370: How Caitlin Shoemaker Became a Full-Time Food Creator with 778K Subscribers on YouTube

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A computer and microphone and the title of Caitlin Shoemaker's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, '778K YouTube Subscribers.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti.

Welcome to episode 370 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Caitlin Shoemaker about how she became a full-time food creator and grew her YouTube channel.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Jessica Holmes about how to develop your voice and connect with your readers through your writing. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

778K YouTube Subscribers

YouTube is a great place to share your food videos, and there’s undoubtedly a lot of opportunity on the platform for food creators. And it’s what we’re focusing on in today’s episode with Caitlin!

In this interview, she shares how she grew her YouTube channel to over 778k subscribers. You’ll hear how she got comfortable being on camera, how she earns money sharing videos on YouTube, what her current video strategy looks like, and more.

If you want to start creating YouTube videos, or maybe you already post on YouTube and want to take your channel to the next level, we think you’ll have a lot of takeaways from this conversation. Enjoy!

A quote from Caitlin Shoemaker's appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'In general, if you show your face or your personality... you're probably more likely to gain more traction.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Caitlin started sharing food content online
  • Why she decided to launch her food blog
  • How she became a full-time content creator
  • What her different revenue streams look like
  • How she got more comfortable being on camera
  • How you can earn money sharing videos on YouTube
  • How she repurposes content across different social media platforms
  • What her YouTube content strategy looks like
  • What equipment she uses to film her videos
  • What tasks she outsources for her business


About This Week’s Sponsor

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

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

Sign up for Clariti today to receive:

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

You can learn more and sign up here.

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

Food Blogger Pro logo with the words 'Join the Community' on a blue background

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This podcast is sponsored by Clariti. That is C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com, and really the name says it all. The purpose of Clariti is to have a clear and straightforward tool that allows you to have clarity, that’s where the name comes from, into areas of opportunity for improving content on your blog, and managing those projects along the way. And what we found was for many bloggers, ourselves included, there either wasn’t a great system at all to manage projects or find areas of opportunity, or it was like Google Sheets or Airtable, which those are really powerful tools, and those are awesome tools.

Bjork Ostrom: And if you’re good at using Google Sheets or Airtable, and connecting all of the different elements that you need, more power to you. I think that those tools are incredible. But what we wanted with Clariti was to ease the burden of some of the more technical considerations that go into hooking all of that information up. And so with Clariti, what we’re doing is we’re bringing what we consider to be some of the most important information for publishers and bloggers, into the same place.

Bjork Ostrom: So Clariti brings in WordPress metadata. So how long your post is, what the links are, external, internal links, alt text within images or images that are maybe broken. We bring all of that information in. We bring in information from Google Analytics. So you connect your Google Analytics account, your Google Search Console account. All of that information comes into one central spot. And from there you can use Clariti to find opportunities. So maybe you want to improve the number of links that are coming to a certain post.

Bjork Ostrom: Just this morning, I looked for Pinch of Yum, and we have some new posts that we’re actually not linking to. So I made a note and I was like, oh my gosh, we need to link to these new posts that we’ve published within other posts. And I wouldn’t have been able to on my own, just think of that or check on that, if not for that being surfaced within Clariti. So you can find those opportunities, but then you can also create a project around those, to then make sure that you can check back and say, great, here’s what I need to do.

Bjork Ostrom: You can create tasks within that project and you can work through that to make sure that you improve that piece of content or that area of opportunity over time. And this is the key piece with it is you can take notes along the way. So you can look back three months, six months, a year from now and say, hey, that was an improvement that I made. Did that have an impact? Great. If it did, what are some other ways that I can do that in other places on my blog to continue to optimize and improve?

Bjork Ostrom: And what we’ve found is, especially for people who have been blogging for a certain number of years, a huge part of what you need to do is not only think about new content, but continually maintaining and optimizing your existing content. So it’s been fun to see Clariti grow as we’ve talked about it and shared with other publishers over the last year or so. And just last month we had 60 bloggers sign up to start using Clariti. If you want to check it out, the best way to do that is to go to clariti.com/food. So that C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food, and podcast listeners can receive 50% off of your first month if you go to that URL. And again, it’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this podcast.

Bjork Ostrom: Hey there, this is Bjork Ostrom. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We do this podcast on a weekly basis for people who are interested in building businesses or building a following online, and there’s lots of different ways that you can do that. And we try and hit that from all sorts of different angles, all the different ways that you can do it, all the different ways that you can build a business, all the different ways that you can build a following.

Bjork Ostrom: And today we’re going to be looking at the angle of video, and we’re going to be talking about YouTube, growing a following on YouTube, but also just video in general. We know that it’s really important. All the social platforms you’re seeing are making a shift towards video as an important component and in a way to connect with people. And it’s inevitable that’s the direction that things are going.

Bjork Ostrom: So we’re going to have a conversation today with Caitlin Shoemaker. She has a YouTube channel with almost 800,000 subscribers, and she also has a food blog and that food blog is an important part of her business. It’s called From My Bowl and has published cookbooks, and just has a lot of experience building a following online and also building her business from that following.

Bjork Ostrom: And we’re going to be talking about the strategies that she uses for creating content, how she does that strategically for different platforms, how she shoots, how she edits, and advice that she has for other people who are interested in using video to grow following, and to build their business. So it’s going to be a great conversation, excited to share it with you. Let’s go ahead and jump in. Caitlin, welcome to the podcast.

Caitlin Shoemaker: Thank you so much for having me Bjork, I’m so excited to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We were chatting about a few things before we pressed record. Video cameras, audio, all of these different things. We’re going to talk about some of those things, because we actually had some folks in our Facebook group who had some questions for you. But before we do that, I want to hear a little bit about the lay of the land with your business. You have a successful YouTube account, you have a successful blog, but one of the interesting things with your story is you started with YouTube and then you launched your blog a little bit later on. So take us back to the day when you started your YouTube account. Did you know that you wanted to grow it into a business or was it you being passionate about video and saying, hey, here’s a good platform for me to create content on?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yeah, sure. I definitely went about creating my blog in a roundabout way than what I would say the standard recommendation is. But at the end of the day, I do think it worked out for me well. I initially started out on Instagram just because I loved video and food photography and cooking. And I saw it as a great way to combine all of my interests and find a community of like-minded people. And then from there I went to YouTube because YouTube was really popular at the time, especially amongst the vegan community, it was more food-based and you would share recipes and it was just another way to connect with other people.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And I was just in college at the time doing it for fun. I was actually studying something completely different. I was on track to become a physical therapist, but then my YouTube slowly started to gain traction and I was able to start making money from my YouTube videos. And that changed my perspective. At first I thought it was just a fun side project, but then I was thinking that this is always a dream that I’ve had, maybe I should try to pursue it full time.

Bjork Ostrom: When was that you decided to do that?

Caitlin Shoemaker: So I ended up dropping out of that graduate school actually to work on YouTube and start my blog. And I’m very glad I did because I’ve been able to turn it into a successful six figure business. And I’m so grateful that I get to do what I love every day. But yeah, YouTube is definitely a sort of roundabout way. Typically when you’re creating recipes, the end goal I would say is to draw people to your blog where you have self-hosted ads and that way you make more revenue.

Caitlin Shoemaker: Whereas initially I was just posting the recipes in the comments or the caption of my YouTube video because I didn’t really realize that my blog was a way to further monetize my content, but then I actually came across a Food Blogger Pro podcast and learned about the importance of making a blog. So I would really owe a lot of credit to you guys.

Caitlin Shoemaker: I listened to a lot of episodes set up my blog, and then I started to just link the recipes from my YouTube videos to my blog. So in that regard, I think at that point I already had a couple hundred thousand subscribers on my YouTube channel. So I think that helped my blog get an initial push, that helped me get those consistent page views more rapidly than if I just started my blog from scratch because I had already curated a dedicated following of people who were interested in my recipes. And I also think that I’m not a total expert on this, but the domain authority of my YouTube channel at that point and then linking to my blog from that channel helped my blog gain a little more traction.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. I think when you think of the change that happens from creating content as a video creator to creating content as a blogger, those are two very different skills. Do you feel like that transition for you required you learning a new thing essentially? Or do you feel like you had some of the innate content creation ability from video first, that you just repurposed into blog post? Does that make sense?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yeah, I think there was definitely a bit of a learning curve at first, more I would say with the technical aspect. I think that I didn’t really know how to structure a blog post for SEO. And I was just used to writing out the recipe, maybe not even including substitutions, because it was just what I did and not really catering it to the user more, just sharing my own creative experience. But I would say the more I looked into it, the more I realized that there were a lot more technical aspects behind it.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And coming from a science background, I actually found that fascinating. I know stereotypically I guess, you would think people are either creative and they want to focus on food or they maybe have more of an analytical prowess and they like to explore that, but I looked at creating a blog as sort of a math or science equation. And I was like, well, how can I figure this out? How can I tinker with this formula to make my blog post appear higher up? So there definitely was a learning curve, but I think I just enjoyed the experience.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And I will say because I started with YouTube, I think later on, as we’re seeing the shift to video on other social media platforms, my experience in video that I already had through YouTube did help me with Instagram and then also putting videos on my blog, embedding the recipes themselves. So it’s a give and take and I don’t necessarily think any approach is the wrong one. I think I ended up doing what was best for me and it worked out in the end, but we can’t expect everyone to come out all guns blazing on all social media platforms, being the best at everything.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I think that’s insightful. One of the things that I think is important and that we try and touch on occasionally is the focusing on your platform of highest alignment. And what I mean by that is where’s the place that you are most easily able to create content and have the least amount of friction and being okay, not doing anything else. And for you, it sounds like that was YouTube and not only was it enjoyable, but you also got to the point where you were able to get some traction and actually start to create some money.

Bjork Ostrom: I’d be interested to hear. What was it like for you at that stage where you were in college, you were pursuing this path of physical therapy and also doing this side hustle, hustle/ hobby, hobby migrating into hustle. What did the decision-making process look like for you as you started to think about, maybe this could be a thing and that means of winding down this other pursuit or dream or path that I had in mind. Can you talk through what that stage looked like for you?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yeah, absolutely. I originally wanted to be a physical therapist because I thought that the field was very creative. So I’ve always been into doing something a little bit different every day, which now I found with food blogging. If I’m making a different recipe, it’s a different approach or technique. So I found that was a mutual interest between the two platforms, and it was definitely a challenge when I was in school.

Caitlin Shoemaker: It started it in undergrad, so I had a little bit more free time. But then in graduate school I actually ended up taking a risk and not getting a job to pay for my student loans. And I decided to try YouTube instead. So I definitely sort had a drive, almost a fear of failure, which isn’t necessarily the best motivating factor, but I was like, well, I need to pay my student loans, how can I approach this while also having fun? And we’ll experiment a little bit.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And I think I joined YouTube at a really good time when I was joining it, the platform was pretty well established, but it also was going through a phase where it was really highlighting food creators, especially I think vegan content creators. So I got extremely lucky and the videos that I started posting, YouTube started featuring, and it was resonating with a larger and larger and larger audience. So I realized, hey, I might actually have something here. So what I would do is strictly manage my time. During the week I would mostly focus on school, except maybe on my lunch break, I would dream up a few recipe ideas, et cetera.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And I tried to get all my studying done during the week, and then on my weekends I would be creating content for YouTube. I honestly don’t know how I did it. I was in graduate school from eight to five every day. And then I would film three YouTube videos a week for my YouTube channel, and looking back, I’m like, did I sleep? I’m not too sure. But thinking back on it though, I did have a lot of fun and obviously I did sacrifice some social situations for it, but I didn’t really feel like my life was lacking anyway. So it was something that I was so passionate about and I was creating an internet community that I felt like I was having social interactions with too.

Caitlin Shoemaker: So eventually I would say as my YouTube video started to gain more traction, internally, I was wishing I could spend more time on YouTube videos and I didn’t want to spend as much time on school. And so I started to question, hey, this is supposed to be my future full-time job, but I’m sitting in class, and instead of taking notes on how to rehab an ACL, I’m thinking about, oh, I should post this recipe video next week.

Caitlin Shoemaker: So that was of the biggest indicator for me that while I was once passionate about this prior… PT as a career, it wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. And I definitely had some worries about being a content creator full time. At the time it wasn’t seen as a sort of income. It was sort of, oh, you have a food blog. That’s cute.

Bjork Ostrom: When was this in terms of…. Around what time was this?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Let me see. I started my YouTube channel around six years ago. So probably around 2017, 2018, I would say is when I dropped out of graduate school to do blogging full time. And I would say that was when you started to see more paid partnerships on Instagram and YouTube of brands working with smaller creators. So I saw it as an opportunity to explore potentially making a full-time revenue and income stream from posting things online.

Bjork Ostrom: And did you have your blog at that point or was it YouTube strictly?

Caitlin Shoemaker: I think when I dropped out of graduate school at that time I had a blog, I think I’d had it for a couple of months. And around that time I was with an app provider, but it was a lower one where there was no minimum page views per month. So I wasn’t really making money with my blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Your YouTube account was?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yes, my YouTube account was making enough money. I would say. To pay my monthly rent and to pay for my groceries. So I had-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like college living, you haven’t had lifestyle inflation. As I remember a conversation with a friend and he’s coming out of an internship in college and it was like he got a job offer. And I think it was for, I don’t know, 36,000. And I remember us being like, what are you going to do with all that money? You’re starting out in your career and you haven’t had lifestyle inflation, and $36,000 is a lot of money. But as a lot of people know, as you start to get, whether it’s kids or housing or just general lifestyle inflation, suddenly you look back at that time and you’re like, wait, what happened in between that, that perspective changed? But it’s a great time to be starting a business because you don’t have these expenses that have built up in your life that require a certain amount.

Caitlin Shoemaker: I think I saw that opportunity and I realized as a person sharing an apartment with a roommate and not having a lot of monthly expenses, that was enough money for me to take a leap. And initially I did talk to my graduate school program and I just took a one-year leave of absence. So I had that as a fallback if I decided that this full-time blogging thing wasn’t what I actually wanted to do. But then a year quickly pass and I was making more than enough money to support my current lifestyle. So I was like yeah, no, I’m just going to do this full time.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Was it hard to… They talk about this idea of a sunk cost where you’ve invested either time or money into a thing and you can potentially think like, oh, I need to continue with that thing because of this previous investment of time that I’ve had or money. Was it hard for you to say, you know what? I’ve invested a lot of time and money into this career, and I’m going to actually not pursue that or was that actually not that difficult?

Caitlin Shoemaker: It was difficult for me, I would say, especially because it was a three-year program and by the time I decided to leave it a year had already passed. So part of me was like, well, it’s only two more years. It’s not that much time in my life, and I’ve already committed a third of the cost. And then now I’m leaving with no degree. So I think that prevented me from leaving sooner, if I’m being honest, because was sort of about what other people would think of me, about the time and money I had spent.

Caitlin Shoemaker: But then after talking to a few of my peers and friends, I realized that I think with my generation, we do go after, well, what’s really going to make me happy or what am I passionate about? And so I decided to attempt to leave. And now in retrospect, I don’t really regret spending a year in school. I mean, it stinks that I don’t have a degree, but I still use my knowledge that I learned in graduate school.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And I do think in some ways the research-oriented approach to the science that I learned in graduate school, I still can apply to my food job in some ways. And I had a good time while I was in graduate school. And for me physical therapy, I learned a lot about the human body. So I still use that in my own personal life.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s something that we discredit quite a bit, which is, a previous seemingly unconnected field or experience and how that can apply to what we’re doing. I think of Lindsay as a teacher, that was really valuable work. I worked at a non-profit and we would do partnerships with schools, speaking in front of kids. And it allowed me to feel really comfortable just doing a podcast interview as a for instance. And so I think it’s a good reminder for anybody who’s listening, that you might feel like you’re not equipped to go into a field, but chances are that you have skills and abilities that you’ve developed in a certain area, that can be applied in a new and unique way in a new field.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious to know, in those early stages, what did it look like for you to create an income? Was it YouTube ad revenue? Was it sponsorships? And how did you feel comfortable enough with that continuing moving forward? Because I think that’s always the question, it’s like, I have this history looking back of being able to… And I remember this for Lindsay and I, looking back saying, okay, we made enough to live off of, but what happens if we don’t have that moving forward? So how did you get to the point where you felt comfortable enough to say, you know what? I think this is going to continue moving forward, or maybe you didn’t know?

Caitlin Shoemaker: I would say, I didn’t know at first, like I mentioned, when I dropped out of grad school I was probably making, I would say between $1,500 to $2,000 a month on YouTube. And that was pretty much my income, but for a college student, I was like it’s not too bad. It covers my rent.

Bjork Ostrom: It covers what you need.

Caitlin Shoemaker: So I decided just to try it for a few months and because before I was of dedicating, maybe 20 hours a week to it, and then suddenly I had my whole week able to tackle things for my blog. I was able to create, I wouldn’t say more content, but better quality content, which I think was able to reach a larger audience. And around that time I had some YouTube videos that really started to take off and get hundreds of thousands of views, sort of went viral at the time, which gradually increased my income. And then everything I would say started to happen at once. So as my YouTube channel was growing, my Instagram account was also growing. And I started to get more offers from brands who wanted to pay me to promote their product. And then at the same time-

Bjork Ostrom: Was that on Instagram mostly or were you getting offers on YouTube as well?

Caitlin Shoemaker: I would say it was a combination, initially it was more Instagram. I think around that time I had around 50,000 or 60,000 followers on Instagram as well. And so I was getting some on there, and I had a few brands that I worked with on YouTube. It wasn’t as much, but the brands that I worked with were more interested in long term partnerships. So I saw that as more of a steady stream of income. I would partner with the brand for a year and I would post a video every other month featuring their product.

Caitlin Shoemaker: So eventually my income stream started to grow. I started to use affiliate links and that helped add. And then at the same time, I was also putting in time on my blog. And then eventually I got to the point where I was making around a hundred thousand page views a month. So I applied to AdThrive. And then once I switched to a better ad provider, that’s when I really started to make more consistent money from my blog. So it was sort of… A lot of things-

Bjork Ostrom: You diversified at that point too, which is great. You have YouTube and then you have your blog. You’re starting to make multiple thousands in those places. And it’s like, oh, suddenly you have a very healthy income that’s not from one place, sponsored content, Instagram, YouTube, your blog, that provides kind of some stability.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And that really helped me. I think I started to feel more secure and to know that this could be my full-time job when I started to get the more consistent long-term contracts, my blog income was stabilized per month. And I wasn’t only making enough to support my monthly means, but to have some in savings as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Were those brands reaching out to you or were you reaching out to them?

Caitlin Shoemaker: I actually let most of them reach out to me. I didn’t do a lot of outreach. I know that’s a great strategy and I have some friends who started making sponsored content through reaching out to other brands. But I actually, I think most of the brands did reach out to me, like I said, I had some YouTube videos go viral. So I think people were sort of experimenting with some YouTube sponsor content and they may have seen my video that way, or they may have come across my Instagram account, and that’s how they reached out to me.

Caitlin Shoemaker: I would say pretty soon after I left graduate school, I did sign with a manager, she takes a percentage of the sponsored income that I earned, but she does do some outreach for branch. So she ended up doing some outreach to branch, but I would also forward the emails I received for people looking to partner together.

Bjork Ostrom: Nice. And the idea with that, you get an email in, it’s great. But then if you’re the creator, then you’re like, oh, now I have to deal with the contract, negotiation. And so you have somebody that you work with in the management role where you just forward that on to them and say like, hey, I’m interested in this, or could you look into this. Is that generally how it works?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yes. Yeah. That I would think was one of the most helpful things for me in terms of giving me more free time to do the creative aspects of my job and have her handle the back end. So generally how it works is I’ll forward any conversations with brands to her. And it gives me the opportunity to play the good guy I can say, oh, I’m so excited to partner with you, here’s my manager, she’ll share all of the information with you. And then she can play hardball and be like, okay, well here are our rates.

Caitlin Shoemaker: How much money are you willing to give to this campaign? And if you can’t meet our budget, well, we’ll have to take a few things away, sort of all of the negotiation, which I’m not very skilled at. So it’s nice to have someone else do that for me. And then she’s also great at sending the reminders, hey, don’t forget to submit your content or okay now we need to submit the analytics. So it was a way for me to outsource some of the tasks that didn’t bring me as much joy.

Bjork Ostrom: Which is super smart, and as much as possible… Did an interview with, I don’t know if this has been released yet. I think it has. Emily Perron, and she is somebody who works with bloggers help create teams. She talked about this idea of working in your zone of genius. And I think for a lot of creators, not all creators, but for a lot of creators contract negotiation, probably isn’t zone of genius work. And so to find somebody who that is their zone of genius, there’s people who love negotiating and they love project management.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s part of leveling up as a creator is figuring out those people that are going to be a part of your team. They’re working in their zone of genius, you’re working in your zone of genius. Can sometimes for me, I think, feel like, wait, I’m giving this person this thing that I don’t like, and I feel bad about it, but it’s like, wait, you do like living in spreadsheets all day? I think of Pat, who is our fractional CFO. Great, you can work in spreadsheets all day. How did you find that person or did they reach out to you?

Caitlin Shoemaker: She reached out to me, but I think we had actually worked together on a previous partnership. So she was in the unique position where she used to work for a PR firm, and that specialized with brands, more specifically in the food niche. And then she left the firm to support creators instead. So I got very lucky, I’m realizing in this conversation. I had a lot of people reaching out to me, and she’s great. I haven’t switched management since I’ve worked with her this whole time, and she does a wonderful job.

Caitlin Shoemaker: But I do know that nowadays I think that influencer representation agencies are a lot more common now, where it’s something you can find either on Instagram or on Google. And I think you can apply to them nowadays too, that I will say a lot of them do reach out via email and have a whole marketing team as well if that’s something that people are interested in.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. One of the things you’ve mentioned a couple times that I would like to go back to is just being lucky. And I think that it’s important to point out. I think of it surfing analogy and I’ve used it a couple times, but I feel like luck plays into catching a good wave. And you talked about catching a good wave with YouTube or maybe somebody reaching out, but I think a huge part of it too, is being really good at surfing. You have to catch the wave and you have to surf it.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think that in the world of business or entrepreneurship or creating, it has to be both. And so this is just me affirming you as a creator. There’s the wave and that’s important, but it’s also… Part of the reason why people are reaching out, why brands are reaching out, why you’re able to grow your YouTube account to almost 800,000 at this point, is because the content you’re creating is having an impact and people are resonating with it. So I think that’s an important piece to point out.

Bjork Ostrom: To really go back a little bit, or maybe it’s not even going back, but I’m just curious to know, as a creator, do you feel like stepping in front of the camera pressing record, which is a lot of what YouTube would be. And my guess is a lot of the success of YouTube is your personality. Showing up, recording, being somebody that people can connect with. Was that something that you feel like was innate? They talk about you can’t teach running.

Bjork Ostrom: People who are fast runners, they’ve trained and they’re really good, but you can’t teach it. You have people who are good runners. I’m curious to know. Do you feel like that also applies to building a brand on YouTube like you’ve done where you can just press record and step in front of the camera? Because some people are like, I don’t want to be in front of the camera. And can you train that or do you feel like that was also part of who you were?

Caitlin Shoemaker: I would say it’s probably a combination of both. I mean you can go on my YouTube channel. I haven’t deleted a single video. And if you look back at my initial videos, I can’t even watch them because to me, I look very awkward and uncomfortable and it is about putting yourself out there. And I do think with practice, you get a little better at delivering what you want to say and sharing more of your personality.

Caitlin Shoemaker: I also think personality-wise, I’m a pretty introverted person. So it’s always been easier for me to have one on one conversations or even in this case, speak to a camera. I think a lot of people think YouTubers are very outgoing and extroverted, but usually when you meet content creators in real life, you realize that a lot of us are more introverted or quiet, but it’s just the way YouTube cuts work that people seem like they’re always talking because we are, it’s a one-sided conversation, but it is a lot easier to talk to a camera for me than to talk to a large group of people.

Caitlin Shoemaker: So I’d say even from the get go, that did help me. I just felt like, well, no one else is in the room. No one else is looking at me. It’s just me talking to a camera. And if I mess up my words, I can say them again and I can edit it out. So I saw that as a better way. It’s easier for me than public speaking, I guess. And I will say the more YouTube I’ve done, the better I have gotten at speaking more fluidly. Initially it would take me five seven tries to say a sentence and I would have a lot of jump cuts because I would be stumbling over my words.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And now with YouTube, I also think I have a more relaxed attitude about it, where if I do mess up, it shows my personality. It shows that I’m human. And a lot of times I am able to speak more fluidly and I don’t need to make any edits or if I mess up, I just laugh about it and move on and people appreciate it as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So I think of Pinch of Yum’s YouTube account and essentially it’s the anti example of what a YouTube account should be, which is essentially just like us repurposing video that we’re putting in other places. Do you think you can build a successful YouTube account without being in front of the camera or do you think it needs to be personality driven?

Caitlin Shoemaker: I think that it is possible, I will say. I think YouTube is a really interesting social media platform, in that it’s more long-form content. So people aren’t going to go to YouTube to watch a 15-second video. They’re probably going to go to another platform, although there is YouTube shorts now, but that’s relatively new. I think there needs to be some sort of personality in the video, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be you or your face. Even within the food community itself on YouTube, I think there are so many creators who are doing a wide variety of things, even though they all revolve around food.

Caitlin Shoemaker: So I would say yes, the majority of people, they are talking to the camera, whether it’s a TV show style appearance, or for me, I talk to the camera at the beginning and end of the video. And then I do overhead for the recipes, but there are also YouTube channels who are more, I would say ASMR focused where it’s more peaceful and calming. And some of those, I think there’s one-

Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain what that, for those who aren’t familiar?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yes. Yes. ASMR mostly focuses on the food sounds and a lot of people find it sort of calming and almost meditative to here, the sizzle of something being seared in a pan or the bubbling of a pasta sauce. It’s not for everyone. Personally I enjoy it. But a lot of those videos, they come for more of a quiet, calming approach. I wouldn’t say that is the norm, but I do think it’s possible. That being said, I think YouTube is a hard platform to initially gain traction in, which is the case for a lot of social media platforms.

Caitlin Shoemaker: Usually your first a thousand followers is the hardest, but I think it can be done. It’s really interesting to see how people have taken the genre of food and bent it in all sorts of ways. I think in general, if you show your face or your personality, statistically speaking, you’re probably more likely to gain more traction. And then also if you don’t want to share your face to the camera, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Caitlin Shoemaker: I think there are lots of platforms who are very well suited to that, or maybe TikTok or Instagram is slightly better suited to that. And that might be more worth your time because YouTube videos do take longer to edit because they’re longer form content. So it might not be worth your time investment if you have a different way of doing things that you prefer to stick with, where you can go through TikTok or Instagram, where you can post shorter content.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you help me understand monetization on YouTube? I understand ads well on blogs. Okay. What is the RPM? When is that going to peak? Okay. December and November going to be great. It’s going to dip in January. I have an idea for that. YouTube, it’s like I have no idea. And in my head, the number that I always use is for, I know this depends on the genre. If you create insurance content like that, you’re probably going to get paid more because you’re running ads against high-value things like insurance or crypto, for example. But in the food space… Well, the number in my head that I have is for every thousand views, you get $1, is that generally accurate or there so many it depends with that. That it’s not worth using that.

Caitlin Shoemaker: So YouTube is very interesting in terms of the rate. It definitely changes. It’s something I could personally look into more. It definitely changes by quarter and you’re paid by video view. But what is unique about YouTube is that the ad that you get before your video can be totally unrelated to your content. It’s more just based on your personal search history. And it’s interesting. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience with running a blog, but sometimes your blog will run ads that people don’t like and they associate it with your brand and you might get a comment or a message, but on YouTube-

Bjork Ostrom: Political or yeah.

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yes, exactly. But on YouTube, the ad runs on a different page. The video title is different. So people disassociate the ad that you see in your video or before from your content. So there’s less of a connection between it. And YouTube, when I first joined, anyone could join and monetize their videos. So you didn’t need to have a minimum amount of subscribers or watch hours. I know in the past few years, YouTube recently changed that. I’m not sure if the exact number, because I already have it, but you need a certain amount of subscribers, maybe we can add it to this show notes or something, or a certain amount of watch hours to start monetizing your account.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And I will say initially, you don’t make much. I was probably making… Once I got accepted in the program, maybe like $300 a month. You need to have a lot of views on your videos in order to make money. And I think you’ll notice too, even the largest YouTubers, it’s typically not their only income stream. They typically sell merch or maybe they go on tour or maybe they have a book or they use Patreon. Usually people have some other supplemental income, even the ones who are getting millions of views on their videos.

Bjork Ostrom: And I just looked up those numbers, it’s a thousand subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. *-And then that allows you to apply to the program where you can monetize content. If you had a video with a hundred thousand views, would you have an idea of how much you’d expect to get paid for that or is that maybe you’re not jumping into the specifics of what that looks like?

Caitlin Shoemaker: I don’t jump into the specifics too much honestly. I can look at my creator studio though. It really depends on the month. And the thing about YouTube is it’s really hard to divide it by video because you just get paid every month based on the total sum of views on all of your videos. So it’s more like all of my videos got this many views. They do break it down by video. I think if you look further into the analytics, but honestly off the top of my head. I don’t know, sorry.

Bjork Ostrom: As a classic creator, it’s like, that’s where the focus is.

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yeah. Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Speaking of creating. So you’ve talked about multiple platforms. YouTube is obviously a really significant one. At the time of recording, you have 778,000 subscribers, which is incredible. How do you think about repurposing content? So you talked about YouTube being longer form. Obviously the other platforms, Instagram, TikTok are shorter form. When you’re creating content, are you doing one piece so to speak of content, that you think about repurposing into multiple different platforms?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yes, definitely. I would say, especially for me when I was in school, I needed to repurpose as much content as possible because I only had a certain amount of hours per week to work on something. So my mentality was, if I’m making a recipe, I’m going to be posting it on my blog. I’m going to be posting it on Instagram. And I’m also going to be posting it on YouTube because I don’t have time to come up with three separate ideas. So, that definitely helped me a lot.

Caitlin Shoemaker: Nowadays I outsource more, so have more free time. But I would say initially my process was, I would come up with a recipe idea for my blog. I would photograph it. I would use those photos on Instagram, it was more of a photo dominant platform. And then I would also film the video and put it on YouTube.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And then as the internet has changed, the YouTube default aspect is more of the landscape ratio, which worked out perfectly because then I could edit that video down and embed that in my blog post as a video player, which got me more revenue. And then I’ll even say when Instagram started announcing video, I filmed a lot of the overhead, like hands and pans sort of tasty style content. So I would just rotate the YouTube video 270 degrees, and just change the asset because I didn’t have time and I’d be like, that works for Instagram. So I’ll just post it like that on there too.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And I would say initially that worked really well for me. I’ve noticed over the last few years, especially, that Instagram and TikTok seemed to prioritize phone-based content, which is interesting for me because I mean, I come from a DSLR background. I’m like, well we want the highest quality? But I think people are just used to seeing phone videos. So that’s what they want now. So nowadays I do film each recipe twice. I film it once using my phone and I use that still for Instagram and TikTok.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And then I film it with the other aspect and I use that for my blog videos. Sorry, I film that with my DSLR camera and I use it for my blog videos. And then I use that in YouTube. So now usually with YouTube, I’ve noticed that multiple recipe videos tend to do well. So maybe over the span of a month, I’ll be like this month, we’re focusing on pasta recipes. So I’ll post three new pasta recipes on my blog, and then I’ll create a YouTube video combine and all those together. And I’ll say three 30-minute pasta recipes you need to try. And people tend to like longer format content and also content that can be useful in more settings. So typically multiple recipe videos for me personally do better than if I just said lemon pepper pasta.

Bjork Ostrom: So you would create three different pieces of content in your blog, which makes sense. But what you’re saying is you’ve noticed when you round up that content on YouTube, it performs better than if each one of those was a separate piece of content. Do you have any ideas why that is?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Honestly, I think it might have something to do with clickbait because if my title just title says here are three recipes. Well what are the recipes? They look pretty good in the photo, but I don’t know exactly what they are. I also think with YouTube people want more content, whether that could be multiple recipes. So for example, I’ve filmed the recipe, everything I ate for lunch, quick work week, lunch ideas, and people like that because there are five to seven ideas in there. So even if one doesn’t resonate with them, another one might.

Caitlin Shoemaker: I think another approach that I don’t personally do, but that works well is making a recipe and going super in-depth with the recipe. So you see popular channels like Bon Appétit, where they’ll spend 12 to 20 minutes talking about a recipe, going through the process, the history, their personal connection with it. I think when people come to YouTube, they want longer format content. So whether that’s more variety or more in-depth, they want one or the other, I would say. And for me with time constraints and in terms of repurposing content, it’s easier for me to just stitch videos together because if I wanted a super in-depth recipe, I would have to refilm that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we have a couple questions here coming in from the Facebook group that would love to talk through, and one is around equipment. So you had mentioned shooting at DSLR, and Julie is asking “What camera and filming equipment do you use?” So any recommendations for people who are looking for equipment?

Caitlin Shoemaker: So for my blog, YouTube and food photography, I still use DSLR cameras just because I think the photo content and quality is better. People who would typically stick to one brand. So I’m a Canon girl. So I have a Canon 5D, I think Mark III that I use through my photos. And then for videos I have, unfortunately they don’t make this anymore. I don’t think, but it’s the Cannon 70D. It has a flip screen that you can rotate all the way. So I have found that personally helpful. I would say nowadays mirrorless cameras are pretty much on par with DSLR cameras and the video quality is. I would say slightly better.

Caitlin Shoemaker: I haven’t changed my system just because I’ve already invested money into it and it’s working well for me. But if I was someone looking to invest in a system, I would maybe look into that. The Bite Shot, she has a YouTube channel. I think she has been on this podcast, but I would really recommend her. Joanie knows what she’s talking about in terms of photography, and I think she has a whole blog post on cameras that she recommends if you’re looking for more specifics. But that’s what I use for blog and YouTube.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And then for Instagram, I just use… I have an iPhone 13. I actually have a separate phone. It has no service attached to it. I just use it for work. And it’s great because it keeps me focused when I’m actually working. But I was at the point where I wanted a different camera. I wanted something that shot in more 4k or had higher quality for Instagram videos. And I was like, well, an iPhone’s basically the same price as a camera. It seems like people are preferring this content. So I decided to just purchase an iPhone. And I will say once I started posting iPhone videos, for some reason they did seem to get more attraction on Instagram and TikTok. That could be anecdotal, but I thought it was interesting.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the weird things with the algorithm is like, is this what it is? It sure seems like it. But it’s hard to confirm. We did the same thing. And if you have the budget for it, that’s the big consideration, but it’s really nice to be able to separate your work phone from your personal phone. And you can also then keep the thousands of random food images out of your photo stream as an example. One of the things you had mentioned was outsourcing, what does that look like for you and how have you been strategic about outsourcing, because you had mentioned that resulting in just having more free time as well?

Caitlin Shoemaker: So as my business has grown, I’ve definitely started to outsource more. As you said, the tasks that I don’t feel super passionate about doing. So it initially started with my manager who oversees my partnerships. And then after that I ended up hiring a virtual assistant who helped with my email scheduling. That’s just something I’m not interested in. So I was happy to let someone else do that for me. So they do more email scheduling and then they respond to blog comments that don’t necessarily need my expertise, whereas thanking someone for making a recipe or offering a simple substitution.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And then since then I have also hired a video editor, which saved me a lot of time because editing videos can be very labor-intensive, especially for longer format content like YouTube. She helps me a lot. And then I also have someone who helps me format my blog post and does more copywriting. I write a basic skeleton of a recipe and she fills in because nowadays it’s not really about sharing a personal story. It’s more answering 20 semi-related questions to the recipe and providing specific details on how to make something, so Google is happy. So she handles that for me, so I can focus more on creating the content.

Bjork Ostrom: How did you find those people to work with?

Caitlin Shoemaker: My manager reached out to me and then actually for the rest of the people, I actually pulled my audience because I wanted someone who was already interested in my blog and passionate about the work that I did. And I just created a Google Form. And I asked them a variety of questions based on their availability. And I had them submit a resume. The video I was more particular about, I did have people edit a trial video versus just applying and then based on your resume, getting accepted. But I thought it was good to pull my audience, just because they already knew my style, my theme, what my essential core values were for the blog, and how I wanted it to grow, versus looking at some other website where someone might not be as familiar with my content and as more of a learning curve initially.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So is that a social media post that you put out, an email that you sent. As an example, we’re hiring for a virtual assistant, here’s what the job is, here’s how you can apply.

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yeah, personally, I’ve always just done it through Instagram. I would just post an Instagram story with a link. And for me I had an overwhelming response, so I didn’t feel like I needed to further do it. So I think I posted the link twice. So there were two 24 hour windows where someone could apply and I ended up getting hundreds of applicants through there, and that was already overwhelming enough for me. So I just cut it off at that, but email would definitely been my second route.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. So as we come to the end here, I’m curious to hear your reflections on what the most important things were for you as you grew your business. If you look back at the last six years, seven years, the things that you can pinpoint as, hey, this was really important and it might not have been a single moment, but maybe a mindset you had or something you consistently did or maybe it was a single moment that was really important, a concept that you learned.

Bjork Ostrom: Is there anything that you’re able to look back on to say, you know what? This was really significant from the moment that I was like, I’m not going to go in the direction of physical therapy. I’m going to go in the direction of being a creator, and till now where you have a team, you’re extremely successful business, what were those things along the way that you feel like were most significant?

Caitlin Shoemaker: I think with YouTube, especially, but with all my social media platforms, one of the biggest things for me has been really connecting with and trying to understand my audience, because as a creator, I have certain projects or recipes that I want to create, but I’ve always valued my audience’s feedback, whether through an Instagram poll, asking them if there’s any recipes they want me to make or on YouTube, especially paying attention to the videos that people are choosing to interact with and the comments that they’re leaving, whether it’s asking for more or asking for further clarification on a topic. That was how it came up with a lot of my content ideas initially, listening to what people wanted.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And then from there, if you’re listening to your audience and creating content that they’re asking for, they’re more likely to watch it again. But I think it really helped me have an understanding of what my audience was looking for. And my niche specifically, I try to focus on easier recipes that you don’t need to be five star chef to make, but they’re still tasty and approachable.

Caitlin Shoemaker: And I think as I’ve continued to listen to my audience, create content like that, you create a dedicated group of people who are interested in seeing my take on a chocolate chip cookie. It may not be the top ranking one on Google, but because we have this long term relationship and they trust my recipes, they’re going to see if from my bowl has a cookie recipe before going to Google, which is very valuable.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I love that. It’s one of the things that I think is really underrated, which is talking and listening to your audience, and being humble in not assuming you know what people want, but letting them inform you of that. And there’s obviously a balance with that where you want to make sure it’s still stuff that you’re interested in and passionate about. But as long as they’re already following you, there’s a good chance that it aligns with directionally where you want to go.

Bjork Ostrom: So last question for you. You zoom back in time and you’re sitting in a biology class, learning about whatever physical therapist learn about, and you’re like future self sits down next to your past self and you’re like, hey, here’s some advice. What would the advice be? This would be more like mindset. What would the advice be that you’d give to your past self as you’re entering into this journey?

Caitlin Shoemaker: Honestly, I think I would tell myself to worry less and trust in myself more, which might be a common response, but coming from the whole uncertainty, is this going to be my full-time career? Should I drop out of school? Initially I was definitely comparing myself to a lot of other creators, which I think is something a lot of creators get caught up in. I see what five different people are doing really well. And I think I need to do all five of those things, but at the end of the day, that just leaves you scattered.

Caitlin Shoemaker: But the more I listen to myself and this is what I personally am passionate about, these are what my strengths are. I need to trust that my audience will sort of find me. I think that’s when I started to create content that resonated more with other people. And I was able to pave my own path. And now I have some things that I’m great at, some things that other people are great at. And there’s plenty of space on the internet for everyone.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Caitlin, if people want to follow along with what you’re up to, where do they go?

Caitlin Shoemaker: You can find me on YouTube @CaitlinShoemaker and then everywhere else, Instagram and TikTok. And my blog it’s frommybowl.com for the blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Thanks Caitlin. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Caitlin Shoemaker: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Leslie Jeon: Hello. Hello. Leslie here, from the Food Blogger Pro team. We really hope that you enjoyed this episode. Before we sign off, I wanted to quickly mention the Food Blogger Pro podcast Facebook group, in case you haven’t joined yet. It is a great place that you can go to, to continue the conversation outside of our episodes. So in the Facebook group, we do open calls for interview ideas, we do Q and A with podcast guests. So you can ask the guest questions based on the episodes. And then we also have an opportunity for you to submit your own questions for upcoming interviews.

Leslie Jeon: So in the Facebook group, you can help shape the future of the podcast and the episodes, and it’s just a fantastic place to continue the conversation and interact with our guests. So if you haven’t joined and you would like to do so, you can join the Facebook group by going to foodbloggerpro.com/facebook. You’ll be asked to answer just a few short questions, and then we’ll approve your registration and you’ll have full access to the Facebook group. That’s all we’ve got for you today though. Thanks again for tuning in and until next time, make it a great week.

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