In episode 355, Megan chats to Jodi Danen about pivoting away from focusing on clients to working for yourself. She delves into the advantages of dedicating all your time to your own blog and some of the drawbacks of making that shift.
We cover information about asking yourself, what is your goal, how viable is it to shift away from client work, keeping in mind that working towards the goal of growing your own blog can ‘t happen if you’re burnt out and what should you focus on as you decrease client work?
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Bio Jodi Danen is a registered dietitian specializing in recipe development and culinary communications. She has appeared across many media outlets including TV, podcasts, and publications. Jodi is the author of Super Simple Cooking for Kids and is the founder of Create Kids Club, a gluten-free food and recipe site focused on simple family meals and encouraging kids to cook.
- Remember your priority is your blog post.
- Working for other clients
- Know your goals for your business and keep it in mind as you make business decisions.
- Be careful not to chase the money and get lost on reaching goals.
- Hiring out to do jobs you don’t like can be helpful in growing your business but stay balanced.
- Regular content should be a priority
- SEO can help you level up more than social media.
- Evaluate your site by using Google Analytics can help you to make a plan and decide if you can downsize vs just going cold turkey with client work.
- Seek help with making a plan if that will invigorate you and get you to set goals to achieve.
- Batching is key to getting more content out for yourself.
- Get organized! There’s a lot of tools out there to help you make the plan.
- Work everyday a little more towards reaching your goals.
Click for full script.
EBT355 – Jodi Danen
Jodi Danen: Hi, this is Jodi Danen from Create Kids Club, and you are listening to the Eat Blog Talk podcast.
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I just would tell people to take the leap because the motivation and the support that I’ve gotten from the women in the group has been invaluable.It’s just re-energized me. But run the numbers, Because I think if anybody actually took the time to just take the price tag outta their head, but put it on paper and look at, when they could get a return on that investment, they would see that it’s not such a crazy number. At least if that was their hold back. If their hold back was just, the fear factor of it. Again, it’s that if you don’t put yourself out there, you’re never gonna grow. You have to get uncomfortable. If we stay comfortable, then we’re never gonna change.
Megan Porta: Hello food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast for food bloggers looking for the value and the confidence that will move the needle forward in their businesses.
This episode is sponsored by RankIQ. I am your host, Megan Porta, and you’re listening to episode number 355. I have Jodi Danen with me today. She’s going to talk to us about pivoting from focusing on clients to working for yourself. Jodi is a registered dietician specializing in recipe development and culinary communications. She has appeared across many media outlets including tv, podcasts, and publications. She is the author of Super Simple Cooking for Kids and is the founder of Create Kids Club, a gluten-free food and recipe site focused on simple family meals and encouraging kids to cook. Jodi, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today. How are you?
Jodi Danen: I’m very good, Megan. Thank you so much for having me.
Megan Porta: Yes, this is going to be a fun chat, but first we want to know what your fun fact is.
Jodi Danen: I had to think hard about this, but something unique that I came up with was that I once ran a full marathon without five minutes of sleep the night before. I could not sleep, and I should go back to say that I’m not really what you would consider a runner. So this was a really big deal for me that I had gotten that far and I was terrified, but I did it. It was an eye opening experience about what your mind and your body can do if you set yourself to the challenge.
Megan Porta: Ooh, I love that. Okay, so why did you only get five minutes of sleep? Were you just nervous about the race?
Jodi Danen: I was so nervous. I was so nervous. And then when I got that way, I talked myself out of sleep. So you’re laying there watching every minute go by and getting more and more worried. At one point in the middle of the night I realized, Wow I’m just not gonna sleep.
Megan Porta: I hate that. That is the worst when you wake up and you’re like this isn’t happening.
Jodi Danen: You gotta do what you can do. So it wasn’t a great feeling by any means, but you know what it actually was one of the best days in my life, I think, that day, what it turned out to be. So it was a big learning experience that I take with me going forward.
Megan Porta: Absolutely. That’s huge. I’m sure you think back to that lesson constantly, and I have to know how you did after. Did you just crash right there on the ground? What happened?
Jodi Danen: No, I was running the Chicago marathon and my brother was actually running it that day too, so it was a big deal. Only my second one, I had only started running a year prior, so it was working through those goals of 5k, a half marathon and then I got to this level. But no,I don’t know. Your body just kicked in. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or what. I felt great and we actually went out that night and you had to go around town with your medals on and see all the people and yeah, I lasted until I don’t know, 10:30 or 11. It was impressive and I didn’t feel that exhaustion that I should have.
Megan Porta: Wow. Okay. That I’m gonna think back on your lesson, in my future. So thank you for sharing that. I love it. Okay. This topic today that you’re coming to the table with is very interesting because I’ve had a lot of guests recently talking about the opposite. If you’re not making money, get that client work and work for other people, do work for other people, and you’re here to say, pivot from that because this is what’s worked for you and focus on doing work for yourself. So I would love to hear just when you made this decision to stop doing what the masses say and to start focusing on your work.
Jodi Danen: Sure. That’s what I had heard too, and there is definitely a truth to it. I don’t want people to think you should not do that because that’s not the case. It’s just knowing when you should stop doing that and what your own personal goals are. So for myself, my goal was to grow my website and I got to the point where my days, there’s only so many hours in a day that you are willing to work. I had two kids and a family, so I wasn’t willing to work from sunup to sun down, which you could have done. So it was figuring out the balance between the effort put into my own site and the effort put into the client work that I was doing. Then deciding at what point did I need to stop that? I saw when I was only working on other people’s work and I didn’t have time for my own work and looking at the numbers there and making some decisions that way.
Megan Porta: So you’re not necessarily saying, don’t do this. You’re saying do it if you feel led to do it, but then find that balance and don’t get so into client work that’s all you’re doing.
Jodi Danen: I think so. It’s deciding what your goal is. If you wanna grow your website. I did it because I needed the money, right? At first you’re not making too much money and you need to pay for things to keep that site running. I didn’t want it to be coming out of my family’s finances, so I was trying to figure out how to make more on my own. So there’s definitely a lot of benefits to doing the client work. I was doing photography and videography for others, which I really did enjoy. The positives of that was my work in those areas, like the quality of it improved drastically. You’re doing that day in and day out, you get much better at what you’re doing.
Megan Porta: Yeah, that’s a good point too. The work that you do for others can actually improve your own business because there are a lot of the same skills that we’re using to bring our businesses to the next level.
Jodi Danen: Exactly. So I felt like I just kept chasing after the instant money that came from that rather than focusing on my own site, which, it’s a little bit of a longer play. You do all this work and you’re not getting paid tomorrow for it, but you will six months, a year down the line. Continue to get paid on that work that you put into your own site that’s living there.
Megan Porta: Yeah. So at what point did you feel, or I guess I should say, was there a point where you were like, okay, this is too much. You’re either getting burned out or you weren’t feeling good emotionally or mentally, and that’s that. Was that your tipping point?
Jodi Danen: Yeah, I would say that was it. You’re working so, so hard on the work for other people. I couldn’t take on any more work because there wasn’t enough time. I wasn’t making the money that I wanted to be making in the end, but my hours were used up. There really wasn’t any more opportunity besides raising your prices and there’s a ceiling to that as well. So I was actually debating whether I should bring on a team to build out the photography and videography. I actually did do that. I hired some help, but that was a lot of headaches that I wasn’t interested in achieving. So that wasn’t for me. So I learned that. And so after a lot of discussions with my husband and stuff, because I knew if I dropped that work, like it was about 50% of my income was coming in from that work and the other half was coming in from my site. Trying to let my husband know that if I stop doing, there is no gain, you know that money isn’t gonna be instantly replaced. It’s gonna be a process to get there. He was completely on my side and very motivating for me to go ahead and do this. So that was very helpful because it was scary you were gonna give up that income to hopefully make it up on the other end. It did take a while, I was saying it was a painful year. When I got started doing this, I raised my prices so naturally I lost some of the clients and some of them stuck with me until I’m sure they found somebody who was less expensive, and we just naturally parted ways that way.
But then that year, my income did go down substantially and then all of a sudden it didn’t. It was painful until it wasn’t, I thought in my head because all of a sudden I started making the money on my site because I had buckled down and got very organized and got started putting the work that I was doing for others into my own site and it started to pay off.
Megan Porta: Oh, I love that story because it is scary, right? You have instant money and you said it so well earlier, money wasn’t going to be instantly replaced. So it’s scary. You’re like, is it going to come and when and how much? You wanna know, especially if you have a spouse who’s what you are doing? Where’s the money? So it’s like walking into a very fearful, unknown area, but it eventually came. So how did you get through that time? Was that hard? Looking back, was it easier than you thought?
Jodi Danen: No, it was hard. I had taken advice from others in the past too, of hiring out stuff you don’t like to do. So I had a writer for the website for a long time. My site’s been around for about seven years. So I’ve had the same writer for a very long time. So she was doing that. I always did the videography and the photography, but I did bring on somebody to help me get organized. Planning out Trello. So we used Trello for all the different posts to try to get ahead of, and we were doing four posts a week, so that took a lot of organization to do.
But yeah, it was difficult and scary waiting because these people were counting on the site too in the jobs and all that. It did take a little while. So it was scary. It was hard. But then, you could slowly start seeing it creep up and just the interaction through social media and all the different things that go along with constantly putting out content was positive. So it was scary, but it paid off.
Megan Porta: Yeah. You didn’t completely drop all your clients. You kept the ones that stuck with your value, like when you increase your pricing, they stuck with you. So you didn’t just completely cut off all your client work.
Jodi Danen: Yes, you’re right. So there was that. So there was still income coming in that way, which was really helpful. There already was an income coming in from the site. So yes. There were some brand partnerships, that sort of stuff that I had done for years. So there were other things. So that was helpful as well.
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Megan Porta: And how have things grown? So I’m assuming ad revenues have grown over time and how has that gone?
Jodi Danen: Good. Yeah, so the first year from 2020 into 2021, at the end of that first year, I saw an 89% increase in the revenue on the website.
Megan Porta: Oh, that’s crazy. That’s awesome.
Jodi Danen: I had to wait a little while, but then looking back on the year, I’m like, oh my gosh. It really is going up. So the sessions, so how many visitors, to the site was up 37% and that RPM was up 38%. So that was also really great to see that everything was moving upwards. Then by the next year, so 2021 as compared to 2022 because I kept rolling with what we had set up the year before, there was 170% increase in revenue.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh.
Jodi Danen: Sessions were up 112% and that RPM continued to go up 28%.
Megan Porta: Those are incredible numbers. You can’t argue with that.
Jodi Danen: No, it was, and that’s when I was eye opening and I said to myself, Why didn’t I do this sooner? That’s where I think the lesson for others, I keep listening to people talking about working for others and all that. But there is that tipping point where you have to decide which way you wanna go because there’s so much potential for you if that’s what you want as well.
Megan Porta: What did you focus on mainly when you started focusing on your content?
Jodi Danen: I guess regularly scheduled content. Getting out more content than I had been because I had just done it when I had moments of time in between client work. So we got that very regular and I really focused on keyword research. I did that all by myself. Really, I have Ahrefs\, so I really like utilizing that to dig in and see where I might fit in and the keyword selection and that competition and all those sorts of things. So I got pretty honed in on that as well.
Megan Porta: Did you do any focus on social media or Pinterest?
Jodi Danen: I’ve had a Pinterest manager for years and years, so I always leave that to them. I have tried Facebook and Instagram here and there, but I haven’t seen a lot of growth in those areas, unfortunately. So that’s this year, I am focusing on Instagram. I’ve brought somebody else on to try to help me with some of that. So I will say that social media is not a strong suit for me, but I’m working on it.
Megan Porta: Yeah, and you can only do one thing. You can do everything at once, right? You’ve made the decision, here’s my tipping point, I’m going to focus on my content. You can’t just dive into all of it. You have to start somewhere. Do you feel like SEO and keyword research is a great place to start?
Jodi Danen: For me, definitely. Because to me that’s what pays the bills. I can get paid on that ad revenue, but on social media, that’s not really, to me, a guarantee. I know there’s brand work and it clicks back to your site, but I’ve just never gotten very successful at that yet. Like you said, there’s. My brain only handles like little chunks. I can focus if I know what my plan is and go for it.
Megan Porta: So if somebody’s listening and their eyebrows are raised like maybe I’m at my tipping point. Maybe they’re feeling burnt out or really overwhelmed, frazzled, all those things, I feel like we all feel sometimes. What would you say is a good next step for them if they want to decrease their client load and begin to focus more on their own?
Jodi Danen: I would say, yeah, it is definitely evaluating their site, running it through Google Analytics, looking through all of what they have already set up. Finding the areas they’re strong and if they can’t just rip the bandaid off and stop doing that work altogether, which I totally understand because it’s quite terrifying, like you said, I think a great point would be taking on a certain amount of client work, and actually that’s what I had decided. I was gonna take on two videos a week or a month or whatever it was. I had a number in my head to make a certain amount of money that month and then fill in the rest of the time with my own work. So you can slowly back down that way. It’s really up to you, but the more time spent on your site is going to give you the best results in the end, in my opinion.
Megan Porta: Yeah, so really setting some boundaries around what you’re giving to others and that’s going to open up time for you to focus on yourself.
Jodi Danen: Yes, definitely.
Megan Porta: Anything else you would add? Is there anything we’re missing, like tips you have or maybe something you pulled away as a lesson or anything along those lines?
Jodi Danen: For me, I’m not the most organized person on my own, but I’m very good at following a plan. So for those people like me, having somebody help you or just setting the time aside to get organized in your posts, what you are going to be doing, know what you’re gonna be doing for the next two months post wise, that to me helped me immensely because you could then batch content that was similar, do the work at the same times, buy the groceries at the same times. That helps save a lot of time and energy in my opinion, but also knowing what you have to do ahead of schedule to help me be successful.
Megan Porta: So goals, setting your goals. What do you want for yourself? What do you want for your business? Organizing your content and your calendar. Then batching. I love that batch too. I think there’s such power in batching that people don’t give credit to. I think batching is really scary because it’s hard and a lot of people make that excuse like, I don’t do batching well, so they don’t because of that, they don’t try it or they don’t dig into it and they miss out on so much magic. I feel like there’s so much power.
Jodi Danen: There really is. You just gotta try it out and try to get organized and I think they’d be surprised by how much time they can save by doing so.
Megan Porta: You can batch in so many different ways. You can batch by topic or writing one day or doing photography and cooking one day, but that’s not the only way you can batch. You can batch in so many different ways if you just take the time to think through your schedule and your calendar. Anything else with organizing your calendar and strategizing that way, that might help people?
Jodi Danen: I really found that I liked using a tool to organize it rather than, I’m a pencil and paper kind of a person, but when you work with other people, you can’t do that. So I really enjoyed Trello. If people aren’t familiar with it, I just start with the free plan. I think to add people in, you have to pay for some of that, but it was very helpful. You can put so much information into each of the cards and move them around. So it just makes my life a lot easier by using some kind of a system to help organize.
Megan Porta: Do you organize your client work in the same way? Do you have something that you share with your clients so you’re on the same page? Anything like that?
Jodi Danen: I actually don’t have any more clients right now, so it’s truly only my own content right now. But no, I didn’t actually do that. That probably would’ve made things a lot easier to do that. I had like on my own end what was going on, but I did not have anything on their end.
Megan Porta: So how do you feel about not having clients? Are you happy or do you miss some of it?
Jodi Danen: I miss them cause I really enjoyed working with them. They were all so great and it was fun to try recipes, making recipes that I wouldn’t generally make on my own and then making them look pretty. I really enjoyed that challenge. I think it helped me grow very much in certain skills and even cooking skills and things that I make for my own family, that sort of thing. So I definitely miss that. But a big shift that happened for me too is my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease, so I worked for a lot of bakers and there was a lot of flour being brought into the house and about a year ago we had to stop. I don’t bring flour into my house anymore. So it all worked out that it ended at the right time.
Megan Porta: I love how this was a journey for you and I think we have all experienced this on some level where, whether we’re working for others or not, there’s so much to learn and it can bleed over. So the work we do for ourselves can benefit client work, and then the work we do for others can benefit our work. So I think there’s value in exploring all of it, but I love how you’ve just gotten to the point where you’ve had to set boundaries and prioritize. It’s this story for you, and it’s really cool to see how it unfolded.
Jodi Danen: Yeah, it was great. I was reflecting on from the time I stopped taking on clients or reduced the client work, I’m up 405% in revenue. So I am blasting out what I had been doing, even combining the client work and my other work. So it just continues to grow every single month. It’s just eye opening what you can do, and I think it was watching a lot of my clients. These were very successful bloggers and seeing their sites and how wonderful the stuff that they were doing, it was encouraging to me too. I’m like, If they can do this, I can do this too, but I gotta figure out how to do it.
Megan Porta: Yeah, cool, Jodi. Thank you so much for sharing all of this. Is there anything we’ve forgotten, any takeaways you wanna leave us with before we start saying goodbye?
Jodi Danen: I just say stay focused on your goals and keep working every day to act on them.
Megan Porta: Yes, I love it. We will put together a show notes page for you, so if anyone wants to go look at those, go to eatblogtalk.com/createkidsclub. Do you have an additional quote that you love or additional words of inspiration to share with us, Jodi?
Jodi Danen: I do, and a lot of food bloggers might already know this one because it is from Bjork over at Food Blogger Pro, The 1% infinity, making a little bit of progress every single day forever. That sticks with me and I try to do that every day in my business. In life.
Megan Porta: Yes. Life too, right? Not just business. It all bleeds together. Why don’t you share with everyone where they can find you online and social media?
Jodi Danen: Sure. I’m at Create Kids Club on all social media platforms and my website is createkidsclub.com.
Megan Porta: Awesome. Thanks again, Jody, so much for joining me today, and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. Please share this episode with a friend who would benefit from tuning in. I will see you next time.
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