In episode 359, Megan chats to Sally Aleckson about why being a part-time food blogger can help cultivate your passion.
We cover information about evaluating your personality and food blogging, be sure to learn from others but prioritize your own path, think about what brings you joy so you hold onto that and have the freedom to create and know your bills are paid.
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Bio Sally started the first iteration of her blog on the floor of an apartment back in December of 2014 and since then have gone through a rebrand and completely overhauled every aspect of her site to what you can see today on Eight Forest Lane. Sally has never followed trends, is possibly too stubborn, and hasn’t had the kind of traffic or financial success that many others who’ve been doing this less time than me have, but she continues to keep on going. Why? Because she bloody loves it.
- The pandemic forced/allowed us to shift our goals to what’s more important in the personal and professional realm.
- Don’t jump into the first option that comes to available. Take the time to think through and explore your options.
- Consider at what cost you are pursuing blogging full time? Know your goals and consider what you might lose or gain.
- When you decide upon a next step too early, you can limit yourself from focusing on what’s happening now and enjoying the present.
- Be careful to not get stuck in the numbers but think about the broader picture.
- What is your why? Why do you love blogging and listen to those answers to help guide you.
Book recommendation: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Batching content podcast episodes.
Click for full script.
EBT359 – Sally Aleckson – Revised
Sally Aleckson: Hi, this is Sally Aleckson from Eight Forest Lane, and you are listening to the Eat Blog Talk podcast.
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And I think just that transparency and willingness to be open and sharing for the pure benefit of somebody else’s success has been a big surprise to me. For me, that’s a big part of who I am too, is I’m very much interested in helping other people succeed, but it’s been very equal, there’s just a very equal amount of giving and taking, sharing and sharing for others’ success, and other people are so willing to share what has worked for them purely to help other people succeed.
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, Megan Porta, and you are listening to episode number 359. I have Sally Aleckson with me today. She’s going to talk to us about how not blogging full time can help to cultivate a passion. Sally started the first iteration of her blog on the floor of an apartment back in December of 2014, and since then, she’s gone through a rebrand and completely overhauled every aspect of her site to what you can see today on Eight Forest Lane.
Sally has never followed trends, and is possibly too stubborn. I can relate to that, Sally hasn’t had the kind of traffic or financial success that many others who have been doing it last time have. But she continues to keep on going because she loves it. Sally, I’m very excited for our chat today. We wanna hear what your fun fact is first, though, before we dig into it.
Sally Aleckson: Thank you, Megan. So my fun fact is that when I was in high school, I actually played flute and I was in a touring concert band and I was able to perform on the stage of the Sydney Opera House.
Megan Porta: I knew you were gonna say that as soon as you said flute. I was like, She’s gonna talk about the Sydney Opera House. I don’t know why I tapped into you, but that is so cool and you have to share what that experience was like.
Sally Aleckson: It was really amazing. So I was in high school and being afforded those kinds of opportunities. I was from a small country town and being able to travel and go to Sydney and be with a group of other students and perform on a stage like that, that’s so iconic. It’s just really special. Yeah, it was a wonderful experience.
Megan Porta: That’s so cool. I’m guessing a very small percentage of the population can say that they have done that, so yes. Okay. I have to mention your line from the bio about not always following trends because I feel like I’ve had that same kind of journey at times because I was just too stubborn too. Like, no, I don’t wanna do that just because you’re telling me to do that. So before we get into your story, how do you feel like that has affected your blogging journey?
Sally Aleckson: To be honest, I think that is my blogging journey. I think from the moment when I first started this, I read every single article that there was on Pinterest, to try and work out what I was doing. A lot of it just didn’t resonate with me. I think, for me, it was really important to try and find my own path forward. So while I’d not followed trends and maybe not always followed the advice that’s out there, or those kinds of best practices, that really allowed me to find what I wanted to do and what I really loved doing. I think, yeah that to me was just so essential for me to craft out the space that I needed to be able to create.
Megan Porta: So it gave you kind of permission to be unique, to be yourself and to find your own way, really.
Sally Aleckson: Exactly. Yeah.
Megan Porta: I feel like so many people in this space, and not to fault anyone for this at all, because I think it’s very natural to do this, but just to see what others are doing and to want to do the same and to just do it. Then maybe a question later. I do that sometimes as well, but I think my default is much like you or I’m like, wait a second, I don’t wanna do that. Why are you telling me that I have to do that? I’m not going to. So I’ve had to find a happy balance between the two and not just saying no because I wanna say no. But also, yeah, just like finding that fine line.
Sally Aleckson: Exactly. That’s the thing, like a lot of the things that I said no to, I’ve eventually come around and I’ve gone, Oh, okay, now I see the value in that. But I think I had to find that reason by myself first. Rather than just following because someone said that was what you should be doing.
Megan Porta: Oh gosh. I can relate. Okay. So talk to us a little bit about your story. So you had a full-time job and you were in a place where you felt like you were just juggling at all. I know a lot of us have been there or are there. So talk us through that, like where you started and how it’s evolved for you.
Sally Aleckson: Yeah, of course. So as you spoke about in my bio, I’ve been doing this for quite a while. I started back in 2014, December of 2014. For me, this has always been a hobby. It started out as a creative outlet, something that I could do in my free time. Once I started, I just didn’t stop. I just kept going and I just loved it. I just found this space of creating and publishing stuff on the internet and I really liked that. So through that journey, I had no intent or direction really when I started. So it took me quite a number of years to actually find food in this space that I really loved to develop that passion for it. The place that I got to, I felt that this is really rewarding and this is something that I just, I wanna spend all my time on. I can never find enough time to work on it. I think that’s a common thread that we can talk about through people who are in the food blogging industry. But, I really struggled with that balance of, I had this full time job that was really quite time consuming and mentally draining and mentally exhausting. I felt this push and pull between, this is the thing over here that I really want to spend my time on and this is the thing I have to spend my time on. Working through that and trying to find that balance and then of course, all your everyday home life things that just have to get done. I just found that there wasn’t as much joy in the work that I was doing and in both my full-time job and with my blog work. So I knew that I needed to make a change and I needed to refocus my priorities. I think a lot of that came through with a lot of other people with the pandemic. There was a big shift, I guess in terms of mindsets.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh, I have heard so many stories that can parallel exactly what you’re saying. Mine included. I feel like I experienced a massive shift during the pandemic for the better. Obviously it was not all butterflies and rainbows. That was kinda a turning point for me too. So talk about that. How did it change things for you?
Sally Aleckson: Yeah, definitely. I think with the pandemic, It showed us not only how the things that we can take for granted can be taken away, but it also showed us the possibilities that could exist. So for me, the way that the world changed during that time showed me that I didn’t need to sit in an office from nine to five. That was the meaning of finding this work life balance, it changed. It started to look a little bit different to what I’d ever thought it could before. While there were a lot of negatives coming out of the pandemic and not to take that for granted at all, but to me there was this really big shift, I guess in terms of how our society viewed work. I think that was really interesting. For me, the work that I was doing was quite heavily impacted by the pandemic, so the industry that I was working in. So for the duration basically of the role that I was doing was fighting fires a little bit. So there was a lot of mental drain that came out of that. I started to, by the end of those two years up towards December of 2021 when I decided to leave that job, I just was quite mentally drained. I was lacking that balance and because of the pandemic and being able to see other people taking these alternative paths, I started to question that and go, what could my future path look like? Start trying to make some decisions around how to move forward.
Megan Porta: So that was a big leap for you. So that required a lot of faith in Sally? It’s not easy to do that. Yeah. So talk about that. Like how scary was that?
Sally Aleckson: It was terrifying, to be honest. So when I made this decision, I just bought a house. So I’m not sure what things are like in the US but during the pandemic housing prices in Australia just really skyrocketed. We’d just got this big mortgage under our belts and we’re starting to achieve a lot of personal goals that we’ve been working on for years, for my whole life. Feeling like I was in a position where I needed to leave that job felt like I was actually going to say goodbye to those goals that I had just started to realize. So for me, that was quite scary. At the time I was not making much money with my blog. I was making probably about 500 bucks a month. I had just qualified for Mediavine, and that was when the requirement was 25,000 sessions. So it was still on that lower side. Here in Australia our RPMs are a little bit lower than what you could expect in the US so you do need more traffic to make more of that high income bracket. So I was really nowhere near where I would need to sustain my current lifestyle and those current goals without that job. But I still quit.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. Oh, I just feel that I, so I was forced to leave a corporate job, so I have a little bit of a different situation. I didn’t make the choice, but it was so scary. I had to think about health insurance and my family’s health insurance, and there are so many variables that go into that. So good for you for being faithful and for taking the leap. I think that is such a brave, courageous thing to do.
Sally Aleckson: Thank you.
Megan Porta: So how did things go from there? Once you made the decision, you’re like, I’m in, I’m doing this. What happened after that?
Sally Aleckson: So basically, once I made that decision, I was feeling like I had a bit of a crossroads ahead of me. I was at the point where I was quite burnt out, quite tired, and really was just looking for a bit of a rest. So what I did is I allowed myself to have about one and a half, two months off work. I was luckily in a position where I could afford to do that, and then I knew from that I needed to make a decision of which way to move. So many people, I think particularly like in food bogging, I hear stories all the time where people are in these similar situations that I am and they take that as the opportunity to take a plunge into just figuring it out and just making it work. I started to realize, I was really struggling with that decision because my mindset kept coming back to thinking of how am I gonna do that? How am I gonna continue to pay my bills when I have to build something up basically from scratch? So I almost felt like I was in a position of, then I had to take the opportunity to go full time with the blog because it was this kind of a now or never moment. That just didn’t sit right with me for a little bit, and I was struggling with that decision cause I really didn’t wanna go and find myself in another full-time job that was going to split my focus again and basically just land me back into burnout. But every time I looked at trying to rebuild my blog into something that would generate me income, I could see that going down that exact same path of burnout and possible resentment towards the thing that I loved doing the most. So that’s when my little AHA moment came from one of my favorite books. That’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. If you haven’t read that, like it’s just, I love it. I’ve read it so many times and for me reading this, she was speaking about how devastating it can be when we put so much pressure on our passions and our art to make a living. That to me just resonated so much. It was not about what if I failed, but it was what about what would happen if I ended up hating this? That thought just scared me so much because the blog and photography and writing about food, that stuff is, it’s so essential to bringing me joy. I just, I was so scared of hating it because I was putting that level of pressure on it. So I truly considered going down that path of going full time and trying to build this into something. But at the end of the day, I realized that I wasn’t in a position to put that kind of pressure on myself and on my site. So I decided that wasn’t gonna be the way that I was gonna move forward.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. This is the coolest story ever. I think that you’re right. Most of us get to that point and we’re like we’re gonna either dig in or we’re gonna abandon ship. Yeah. So I’m so impressed that you thought this through and also that you had that moment of just one sentence coming to you at the right time. I think we’ve all experienced that, where we hear other lines similar before in other ways, and we just hear that one line at the right time and we’re like, Oh my gosh, this makes so much sense. So you had that aha moment and that really dictate your future. So what were your options going forward and what did you choose? So did you go find a job? What happened next?
Sally Aleckson: Yeah, so I knew that, what I had thought, was going full time with the blog and I realized that, putting that level of pressure on that wasn’t the option. So what was the next option was maybe I could do that part-time and supplement my blogging income with VA work or photography. But again, that didn’t really sit right with me. It didn’t feel exciting. So what I decided to do was be a little bit more selective in terms of going out and looking for a job. Again, coming back to the pandemic, I think a lot more opportunity exists for flexibility in terms of work. So I had a really clean set of criteria of what I was looking for. So I was looking for something that was in my field, that was something that I was good at, that I could do that would, fulfill me from that professional level, but potentially was a little bit less stressful than the work that I’d been doing previously.
So I went out and I was just looking for roles that were exclusively work from home and for companies that really supported that flexible work life balance and would give me the ability to do that work and then leave that at work and then be able to transition my focus back onto my blog and be able to balance the two.
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Sally Aleckson: I was able to work on projects that would allow me to develop these transferable skills where I was working, and getting paid to learn and getting paid to develop those skills. Then these are things that I could then take back into my blog and implement there, and really continue to develop not only that professional career, but also those skills that are directly related to my blog. So by having that, that level of flexibility and that level of professional development, It really allowed me to have that balance that I was looking for and be able to come into it with the specific mindset of, this is my work, this is where I focus here, and then this is my blog and this is what I focus here and compartmentalize to a degree between those two.
Megan Porta: I think it’s so cool that you found a job that supplements your knowledge for your food blog. That’s super smart. I don’t know if that kind of just happened or if you intentionally did that, but it’s amazing. Did that just fall into your lap or is that something that you had in mind when you were seeking a job?
Sally Aleckson: Yeah it’s something that I had in mind and to be honest, to talk about that a little bit more, we do go back to the original, I guess the start of my blogging journey. What happened is when I was starting my blog, one of the things that I wanted to achieve out of it initially, was new skills. It was about learning about the online world. I was studying digital marketing at the time and I started creating this website and learning about publishing content and those things. That actually allowed me to pursue my career outside of my blog. So I’ve worked on websites and digital marketing projects for a number of years now. So I’m a project manager. That has worked always hand in hand between my website and my professional career, but I think it’s just really coming together at the end here where I can really specifically go, I’m looking more at that technical SEO side of things on a day to day basis, and I can directly relate that back to publishing content online.
Megan Porta: This is the coolest thing ever. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone who has the same story as you, Sally. I have a few questions for you. So do you feel like having done this, do you feel like you ever experience pressure in the food blogging realm, or do you feel like it’s completely taken the pressure off your shoulders?
Sally Aleckson: Oh, I think there’s still pressure on a daily basis and I think it’s just the nature of this industry of publishing online. You have a comparison and I fall into that trap all the time. You look at Instagram and I’m like, Oh, they’re so far ahead of me. Or I feel proud of a photo I publish and then I see someone else’s and I’m like, Oh, mine’s not good enough. I’ve got so much work to do to get to that point. I think it’s just about taking that pressure off ourselves. It’s just a constant reminder to come back to it and go, why am I doing this? Why am I publishing it? What is my story? As you said, my story is not the same as everyone else’s. I would guarantee that most people’s stories are not the same as the next person. So it’s really about coming back to that to yourself and really acknowledging where you are at in your journey and being able to just be a little bit kinder to yourself, I think.
Megan Porta: Yes. Oh my gosh. I can completely understand where you’re coming from. Do you feel like overall you’re just so much more balanced and happy and all of the good things? Peaceful?
Sally Aleckson: Yeah. I think what it really allows me is the freedom. So it’s the freedom to create knowing that my bills are paid. So I still do have those goals to eventually look to take the blog full time, but right now I don’t have to. I think for me, that’s just such an incredibly freeing feeling because I can go and make a recipe. It could have a low search volume. It’s something that I can allow myself to do, as long as I understand that the intent behind that for me and my business is simply to create, rather than necessarily drive that profitability. And that is incredibly freeing. So my approach then comes down to really focusing on my skills, focusing on that as more of a craft. It gives me time to develop recipes. But it gives me time to do more research and learning. One of the biggest things that I’ve been doing this year is just really focusing on that photography and really honing that as a craft. I think before I definitely felt the pressure to publish X amount of blog posts every month. Didn’t matter if it was perfect, just get it out. I think at the moment what this allows me to do is be a bit more intentional with what I’m posting and what I’m putting out there into the world and making sure I’ve been able to really cultivate my creativity and put my best foot forward.
Megan Porta: I can see how this could just provide a more natural unfolding of your journey and also of the skills that you refer to. So like photography, you don’t have to feel like you’re rushing to figure it out. You can just let it unfold in a more organic way. Does that make sense?
Sally Aleckson: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Megan Porta: That is very alluring. I think that there’s so many food bloggers who, they find, they feel that pressure to quit their job that they don’t like, and then they leave, and then they feel the pressure to make the money, and then everything just becomes less enjoyable. So this is a great perspective, I think, to put out there just for people to consider.
Sally Aleckson: Yeah, definitely. And in saying that, I do feel as though, if I gave myself the full time hours and I gave that undivided attention towards my blog, and so with that time and focus combined with my passion, that I could turn it into the business that supports me, that pays the bills. But the question that I have is at what cost? It would be the cost of some of those external factors that I spoke about before. So there’s other goals in my life and it’s that kind of lifestyle, but it’s also that pressure of this thing that I’m creating has to pay my bills. If I simply make that decision and this is my full-time job, would I lose the freedom I have to create and possibly any of that joy that comes along with it. I’m not saying that necessarily. That is what happens because I know a lot of people, they still find that joy and they’re still able to pay their bills. But in terms of looking at that from my perspective and my personal story, I don’t know. I don’t know what that looks like. I feel like at this point in time, the balance there for me in terms of being able to separate income and creativity is where I wanna see it. That’s where I feel comfortable at the moment.
Megan Porta: Do you have any sort of timeframe in your mind when you think of working on the blog full time? Like five years or do you not do that? Do you not put those time restraints on that at all?
Sally Aleckson: I’m trying not to. I had it previously, when I was in my previous role, I had it in my mind, I was like in 12 months I’m gonna leave and I’m gonna do this. I think that really stopped me from thinking about it now. It was like, future me is gonna do this, Future me is gonna do that. It didn’t allow me to enjoy the process and to enjoy it now. There was a little bit of resentment then that built up around my current job because I was like, I don’t wanna be here. I wanna be doing something else. I don’t think that was healthy. No, I don’t have a timeframe. I think it’s just about, I think I’ll know when I’m ready.
Megan Porta: That’s such a good answer. You think you’ll know and you will. Because it seems like you’re really in tune with just knowing and leaning into your intuition. I also feel like that is the key to a happy life, not just speaking about blogging, but all around, is allowing yourself to enjoy where you’re at, and giving yourself to permission to enjoy the journey as it’s unfolding and not putting pressure on the future and what you need to be doing in the future. Sally, I feel like you just gave us the key to happiness, so thank you.
Sally Aleckson: That’s a big call, but I’ll take it. Thank you,
Megan Porta: Okay, so what passions within the realm of blogging do you like most? You said you were looking into honing your photography skills. What else have you found that you just really love doing?
Sally Aleckson: There’s a lot of it and I think it evolves and I think it changes. One of the things that I loved the most about it when I first started was the writing aspect, but to be honest that’s dropped off. At the moment the photography side is definitely taking over. But I think the thing that I love the most about it is the food. I love eating the food. I love cooking. I just think being able to create around that and I don’t know that, that to me is the biggest enjoyment. But I love all aspects of it. I do, as I said before, I do have a little bit more of a technical background, so I do love tinkering with the website and making updates and things like that. But I think, yeah, there’s just so much opportunity to find something new every time you look at your site and yeah, that, to me, that’s what’s really exciting is I guess the opportunity that’s there.
Megan Porta: Somewhere along the way, a lot of us lose the love, or not, I shouldn’t say the love for, but the art of making food and going into the kitchen and having those enjoyable cooking or baking days. I haven’t done one of those days in so long, but that’s what got me into it, that’s what made me fall in love with food blogging to begin with. So I can see where your approach to food blogging can allow for you to continue to tap into all those things that you love, even if that might evolve. Yeah. So that’s enticing because like the cooking days, oh my gosh, those used to be so much fun. But then, that evolves. And you get to a point where you need to work on SEO and you need to do writing, and you need to do all of these things, and then the art is lost somehow.
Sally Aleckson: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s what led me to this conversation today and why I feel this is so important for us to talk about, because sometimes we just can get so lost in the numbers and trying to gain success. I say success really loosely there because what does that even mean? What I really just wanted to bring people back to thinking about is why they originally started blogging. Why did you start blogging in the first place? Just really allowing ourselves to find that fun side and to give ourselves the space to create. Because I think that’s why we all got into this and I’m sure there’s some people who are listening who did get into it specifically to make money and to be a business. But I think a lot of us, it’s really about the passion. It’s really about having that space and that opportunity to really be our authentic selves and put that online. So yeah, it’s just not losing sight of that, I think is really important.
Megan Porta: Do you have any bits of advice for anyone listening who is in that boat where they might be feeling super pressure to do it all and maybe they want to take a step back and do something similar to what you’re doing? Do you have anything for them?
Sally Aleckson: I think I would be having that really honest conversation with yourself and really understanding your why and your purpose. Why are you doing this? For example, when we go back, if we look at old recipes that we published on our site, and I like to use this as an example because we’ll go back and we’ll see some of those older posts that we published and there’s no search volume. We may call it something weird. But why did you publish it? Was it because it was something that you really loved? If that’s the purpose behind it, Then that’s your value. So I see just having a little bit of a think about why you are publishing, what you’re publishing and how that aligns to your own values and your own sense of joy and your own creativity and making sure that your decisions are coming from that.
Megan Porta: Oh, that’s beautiful. Is there anything else you would say to anyone in either camp, whether they’re completely happy with their situation or wanting to change? Is there anything we forgot to mention, Sally?
Sally Aleckson: I don’t think so. And I think, just the caveat to all of this is this is my personal story, so every single person’s story is different, and this one is just filled with my own experiences. But it’s one that I do feel passionate about talking about because I do hear thoughts of people giving themselves these ultimatums, I have to make it profitable. If I can’t, then I should just give up. I just think that’s just such a crazy amount of pressure to put on yourself. So you know, as I said, if your sole motivating factor is to make it profitable and make it a business, then sure go all out. But if there is a side of you that you know, really wants to focus on that passion and that creativity, I think it’s important to make sure that we never lose sight of the joy. If that means you have to take on another job or you have to supplement your income or stay in your day job a little bit longer, or just make some decisions that kind of allow you to get that balance and so that you can really focus on developing and growing your skills and focusing on the love you had for your work, then I hundred percent think that’s a great decision.
Megan Porta: Amazing. I think this is such an important conversation to have, as you mentioned a little bit ago. So thank you, Sally, for joining me and for prompting this topic today. I think that it’s super valuable.
Sally Aleckson: Not a problem at all.
Megan Porta: Do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with, aside from your amazing Elizabeth Gilbert quote?
Sally Aleckson: I actually thought I’d come in with another Elizabeth Gilbert quote from Big Magic. Basically, this is just something that really grounds me, I think when I’m just feeling a bit much, and it’s important to remember, she talks a lot about it in Big Magic around the relationship with fear and creativity. So this quote, “your fear will always be triggered by your creativity because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. And fear hates uncertain outcomes.” It just means so much when you think about it and yeah. I don’t know. It just makes me feel better sometimes when you’re like, no, the fear is good. The fear is driving.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. That is an amazing quote. Thank you for ending that way. Love it so much. We’ll put together a show notes page for you, Sally. If anyone wants to go look at those, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/eightforestlane. Tell everyone where they can find you, Sally, online and on social media.
Sally Aleckson: Thank you. All right, so my website is eightforestlane.com. I tend to hang out the most on Instagram. So you can follow along there or send me a DM @ eightForestLane.
Megan Porta: All right. Thanks again, Sally, so much for joining us, 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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