419: Balancing Life, SEO, and Income Streams Over 14 Years of Food Blogging with Anne Mauney

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A woman playing Jenga with the title of Anne Mauney's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Balancing Life, SEO, and Income Streams Over 14 Years of Food Blogging.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti.

Welcome to episode 419 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Anne Mauney from fANNEtastic Food.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Lauren Gray. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Balancing Life, SEO, and Income Streams Over 14 Years of Food Blogging

Anne Mauney has been running her blog for over 14 years now and, as you might imagine, her life has changed considerably during that time. Since starting her blog, Anne has become a Registered Dietitian with a Masters in Public Health, has gotten married, and had two children.

In addition to all of those big life changes, she has witnessed the rise of social media and SEO, and weathered the huge changes in the food blogging landscape. In this candid conversation, Bjork and Anne chat about navigating life and blog changes and balancing parenthood with running a business.

Anne shares more about her changing income streams over the years, and why outsourcing certain tasks that don’t bring her joy has allowed her to continue blogging after all these years. It’s a super valuable episode no matter where you are in your blogging journey!

A photograph of chicken tortilla soup with a quote from Anne Mauney's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast: "Find the things you really enjoy, lean into those, and then outsource the other things."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • About how food blogging has changed since Anne started her blog in 2009.
  • How she has had to reinvent herself and her blog over the years to stay current.
  • How she balances lifestyle posts and SEO-friendly posts in her blogging schedule.
  • Why she prioritizes outsourcing the tasks that don’t bring her joy, and how she has built her team.
  • What her approach to keyword research is.
  • How she has juggled childcare and blogging responsibilities over the years.
  • What she would change, and what she would keep the same, from the last 14 years of blogging.
  • How she incorporates her nutrition private practice into her business.
  • More about the breakdown of her income sources at various points in her blogging journey, and how she diversifies her income streams.


About This Week’s Sponsor

We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!

With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.

Sign up for Clariti today to receive:

  • Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
  • 50% off your first month
  • Optimization ideas for your site content
  • An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
  • And more!

You can learn more and sign up here.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

A blue graphic with the Food Blogger Pro logo that reads 'Join the Community!'

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti, C-L-A-R-I-T-I. And I kid you not, I was going to record this half an hour ago, but I was in Clariti and realized there’s an opportunity for Pinch of Yum that is a project we should move forward with. So I created a video, communicated it with the Pinch of Yum team and said, “Hey, we should move forward on this and really get to work cleaning this up.” In our case, what I had done is I said, “Hey, show me all of the posts in the past year on Pinch of Yum.” And then I sort ordered that in reverse order by page views. So I was looking at pages that on Pinch of Yum in the last year, got zero page use and I realized we have a lot of really thin, not valuable content and it’s important to clean that up.

In our case, we’re going to delete a lot of that content and we should have done that a long time ago, but we just didn’t get around to it. And it wasn’t until I was using Clariti that I realized that that was something that we should have done. I was able to see that, it’s a lot of old giveaway posts and things like that. So we’re going to move forward with that and clean up Pinch of Yum. And that’s what Clariti is for. It’s to help you discover that actionable information to create a project around it. And either you can follow the project or you can assign it to somebody with your team and then track the impact that that has by making notes or seeing when you made those changes over time.

We bring all the information in from WordPress, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics. You hook it all up and then you can sort order and use Clariti, kind of like a Swiss Army knife for your content. So if you’re interested in checking it out, go to clariti.com/food C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food and that will get you 50% off your first month. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, hi, hello, Alexa here and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Thanks for tuning in today. We’re so excited you’re here and we hope you enjoy this episode, because man, is it a good one. Today we’re talking with Anne from fANNEtastic Food, and when you think about blogging and you think to when you started, how many years has it been since you started your blog? Maybe it’s been one or two, maybe you just started at your blog.

For me, I’m around eight years blogging and for Pinch of Yum, I think they’re in their 12th year now maybe. But Anne has been blogging for 14 years, 14. So things have changed quite a bit in her time running her food blog. And that is what she’s going to talk about today on the podcast with Bjork. So you’ll hear about how food blogging has changed since Anne started her blog in 2009, how she balances her lifestyle posts and SEO friendly posts within her blogging schedule, what her approach to keyword research is, and so much more. It’s such a fascinating episode, and just to think back to 14 years ago, what the blogging landscape looked like. It’s kind of mind boggling how different things are today. So that’s what you’re going to hear about. So without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Anne, welcome to the podcast.

Anne Mauney: Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we were chatting a bit before we pressed record and you’re one of those people where I’m like, “Anne, I know Anne.” And I’m like, “Actually, I don’t know Anne.”

Anne Mauney: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: But it feels like I do because you’ve been in the world of content creation, blogging, longer than we have. Started I think a year, probably around the same time when you kind of look at it, we were kind of thinking around that time. But 2009 is when you started publishing content to your blog, is that right?

Anne Mauney: Yeah, but I mean I’ve lived lives since then.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anne Mauney: You guys have too. That’s like forever.

Bjork Ostrom: Well and it’s amazing. Yeah, we just recently ran into some friends who we hadn’t seen for 10 years, and Lindsay and I were reflecting on this. It’s crazy when you don’t see somebody for a long time because there’s so much that happens not only in a year, but especially in a decade. And for people who have been building businesses and working on their blogs or websites or building a following for 10 years, a decade, a lot of life happens in that time. Even for you to say it’s like, you start when you’re 27 and single, and today you’re married and have kids. And that change is so significant in our lives, and yet there’s this through line that we have, which is this kind of never ending content engine that needs to keep running. How have things changed for you through the years? I think it’s one of the interesting things to reflect on when you look back. Could you find markers along the way to say, here’s where things changed and pivoted?

Anne Mauney: Yeah, I think an interesting thing that I was… So I doing some reviewing of things in preparation for this and just looking back, one thing that’s interesting is that just the frequency of my posting alone has changed so much. I mean, honestly everything about blogging was different in 2009. People were mostly doing more life casting. And so my-

Bjork Ostrom: And what do mean by that?

Anne Mauney: Rather than just having a recipe post as it would be now where it’s SEO optimized and a standalone post that’s evergreen, relevant any time unless it’s a holiday or something. But in general, evergreen. Versus then it was like even if you were posting a recipe, it would be like, “Hey, here’s my random breakfast and then here’s this other thing I’m doing today, and then here’s my run and oh, here’s the recipe now.” So it was just much more casual. And at the time when I started my blog in 2009, kind of what everyone was doing was posting every day. So I posted seven days a week just because that’s what it seemed like everyone was doing, but it wasn’t like the posts are now. I wasn’t spending hours researching posts and putting them together. It was literally anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour I guess that it would take a post, depending what was involved with it.

But it was just a lot of what I was up to at the beginning. And at the time I was taking prerequisites and applying to grad schools to switch careers. So I had spent about five years, I graduated in 2004 from an undergrad with a degree in sociology. Really interesting, not super translatable into work. But I ended up working in marketing and PR and writing and editing and some journalism stuff for about five years and then wanted to switch gears. And so I was applying to grad schools to become a dietician. And I had been reading all these healthy lifestyle food blogs for maybe a year or so by that point. And-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Do you remember any of what those were?

Anne Mauney: Yeah, so Kath Eats Real Food is one of my favorites and she’s a good friend of mine still. And she was also going back to school to become a dietician so that we kind of connected over that. But it was really fun because there were lots back then where again, it was more of this life casting, so you felt like you really got to know people and it was more of a community. And it also was not creepy back then to just email someone and be like, “Hey, I’m in this area. I see you are too, do you want to be friends?” And so I ended up making a lot of good real life friends through this world and being inspired by them. And so by the time I started my blog, I was already kind of in the community, which I think helped. And so I had a lot of… I don’t know, it just felt very fun. Comment sections were actually very active back then. People were really interacting a ton.

Bjork Ostrom: And part of it is there was no social media.

Anne Mauney: Yeah, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: If there was, it was really limited and very different than what it’s today. And so it’s interesting to see people doing similar things, but in different places.

Anne Mauney: Totally yeah. I mean, honestly comment sections on blogs back then were basically what social media now has become. And people would chat back and forth, you knew other commenters. You’d be like, “Oh, there’s Stacy S or whatever, hey!” It was really interesting. It was such a unique time and it was really fun and energizing because it was so creative and so just casual.

So I started when I was in the process of going back to school and I thought it would be fun to not only try to just show readers that eating healthy could actually be tasty and not super time consuming. But I also just wanted to show the process of following my dreams and doing something that felt like it was going to be really meaningful because I to… I just had felt like that the work that I was doing before, I wanted to do something more 101, that I felt like would be really directly impacting people. And so I was kind of like, do I want to be a teacher, a therapist, or a dietician? And I feel like dietician, it’s kind of almost a combination of them.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Anne Mauney: So when I started my blog, I was taking prerequisites, applying to grad schools and just sharing my journey. But again, it was seven days a week. And then over the years I’ve pulled back from that. So for example, in 2012, I was in my master’s program, the end of my master’s program, writing my master’s paper. I was interning full-time for free, actually paying the intern full-time for free as part of the dietician thing. I was like, this is rough. Yeah, something’s wrong here.

Running my blog and planning our wedding, because my now husband and I were engaged by that point. And I was like, okay, I think I need to only post five days a week, which still now sounds insane, but at the time I was like, “Oh, I’m going to have such a break on the weekends, not posting on the weekends.” And then it was once our first child was born in 2017, I went down to four posts and then I think during the pandemic, maybe three posts. And then once our second child was born in 2021, I was like, now I’m doing two posts a week. And that’s what I’m still doing. So yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have any thoughts on, one of the realities when you’ve been a creator as long as you’ve been a creator in a specific area, which is publishing content, blog posts in this case, also social media as a piece of it. But one of the things that inevitably has to happen, I talk about this idea of waves on the podcast occasionally, and a lot of times I think what happens is people are really good at creating a certain type of content. I think of Instagram as a period of time where people who were really good at photography… That there was a wave, especially if you could combine a great photograph with a compelling caption, you’d be able to catch a wave on Instagram if you’re really talented on those things. I think that can still happen for sure. But I think that wave isn’t as strong as it was.

And now if you are really good at short form content, like reels, we have a friend who’s really funny and he creates short form video and has hundreds of thousands of followers. That’s a wave that you’ve been able to catch if you’re good at that. If you’re going to endure this, you have to continually, in some ways reinvent yourself.

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think in doing that, sometimes you’re reinventing yourself into a version that might not be as good of a fit.

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe you don’t enjoy it as much, maybe it’s not the type of work that you like to do. Or it could be the opposite. You could be reinventing yourself into something that actually is a better fit, that you create content in a way that feels more aligned, whatever it is, it can go both ways. For you to continue to show up every day, and whether it’s five or two posts, it’s still posting every week, but having to reinvent yourself along the way. How obvious has that reinvention been to you and has that been difficult?

Anne Mauney: Yeah, it’s been really difficult. I think that’s been the thing I struggle with the most as a blogger, because especially now with video being really king, especially with social media and especially that being what brands are looking for for partnerships I think a lot right now. I started blogging because I love writing. And for me, I love the more casual kind of writing where I can really feel like I’m connecting with the readers in just a fun, authentic way. So that was why I started blogging. And it’s changed so much. I mean, SEO, I don’t think anyone knew it existed really in 2009. So it’s been hard for me to figure out the balance between how do I stay strategic and do things that are actually going to make sense business wise in terms of continuing to increase Google traffic and staying relevant on social media and things like that, while also staying true to myself.

Because again, I started this because I’m a writer and I like writing. I’m not a video producer. And so it’s been hard to figure out… And also for me, the short form stuff on social media has also never really been my favorite. Again, it’s more I want to sit down and think and get more in the flow of things rather than always constantly being engaged. So yeah, it’s been really challenging. And it’s hard too, because I think a lot of my readers originally found me because they did like that kind of casual style. But as people have moved more to social media, it’s made less sense to only cater to the people who are there just for that kind of thing. So basically what I’ve settled on now is with the two posts per week, we pretty much always… And I say we, I have a contractor that works for me at this point, who’s fantastic. But at this point, usually we’re doing one lifestyle post, which is entirely me, and then one more evergreen kind of SEO keyword researched post.

So we’re basically playing the short game and the long game at the same time. So we’re playing the short game with the lifestyle posts for the readers who are just coming to see what I’m up to basically. And we’re playing the long game with the more SEO optimized, Pinterest friendly whatever post. And so it’s been really interesting, especially to look at my ad network stats for the different days. For example, on days I do a lifestyle post, traffic’s much higher, ad RPM is way higher double usually. Because people really slowly scroll those posts and actually read them, and so all my ads are loading-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, interesting.

Anne Mauney: And then comparatively the recipe posts in the early days get very little traffic, but then of course build steam over time. But the RPMs are a little lower because people are more just quickly scrolling for the recipe.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, interesting.

Anne Mauney: Yeah, so it’s been really interesting and we’ve been trying to play both sides of the game. And for me, really focusing on outsourcing the parts of blogging that I was finding weren’t really my… I could do them, but I wasn’t really enjoying them, has been what I think has kept me here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And I think that’s so much of what it is, is how do you continue to show up every day?

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: And one of the best ways to do that is to figure out how to enjoy what you’re doing more. How do you think strategically about, like you said, there’s stuff you can do, but if it’s stuff that’s going to drain your soul-

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: You want to figure out how to find somebody, and this is the piece that I learned I think early on, an example being bookkeeping, just to paint a really obvious picture.

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh my gosh. I like the process of finance. I like that world of numbers, but the methodical step-by-step process of actually doing the bookkeeping isn’t very life-giving to me. And so it was one of the first things that we ever hired out was somebody to help with the bookkeeping.

And it reminds me of a book, a friend just recently was talking about this when he was over, and I’ve read it before, but Designing your Life. And one of the things that they talk about in that book is they have this exercise for you to do where it’s every day as you’re going through the different activities in your day, you have a little icon and it’s a gas tank, and it’s empty or full. And so after you get done with each activity, you do a little analysis and say, okay, in my case, I just did a podcast interview, what is that like? And usually for me, it’s great. I really like the process of connecting with people, asking questions, learning. That would be kind of more on the full side. The other piece would be, I just reviewed a contract for sponsored content, definitely empty for me.

But what was initially weird for me is to say, I don’t like doing this, so I’m going to give it to somebody else. And there are those things that are just like, nobody likes doing them. But I’ve also learned there are things that some people really like to do. An example being, well anything really, but editing or proofreading, I don’t really love to do that. I’m not great at it. There are people who love to do that.

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: And so thinking strategically about how to shift and change what you’re working on in a day in order, like you said, to show up. So what did that process look like for you and when did you know that you needed to do that?

Anne Mauney: So it’s been a bit of a journey. So certainly accounting was the first thing I outsourced as well. And that was… So in early 2013 or late 2012 was when I finished my master’s program, my master’s of public health in nutrition, and took the national exam to become a registered dietician. And so early 2013, I was kind of like, okay, do I want to try and work for someone else and do the blog part-time like I’ve been doing? Or do I want to try and really go all in with working for myself and see if I can make it work? And so at that point was when I found an accountant to help me figure out the logistics of putting together an actual business because I decided I wanted to try and see if I could make it work. And so late 2013 or maybe summer 2013, as one did back then, I posted on Twitter that I was looking for some unpaid interns.

And I got a bunch of responses and I ended up taking on three interns and a couple of them were great, but just had too much going on, so after a few months, they kind of ended up going their own way.But one of them ended up being absolutely fantastic. And it basically was one of those things where the perfect person kind of fell into my lap and it wasn’t really what I planned. So originally I was looking for people to help with drafting tweets and Facebook posts with fun nutrition facts or little recipe hacks and things that I could then link to my recipes. And again, this sounds so dated because this isn’t how whatever… But Twitter at the time-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s 10 years ago, yeah.

Anne Mauney: In 2013 was what everyone was doing. And so this woman came on who was also… She was in school to become a dietician at the time as well. And so she was in a culinary specific program as well. So she not only had the nutrition knowledge, but also had the culinary interest.

And so she worked for me for I think maybe a few months doing the social media drafting, before she started expressing some interest in food photography and some recipe testing as well. And at the time, I was doing all of that on my own. And so I said, “Okay great. I have some recipes from 2009, 2010 that have not good photos. Let’s start with can you re-photograph some of those and we can go from there.” And so she started doing a bit of that, and then over time she started expressing some interest in helping with some of the recipe testing. And so I had her do a couple of things with that with me. And then for a while, basically she got good enough that we were both doing the recipes, she’d do one, and then maybe I do the one next week.

And we were kind of in tandem. And our photo style was similar enough that honestly, no one noticed. Because I feel like at the time, no one was really outsourcing photography. And I had this feeling of shame about it, honestly.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah totally.

Anne Mauney: It felt like you had to do everything yourself.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, secretive.

Anne Mauney: It’s interesting. Yeah, because now everyone’s very vocal about outsourcing, I think especially food photography. A lot of people outsource now. But again, at the time I was just kind of like, oh, I feel weird about this. But it just kind of happened. It wasn’t really what I was… But so over time she ended up getting, I’d say by late 2014, certainly by 2015, she had surpassed my skills with the food photography and enjoyed it way more, coming back to your conversation, than I ever did, to be honest.

And so I was kind of like, okay. And by this point, I was also paying her as well. So I think I started by paying her in food, reimbursing groceries, and then it eventually turned into actually paying her for the photos too. But anyway, so she has literally been with me for a decade.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.

Anne Mauney: And so she actually is on a break right now this summer because she’s starting up a new business, but I’m hoping she may come back in the fall, so we’ll see, but if not, I’ll have to figure out what to do. So that kind of happened without me really planning it. And it made me realize, okay, the photos were something I was enjoying in the beginning when it was much more casual, but especially as things got more and more fancy and styled and Pinterest friendly, that was where I was just feeling like, ugh, this isn’t really something that I’m loving so much anymore.

And so having her do the photos and then we would do the testing, she would do the testing and then send it to me, and then I’d try the recipe and see if there’s anything I want to change and then do the blog post and everything. So that was a huge time saver for me and freed me up too, especially at that point, to really do a lot more engaging with sponsors, which is something I do enjoy. I do enjoy the kind of back and forth and the pitching and working with sponsors. So that was the first, again, just kind of lucky situation.

Bjork Ostrom: But also it requires you to go through, luck wears overalls. This idea of, you’re doing the work, it’s not somebody knocked on your door and was like, “Can I do this?” You go through the process of putting together an internship. There were some that didn’t work out, so you had to run those down and you connected with somebody who’s great and awesome, yeah.

Anne Mauney: I have actually had a couple where people have literally come to me though, which has been amazing, including actually Emily from your team. She-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, she mentioned that in the show notes.

Anne Mauney: Yeah. That was one of those things where it was 2019 I think, and I was about to redesign my whole site, which was a complete… I mean, I have almost 3,000 posts on my site. It was like, oh my God. But she emailed me and was just kind of like, “Hey, I’m a reader. I love your blog. I’m looking to do, start doing some freelance work. Do you need help with anything?” And I was like, well, actually, and this is related to you saying some people do enjoy things that you don’t. I was like, “Oh, this really tedious, annoying project you need help with where I need someone to manually move all my recipes over to a consistent recipe card and then also tag them into different categories so that my new recipe search function will work.” And she was like, “Oh, I love stuff like that. So I’m super detail oriented. That’s really fun.”

So I was like, okay, awesome. So that was huge. And I remember at some point, I think… I don’t really remember when it was maybe 2016 or 2017, I also hired someone to help move me from a plugin, something similar with recipe stuff. So that was lucky. But then very intentionally in 2020, this was like, I could not have planned this timing better if I had actually planned it. It was February, 2020 when I posted this time, I think on my blog and then also on Upwork and a couple of different places. And I found this contractor who since then has been doing about 15 or 20 hours a week for me. And she’s fantastic. And that was a very intentional thing that time.

So basically when we had our first child in 2017, I quickly realized… And at the time it was pretty much just me and then also my photographer. But pretty much everything with the blog relied on me. I was still posting, in 2017 I think, four or five days, five days a week I think. And a lot of it was lifestyle content. And so basically what happened was I didn’t take a maternity leave and my husband was able to get some sort of thing through his work where he was able to claim primary caregiver and get eight weeks. But it was just not great. I mean, basically our baby’s five days old and I’m passing her off immediately after nursing and doing a blog post. And I was just… So for round two, for our second child, I was like, here’s what I don’t want to do, and it’s what I did then.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, lesson learned.

Anne Mauney: Yeah exactly. And to do that, I was like, I need to figure out a way to implement some systems and some support. So that literally everything with this business is not dependent on me. Not only just in terms of content churn, but also in terms of traffic. Because also back in 2017, my traffic was very dependent on me actively posting new lifestyle posts. Because I had some Google traffic, but it was luck honestly.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anne Mauney: Rather than super intentional SEO and keyword research. So basically in 2020, or late 2019, early 2020, was looking for someone to help me be just much more strategic. So help with keyword research and updating old posts and just being much more smart about the type of new content that I was posting. If I’m posting a new recipe now, rather than being, this sounds like a fun recipe, and then keyword optimizing it after the fact, which as if you don’t do the research, it’s like, sure the post might be optimized, but are people actually searching for that?

Do I actually have a chance at ranking for this keyword? Is it super popular? So we were kind of doing things, I think like a lot of people were at that point, without doing the first step, which was doing the keyword research first to make sure it actually made sense to even create this content in terms of long-term traffic perspective. So basically since hiring her, we spent a lot of 2020 updating old posts with keyword research in mind. Again, being very strategic about new content we were posting. And all of that has really helped free me up so that I don’t have to constantly turn out new lifestyle content to keep the blog traffic alive. The consequences of that has been my traffic has been literally exactly the same since 2020, basically completely steady every single month, cannot budge from… But Google traffic is way up. It’s because direct traffic is significantly down because I’m doing much less lifestyle posting. But it allowed me to actually take a maternity leave with our second kid. I took almost five months off-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, which is huge.

Anne Mauney: Which was a completely different experience.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. And good for you. It’s like, it’s one thing to experience that and know that you don’t want it, but it’s another thing to experience it, know you don’t want it, and then figure out how to make changes in order to have it be different.

And so if I could mirror back, let me know if this feels accurate. So you were in this stage of creating lifestyle content, so less search optimization content, but content that you’d put out, you had followers via email, social. You’d say, I posted this, they would all come to the site, they would read it, there would be ad revenue associated with that, obviously. But as soon as you stopped doing that, then people stopped coming to the site, at the same level that they were before. And so income drops off.

And so you said, I want to create something that it’s not passive, that’s not the right word for it, but is more passive in the sense that it’s not directly correlated to whether you’re publishing a post that day and then people come or not. So thinking strategically about search. Is it accurate that you didn’t like the idea of actually doing the mechanisms involved with the search optimization, like keyword research, like structuring a post in a certain way, things like that. And so you found somebody who was interested and good at that in order to own that part of the process. Is that right?

Anne Mauney: Yes, exactly. I know how to do all that stuff, but I just don’t really enjoy it.

Bjork Ostrom: Its not life giving, yeah.

Anne Mauney: Yeah. And so it’s been really nice for me to be able to take a step back and be more the overall kind of strategic manager of that, rather than the person actually carrying out all of the keyword research, all the updating of old posts. The first draft of new evergreen content, all that. So that way it really frees me up to actually look at the bigger picture with things and focus more on working with sponsors and doing the lifestyle content, which I do enjoy and which obviously does have to be me, but I like it. Yeah. So that’s been huge.

Bjork Ostrom: It seems, one of the things that is fun to talk about when you’ve had a decade plus working on a thing, is the analysis of how your relationship with it changes. And one of the ways that it can change is that it can go from the e-Myth is this great book that’s kind of this classic book. And the basic idea is working in your business versus working on your business. And I think a lot of people, ourselves included to a certain degree work in our business. Myself, Lindsay, she’s out doing a recipe right now with a videographer, our friend Landon. But also as life changes, you have two kids, you get married, there’s other stuff that you want to do, that shifts your relationship with the work. And then you have these options and it’s like either you don’t do as much of what you were doing and maybe performance is impacted.

Or for some people they say, this is different now, I want to sell it, which is great, and that’s a good option as well. But there is the option of saying, I’m going to change my relationship with this a little bit. And the market has changed, things have shifted. But if you shift along with that, you can potentially still create a thing that you are in good relationship with. And it sounds like you’ve been doing that, which is really cool to hear. And like you said, it allows you to continue to show up. What has that done for you, just in terms of what it feels like to work on your site? And I’m guessing when you didn’t do a maternity leave as an example, was there any frustration you felt towards your blog? Or did that not exist? Because I think sometimes it can feel like we’re serving this thing as opposed to the thing is serving us.

Anne Mauney: Yeah, definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: So how did your relationship with your work change, as that started to change for you?

Anne Mauney: Yeah, I think I feel a lot more removed from it now than I used to. And not in a bad way, just I think probably in a more healthy way, I think. Yeah, I mean, in some ways I think shifting to a more strategic approach has definitely taken a lot of the passion out of it for me. And that’s been kind of the thing that I’ve always been trying to figure out the balance of. And especially when it does… I did feel really chained to it, I think especially when we did have our first child. And also I think something that was really hard for me too, becoming a parent was so much of my identity was wrapped up in work and the blog and the hustle and being an entrepreneur. And it’s like when you do start taking steps back from things, which I did slowly start to do, I originally thought that I’d want to have full-time childcare.

And then I quickly realized I don’t want that. And so I was kind of scaling it back and was so grateful to have the ability to scale it back and to be more flexible. And even though I knew it would take a hit with my business, it was still worth it. But yeah, I mean it’s tricky because I feel like some of that passion and fire that I did have when I was hustling a lot more is gone now. But I also have just so much more flexibility than I used to in terms of not having to feed the beast every single day, posting a new post and being able to have a lot of time with my kids. And in 2020 when we lost our childcare, I don’t know what we would’ve done if I hadn’t been so flexible.

Bjork Ostrom: And part of me also wonders when you say, not having the same energy, I wonder if… Correct me if I’m wrong on this, this is just me reflecting as a parent. As I feel some of those same things, like the tension between work and family and-

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Used to be able to work until seven and then-

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Go out to eat and talk about work, and then it’s then get up and do it all over again. And that just isn’t what life is anymore.

Anne Mauney: Totally.

Bjork Ostrom: And there’s, I think, some tension for you with that. But it’s almost like the energy’s just redirected.

Anne Mauney: It is.

Bjork Ostrom: You have the same amount of energy and passion. It’s just in life today, it looks very different than it did for you six years ago where energy, or at least for me, I can speak for myself, my energy is also directed towards our kids.

Anne Mauney: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And it feels weird to have the same thing in your life, for work for us, it’s the same thing. We’re doing the same thing, but we just… There’s not as much energy that we have compared to seven years ago because we’re also spending our time and focus and energy on our kids and family. And so it just looks different naturally. And for everybody, that equation and that puzzle looks different in terms of what feels right. And Lindsay and I are always trying to figure that out.

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re always… And we haven’t.

Anne Mauney: I know, same.

Bjork Ostrom: So what does that look like for you as you’ve navigated that and tried to figure that out? And any advice for people who are in a similar place?

Anne Mauney: Yeah, I mean, you definitely nailed it. I feel the exact same way. And for me, having the flexibility with working for myself and being able to scale up and down has been amazing, but also actually kind of confusing. Because it’s meant that I didn’t have a cut and dry, here’s your 40 hours, you have to come to work, line up childcare, and that’s it. It was instead always this kind of… Again, which I realize is a gift, but it’s also confusing to be like, okay how many days should slash do I want to actually work? What would be the ideal? And we’ve always done part-time childcare. So then it’s been really hard to figure out how much time, what feels best for me in terms of the balance between the two. And there’s always, and I’m sure you get this where it’s, there’s always this pull where it’s like when you’re with your kids, you’re kind of like, oh, I’m thinking about this work thing that I wanted to do that now I didn’t end up doing.

And then when you’re doing work, it’s like, oh, now I hear my kid downstairs and I’d rather be with them. So it’s been really hard and I think that’s definitely responsible for my business not being nearly as strong as it used to be.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anne Mauney: And it’s been a sacrifice I knew I was making and made intentionally, but it has been confusing to figure out. And we’ve changed our setup so much over the years. Originally we were doing three and a half days of childcare when our first was born, and then I decided I wanted more time. So then when that nanny ended up leaving, I switched to someone who wanted to do two days a week. And then when COVID hit, we lost all our childcare. And that was way not enough childcare time. And I was like, okay, I definitely don’t want to be home full time.

Bjork Ostrom: You know what one end of it is, and you don’t want it to be that extreme.

Anne Mauney: Yes, I don’t want that, yea.. So I was trying to work during naps, and then in the evening. But then fall 2020, I got pregnant with her second, and I was like, well, now I feel like garbage all the time and I don’t want to work at all. And especially not during nap time and after dinner. So that was really tricky to navigate. Yeah, like I was saying briefly before we pushed record, this fall will be the first time when I will have both kids out of the house for a significant period of the day. And I think that is going to be really helpful for me because it does feel like when we’ve had childcare in our home, which obviously is a huge positive in a lot of ways, it’s still very distracting.

It’s hard to really get in the flow of things because you’re getting interrupted or you can hear what’s going on, or you come down for a coffee and then you’re kind of sucked in. And so it’s been tricky to balance. And especially when my kids were little, I was nursing. I didn’t want to pump, so I would just nurse them during my workday. But again, that’s completely everything choppy. I’m constantly listening with one ear, do they need me? And so-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s always feels like they do need you.

Anne Mauney: Yes exactly. I mean, just trying to work while you hear your kid crying downstairs with a caregiver, it’s just like, ah!

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anne Mauney: It’s like the guilt and ugh, it’s brutal.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally.

Anne Mauney: But one thing that has taken a big hit for me as a result of all this trying to figure out the balance, and like you were saying with the emotional energy that you have left over. My private practice for nutrition coaching, I ended up taking a pause from. I stopped taking new clients in 2020 when we lost our childcare. But even before that point, I had already dialed it down quite a bit compared to before kids. Because I felt like once I had kids, I just did not have the extra emotional energy to give.

Bjork Ostrom: Which a lot of it I would imagine in private practice, there is an emotional energy component to it.

Anne Mauney: For sure. And my focus is intuitive eating, so it’s really helping people improve their relationship with food. And it’s just… I really liked it, it was definitely a filling the gasoline tank or whatever your analogy was earlier. And I’m thinking maybe in the fall I may start taking new clients again. But that was definitely something for me where I realized I just don’t have the extra emotional bandwidth. And the blog I can do without having an exact time that I need to do it. So it’s easier with the nursing years-

Bjork Ostrom: Schedule wise, yeah.

Anne Mauney: Yeah, it’s just more flexible. And I could be a little more removed from it too. But it’s been tricky in terms of the blog, figuring out the balance between… So my readers have always really liked the more personal lifestyle posts from me. And I feel like since becoming a parent, I’ve just wanted to share that less.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, you have wanted to be more private.

Anne Mauney: Yeah. And I don’t really feel super comfortable sharing almost any photos of the kids. Every once in a while post one of all of us, but not really their faces and not really them alone. I don’t know, I just over the years have gotten more and more just kind of creeped out by the internet, I think.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anne Mauney: Yeah, so that’s made it tricky though, because the lifestyle posts that I used to do were interesting because they were about what I was up to and all these cool things I was doing. And I was rushing from-

Bjork Ostrom: You feel connected to that.

Anne Mauney: Doing private practice and then doing the blog and then doing whatever dietician presentation. And I just had a lot of interesting things I was doing. And so now with the lifestyle content, I’m like ugh, I’m doing a lot of the same stuff. And then a lot of it I don’t want to write about because it’s kid stuff. So it’s been tricky to figure out how personal to actually get.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. And one of the things I think about as you are talking about all of this is just the reality that so much of what we’re doing… On the podcast, we talk a lot about specifics for the business and business structure and strategy, but so much of what we’re doing is designing not just our business and optimizing that, but the business is a piece of the puzzle that is our overall life. And we’re trying to figure out how all of those pieces work together. And to some degree, all of us are trying to do that. Whether we have a contracted job, a W2 job, whether we’re an entrepreneur. And one of the great things about the world that we live in is to some degree, all of us, it looks different for everybody depending on the circumstances we have. But we all have at least some kind of knobs or levers at our disposal to tweak and change and adjust.

And when there are new parts entered into the equation, you get married, or you separate, or you have a kid, or you get a dog, or whatever it is, you move to another country. As those variables change, we have the ability to tweak and change not only our business, but also the things within our life. And so part of it is just this ongoing adjustment that we’re making as life changes.

It’s COVID as an example, okay, what do we tweak up? What do we tweak down? What lever do we pull? You have a kid and you want to take a maternity leave. Okay great, that’s awesome. What do you need to tweak and change for that? And it’s fun to hear you talk about the different steps along your way or your journey. And then along the way, we have this companion, which is our businesses, and those ebb and flow and tweak and change along the way. So as you look back on your journey, what are the decisions that you made where you’re like, “Yeah, I’m glad that that was a knob that I adjusted or a lever that I pulled.” And then what are the ones that you would do different if you looked back and you said, “If I were to do that again, I would maybe do this a little bit differently.”

Anne Mauney: Well, I feel like as much as I would like to say I’d do the first maternity leave or lack thereof situation differently, I honestly don’t know that I could have at that point without… I mean, I would’ve had to change so many things about-

Bjork Ostrom: Beforehand, yeah.

Anne Mauney: Yeah. I mean, my business was just not set up for that at the time. And I think that was a good learning experience for me to set all those things in motion for the second time. But I don’t know that the way my business was running at the time and the way that it was succeeding at the time would really have allowed for actually taking some time off. Especially because I was doing a lot more sponsored work then, and things were just a lot busier then for me. So yeah, I don’t know. I think again, outsourcing things was definitely… I probably should have done so sooner. Especially-

Bjork Ostrom: I think everybody who’s done that successfully will say, I wish I would’ve done this earlier.

Anne Mauney: Yeah. Especially my contractor that I have now that helps with a lot of the SEO and things like that behind the scenes. It would’ve been really helpful to have someone like her as more of the keyword research and SEO type stuff was starting to really get more traction. And that again, was kind of around when my first was born, and so I wasn’t really paying attention. And so by the time I realized, “Hey, wait a minute, why am I getting way less traffic from Google than I used to?” It was a little too late by that point. I mean, I’m climbing my way back now. But yeah, so I think definitely hiring people, doing a redesign, that is something I wish I had done sooner for sure, but better late than ever. And I put it off for so long because it was such a big undertaking, but that was definitely worth doing, just having my business-

Bjork Ostrom: What about it was worth it?

Anne Mauney: I think the main thing is just the actual functionality of the website now.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anne Mauney: My recipes are actually all… So you’re going to laugh at how big of a mess this was before, but I had recipes, literally some… Before the redesign I had some recipes in plain text in blog posts.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anne Mauney: Because that was very… I had some that I used this thing called, did you guys ever use Recipage?

Bjork Ostrom: No, but I know what you’re talking about-

Anne Mauney: It was like where you had to go to different-

Bjork Ostrom: I don’t know a lot about it but, yeah-

Anne Mauney: You went to a different site-

Bjork Ostrom: It would translate it-

Anne Mauney: You put in your recipe, then you grabbed the code and pulled it back to your site. So I had some recipes in that format. Then I had some in, I think I was using Simple Recipe Pro, but then that was getting discontinued. Anyway, basically my recipes were a disaster and you couldn’t really search them very well. So one big benefit of the redesign was that now readers can actually go on and search my recipes by ingredient or type or whatever, so just general functionality. It also just made my whole website look a lot more professional, obviously, I feel like-

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Anne Mauney: Before pre 2019, yeah, it looked a little amateur before. So that was nice to have people come and not be like, “Oh, that’s a cute hobby.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right.

There’s something inevitable, but unquantifiable about brand and you know it when you see it and it communicates trust, but also it’s not like there’s a brand tracker that you can run it through and it gives you a score. But inevitably that’s a huge consideration in all that we do. So can you talk, just as we close out, one of the things that I think is interesting is a private practice piece. And I’d be interested to know the landscape of your business now, percentage wise, is it like 90% ads, 10% sponsored content?

And what that generally looks like and why the move away? You alluded to a little bit, but I think there’s something so powerful for people who are just getting started and they want to generate income from their business to do something that’s service based or traditional, what you’d think of traditionally as work, as opposed to getting paid from ads from a website. Because you’re going to be able to get to where you want to get quicker and or to just always have that and to backfill and have supplemental income from blogging and consecration as a side hustle, which is a great option in this world.

But what did that look like? What does it look like for you, the landscape right now? And then why the move away from the more service based work?

Anne Mauney: Yeah. So I’ve had a lot of different iterations of my breakdowns of the business over the years. So 2013 was really the first, that was when I was just finishing grad school when I launched my private practice and really was going to give it a go working for myself. And that was the first year that I made significant income. And I think I made about 50,000 that year. And I was like, oh my gosh-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a job.

Anne Mauney: Maybe job I could actually do this, yeah. And I broke it all down because I think this stuff is interesting. But that year it was about 14,000 from dietician work, so nutrition coaching, speeches, conferences that I was doing, things like that. About 12,000 from my ad network and then almost 20,000 from sponsorships. And so over the years, that has changed a fair amount. So basically one thing that was really, really helpful to me starting my private practice for nutrition coaching was that I had already had this blog for four years. And so people had been reading about my journey in grad school for years. And so when I was like, “Hey, I’m starting my private practice.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I was going to say.

Anne Mauney: I don’t know how to market things, but yay. And everyone was like “Awesome, I’m signing up.” And so I literally had 50 clients before I even… And I was quickly like okay, this is too much. I need to raise my prices, be a little more choosy about the ideal client, et cetera. And so I quickly learned, need to backpedal a bit here.

And obviously for something like nutrition coaching, my time has been very much the limitation there. So my income from the dietician stuff specifically has never been more than about 30,000. But over the years the ad network and sponsorship stuff has increased. So by 2014, I had pretty much doubled my overall income to over six figures. And-

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Anne Mauney: And that was about 25,000 from the dietician work, 25,000 from ads and about 50,000 from sponsor work. And then by the next year and the following years, I doubled that again pretty much. And it was-

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Anne Mauney: It was mostly, the ad revenue stayed around the same range, and my dietician revenue re was around the same range, but it was mostly the sponsorships. I was doing a lot more sponsored work. But one thing that’s really interesting now, so like I said, in 2020 when we lost our childcare, I continued on with nutrition clients, long-term clients that I had, and I would just meet them during nap time or after my husband was done with work. But I didn’t take any new clients that year.

And then that fall, I was pregnant with our second, and then I was like, okay, well now I’m going to go want to go on maternity leave, so now I’m not going to take new clients. Even once we had childcare again in 2021. And then I was again just feeling burned out emotionally, kind of on that emotional labor. So I basically have taken a break from the private practice, so I’m not doing that right now at all. But again, I am hoping to bring that back in the fall. But one thing that’s been really interesting for me in reviewing some of these stats, was realizing that last year was actually my biggest year for ad revenue, just ads on my site. It was like 60,000, which is crazy because my traffic is about half of what it used to be at its peak, but obviously we’ve done so much optimizing of older posts and just being a lot more strategic and then also ad networks, I think have come a ways as well.

But that’s been really interesting. But then sponsorship revenue has been down as I’m not doing a ton of video and things like that. So it’s been kind of this constant changing levers. But I thought it was really interesting that even with much lower page views, my ad revenue was actually higher because of all the strategic work I’ve done. That said, I do feel like I need to diversify again. So for a while I had the blog, ad revenue and sponsorships. I had the private practice for nutrition coaching, and then I also had a couple of products. So I had for a while, a nutrition for runners program that was a virtual program that I co-authored with a running coach. And we created it back in 2015 I think, or 2014. And that did really well upfront. I did a lot of promotion for it, but then especially over time, the guy who I created it with is awesome at email marketing, which I’m not. And so he single-handedly kept that thing selling really well for years.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Anne Mauney: And then I also created an intuitive eating virtual nutrition program with two other dieticians, kind of around I think 2016 maybe. And so that was another great side revenue source, although we quickly learned… So it did really well upfront. We had a couple of rounds of a live program and it did really well with just us promoting on our blogs. But then we very quickly realized the three of us had no idea how to do cold email marketing. So then we were like, okay, so anyway-

Bjork Ostrom: And then you marketed to the people that you knew already. So it’s like-

Anne Mauney: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: An audience.

Anne Mauney: Or we’re not interested, yeah. So we were like, how do we market otherwise? We don’t know.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s hard.

Anne Mauney: Yeah. So now I’m at this point where ad revenue’s doing well, but I’m not really making money from the dietician stuff at the moment. And sponsorship stuff has been way down for me recently. And because I don’t spend a ton of time on social media, because for me that is more of a life sucking thing. So I’m trying to figure out-

Bjork Ostrom: The landscape is different too, in 2023, I think there’s just brands spending less and being more-

Anne Mauney: Totally

Bjork Ostrom: Considerate around budget, yeah.

Anne Mauney: Totally. I mean, especially in 2020, obviously that tanked big time with everyone looking at their budget. So now I’m trying to figure out what might be a different thing that I can add into the mix, because obviously it’s smart to diversify things and not just be completely dependent on ad revenue.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s one of the things that I think about is, you had a long season of investing into the business, making deposits into the business. And I think for people listening to the podcast, I want to give them permission to also take withdrawals from our business in the seasons where we need it. Whether that’s with young kids or older parents, or just mental wellbeing. We have years and years to work on these things and decades if we need to. And it’s okay, I think, to have these seasons where you shift and change and you aren’t just continually sacrificing every waking hour to, you used the term ‘Feed the Beast’. But it’s one of the things I think we can do and I want to give people permission to do that, or at least bring it up because I think it needs to be said that it doesn’t mean that you’re going to grow at the same amount or maybe you’re in the same amount, but that’s not what we’re trying to do.

Anne Mauney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: I think what we’re trying to do, all of us, we’re trying to live a good life and what we’re building, what we’re working on, whether it be W2, contracted, freelance or our entrepreneurial businesses, we want those to be meaningful and impactful, but we also want to live a good, rich life. And that will change, what that looks like, the ingredients for that will change over time. And for each of us individually, it looks different. It just is not going to look the same for one person to the other. And I feel like in hearing you recap your story and talking through the different ways that you’ve navigated that, it’s a good reminder of how to do that well to say, “Great, I’m going to take this season, pull back a little bit.”

But to do that intentionally and to say I’m going to be home more or during COVID is another example. So for anybody who’s in that, the early stages, just getting started today or maybe in their first few years, what would your recommendation be for them in order to be able to 10 years from now say, I’m still doing it? Because we’ve said this before in the podcast, people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade. And so how do you continually show up every day for a long period of time, getting a tiny bit better every day? That’s one of the things we talk about, what would your advice be for those people?

Anne Mauney: So I would definitely say, find the things that you really enjoy, lean into those, and then outsource the other things. Because… And obviously there is a period where you are going to need to do all the things at the very beginning.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anne Mauney: And I certainly did for a long time and did that hustle. But I think as soon as you can really take a look and see what things in my business am I doing that don’t actually have to be me? And that even if I’m doing them well, if I’m not enjoying them and if they are draining that energy for me or taking me away from maybe doing more of the overall strategic kind of work. I think I spent so many years just in that constant endless churn, which took me away from thinking strategically. Because I was so busy just doing the work every day that I never stopped to really think, wait a minute-

Bjork Ostrom: Pick your head up and look around, yeah.

Anne Mauney: Should I be paying attention to this SEO thing everyone’s talking about? And I mean, I was kind of, but yeah… And also I would say just do it as well, because I think there’s so much where… Especially if someone’s just starting where it’s like, oh, it has to be perfect and I have to know everything. And it’s like if you wait until it’s going to be perfect, you just won’t ever do it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Anne Mauney: Yeah. You just have to start and then learn as you go and, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. And where can people follow along with you online?

Anne Mauney: So at my website is fannetasticfood.com, and I always have to clarify this, it’s F-A-N-N-E tasticfood. Like Anne, I feel like that’s a fun blog name that I had in 2009-

Bjork Ostrom: In person, you’re having to-

Anne Mauney: Now I’m always like, oh gosh, this is so annoying to say.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally.

Anne Mauney: But yeah, so fannetastic.com spelled like Anne F-A-N-N-E, and then it’s also fANNEtastic Food across all social media as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. We’ll link to it in the show notes. Anne, thanks so much for coming on. Really great to connect after all these years.

Anne Mauney: Yes, I know. Finally, thank you so much, it was great to talk.

Emily Walker: Hey there, Emily here from the Food Blogger Pro team. We hope you enjoyed this week’s podcast episode and really appreciate you taking the time to tune in and listen. In case you didn’t know, in addition to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, we also have the Food Blogger Pro membership, which is where we teach our members how to start, grow and monetize their food blog. We have lots of incredible resources to help you on your food blogging journey, including our courses, our community forum, our member only live Q&As, our deals and discounts page, and so much more.

You’ll get instant access to all of this when you sign up for a Food Blogger Pro membership. We have two awesome membership options available to you, our yearly membership or our quarterly membership, which is just $99 a quarter and allows for some more flexibility if you want to try the membership out and see if it’s a good fit for you. If you’re interested and want to learn more or to sign up, head to foodbloggerpro.com/join. We are so grateful for our Food Blogger Pro community and we would love to have you join us. Thanks so much for tuning in this week, and we’ll see you back here next week for another episode. Have a great week everybody.

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