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Episode 177: Take Big Blogging Risks for Big Rewards with Megan Horowitch

In episode 177 we talk with Megan Horowitch, a food blogger who has grown her food blog 500% in her first year as a full-time blogger.

We cover information about how leveraging photography is key to growing your online presence, understanding SEO should be on your list to work on and how to set realistic expectations about what full-time blogging can grow into.

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 Short Girl Tall Order
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio
Megan began ShortGirlTallOrder in 2018 after finding out about an egg intolerance and wanting to expand into more plant-based & vegan cooking. As someone from a mixed diet household, my goal has always been to inspire others to have fun cooking plant-based food that is delicious, easy, and occasionally indulgent.

Takeaways

  • Lean into those moments that encourage you to take a leap of faith and move forward into your blogging venture and give you boldness to grow.
  • SEO, Pinterest and Photography courses are all valuable to intentionally work on. Be sure to work on and give your attention to one at a time though.
  • Join free Facebook groups to receive free help from other seasoned bloggers.
  • Be sure you are on a good hosting platform.
  • SEO should be on your radar from the beginning to give you an edge up on Pinterest and Google.
  • There’s always something to learn as a blogger, you’re always a student.
  • Keep your photography simple and don’t get too worried about backdrops and props. Your audience wants to see the beautiful food. You’ll find your style as you grow in your photography skills.
  • Brand work can be lucrative for another revenue stream. Reach out to brands through IG and then take the conversation to email so you can track your conversation and not lose important details. You can offer your photography, sponsored posts and developing recipes for brands.
  • Building a community of other food bloggers is super valuable. You can tap into this community for friendship and for business advice.

Resources Mentioned

I wrote a whole blog post when I quit my job that has a lot of resources. I’m planning to do a 1 year recap as well.

Foodtography School

Big Scoots – Managed Web Hosting

Adobe Lightroom – Editing Software

Pinning Perfect Course

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:

Food bloggers. Hey, are you looking for new ways to make money as a blogger? If so, we have got your back. We have launched an ebook called Conversations On Monetization. Inside this resource, we take your favorite podcast episodes about monetization, and we put them all in one easy accessible package. We threw a few exclusive interviews in as well. Friends, there are so many ways to monetize your food blog. Inside this ebook, we have interviews with success stories like Todd Bullock, Alyssa Brantley, Kelly McNelis, Jena Carlin, and more. All of these examples have become successful through completely different monetization strategies. Whether you are a brand new blogger looking for your very first revenue stream, or you are a seasoned pro wanting to diversify, this ebook is for you. Go to eatblogtalk.com to grab your copy. And we can’t wait to hear your success story with monetization.

What’s up 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. Today I am super excited to get some time with Megan Horowitch from shortgirltallorder.com. We are going to have a super fun discussion about taking big blogging risks for big rewards. Megan began a Short Girl Tall Order in 2018 after finding out about my egg intolerance and wanting to expand into more plant-based and vegan cooking. Coming from a mixed diet household, her goal has always been to inspire others to have fun cooking plant-based food that is delicious, easy, and occasionally indulgent. Megan is pursuing Short Girl Tall order full-time and has grown her blog by over 500% in her first year. Full-time that is awesome. Megan, I’m super excited to talk to you about this, but first we want to hear your fun fact.

Megan Horowitch:

Yeah, I’m super excited to be here too. So thanks for having me. So with my fun fact, I actually asked all my friends and a lot of the things that they came up with came back to the fact that I actually studied abroad way back when in high school in Italy one summer and went to a cooking school there for about a week and lived with a host family. But I think the funny thing that kind of came from that trip is I actually took a bunch of photos on that trip too and won an award for one of them. So obviously it was just the high school award, but coming back from that trip, my mom said, you should really be a food photographer and pursue this. Obviously I ignored her being the defiant high schooler I was, but I think it’s really cool just to see that things have kind of come around full turn and now I’m doing this full-time.

Megan P:

Oh, I love that story. So what was the photo of?

Megan H:

It was actually not a food. I was in Venice and so it’s on the gondola rides.

Megan P:

That’s awesome. You should have that on your blog somewhere. The first indication that I was going to be a creative or something.

Megan H:

I definitely should. It’s hanging up at our house. So I think my mom treasures that still, but I still think it’s just sweet to know that I should have listened I guess, but I’ve also learned a lot of things since then, too.

Megan P:

Yes. Moms know. I love it. We are going to talk today about taking big leaps in blogging, but also being really patient with blogging because both of those things can seem really scary and overwhelming. There are a lot of bloggers that we all know that go on these long blogging journeys. I think for newer bloggers thinking about how long it takes and how much work is involved, that can be something that just stops them in their tracks. So hopefully this discussion today will help bloggers just kind of get past those fears and dig into it because it can be really rewarding. I would love it if you shared with us about how you decided to quit your job and start blogging full-time, will you talk us through that journey, Megan?

Megan H:

Yeah, of course. As you mentioned in my bio, I started my blog in February 2018. Honestly it was just for fun at the time. I had found out about an egg intolerance and I’ve been a vegetarian over 10 years at this point. So I had not eaten meat in a while, but eggs were a huge part of my diet. Basically I had to adapt a lot of different recipes and favorites and decided to document that thanks to my family and friends, really pushing me to do that finally. So in that first year, honestly, just kind of did it for fun, was mostly active on Instagram and didn’t really know what I was doing with my blog. I did get a DSLR camera from the beginning and was just kind of having fun.

So late 2018, I actually got contacted by a brand to do a recipe for their blog. That felt pretty surreal at the time because I had not gotten paid for anything before and it was really new to this. At that point, I think that was kind of a turning point for me, where I started to see the potential. Could I do this full-time even though it really, I got paid just the amount to cover groceries, but it felt like a big deal. I actually signed up for photography school. I’m not sure if other people have mentioned that on your podcasts before, but it’s a great program for beginner photographers. That really helped me learn how to understand composition and gain confidence to the point where then in 2019, I really decided to take it more seriously.

That year I really focused a lot on client work. So my blog was still not getting a ton of traction just because I didn’t really know what I was doing and really focused on building recipes and taking photos for brands. The turning point for me, I actually wrote a whole blog post about it was at my two year anniversary. But in November 2019, I really hit a wall. I was working at my technical recruiting job every day, blogging every weekend and night. Honestly just experiencing severe burnout at that point. I think this is probably a journey that a lot of people face where they’re trying to build a side hustle and eventually you get to a point where it’s too much. So I really had to make a decision.

Do I want to pursue this full time or do I really want to make it something fun and stop stressing about it so much. When I really thought about where I saw my life and the next five to 10 years, I definitely saw myself blogging, photographing food, writing about food. Obviously I was super passionate about it. That was really a turning point for me, where I started to invest in my blog more. So I joined all these Facebook groups; one of them is called Food Blogger Central, but there’s just tons of advice in there from more seasoned experts, I would say, in the blogging community. So I did a bunch of things. I took SEO classes. I switched to Big Scoots, which is a better hosting platform. I took Pinning Perfect and really focused on Pinterest and made the decision to quit my job in February 2020.

That was basically my journey. From November 2019 to February 2020, it was kind of crazy. I don’t think I really had a social life at that point, but I was really committed to making it work and it really paid off because I actually got accepted to a big ad network in February and things have grown from there this past year. It’s been an exciting journey. This past year, even though there’s been tons of ups and downs, obviously with the pandemic and the change that comes with that, it’s been a really great experience to do this whole time.

Megan P:

That is such a cool story and such a cool journey that you’ve been through in a relatively short time. Compared to some other bloggers, it takes them a lot longer to get to that point where they just decide to dig in. So I’m just grateful that you talked through that. Thank you for sharing. I wanted to point out a few things you said that I thought were really cool. When that brand reached out to you, that was just one little tiny thing. You even said, You didn’t even get paid that much, but that gave you the confidence to really understand that you could do this. Like you could do this, you know? So I think for everyone, that’s going to be different. A brand isn’t going to reach out to everybody, but we all just need to look for those little nuggets that are going to give us the confidence we need to dig in.

I love that you were like, Oh, I can do this. That’s so cool. They have confidence in me. So I should have confidence in myself. Then you mentioned also just hitting your wall and deciding it was too much. Then you were committed. You were going to dig in. So you dug into a few specific things, which is super important for other bloggers to hear it because it’s not just okay, I’m committed. I’m just going to let this happen. You actually have to go out and learn. You have to seek out information and there are a few key things and you hit them right on. So photography, very important. I would say probably the most important thing, because if you want Pinterest traction, you have to have good photos. If you want people to see your thumbnail on Google and actually click, you have to have good photos. So photography, SEO, and web hosting, three big things right there that you all hit. Will you say the name of the school again? Was it just photography school?

Megan H:

Yeah. Foodtography, it was really helpful.

Megan P:

I’ve had other people mention that. I have not taken that, but I’ve heard great things about that. From what I hear, a really good starting point, right? If somebody doesn’t know how to operate a DSLR, is that right?

Megan H:

I did have a DSLR when I took the course. I think they actually have a course, which I haven’t taken for people who are interested in shooting photos on their phones. But I specifically took the course focused more on learning how to edit in Lightroom. It definitely taught me a lot about how to shoot in a manual and also just learning about F stuff and the different basics that you really need to know to work your camera. I think the biggest thing for me was Lightroom editing and composition, just because I had no idea what I was doing when it came to that before that course.

Megan P:

Just learning from the experts is really valuable, especially if you’re coming in and not knowing anything about a certain topic. SEO too, that can be super overwhelming, even to seasoned bloggers. So learning from the people who actually know what they’re doing is, it’s scary, but very valuable. So I think you did that just the right way. So what are some of the strategies you implemented that you feel helped to set you up for success?

Megan H:

I think you honestly hit on a big one, which was really just focusing on photography. Before my blog got to the point where it was earning income from ads or anything like that, I was able to really build up my freelance work and feel confident enough to be making income on the side that I could quit my job. Like you said too, I still think a huge reason why I was able to have that growth and success is because of Pinterest. In fact, I know it’s because of Pinterest because Pinterest is still my number one source of traffic. I think a big reason for that is taking those food photos that are drool worthy and really make people want to click and seek out recipes. So that was definitely my biggest push.

I took the course Pinning Perfect. I was recommended by another food blogger and it honestly changed my whole perspective on Pinterest and Pinterest has gone through so many changes even since I’ve taken that course. But I think the really good thing about that course is that they actually do update it every year, I think it’s every year when it might even be more frequent than that. So there’s constantly new information and new strategies being given to you. At this point I’ve kind of adapted my own Pinterest strategy that works best for my audience and for the types of pins that I’m making. But it taught me so much about how to write SEO for Pinterest and also how to set up a good strategy and pin the correct amount and honestly how to make good pins in the first place too.

So Pinterest was a huge way that I found success. I think for me the biggest thing, like you also mentioned, even though it might’ve been quick, I really did try to focus on one thing at a time. So my first year food photography was really a big part of how I grew my blog and my audience. Then after that, it was really focusing on things like Pinterest and then SEO. Now I’m focusing more on, okay, how do I learn video? Then do some stuff there since that’s becoming a much bigger focus for, I think that only a lot of brands, but also just for people who want to learn via video. So there’s always something that you can learn as a blogger, but I think if you try to tackle it all at once, it’s just going to be overwhelming. So my strategy has always been okay, I’m going to focus on this, master it to a certain extent and then move on to the next thing and go from there.

Megan P:

That is super smart because all of it together is too much. If you look at it all on paper, you’re like, no, thank you. I can’t do all of that. You can’t, you have to do it piece by piece and it’s okay to not be the best at most of the pieces at any given point. I think that the photography piece is so overlooked and I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately. People inside of my membership and inside the Eat Blot Talk community are like, I want more Pinterest traction. I’m with you, Megan. So I gained a lot of traction on Pinterest right off the bat when I started blogging and I still get a lot of Pinterest traffic. It’s because I focused on photography to start. That was number one. I have to get my photos to a place where they’re really drool worthy, like you said, and I’m not the best food photographer in the world by any means, but I love my photos.

I think that people think they look delicious and that is why people have clicked so many times from Pinterest to my website. It’s like a piece that people put in the wrong spot. I should have Pinterest traction, but I don’t need great photos and it should not be like that. You need the photos first and then you can expect Pinterest traction because Pinterest is all about the photos. So just reordering that. Nope, the photos have to be first. You mentioned this Foodtography school, which is super easy to go through. How long does it take to get through it?

Megan H:

Oh gosh, I took it a while ago now, but I think I went through it really quickly cause I was so excited. But it was all pre recorded. So I think I probably got through it all in a month.

Megan P:

Okay. I’m sure you made tons of progress, right?

Megan H:

Right after that course, I actually started redoing some of the photos. So I do have a little before and after that I’ve shared before of my work before and after that, even since then, I think it’s definitely changed a lot, but it helped me so much. I think especially learning how to style things so that their focus is on the food. Because I think it’s easy to get distracted by lots of props or needing the perfect backdrop or something like that. But when it comes down to it, if you really understand basic food photography composition, you can make lots of different food look great with very minimal props. I would say I’m not a huge prop person. I definitely don’t do these elaborate flat lays, but you don’t need all that to have a successful blog to have a successful Pinterest. You do need great images, but the focus should be on the food. So it definitely taught me how to just style food in a better way.

Megan P:

Some food bloggers adopt a style that is more elaborate and you know, they use really fancy props and backdrops. I think for those bloggers, that’s great to embrace that, but I don’t think that is required for everybody. I am such a minimalist when it comes to taking food photos, it takes me such a little amount of time that it’s almost embarrassing to talk about. I really do use really simple, minimal props and it works for me. If that works for you, then I think you should run with it because it makes it easier. It makes life easier.

Megan H:

I definitely admire some of those photographers that can make those more elaborate setups and it’s always so, so gorgeous, but I think maybe that can be daunting to someone who’s very new to photography or thinking they need to do that to be successful. At the end of the day, you know, you have to find the style that works for you. I think my style is different from your style, different from every other blogger style and you have to be happy with your photos, but figuring out what’s going to get people to be excited about your recipes and want to click in and want to cook them. It’s definitely, you know, a super important part of blogging.

Megan P:

If you look at like the really, really powerhouse bloggers sites, there are some that are also really simple, but beautiful. It doesn’t have to be that elaborate style in order to be beautiful and eye catching. And in fact, I think the Pinterest photos that have really, really worked for me over the years have been close-up shots of maybe like a cheese pull or chocolate dripping or something really simple that I’ve been able to capture, but there’s nothing elaborate involved about the photo at all. It’s just Ooh, that’s that it looks drippy and delicious. I’m going to click over. So just finding that one little thing that can make your photos really interesting, whether it’s a pop of color or I said, like a chocolate drip or sometimes I like putting a splash of color in the background, that just makes it interesting, but it does not have to be elaborate. You can drool over those bloggers elaborate setups. I have those too, those bloggers that I’m like, Oh, that’s so gorgeous. Why can’t I do that? But that’s okay. We don’t all have to be like that.

Megan H:

Yeah, for sure. I think I’ve definitely experienced the same thing where sometimes my more elaborate photo shoots they’ll do really well on maybe Instagram or something. But when it comes to Pinterest, the photos that do best are bite shots or something really showing the texture or like you said, a chocolate drip that always does really well.

Megan P:

I was just looking at your site and right when I said chocolate drip, I saw your chocolate Bundt cakes. So I pulled that up and you have delicious chocolate drips, Megan. That is a very pretty photo. So we’re talking about photography and how we can leverage that on certain platforms like Pinterest. How can you leverage it overall? What are your thoughts on using photography to just grow your blogging business?

Megan H:

There’s a couple of ways you can do that. One is freelance work and then within freelancers kind of different categories. One category is doing photography for other bloggers. This is honestly not something I could personally speak to because I never have done that. I just decided it wasn’t really of interest to me, but I know a lot of other bloggers and photographers who have had a ton of success building their business that way. For me, the way that I really built my photography business outside of my blog was developing recipes for different brands websites, and also providing them with the photography. Then there’s a third way too, which is, there are a lot of brands out there that just have recipes on their sites and maybe they have a photo, but the photo isn’t great.

Or they just took it in house because they didn’t have the budget to really pay for professional photography. So you can always offer to just reshoot recipes for brands as well. I think that that’s been one way to grow it. Then of course it’s really important to grow your own personal channels. So I really focused a lot on Instagram and I think having good photography for Instagram is crucial to grow. There’s lots of people who have that more minimalist style and have grown a ton or they have more elaborate gorgeous set ups and grown a ton. But I think overall the photography is really what draws people in. Then a lot of people do stay to follow the person and get to know them and get to know their brand. But that’s really how you’re going to initially draw people in to be interested in your brand and your recipes. I think that’s been a big part too, is growing that social following because that’s how you’ll get more sponsored partnerships. My personal experience, I don’t know if this applies to other bloggers, has been to do sponsored blog posts, but they’re definitely far and few compared to sponsored Instagram posts and sponsored social media posts in general. So I think having that photography has helped me build that audience, which in turn helped me have those sponsored posts for my own site.

Megan P:

Yeah. Photography really can boost so many different parts of your business. Like you mentioned, Megan, whether that is just reaching out to brands to offer improved photography for their sites, how do you recommend doing that? Do you just browse around and find that’s not the greatest image of Chicken Parmesan. I can offer something better and then reach out to them or how do you do that?

Megan H:

I think I’m probably in a little bit of a unique position where I don’t cook meat or eggs or anything like that. So I only focus on reaching out to plant based brands, just because it’s what I feel comfortable photographing. I know the food won’t go to waste at the end of the day because we’ll eat it, but I really have made lists. So a couple of my little hacks I’ve gone onto Thrive Market or sites like that and try it out different plant based products or seeing new up and coming brands. Then I’ll try them out and reach out to them actually on Instagram or Facebook. So a lot of times I’ll just send them a DM saying, Hey, this is what I could provide you. I use your products for X, X, and X, and I really enjoy them.

Can I send my media kit to someone via email? Then I definitely always want to take the conversation off Instagram or Facebook because I personally don’t think it’s super professional and also I lose track of my DMS all the time. So I definitely would miss a lot of things. So that’s how I’ve really reached out to brands. I think a lot of it is just also seeing who your peers are collaborating with as well. A lot of times you can get introduced to new products that way. I personally have kind of moved away from accepting free products as much, unless it’s for a potential paid opportunity. But you can always just try that out, especially when you’re first starting. My first year, I didn’t create content for free products, but I would constantly try new brands and posts in a thank you Instagram story, just to really get to know a lot of the brands I knew I would want to work with down the road. I think a lot of it for me really happened through Instagram.

Megan P:

So many bloggers say that that’s so interesting because I ignored Instagram for many years thinking it would maybe go away and I wouldn’t have to do it, but then I saw the need to do it and actually dig in. So I finally did it. I finally got on board, but I was so late to the game. Now in retrospect, I really wish I would have gotten on board so much sooner because opportunities, I feel like would’ve come up for me a lot more quickly. So that’s good to hear from you. I like that. Then you mentioned taking a conversation from Instagram or wherever you’re initiating it to email. I think that’s smart too, because do you do this too? I lose direct messages on Instagram all the time. I’m like, where did that go? Then it’s just gone. There’s the request for someone that you’re not following requests to send you a message. I never look at that. Then like two months later I’ll be like, Oh my gosh, I have like 10 requests. I’m like, I’m so sorry. So I think it’s smart to bring it over to email as soon as you can, but you can find some brands more easily through Instagram, right?

Megan H:

It depends on the size of the brand, for bigger brands the person that you’re going to be working with probably to develop content, isn’t going to be the same person that’s handling their social media content. But they can at least hopefully give you the email of the correct person or direct you in that way. So it’s definitely a good way to connect with that brand and find them. So I’ve had a lot of success just reaching out through Instagram. I don’t know what other bloggers do as much, but I’ve not really spent time going to brands websites and filling out those info forms or anything like that. But I have definitely gone to their sites and looked at their photography or looked at the type of work that they do. If you see on their website, Oh, they were mentioning other bloggers or they seem to have like some really professional photos with the recipes, there’s probably a good chance that they’re hiring out that work. It’s a good indication that you could potentially be somewhat working with them too. I think their website and looking at the recipe section of their website is super helpful to find that info.

Megan P:

Before we talk about your lessons learned, do you have anything else on just kind of photography and how to leverage that?

Megan H:

Oh, I feel like that kind of covers it for how I’ve used photography to grow my business. I think at the end of the day, it’s all about finding your style and what’s going to excite you. When I first started my photography journey, I did the light and bright style, I don’t think oversaturated is the word, but an overexposed image. I think that that can be really popular, but I’ve definitely changed my style after that. You just have to learn and change and do what works for you. I think photography is something you’ll never perfect. There’s always something to learn. As long as you have fun with it, then it’s always going to be a good journey. I think there’s just so many ways you can use photography to grow your business. That’s pretty much the way I’ve done it though, through those different means.

Megan P:

That’s awesome. Let’s talk about your lessons because you have launched into a full-time blogging now you’ve been doing it for a year. What are your biggest lessons that you have learned within this first year of being a full-time blogger?

Megan H:

I think there’s a few things. The first is that it aligns with what I was saying before, where tackling one thing at a time. If you are just one person running a blog, just remember you can’t do everything. It’s okay to tackle one thing at a time and really master that and move on to something else. I think the other thing that I really dealt with this year, since I was doing more proactive reach outs and really putting myself out there more is that rejection is going to happen. In fact, I probably get rejected every day from a brand or someone else or who knows, but I think it’s so important to get used to rejection in a certain sense, not take it too personally and remember that the right opportunities are always going to be out there.

Then the third thing I think that I really learned this year is really to focus on building your community. It’s not about how many followers you have, but it’s definitely about trying to build depth with your community. I think one really cool thing that I personally did in this first year, I developed a sugar cookie recipe back in April for lemon sugar cookies. It did really well. So I started doing a sugar cookie of the month for my blog and it’s just been a fun way to get people excited. I’m not developing these recipes for SEO, if they happen to do well on Google, that’s awesome. But I think it’s so fun to build those small little community of people who love sugar cookies as much as I do and are excited to make them. So learning your community, learning what sparks their interest and interacting with them and making sure that you’re sharing the recipe recreations of your recipes and really having fun with them is definitely going to lead to a more engaged audience. I think you’ll probably enjoy it more too, if you’re really having those deeper connections with the people and the reason why you started your blog in the first place probably. So those have definitely been a couple of big takeaways.

Megan P:

I love those and it can be such a lonely job when we are just creating and kicking out content and not getting feedback from people. If we’re not paying attention to what other people are liking that we’re creating, then we don’t have opportunities to engage with them. So I love that you saw that need or not a need, but people were enjoying your lemon sugar cookies. So dive into that, explore it more. You guys are liking this, let’s do a competition, monthly cookie, sugar cookie of the month. I love that. So that requires you to actually listen, stop and listen to what your people are telling you. That could just be as simple as, you know, your cookie recipe got a lot of extra comments on Instagram. Okay, great. That means they probably liked it. The rejection thing. Definitely something to expect. I’ve gotten to a place where I am 100% okay with rejection now. But as a new blogger, I remember being so offended Oh my gosh, they didn’t pick me.

Megan H:

I’ve talked to a couple of my other blogging friends that are maybe newer into reaching out for sponsored content and stuff like that. Is it normal for them to never get back to you? I was like, yes. Sometimes I have to reach out six times over several months until I even get a response. Be persistent obviously in a professional way. There’s tons of opportunities out there. Just because someone didn’t work with you now or didn’t respond to you now doesn’t mean that it can’t turn into something down the road. Unless they’re saying, no, I never want to work with you. It’s a potential yes for the future, in my opinion.

Megan P:

And the rejection, I feel like builds up character somehow. It’s just like failure turning into more success down the road. Megan, what would you tell other bloggers who are considering going full time about income expectations?

Megan H:

So when I quit my job, I was not making a full-time income from my blog yet. I quit in February 2020, and I actually didn’t get accepted to Mediavine, I think until March. So that was when I started making ads on my site, which meant I actually didn’t get paid for those ads until a few months later, just the way it kind of works. I think it’s good to come in with realistic expectations. Obviously making six figures from a blog is a goal, but I knew that wasn’t going to be my realistic first year. So I set a realistic goal and a stretch goal and a plan on how to get there. A big thing for me was I was in a fortunate position to have a savings account and to have had that safety net where I could grow a little bit more slowly.

So that’s going to be different for everyone. But one of the biggest things I actually learned about blogging this year and income expectations was to make so much of your income in September through December. It very much surprised me, I guess I had always heard that Q4 was a large time of month where you’re going to make more income, but I made about 50% of my income for the year during that, and now knowing that, I feel like I have a really good plan to set myself up for this coming year and have even more realistic expectations. There’s no chart of what you should charge for things or how much money you should make as a blogger. It’s such an open-ended career path. Definitely talk with your peers.

I have a lot of blogging friends in the community that have been super open with me about how much they charge for sponsored content or how much they were realistically making from ads every month. That really helped me to set those realistic goals for myself too and set myself up for success long-term. I think it’s not, it’s definitely a marathon, you know, when you’re creating blog posts, you’re creating them for the long-term they’re going to keep making money long-term as long as you’re optimizing them for SEO. It’s definitely something that your income will naturally grow over time and yeah, just do your research and talk to other people in the community to learn about those realistic expectations.

Megan P:

I love all of that. You mentioned a really great point, which is collaborating with your peers. Find a circle of people that do the same thing you do, that you really trust that you can bounce ideas off of because otherwise you have no idea what to expect. Like you said, you came into Q4 and you’re like, Oh my gosh, this is a lot more money than I’m used to. Things like that are good to know going into it so you’re not blindsided. Then like doing brand work, I personally had no idea what kind of rate to propose to a brand. Recently I got approached by a brand and I was like, I have no idea. So I talked to a circle of bloggers who do work with brands and they knew exactly what to tell me. I did not know this before, but thank you. Then I knew what to offer, you know, so it is really valuable to have that circle because you’re just kind of shooting in the dark without it.

Megan H:

It’s so true. I remember when I was first off, even with those first partnerships, I reached out to a couple of bigger bloggers and I’ll forever be thankful to them for taking the time to acknowledge me as someone just starting off and helping me out. I actually did pay someone for coaching as well, who sat down with me and had those conversations. That’s a really good option for people too, if they really feel uncertain or they’re nervous about reaching out to them. There are tons of business coaches out there. The photography school, like I mentioned before, does give you some basic pricing advice and stuff like that when you’re first starting out and eventually you have to charge what you think you’re worth. Also, you know, what the market is giving you, but especially when you’re first starting out, reaching out to other bloggers is always a good idea. They might not be able to give you the perfect number. You kind of have to decide that for yourself, but they can at least give you some guidance.

Megan P:

Then speaking to the revenue in Q4, this is a good reason to diversify and to do things that you were talking about earlier with maybe using photography to reach out to a brand or finding other ways to earn money outside of ad revenue. Because for me, for so many years, I was dependent on that ad revenue and then summer came and I’m broke. What are we going to do? It just got old after awhile. I was like, this, this has to stop. So I eventually started finding other ways to make money. There are so many ways to make money when you’re a food blogger. So just putting on a different lens and seeing that I think it’s hard to do that because we get so focused on the ads, but it’s really important.

Megan H:

Honestly, I haven’t even tapped into some of the resources out there. I know there is affiliate marketing. I’ve done that a little, but I know there are some bloggers having a lot of success doing that, or making an ebook and selling that, or creating their own products. So there are just so many ways you can continue to diversify your income. I don’t even feel like I’ve completely tackled any of them. I’m just starting ads and brand partnerships, but there are so many different ways out there. Like you said before, like everyone’s going to be good at something different. I really found that Pinterest was a good space for me to grow my blog, but maybe for someone else eBooks are your thing, or you’re really doing great with affiliate marketing and building up those relationships there. So I think it’s going to be different for everyone. It’s awesome that we have all these opportunities to figure out what’s going to work for us in our audience.

Megan P:

Oh, that is the best quote of the whole interview. That is so true. It is awesome. We overlook that when we get, so hyper-focused on things like why can’t I get into the media vine or whatever your struggle is at the moment, but we do have so much opportunity as food bloggers and sometimes we can look right past that. So thank you for that reminder. I would like to know Megan, where you see yourself in five years?

Megan H:

I definitely see myself still blogging. Actually my whole family’s on the East coast. So my long-term plan is to move back there and I’ve actually always had a dream to open up a bakery of some sort. I know that’s probably not an expected answer from a blogger, but I actually get asked quite often if I ship or if I deliver some of my cookies and stuff like that. So I think long-term, once I do find that place that we’re going to settle down, that would really be my goal and continue blogging.

Megan P:

I think that’s a great answer. I know it’s one of those things too, that I’ve thought about, but down the road, probably not in my very, very near future. I’ve just been browsing through some of your recipes as we’ve been talking and you definitely have some amazing looking desserts on here. Oh my goodness. Cupcakes and cakes and cookies and bars and yum. I want all of it. Cinnamon rolls. Oh, hungry.

Megan H:

I would love to be able to make, I think a lot of my blogging journey really started from a love of cooking for other people. So I’m so happy with blogging that I can reach more people. Basically it’s a way to kind of scale that love, I guess you could say, cause everyone can enjoy the recipes that you’re enjoying, but I’d love to be able to actually cook that food for a larger audience, obviously with COVID right now it’s not a very realistic thing to do at this time, but long-term, I would do that.

Megan P:

That’s a great answer. What is your number one takeaway for food bloggers who are looking to take that next big leap in their blogging journey?

Megan H:

Maybe this is advice other people give, but I think it’s just so important to just start. There are so many reasons that you can stop yourself from just putting yourself out there. Obviously it’s always going to be scary, but just start, just do it. It doesn’t have to be super serious. You know, you’re going to look back on your old work. I look back on my old photos and old blog posts and cringe, but I’m also super proud of them because I took the chance to put myself out there and do something when I was super scared. I think a lot of people are probably hesitating to start something because they think there’s not enough room for them in this industry or someone’s already done that, but your take on something is going to be unique and you can definitely succeed in this industry. It’s still brand new. We’re what a 10 year old industry. Maybe older than that, but not much.

Megan P:

Not much. Yeah.

Megan H:

So there’s so much that hasn’t been done yet and there’s so much you can do. Two other things that I kind of wish I had done from the beginning, I wish I had really jumped into SEO from the beginning. I don’t think you need to be an expert, but I didn’t even know it really existed. My biggest I guess advice to new bloggers, at least do some research into it, try and make blog posts for SEO because you’ll save yourself a little bit of time in the long run, just going back and fixing everything. I guess don’t underestimate Pinterest. It’s a great way to grow your blog. A lot of people can have success from it and it’s not all about SEO at the same time. Hopefully that’s helpful to someone.

Megan P:

That was great stuff. Megan, this was so valuable and just thank you so much for being here today and sharing all of this amazing stuff with food bloggers. Before you go, do you have a favorite quote or additional words of inspiration to share?

Megan H:

Yeah. So one of my favorite quotes, it probably goes along with everything I said is, “opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” I just think that that’s so true for life. You’re never going to know unless you try. That’s how I try to live my life and try to run my business is why not try this? If it fails, it fails, but at least I know. I guess my last piece of advice too, find those people who are gonna be your hype people and surround yourself with them. I’m so fortunate to have a great group of friends that have pushed me to start my blog and supported me and always try out my new recipes. I think that having that group of people around you is just so important and try and find your faith people. It’s always a good thing to have.

Megan P:

So many great nuggets from this episode, this interview. So thank you Megan so much for being here. We will put together a show notes page for you and everything we’ve talked about today will go inside of there. If anyone wants to go look at that, you can find it at eatblogtalk.com/shortgirltallorder. Megan, tell everyone where they can find you online.

Megan H:

Yeah, you can find me on Instagram @shortgirltallorder or at my blog Short Girl Tall Order. Those are probably the places that I’m most often at.

Megan P:

Great. Well, thanks again for being here and 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.


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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.

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