Bjork Ostrom from Food Blogger Pro on building a membership site from scratch – FBP002

Think you know Bjork, the guy behind Food Blogger Pro? Think again, because you’re about to get to know him a whole lot better! In the second episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, the tables are turned while Lindsay interviews Bjork about how Food Blogger Pro got started and his tips for success.

In the last (first!) episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast, Bjork interviewed his favorite food blogger of all time, his wife Lindsay from Pinch of Yum. Lindsay talked all about how Pinch of Yum came to be, how she has kept it up for the past 5 years, and why she keeps her personality as a part of her blog. If you caught that episode, we hope you loved it! If not, you can listen to it here.

Bjork Ostrom on building a membership site from scratch, morning routines, and books that every entrepreneur should be reading.

If you thought you knew Bjork, you didn’t know him this well. Lindsay asks the personal questions that only a wife can get away with – like what pills he takes in the morning and can he please parse those two paragraphs down into one sentence? This fun interview helps us get to know the main guy behind Food Blogger Pro (and this podcast!) just a little bit better.

In this 58-minute episode, Bjork reveals:

  • What his day looked like 5 years ago, and how it contrasts with today
  • How he uses books to propel him forward in his career and personal life
  • How Food Blogger Pro got started – and what he would change if he were to do it again
  • His one tip for multiplying success
  • How to outsource work so you can do more of what you enjoy

Listen to the second episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or on iTunes:

Resources:

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

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Transcript:

Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number two of the Food Blogger Pro podcast.

Bjork: What’s up, everybody. My name is Bjork Ostrom and this the Food Blogger Pro podcast. In this episode we are going to be chatting with me. If you’ve checked out the first episode of the podcast, you know that we are actually keeping things off by doing foot flip-flapping interviews. First I Interviewed Lindsay and now in episode number two, Lindsay was nice enough to come on and interview me.

We are going to be talking about all sorts of different things. Everything from how life has changed for us over the past five years, morning routines, building Food Blogger Pro from scratch. How I taught myself web stuff without really having any form of training or working a full time job, and staying committed for the long term. I’m going to pass the interviewer mic off to Lindsay and get things started.

Lindsay Ostrom: Hey, everybody. It is Lindsay Ostrom here and today on the Food Blogger Pro podcast, Bjork and we’re actually switching places, so I get to sit in the interviewer’s chair today and we have Bjork in the hot seat. Bjork, welcome to your own show.

Bjork: Hey, how about this? We don’t actually switch seats but we should have just to make it…

Lindsay: We should have, yeah, we really should have.

Bjork: Yeah, how does it feel?

Lindsay: I would have felt…It feels really good. I like to have the power, so it’s good, yeah.

Bjork: Good, yeah.

Lindsay: Bjork, I’m going to know the answers to all of these questions much like you knew a lot of the answers to the questions that you asked me on the last episode. Let’s start by looking back five years ago today. If you were to look back at what you were doing five years ago today, what do you think your day would have looked like?

Bjork: Great. We are recording this on a Thursday so that would have been a Thursday in 2010, in June of 2010. We’re recording this a little bit earlier then when the podcast goes out. There would have been two different scenarios. One would have been that I would have been at a school, I wasn’t a teacher but I worked with a nonprofit called Youth Frontiers.

I would have been at a school possibly with a bunch of fourth or fifth graders doing what we call Kindness Retreat where we talked about, it’s like a character education retreat. I probably would have had my guitar. I would have been playing guitar and singing songs and leading probably a 100 fourth graders or fifth graders on a retreat, so that would be one option.

Lindsay: Making of a middle school fall in love with you, I’m sure.

Bjork: Yes, or seven through eight graders. That could have been a possible scenario, probably not. But at this nonprofit, the other thing that I did was I also was the tech guy. That’s kind of how I cut my teeth in tech. Half the time I would be out doing these retreats working with…was actually elementary middle school or high school students.

But the other half of the time I would be in the office, and it was just small and non-profit, so they needed help with some of the tech stuff, with their web stuff and like the hardware kind of geeky stuff. The other 50 percent of the time if I split the day in two it would be on this retreat then in the office doing computer stuff for this non-profit. That’s probably what it looked like five years ago, it’s really weird.

Lindsay: Yeah it is weird. Because I’m your wife, I feel like I can do this. If you would just say that in one sentence, what would you say? Because I feel like that will allow us to be able to really clearly contrast it with what you are doing today. If you were to sum up the five years ago day whatever Thursday in June in 2010, like just give a one sentence. Pick one of those two scenarios and then describe it that way.

Bjork: I would have been working at a non-profit, and I would have been working with students. That was maybe a run on sentence.

Lindsay: That’s OK. That would be acceptable. Then the contrast that I think it’s really, really interesting to hear, what does a day look like for you today. How do you see that comparing to what a day looked like five years ago? What are the practical differences in what you are doing right now?

Bjork: Sure, the one tie-in that’s still pretty similar is the tech aspect, five years ago I talked about kind of doing the tech stuff. That stuff is really common today. That’s the same exact kind of thing that I’m doing today. Whether be things related to websites or obviously Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro or more like hands on tech stuff, like work.

Even though it’s just the two of us who are still kind of troubleshooting computer stuff like, "Hey, the printer doesn’t work," or how do we get something to work. That stuff is similar. The one thing that is different though is obviously we are doing this new business thing. We have Pinch of Yum, which I kind of view is your site that I help out with, and you are nice enough to include that little image of me on the side bar, so it looks like both of us.

But that’s really a lot of your work, and I kind of do behind the scene stuff on that. Then today it’s a lot of focus on Food Blogger Pro, so we are just getting to the point now we are starting to build out a team. A lot of the days is working with team members and figuring out, "Hey, what are going to do next? How are we going to continue building Food Blogger Pro?"

We use a tool called Slack to communicate with the team. There is a lot of email back and forth with different companies, members, Food Blogger Pro members and then team members.

It’s also proactive stuff like I always trying to take time to read a little bit throughout the day and figure out, "Hey, what are other companies that are doing similar stuff? What do they do doing that is important for us to learn about and implement as well?" Is that too ambiguous in terms of what the day looks like?

Lindsay: No I think that is helpful for the big picture, and just out of curiosity because I think people like to know this stuff, and because I’m curious to hear how you would describe this just personally. I have personal motivation for all of these questions, by the way. Just really asking these things that I want to know.

On a really nuts and bolts really practical level, what does your day look like? When do you get up? When do you start work? Where do you work from? All that kind of stuff.

Bjork: Yeah. I’ve been trying to get up earlier. I would say that if I were to be honest, my wake up time would be between 5:30 and 7:30. That’s probably a varying range. I love getting up early, but as you know we’re a little bit different with that.

Lindsay loves to go to bed late, and get up late, and I love to go to bed early and get up earlier. We’re different in that aspect. If we stay up late one night, I’ll try not to run on five or six hours of sleep. I really love getting up earlier, so I’d say 5:30 would be kind of the ideal for me.

Then I have this morning routine that I do. I would get up, I would make coffee, two glasses of water. I don’t know how detailed do you want to get.

Lindsay: You tell everybody about all your vitamins, and everything.

Bjork: Yeah, take a multivitamin, fish oil.

Lindsay: Oh my gosh, this is unravelling fast. This what happens when Lindsay goes in the interviewer seat.

Bjork: If my allergies are bad, I’ll take a Claritin. Then the other thing I started to do, I think it’s maybe a little bit of a trend, but there’s a thing called five-minute journal. It’s based on my positive psychology. I try and take time to do that, that’s just has been within the last three weeks that I’ve started to do that.

Lindsay: Cool.

Bjork: Then this also has been something recent, but I just take 30 minutes to read every morning. Right now I’m reading a book called Exponential Organizations. It talks about organizations like Instagram. How does an organization today really scaly and get to be a big company with not a lot of people involved, or like Ubers and other example of that.

I found that reading stuff that has to do with the work that we’re doing is super helpful, because there’s really practical stuff like they talk about tools and technology that they’re using.

There’s also just general inspiration in that, these are companies that were started in 2012. You talk about what was somebody doing five years ago, and how that’s different. For people that started these companies, it’s drastically different. In three years they go from starting a company to being whatever value that $2 billion or crazy stuff like that.

That’s exponential organizations, point being that the reading time for me has been really valuable. Even if I start my day a little bit late, I try and fit that in.

Then I just have a daily review progress. I go in, and I review some of the important number stuff for Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro. That’s like calming through information to make sure that we don’t have an Adobe account that’s still open that we don’t need, that we’re paying $50 a month for.

It’s not necessarily accounting, it’s just keeping track of the little things. That takes like five minutes. Then what I do id I open up a program called Things. Things is based on the getting things done, methodology. If you haven’t heard of that for those that are listening, it’s be something worth Googling.

The idea is that you want to get stuff out of your head, and into like a storage tank, because our brains while they’re really creative, they’re not great at organizing and filing, and keeping track of stuff. At least mine is not.

Lindsay: Yeah, I can address to that.

Bjork: I put everything into Things. What Things allows me to do is I think of something that I just dropped that in there, and then I organize it. I say, "Hey, remind me about this in a week." Or, "Here’s my list of things to do today." Then what I usually do is I start working through that list.

Previously I also, in my morning routine, would include trying to clear out email, so I’d try and get the inbox zero every day. I started to do that a little bit less just because sometime it’s take all day, and then I wouldn’t get to do the really important stuff. I’ll add responding to emails and stuff into my daily to-do for Things.

Lindsay: Like into Things, yeah. I’m curious about the reading portion. Because I live with you, I know that you’re a big reader and that you like to read, and you like to read books that to me are sometime a little bit boring. But they’re really good, rich, informational, nonfiction books about business or just about mindset or whatever.

I’m curious, how do you feel like you can…Let me say this, is it a struggle for you in terms of saying no to some more task-y type items in order to sit down and read and knowing that that will affect your overall mindset? If that is a difficulty, how do you justify that time? Does that make sense?

Bjork: For sure. I think that the way that I’ve tricked myself into doing it is, I’ve almost viewed it as intentional procrastination, which sounds terrible, but it’s something that I really enjoy, which helps. But I also know that if it’s something that’s really important, and if I can view it as, this is such a terrible term, but I can’t think of a better one, me time. [laughs] But I can…

Lindsay: Oh, really? [laughs]

Bjork: If I can view that as a me time, then I think it’s easier to invest in that time. I think, like you said, the difficult thing is that I know each and every day that I’m going to have this long list of things that we can do, and everybody feels that. We’re never out of things to do.

I started to feel a real tension, this is maybe three or four months ago, when I realized that I hadn’t read for a long time, and that I was just repeating the same things over and over. I had stagnated, and I wasn’t growing at all in terms of my view on things or my ability to improve things.

I was like, "Oh my gosh. I need to get back into books, and I need to start learning a little bit more." Because, otherwise, if you were to interview me in five years and say, "What were you doing five years ago?" I’ll be, "The same thing I’m doing right now."

Books for me had really been the thing that’s allowed me to move to a new plateau, if that make sense? You know we talk about how sometimes we get to a plateau in life, and I think those are natural.

You can’t always be going up, up, up. But I think that you can go up and then you can plateau for a little bit. You can go up and you can plateau. Those little spikes upward, for me it always has to do with either a podcast, a book, some type of information I’m consuming and then processing.

Does that answer your question?

Lindsay: Yeah, it does. I think it’s something that people who are potentially listening to this, and I know even myself included, can really learn from you. It’s something that I think you’re really good at it and you’re really intentional about that, that intentional learning that goes hand in hand with running a business.

Some of us, probably me, I’m including myself in this category, would maybe gravitate more towards the list and the getting things done and staying organized, and would have the potential to really just be doing the same thing day after day.

I’m just letting readers know, because I know you so well, but I know it’s really one of your strengths and something that I’d really encourage. Anybody listening who’s feeling, "Wow," almost kind of convicted about this, "Wow. I’m really just going through the same motions every day."

Reading a book, listening to a podcast, I think that’s something that you, Bjork, can really inspire us to greatness with. Thank you for that.

Bjork: Oh, thanks.

Lindsay: Backing up a little bit, I know in the first podcast I talked a little bit about Pinch of Yum and how that all got up and running, but do you want to give the really brief overview of that and of Food Blogger Pro? The story of how you went from the non-profit day-to-day, five years ago, to what you’re doing now? What has that entailed? What businesses does that include and all that?

Bjork: I think the one tip, just to lead to lead if off with something right away is, I think for those of you that are listening, maybe you’re at your job right now listening to this, or maybe you’re in the car on the commute to or back from work, or who knows where you are.

There’s a good chance that people that are listening might be doing something that they’re not super excited about, or might be in a job they’re not super excited about. That wasn’t necessarily the case for me. I really enjoyed the work that I was doing and the people I was doing it with.

But I also knew that there’s a specific area that I was really interested in. It was all things online, technology, building a business around those things. The transition for me didn’t look like necessarily staying up really late or getting up really early and working on those things. There’s a piece of that, and I know that was true for you as well, Lindsay, as you were growing your blog.

A huge part of it was trying to take on projects within the company that overlapped a little bit with those interests. It’s a little bit different than maybe a "normal" job in that there was some flexibility with the non-profit, just because it was smaller and a little bit more flexible.

But, what I would do is, I would say, "Hey. There is a website that need to be redesigned." That would be a project I would volunteer for and say, "I would love to take this on," not really knowing 100 percent how to develop an awesome website, but using that as a case study or a learning process to do on-the-job training.

I would encourage people that are looking to get into this space to do whatever you can to take on those projects at work, even if it creates a little bit more work for you, because it’s a great to learn in the in-between if you’re looking to make that jump into doing this, whatever this is, but something on your own in a full time or even part time capacity. Doing that on-the-job training stuff is a great way to do it.

That’s where it started. If there’s a time where I was doing something that I could listen to a podcast, I would usually turn on a podcast and listen to one. One of the podcasts that I really enjoy listening to is called Mixergy. I know that you were actually interviewed on there, Lindsay.

Lindsay: I was, yeah.

Bjork: Mixergy is just essentially interviews with entrepreneurs. If nothing else, you kind of start to associate yourself with those people. As I’d listened to Mixergy, you start to realize people are doing really incredible stuff, and it doesn’t have to be a $2 billion business. It can be a $200,000 business and that’s enough to…It’s more than a full time salary.

There’s this idea that you are the five people that…You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I think part of that can crossover into the content that you read or listen to. If you’re always listening to entrepreneurs and people that are doing creative things, then you kind of start to I think absorb some of that. I found that to be true with listening to podcasts.

That’s where it started. I was working on web-related stuff at a non-profit, listening to these podcasts. But then eventually, Pinch of Yum started to pick up and traffic started to pick up and I thought, "Hey, this is kind of cool that Lindsay is doing this," and I wonder if I can experiment with some of these interests.

I don’t know exactly what that looked like, being that it was a while ago, but I think we sat down. I was, "Hey, would that be all right if we kind of try some stuff on this?" [laughs] I have no idea what that conversation look like, or if I just…

Lindsay: Something like that. [laughs]

Bjork: Eventually it started to be something where we able to work on different things together, or I would try and redesign something on the website, or just use WordPress, or stuff like that.

Started to get into that a little bit more, and then we started to do the income reports where we’d come on and say, "Here are things that worked, here are the things that didn’t work," and we’d talk about the income that Pinch of Yum was making and where it was coming from.

As that started to grow, we had more and more people that were coming to us and saying, "Hey, I would love to learn about this." It’s not really stuff that you can explain via email. We had kind of kicked around this idea of the food blogging community site. I don’t know if you remember this, but I think it was around the time where we were in the Philippines…

For those that aren’t familiar, Lindsay and I spent a year in the Philippines, working at an orphanage called the Children’s Shelter of Cebu. I think it was while we were there that I was kind of trying to figure out, there’s a school day, and during the school day there wasn’t a ton of stuff at the orphanage for me to do, and I was also continuing to work for Youth Frontier, so I was like, "What do I backfill that time with?"

It was really you, I don’t know if you remember this, but you’re like, "I really think that you should do the food blogging thing, and kind of create a community around that." I was like, "I don’t know if that would work, or if that would make sense." Do you remember that?

Lindsay: Kind of, I don’t know.

Bjork: I distinctly remember you being like, "I think you should do that." I had some other ideas…

Lindsay: It was probably me being like, "Stop sitting around and start doing stuff…"

[laughter]

Bjork: Yeah, right?

[laughter]

Lindsay: "You’re way too comfortable. You need to just get your butt in gear."

Bjork: "Do something."

Lindsay: Yeah, no.

Bjork: I did. I listened to your advice. It was really both of us though that started working on it. We did a pre-sale, which, three months before we officially launched it, and had even started working on it, we sold like a year-long membership for a discount.

I think it was like $49 for the people that signed up three months before, $79 for those that signed up two months before, and then $129 for those that signed one month before. Kind of like a Kickstarter almost, using that to then fund the development of it. We started…

Lindsay: Then at that time, what was put together then at that time when you started selling it?

Bjork: I think if you googled "Pinch of Yum Food Blogger Pro," you would probably find the announcement post. It was like early November of 2012, I would guess, if I’m…

Lindsay: But I mean like what, like how, like what…

Bjork: At that point we didn’t have anything. Is that what you mean?

Lindsay: Yeah. Right.

Bjork: We had zero anything, except the domain name.

Lindsay: Basically selling something that didn’t exist at the time, knowing that it would exist?

Bjork: Right, and part of it too was…

Lindsay: What was your thinking behind that? I remember that being something that you were like, "Yeah, I definitely want to do this." Can you just explain why did you feel like that was a good way to build the start of the business?

Bjork: I think it, a big part of it was knowing that there would be a pre-existing community when we would launch. Knowing that there would be people on the platform that would be using it.

I think if I’m looking back at it, and remembering, I don’t know 100 percent kind of what my thought process was. The other piece is just proof of concept. We knew that we wouldn’t spend three months putting something together and then launch it, and then it would just be crickets. Or, even if it was just like a few people signed up for it.

I think probably what would have happened, is if we did this pre-sale, and let’s say we had like, 15 people sign up, not that we wouldn’t want to do it with 15 people, but just the idea that maybe there’s not a need for it. We probably would have just…

Lindsay: Right, maybe re-evaluate…

Bjork: Yeah.

Lindsay: …or something?

Bjork: Refund those people, and then go back to the drawing board. When we launched, it was one of those things where it was like, "Oh." People were signing up and people were really interested in it. I think that just really rough-number, that pre-launch was somewhere around $10,000 in terms of what we were able to get from that pre-launch.

We used that essentially just to pay developers and designers to just start building the site. Then it was just, for you and I, like a lot of time in creating the initial content that we put into the site. Which was really a lot of work, and super stressful.

Lindsay: Yeah, it really was. There are some regrets there, I think. We both talked about that before publically.

One thing I do want to ask is, if we were to go back to that time, personal time stuff aside, and our whole decision to do that aside, just strictly from a business-perspective, would you have done that again in the same way? Would you have done that again with the pre-sale?

Do you think that that played into the success, like you said, you used the example of Kickstarter, but literally a kick start to the business, in terms of getting you excited and getting you ramped up? Or, do you feel like the pressure of that made the creation of the product, took some of the joy out of it and added pressures? What would you do if you were going to do it again, in terms of to do the pre-sale or not?

Bjork: To go back to it, I think that for us, what we learned is it was just too much. I think we committed to doing too much at the time. I think it was on me, in how I initially approached the pre-sale. I think the idea of a pre-sale itself is a great idea. What I learned is you need to be intentional about communicating then what it is that people will have when it first launches.

I don’t know if people assumed this, but in my mind what I was trying to accomplish was, "Hey, it launches February 1st and then door’s wide open, 300 videos that people can watch and courses they can go through."

I think it very well could have something where, if communicated correctly, it would be like, "We’ll launch February 1st, and there will be three courses, and then we’ll add one new course every month for the remainder of the year," to relieve some of that pressure.

Instead it was like, "How do we get through doing 300 screen casts, or 200 screen casts, or whatever it was at the time." We, slash, I realistically over-committed to what content would be available. Which was awesome when we launched because then there was a bunch of content. The creation process then was stressful, because not only are you doing the content, you’re also literally having to build the site itself.

Lindsay: At this point, just looking at Pinch of Yum and you know we kind of talked about that in the first episode. Now, talking a little bit about Food Blogger Pro, those would be the two businesses that you have your hands in.

What percentage would you give yourself to each of those things? Are you 50/50 or how involved are you with each? Which do you feel like is more a primary thing for you?

Bjork: I really feel like, right now for Pinch of Yum, it’s pretty small. At the beginning of the podcast I was like, "That’s really nice of you to include me in the sidebar."

[laughter]

Bjork: I would say it’s maybe, I don’t know, correct me if I’m wrong on this, but maybe 10-15 percent right now for Pinch of Yum, and like 80 percent Food Blogger Pro. I think that’s a sliding scale too though.

There are times when maybe there’s some type of project or something that, in a week, requires us to kind of ramp up on Pinch of Yum. Like maybe if there’s some type of ad-change or redesign, or obviously like when I write the income reports each month. Even then, it’s like you’re kind of more of a part of those now. That’s becoming more and more true. I would say 80/20, on an average week.

Lindsay: I have a couple questions kind of related to that. One of them would be, just when you look specifically at Food Blogger Pro…or no. Let me back up and make that really general.

If you were to look at just business in general and small business and start-up businesses and everything. How do you think an entrepreneur or a business owner, how can they determine success? How would you define success for small-business or startups?

Bjork: Yeah, I think that one thing I’m starting to understand, little by little, is I think a successful entrepreneur is somebody who is able to able to step back from their business, and for that to continue to run in some capacity.

Obviously all businesses will have some type of slow decline if the entrepreneur steps out. Especially in the type of work that we do, like a blog is an example of, you can use that example, but the hard part is like…especially for a blog like Pinch of Yum, it’s very author-centric.

I would say that the ultimate example of somebody that I would feel like would be a really successful entrepreneur at a super-high level is somebody that’s able to build something that continues to grow, and develop, and thrive, without them there.

I think that you can go down into that, and there’s all these little subcategories of what a successful entrepreneur is. For some people, it might look like being able to work four hours a day while also taking care of their kids.

They have a business that they can run, that allows them for freedom of time, they can do at any time throughout the day. I’m a little bit nervous about putting just like a blanket statement on what a successful…

Lindsay: Yeah, for sure.

Bjork: …entrepreneur is. One thing, personally, that I love to think about is creating something that not only is able to sustain itself, but also get better without me micro-managing it as like an entrepreneur/micro-manager. My hope would be that overtime we can continue to build stuff that is just as valuable whether I’m front and center or not.

Lindsay: With that in mind, and looking at who might be listening to this podcast, which would probably be a lot of food bloggers who really are everything. They’re every piece of their business at this point. How do you think people whom are listening could put some of those things into practice to start to remove themselves, and/or do you think they should?

Lindsay: Where does it become a decision about keeping yourself in intentionally, and or removing yourself? How do you think that applies to food bloggers?

Bjork: Yeah, I think that part of it is like, do you have the budget with your business to be able to bring people in? With anything, unless you do like venture capital, which few and far between, especially with the food blog people would be going out and trying to raise money to start a food blog. Which means then, you’re not raising money to start your business.

You’re then bootstrapping, meaning you’re either putting your own money in or you’re putting a ton of sweat equity in to build it up to a point where you’re starting to get money, which then you can start to put back into the business.

Once you get to the point where you have income available that you can then put back in, I would encourage people to think about, "What are the things that I hate doing? That I really don’t enjoy? The things that nobody would know the difference if I’m doing them or not?"

An example with Food Blogger Pro is editing the videos. People would know if it’s not us doing the videos. Not saying that we always need to be doing the courses and the lessons, but people really won’t know who’s going to edit the videos. Realistically there are professional editors that will do a lot better job than I would. That was a decision once we had the budget for that we said, "Hey, we’re going to bring somebody in to edit the videos."

That could look different for people depending on what they love to do and what they don’t love to do. For some people, it might be that they hate the writing process, and they love recipe development, and they love photography, so they’re going to stick with those.

In terms of writing the content, they might have somebody that comes on as their main editor, or main content producer, that writes a general post. I’ve heard of a lot of people that will do this. We haven’t done this, I don’t think that we ever will, but people that will hire a writer, they will write the post, and then they’ll go in and put their own voice into it.

They’ll change things around, so that it appears that it’s their voice, and then they’ll use that. If you are a food writer, or publisher, or food blogger, and you don’t enjoy the writing process, that doesn’t mean that you have to do it, which sounds kind of crazy.

There are all those ways you can think creatively about removing the pieces that you really don’t enjoy, in order to allow yourself to do the things you do enjoy, so everything doesn’t pivot on you taking the next step. So often we are the bottleneck in our businesses. If we can find people to help pass stuff off, you can move forward on stuff a lot quicker.

It’s amazing how, if you find somebody that loves to do it, it may not cost $50 or $100 an hour for them to do it, they might do it at a really affordable rate, because it allows them to have a flexible job that they can do from anywhere.

There’s a lot of people that love to write, for instance. There’s a lot of people that love to edit photos, if you hate the editing process. If I were to say that in one sentence, like you asked me for, I would encourage people to find the areas they don’t enjoy, and find somebody to replace them in that capacity.

Lindsay: With that in mind, one thing I heard you say was, "If and when you have the budget for that…" Let’s go down to maybe a more basic level. Let’s say there’s someone listening who…

Let’s say it’s me, it’s me listening, and I embarked on this journey without you, like I did this all by myself, and I’m at the beginning point, where I’m interested in maybe making this into something more than a hobby, but I definitely don’t have a budget to be hiring anybody else.

I’d like to develop a budget, and I’d like to make it into something that’s earning money. Basically the process of taking it from that hobby stage to something that’s actually earning money, that you could potentially hire people to help continue to grow you as a business.

What are you going to say to me, me four years ago, or whatever, in terms of some really practical, actionable things that can help me to move my new — or maybe not even new — hobby food blog into more of the business zone?

Bjork: There’s a sliding scale for everything. The sliding scale also applies to how important is the work that you are doing. Realistically, a lot of times we do work that actually isn’t that important, which is hard, because sometimes we’re presented with stuff, and it feels like it’s important, or it feels like things that we should be doing.

An example would be, maybe it’s responding to emails, which sounds terrible, but maybe there are certain emails that you have to let go to focus on the most important things. Maybe it’s social media, and you just have to say, "In order for me to do the most important thing, I’m just going to have to not do certain portions of social media. I’m going to have to cut that out."

In order to know what that is, you have to know what’s effective. In order to do that, you have to monitor, and adjust. Monitoring being, maybe it’s looking at Google Analytics stats and saying, "What are the posts that are most popular?"

You see that you have a post for a watermelon smoothie, and you look at that, and you say, "Think critically. Why is that popular," and then try and reproduce that. Instead of just throwing darts, and hoping they hit the target, it’s taking time, and not doing just busy work, but being really intentional about seeing what’s working.

At the end of the month, you can look back, and you can say, "Where did I earn three or four dollars this month, versus no money at all, and how can I double that?" An example would be if you noticed that you made four dollars from promoting a spatula on Amazon, you could say, "OK, that’s interesting. I made four dollars from that.

"I know that, if I made four, I can make eight, and so how did I do that before, and is there a way I can do that twice as effectively, that I can do that twice as well?" How do you say that?

Lindsay: Effectively, I think. Twice as effectively. I don’t know. We shouldn’t being doing grammar together at all.

Bjork: The idea being there are success points, even if they’re small. When you find those, think about how you can double those. If you notice that for the spatula, maybe you could send an email out about that post to your readers, and say, "This is one of my favorite recipes, and there’s also this spatula I really like, in it."

It’s trying to figure out what those success points are, and then do whatever you can to multiply those, because if you can make $3, you can make $6, and if you can make $6, you can make $12. That continues on, but you have to be intentional about thinking how that happens, and where that comes from.

Lindsay: For sure. That’s something that you would always say to me, when we were starting out. I remember starting out, in our first month, on our first income report we made around $20, I think $21. I remember you literally saying those exact same things to me.

You were like, "If we can make $20, we can make $40," and multiplying that all the way up. We can make $1,000, for example. I remember really not believing that, and being like, "OK, maybe $100, if we’re really lucky, someday."

Not necessarily believing that to be true. Pinch of Yum has served as a good example that that really is true, and that really is possible. I would encourage anybody listening to just take that to heart. There is that multiplier effect, and what we’re doing online, generally with a lot of these monetization strategies, is very scalable.

Where you’re making $50, potentially, or even $5, that’s a scalable number. Breaking it down, and looking at what made it effective, and how you can continue to make it more effective is a really valuable piece of advice. Thank you for that.

Let me see here. What else did I want to ask you? One thing that we have to our advantage is that you and I work together. Each of us, we’re not working on this alone, we have a partner in it, somebody who is equally as invested as each other, in both of these businesses.

My question to you about that would be, how much of an effect do you think that that partnership element has had on our ability to be successful with either of the businesses?

Bjork: That’s a great question, and it’s important to talk about. Whenever we speak, or do a podcast, I feel like we try to be intentional about that, because one of the biggest downsides of this, whatever, for us, as we’re building these things, is that there can be this comparison trap of people saying, "I’m just getting started," or ,"I’ve been doing this for three, or four, years, and how come I’m not able to create any income from my blog," or "I’m not able to scale as quickly," or whatever it would be.

The reality is, like you said, there’s two people working on this, and that’s double everything. There’s double time, there’s double the energy, there’s double the ideas. It has a huge effect. It makes a really big difference to have multiple people working on something together.

The other reality is that there is this kind of natural alignment of our interests, in that you really love photography, and you love food, and you love recipes, and I really love on line business, and technology, and A/B testing, stuff like that.

Those have kind of been able to come together in a way that they complement each other really well, and creates, as a business, naturally kind of an advantage. It’s important to point out, and it has a major impact on it.

One thing, as a takeaway, for those who are in a situation where they’d say, "I’m just on my own here. Nobody in my family really gets it. Nobody in my family really cares." I would encourage you to get close to people that do get it.

You could use something like Meetup.com, or .org. I don’t know what it is, but for most people, there’s probably some sort of WordPress Meetup that’s happening close by, or blogger Meetup. Those, very similar to a podcast or a book, those are places where people are going to share ideas, and thoughts, and are going to have similar mindsets.

That’s all stuff that you can absorb, that will help you, and you’ll be able to apply that to your blog, or to your business. The other takeaway from the question, in regards to my response to it, is to not get discouraged, to know that it takes a lot of time, especially if you’re doing it on your own.

Within that, it’s just really important that you enjoy the process, that you enjoy it, because it takes so long. We talk a lot about building business, and creating an income, but I would also encourage people to think about those other forms of income, like emotional income.

How do you feel when you’re working on a post? How do you feel when you’re doing photography? Is that something that you enjoy? Then lean further into it. Is it something you don’t enjoy? Then try to figure out ways that you can do less of it.

People can be really creative in thinking about how they do that. The blogs that you see doesn’t have to be what your website is. We know people that will have a static website, and they communicate to their audience via email. That’s all that they do.

Or people that just primarily have a Facebook account, and that’s how they do it. There’s a lot of flexibility in how you produce content. I would encourage people not to ever get stuck in the trap of feeling like, "Well, if this certain site did it this way, and they’re successful, then I have to do it exactly like they do it in order to be successful, even if it means I’m miserable while doing it."

That would be my other takeaway from our experiences. For us, it’s a huge advantage, because we’re working in the space we love, but for other people, don’t ever feel like you have to be that same thing in order for your site, or your blog, or your empire, whatever that might be, to be successful.

Lindsay: Geez. Don’t ever say empire again in relation to food blogs.

Bjork: No, it doesn’t have to be a food blog, though, that’s the thing. People can build their own empires.

Lindsay: I suppose. I know.

Bjork: People could build a little spatula empire, and they could be the spatula king, or queen. Maybe they never blog, maybe all they do is spatula podcasts. Moving on…

Lindsay: Moving right along, yeah. In closing, here, and thinking about everything that you’ve talked about from your own experience, and our experiences, and lessons learned, and all of that, what would you like to…?

I wasn’t going to ask it this way, but now I’m going to. What would you say to yourself, your pre-Food Blogger Pro self, maybe before we had embarked on this journey? What would you say to yourself to encourage yourself to make it, both mentally, and just in the day-to-day, over the long term?

We both talk about that a lot. That’s something that you’ve come back to a lot, is the long-term staying inspired, and keeping your brain filled with all this good stuff from books, and podcasts, and growing, and changing, and not just stagnating in that, for the long term.

Going back, what would you say to yourself, and/or a listener, in terms of preparing yourself for that long-term game, and being able to survive that long term?

Bjork: Part of it is the passion piece. Figuring out what you love working on, because if you’re working on stuff you love to work on, you’re going to be able to do it for a lot longer. As you and I know, you can win out over a lot of people if you continue to do it, and get a little bit better along the way, each and every day.

It’s those two together. It’s the long term, and it’s the little bit better. We talk about it as one percent infinity. How do you get a little bit better each day over a long period of time? It really has to be both of those things.

It doesn’t matter if you do it for a long time. There’s a lot of people that have been blogging for 10 years, and nothing comes of it, because they haven’t been getting better. There’s a lot of people that get better pretty quickly, but then they don’t do it for a long time.

It has to be those two things together. In order for that to happen, it has to be something you love. You have to really enjoy doing it. There are always pieces you won’t enjoy, but the majority of the time, it has to be stuff you’re interested in, and you enjoy learning about, and improving on.

It also has to be stuff that aligns with who you are. You might be really passionate about something, but if you feel tension when you’re working on it, in the sense that you feel like maybe you should be doing something else, that tension is going to wear on you.

You and I talk about that, Lindsay, with what does that mean for us to be publishing content about food, or tutorials on Food Blogger Pro. Is that something that really aligns with who we are, and what we’re about? We feel pretty good about that, but also there’s these points of maybe we need to adjust a little bit, and maybe we need to focus on some other areas, and balance that out.

That’s an important area, too. Too win the long term battle, there has to be time when you’re not doing it, that you step back a little bit.

There are some people that can work insanely hard, all the time, for a really long time, but I would assume that, and I don’t have any source that I can cite for this, but I would assume that the majority of people that work insanely, insanely hard for a long period of time, will eventually reach a point where they burn out.

If you burn out, all that work that you’ve done over that long period of time it doesn’t go to waste, but it could be so much more. The snowball stops. In order to not burn out, you have to keep that edge, and the desire to do that work.

In order to do the work, and be excited about it, you have to build in buffers. That means doing other things, whether that’s time with friends and family, or time away. Lindsay, you and I talk about that.

If we go away for the weekend, if we leave on a Friday, we’re coming back on a Sunday, we’re like, "Hey, we’re excited to get back into this." If we had have worked straight through the weekend, we probably wouldn’t feel like that. We wouldn’t be excited to get back into the work.

By taking breaks, and by building in margins, you allow yourself to continue to be excited about the work, which is really important for the long run.

Lindsay: Agreed, 120 percent.

Bjork: Glad we’re on the same page.

Lindsay: Last quick question. This is just on a really practical level. If you were to recommend…Did I say the last question was the last question?

Bjork: This is the PS question.

Lindsay: This is the bonus question. The bonus last question.

If you were to recommend one…I’ll give you one book, that’s all, just one, and one podcast, and you can’t say this one, because this one’s not even alive yet, for real, but one book, and one podcast that you would recommend to inspire people to take their hobby to the business level, what would it be?

Bjork: A really important book that I appreciate is "The War of Art." Steven Pressfield, who wrote, "The Legend of Bagger…" I forget what it’s called. It’s that golfing movie that Will Smith is in. He’s an author, non-fiction and fiction.

This is a non-fiction book, and it’s about the creative struggles, and the creative hurdles, that we have to get over, if we want to continue to create. Everybody that’s listening to this is probably a creator. I would encourage you to read that book.

For me, that’s probably like a once a year book, just to be reminded of the need to continue to create, and to press publish, in whatever form that is.

Then I really like, "Smart Passive Income." Pat Flynn has a podcast that is similar to this, in the sense that it’s interviewing people that are in online spaces, and doing things online, but it’s much broader. We are kind of a hyper-niche here, talking to food bloggers.

Pat does income reports, too. He was one of the inspirations for the stuff that we started to do. What I really appreciate about Pat, and the Smart Passive Income podcast, is this alignment of creating stuff that is a business, but is a different form of business in the sense that it’s not super-pushy, and it’s really helpful, and he has a great tribe, and audience, and I feel like a good guy.

I’m going to add another one, just because it’s one of my favorites.

Lindsay: No. OK, fine. I’ll allow it.

Bjork: We had talked about that earlier, but it’s interviews with entrepreneurs, and Andrew, who’s the guy who does that, just asks really good questions. For somebody like me that likes to geek out about online businesses, and numbers, and things like that, it’s a great podcast.

War of Art, Mixergy, Smart Passive Income, I think would all be really worth people’s time, if they are looking to add some things to listen to, and books to read.

Lindsay: Awesome. Bjork, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions today, and I’m sure the questions of many listeners. Really appreciate everything you had to say, and as always, I found it super inspiring. Thank you for sharing. If people want to find you, where would you like them to seek you out?

Bjork: I’m not super active on Twitter, but you can follow me on Twitter, and if you have a question or anything, you can Tweet at me there. Food Blogger Pro, I jump in the forums every once in a while, I do blog posts every once in a while. If you have any questions specific to Food Blogger Pro, you can drop an email [email protected] and every once in a while on Pinch of Yum but not often.

Lindsay: That is the wrap. Thanks Bjork for coming on your podcast today.

Bjork: Hey, yeah, thanks for hosting me on my podcast. It’s our podcast, it’s both of us.

Lindsay: It is. OK, all right. Thanks for coming on our podcast today.

Bjork: Yeah. Hey, thanks for interviewing, Linds, we will talk to you later.

Lindsay: OK, see you later. [laughs]

Bjork: A big thank you to Lindsay for coming on the podcast and interviewing me today, thanks, Linds, I really appreciate that. It’s kind of an awkward question that to ask, "Lindsay, could you interview me on this podcast." She did and she did a great job, thank you Lindsay.

A few things before we wrap up. First, we’ll like to thank our show sponsor. It is us Food Blogger Pro. If you are interested in starting, growing or monetizing your food blog, we’d really suggest that you check out Food Blogger Pro. We’re just around the 1,000 members all around the world and it’s an incredible community.

There is videos, training tutorials, there is a community forum. We’re starting to build in tools. We have a lot of specific deals and discounts at a really steep rate with different software companies and tools that offer discounts to our members.

We suggest you check it out. You can go to foodbloggerpro.com and see everything you need to see to learn more about that.

Second, if you have a minute, we’d really appreciate if you hop into iTunes and leave a rating for this podcast. We really appreciate any ratings or reviews, it helps to add field of fire here for the podcast and keep things going.

Lastly, I just want to say thanks, really appreciate your time and your listening here, and checking out this podcast. It just really means a lot to Lindsay, to me, to Food Blogger Pro as a business. It really helps us do what we do. We really appreciate it and I hope that you found it helpful.

We’ll be back next week, same time, same place, talk to you soon.

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9 Comments

  1. I am seriously like you Bjork when it comes to learning new information, just lets me know I am on the right track on the thinking process! I never get enough information I have to grow learn a new skill it’s fun and exciting!

    I totally agree about working on something and making sure you like it or otherwise it’s not going to get enough love and it will pick at you. For me I love blogging and logging so much I hope to do this everyday soon, just working at my job seems like a waste of time.

    Thanks for asking those questions Lindsey, I know you know your husband and obviously I don’t know him personally as you do. So it was very helpful when understanding what Bjork does in his day to day routine.

    Thanks for the was very helpful information for the book and podcasts you listen too.

    I love Smart Passive Income! and you guys have that same vibe going on with your podcast that’s why I want to listen to your pod casts now on!

    Question for you guys, so I have an idea and I go through it and when my girlfriend says something in the middle of finishing it whatever it is, I listen to her that idea it general just soars from social or traffic.

    So the question is… Did you guys do that at the beginning? One or the other would come with an idea? or was it just being supportive but unintentionally helped in big ways without knowing it?

    PLEASE CONTINUE YOUR PODCAST, the only thing is I hope you enjoy doing this! otherwise bugger…

    Spatula Empire never going to live that down haha. That is awesome term!!!

    1. Just laughed out loud. Seriously so awesome. This picture made my day.

      In regards to the ideas – it really depends. We each come to the table with different ideas at times, sometimes it’s supporting an idea as a cheerleader, other times it’s collaborating.

      Thanks for following along Nicolas.

      1. Thanks Bjork! That was the goal! Mission accomplished!

        Awesome! That’s what Erin does! Did that with me today with my instagram

  2. I’m a bit late to this party, but awesome podcast/transcript of the interview. Bjork, thanks for recommending “War of Art” – I devoured that as well as “Turning Pro” by Steven Pressfield and am having quite a learning curve. Seriously helpful recommendation! Thanks again!

  3. Dear Bjork, Lindsay and the Pro-team, I am really thankful for your work!! I think about turning my passion into a foodblog and I am so happy I have found you. I have been looking for a supportive community to learn from :). I just listened to the first two podcasts and find it so inspiring. I will sign up ;). Thank you sooo much. Best, Sina