In episode 314, Megan chats with Ashley Schuering, budding blogger and ghost writer, about how she is using her talents to help other bloggers while growing her own blog.
We cover information about how you need to clear the clutter from your life literally and figuratively to make room for new projects and success in your life, become a voracious learner in all things to accelerate growth and bravely accept that making a fool of yourself will be part of the success equation.
Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.
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Bio After being laid off in March 2020 due to the coronavirus, Ashley started her blog Confessions of a Grocery Addict at the behest of her friends. While she has been steadily growing her blog traffic, Ashley has created a thriving ghostwriting business for other food bloggers that has allowed her to become a full-time freelancer. By focusing specifically on her “zone of genius” — writing with an emphasis on SEO — she has created a monetization strategy that has become full-time work that pays her better than she has ever been paid before!
When the universe sends you a sign, listen!
Determine your zone of genius.
Determine what job within blogging really fills you up – pursue that, learn more and become great at it. Read books, listen to podcasts, take courses, anything to keep leveling up.
Appreciate the wins, the moments. Accept that you’ve made huge strides, celebrate them. Then take aim at the next moving target.
When you feel at ease with a job, when it comes naturally, it’ll become very satisfying. Do what fills your cup and then do it some more.
Be sure to work hard. Also be sure to take time off and refill your cup, take time for your family and self. Avoid burnout.
Have a willingness to try new things and make a fool of yourself and make mistakes and learn from them.
Failure is a catalyst for where I am in my life now.
Take a deep breath and seek out your tribe, your mastermind people, food blogging community, also your friends and family. Just ask for the pep talk if you need it.
Click for full script.
Ashley Schuering: Hi, this is Ashley Schuering from Confessions of a Grocery Addict and you are listening to the Eat Blog Talk podcast.
Sponsor: Hey, awesome food bloggers. Before we dig into this episode, I have a really quick favor to ask you. Go to your favorite podcast player. Go to Eat Blog Talk, scroll down to the bottom where you see the ratings and review section. Leave Eat Blog Talk a five star rating if you love this podcast and leave a great review. This will only benefit this podcast. It adds value and I so very much appreciate your efforts with this. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay. Now onto the episode.
Megan Porta: Hello, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast for food bloggers looking for the value and confidence that will move the needle forward in their businesses. This episode is sponsored by RankIQ. I am your host, MeganP orta, and you are listening to episode number 314. Today Ashley Schuering is going to talk to us about using your zone of genius as a monetization strategy before getting onto the ad networks and also being brave and trusting in yourself.
After being laid off in March 2020 due to the coronavirus, Ashley started her blog, Confessions of a Grocery Addict at the behest of her friends. While she has been steadily growing her blog traffic, Ashley has created a thriving ghostwriting business for other food bloggers that has allowed her to become a full-time freelancer. By focusing specifically on her zone of genius, writing with an emphasis on SEO, she has created a monetization strategy that has become a full-time work that pays her better than she has ever been paid before. I love your story, Ashley. Super excited to hear it in detail from you. But first we all want to hear what your fun fact is.
Ashley Schuering: Okay. My fun fact that I was going to give is that I have moved cities eight times and lived in seven cities total. But when I asked my husband what fun fact I should give, he thought it was better to say that I was 35 before I learned how to really ride a bike.
Megan Porta: Oh. Okay. Both are super fun. That’s a lot of moving and I’m actually really relieved to hear that because our oldest son, it’s just been such a struggle to teach him to learn to ride a bike. For so many years I was like, stressing about it. He’s never going to learn, but you learned.
Ashley Schuering: I did learn, I almost ran over a lady on my first ride and ran right into the tree line. At first she was mad and I was like, I’m so sorry. I’m just learning how to do this. She said, oh, it’s okay, honey. I’ve been there.
Megan Porta: Oh, goodness. Okay. You probably made her day and she has that story to carry with her. Some lady just ran into me. Oh, that is so funny. Well, you gave me hope for my son and I shouldn’t stress about it, right, Ashley?
Ashley Schuering: Definitely not. Everybody at their own pace.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Okay. I love it. Well, thank you for sharing those. Love them. I’m super excited to hear your story. Talk us through how you figured out how you got to the point where you decided you need to use your zone of genius as a way to actually monetize your business, instead of waiting around for the ad network, like so many of us do. I mean, I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty or anything, but we do it, right? We sit around and we wait and we’re like, where’s the traffic? Where’s the money? Where are the ads? So in the meantime, you figured out a way to kind of tap into something different. So talk us through how you got to that point.
Ashley Schuering: Sure. When the pandemic hit, I got laid off. I have been working in restaurants for over 20 years. My friends and I started walking 10 miles a day and we primarily talked about food. So two of them really inspired me to start the blog. Then I randomly found work as a VA. I got practice working for them and I realized that I was in pretty high demand for my writing. So I wanted to give the company a full year of my time because they gave me a really safe way to make a living in the midst of the pandemic. But after spending some time at Tastemaker, the virtual conferences, Emily Perron, one of the presenters had mentioned something and I realized that I wasn’t necessarily getting compensated in a way that could have, or should be paid. So when life started opening back up, I was working at the restaurant again part-time. I was still working as a VA. I was cleaning houses on the side and listening to podcasts like crazy while I was cleaning. I was just trying to make my way through. Earlier in my life, I had started a business that ended up closing after a little over three years. I was really quick to slip back into my shell and take the comfortable sure route of, okay, I have this job and I might not love it, but it’s the safe thing to do. When the restaurant decided that they were going to not do daytime shifts anymore, my only two shifts were weekend brunch, I took it as a sign from the universe that I just needed to start building my own clientele. So I put in my notice with the VA firm. I set up a page on my website, I’m using SEO best practices. Within a week I had three new clients who had found me through website searches without doing any advertising or reaching out on Facebook groups because I am terrible at social media. So from there, I had some of my older clients come along with me after I left the company. Now I have a full roster of eight clients. It’s taken me six months, I guess, to get here since I started freelancing, but I am just shy of six figures at this point.
Megan Porta: Oh, Ashley, what the heck? That is amazing.
Ashley Schuering: I feel really, really proud.
Megan Porta: That is awesome. You should feel proud. I am so proud of you. That’s an amazing story. There are so many themes here that I love and that I talk about a lot. One of them is the simple concept of clearing out the clutter from your life. Then when you do that, the magic that comes in. So the restaurant closed, and you were like, okay, this is a sign. So you took the next step and did what you knew you needed to do, which was to start saying no to other things that weren’t aligning. Then things just started unfolding from there.
Ashley Schuering: A hundred percent.
Megan Porta: Oh, how does it feel? I mean, looking back to where you were when you were doing the things that didn’t align, but you probably knew that you needed to get rid of them. Looking back to that point. Now, how do you feel about that?
Ashley Schuering: I mean, so I only started the blog, I think two years ago this month, actually. So I’m still pretty new to the whole situation. Anyone who is a food blogger, new or seasoned, knows that there’s just a gazillion things that go into it. I’ve always sort of taken myself as being good at a lot of things, but a master of none. So food blogging felt like a good avenue for me to focus on that. But I did start realizing that my writing was in really high demand and every one of my clients was like, wow, you’re really good at this. Or, my boss at the VA company was like, yes, you’re one of our top three writers. Can you send us some more writing samples? But I don’t know. I found the things that really filled me up and that for me, was writing. I am working on being better at photography, but what comes the easiest and the most natural is the writing. That’s why I started it.
Megan Porta: It has to feel good, just seeing that progression and how you listened to the cues people were giving you and that you were hearing. Then also being really courageous because it’s so scary to leave work that is comfortable, I guess. To leave a comfortable space and do something that’s super uncomfortable. So I just imagine that you’re giving yourself a huge pat on the back because you should be. That is such a fun and incredible story. I love it.
Ashley Schuering: Thank you. Yeah. I feel like I’ve eaten crow a lot of times along the path of being a food blogger and I am sure that there will be more in the future, but right now I’m trying to take the moment and accept that I’ve made huge strides and celebrate them before I take aim at my next moving target.
Megan Porta: So you listened to what people were telling you, they were telling you that your writing is really good. So that’s a great clue. What do you think about other people who don’t really know which avenue to go, but have that same feeling you did? I need to focus somewhere before I get into the ad networks. What is your best advice for them as far as finding that one path?
Ashley Schuering: For me, the clue that writing was my path is that I felt ease with it. It was something that came naturally. It’s very satisfying to me. I love talking about food and learning about food. So writing for these other bloggers who are operating with different cuisines or different diets gives me things to research and for me learning constantly is what fills my cup. So that was something that just fell into place for me. For other people that might be social media. Like maybe it really fills you up to get lots of likes on your Reels or photos or whatever it is. Because there’s such a wide range of things within food blogging that need to be done and the really big food bloggers that are super successful have these teams that help them. I think, focus on the thing that fills your cup and that you find fun.
Megan Porta: That’s great advice. I love that because it really is that simple. Like start there and then things should evolve fairly naturally. How do you manage your life? Your food blog life and then your client life. Do you have a system? How do you do that?
Ashley Schuering: So I haven’t been working on keeping my work for other clients within a four day work week. That sometimes means that I’m working really long hours during those four days, but it’s at my own pace. I get out of the house and go for a walk to clear my mind, but it’s usually 10 or 12 hour a day. Then I reserve two days out of the week to do my personal and professional development. So taking courses, reading books, working on my own blog. I’m starting to pitch to other media publications because that’s part of my strategy for increasing domain authority. If I get links to these other sites or backlinks from other sites. Then one day a week, my husband and I take off together and we have a strict, no working policy.
Megan Porta: Ah, I love the strict no working policy. I think it’s so important, don’t you? I mean, if you don’t have at least one day a week, a solid day to just forget work and not think about it, I feel like it’s really detrimental. We tend to get in the cycle of thinking that it’s the opposite. I need to keep working on this one day off because it’s going to move me forward, but actually in my experience, it has only sent me back. Do you find that same thing?
Ashley Schuering: Absolutely. I mean, I think there is a law of diminishing returns, right? As Americans, I feel like hustle culture is really pushed at us from every angle. I’m not gonna lie. There is a hustle in being a food blogger, but unless I personally take the time to connect with my husband and take the dogs for a long walk and not sit in front of my computer for a whole day, not only do I become less productive, but I’m also just not a nice person.
Megan Porta: Yes. I mean, not to you, but me. I’m yessing to myself.
Ashley Schuering: I feel like that’s probably true of everybody, right? Because all work and no play makes Ashley a sad girl.
Megan Porta: I agree with that. So I’m less productive and I find that I’m less creative. I have fewer good thoughts, like fewer ideas and things that will actually benefit my business. So taking at least a day, I try to do two. Sometimes I need to dabble in work a little bit over the weekend, but I keep it minimal. But yeah, one to two days solid is so good for me. I just feel like everyone should do that. It’s hard as a food blogger though, because we have so much to do. I mean, you’ve touched on that a little bit. There’s so many moving pieces that it seems overwhelming to manage it all. So we think, well, the more time the better spent in the business, but then over time yeah, it becomes obvious that we need to step back. Hopefully you don’t get to a bad burnout point that some people get to before you realize it. But I love that you do that.
Let’s go back to what you were saying about getting your clients. So you said that yours came to you pretty naturally. Talk to us about that.
Ashley Schuering: I had contacted Emily Perron. I know that you help people hire. Is there any reason why I can’t use my blog as the same website domain as a place to advertise my service as being a food blog ghost writer. She was like, no, I think that should be fine. So I just set about creating a whole new page. I used all of the best practices that I could. So writing for the reader and I have my resume on there. I have, what do you call them when somebody gives you the thumbs up, testimonials? I have my testimonials. I have my basic pricing there. As I mentioned earlier, I honestly don’t do social media. I tried at the beginning and I just found that it’s not good for my mental health. But now I’m making enough money that I’m going to hire somebody to do it for me because I know it’s really important. But yeah, just creating the page. Within one week I got three new clients and then over the last month I picked up another three new clients. One of them was a referral, but everybody else has found me just by searching.
Megan Porta: So you created a space for it, like literally on your website and also mentally, you decluttered other things that you could create a space for it. Then you just showed up and put your best foot forward and worked hard and you worked well. Then people start talking about you, right? So when you do good work for somebody, that is going to trickle down and people are going to tell other people. We’re like a huge community of food bloggers. We all do the same things. So we tell people when we find those good services. So I think what you did is so simple, but really important and something that a lot of us probably needed to hear. Anything else along those lines? Like tips about either finding your zone of genius or getting clients?
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Ashley Schuering: I mean, just learn as much as you can. I’m a voracious reader, which I think translates well into writing. I am currently consuming a whole bunch of books about how to be a better writer. Then I also just read a bunch of food blogs and food stories, so that helps me in my craft. So I think find whatever your craft is and then be really curious about how to grow your skill set.
Megan Porta: Okay. Two things that you just mentioned that are so underutilized in our world. So learning as much as you can, just being a voracious learner and just taking it all in. Stuff that matters and then being curious. I think those two things are so awesome. Love that you do that. I love that you said it, and I want everyone listening just to keep that top of mind, because if you want to become a better general food blogger, you need to have those two things. This was scary, right? Like some of the stuff you did Ashley, it was super scary I’m sure. Just taking the leap in the first place, getting your clients, making the space for it. Then you mentioned a little bit ago about pitching to publications. So I would love to hear your thoughts about taking a scary leap, all the scary leaps that you’ve taken and encourage people to do the same when they’re in a similar boat.
Ashley Schuering: I think the fun fact about me not learning how to ride a bicycle at 35 says it all. You just have to have a willingness to try new things and make a fool of yourself and make mistakes and learn from them. At the end of the day, yes, it was scary to branch out on my own again, when I know that I have failed in the past. But that failure also was a catalyst for where I am in my life now. So I’m a firm believer that things work out the way that they’re supposed to. If you go into the world with an open heart, just trust that it’s going to be okay. Also having, you know, the support of wonderful food blogging friends is so important and then wonderful non-food blogging friends and family who are just there cheering me on has been invaluable.
Megan Porta: Oh, that was all so well said. I love it all. I want to hear more about your pitching to the publications. So talk to us about that and what you’re hoping to gain from that.
Ashley Schuering: So I haven’t actually successfully pitched anything yet. But I think from everything that I’ve read, it’s a law of averages. So I just have to keep doing it and practicing. First of all, I would like to diversify my income and being a ghost writer is amazing and it’s satisfying helping to support these other badass women who are building their businesses. It gives me a glimpse of what’s on the other side. But also, there are things that I want to write about the food system in general. I’m a bit more of a political person. So I want to use my voice for good outside of just explaining recipes or ingredients, even though that’s very important to me and I’m passionate about it. Not only is it exciting to be able to write about these things, but I also feel like it’s part of my strategy going forward. I mean, I reply to any HARO query that I think that I have any sort of applicable skills. So that’s been helping to raise my domain authority, which seems to be going somewhat hand-in-hand with my increasing viewership. But I would like to, Beyond the Kitchen or Bon Appetit or Food and Wine, or The Counter or any of these amazing publications. Not only will it help my domain authority, but it’ll also give me an opportunity to write about non recipe things.
Megan Porta: Oh, that’s great. I love that you’re prioritizing that and you’re going to crush it because you have a history. Look at the last six months for you. That’s been so awesome. Do you feel like removing the focus from certain things takes the pressure off a little bit? There’s so much pressure for so many people to get into an ad network. I get it. I get it. I’ve been there totally and am not judging at all, but sometimes I feel like we can become so laser focused that it’s almost hurting us. You know what I mean?
Ashley Schuering: Yes. I mean, I’m still a good chunk away from getting onto an ad network with that 50,000 number. I’m climbing. I think I reached like 8,000 sessions last month. But like I said, I don’t, I don’t do social media and I know that that’s an important piece for getting your brand out there. It’s not a comfortable place for me. I’ve never been a Facebook person or an Instagram person. I don’t have TikTok on my phone. I literally have never opened the app. I feel like there are so many things that you can focus on, but I just leaned into what was working for me. I found that I could make money as a ghostwriter. So I leaned heavily into that. It was something that I enjoyed doing. So I get to wake up every day and work from home, doing something that I really enjoy. That means everything to me, even if I wasn’t making the kind of money that I’m making now, because I’ve clearly done it with less in the past.
Megan Porta: It’s like that whole, I think it’s a law of attraction principle where if you focus on what you don’t have, then it’s going to be slow growing. But if you start focusing on what you do have, then you can grow so much more quickly. So you said those two things. So you were leaning into number one, what was working and number two, what you enjoyed. So if you think about that with anything you want to do in the food blogging space, I think that can only make you more money, give you more traction, make you happier. Make you feel more complete as a food blogger, entrepreneur. So I love that. It’s such a simple formula. A lot of the stuff you’re talking about is super simple, but it’s also hard and scary.
Ashley Schuering: I mean, it is, but it isn’t. Because the alternative is that I would be working for a different restaurant or I’d be working nights, which I didn’t like when I used to do it. I don’t know, just as long as you have your basic needs met, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As long as I’ve got a roof over my head and food that I can eat, I feel like I can do anything with my day that I want. So building this business has been what I’ve wanted to do.
Megan Porta: Oh, that’s inspiring. Also, which struggle is more painful? So the struggle of having to work nights and do jobs that you don’t necessarily want to be at, or the struggle of building your business. So you just have to determine which is least desirable and then get rid of that one. But again, it’s like so easy to think that and say it, but not as easy to implement all the time. I get where that hangup can occur. Definitely. I don’t want to say, oh, just get over it.
Ashley Schuering: When I first got laid off, it was six weeks of a real dark time. You know, I didn’t know what I was doing. If I don’t have a forward path, I am not a happy person. But then once I found food blogging, it was like, okay, I have my bone. I’m going to just gnaw on it until there’s nothing left.
Megan Porta: Oh, so inspiring. Okay. Do you have anything else before we start saying goodbye that we’ve forgotten to mention?
Ashley Schuering: I don’t think so. I think everybody just, take a deep breath and seek out your tribe, your mastermind people, food blogging community, but also your friends and family. Just ask for the pep talk if you need it. Also Creative Pep Talk is another great podcast to listen to if you need a pep talk.
Megan Porta: It’s called Creative Pep Talk? Oh, I have not, ok writing that down. Cool. I’ll add that to my list. That sounds amazing. All right, well, thank you, Ashley. This was so fun and you have inspired me and I’m sure you’ve inspired so many other food bloggers. So thank you for sharing your story and just everything you’ve had to share today. Thank you for being here.
Ashley Schuering: Thank you.
Megan Porta: Before you go, do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to share with us?
Ashley Schuering: I think my favorite quote, as an entrepreneur, is “success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.” it just sums it up, right? Just because I’ve hit this level of success doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep struggling for the next rung. Failure is definitely not fatal. You know, your ego might get a little bruised along the path. I know mine has, but you’ll come out stronger on the other side.
Megan Porta: Love it. More inspiration. So we’ll put together some show notes for you, Ashley. If anyone wants to go look at those, go to eatblogtalk.com/confessionsofagroceryaddict. Where can everyone find you online, on social media?
Ashley Schuering: So I’m confessionsofagroceryaddict.com and you can find me on instagram and Pinterest and Facebook, and I think Twitter too – all Confessions of a Grocery Addicts, but I can’t guarantee that there’s anything very current.
Megan Porta: Okay. Well, we won’t expect anything, but go and visit anyway and share some love with Ashley. So, thank you so much, Ashley, again for being here and thank you for listening today. Food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
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