In episode 274, Megan chats with Megan of The Oregon Dietitian and freelance food photographer, about being productive during the “ad network waiting” period with freelance work and new sources of revenue.
We cover information on using other revenue sources to keep you busy and productive as well to build your skill sets, figure out what you love about blogging and dig into that for alternative income sources and know that you’re sharpening your skills to help your blog.
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Bio Megan is a toddler mom, full-time dietitian, food blogger, and food photographer, too! After getting really serious with her food blog, she was able to triple her blog’s traffic in the last year. But with mediavine’s new 50k session requirement, she found she was still not quite there. So Megan decided that instead of waiting around to get to qualify for mediavine, she’d take things into her own hands by starting a freelance photography business. Food photography has been her favorite part of food blogging, so she leaned into that and began freelancing!
- Have a goal so that you’re motivated to work towards reaching it.
- Think about all the food blogging tasks and know what drains you and what fills you up. Figure out which tasks that fill you up can be another revenue source.
- Find ways to level up your skills – join a mastermind, take a course, get hands on practice.
- Facebook groups are a great way to connect with people on sharing your work, getting honest feedback and finding potential work.
- If you’re pursuing photography, find ways to share your work with potential jobs and give them a personalized sample they can keep.
- Improving your photography skills helps your blog overall because it’s more appealing on all the platforms.
- Lead with your strengths when pitching brands or a client. It’s not necessary to share you have a small following on Instagram if that’s not a strength.
- Use your skills as a blogger to find side work to fund your new revenue stream as it gets up and running, help pay for any equipment, upgrades, extras needed.
- Do it scared – whatever your goal is, reach for it scared.
- Join a mastermind and get like minded peers to help encourage you, give you valuable feedback you can put to use and just support one another.
Listen to Kyleigh Sage in episode #225 where she shares why working for free is hurting the food blogging industry.
Click for full script.
274 Megan Byrd
Megan Byrd: Hi, this is Megan from the Oregon Dietician and you’re listening to the Eat Blog Talk podcast.
Megan Porta: Hello, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, sponsored by RankIQ. I am your host, Megan Porta, and you’re listening to episode number 274. Today, megan and I are going to have a chat about her journey and how she got into freelancing and finding ways to monetize before getting into an ad network.
Megan is a toddler mom, full-time dietician, food blogger and food photographer. After getting really serious with her food blog, she was able to triple her blogs traffic in the last year. But with Mediavine’s new 50K session requirement, she found she was still not quite there. So Megan decided that instead of waiting around to qualify for Mediavine, she’d take things into her own hands by starting a freelance photography business. Food photography has been her favorite part of food blogging, so she leaned into that and began freelancing.
Megan, your story is inspiring. I’m so excited to learn from you and hear your story and about your journey. But first we want to hear your fun fact.
Megan Byrd: Oh, okay. I actually have two. So I not only have a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics, but I also have a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science as well. If that’s not as exciting. I also don’t own a hairbrush.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. That is super funny. So do you have a comb? What do you use?
Megan Byrd: No. I didn’t realize that this was a weird fact until I had my toddler and I went to brush her hair because it was so tangled and I didn’t have anything.
Megan Porta: Oh my goodness. I think that is hilarious. Do you have long hair?
Megan Byrd: I do.
Megan Porta: Yeah. So you just let it dry. Let it flow.
Megan Byrd: Yeah. So I just comb it with my fingers when I blow dry it and it stays. It doesn’t get tangled.
Megan Porta: You’re low-maintenance, Megan. I love it. I actually found out that not combing my children’s hair was a weird thing that I do. My boys have just really thick kind of wild hair. Somebody asked me the other day how often they comb their hair. I was like I have never combed their hair. I do exactly what you just said. I take my fingers and I run it through their hair and they’ve learned to do the same. Although someone found a brush. I found a brush in our drawer that my oldest son secretly used. Not secretly, but he pulled it out. I was like, oh, you use a brush. Love those fun facts. Those are awesome. I think you’re the first Megan on the podcast. I know I’ve had a Meagan. I don’t think there’s been another Megan. So there’s my fun fact right back at you.
Megan Byrd: Oh, that’s exciting.
Megan Porta: So glad to have you here. Your journey is incredibly inspiring. Just reading through your bio is really inspiring. So would you like to start Megan by just talking about maybe some struggles that you came to that caused you to figure out how to balance everything? How did that all play out for you?
Megan Byrd: Yeah like my bio kind of stated, I have a full-time job as a clinical dietician. I started food blogging three years ago and it just got to the point where I just have not enough time in the day. It just got really overwhelming. So I just got to a point where my toddler, she naps less now. So I have less time in a day. It just got frustrating because I need my full-time job to pay my mortgage. But I also have this goal where I really want to be able to just rely solely on my website and my blog to make money. It just came to a point where I knew I had to change something because it was just so overwhelming and frustrating for me. You want to be a good mom and you want to be a good wife, but you also want this job and career. It just gets to the point where it’s just too much.
Megan Porta: Something’s got to give. I think we all get to that point where we realize we can’t do it all. Even though we think we can, in the beginning we feel strong and capable and smart and determined and all of that. So I think that’s almost like an adrenaline push that keeps us going for a while. Then we get to that point where we’re like, oh, wait a second. I can’t do all of this. Something’s got to give. You wanted to monetize through ads, but you realized that you couldn’t wait around for that forever. So how did you manage that?
Megan Byrd: Last year around August, I started getting super serious. So I’ve been blogging for three years, but I started getting super serious and decided I need to learn SEO and I need to get better at photography. I need to learn how to structure my blog posts to make Google happy. After I had my daughter, my job became more of a burden than a blessing. Not that it’s not a blessing, it just got to the point where I was like, I really want this to work because I want to be home with her. I decided to try for ads basically. I think in August I had maybe 8,000 sessions a month. That just wasn’t even close. Then you know they upped their session requirements. So it was a never ending. I’m chasing this goal that seems to be changing on me. Yeah, so really that’s basically what I wanted to do. I think that a lot of people’s goal is to get on Mediavine and get on ads. We all have our reasons for it, but that was mine so I can be home with my daughter.
Megan Porta: I know, I felt so bad for people who were striving for that 25K and then they changed it and I understand there’s reasons behind it. But my heart felt so heavy for people who saw that carrot and then the carrot moved quite a bit. So I felt for you. So how did you deal with that? That had to be an emotional struggle, I imagine.
Megan Byrd: It was, but I wasn’t super close either. So it still felt pretty far away. Probably I should have been a little more discouraged, but it motivated me even more. I have a long way to go and I know I want to get there and I don’t have all the time in the world to do it. So let’s just start pushing really hard. That’s actually helped to motivate me a little bit more, I think.
Megan Porta: Good for you. You took the focus off of the struggle or the frustration and you rerouted and figured out what you needed to do to monetize in other ways. Photography was one of your strengths, right? So that’s why you leaned into that. So how did you go about all of that?
Megan Byrd: I was actually listening to this podcast. It was Kylie from Barley and Sage talking about how you shouldn’t work for free. I remember listening to that podcast and she was saying she was a full-time recipe developer and food photographer with her blog as well. Something clicked for me. It just made me realize how much I really liked photography and how that is one thing that I love about food blogging. I was like, if she can do that, I can do that too. So basically I took the parts of the food blogging that I just really love and just started focusing on that more. So I took a food photography class. I got a real camera because I was just using my iPhone up until then. Got a couple of new backdrops and just started really leaning into food photography just to make an income from it while I waited to get on Mediavine.
Megan Porta: It worked, right? Because I feel like when we’re so focused on something, we can get so much more frustrated. But when we distract ourselves a little bit, then time goes faster. Time passes faster, without frustration. So did that work for you? Did you find that you were less frustrated and more inspired by your photography?
Megan Byrd: A hundred percent. It gave me something that I was working towards that I knew it was attainable because I was setting that goal. Mediavine wasn’t saying you need to hit this goal. It was me setting this goal of, Hey I want to improve my food photography. I want to land my first photography client or recipe development client. That just gave me like a whole new head spac as far as food blogging goes. It was, I don’t have to rely on this other company to help me make money. I can do this in the meantime.
Megan Porta: And confidence, right? I’m sure confidence was a part of that. Boosting your ability to create beautiful photography, which raises your confidence level in all of your blogs, I’m sure. So only good things probably came from this. It’s such a good message for food bloggers. I love this message that yes I understand that you want to get on an ad network. For sure, 100%. You will get there. Everyone will who wants to. But in the meantime, you can find those things that you’re really good at and lean into your strengths like Megan did. Do you have any recommendations for that? What if there are people listening who, this sounds really appealing too, but they don’t really know which way to learn.
Megan Byrd: I think it’s just a good idea to sit down and maybe just take a week and while you’re working on your food blog, just think about what you really enjoy and what fills your cup and what drains it. So for me, food photography, I go to bed looking at my food photos. I’m so proud of them. Like I love them. I like to show them to people. They just fill my cup. They give me energy and they light me up. But there’s a task everyone knows about food blogging that doesn’t fill me up. So I stopped because I am on such a tight time schedule and I just stopped doing some of the stuff that I just didn’t feel like was worth my time anymore and just filled that time with things that. I really enjoyed doing it. It seemed to work out okay.
Megan Porta: Isn’t it magical when you just decide to stop doing certain things, and then you wonder if things are going to stop turning, like the world’s going to stop turning, but it doesn’t? Things keep going. Your business keeps going and things actually grow. I love that. So what things did you let die off?
Megan Byrd: I stopped posting to Instagram a lot because I just don’t have a very large Instagram following anyways. It just didn’t seem like it was really doing anything for me. So I stopped posting so much there. I actually stopped posting as many blog posts, which sounds kind of counterintuitive, but it hasn’t done anything bad for me. I just let my editorial calendar get a little chaotic because I hadn’t been meeting those deadlines that I had set for myself for blog posts. I mean at the end of the day, nobody knew that I didn’t meet those. Nobody noticed that I didn’t post once a week for a month.
Megan Porta: That’s the great thing about food blogging. You’re the boss, you are in charge of your business. So if you decide that you need to cut back on posting, then you can do that. Nobody has to even know about it.
Megan Byrd: I think I just emailed my subscribers posts that were seasonal and it was like, fine. No one knows no one’s refreshing their email, waiting for your email.
Megan Porta: I think we get it in our heads that people are going to, first of all, know what our plan is. Like they have insights into our editorial calendar, which they don’t and that they’re going to call us out in some way, but that in fact does not happen. I’ve heard so many food bloggers say the same story where they just decided to stop doing something and the world kept turning and things kept growing and nothing really stopped growing at all. How did you land your first photography clients? I always love hearing how people get into that.
Megan Byrd: Oh, sure. Actually, I just saw, she had posted something on Facebook. She’s not even a food blogger. She is. But she was looking for someone to help her develop a few recipes for an ebook. There were like so many people replying to her Facebook thread. I was like, oh, this put my name out there. Just drop my little portfolio. A couple of weeks went by, and I didn’t hear anything. Then she messaged me on Facebook and was like, Hey, I’ve been stalking you on Instagram and your website. I love your photos and I love that you’re a dietician. I was hoping you could do this for me. I was like, okay. It was just random, in one of the Facebook groups.
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Megan Porta: So where did it go from there? So you got that client, which is amazing. I love that it transpired that way. Then did you start looking for more or did they fall into your lap?
Megan Byrd: Yeah, so I’m pretty new to freelancing, so I haven’t had a lot of clients yet, but one thing that I have been doing is going to local bakeries or things like that and buying their products and then doing little mini shoots and sending them to them. Then saying, Hey this is what I did with your product. Would love to chat with you about doing a real shot. Then, at the end of the conversation, even if they don’t, if they say, no thanks. I’ll still just give them one of the photos for free like their Instagram. They just are so happy with that. So it’s a great way to build a relationship with a brand, especially if you are interested in working with them in the future. Sometimes things just don’t work out right away, but they keep you in mind. They remember that stuff.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh, there’s so many lessons there. So you just took this into your own hands. You knew you loved photography, you wanted to monetize. So going into bakeries is brilliant because it’s not a restaurant where someone has to prepare the food for you perfectly. You can already get their perfectly created cupcakes or whatever and take it home and just shoot it there. I think that is so brilliant. Then the other message is giving people free value, which is going to lead to potential relationships. So it’s not a guarantee, but they will have you in mind because there’ll be like, Hey, you remember Megan. She came in and grabbed our black forest cake and took a picture of it. They have an awesome image now to use on social media. So doing that sort of thing takes such little time, but it can reap huge rewards later.
Megan Byrd: Yeah, it totally can. They remember that stuff. I think it’s important to remember that they are people on the other side of brands and they actually do really care. They want value from you. Obviously you need to give that to them, but some of the value just comes from being nice and being courteous and like telling them how much you love their brand. They love that.
Megan Porta: Just being nice. I feel like there’s so much in those three words. Just being nice can get you so far. I am curious about your foray into monetizing through photography while you’re waiting for ad networks. How did this improve your photography and your blogging overall?
Megan Byrd: I don’t think taking a photography course was like one of the best things, because it gives you structure in how to improve. For the longest time I was just following food bloggers that just took beautiful photos. I was always trying to figure out, like, how did they do that? Why do I like this photo so much? The food photography course was a game changer because it tells you how to do that. So improving that, it just improved everything from the photos on my website and then that in turn, makes things better. Pinterest traffic, better Facebook group traffic. More backlinks from roundups because people want to use pretty, beautiful photos on their roundups because it makes them look good. So all of that, just improving your photography makes everything more shareable. Yeah. Just gives you more linked juice.
Megan Porta: More Pinterest worthy as well. I know there’s been a lot of frustration recently with Pinterest and the way that things are changing and seemingly constantly evolving there. But I always go back to what I did when I first started blogging. That was just making sure your photography is drool worthy because that is the only component that is going to really get you popular on Pinterest. So if you don’t have drool worthy photos. Or maybe you could go on the weird side, if you have weird photos. I think those are pinnable as well, but you need beautiful photography that people are going to want to repin.
Megan Byrd: I think it comes back down to just, if you’re running a food blog, you want people to want to eat your food, right? So if you have good photos, it just makes everything a little bit easier, I think.
Megan Porta: We’re so driven by visuals, especially when it comes to food and like conjuring up. Ooh, that looks delicious. You need those good mouthwatering photos, I believe. You have less than a thousand followers. So I love this because this is proof that you can venture out into new worlds and be courageous and bold and make money without a ton of followers. There’s this notion that you need to have 10K followers or more in order to get any traction or brand deals or sponsored work or freelance or anything, but that is not true. So I want you to speak on that.
Megan Byrd: Yeah. When I like pitch brands or talk to them, I don’t mention my Instagram at all because it’s just so small and it just, it shouldn’t, but it does make you look like small potatoes. In reality, you can be very good at a lot of different things without being good at Instagram. I think that just by leaving your Instagram following out of the equation, it helps highlight what you are good at. Because I feel like brands are very quick to look at your Instagram following and dismiss you.So what I do is I pitch myself as just a freelance photographer. I pitch them like, Hey, like I take beautiful photos, do you want me to do that for you? There’s nothing about sharing it on my social following or sometimes I’ll say, Hey, we can do a sponsored post if you want. This is how many sessions I get a month to my site. But I just leave Instagram completely out of the equation because it’s just not a strong point for me. It really doesn’t help me at all. Pitch the brand and the brand, once the brands focus on Instagram, sometimes it can be hard to get out of that mindset.
Megan Porta: That’s smart. Yeah. I think that’s really smart to focus on the things that you’re really good at, your strengths and taking the fact that you’re a blogger out of the equation and just promoting yourself as a freelance photographer. Super smart. That seems to be received pretty well. Yeah, it does.
Megan Byrd: It just puts all the focus on my photos. It doesn’t put any focus on anything else, which just if you keep the focus on what you’re trying to sell anyways. You’re more likely to get a deal anyways.
Megan Porta: We are all wondering, are you close to your ad network requirements or are you still striving for that?
Megan Byrd: Oh my gosh. So this is exciting. I actually applied to Mediavine last week. It’s funny, once I started doing photography and just putting my focus where it needed to be, I went from 35K to 50K in three weeks. Oh my gosh. Just Google web stories, Facebook groups, and just boom. I was there. I owe a lot of that to photography. People in the Facebook groups, they want to see yummy photos. They’ll share those. They’ll share those and they’ll click on the links. It’s just exciting. I’m very excited.
Megan Porta: That is exciting! Congratulations, Megan. Oh my gosh. I know that’s a huge deal and I love that you just took your site off of it for a little bit and focused on something that you were truly passionate about and that reaped the rewards. Obviously you put some effort into other things, like Google web stories and Facebook, but oh, what a great message. I feel like there’s so many messages here that you’re delivering today that people need to hear. That also will inspire food bloggers to do the same because you can do it. It’s possible.
Megan Byrd: Yeah. It’s crazy. I stopped posting as much on my website and I qualified for Mediavine.
Megan Porta: How often do you post?
Megan Byrd: So normally I post once a week, but I stopped doing that. I think I posted maybe two posts in November and maybe two in December and yeah, I just promoted them obviously. Usually I had four or five slots for each month and I just didn’t get to them.
Megan Porta: Oh, that’s so awesome. What would you say your best advice for people is? We’ve hit on a few nuggets here, but what would you say are top takeaways for somebody who was in your boat when you started this journey? What would you say?
Megan Byrd: I would say find a way to make it work. So if you have such a tight budget like I did, you can do VA work, you can do photography. I funded all of my photography, the class, the camera, the new lens, the backdrops, all of it with VA work money than I did on the side. You can find other ways to get you to the place you want to go. You just have to figure out what your strengths are and what you’re willing to do and what you’re willing to sacrifice, too.
Megan Porta: A lot of what you’re talking about involves scary things for a lot of people that can be a fear putting yourself out there in that way. So what would you say to that? Because, I know a lot of people, myself included at certain points in my journey, can get stuck there. Nope, it’s too scary. I can’t do that.
Megan Byrd: It is really scary. But also it’s really scary not meeting your goals. So for me, I’m going to do it scared. I’ll do it scared because I don’t want to sit here scared. So I would say just just put yourself out there. You’re never going to know what’s going to happen. The worst people are gonna say is no. You just go on. You just move on to the next brand or the next client or to whatever you need to do to just keep going.
Megan Porta: Oh, Megan, that was amazing. I loved that. I always love doing this. Comparing the pain or comparing the scary in this case. So literally having two columns. Okay, what is scary? So putting yourself out there, asking people if they need your help. Then in the next column, The scary involves not doing anything and being stuck at the level you’re at. Not getting into Mediavine, not getting clients, not growing. There’s way more scary things under the list that is not doing what you know you need to do, then in the other list.
Megan Byrd: Yeah. Obviously we’ve all been scared. I’ve been scared of putting myself out there. It helps to make food blogging friends too. I joined a mastermind like a year ago and I would not be here without those girls. They are just like my support system. We all have those people in our lives that just don’t get it, but are supportive and it’s so powerful to have someone who totally gets exactly what you’re going through and can just encourage you in a way that nobody else can.
Megan Porta: Oh yes. That’s such a big piece of it as well. I feel super strongly about that too. We can feel really lonely, right? Like in our normal everyday lives when we try to talk about our job, it almost makes us feel demeaned a little bit. How’s your blog doing? It’s no, you don’t understand. This is a thriving business. So to have that support with people who actually are in the trenches with us is so vital. It’s the foundation I feel like for everything.
Megan Byrd: Yeah, it totally is. I wouldn’t be doing as well at SEO. I wouldn’t have started doing recipe videos. I just wouldn’t have done any of it. Or it would have taken me a lot longer to get to that point where I’m like, yeah, I should probably do that if it wasn’t for the mastermind group. It’s so nice just to be able to bounce ideas off friends. Even through the food photography course that I took, I’ve made friends through there too. So it’s really nice to have People in my life who totally get food photography to a point where it’s like, Hey, maybe you should try styling it this way. Or Hey, maybe you should try editing it with a little bit of this or something. It’s just nice to have those people who know exactly what you’re doing and can help you.
Megan Porta: Yes. Love that you brought that up. So anyone listening that is wondering how they get started, anything additionally that we haven’t covered. Is there anything that you want to leave them with?
Megan Byrd: If you want to get started on food photography, I would recommend just taking a course. The food photography course I think they even have an iPhone photography course. So if you don’t have the budget for a camera right now, you can still take a photography course. It’s all about your iPhone. You just have to start. You don’t need very much to start out with and you can see a big improvement by just a few small changes that don’t cost a lot of money.
Megan Porta: Which course did you take? Do you have some recommendations for what others can take?
Megan Byrd: Yeah, I took the Photography Course. She also has the iPhone photography course. I would recommend that. It’s very comprehensive because she goes through composition and lighting and camera settings and all that. So if you do have a new camera that you don’t know how to use, that’s a great one to start with too. But then she also goes through marketing and how to price yourself and social media. So it’s just very comprehensive, I think. It has a lot of value in that course. That’s the one I took.
Megan Porta: What an inspiring story, Megan, and again, congrats on getting into Mediavine, and just thank you for sharing all of this about your journey for people looking to get into freelancing or take their sites off of the ad networks for a little bit so that they can feel a little bit more balanced and not frazzled. So thank you for sharing all of this today.
Megan Byrd: Oh, of course.
Megan Porta: This was super fun. You guys should go look at Megan’s account on Instagram because I love your photography. It is so good. Every time I see a photo pop up, I’m like, Ooh, you’ve got this feel like you definitely have a style that has a feel associated with it. It’s really hard to explain in words, but if you see it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So while we’re on that topic, why don’t you just tell everyone where they can find you on your blog and on Instagram?
Megan Byrd: So my website is theOregondietician.com. You guys can find my portfolio theoregondietician.com/portfolio. Then I usually have more on Instagram than anything. So the Oregon dietician blog on Instagram.
Megan Porta: Yes. Go check Megan out. We are all wondering, Megan, do you have any favorite quotes or words of inspiration to leave us with?
Megan Byrd: I do. I don’t know who said it, but I’ve lived my whole life with this mantra. It’s, “keep moving forward.” I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am if I had given up when things got hard or scary or challenging or pricey. Just keep moving forward and you will get there.
Megan Porta: Even with the small things, it doesn’t have to be the big things. Just little teeny steps, right?
Megan Byrd: It could be day to day. It could be like life’s goals. Just keep going.
Megan Porta: Oh, I love that. Thank you for sharing that we will put together a show notes page for you, and you can find those at eatblogtalk.com/theOregondietician. So go peek at those if you would like. We already shared your social media and all of that. So thanks again, Megan, for being here and sharing all this value and thank you for listening, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
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