101: What I Learned After Five Years of Income Reports with Bjork Ostrom

Welcome to episode 101 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks about the lessons he learned after five years of publishing Income Reports on Pinch of Yum.

We had a really special podcast episode last week: we heard from YOU! Thank you so much for making our 100th episode so special; we loved hearing about your favorite podcast episodes and how they helped you grow your blogs and businesses. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

What I Learned After Five Years of Income Reports

The Pinch of Yum Income Reports chronicle the experiment Bjork and Lindsay started as a way to find out if it was possible to create an income from a food blog.

Spoiler alert: It is.

After five years of publishing these income reports and sharing the process of turning Pinch of Yum into a business, Bjork has learned quite a few lessons. From learning to trust his gut to building their own path to learning how to learn, the 20 lessons Bjork discusses will help anyone in pursuit of starting their own business and becoming their own boss.

In this episode, Bjork shares:

  • How and why he started writing the Pinch of Yum Income Reports
  • Why you need to listen to your gut
  • How you can learn more information about your industry
  • Why you should dedicate time to reflection
  • Why working with the right people is important
  • Why you need to build your own path

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Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, I’m going to be talking about the most important things that I’ve learned over the past five years as a result of doing the income reports on Pinch of Yum.

Hey there. York here. I’m coming to you from St. Paul, Minnesota, the beautiful St. Paul, Minnesota, and I am reaching you who knows where? You might be on a run, you might be running errands, you might be driving in your car, but wherever you are, I just want to take a moment to say thank you, because each and every week thousands of people all around the world download and listen to this podcast, and that is an extreme privilege and one that I don’t take lightly. My hope for you is that you get a lot out of this podcast, and we really want to be intentional each and every week to produce content that’s helpful to you.

Speaking of helpful content, we are super excited about this event that we have coming up. It is both Food Blogger Pro and Pinch of Yum teaming up together to do what we call a one-day recipe video bootcamp. The best news about this event is that it’s completely free. You can sign up for it by going to foodbloggerpro.com/bootcamp. When you do that, that’ll redirect you to a page where we have information about what this boot camp is and how you can sign up. Essentially what you need to do is put in your name and your email. It’s a virtual boot camp, meaning that it’s going to be something that we’re doing online, it’s going to be completely online.

What we’ve noticed is two things. Number one, we’ve seen a huge emphasis on video, whether it be social media, you think of Instagram or facebook for sure. Pinterest is starting to integrate video. You can see it within news sites and blog posts. There’s a huge shift towards video. Number two is what that means is we’ve noticed content creators, which is the primary audience that we speak to here, becoming extremely interested in integrating video into their daily content creation or their content creation calendar. We’ve really gone all in on Pinch of Yum on creating video. If you just look at the Instagram account or the Facebook account for Pinch of Yum you can see we’re doing a lot of vide. It’s something we’re really emphasizing. If I could share with you on this podcast episode, which is really hard to do, a graph of our Facebook engagement, you would see that once we started to intentionally produce videos, that just went off the charts, especially compared to what we were doing before. So we’re a huge believer in video, and that’s why we’re super excited to offer this one-day bootcamp for free. There’s not any payment associated with it. All that you need to do is go to foodbloggerpro.com/bootcamp, and that will bring you to the page where you can sign up and you get notified and get more information about what that looks like.

Essentially what it will be is the Pinch of Yum team and the Food Blogger Pro team partnering up and producing this bot camp. It’ll be four different sessions throughout the day, and the sessions will focus on shooting video with a phone, so Lindsay is going to talk about how she’s created video with her phone, shot on a video, and edited with the video. You don’t need super expensive equipment in order to shoot video. You probably have, I’m guessing you have a smartphone, you proves have what you need to set up and shoot a video.

Then we’re going to be working with Alana, and if you listen to the podcast, you know that Alana’s the video specialist at Pinch of Yum. She’s going to be walking through a typical shoot that she would do from start to finish. That’s going to be using a DSLR camera, so we’re going to walk through the shoot process, and she’s also going to be talking about editing them, what it looks like to bring that footage in and edit that footage.

All of this is happening on June 13. The videos themselves will be published. It’s a combination of live and pre-recorded, so we’ll be actually showing the videos live, and we’ll be on chat, so you can interact with us. Portions of it though will be pre-recorded because we want it to be really intentional to show you the details and editing and all that stuff’s hard to do seamlessly live. But we’re going to be available to chat during the time that these videos are being shown, and then they’ll be available for 24 hours and after that we’ll wrap up and that’ll be a wrap for the one-day video bootcamp. Again, last time the URL for that is foodbloggerpro.com/bootcamp. That’ll redirect you to the page where you can sign up for the one-day virtual recipe video bootcamp. We’re super excited about it, and at this point we’re a couple weeks out from it when we’re recording this. We already have a thousand people that are signed up for it, and we haven’t even talked about it in that many places yet. A lot of energy around this, a lot of excitement, and we know it’s because it’s a really important topic for people to understand.

All right. That’s not what the podcast episode is about today, but I did want to take some time to chat abut that because I wanted to make sure that you knew.

Today’s episode is actually a bit of a reflection for me. It’s looking back on the last few years that we’ve been doing income reports. If you follow along with Pinch of Yum, which is the food blog that Lindsay and I run, primarily Lindsay, she’s the face of it, I help out with some things behind the scenes, you know that once a month we would come on and we would do income reports. We would create about where we’re creating revenue, where our expenses were going, what type of traffic we experienced, and in 2017 we haven’t published an income report. We have a lot of people that have come to us and said, “Why aren’t you publishing income reports anymore?” I’m going to reflect on that a little bit, and talk about, and this is maybe the most important thing, I’m going to talk about the things that we learned in our experience doing these income reports. Actually 19 different things that I feel like are really important to building a blog or building a website or building a brand or really creating anything. These are going to be the things that I’ve kind of integrated as core concepts for how I understand and process through the idea of building a business or building a blog online.

Let’s go ahead and jump into this. We published our first income report, it was actually way back in September of 2011, and the title for it at that point was, “The food blog money making experiment,” which is not a very original title, but we ran with it, and we said, “Hey, let’s just go ahead and jump in and do this experiment,” and the total earnings for that month were a whopping $21.97. But it’s fun to think back to that time and imagine what it was like. 2011, September of 2011. Lindsay was a fourth grade teacher, I was working at a nonprofit here in the Twin Cities called Youth Frontiers, and we lived in a small suburban condo just outside of the twin cities. For those of you that are in Minnesota, it was a city called New Brighton. We now live in St. Paul. But it’s fun to think back and think about what that was like.

We were figuring things out, what it was like to be married, to own a house, or a condo, to work a job with a normal schedule, right. We had been married a couple years, we were a couple years out of college, and we were kind of figuring out this life thing. We were also figuring out what it meant to build a blog and publish content. We were working on Pinch of Yum kind of in the margins of the day, so early mornings, evenings, and weekends, and we worked on it day by day, week by week, month by month. We had a belief, and this started out as kind of a small belief, but it grew over time, and it was kind of abstract and unclear, but we had a belief that it was possible to build a blog and a business that could thrive both in reaching and connecting with people as well as becoming a source of income that could potentially maybe be enough to replace the income from our day jobs, again, me at a nonprofit and Lindsay teaching. It’s not like we had these super awesome … they were super awesome jobs, but they weren’t necessarily super lucrative jobs.

The point that we had to get to in order to replace our income wasn’t as high as it would be for some people. That abstract belief led us to start this public experiment in creating an income from the blog. We chronicled that journey in the monthly income reports that we did on Pinch of Yum, and it was a super fun experience. Putting together the concept for those posts was especially enjoyable for me as it represented a few different areas of interest, which was it was a little bit of internet marketing, a touch of personal finance, which I’m super interested in. There was design correlated with it, which I’m fascinated by. There’s a little bit of teaching involved. Most importantly, there was a chance to connect with some really, really incredible people, like you, I’m guessing, if you have followed along or are familiar with those.

It was also enjoyable to see the slow and steady progress that we experienced as we were intentional about building different elements of the business. We learned from others, we made mistakes, we refined our craft, we changed, we adjusted, we iterated. We stuck with it and took tiny steps forward every day, which I’m going to talk about a little later on, kind of a concept that we’ve developed around that, and we continued to experiment. Eventually, we found out that we were each working two full time jobs, and Lindsay was a teacher and a blogger, I was working at a nonprofit and helping to run Pinch of Yum, and it was kind of like doing two jobs. Maybe not two 40-hour-a-week jobs, but it was kind of like 40 hours a week and then 20 to 30 house a week. It was a lot of work.

In June of 2014, we decided to both leave our jobs and work on Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro full time. At that point, in June of 2014, the experiment we started back in September of 2011, it actually had a concrete result. Right? It was an experiment, we were curious about something, and it had a result. The result was that we found out it was indeed possible to start a blog and build it into a sustainable source of income. The food blog money making experiment had a result.

Then we moved on to the next phase of the experiment, which was trying to blog from kind of a one man, two man show, Lindsay in I, into a bigger business. I understand it’s definitely not a big business, it’s still a small business in every sense of the world, but we wanted to grow it into more than something than just Lindsay and I. We were interested in adding some incredible awesome team members, which we were able to do, and also add a physical studio space, an actual studio or office where we could work from, as well as host workshops. That was another concrete result that we had in this experiment, Pinch of Yum transitioned from being kind of a ma and pa shop to a business with an official team and a physical location that we could call home. Right? Home for Pinch of Yum.

Then we said, “What’s the next phase of this public experiment in growing a building and building a business online?” We’re still kind of figuring that out, but we have an idea. First, we’re excited to continue to build and experiment and learn and tweak and change and improve and all the other “ing” words. Experimenting, learning, tweaking, changing, improving. All of those words that come along with building a business and a blog online, so that’s the first thing. Second, we’re also excited to publicly continue to share those things that we’re learning with you here on the blog. Third, the next iteration probably won’t look exactly what it did the previous five years did, at least as it relates to these monthly reports that we were doing. We’ve kind of felt this for a while that we need to make this shift, and it’s just now that we’re finally getting around to it.

Here’s kind of the thinking behind it. Regardless of what was said within the content of one of these income reports, the loudest part of it was always the “money” part of it. Which makes sense, right? We’re coming to the table, we’re saying, “Here are the things we’ve learned, and here’s the income that we’re creating from it.” That was always the loudest part of that content, which isn’t a bad thing. Creating an income from your business in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Not at all, actually. It’s a really exciting thing that can offer huge changes for you and your family and your lifestyle and how you operate day to day.

It’s one of the main reasons that businesses are created, right? To create an income, to pay the bills, to create freedoms that you otherwise might not have to create what you want, to create, that’s a big part of it, right? To sustainably solve important problems, all of these things could be classified as reasons that we grow a business. To allow you to support causes, people you care about. To grow and scale and expand your mind, your resources, your relationships.

It’s just that the income reports that we were doing started to not really fit as well within Pinch of Yum as they once did. Especially as Pinch of Yum as an entity, right, as a kind of brand, may turn just … transitions from, you know, we just started the blog a couple years ago to something that closely resembles more of a business, and in those early stages, the income reports allowed us to say, “Hey, here’s some things that we’re doing and things that we’re learning,” and the shift now has, a few years later, after we’ve achieved some of those goals or reached some conclusions about some of those experiments, they’ve kind of shifted towards, or Pinch of Yum has shifted towards being more of an established business. It’s less of an experiment now.

Here’s an analogy that I kind of think of when I think of the income reports, as they relate to Pinch of Yum directly. Kind of like a guy that shows up wearing a suit to a soccer game, and he’s going to play in the game. Would it work for him to play, yeah, for sure. He could go in, he could play the game, he could kick, he could run. But he wouldn’t fit in with the other players around him as much. Kind of a strange analogy. Huge fan of analogies, that one’s strange. But point being, the income reports started to fit less within Pinch of Yum, and I felt like every time that we published them it was kind of like we’d have this random report coming out amidst these lifestyle posts that Lindsay was posting about, or recipes, or maybe some deeper content that she was sharing as well. It just to feel like they didn’t fit as well within those. We kind of started to feel that a little bit, and we wanted to be true to our gut, even though removing these reports for us might have an impact on maybe Food Blogger Pro signups, or might have an impact on really small sliver of traffic that we had, but people that would come and maybe purchase eBooks or things like that.

But we really feel like it’s the right move to make. But we’re not pulling the plug completely on sharing content around blogging. It’s something that I’m still super passionate about, blogging, business building, creating things that people are passionate about and sharing those online, those are my deep, deep passions. So we’re going to continue to share different types of content, and you should follow along with Pinch of Yum in order to be in the loop on that. We’re just shifting away from the income reports specifically. This is why if you look at the last income report we published, you’ll see it was from five plus months ago, and for the first time ever in 2017, we didn’t publish one of these reports for the previous months, and then it was two months, and then it was three months, then it was four, and we said, “Okay, we have to come out and talk about this, and share why we’re starting the process of kind of shifting that.” Not necessarily stopping, we’re not going to stop sharing content around blogging. We’re just going to shift exactly what that looks like. Like I said, I’m still just as passionate about business today as I was five years ago, and will continue to produce content around things like blogging and photography and video and business.

Case in point, the boot camp that we’re doing, that we’re super excited about. But the versions that we share will just be a little bit quieter than the income reports were. Because this is kind of the wrap-up for the income reports, what I wanted to do was to share what I feel like are the most important concepts that I’ve taken away over the past five years, as we’ve built Pinch of Yum and started to understand a little bit better the idea or the concepts that go into building a business online. These aren’t very long, each one is kind of a short snippet. It’s a short idea, or concept, or something that you can implement in terms of a mindset, so they’re kind of short little snippets, but they’re really important, so I wanted to share them on the podcast, and I’ll also be publishing a blog past about this on Pinch of Yum talking about it.

Let’s go ahead and jump in. There’s 19 of these, and we will go through these and I’m curious to know if there’s one that really stands out to you, that you connect with.

First one is that it takes time. This is really reassuring to a lot of people in a strange way. I think people want something to happen really quickly, but it’s funny to look back at the archives of the income reports and all 66 of those posts fit onto three little neat pages on Pinch of Yum, and they have a little square that represents each month, and it looks like such a short amount of time when you look at those three pages, when you’re able to click through and see all of those posts in like two seconds. But the amount of time both in hours worked and years passed that those posts represent is really significant. It’s true, there are stories of companies that experienced meteoric rise to success, but those are the exceptions, not the norm. You think of Instagram, built and sold in two years, and they made a billion dollars. That’s the exception, it’s not the norm. Building something takes a lot of time, whether it’s a successful nonprofit, a thriving blog, or a new restaurant.

Which relates to number two. You overestimate what you can do in a year, and underestimate what you can do in a decade or two or three. Isn’t that amazing how quickly a year can pass? Right? It’s like we’re halfway through 2017 already, isn’t that crazy? When I think about what I was doing and where I was in life, work wise, a year ago, it seems really similar to what I’m doing today. It doesn’t feel like something has changed or much has changed at all. But when I look back at the previous decade, it’s amazing to see the progress that’s been made. The same can be said looking forward. My guess is you probably have some pretty big goals and dreams of where you’ll be a year from now, and sometimes you can achieve those. But oftentimes, you overestimate what’s possible. But when you expand that time horizon out, and do focused and consistent work for a long period of time, right, decades, then you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

This is a concept that I need to credit Tony Robins with, because he is somebody that has introduce that concept to me, this idea that you overestimate what you can do in a year, but underestimate what you can do in a decade. I don’t want to take credit for that.

Number three. You underestimate what you can do in an hour. This doesn’t give credit to Tony Robins, this is me, but it’s something that I’ve found true for myself. You underestimate what you can do in an hour, or even in a few minutes. Sometimes all that it takes to move an idea forward is a few minutes. Maybe it’s sending an email, calling a friend, or jotting down an outline for something. If you shrink it down to that first step, which oftentimes takes less than an hour, it’s one of the most important things that you can do to move that idea forward. I’ve learned that when it comes to moving big ideas forward, one of the most important things to do is take that first step. A lot of times it’s not that difficult. Even though you might think, “Ah, I only have 15 minutes here, I’m just going to cruise Facebook instead of doing work,” that’s okay if that’s what you feel like you need. But my encouragement to you would be, see if there’s something that you can do to move that idea forward that you have, because chances are, there is, even if it’s a short amount of time.

Number four. Know your pull. What are you naturally pulled to? What do you find yourself thinking about or daydreaming about? What do you think about if you’re driving by yourself with nothing to listen to? If you don’t ever drive by yourself with the music off or podcast off, even if it’s the Food Blogger Pro podcast, I would encourage you to turn it off and just see what you think about. Where does your mind naturally go? That’s a good indicator of what your pull is. It’s the place where your brain naturally goes when there’s nothing distracting it. The thing that you think about, the thing you enjoy thinking about when there’s nothing else to distract you.

I’ll say this, knowing your pull will help inform the type of work that is most naturally for you to do. Photography, writing, recipe development are critically important for a food blog, and all of those things are also a pull for Lindsay. She loves photography, she’s always editing photos on her phone and taking pictures. She’s always passionate or has been become more passionate about writing and connecting with people and engaging with people online, and she loves food. Right? It makes sense that Pinch of Yum is a place for her that she’s been able to grow over the years because her pull relates to the type of stuff that she’s doing. Photography, writing, and connecting with people, telling stories, and of course food. All of those things are such a personal part of what she does.

If those things aren’t your pull, then building a food blog, or at least a food blog that places an emphasis on writing and photography and … well, it would be food. Food is a given, if it’s a food blog, but if that’s not your pull, then building a food blog probably isn’t going to be an enjoyable thing. It’s going to be more of a struggle, and not as much fun. But you do have a pull, and finding what that is is a great way to get some direction for the type of content that you can be working on.

Number five. Small gratitudes are big gratitudes. As you look back at the five years that we’ve done the income reports, we’ve seen a lot of growth and I can see a lot of big goals that we accomplished. You’d think that achieving those really big goals would be what I’m most grateful for. But what I’ve found is the things I feel most grateful for aren’t really “big” things, things like laughing at our dog Sage when she does something funny, or receiving a really kind message, or spending an afternoon with our family, or going for a walk on a beautiful day, or working from my favorite coffee shop and listening to my favorite music. I think that’s important to remember, as we have this mindset of growth and building and expanding, because I’m convinced that these little moments will continue to be the biggest gratitudes that we experience in life for you or for me, which in turn helps to shape how I or we or you but I’ll say “I” talk about myself, which in turn helps to shape how I perceive and prioritize the work that I do.

I know that even if we have twice as much traffic or twice as much revenue or twice as much business success that these small gratitudes each and every day will still be the things that I’m most thankful for. Knowing that, it allows me to be more fully present to those moments, which makes me even more grateful when I experience them. That’s something that I just continue to think about and realize in life, is that these small gratitudes are the things that I’m most thankful for. I know that no matter how big a goal I achieve, it’s going to be those small things that I really come back to. That, I think, really allows me to be more present to those smaller things that are actually a really big deal.

Number six. Industries don’t end, they just evolve. Technically, industries do end. But my point is that I’m not worried about all of this coming crashing down around us, whether it’s blogging or the internet or businesses online. Do things change? Yes. Does it happen quickly? Sometimes. Does everything dry up and disappear? No. Blogging today is very different than it was five years ago, and really different than it was 10 years ago. But it’s still here. I’m confident that it’ll be here in ten years from now, but I’m also pretty confident it won’t sound or look or feel like it does now at all. It’ll evolve, and my guess is that it’ll be drastically different than what it is today. Maybe it won’t be called blogging, but the basic premise will be the same, which is people, you and I, sharing information that helps people. That information could be a comedy because that helps people because they laugh, it could be how to content that helps people figure out problems, it could be content that saves people time or tools that save people time.

That stuff isn’t going to change, which is why it’s important to create skills in a few areas. You want to be careful that you’re not becoming the ultimate expert just in crafting blog content, but you also want to be refining skills around your work. How hard do you work? How intentional are you with the work that you do, number one. Number two, how effective are you at communicating, whether it’s through audio like this, I’m doing a podcast right now, whether it’s written word, like Lindsay does a lot of, or we send out emails. How effective are you at communicating? And number three, are you learning how to learn? That’s one of the most important things with this. Because things change, sometimes quickly, sometimes not, if you don’t learn how to learn and evolve, then yes, the industry that you’re in will dry up and go away. But if you’re learning how to learn, and you’re implementing things like hard work and effective communication, then you can stay up to date with the changes that are happening.

Hard work, because it’s hard work and that’s important. Effective communication, because that’s the core of the internet, it’s communication, written word, audio video, photography, that won’t change. The core of this industry will always be effective communication. And then learning how to learn because things change quickly and if you aren’t learning the new thing, then you’ll be doing the old thing, and it’s the old thing, not the industry overall, that ends.

Number seven. ABL. Always Be Learning. Okay, this kind of ties in to what we were talking about before, but it’s important to ABL or always be learning. How does that happen? Here’s how: podcasts, courses, books, meetups, articles. It’s not inundating yourself with that, but it’s dripping that in each and every day. My guess is that there are parts of your day that you can backfill, or that you can layer over learning, using these different mediums. Podcasts, courses, books, meetups. Maybe you take the bus everyday. You can take some courses on your way to work. Maybe you have to do chores around the house, you can listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Maybe you have some time that you want to kill in the morning when you’re having breakfast. You can read some articles that relate to the industry that you’re in. You don’t have to do them all, but make sure you’re consistently feeding your mind with new information related to your industry. The good news is, like I said, you can layer this learning on top of the things you’re already doing, and you don’t necessarily need to build additional time to do this.

My favorite way, personally, to do this, is to listen to podcasts or audio books when I’m working around the house or exercising or driving. I’ll just mention this because you’re listening to a podcast and chances are that you are getting this through something like the podcast app, or maybe you’re listening to this on iTunes, maybe listening on the Food Blogger Pro blog, which we also have the podcast available. If you are, I would encourage you to download a podcast app, because there’s lots of other great podcasts that you can subscribe to. These are some of my favorites: This Week in Startups. Jason Calacanis is an angel investor, and he talks about startups and a lot of industry trends a lot of things that are going on. The James Altucher Show, I really like James Altucher and his writing as well as his podcast. He’s just kind of a quirky, interesting guy. A podcast called Mixergy. If you listen to Pinch of Yum or if you listen to Food Blogger Pro podcast, you know that Lindsay did an interview with Andrew Warner from Mixergy. There’s a podcast called Marketing School that’s really good. If you’re a computer geek and you like Macs, one of my favorites is called Mac Break Weekly.

Two more here: How I Built This, which is somebody that does interviews with people that have started businesses and have been really successful, and they talk about how that happened, and shameless plug, the Food Blogger Pro podcast, which you’re already listening to. Maybe you don’t need to know that.

The thing is, there’s thousands of podcasts available. Chances are there’s one or probably a few that are dedicated to the niche or industry that you are interested in.

Number eight. Working doesn’t always mean doing work. Replying to emails, responding in Slack, checking things off the list. Producing content, taking photos, writing posts, responding to comments, all of that is work, and it’s important work, but just because something doesn’t feel like work doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not work. For example, what if you spent tomorrow thinking through the way you create content and creating a new process that saves you an hour each time? The process of thinking about work, or work you do, is also work. This type of work can oftentimes be much more beneficial in the long run than the short term work that I mentioned above.

Number nine. Consistent and dedicated time to reflect is critical. Writing the monthly income reports each month has forced me to stop what I’m doing and reflect on the previous month, which has been hugely beneficial. So much so that I’ve built into my calendar once a month a time to step back and review the previous month, even though we won’t continue to do the income reports each month moving forward. What about you? Do you have a day, or maybe a half day each month, where you step back and think through the previous month? It might not feel like work, but it will be a hugely beneficial, and most likely it’ll have a bigger impact than doing another few hours of work would.

Number 10. You don’t need special credentials to build a business. Lindsay was a 4th grade teacher. I worked at a nonprofit. Both of those are not really business backgrounds. We definitely didn’t have the credentials of the backgrounds to be business builders, but we discovered an incredible tool called Google that allowed us to learn from others and build up the knowledge we needed as we built the business.

Number 11. 1% infinity. Love this one, I talk about it a lot on the podcast. One of my favorite mantras, actually, and as I reflect on the past five years of doing the reports I’d say that it was also the most influential in terms of growth. Here’s the idea behind 1% infinity if you haven’t listened to the podcast we did on this or read any of the content we do. There’s one, we all know what that is, it’s the number one; there’s the percent, which is still pretty easy to understand, you combine those, you have 1%, and then you have that last one, which is really what ties it all together, the infinity symbol. If you don’t know what that looks like, it’s kind of like a percent symbol tipped on its side, or like the number 8 tipped on its side. That last character there, the infinity character, it’s the … when you tip that 8 on its side, it’s the mathematical symbol for infinity. All those together, one percent infinity, is the concept that I think is so important.

Here’s why it works, why 1% infinity works. There’s an incredible amount of work involved in building a blog or business. I have a feeling that you know exactly what I’m talking about. One of the hardest things about blogging, building something online, is that there is a need for consistent doing. Right? Publishing a post, sending out a newsletter, testing a recipe, responding to an email, scheduling social media. True consistently creating content is vitally important to a blog’s success. The issue is when we do these things without improving. Right? When we don’t improve, then we’re applying the concept of zero percent infinity to your blog. As you know, improving something zero percent means it doesn’t improve. But if you find a way to improve just a little bit each day, one percent, and continue doing that consistent work and content creation, then five years down the line you’ll look back at where you started and be really impressed at how much progress you’ve made, and that’s the idea of 1% infinity. Improving a little bit every day forever. That’s the infinity part. Improving a little bit every day forever. 1% infinity.

Number 12. Quality content takes a lot of time. Sure, there are shortcuts you can take and productivity hacks you can apply, but in general, creating quality content takes a ton of time. If you ask any successful content creator how much time goes into their post or their video or their podcast or their speech, then I’m guessing you’ll hear a similar answer, which is basically, “A lot.” But if you don’t have a lot of time, and you still want to create a lot of content, how do you do that? Well, I’d actually encourage you to condense your content and go deeper with it. Instead of two posts that each take five hours, create one really good post that takes 10 hours. What I think you’ll find is you will find more traction because of that.

Number 13. Working with good people is just as important as being good at the work you do. Pinch of Yum isn’t York and Lindsay, it’s tens or even hundreds of people. There’s designers and advisors and developers and contributors and consultants and team members. Finding good people has been one of the most important parts of building this blog over the past seven years, which brings me to my next point.

Number 14. You can’t do it all. When you’re first starting out, you have to do a lot of stuff on your own. I’ll give you that, and it makes sense in the beginning that you have to do that. You might be the one figuring out WordPress, you’re taking photos, you’re writing content, you’re doing social media, you’re keeping track of expenses, you’re negotiating contracts. Pretty soon, if you keep at it, you’ll get burnt out. Which is normal. Because you can’t do it all. Especially when you factor in all of those items into your regular day-to-day responsibilities.

This is why it’s important to as quickly as possible think about bringing support people in that can help you do your work. Remember, it doesn’t have to be somebody necessarily that works in your business. As a solopreneur, which I’m guessing a lot of people that listen to this podcast are, your life and your work overlap. Sometimes the easiest and most affordable place to “buy back” some of your time is to find someone that can help with life stuff instead of just the business stuff. Maybe it’s somebody to mow the lawn, or help do the laundry, or clean the house. For instance, there’s a company here in the Twin Cities, and I know that it sounds crazy, but you can hire them to do your laundry, and maybe it’s once a week, or once every two weeks, depending on how much laundry you have, and they’ll do two to three loads of laundry for $35.

If you crunch those numbers, that can be a really big expense each month, but let’s say your business is to the point that maybe you’re earning $300 each month, and you say, “I want to start investing back into my business, and I know one of the most affordable ways to do that is I can get two hours back each week if I have this company help do my laundry.” You can hire them, and the total cost for that would be if it’s $25 or … let’s say it’s $25 for two loads of laundry, and that saves you two hours. I have no idea how quickly you do laundry or what that looks like for you. But that would be an average cost of about $12.50 for those two hours. That might be kind of expensive to begin with, but you know that long term, putting that time back into your sight is going to be beneficial for you. Maybe that’s the first thing that you do, instead of hiring somebody that’s really expensive as a contractor to do some type of development or to have a redesign or something like that, instead you say, “I want to go more into the content creation to buy back some time, and the first business hire I’m going to have is actually going to be a personal hire, it’s somebody to do laundry, or mow the lawn, or help clean the house.”

The hard part is that for a while there’ll be an in-between period where you’re burning the candle at both ends and you don’t have a budget yet to bring in help. But as soon as you get to the point where there’s some margin available, I’d encourage you to start bringing other people in to help, because you can’t do it all.

Number 15. Businesses are individuals. I used to be really intimidated by working with big businesses, and then I realized that big businesses are really just groups of people, and when you work with a big business, you’re usually just working with a couple of people, which isn’t as intimidating as working with big business.

Number 16. Don’t be discouraged by creative tension. If you’re just starting out, or even if you’ve been at it for a few years, then you probably feel some sort of creative tension. Your photos aren’t what you want them to be, your writing doesn’t feel quite right, your design seems off, you can’t make a video and have it look the way you want to. But you can attend the boot camp, and that will maybe help! Foodblogger.com/bootcamp. Shameless plug, not planned, but it works. All of that is really normal. I’d go so far as to say that it’s actually good. It points to the fact that you have good taste, and you want your work to meet the high quality standard that you set. It’s just that it’s not there yet. One of my favorite quotes on this is from Ira Glass, who’s the producer for This American Life. He says this, it’s a little bit long, but I think it’s important:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there’s this gap for the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. Your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this, and if you are just stating out, or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal, and the most important thing you can do is to do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that work, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s going to take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve gotta fight your way through.” End quote.

Isn’t that awesome? And so encouraging to know that other people who do really good work, like Ira Glass and his storytelling on This American Life, have experienced that same tension.

Number 17. The resistance is real, but you can beat it. In his book, the war of art, Steven Pressfield talks about a force called “the resistance.” I always imagine him saying it like that, but I’m sure he doesn’t. The resistance keeps us from doing important, meaningful work. Here’s a quote from Steven Pressfield. Quote: “Resistance comes as a voice in our heads. The voice tells us not to work today and gives us a reason. Our daughter’s dance recital starts at seven. This headache is killing us. The boss wants us to organize the Pensky file.” I don’t know what that is but I feel like that’s a great little add-on there. Point being that there’s this tiny pressure voice that encourages us to do other things, check our email, clean the house, call our friend, read another how-to article, watch another YouTube video, instead of doing the deep, meaningful, significant work that we’re meant to. You feel it when you sit down to write. You feel it when you’re preparing to do a photography shoot. You feel it when you launch a new website.

There are lots of ways to overcome the resistance, but one of the most important ways to overcome it is to realize that its existence, that it exists and it is real. Its existence in and of itself is going to be the first thing that points out to you, “Okay, this is an interesting indicator. This is a real thing.” And in realizing that it exists and it’s real, in doing that, you can use that to understand or inform you of the fact that if you feel the resistance, then it means that you’re onto something. Keep moving forward, and here’s another quote from Steven Pressfield. He says, “Resistance is experienced as fear. The degree of fear equates to the strength of the resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise ,the more certain that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.” That’s why we feel so much resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no resistance. I think that last part is really, really true. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no resistance.

I didn’t feel any resistance today when I was changing the furnace filter, or when I was putting my socks on. Did I feel some resistance before I pressed record on this podcast episode? Yes. 100%. But knowing that the resistance exists helps to inform me that okay, this is an important thing for me to do, because I’m feeling resistance. If I wasn’t, I know that it maybe wouldn’t be as important.

Number 18. Figure out if you like the inside, or just the outside. Let me explain this a little bit. It’s common for people to sell you the outside of something. The outside looks like this, for instance. Blogging. Work for yourself! Pick your own schedule! Do what you want! Work in your PJs. But inside, it actually looks like this. Blogging! Finish that paperwork! Meet with the CPA! Review that contract! Write that post! Test that recipe! Follow up with that team member! Write that email! Post that on Instagram! Decide if we can meet with that person!

It’s not that any of those things are inherently bad, it’s just that the realities of the work are very different than what we see on the outside. In short, people see the outside, they see from the outside, and they look at that stuff, like “Work for yourself! Pick your own schedule! Do what you want! Be your own boss!” They say, “That looks pretty good.” But once you get on the inside, you realize that it looks very different. Those things are true, you can work for yourself, you can build your own business, you can pick your own schedule. But what comes along with that is a lot of stuff that people don’t necessarily realize, and it’s important that you lean into the inside in order to get the outside. Right? You lean into the things like paperwork or meeting with the CPA or renewing a contract or writing a post that you are enjoying that and liked that, or are willing to do that, in order to have some of the outside stuff as well.

Number 19. Build your own path, but know the path that others walk. Your path, it’s not going to be the same as others. It might be longer, or shorter. It might be bumpier, or smoother. It might take a hard right when somebody else continues to go straight. It’s tempting to think that you need to follow someone else’s path, which isn’t always a bad idea, but sometimes you can get on someone else’s path and realize that it’s not what you wanted. The scenery isn’t as good, or it’s not a good fit for you, or the bugs are really bad, or there’re weird animal noises that freak you out. But you walk that other path because you want to get to the same destination that you saw the other path walker get to. What’s the solution? Well, you have to build your own path. But no one understands the path that others walk. This means that you observe, you take note of, and learn how others have journeyed ahead of you. But instead of jumping in and following the exact same path, you step back and ask yourself, “What type of scenery do I like?” Or “What type of animals do I want to see?” Or “Do I like to hike in the morning, or the evening?”

You then combine the insight that you learned from watching other people in the paths that they walked with the self-awareness that you’ve gleaned from reflecting, and then you build your own path forward. That’s really important, because I think especially when it comes to learning about creativity, learning about businesses, learning about blogging, one of the easiest things to do is look at what other people are doing and do similar things. Again, that’s not inherently bad. But the reality of a lot of people that have experienced success in one way, shape, or form, is they’ve worked on their strengths. It’s not necessarily they’ve used a template, and they’ve built off of that. They know what their strengths are and they build on that. Now, can their path inform yours? Yes, but remember to be self-aware enough to know that what you’re good at might be very different, which means your path is going to look different as well.

Number 20. Our bonus one for the episode. The work is the end, not the means to the end. This is actually a good way to end this podcast, and that is to reflect on the fact that there isn’t an end. There’s no arrival, there’s no finish line. Are there goals achieved? Sure. Milestones reached? Yes. Achievements you celebrate, you bet. But when I look back at the past five years of publishing the income reports on Pinch of Yum, I realize that there was never a definitive point that I reached and felt like it was the end, or that we had arrived. I came to realize that the work in and of itself is the end. The day in and day out and day out and day in, this should be what you pursue. Not the end that the work can bring. In a way, that’s how I’m viewing this wrapping up of the income reports. It’s not the definitive end of something, but it’s just a change and an evolution in the work that we’re doing, which we’re so deeply honored to do and excited to continue to do.

That’s a wrap. I hope that you enjoyed this podcast episode. I really want to thank you, whether you follow along just for the podcast, maybe you follow along and you’re a member of Food Blogger Pro. Maybe you follow along with Pinch of Yum, or maybe you do it all! Whatever it is, we really appreciate you and the fact that you are joining us on this journey. It really means so much to us.

One more big reminder about the upcoming boot camp that we have. Foodblogger.com/bootcamp, and that will get you to the signup page. We are really pumped about that. We know a lot of people are interested in video and want to know more about video, and it’s really important. Those two things coincide to make for a really exciting event. Like I said, there’s already a thousand people here and we’re still a couple weeks out from the event, so I know that momentum will build with that, we’ll have a lot of energy around it, and we’ll be able to impact a lot of people and help to continue this journey that people are on with creating content that they’re proud of, kind of going back to that Ira Glass thing. You feel that tension, how do you close that gap? You continue to do the work, continue to learn, and we hope we can be a part of that.

Thank you so much for checking out this podcast, I really appreciate you guys, and make it a great week! Thanks guys.

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  1. Surely someone has already commented on this post here in FBP Heaven…I can’t be the first one! The Top 20 from Master Bjork is golden! Thank you for summarizing and providing all of this invaluable information. I for one studied your Income & Traffic Reports when I first discovered them to see how things changed for you and then over time, how those changes helped improve your overall results. The reports gave me hope that I too could begin at $21.97 net income one month and only go up from there! The sky is the limit! Thank you for sharing!!

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