cook Pray Slay.

We have a great discussion about a bunch of different things relating to food blogging. So I hope you enjoy this conversation and please join us on Clubhouse in the coming weeks. We meet every Friday at 12:00 PM Eastern standard time. So enjoy the conversation. Thanks for being here.

Megan: Jason. What’s up today?

Jason: It’s going well. 

Megan: Hey, let me know if my sound cuts in. I feel like my connection is bad, but if I’m cutting in and out, please let me know. 

Jason: Sounds good so far. 

Megan: All right. So what are you up to this weekend? You and your wife? 

Jason: No idea. We have, I guess we have volleyball on Sunday and then going out to dinner with some friends tomorrow. So nothing too exciting, but always good to get out. 

Megan: Isn’t it lovely to have options this summer? Every time I see that something’s open, I’m like, oh my gosh. Remember, last summer when we couldn’t do anything. That’s so lovely. 

Jason: It’s much more relaxing this summer so far. At least that’s a very good thing.

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. Well we hopefully will get some more people coming in. Hi, Julie. Hi Emily. Hi Teresa. So glad you’re here. Taryn, hey. Jesse. So glad you guys are coming in. So Jason, I guess we can both do just really quick intros. Chelsea, I think is joining us as well, but I’m Megan Porta. I am the podcast host at Eat Blog Talk, and it is a podcast for food bloggers and a community for food bloggers to help them grow their businesses. I’m also a food blogger as well. So Jason, we will love to hear from you. What is your quick little intro? 

Jason: So I’m Jason Logsdon. I run Amazing Food Made Easy, which is a mainly sous vide blog. It’s all about helping home cooks and professional chefs understand how sous vide works so they can discover the magic of how easy it can make your home cooking and stress-free, which is one of the things that I love most about it. I also run a Makin’ Bacon, which is all about helping food bloggers get the most other blogs and move their businesses forward to get off the ad network treadmill. I have a podcast called Makin’ Bacon that’s related to that as well.

Megan: Okay. So we were talking about podcasts with Bob Clark and Jason, I guess I didn’t realize that you have a podcast also for your Sous vide side, or what do you do with that? 

Jason: The Makin’ Bacon one’s all for food bloggers. Then I host Exploring Sous Vide, which is kind of a hybrid model. We have a really big Facebook audience there for Amazing Food Made Easy. So we do a lot of live content on Facebook. I actually interview people live on video and take the audio from that and release it as a podcast. So it’s a good way to kind of get the video content, a podcast and then also we can use transcriptions to create good content on the website as well.

So those of you that listen to me a lot, know that I am a big fan of reusing content. So that’s one model that works really well for me to kind of get a lot of content out there with only having to do one thing. 

Megan: Do you follow Gary V, Jason? Gary Vaynerchuk?

Jason: I have read a few of his books and listened to his stuff occasionally. I haven’t lately, but definitely learned a lot from him over the years. 

Megan: I feel like he’s the master of that. Just taking one thing. He’ll record a presentation he gives, for example, and then he’ll take pieces of that and reuse it like to every degree you can imagine. So I feel like that is what you do as well. You just like to try to maximize your content. That’s really smart. 

Jason: I think it’s a great way for people to really create a lot more content. People will ask me, how did you have time to do a book and a podcast and a video course and you know, several hundred recipes and guides. The answer is I reuse a ton of content and I try to plan out my content when I can; I’m very bad at planning. So I know there’s a lot of people great at content planning out there. I am not one of them, but I do try to keep that in mind that if I’m working on a course, what parts of that can I use those blog posts that can also market the course for me. If I’m doing a presentation, what parts of that can I pull out and I use an application called the Descript, which does transcriptions and super easy to pull out all the texts from any of my podcasts or any of my presentations and I can use that as blog posts. It just makes everything really easy to create multiple pieces of content from one amount of effort. That’s the easiest way to be not everywhere, but more places is to just reuse what you have. 

Megan: You take the bits that maybe don’t work, like you take your little blooper reels and you post those, which is total entertainment, right? Lessons that we can be ourselves and not have to be perfect all the time. I personally love when people post little bloopers that they’ve done on video or wherever. So everything is reusable is the principle there. 

What I like to suggest is, Megan, we both talked about this about like, know where you’re going and what are your overall goals? What are you trying to be best at? That’s what you should create first, you know? You should be making sure that that is as good as it can be, or it needs to be. But everything else that you reuse doesn’t have to be at that level. If you’re not overly concerned about YouTube, that’s not your thing, but you know that there’s people that watch videos and it’s good to have it, but you don’t want to be a YouTube star, so don’t stress out about the video aspects. Make sure that the text coming out of it is as high quality as possible.

Make sure you’re maximizing the thing that you really want to dominate, then everything else can be just good enough to get it out there. It’s a lot better to have decent videos on YouTube than no videos at all.

Very well said as always. Thank you for that. So it looks like we have a small room today, which is awesome. It’s Friday. Hopefully everybody’s out enjoying their day, but we would just welcome you guys to come up. Let’s just have a conversation about what’s going on this week. If you guys have specific struggles you would like to talk through. We had a mastermind call for Eat Blog Talk last night, and we had some conversations about email marketing, Taryn, what else did we talk about? I felt like there’s so much going on even though it’s summer and you think of summer as being a lull in food blogging. There really is always stuff to talk about. So if there’s anything on your mind that you want to run by us, or just have a conversation about, please come up.

Oh, I know what else we were talking about. I will start with this while you guys are considering coming up. Tracking. So tracking stats and analytics, the importance of it. Do you do it, Jason? If you do, how often and what exactly do you track if you do? 

I am really good at tracking a lot of different pieces of data, and then I’m really horrible at going back and actually looking at any of the information that I have been tracking. So I don’t get much out of it most of the time, but it’s something that I’ve grown my blog to 200,000 monthly visitors and put out cookbooks and had my income above six figures at one point.

I’ve been horrible at tracking this entire time. You try to use it for very big generalities; like is my traffic increasing month to month or every three months. Looking at things like that that are kind of overall trends. I don’t look at daily stats in anything. I try to sit down and say, this is where I’m trying to go. Then I figured out what I think is going to be the best way to get there. For the next one to three months, I try to implement that. Then afterwards I can look back and say like, okay, was this strategy as successful as it could have been? The answer is normally, no, like I could make tweaks, I could improve.

You can always be improving, but that’s when I try to look at those overall stats when I’m redeciding what to do or what was the effect of something. I don’t use it to track, was this specific social media posts successful? Did people like this recipe? There’s too much randomness out there that I’ve found myself getting down when stats were down through no actual reason that had anything to do with me. That was frustrating for me. So I try to focus on those bigger trends. 

I feel like you could really get obsessed with this. I used to do this when I was first blogging. I think it was the top of the month. Every month I would sit down and I would track all of my stuff and I had the spreadsheet, but then I would just lose myself in it and I didn’t really even know what exactly I was looking for. Like what you said, Jason, you’re good at tracking, but then, what the heck do I do with this?

So I felt like that was me. Then I finally just decided to stop. And now I do it kind of sporadically. So there’s gotta be a balance; tracking and then efficiently monitoring it. I liked your idea of every three months. I think that’s so smart instead of every month digging in and figuring out what I have to do with this. Ginain, hi, how are you today? Do you have anything to contribute with tracking or something else that’s going on today ?

Ginain: Hi. Hi everyone. So as far as the tracking goes, I was actually going to talk about something else. I’ll get to that. But as far as the tracking, I try to carve out time once a month to look at my analytics. But I kind of suffer from what Jason suffers from. I look at it and I’m a marketing person. That’s what I do. So analytics and insights, I’m very in tune with that, but my issue, or my challenge is taking that information and then having to either adjust strategy or pivot or whatever it is. I get the information and then it’s just like, I get so busy because like everyone else, I’m curating content and I’m running a blog and I’m putting out posts and I’m doing everything. I struggle with that big time. 

Megan: Yeah. I think this is a common struggle. I see this in so many food bloggers. First of all, there’s so many things to track. So what do we track and what is going to matter? Then what do we do with this information? This is kind of where we came to in our mastermind group. We should be tracking XYZ, but then what, what do we do with that? It’s just a number sitting out there in the universe. What do we actually do with it? 

Ginain: That is so true. That’s so true. Look I say this stuff and I’m bad at following. I can give advice until the cows come home. That’s what I do. I have a problem taking my own advice, but what really helps and like I said, I work in marketing and so I do a lot of consulting work and helping other small businesses. I always say, you have to have a plan because that’s the blueprint for your business. So if you’re just haphazardly looking at your data and you don’t really have a plan for it, you’re just going to be spinning your wheels.

So you just have to figure out, okay what’s the goal? Do we want to increase our monthly subscribers? Do we just want that traffic coming in so we can start monetizing? Do we want to gain awareness? You just gotta figure out, narrow down those goals into one or two attainable goals, as opposed to just having like all of these goals and you don’t know where to start.

Right. First of all, I was dying laughing with them. I can give advice, but not actually follow it. Yes. It’s so easy to do. But yeah, that just got what you were saying, Ginain, got me thinking about it’s not one size fits all, so you can’t tell a food blogger to go track your Instagram followers.

If that is not a goal of yours, if gaining followers on Instagram is 0% of goal, then there’s probably no point in doing that. So I love that just sitting down and seeing it more as a customized thing for each individual food blogger and then making goals based on that. So you can’t deliver one set of expectations for all food bloggers, is kind of what you were saying, which I love.

Jason: It’s also super important to remember that all data is not the same. If you want to increase page views on your blog, run Facebook ads that say win a free pickup truck, right? People will click through to win a pickup truck, but that traffic’s useless to you, especially if you’re trying to sell cooking classes or a book. That traffic doesn’t do anything for you.

So if you’re tracking a number like that, it might not even matter what you’re getting. It’s more important to have people sign up on your mailing list and it doesn’t matter how much traffic you have at all. But it’s those conversions to your mailing list. It might be actual sales that matter to you. It’s better to have 10 people that trust you and come from one place that are going to purchase from you, than 10,000 random people that aren’t going to drop 20 or $40 on a course the first time they meet you. So it’s important to know what some of these numbers are. 10,000 page views, those are real people and they have different values beyond just a single number.

Megan: I love this. What a great conversation. Chelsea, welcome. I hope you’re doing well today. How’s it going? 

Chelsea: I’m so sorry I’m late. I’m not going to lie. I got distracted because I spontaneously decided to clean my shower. 

Megan: I love it. Hey, no worries. We were just talking about tracking and stats and analytics and it got really fun, but welcome. Then Ginain, you did say that you wanted to come up and talk about something else, so feel free to put that out there. 

Ginain: Yeah, sure. I wanted to share with the group and I’m sure some of you have already done this, but it’s starting to work for me a little bit. I think I mentioned last week when I joined the group. I mentioned that I’ve got a lot going on. So I’ve got a whole full-time job and then I run the blog and I’ve got a couple of other businesses that I’m doing. One thing that I’m always struggling with, like a lot of other folks, is just having that time to dedicate to curating that content, balancing everything.

So what’s worked for me is I actually pitched some ideas, editorial ideas to local magazines. I’m in the Tampa Bay area. So we’ve got Tampa Bay parenting magazine, which is a really nice magazine. They’ve got a huge readership. For instance, for the month of September, I think it is the September issue. I did three quick and simple meal ideas for families on the go. Knowing that back to school is coming up. No, actually this was the August issue.

So back to school time is coming up, after school activities are going to be picking back up. So I just put out some meal ideas and I submitted my pictures and I wrote a quick writeup. From that point on I said I’m available to offer additional content for you guys moving forward, every month.

I just laid out some of my ideas, just thinking, okay, we’ve got the holidays coming up and then of course it’s new year stuff. So I just put some ideas together and they loved it. They were like we want to work with you. For me, it helped as far as helping me kind of leverage. I can batch create that content, knowing that, okay, it’s going to go in the magazine, but then I can also repurpose a lot of what I do and just kind of break it up into smaller chunks just to help leverage and work smarter.

So I just wanted to share that with a group that is just another idea that people just can jump on. It’s worked for me. Like I said, just that time, and I don’t have a lot of time to strategize and so having that deadline of this is the concept they’re doing. I’ll just take that concept and just break it up into smaller bite size pieces and push it out on my channels that way. So it’s so far so good. Just wanted to share that.

Megan: Nice work. I think that a lot of us discount that avenue, the whole magazine thing. So I’m curious, it sounds like you pitched a handful of ideas at once or how did you do that?

Ginain: I pitched one idea initially, and I liked working with this particular magazine and it ended up being a paid gig. It wasn’t a huge amount of money, but I didn’t intend on it because I was really looking for the visibility. So when she’s shared, we pay per page write up, a hundred bucks or whatever. `That’s a plus. So when I did that first process with them, I actually did one over the summer and I liked the process. They were really easy to work with. When I did the back to school thing, I said, Hey, I’ve got like a handful of other ideas. If these ideas are ones you guys are interested in, I’d be more than happy to put that content together for you for the next three months.

You know? So September, October, November, I’ve got this content already. I haven’t curated it yet, but I know in my mind, okay, this is the type of content I’m putting out for that magazine. So this is what I’m going to do with this content on my platforms as well. And so when I have this agreement with them. I did make sure that, hey, this is my content that I’m curating for you guys. So just know that I’ll be pushing this out on my own channels, or I might repurpose it for another blog. They’re totally fine with that. So when it’s basically a byline that I get in their magazine, the article was written by me and they direct people to go to my IG. That’s basically it. So it’s almost kind of like a contractor situation. They’re paying me to produce this content for them, but in essence still own it because it’s my content that I created. So did that answer your question? 

Megan: Yeah. I love that. Again, I don’t think that a lot of us think about that, but how easy was it for you to get in touch with somebody at the magazine?

Ginain: So I just reached out to the editor of the magazine. It really depends. It depends on that particular magazine. So because I have a marketing PR background, I’m a little bit more savvy to that, so I know what to look for. But typically if you reach out to the editor of the magazine, a managing editor, that would be a really, really good start.

Megan: Okay. Sorry. I was writing that down. That’s awesome. Jason or Chelsea, have you guys ever written for magazines or done anything similar? Just curious. 

Jason: I have not, but I’ve had a really good conversation on my podcast with Tiffany Yurik who does a lot of public relations. Chelsea actually introduced me to her. She talks about how that’s a great way to expand your brand. You should definitely be putting on your own website now As Seen in the and the name of the magazine. If you start racking up some of these editorial articles out there, make sure that your fans know. When these people randomly come in through SEO on your website and they see in your sidebar that you’ve written for all these established traditional publications, they’ll go a long way towards giving you a lot of credibility that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Exactly what 

Chelsea: Jason said. I’ve had the opportunity to be featured in a magazine once and it was incredible and it’s just really fun to get to see your photos and stuff in print. Then my second cookbook is coming out in a few weeks. God willing. I am trying to get, this is different from doing contracted work for the magazine, but I’m trying to do features. Honestly, I love to find a way for that to spin into an ongoing relationship where I can be some contributor or do hired work for them or something like that, especially for, I’m not sure if this is the case in other places, but Oregon has a lot of great local magazines. One being 1859, that’s the year Oregon was established. I’m trying to kind of build relationships with them first through my cookbook and then see if that can be spun into something else. 

Megan: Cool. I love this topic. Thank you so much, Ginain, for just bringing this up and just a new avenue for us to explore. If not for monetizing, I mean, it sounds like you got a little bit, but if nothing else, just for the visibility and they’re linking to your Instagram account, so you just never know what could come from it. So thank you so much for mentioning that. 

Chelsea, I want to hear what you’re up to in the summer? Your cookbook is coming out soon. When is that? What else have you been working on? 

Chelsea: Yes. So the goal is August 17th. We will see if the cookbook is done by then. Honestly it’s been 85% cookbook and the rest freelance work. It’s funny. I have self published a cookbook before, but the second cookbook is, there’s a little more to it. It’s a slightly different concept. The concept of it is mix and match. So it’s sous vide cooking . Jason and I are both super into sous vide. You can mix different sauces, marinades, et cetera, with different proteins. I give instructions. Perhaps to need those proteins anyways. It’s been a lot. I mean, self-publishing a cookbook is just a lot of work because you are literally doing everything. But it’s also super fun. I’m loving the whole process. This week is photography week. Then I’ve been lucky enough to be getting a lot of consistent freelance work.

Freelance work is great and sponsored work is great. Freelance work feels like it’s my bread and butter. I’ve got some great relationships with a few clients who just need constant ongoing work from me, which is awesome. A lot of video work, which is great. So that’s been my head down focus this summer. It’s been super, super busy, but good. I’m also trying to have fun. My husband is a teacher, which means he has the summer off. We’ve done three camping trips, and have another one to go. We went to New York City, and then to Austin, so it’s a lot of play hard, work hard this summer. 

Jason: I love the concept of doing consultant consulting work and stuff like that. I think it is something that a lot of bloggers don’t take advantage of like their skills that they already have and doing them for businesses. Can you talk a little more about the type of work that you’re doing? Just so people can get a feel for what is available out there for bloggers?

Chelsea: Absolutely. So these companies, one of them I’ve worked with for a couple of years now and they’re great. So the way we work together, they work with a PR company who says, Hey, these are the things that we want you to focus on this quarter, in general for like their whole brand.

Then they translate that down to me and say, Hey, this is our focus for the quarter. We need you to develop recipes that focus on this and so one, I develop the recipes for them. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes they just need assets for already developed recipes and I help them with that too. But I develop the recipes, shoot the recipes and do videography for the recipes.

Then I also do like teasers for social media, with those videos and things like that. So this is what we should all be doing with our own content, which is easier said than done. It’s a lot easier when you have somebody paying you to do it. But they really have me make sure that each piece of content I developed for them, it gets used over and over and over again.

Also just that too. I’ll say things like, Hey, this could be a reel. For this fee, I can also add a reel to this package for you. So we do several packages each quarter. Then one thing I’m starting to do, which honestly freaks me out and I just kind of need to get over it. I’m starting to do more commercial work, which is less lifestyle. Luckily my marketing background is coming in handy because I’ve been the person who was requesting these images before. So I do know what they’re looking for, but I’m doing more product photography.

So I just started working with an indoor farm in Vancouver, Washington, which is super cool. So they are developing new lines of greens and they need product photography for their website. So I’m starting to shoot that for them. In addition to them, recipe development and lifestyle photography, photos of those recipes, all that stuff.

Megan: I love hearing you talk through that, Chelsea. That is a world that I’ve definitely never dabbled in. Jason, do you do much of that or have you ever dabbled in that? Just doing freelance contractors work?

Jason: I hit the wrong button there. I was in a different place. Yes, I did a lot of content development. So I’ve done recipe guides, the old Go rmia Sous vide machine. When it got shipped, it had a getting started cookbook. I guess there were like 15, 20 pages and it was all my recipes and photography.

So they hired me to do that. I worked with them on their iPhone app, like providing my sous vide expertise about coming up with what time and temperatures should the app that controls their unit do. I’ve worked with other places that sell meat and they want to bring in people that sous vide that then buy their meat.

So I wrote some this is how you sous vide this type of cut for the major cuts that they sell. So I’ve done some work like that, mainly on the content development side. It was a great way to make sense of money and also get your name out there in some new places that a lot of other people aren’t. It’s nice to get paid for work that you’re doing.

I will say that that’s one thing to keep in mind and why I always say like, know what you’re trying to accomplish with your blog. Because if that’s the type of thing that you really like to do, you can make a full-time living just doing consulting work. But if you’re doing that, then you shouldn’t be as concerned about the numbers on your blog.

You should be more concerned about making sure that it is almost like a portfolio of the type of stuff that you do. You can reach out to a brand or a company and say, I know that you are doing this. My expertise can be helpful for you and help you make money. Here’s some examples of what I do. When they poke around your website, they’re not going to see random things that we leave on our blogs when we were just interested in SEO traffic.

So it’s just something to keep in mind as you’re trying to make money, figure out what that is. Then that’s the type of content you should be putting on your blog that’s going to be reinforcing how you really want to make money in the long term. 

Chelsea: I just wanted to piggyback off of that because that is such a good point. Having your blog and or Instagram be a portfolio for what you’re capable of. For example, if you follow me on Instagram, you know, I am not afraid of color. I really, really like to play with color in my photography. The indoor farm that reached out to me, they reached out to me because my stuff is so colorful and they want to create more colorful assets for their brands. So they were looking for somebody who’s not afraid to play with color. So it’s all a great portfolio for what you can do for brands. 

Megan: I love that, Chelsea. You had mentioned earlier about working with a PR firm. Can you talk about how that works? How did you find them? I’m sure they take a percentage and then do you just find it easier than trying to find clients on your own?

Chelsea: So, sorry. That was confusing. The company I work with actually works with this PR firm, however I got hooked up with this company that I’ve been doing work for for years, because I did work for one of their other clients. Then they recommended me to another one of their clients. So it’s actually really helpful to have those connections with a PR company. So sometimes I’ll reach out to them and just say, Hey, I’m available for more work. If you have any clients that have photography or videography needs, please refer me to them. I’d love to work with them. Sometimes they’ll get a referral cut. So it’s good for them. It doesn’t cost me anything. It costs the company money. So that’s fine with me. It just means you have this potentially big roster of clients. Since they’ve seen my work before, they know what I’m capable of. The first client I was working for was them because they needed somebody who could do stop motion, which is something I used to do a ton of. I’d still love to do it, just don’t do it as much. Anyways, they ended up referring to me. 

Megan: Do you have recommendations for people who have never done freelance work before and might want to start doing that and might just be intimidated by how to find clients? What are your thoughts on that?

Chelsea: I think following people who do what they do for a living. So I follow several people who are local to me too, and feel like I can DM them with questions and who are just a little more approachable. A lot of them really share a lot of behind the scenes. There’s an Instagram account. It’s either weekend creative or weekend creatives. I don’t remember which, and they have a Patreon community that I actually did join. Because they share a ton of valuable information about freelance photography and videography in particular. They are doing it at a scale that’s way beyond me. Ordering custom backdrops and custom prompts for specific shoes, like really, really beyond. But it’s still helpful to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Honestly, just talking to people like I am also on a slack channel with a bunch of other food bloggers in it, and we’ll talk to each other all the time.

Because several of them do freelance as well. Just talking to folks. Pitching is a funny thing. Annoyingly, I have not gotten a ton of freelance work from pitching. It’s mostly been through referrals. But you gotta start with somebody to get that initial referral and just pitch yourself.

It’s a careful balance too, because like, for example, if you are just starting out and you’re preparing to send pitches, I used to get these pitches myself, I was in marketing for so many years. You want to be careful to not say, Hey, I can tell you really need this work for me, AKA, the photography you’re posting on social media is terrible because then they’re immediately going to get turned off. But more posing it as, hey, these are services that I offer.

I love your brand because I am super familiar with these ingredients. Because I love to cook with them, positioning it that way is the best way to go about it.

Jason: I feel like saying, Hey, I’ve noticed your photography’s crap. That probably isn’t a good way to get in the door. I think one thing that I used to approach , especially for the recipe development and content creation is, Gourmia didn’t have any recipes on their website. I went to, at that time, all the major sous vide manufacturers, because that was my niche and I looked at what type of content they have and what does it look like?

They were one that had. Because they are a manufacturing company. They aren’t a sous vide company. So I reached out and it wasn’t your content’s bad. It was, I noticed that you don’t currently have this type of information. I could do that. Here’s how it’s going to serve your fans and your users and make your equipment more valuable for them.

So that’s how I approached it. You can do that pretty easily without knowing too many people, if you have a more specific niche, but if you do need some referrals or you need to build your resume some, work with local people. Like go to your farmer’s market and find someone that’s in your niche and be like, Hey, I write about different ways to cook rice, of all the different rice of the world.

I see you have some cool rice. Could we do a partnership where you give me some free products? I’m going to write some recipes for you. Then you can use them as a referral. We’re hesitant a lot of times to do free work, which is fine. This whole conversation is around getting paid for work.

I think Doug Levy told me that you always have to get paid for what you’re doing, but payment doesn’t have to be cash. So if you decide, I want to do consulting and I want to give this a shot. To do that, I need a resume. So I’m gonna work with this brand to get something on my resume.

You’re getting paid for the work that you’re doing and it’s going to be moving your blog forward. So that’s one thing that you can do to start getting your foot in the door at some of these places and doing work that especially for hey, give me four bags of rice and I’ll give you a few recipes.

Most of the brands, if you are face-to-face with the farmer’s market are going to be saying yes to that because they’re getting something out of it too.

That’s such a great point. Doing free work is something you gotta be careful with, but last summer I volunteered as part of this larger organization to do some pro bono food photography for restaurants in my area that were smaller. I needed a little bit of help and that totally turned into referrals to me. It was awesome. So it’s totally worth it. 

I love that idea too, of donating your time to charities or organizations like that. If you do really healthy, simple meals, like, are there places that serve food banks or that serve disadvantaged people that don’t have great kitchens and only have access to simple ingredients, but still want to eat healthy. Is that the type of organization that you could work with and be like, Hey, I’ll give you like four or five recipes that you can share with your members. Then you can now use them hopefully also for referrals, but also to get it on your resume and the,as seen in. 

I have a question for you, Chelsea or Ginain, you could chime in too. I know you both have backgrounds in marketing. But I know that food bloggers approaching restaurants is becoming more of a trendy thing because a lot of restaurants, as you guys know, have those really crappy just pictures.

Megan: If they’re not chain restaurants, especially like Mexican restaurants or local restaurants, they’re not necessarily really mouthwatering. So what is a good way to word that? Instead of saying, like you were saying, Chelsea, don’t say this, don’t say, wow. I noticed you have really crappy photos. What would be a good way to say, I could really give your photos a facelift or something along those lines.

Chelsea: So I love this. So first of all, one of my closest friends, she’s amazing. She helps me with the cookbook lab and stuff like that. She got started doing restaurant photography. So we both worked for this company. It’s a small chain of Italian restaurants and she has done their food photography for, I don’t know, 10 years now.

My first warning to you is going to be, if there is a business model that truly has a limited budget, it is restaurants. So there’s not going to be a ton of money in it unless they are a chain or a small chain. Those businesses have a little more money to play with, but just like individual businesses do not have a ton of money, so just a warning there. But then the way I would frame it. So the program that she was on was awesome. This is a win-win for everybody, as she would do a quarterly set of photos. So this restaurant and other restaurants that you worked with would want fresh assets, both if they had seasonal specials, new assets for social media, for their website that had the seasonal look and feel that they were going for. So fresh for summer, hearty for winter, things like that. So she just knew she was going to be getting that quarterly work and that restaurant knew that they were going to have fresh assets every quarter.

So that’s a great way to do it. So instead of saying, Hey, your photos suck. Hey, I know how hard it is to keep on top of asset creation and photo creation for your company. I’d love to work with you to provide something new for you every three months or so. Let me know how we can talk about this or something like that. Because that’s super enticing and they know that they need good photos or better photos, so that doesn’t need to be said. 

No need to rub that in their faces. I love that idea. I was just thinking, as you were talking, focus on the seasonal foods and then make it like, okay, if they have some dishes that have, I don’t know, peaches, for example, you could make use of peach season, offer it that way. It is peach season.

Do you want some fresh photos with peaches because now is the time and putting a deadline on it that way. I had never thought about that before. But I love that too. Ginain, do you have anything to add? I know you have marketing knowledge too. 

Ginain: No Chelsea said is, was absolutely brilliant. I think that is really a great way to go about it. I think as long as you really position it as something they can benefit from, it becomes less about how you can come in and save the day. It becomes more about where we’re taking this restaurant or just this business in general and making them the hero, with their menu.

So we’re focusing on that piece of it. So I think as long as you frame it to how it can benefit them, because at the end of the day, that’s really all they care about. How’s this going to benefit me? So I think that really is a really great way to go about it because it’s a win-win; it’s a win-win for you as a blogger going in and also building up your portfolio.

But at the same time, you’re still finding a way to monetize off of that. A client that may not have the budget of the larger chains and you’re also helping this small, a lot of times they are mom and pop shops or whatever, who don’t have the budget to hire a full-on photographer.

But I do love that. That way to go about that. So I actually may take a page out of your book or your friend’s book, Chelsea. That’s a great, great way. 

Megan: Thank you for that. That was awesome too. Taryn. Hey, how’s it going today? What’s going on with you this Friday? 

Taryn: Hi. Hi everyone. I wanted to comment because the last 10 minutes of discussion which I think has been really great. I’m so glad we’re having this discussion, but one thing I wanted to touch on that lends into all this and Jason, I think you were talking about this is, when I started doing work for brands, like contract work, like Chelsea was talking about, I got my own portfolio site and I think that really made a difference.

I mean, it’s super basic. It’s a Squarespace site with three pages on it. One of which is a gallery of images, one of which is an about page. Maybe it only has two pages. But I think that made a really big difference in showing brands and just other clients that I was a serious photographer and not just having my blog as my portfolio. I would really recommend anyone who is serious about doing client work in that regard, to do that. It’s not very expensive at all. I do go back and update it every once in a while. I want to say, I don’t know if it’s Christina Peters or if it’s Rachel with Tulip Studio. I think it might be Rachel, who has a blog post about developing a portfolio site that is appealing to clients.

So that’s something to check out. I also just wanted to say that I a hundred percent agree with Chelsea about restaurants because a while ago ,before COVID I was trying to break into restaurant work. What I did is looked for local restaurants and offered a really small package, essentially for free just to build on my portfolio.

That did work for a while. I did a couple restaurants for free, just one or two hours, four dishes, maybe something along those lines. I did start to kind of break into restaurants, but it’s a lot of work. I found the same thing that Chelsea found, where the budget is really, really tight. I ended up stopping because it was really difficult for me to make money off of. So I just wanted to put that out there. 

Megan: The portfolio site Taryn, is so intriguing. I guess I’ve heard a few bloggers talk about doing that, but I’ve never given it thought for myself, but this really could benefit you no matter what. If you’re looking for restaurant work or just general brand work or even a magazine, like if you’re looking to work with a magazine, this really could work all around.

How often do you update it? What is it? I want to look. 

Taryn: You’re funny. It’s just my name. It’s just www.tarynsolie.com. So anyone can look at it. I will try to keep it updated. I try to update it every six months. I’m not always great about it. It might be more like once a year. I think it was Julie, I think just messaged me, asking for the link to the site about how to put together a portfolio site. So I’ll try and find that. I want to say it’s Rachel who did that. It really was not that hard to put together and I feel it’s just so much more professional. I felt more confident giving pitches to people having that portfolio site, which I think can be a big deal. 

Jason: I think it was also a good way when you’re doing a pitch, if you’re the one pitching. It doesn’t matter what. Traffic on your blog is or your Instagram numbers. You’re pitching your services as a business. So I think making that clear by having a separate portfolio site is a great call. I am looking at it now. 

Megan: Oh my gosh, Taryn. I mean, I’ve always known you’ve taken great photography, but just seeing it in a collection like this, like a gallery collection, is so beautiful and there’s so much value here. You could put this together on your blog, but I think it makes more sense to just have a separate URL. Squarespace is the perfect place to do this by the way, because their templates are so beautiful. It’s not like probably the place to go if you’re looking to get the most SEO value out of your food blog. But as far as beauty and displaying beautiful photos, it is a great option for that. So I just wanted to say nice work. This looks amazing.

Taryn: Thank you. I’ll take that. 

Then you were talking about restaurants and getting into restaurants. I’m sorry to hear that you ran into roadblocks and are not really making money. So what are your guys’ thoughts? Chelsea, maybe you have some thoughts on this, but if you do want to make money photographing for restaurants, do you go with the big chains or maybe a chain that’s not quite as large? Or what route do you go? 

Chelsea: Yeah. Only reason I can speak to this is because I worked in restaurants for a long time, like seven years or so. I was a manager for a long time and then became the marketing manager for a small restaurant chain. I know that we talk about this a lot in the food blogging world, how it’s unacceptable when brands say they don’t have a budget. When it comes to restaurants, their profit margins are so small and part of the reason their photos suck is because they truly don’t have a budget to outsource it.

So I think that probably the safest route, like if it were me, I would go with smaller chains. So for example, this restaurant that I worked for, they had eight restaurants throughout Oregon. We’ve got another if anybody’s been to in the Oregon, Washington area there’s McMenamins, which I don’t know, they probably have like 30 restaurants or something like that.

So I would probably stick in that range because anything that’s an Olive Garden or something like that is going to be working with massive studios. Maybe you’d have a shot there, but I would think something that’s more mid range where they have like between six and 50 locations is a really great place to start. And they’re going to have more of a budget to work with. 

Megan: Awesome information. I love that. That’s so smart. Yeah, because they do work. Those big chains probably have everything established, right? They’ve got their process down. They’ve got their people and probably don’t need us, unfortunately.

Oh my goodness. What a great discussion. We’ve got maybe 10 minutes left. I do have to leave maybe one or two minutes early, but I was going to ask you guys, how do you deal with criticism? I think I’ve gotten really, really good at this. My skin has gotten so thick over the years. Comments do not bother me anymore. They just get deleted or left if they’re really funny. But I just recently got a note from a person who bought my cookbook and she just tore it to pieces and was like, I’ve made eight of your recipes and they’ve all failed. I’m like, really. Huh? That is just bizarre. How do you guys deal with stuff like that? Do you just kind of ignore it? Do you try to like, figure it out what’s going on? Why is it failing? What are your thoughts? Anyone. 

Chelsea: Okay. I do not have very thick skin and largely even if somebody else is in distress and I’m somehow responsible, whether that’s they’re criticizing me. I do property management for my dad; if a tenant needs something and totally derails me, which is something I need to work on.

So one thing I’ve started doing and I found it to be super effective is killing them with kindness. So for example, I have the cookbook lab which is a course that teaches people how to self-publish. I had somebody email me. It was something like, I’ve never self published before. It was this really broad question that’s pretty much the entirety of my course. So I was like, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they’re asking this really specific question, so I answered her question that way. She emailed me back and ripped me apart and told me how unhelpful I was and apparently she thought I was being condescending. Anyway, all this stuff and I just emailed her back. I said, I’m so sorry you took it that way. I misunderstood your question. This is what I thought you asked. She ended up responding and being like, I think I might’ve overreacted.

 It was really interesting. I’ve done that a few times lately and had really good results every time. I think people forget that there’s a human right on the other end. So reminding them of that. I don’t know, really trying earnestly to solve their problem or be overly kind is, has been effective for me.

Then relatedly, I had a foodie digital client. They’re amazing. You can Google them. They helped me with site management and stuff like that. One thing we talked about yesterday in my call with them was what they call community management. So for example, I got a comment on a blog post recently, and I was conflicted about whether or not to approve it because Jason will understand this.

It was a recipe for sous vide hollandaise. They were telling me my temperature was way too hot to be cooking in jars. That’s something we do with sous vide cooking at 167 and their jar broke because it was too hot. I cook egg bites at 185 in jars all the time. That was not your issue. 

I wanted to approve the comment to help solve the problem, but I also didn’t want to take that one-star hit because that was their issue, not mine. One thing foodie, digital told me, and I think this is interesting food for thought. I’m not sure if everybody will agree with this, apparently you can approve the comment, but delete the star rating. So it doesn’t impact your star rating for the overall recipe. She’s like, if you think that there’s a learning opportunity in there that your community can learn from, do that, because then you’re not taking the hit for their mistake, but you’re still getting an opportunity to respond to them. There’s some things to think about with that, but I just thought that was interesting.

Jason: I love that concept too, of replying to it. I would say one thing that I’ve found is like, don’t stress about one star reviews. I’ve had a ton of one star reviews. I have 15 books out. There’s people that aren’t happy with each one of my books, but some of them are ridiculous. The example I always use is I got a one-star review because my sous vide cookbook or my Modernist’s Cooking cookbook didn’t sufficiently explain how to make a chocolate pudding in the microwave. I don’t know why they thought it would. I’ve never cooked pudding in the microwave. I’ve never mentioned it. This just came out of the blue that I didn’t do this, but it served to become the top. When people looked at my book, they were like, okay, four and a half stars. What do you do sometimes? Wonder what the negative reviews are? The top negative review was just completely asinine. So to me that actually helped justify people buying my book. I think it helped my sales because they’re like, if this is the worst that people can come up with about what’s wrong with the book, then it’s probably a pretty good book.

Megan: Okay. I was laughing so hard. Putting in the microwave. That’s super funny. My worst review, can I just share this on Amazon for my cookbook, was that eight of the cookies in the cookbook contain alcohol and this person does not drink alcohol. So like they slammed me for that. So I’m like really?

You’re a monster. I’m just terrible. Julie, I want to give you a chance to speak about what’s going on with you and nice to see you by the way. 

Julile: Good to see you too. You are such a monster. I’m just kidding. I agree with Chelsea about killing them with kindness, even if you’re having to grit your teeth while you’re writing that email. I always try to tell them to have a nice day even if they aren’t going to respond and say, oh, maybe I overreacted. I love that that person did that to you Chelsea. My tip for you, Megan, is I wouldn’t email her back and ask her for specifics, because a lot of times they will say, well, this didn’t work. This didn’t work. I’ll share one instance. I had this cupcake recipe that just happened to be literally 50 people having these cupcakes. I made them over the course of, before even posting them, I made them three or four times, and double batched them. A couple of times they went into my husband’s work. They went into my work. So many people have these cupcakes and this person, and she doesn’t know this, has the nerve to tell me that these cupcakes are disgusting. Literally 50 people had them. You know what I mean? You always can tell; you read the room. If people don’t finish the cupcake, if people don’t finish the food, if they clean the whole plate, you know it’s really good.

People can say, oh, these are really good, but they don’t really feel that way. But you’re watching everyone eat them up. She was like,they are disgusting. They taste like eggs and I’m thinking, okay, so she must have had a problem with one of her ingredients. So when someone really tries to flame me or like to diss it, but it likely is a problem with their ingredients or they did something wrong. I will email them or even leave a comment like Chelsea was saying, you can use it as a learning experience for everybody else, a teaching experience. But I will ask them like, okay, so what specifically happened? Can you give me the specific details? What did you do? We’ll go back and forth in emails. If they’re not willing to do it, they’re not willing to do it, but I’m willing to go to figure out what’s wrong. I have gone back into the kitchen and done it where I will rebake and do things and not found a problem because, and for the most part, I feel solid in my recipes because I’ve tested them.

So before they even go up, they’re tested. So if there was a problem and I really do believe that there’s a problem, or maybe there’s something that’s not completely clear with the instructions, I’ll bring it back to the kitchen and I’ll retest it. I really try and in some instances it’s like five or six emails back and forth with them to try to figure out what the problem is because I totally understand.

Even now in the, in the climate we have, and even like a few years back when people were doing a lot of couponing and I think people are back to that and really budgeting because a lot of people’s budgets are squeezed, when they have a recipe that doesn’t work, it is so frustrating. Because they’re probably trying to make dinner or something.

So I get it. But then I’m just like, Hey, like you said, there’s another person on the other side of the screen. I firmly believe in treating people nicely and professionally because you’re going to get more that way. But I also understand, they’re just so mad. But then sometimes I don’t know if I really believe that they made eight recipes. If supposedly two or three didn’t work, you would think they would give up after that.

So I would try to get her to give you specifics, asking her, so you mentioned this one recipe. What was it? Try to get her to give you specifics because she might end up helping you in the long run. Maybe it’s really only one recipe that she made, but she said eight. People like to fib.

Megan: Oh my gosh. First of all, Chelsea, kill with kindness. I am like the queen of doing that. I’m so good at it now. I’m like, I am so sorry. You must have had such a rough time.I am the best and you’re right, it does work. It disarms people totally. Use it all the time. So that’s what I did with this woman.

I just was like, I am so sorry. I’m sorry you wasted ingredients for eight recipes. Wouldn’t you maybe stop after three. But I did try to ask, I asked, are you at a high altitude? Are your leavening agents fresh? We cleared that all up. Yes, yes. Yes. Everything’s good. She wasn’t at a high altitude.

So after a few back and forth, I was like, this is kind of a waste of my time. I mean, clearly nothing is glaring wrong. So I just put a heart on her and I had to leave it because I didn’t know, the learning opportunity was gone. I killed her with kindness. I said I was really sorry about those eight cookie recipes. I just kind of feel like I have to let that go. But yeah, I appreciate all of this. What a great conversation you guys. Well, it’s time to go, sadly. Now other people are joining the room, but hopefully you guys will join us next Friday and we can have some more fun food blogging conversations. Thank you guys. This was super fun. Such great information today. So have a wonderful weekend everyone.

Outro: We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Pinterest image for episode 235 which stats to track, restaurant photography and how to handle criticism.
Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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