In episode 383, Sarah Holt teaches us how to make a full-time income creating recipes, making videos and doing photography for food brands while blogging.
We cover information about how to identify a brand’s gap in your pitch, determine the brands individual needs before discussing pricing, how to recognize red flag’s in relation to pricing to know when you should walk away and how to know when to walk away from an existing partnership.
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Bio Sarah has been a food blogger for almost 3 years at Real Food with Sarah. After years of struggling with keyword research and SEO, she is excited to be within distance of reaching her goal of qualifying for Mediavine in the next few months! While Sarah’s blog is growing, she was successful in focusing a lot on freelance and sponsored brand work this year and has so far made 15x more than she made in 2021. Sarah has a limited following of 2200 on Instagram so she’s showing it can be done
- Curate a pitch for each individual brand or account so it’s personalized. Give specifics to what you can do and show you know what they stand for.
- You can be reach out to a brand multiple times before you hear back.
- Don’t give a rate sheet automatically; ask for the deliverables that a brand is looking for so you can align with what they need.
- Know your low price and don’t be willing to do work for less. You won’t put out your best work and won’t enjoy the experience either.
- Watch out for a brand asking for “freebies” and acting like its no big deal to tack on something outside a pre-agreed upon rate.
- Always try to close partnerships on a good note, and leave relationships open for future opportunities.
- You don’t have to have a huge online following to find brand work.
- Find someone to help guide you on how to level up in your work – a business coach, a mastermind, etc.
- Be open to freelance work with other bloggers.
- Manifest those things you want to happen and speak it until it does.
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EBT383 – Sarah Holt
Intro: Food bloggers. Hi, how are you today? Thank you so much for tuning in to the Eat Blog Talk podcast. This is the place for food bloggers to get information and inspiration to accelerate your blog’s growth and ultimately help you to achieve your freedom, whether that’s financial, personal, or professional.
I’m Megan Porta, and I’ve been a food blogger for over 12 years. I understand how isolating food blogging can be at times. I’m on a mission to motivate, inspire, and most importantly, let each and every food blogger, including you, know that you are heard and supported. If you are looking to make a little bit of money while you’re either waiting for an ad network or just in addition to having ads, this episode is going to be a great listen for you.
Sarah Holt from Real Food with Sarah joins me in this episode and she talks about making a full-time income creating recipes, creating videos, and or photography for food brands while you’re blogging. She gives us a lot of tangible tips as well as encouragement to get started with this. This is episode number 383, sponsored by RankIQ.
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Megan Porta: I have Sarah Holt with me today. She’s going to talk to us about making a full-time income creating recipes, videos, and photography for food brands while blogging. Sarah has been a food blogger for almost three years at Real Food with Sarah. After years of struggling with keyword research and SEO, she is excited to be within distance of reaching her goal of qualifying for a Mediavine in the next few months. Congratulations.
Sarah Holt: Thank you.
Megan Porta: While Sarah’s blog is growing, she was successful in focusing a lot on freelance and sponsored brand work this year and has so far made 15 times more than she made in 2021. Also congratulations. That’s amazing. Sarah has a limited following of 2200 followers on Instagram, so she is showing that it can be done. Okay. Your story is amazing. I can’t wait to dig into this more, Sarah. Thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?
Sarah Holt: I’m great. How are you, Megan? I’m so happy to be here.
Megan Porta: Yeah, I’m great too. Thank you for asking. Before we get into that awesomeness though, do you have a fun fact to share with us?
Sarah Holt: Yeah, so I love traveling and so far I’ve been to 18 different countries and hoping to increase that in the next year.
Megan Porta: Amazing. Okay. What’s yours, do you have a favorite or maybe top two favorites?
Sarah Holt: I love India. I’ve been there twice. The people are so nice and I never had a bad meal there. The food was amazing.
Megan Porta: Oh, yes, that is on my list. And then where is your next, or one of your next places that you would like to go?
Sarah Holt: Indonesia, I’ve always wanted to go to Bali, but I know Bali’s very hyped up now, so there are some more lesser known islands that I’d love to check out.
Megan Porta: Oh, amazing. I love it. So I’m assuming that the pandemic and everything surrounding that kind of slowed down your travels, but you should be able to start digging into that more coming up here. Which is exciting. Yeah, hopefully. Awesome. Let’s talk about your experience with creating content for food brands. While you’ve been growing your blog, your numbers are amazing, 15 times more year over year than you made in 2021. That’s so impressive. So we’re excited to learn from you. Would you mind just starting, Sarah, with telling us a little bit about your blogging journey, when and why you started. Tell us about your niche and then what led you to working with brands.
Sarah Holt: Yeah, so I started, I think I started posting on Instagram in 2018 as a fitness account, just like posting my meals and my workouts. Then I decided to delve into nutrition. So I did a sports nutrition course, so I’m now a certified nutritionist and I was posting healthy recipes. Then finally in 2020, I decided to start a website. I moved away from fitness and nutrition coaching stuff and moved into just creating recipes because that’s what I enjoy. Yeah. Then as far as working with brands, I started last year just working with a couple brands on a few small projects and then this year it really took off.
Megan Porta: So what led you to the point where you decided brand work was something you wanted to pursue?
Sarah Holt: I was just seeing other people working with brands and telling people how much they can make doing it. I just enjoy creating recipes and photographing, so I figured why not offer my services to brands that need it.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Doing a little double duty with the stuff you’re already doing, so why not make money on the side while you’re trying to get into an ad network, right?
Sarah Holt: Yeah, exactly.
Megan Porta: What were some of your first steps as far as finding a brand or brands to reach out to?
Sarah Holt: So just like brands that I use regularly. So things that I have in my pantry and my fridge. I make notes to those and then reach out to them mainly on Instagram dms, just to get contact information for someone. Then after that, I would discover brands in the store or just scroll through social media. I’d find new brands and I’d try out the products and then decide if I wanna pitch them.
Megan Porta: Do you have any secrets about that? Because I feel like every expert that comes on the podcast has a little bit of a unique spin as far as I don’t know, like an insider secret about finding the right contact or doing the right pitch or something. Do you have anything that really works?
Sarah Holt: Yeah, so I think definitely through Instagram dm, you have to follow up. You can’t just send one new message. A lot of times they don’t respond unless you follow up two or three times. Sometimes they’ll never respond and that’s okay. You can also do some searching on LinkedIn. See if you can find someone, like a name for a contact person and then, try to figure out the email format and hope that you got it right. Yeah. Things like that.
Megan Porta: That’s tricky. I love that. That’s such a good little nugget there. LinkedIn, first of all, because I feel like a lot of brands are there. Then seeing their email structure. There’s a member in my mastermind group who does that, and when she told us that, I was like, what? That is such a private investigator move to find the email structure.
Sarah Holt: It’s creepy, but I actually have this chrome plugin called Rocketreach, and if they can find it online, sometimes people’s email addresses are hidden, but you should usually help find something. Yeah.
Megan Porta: Then do you try to establish just a human connection with people first, or do you just dig in right away and say, I am a blogger looking to work with a brand or a photographer?
Sarah Holt: So I usually give a little bit of background in my email and then, talk about how I use the product and then try to find opportunities, like their needs. So sometimes people might not have that many Instagram Reels, so I’d pitch that. Or they might not have a certain type of recipe on their website, so I’d pitch an idea for that.
Megan Porta: So finding those gaps.
Sarah Holt: Yes, exactly.
Megan Porta: Yeah. I think that is one of the secrets of landing brand deals that actually fit for both parties is if there are gaps, they’re missing photography on their website, for example. You can provide that. So that’s a need that you’re feeling for them, and then they can give you some work, then I think that would be the best route to go. Because you’d be surprised how many brands really do have gaps within their sites or their social followings or somewhere that we can actually serve and add value.
Sarah Holt: Yeah. I’ve actually worked with the brand and I did a Reel for an existing recipe that they had already on their website. So I didn’t create the recipe, but I created a video for them to share on social media. So it can just be things like that.
Megan Porta: Yes, exactly. Okay. So do you have some tips, other tips about pitching? What’s your best advice as far as going into a pitch?
Sarah Holt: Okay, so make sure to curate each pitch to each individual brand. Don’t just do something generic. You’re usually not gonna get a response at all if you do that. Sometimes you can include something like, I love that you use local ingredients or organic ingredients, or you donate proceeds to this charity, or something like that, just so they know that you’ve looked into them. Also give recipe ideas. So don’t just be like, I would love to create recipes for you. I like to give specific recipe ideas depending on the season that I’m pitching for.
Megan Porta: That is such great advice and that makes them feel heard, and special, I think, from their end. It’s oh, they actually took the time to write out a thoughtful message versus copying and pasting from a template. Do you ever do that where you have a template and you just alter it? Or do you write every message completely unique?
Sarah Holt: Oh no, I have a bunch of templates in Gmail that I just go to and curate. So obviously some things are the same, like my bio and stuff, but I do curate it for each brand. But it’s easier to have a little bit of a template.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Okay. So if you get a brand’s attention and you are negotiating a deal, I know this can be tricky and overwhelming for a lot of people, so do you have any tips about that process?
Sarah Holt: Yeah, so when a brand asks for pricing, I usually ask them what they’re looking for. I do have packages laid out in my media kit, and so sometimes they’ll ask for those and I will give those to them. If they’re just asking for general pricing, I’ll make sure to get the deliverables first before giving them pricing, because maybe my pricing might not fit in their budget for what they’re asking for. So I highly recommend figuring out exactly what they want, rather than just giving generic information. This is my freelance photography cost, things like that.
Megan Porta: Right. So instead of just providing a general rate sheet upfront, I really like getting into their individual needs and then providing them with rates.
Sarah Holt: Yes, exactly. Yeah.
Megan Porta: Okay. I think that’s great advice too. So are there ever times when you just know that it’s not going to work out? What are those red flags? How do we know when to walk away and how do we know when to keep moving forward?
Sarah Holt: You need to have your lowest price and you don’t wanna go lower than that. It’s gonna look different for everyone, based on cost of living and expenses, things like that. But I have worked for lower than I would like to, and it’s just not worth it to me. That’s not worth the time. I feel like I didn’t produce my best work just because I was like, oh, I’m not making much money from this. I know, you could be talking with a brand who’s your dream brand, but they don’t have the budget for you. I just don’t think it’s worth it to work below what your lowest rate is.
Megan Porta: It’s so frustrating to be doing work and the whole time you’re doing it, you’re like, I hate this. I hate this. So whatever. Like I know people call it like the hate rate or whatever, but like whatever price you’re willing to do X work for that isn’t gonna make you hate your life, your day or whatever. Any other red flags or things that you see that tell you to walk away?
Sarah Holt: Yeah, so things like, they’ll be asking you for a bunch of things, like it’s no big deal if you just do this extra video or things like that. You wanna make sure the brand that you’re talking to actually values you as a creator and what you’re doing and understands the amount of work that goes into each project. Some just don’t understand. So it’s time to walk away from those brands.
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Megan Porta: You can feel when people value you. It’s just more of a feeling that you get. Not just a brand, but like any human. When somebody values your time and your experience and you as a human, you know that, right? You know when it’s a right fit and you know when it’s not.
Sarah Holt: Yeah, exactly.
Megan Porta: Yeah. So just lean into that intuition a little bit. Is there anything else with walking away and just needing to know when to do that?
Sarah Holt: Yeah, I have an example of if you have a client already and you wanna walk away from that partnership. So I had an ongoing partnership with the brand. There was no end date. So this is different, if you have a set contract in place, you can’t just end the partnership unless obviously you speak to them. But I just wasn’t enjoying the work anymore and I just started to dread every week when I had to do these recipes. I knew I wasn’t producing the best work for them. So it wasn’t beneficial for either of us. So I just decided to end the partnership on a good note. Even though I was worried about losing the income, because it was a monthly income, pretty substantial, but I was just like, it wasn’t serving me anymore. It ended up working out. I ended up making more money after ending that partnership.
Megan Porta: Yeah, sometimes it’s just best to let go. Again, leaning into what your gut is telling you about how you’re feeling, and letting go can be a huge message that you are opening yourself up for other better things. There is like an element of faith that needs to be involved there because it just seems if I keep pulling on I can’t make this money. But in the end it’s usually not worth it. Yeah, I think that your journey is evidence of that.
Sarah Holt: Yeah. And you have more time for things that you actually enjoy.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh, that’s so true. I can go look back in my history of blogging and podcasting and tell you so many times when I was holding onto something that I knew I shouldn’t be, but I was afraid to let it go because it was too expensive. There’s so many different reasons. But when I did let those things go, oh my gosh. Things open up in ways that you cannot ever imagine. But it’s really scary to do that. It’s not an easy thing to do. So you have relatively low, I wouldn’t call them low, but comparatively with the whole scope of big food bloggers with massive Instagram accounts, like 2000 probably isn’t like super, super high. By the way, I’m around 2000, so I’m with you Sarah. But this is just proof to all of us that you can do this successfully without a huge social media following. So talk about that a little bit.
Sarah Holt: Yeah, so I think it was a year ago in November, I started working with Kim and Chelsea at 10K Under 10K.
Megan Porta: Love them.
Sarah Holt: Yeah, they’re great. But I did coaching calls with them and they helped me really so much with trying to find brands and my pitches and stuff and just give me the confidence that I could make this work. Whereas when I was doing it on my own before I talked to them, it wasn’t working out. I just thought you have to have 10,000 followers in order to make money working with brands. But that is not the case. There are some brands that still want people with a certain following and they won’t work with you or pay you if you don’t have a certain number of followers and that’s fine. But there are plenty of brands that do value smaller creators and will pay you what you’re worth. So it might take a little more time to find those. But those brands are out there.
Megan Porta: They’re there, they exist, and sometimes we just need a little confidence boost to move us to the next level. Like you working with Kim and Chelsea, maybe that was just what you needed to be like, okay, this is possible. I can do this. Let’s do it. So investing in a coach or a group of peers that’s gonna really encourage you to go above where you think you can go. Sometimes that’s all you need to take yourself to the next level. That’s awesome. Okay. What else are we missing about this whole topic? So is there anything else that you feel like food bloggers need to hear if they are wanting to lean into this more? Maybe they’re also waiting to get into an ad network and just want a little extra income, want some more experience. What other advice do you have for them?
Sarah Holt: My biggest advice is to follow up with brands because sometimes I’ve had brands come back to me six months later after my first initial pitch and decide they wanna work with me. So make sure you’re always following up. I try to do four emails in a row. Not every single day in a row, but like twice in the first week, and then the two weeks after that one email. Then if they don’t respond, then I’ll give it a little break for like maybe a couple months and then I’ll reach back out again and see if they respond. So make sure you’re always following up because emails get lost sometimes. They might see your email and then say they’re gonna come back to it and then forget about it. So definitely follow up. That’s my biggest piece of advice.
Megan Porta: I always feel, and I think other people can relate to this, I always feel like I’m bothering them. But I don’t think that we always are because like you said, sometimes emails just get lost or people see them and they mean to come back and they just don’t. So do you ever feel that way? Oh gosh, I’m emailing them again.
Sarah Holt: Yeah, but what do you have to lose really? Yeah. They can either ignore you or just say no.
Megan Porta: Yeah. The pain of not getting the brand deal is probably worse than the pain of wondering if you’re bothering them. Okay. So what else do we need to know? Anything else? Any other last tips?
Sarah Holt: So I’ve made the most money doing freelance content rather than sponsored work. So in that case, my follower account on Instagram doesn’t really matter. And so I’d say if you don’t wanna do sponsored work, which I would prefer to do freelance and just send it off to the client for them to post and use how they wish. I highly recommend pitching as a freelancer rather than for sponsored posts. So that’s something that you wanna do. I feel like a lot of brands just assume you wanna do sponsored posts when you’re reaching out. So make sure you tailor your pitching email to say that you’re a freelance content creator.
Megan Porta: When you are pitching yourself as a freelancer, how do you select people to pitch to?
Sarah Holt: So I typically will be in charge of influencer type work and also just general marketing. Or they would direct you to someone else.
Megan Porta: Do you ever reach out to individual food bloggers or other content creators and just pitch yourself that?
Sarah Holt: I have, but I haven’t ended up working with anyone.
Megan Porta: Okay. Maybe it’s a matter of if you are well connected and you just know Blogger X is looking for a photographer, and you could fill that gap, you could step in and say, Hey, I know you’re look, just a matter of keeping your ears and eyes open to see if anyone in your circles are needing help and if you can add value in that way too. I know I have a photographer right now. Just for a little bit who’s helping me take some photos for my food blog. That’s how we started working together because we know each other. I was like, I’m done taking photos for now. She was like, oh, I can do that for you. It can be as simple as that too.
Sarah Holt: Yeah. That’s great. I’ve also posted in those VA groups on Facebook and offered my services. I’ve chatted with a couple people, but it just hasn’t worked out.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Okay. So we talked about the investment piece with coaching and just getting people to boost your confidence and tell you what you’re capable of. What other investments do you recommend considering in your business?
Sarah Holt: So obviously it depends on each individual person, like what your goals are and also your finances. It’s obviously so scary, especially when you’re starting out a business and you’re not making a ton of money to invest in the business. It’s how they always say you have to spend money to make money. I really believe that’s true and some purchases might just be scary, but I promise still have a great return on investment. Like I said, I worked with Kim and Chelsea and that obviously paid off, so much working with them. Then I recently just had a blog audit with Casey Markee, and I’ve learned so many things from him. I know I watch all of his webinars and listen to all of his podcasts, but there’s nothing like actually sitting down with him one-on-one and him telling you things that you can improve on. That was just so beneficial to me. I’m still going through the giant list of things that he gave me, but.
Megan Porta: Yeah, it’s a long list. It’s overwhelming. Then how do you feel about investing in courses and things like that?
Sarah Holt: Yeah, so I’ve done a couple photography courses, Foodtography school was my first one, and then I did Two Loves Studio Composition Essentials and that one was great also.
Megan Porta: Yeah. I feel if you are connected in the right places, whether it’s on FacebooK or elsewhere, you get a direction about what the good places are to go to, the reputable places that produce results for people. So just maybe asking around what’s worked for you? Has this course actually helped your business and seen if it’s been beneficial for others? What do you think about outsourcing?
Sarah Holt: Yeah. So I actually have a VA who writes blog posts for me because I do not like doing that. So that’s been so helpful because I’ve taken a lot of time off of my plate and I’ve seen a big increase in my blog traffic as a result of her working for me. She’s great.
Megan Porta: Awesome. Then there are always those investments, like I look back and remember investments that I made that maybe weren’t good, but I made those investments out of my own thinking and I didn’t really base my decision on what was working for other people. So we learn as we go through and oh, that probably wasn’t worthwhile, but yeah. I’m going to veer in this new direction. This is so helpful. Okay. Is there anything else we’ve missed with either investing in your business or getting into just creating content for brands.
Sarah Holt: Oh yeah. Another investment I made was the Cooking with Keywords course. I highly recommend that.
Megan Porta: Yes.
Sarah Holt: Highly recommend.
Megan Porta: Keyword research is essential. This is something I ignored for a long time and it pays off for sure. This was amazing. Thank you so much for your time, Sarah. I really appreciate you just showing up today and adding this value.
Sarah Holt: Thank you so much, Megan. It’s been great talking to you.
Megan Porta: Yeah, same. So do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with today?
Sarah Holt: Yeah, so I am big into manifestation. I dunno if that’s cheesy or not, but.
Megan Porta: No, not at all.
Sarah Holt: Every morning I wake up and I say some affirmations. My dad actually gave me a list when I was in high school of affirmations to say, and now they’re all already in my brain. I don’t even need to look at the list anymore. But my biggest one is money flows easily and effortlessly no matter how I feel or what I do.
Megan Porta: Oh, I love it. What are some of your other ones? Cause I love affirmations.
Sarah Holt: I would say things like, today is gonna be a great day.
Megan Porta: Yes. So simple, but like that can set the tone for your entire day.
Sarah Holt: Yeah. Or I appreciate those who have helped me as well as crushed me for Iam stronger and better because of them.
Megan Porta: Love it. Do you follow Loren Runion?
Sarah Holt: Yes, I do.
Megan Porta: Okay. Yep. Because she is big on manifesting and just affirmations and all of that, so she has an amazing podcast too. Align and Expand.
Sarah Holt: Yeah, I think I’ve listened to that.
Megan Porta: Oh, have you? There are a few little episodes or like mini episodes, but she goes through some affirmations. One is focused solely on money and then there’s one I think that’s abundance or something else more general, but yeah, those are really great if you’re looking for some, but awesome. Thanks for sharing that, and I love that your dad gave you affirmations. I think that’s unique for a dad to do that. So cool.
Sarah Holt: Yeah, he’s big into that. Yep.
Megan Porta: Oh, love it. Okay, so we’ll put together a show notes page for you, Sarah. If anyone wants to go look at those, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/realfoodwithSarah with an H. Tell everyone where they can find you on your site on social media, et cetera, Sarah.
Sarah Holt: You can find me on my website, real Food with sarah.com on Instagram at Real Food with Sarah. Same on Facebook. Real Food is Sarah TikTok at Real Food is Sarah and Pinterest Real Food with Sarah.
Megan Porta: Cool, thanks again, Sarah, so much for being here 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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