Press "Enter" to skip to content

Episode 197: Instagram Friendly Photography with Maria Gureeva

In episode 197, we talk with Maria Gureeva, a food blogger that’s grown her Instagram following with visually striking, consistent content in just 2 years.

We cover why you need to know what your audience wants from you, a reminder that the algorithm isn’t the villain and go over how Reels are a great tool to connect with your audience.

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


Guest Details

Connect with Earth Of Maria
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio Maria is a vegan recipe developer and food photographer, as well as a student at the University of Oxford and the author of Earthy Vegan Eats, an upcoming cookbook featuring 60+ creative plant based recipes. In two years, she has grown her social media following to over 180,000 through the power of visually striking, consistent content, and since 2019 her blog has grown from 25,000 to over 100,000 page views. Maria is passionate about encouraging other women to pursue their passions, as well as giving out honest, up-to-date advice on Instagram success.

Takeaways

  • Instagram is the platform that requires you to niche down as much as possible for success.
  • Sharing consistent content, layout style stays the same and/or finding a similar color theme to post your content on Instagram can help you connect and grow your audience.
  • Use the explore page on Instagram to find out what trends are coming, going and get inspired to share new ideas with your audience to see if they respond.
  • As you try to vary your style, content or niche, if you find that your engagement goes down, revert back to your old style until you find another strategy to test out.
  • Try offering Instagram only content and let your audience know that.
  • You might try posting a non recipe at times – instead find a colorful photo like a bowl of fruits and veggies to draw your audience into a conversation.
  •  If you notice a specific type of dish that does well, that’s a really good indication that the algorithm almost associates you with that type of food.
  • Just because one type of food did well once, doesn’t mean it won’t change. The algorithm changes and so does your audiences preferences
  • The reason as to why Reels have been so effective is because they provide a very new and interesting way to connect with your audience.
  • You have to be willing to take risks and try out new things in food blogging.
  • Time blocking can help you be effective as a blogger and group tasks together that make you more productive and not change the flow of what needs to be done in that moment.
  • Carving out time to just relax and do nothing is beneficial and it avoids complete burn out from happening where you lose more time.

More About This Topic

Defining your brand can be very helpful in strategizing your business plan so head to Episode 124 to learn more from Beth Taubner.

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. And 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:

Hey food bloggers, are you guys looking for accountability and business growth on a whole new level? If so, you should totally join the new eat blog talk mastermind program that we are starting in May 2021. Spend time alongside like-minded peers who will hold you accountable so you actually achieve your weekly and quarterly and yearly goals. Masterminds hold massive power. Let’s grow together, learn from one another and stop allowing deadlines to slip through the cracks. Achieve big dreams this year. We are now accepting applications for the Mastermind program, and you can find the application at eatblogtalk.com.

Hey, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk. This podcast is for you, food bloggers wanting value and clarity to help you find greater success in your business. I have Maria Gureeva from earthofmaria.com with me today, and we are going to have a fun discussion about Instagram friendly photography. Maria is a vegan recipe developer and food photographer, as well as a student at the University of Oxford and the author of Earthy Vegan Eats, an upcoming cookbook featuring 60 plus creative plant-based recipes. In two years, she has grown her social media following to over 180,000 through the power of visually striking, consistent content. Since 2019, her blog has grown from 25,000 views to over 100,000 page views. Maria is passionate about encouraging other women to pursue their passions, as well as giving honest, up to date advice about Instagram success. I love this topic Maria so much, and I’m really excited to chat with you and learn from you today. But first we all want to hear your fun fact.

Maria Gureeva:

Hi Megan, thank you so much for having me on your podcast. My fun fact, I actually had to think about this and I would say that basically I am a poetry enthusiast and I write a lot of poetry, but I don’t consider myself to be very good. So I never really share it with anyone. Outside of my work and my studies, that’s one thing that I do very consistently.

Megan:

Oh, that’s so cool. So you kind of keep it to yourself.

Maria:

Yes, I do. I shared a couple with my best friend, but that’s about it. Maybe that was going to change in the future, but for now it’s a very personal endeavor.

Megan:

Yeah, I can understand that. So what do you get out of it? Do you find that it fills you up with creativity or inspiration? What does it do for you?

Maria:

Definitely. I think it’s a very different way to express yourself, to convey different emotions and different feelings in a very creative manner, and being a creative bustling channel, it just gives me an outside outlet, outside of my usual food photography and recipe writing.

Megan:

So I know that that can be a huge outlet for a lot of people. Once you dig in, there’s magic here. So how did you find it? I’m just curious, how did you find that this was a thing for you?

Maria:

Well, actually my grandma, when I was younger, encouraged me to explore my creativity in so many different ways. Writing, to visual art and actually she was the first person to introduce me to cooking as a very creative thing, as opposed to just food for the sake of just eating and survival. That’s where I got my enthusiasm for writing and it just kind of came naturally. Well now I read poetry throughout school, throughout my education. I wanted to get to go myself and I found that I really enjoy it.

Megan:

That’s so cool. So clearly you are a super creative individual. You find many different outlets, which is good. I think that’s super healthy and it keeps you on your toes and keeps you inspired and all of that. So this kind of ties into what we’re talking about today. We’re going to talk about Instagram friendly photography, how to produce those amazing photos that pull people in and captivate people. You have figured out some things about how keeping up with the Instagram algorithm changes also as well as how to increase engagement while staying true to who you are, have really helped. So I would love to just dig into this with you, Maria. Can you talk about Instagram friendly photography, so that phrase, and then what works and what doesn’t in 2021?

Maria:

I knew that the concept of niching down is something that you have covered extensively on your podcasts and in your community over the last couple of weeks. Instagram is probably the platform where it applies more than anywhere else. In order to really tailor your photography to the Instagram algorithm, it will vary from person to person, but I spent a lot of time observing other people’s accounts and that really helps me to gain an insight of what works or doesn’t. Kind of a common theme that I have observed is accounts, which gain a lot of likes, a lot of engagements, all the comments in a very consistent basis are very consistent in the sort of content that they put out. I think that this can manifest itself in many different ways, whether that’s the style of photography you’ve produced, to having the same color part of the same background or in the nature of the foods that you put out. I will actually give a personal example.

So in terms of, if you look at my Instagram account, it’s all very much done in that same style where the food is a very much a focus and outside of that, I have very minimal styling and I either have a light gray or a white wooden background and I stick to that as much as I possibly can. I would say around the middle of 2020, I try to branch out my content because I felt a little bit, not stuck, but I thought that maybe my audience would like something else. I had a couple of people say that, and want to see more desserts. We want to see more breakfast foods. In general, I was looking at other accounts, and I was thinking maybe I should implement all these different strategies.

So I started sharing photographs from different angles, as I said, doing desserts and doing breakfast foods, when usually I am my audience response much better to savory dishes. My engagement just completely went downhill. That was a very clear indication that the vast majority of my audience found my account through those very simple vegan savory dishes. That taught me a very important lesson that you have to, if you want to achieve success with these algorithms, some of these social media platforms, because basically the algorithm, it can be targeted this vilain, into this thing that’s very much able to get us, but in reality it’s just showing, it’s trying to staff the people on the platform, as well as it possibly can. With Instagram and other social media platforms being so saturated, you have to find, it’s definitely what it is that you want to be known for and find a style that is very true to the sorts of photography that you enjoy and also what your audience responds well to. To add on top of that, the more specific you can be about the type of feedback that you produce and that you put out there, the more specific you can be the better because I think this applies much stronger to food bloggers that are just starting out because you see all of these really big bloggers that put out savory, that put out vegan, or healthy recipes, air fryer recipes.

And there seems to be a mixture of absolutely everything, but they already have that established audience for 10 years ago when it was much less competitive. But I only started my Instagram two years ago when that was already so much competition. I did do this with the intention of growing my Instagram really, really quick, but I just found a style of photography that I really enjoyed, and I stuck for the vast majority of my time on a platform, I stuck very close to that, to the type of this vegan, savory comfort food niche that I found for myself. That has worked really well for me. I know that for other people, this very narrow focus has been massively successful.

Megan:

Okay. I loved hearing you talk through all of that. That was super interesting. I’m scrolling through your Instagram account right now. A couple things I cannot believe how many followers you have. That’s so impressive and amazing. I love your style of photography. You do stay very consistent; you do the same angle and you’ve got, it’s probably not the same dish, but the same shape of dish that you use consistently. The same amount of distance away from the dish. So it’s really interesting that that is what works for you and that when you started experimenting with putting more sweet dishes on that people were like, no, that’s not what we want from you. So my question is, is this different from what you show on your blog? Or are you consistent from blog to Instagram or does it differ?

Maria:

I share all of my blog posts on my Instagram, but if you go on my website, you will see that I do like to photograph, you know, the dish from multiple angles and also do the ingredients shots and the process pictures. But I also like to do dishes that are Instagram only and that are very exclusive to the platform because I find that in my experience, one of the things that it’s very well known, that Instagram was trying to keep people on a platform for as long as possible. I like to kind of keep a balance between kind of sending people over to my blog to get to the websites and obviously get ad revenue, which is super important from a monetization perspective, but to a couple of times a week, I like to post the recipes that are exclusive to Instagram and can’t be found on any other platform.

I think that’s another thing that has really helped me with building a really engaged audience. I do get a lot of messages saying, thank you so much for putting the recipe in the caption and sharing it within the platform. Other reasons why that is super helpful is because it leads to people saving your posts, which is a really good indication to Instagram,= that it’s engaging. The reason as to why I hesitated a bit. It’s because, obviously if you’re making money from ads, you want to guide people over to your blog so I suppose it comes down to finding your own individual balance between deciding how important Instagram is to your overall business strategy are deciding how much free Instagram only content you want to put out that and how much you want to direct people to an external source such as a recipe website or an ebook. Basically find a balance that works for you and for your business.

Megan:

I love that you post exclusively to Instagram occasionally, how often do you do that?

Maria:

So I have three blog recipes coming out each week. So I like to show two brand new blog recipes every single week, at least. Then I do another one where I update an old blog post and I do new pictures and that sort of thing. So I like to share that and then have three to four times a week I do Instagram only, whether that’s in real format or just a static picture. Actually from time to time, I like to do these photographs, why it’s not even necessarily a recipe, but if you have a look at my page, I have all of these bowls that have, you know, avocado, some vegetables arranged in the very pretty arrangement that may not be super practical for the average person just cooking in that kitchen. But they tend to do really well because they stand out from all of this competition. The stream of photographs and recipes that people inevitably have whenever they open the app.

Megan:

I love that you do that. I have a question for you. I’ve never thought about this before, but on my blog I have a theme of gathering people, feeding and enjoying the people. So that could be holiday meals, that could mean like dinner, serving food for a party and then enjoying the people who come to the party. So that’s my theme there, but what do you think about taking a really specific part of that and focusing on it in Instagram to see how that resonates? Because when I scroll through my content on Instagram, there is definitely a theme for what people like more than the rest. So anything I post that has to do with desserts or sweets, I’m way more likes than the other stuff. So what do you think about that? Should I experiment with that? Because I don’t have a lot of Instagram traction. I never have. I’ve never really given it a ton of effort though, either. But would that be a good strategy to try, even though I’ve been blogging forever? What do you think?

Maria:

Definitely. If you notice a specific type of dish that does well, that’s a really good indication that the algorithm almost associates you with that type of food. So for you, as you said, it’s desserts. For me, it’s specifically those savory dishes. When I was just starting out my Instagram, I was posting and I was definitely less consistent, but I noticed very quickly that in particular pasta dishes tend to do very well for me and if there are nourish bowls that are very popular in the vegan community. I would also keep in mind this may change via the times. So when I first started my Instagram accounts, maybe bowls did exceptionally well on the algorithm, but that doesn’t really seem to be the case as much anymore.

I used to piece a lot of salad dishes, but after a while, the likes started to taper off. That was when I thought maybe I should try something else. So I took a browse through Instagram. I took note of the sort of thing that was performing well for accounts that are similar to my own and adjusted my quarter strategies. So in your case, I would definitely experiment with the desserts, but trying different types of desserts, desserts photographed from different angles, because there’s a lot of successful dessert accounts on Instagram and some of them have very casual, relaxed, kind of homey style where it looks very accessible, very suitable for the everyday beginning baker. Other photographers do this very exquisite layout with the really complicated food styling, a lot of props and a very complicated sort of more advanced angles. So you have to experiment and see what works well for your audience and tailor your content strategy based around that, if that makes sense.

Megan:

Yeah, that does. It gives me a lot to think about and I really appreciate this perspective because it’s not anything I had ever considered before. But I just might have to experiment with that. So thank you, Maria. I would love to chat with you about consistency and what your thoughts are on how consistent to be within Instagram.

Maria:

Okay. So consistency, as I mentioned, I feel like it has two different meanings, whether that’s the frequency with which you’re posting and also the consistency in your actual content. As I briefly mentioned, you have to be very specific in your niche to respond to your audience, but you also have to pay attention to trends in general, and to trends in the specific niche. So for example, all of my food is vegan but when it comes to veganism, there are so many different kinds of subcategories of that. So I spend a lot of time on the explore page and I spend a lot of time browsing other accounts. If I notice something is a particular type of dish or a particular style of cooking is doing very well, if I see a lot of photographs of crispy potatoes on my explore page, or lots of reels containing crispy potatoes, I will give that a go. Even if it’s definitely not my usual type of content, I will see how my audience responds and if it flops, then I will just kind of revert back to my old strategy or maybe try something else. But if it works that will give me an indication that the algorithm and the audience like that sort of content. In terms of consistency, when it comes to how often you post, this is one of those things where I think it really depends because some people post twice a day and that works very well for them and gets very consistent engagement.

Other people post only a few times a week but their dishes are much more complicated and much more involved, so just through that wow factor, they manage to sustain engagement, even if they’re not posting as frequently. In my particular case, I found that between the five times a week to every day that works the best. I have tried posting twice a day, but that didn’t actually work out too well. Instead one post getting a lot of likes, I kind of got a mediocre amount on the two different posts. So I quickly stepped back from that approach. Another thing to be really consistent with is your Instagram stories. I find that when it comes to stories, it’s really important to treat them almost as their own platform.

I noticed in my own Story engagement, Instagram wants you to not only use it as a means of promoting your website or promoting the content on your feed, it wants you to essentially name a place to tell a story? I noticed that if I’m posting something, it would as simple as giving a behind the scenes look at my day, my daily routine and how I produce my content that gets twice the amount of likes then if I was just to post this is a new recipe on my blog or check out this new recipe on my feed, leave a comment. That definitely feeds back into the overall concept of Instagram wants you to do, maximize user returns and should keep people at a platform and engaging with creative content for as long as possible.

Megan:

That was so helpful. Thank you so much, Maria, for talking through that, because not only did you give us tips about how to be consistent with styles and photography, which is one of your things, you also talked through how often and what, so stories. Yes. We definitely need to be paying attention to those too. Can you talk to us about Reels? I know that you gained a thousand followers a week, I think by using Instagram Reels. Can you talk to us about your strategy there?

Maria:

Yeah. So I think the reason as to why Reels have been so effective is because they provide a very new and interesting way to connect with your audience. I think nowadays more than ever before, with first of all the lockdown and us not having as much interaction as before, in general, social media becoming increasingly crowded, and increasingly manufactured and kind of commercialized to a greater extent than ever before. People naturally gravitate towards creators that are showing a bit more behind the scenes ;look at that content and also showing that personality. Through Reels you can very easily not just do the standard hands and pans style of cooking. That may have been very popular five, six years ago, but they allow you to show your face, or even if you don’t want to show up on camera, which I don’t always do.

I prefer to be very shy behind the scenes. That’s just my personality, but I like to do voice overs, which can be really useful because just hearing someone’s voice, that re establishes a connection, or oftentimes what I do in my Reels is I will show myself holding the bowl of food and even if I’m not showing my face and talking to the camera, that still gives my content a bit more of that human element. I know that’s what a lot of other creators have had success and have taken their account for being quite stagnant to once again growing and gaining followers consistently by switching over to what Instagram is prioritizing and leaning into the human connection that is met through the viewing format of Instagram Reels.

Another thing that I would like to add is that when creating Reels, once again, it goes back to that consistency and to that principle of niching down, because I have tried to experiment once again with creating different types of content. Once again, breakfast ideas that haven’t been done as well. But if I create an Instagram Reels version of my pasta dishes that tend to be very popular, my nourish bowls, my tofu dishes, are kind of this overall theme I have with vegan savory competency that can do a lot better in general. So that’s another piece of advice that I would give to anyone that’s just starting out. But yes, overall I think it’s an excellent feature and it allows for so much creativity and for you to take a new approach to your content and really invigorate your Instagram strategy.

Megan:

I think there is so much potential in Reels too, like you said, be super creative and show yourself in a new way, even more than stories because you can curate them differently and piece together different pieces of content. You mentioned doing voiceovers and just doing a simple show of you holding your final dish. That is still a way to incorporate you into it without recording all of the video of you. So there are so many different options there and I have a feeling I know what your answer is going to be but how often do you recommend putting yourself out or producing Reels per week?

Maria:

As much as you think it’s going to be helpful for your overall business objectives and for your overall strategy, because I kind of take the perspective that when it comes to producing Instagram content, you have to see your business as a business and see Instagram not just putting content up for the sake of producing content. You have to know where you’re going, whether that’s getting your cookbook deal or maybe self publishing a cookbook, or producing your ebook or selling some sort of physical or digital product, or leading people over to your website and familiarizing them with your brand. So for instance, for me, I think it’s very important and I try to do them at least two to three times a week.

Because I like to be able to work for brands, both sponsored content and commercial food photography and food video for brands. So showcasing that I can produce content in a variety of different formats. That’s very important to my overall business, but some of that just wants to drive traffic through Instagram. It may be of a lesser importance, but even then I think that in order to really capitalize on this organic engagement that Instagram is offering, the movement and this opportunity to reach more people than ever before given the frigidity of the of the overall algorithm, I think at least one to two times a week is my general recommendation.

Megan:

Okay. That helps. Thank you for talking through that. I would love to talk to you about photography a little bit, because this has been a recurring theme here on this podcast where people have views all over the place on this topic. So some people will really believe, myself included, that you’ve got to nail your photography, if you truly want to find success on certain platforms. So Instagram would be one, also Pinterest. But I recently chatted with people who have opposing views and they’ve been wildly successful and they do not have great photography and they don’t put a focus on that. So I would love to hear your thoughts on that. What are your thoughts on how successful you can be based on your photography and how quality it is. Also you could talk maybe a little bit about how to find your style.

Maria:

Of course. So I definitely think it really depends on who you are as a person and your favorite aspect of food blogging. ISo personally I knew that I have always been a very very visual person. I have always been very creative and even before I started blogging, I had a beginner DSLR camera and I would always walk outside and just take those generic native photographs and that sort of thing. So the photography side of food blogging came quite naturally to me and that is what I decided to focus on for my own business. I decided to go down the pathway of producing a cookbook and do photography for brands and helping other photographers with their websites and with reshooting old recipes, that type of thing. But as you obviously know, there are so many different sides to food blogging and that is such a wonderful aspect of it.

Because even if you don’t enjoy the photography, you can still be massively successful just by focusing on the recipes and just developing really, really good well tested recipes that will gain your readers trust and get a pretty good response. I think that sometimes photography on Instagram, on Pinterest, you might look at it and to see it as not very special, but actually that type of very simple photography that doesn’t look overly stylized, overly professional, that can actually be a unique selling point because it makes the recipe look very approachable and encourage the beginner home cook to make it. But on the other hand are the other people who really need them for the photography side of things to kind of build an audience that follows them for beautiful images and not necessarily recreate their recipes. Once again, that’s kind of their unique thing and that’s the unique selling point. I think that for me, it’s actually a mixture of both.

I feel like a lot of my audience are just following me to basically look at pretty pictures on their Instagram feed. The other half actually want to recreate the recipes and I found that sort of balance. It is hard to be in a bit of a ramble, but as I said, I think it really does depend on  the side of food blogging that you enjoy. You have to really always have tunnel vision and not feel bad if photography isn’t necessarily your thing, because there are still so many other ways that you can showcase your talent. Maybe even hire a photographer to take care of that side of things and really lean into your specific skills and what your unique audience is looking for.

Megan:

I so appreciate that distinction and give me a new perspective because I get locked into, I think we all do right. We get locked into well, if you want to be successful, you need to do X, but really so much of food blogging is it just depends. I mean, that’s the answer to so many questions. It depends. What are people wanting from you? Who are you? What are you good at? What are you delivering? What do you love delivering? So if somebody doesn’t love taking photography, they’re going to find that they’re great in other areas. I appreciate that perspective. Thank you for talking through that, Maria. That was beautifully said. Okay, so you found your own style. I love it. You’re settled with it. You love your style. Do you think it will keep evolving?

Maria:

Definitely. I like to experiment and I love to test things out. Sometimes it gets a good response from my audience. Sometimes it’s a flop, but you have to be willing to take risks and try out new things. So actually just to give an example, when I first when I first started out, my Instagram back in the day, I was known for producing these nourish bowls, those had really good engagement, but I wanted to try something a bit different. So one day I just posted a pasta recipe, but I kept it in a very similar style from the top down angle and captured then integrated with the rest of my feed. So even though it was a different type of dish, I kept it consistent to the style of photography that came very naturally to me. That performed exceptionally well and as I mentioned other experiments that they did had armor adverse consequences. So I am definitely always trying out new things. I’m always testing, but ultimately I keep a very close eye on my audience, how they respond and I think that’s the most important thing when it comes to Instagram. It’s helping people in some sort of way, whether that’s through delicious recipes or just these mouthwatering pictures of food that we all really enjoy looking at. That’s that’s kind of the key to evolving your Instagram strategy.

Megan:

Definitely keeping a close eye on your audience. I think that is key here and so important, never to just assume that things are going to remain the same because the people who are coming to see your content may evolve and their tastes may evolve. So you need to keep an eye on that. Love that, Maria. So I want to talk to you about the fact that you are a student at the University of Oxford, so that I imagine keeps you very, very busy. Plus you run a food blog and you have this massively successful Instagram account. So how do you do all of that? You’ve got to have your time management and productivity, just have to be super honed in. If you listen to the podcast, which I know you do, you’ve got to know that I love this topic. So tell me your tips. How do you make this all work?

Maria:

Well, I mean, from this perspective, the quarantine has actually been a bit of a blessing in disguise because I can’t go and see my friends, I don’t have to walk to lectures because everything has been online so basically the start of lockdown, all I’ve done is work because there’s nothing else to do, except for laying on the couch, watching tv, which can be necessary from time to time. But I’ve always been someone that likes to keep busy, that likes to keep occupied because that’s very essential to my overall mental health. Basically staying true to who I am in a sense. But in terms of time management, I am a very big fan of time blocking. That’s a practical tip that I would give to anyone that has multiple pursuits and maybe multiple side hustles or maybe has to balance the side hustles with a full-time job or being at University.

This sounds very very sort of involved, but I like to plan out my entire day in 15 to 30 minutes increments, and I make sure to write down activities that are related to my work or my studies, even at taking out the garbage and doing the laundry and just very basic tasks that you think that are only going to take two minutes, but end up kind of spinning over. So I make sure to leave room for that. I fall in the 60 second rule, which is where basically if it’s going to take less than 60 seconds, I do it immediately. So responding to an email or something very basic. I also like to have a certain number of days every single week dedicated to food photography.

So I usually spend Friday, Saturday, Sunday doing my photographs, editing the pictures in the evening after it gets dark, because I do prefer to use natural light. That gives me the rest of the week to dedicate to other tasks such as obviously my University obligations and also working on the backend or my website and SEO. That’s working with brands. So that has been a strategy that has really worked for me. One of the benefits that also comes with shutting out certain days for certain activities, I’ve started of activities, is that it allows your brain to kind of stay in that food photography or the SEO road as opposed to jumping between different tasks and getting distracted and feeling very frazzled, overwhelmed.

Megan:

I love hearing that. I love your 60nd rule. I’d never heard that before, but how brilliant. If it’s going to take you 60 seconds or less, do it now, do it right away. Get it out of the way, because so often we’ll sit there and look at an email and think how long is this going to take me to reply to? By the time we’ve thought through it, a minute has already passed. So if you know it’s going to take you 30 seconds to reply, do it, get it done, clear it from your mental slate.

Maria:

Exactly. It’s so easy too. I think we’re all guilty of procrastinating or taking weeks of procrastinating on tasks that end up taking maybe 15 minutes. I think we all have that tendency and I have been working really hard to walk around that issue, but it’s also really tricky because when it comes to blogging, when it comes to food photography or when it comes to recipe development, there’s always so much that you can be doing. All of these platforms and all of these things that maybe you should be doing. I know for me, that’s my email list. Setting up an email sequence. I had to study the importance of email marketing, but it just keeps sliding farther and farther down my to-do list.

To cut through the overwhelm, as I mentioned, we have to choose, first of your specific niche and the side of food blogging that comes most naturally to you and focus on that. Try to work around the other aspects offered but having that really clear vision and very clear direction has been massively beneficial to me, in terms of overcoming overwhelm and managing the definite things that I have to take care of, in terms of my business and my studies as well.

Megan:

Food blogging is a complicated situation. It’s complex. There are so many things that we have to keep in the air at one time. So if you want to be successful, quote, successful, you’ve got to figure out some sort of method or strategy because otherwise you sink, and I’ve seen this happen to so many people. You get burned out and you just feel like you can’t juggle it all. So I love your strategy. You mentioned time-blocking, I just want to touch on that because I love time blocking so much. I used to do it all the time. I would do entire days of cooking and recording video and doing all my photography. Then I would spend Tuesday doing all of my writing and down the line. Then Fridays, I would kind of do something miscellaneous. But, since pursuing other things, I now have a podcast. Now I have a membership site. Things got messy because I’m trying to keep everything in the air, but it’s really hard now. So last week I was listening to one of my favorite entrepreneurs talk on Clubhouse and he said something to the audience. Oh my gosh. I mean, I knew this, but sometimes we just need to hear it again. So he was talking about time-blocking and how he can get so much done. The amount of work that he gets done is ridiculous, but he does it all in one day. So he records 10 to 15 interviews, podcast interviews, in one day. He gets up at 5:00 AM or something like that and works until it’s all done. Edits them and everything. So ever since then, I’ve been like, okay, if he can do that, then I can kill it with time blocking too and get back to that place where I used to be. So yesterday I did that, I started it. I’m like super behind with my podcast editing so I just sat down and I edited like crazy, got so much done. So now I’m super pumped to start doing that again. So I’m back on the time-blocking train. It is so powerful. Am I right, Maria? There’s so much power in getting stuff done and staying in the flow. You mentioned that. You’re not moving around from task to task. You’re not going from SEO to creating photography to writing blog posts. You’re doing one thing, that’s keeping your mind in that magic state of flow that allows you to get so much more done.

Maria:

I definitely agree. I’m also working on a number of projects at the moment, behind the scenes and setting out that time to do the refocus work and to get it done as efficiently as possible, have been more crucial than ever before. It’s a well-established fact these days that multitasking is a myth. I definitely noticed that on days where I maybe it’s a bit more frazzled, a bit more overwhelmed, if I jump between checking Instagram to editing pictures to doing emails, I guess at the end of the day it’s nine o’clock. I just think where has the time gone? When you’re kind of doing that and you’re very distracted and not focused on a specific thing, they’re just, from a personal perspective, you kind of get the sense that you’re putting in all of these hours and getting nothing done. But if you are super focused and you see what you manage to complete in the second day, it can feel really rewarding. Give you that sense of a momentum and that sense of personal accomplishment.

Megan:

So I have been exhausted since the beginning of the year. I’ve been at the end of each week, I ask, why am I so tired? I mean, I’m talking drained, to the point where I fall on my couch and I just tell my boys, don’t talk to me for a little bit. I just need to lay here and just not move. That level of tiredness. This is why, because I’ve been bouncing all over the place, day to day, I’ll be in my email and then I’ll go out and take care of an issue in the membership. Then I’ll go and record a podcast interview. Then, oh, I better write that post for my blog that is draining. I just have to stop this. I’m determined to get back on that train where I’m focused on one thing. Obviously there are going to be exceptions where something pops up, but I just can’t be all over the place, it’s going to kill me.

Maria:

Yeah, I can definitely relate to that and that being said, I found that carving out time to just relax and do absolutely nothing has been so beneficial. At first, I thought, Oh no, I need to be working or I need to be working all the time. I struggle so much with this feeling that I am falling behind and of course that I need to be hustling 24/7 to stay on top and stay up to date. Stay on top of my game, so to speak, but ultimately we aren’t machines. We need to rest, we need to have that downtime to just do absolutely nothing. It’s much better to have that time scheduled into our week; a day or half a day blocked out just to relax or maybe stopping work at a certain time every day. That first of all, gives us a kind of motivation that we need to be as productive and efficient in the time that we have allocated to doing our work, to be productive. That’s also much better than working yourself to death and burning out and you’re body pushing you involuntarily towards having to take a break. That has happened to me either several times where I just completely worked myself to death. I was basically locked out on the couch for an entire week. That’s ultimately much less productive than scheduling out the time that I need to relax and give myself that opportunity and my brain the hours that it needs to relax and just get back into that much more calm state.

Megan:

The thing that has saved me the past few months is that I stopped working every day at 5:00 PM, unless something crazy, unless I have a meeting or something weird pops up. But that’s what saved me. Prior to this past year, I used to reach that burnout stage fairly often. This is so sad, but it was normal for me. Oh, here it comes. Here’s my burnout. I would do exactly what you were talking about, Maria. I would be on the couch for a week, which is that productive? No. So I figured out this formula in the past year where I have to cut myself off because I’m one of those people who will keep working unless I give myself those limits. So once I started doing that, it was a game changer. I mean, I am actually giving myself, my body and my brain, the rest it needs in order to reset every single day, I have to do that. And I haven’t reached that burnout stage. I mean, I’ve gotten to the point where I talked about earlier, where I’m exhausted, but thankfully I had that system in place where okay, you’re done at five, go sit and do nothing So that I’m kind of preserving some of that energy. So I’m glad we work in similar ways. It sounds like we do.

Maria:

We have a similar enthusiasm for maximizing productivity and maximizing our performance. I’ve just been fascinated with how much it goes into that and how many different approaches you can take. Also how individualized it is.

Megan:

So true. It’s so different for everyone. But I do believe that for everyone, you do need to take that mental break, whether that’s giving yourself a time limit or whatever it is, everyone needs it. You can’t be creative, you can’t be as productive as your potential is, without the mental breaks. 100% believe that. But I do want to ask you about your cookbook deal quickly, before we start saying goodbye. How did Instagram help you find your deal? Just talk us through that.

Maria:

Well, it’s funny actually, because I believe my cookbook publisher found one of my images on Pinterest, which is unusual because usually brands and other opportunities find me strictly through Instagram because that’s kind of my biggest platform and where I’m the most active. But they found one of my images on Pinterest. That led them to my website and consequently to my Instagram page. That’s where it all started. The cookbook very much follows the general theme of my website out of my Instagram page, which is vegan, the comfort food made easy and approachable. So that’s kind of how that came about.

Megan:

That’s cool, I like that. It’s a different kind of story about a cookbook because we all hear typical stories, but that’s really cool. So when is your cookbook being published?

Maria:

So it’s been published in the US and Canada on the 6th of April. So that’s coming up!

Megan:

That’s coming up.

Maria:

That’s a very, very soon. I think the international release is a couple of weeks later. I don’t know if they have the exact date for that yet. I can’t believe how quickly it has come around. It’s been a very interesting and a very rewarding process.

Megan:

Oh, that’s so cool. So you truly are the busiest person. Oh my goodness. Cookbook, blog, Instagram, student. Wow. I am so impressed. That is very inspiring. If you can leave food bloggers with one takeaway along any of the themes that we’ve talked about. So whether it’s photography, Instagram strategy, or time management, productivity, efficiency, what would that one thing be?

Maria:

So the main thing I would say is to lead with passion, because that’s the main thing that people gravitate towards when it comes to people who express their creativity online. As much as I have spoken about the importance of niching down, that niche has to reflect your personal preferences. I do believe that there’s an audience for absolutely everything. You just have to stay true to that, as opposed to try to please absolutely everyone and to fall into the whole shiny object. As I said, to really lead passion, because I think that social media audiences can sense desperation and they could sense when someone just does something to make a quick buck or gain an audience. Authenticity and stay true to your own style and doing what you love, I think that really goes a long way.

Megan:

I love that you just said that, that social media platform can sense desperation. That’s one of my things I like to say lately too, is that everyone, even a platform, can sense desperation, no matter what you’re desperate about. Desperation is an equation for failure because nobody or nothing likes desperation.

Maria:

For sure, a hundred percent. If you look at people that have been massively successful over the years and have had consistent trials in their food blogging careers, but you could sense that enthusiasm through the screen. That really shines through and it makes them that much more attractive to that audience. I think above all, that’s the best way to deal with algorithm changes. All of the adverse consequences of social media platforms and Google changes all the time. As long as you stay true to your content and focus on providing value about what you’re passionate about, you will have success in the long run.

Megan:

So beautifully said, Maria, thank you. This is such a fun conversation. I’ve really enjoyed this. I cannot believe it’s been an hour, but that went by super fast. Thank you for being here today. This was extremely valuable. Before we go, do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to share with our fellow food bloggers?

Maria:

I don’t have a specific word, but just the overall message of staying true to your passion and leading with enthusiasm and leaning into the happiness that you had when you first started food blogging. I think that’s the main thing that will push you through adversity. Success will find you as long as you stay consistent. As long as you can handle failure and grow through stumbling blocks without giving up or losing faith in the process and losing that belief in yourself.

Megan:

Oh, beautiful. Thank you so much. We’re going to put together a show notes page for you, Maria. So if anyone wants to peek at that, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/earthofmaria. Maria, remind everyone where they can find you online.

Maria:

So you could connect with me on Instagram, which is @earthofmaria. You can also visit my website, which is earthofmaria.com. My email is [email protected] Those are my communication channels.

Megan:

Everyone go check Maria out, definitely check out her Instagram feed. It’s inspiring and beautiful. Just thank you again for being here, Maria. Thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

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.


Don’t Miss These Offers

💥 Join the EBT community, where you will gain confidence and clarity as a food blogger so you don’t feel so overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS! Join at the Member level to gain access to a food blogging forum, challenges that will help you grow certain parts of your business, themed content bundles, exclusive podcast episodes, a virtual coffee shop, webinars, a service providers and resources directory and more!

📩 Sign up for FLODESK, the email service provider with intuitive, gorgeous templates and a FLAT MONTHLY RATE (no more rate increases when you acquire subscribers!).

Read this post about why I switched from Convertkit to Flodesk!

pinterest image of instagram friendly photography podcast episode 197

Questions or comments on this episode?

Head over to the Eat Blog Talk forum post about episode #197 to leave any questions or comments. We’d love to hear from you!

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.

View all posts

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.