Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.
This episode is sponsored by InfluenceKit.
Welcome to episode 348 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Camila Hurst from Pies and Tacos about leaning into a niche and blogging as a creative outlet.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Bet Hannon from Bet Hannon Business Websites about how to build an accessible website. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Leaning into a Niche
Today, we’re so excited to be chatting with Camila Hurst from Pies and Tacos! She has been blogging since 2017, and while she originally started out posting both savory and sweet recipes, she has now shifted her focus to primarily sharing content about macarons.
In this episode, you’ll hear why she decided to narrow her content focus, how blogging has been such an important creative outlet for her over the years, and how she’s been leveling up her business by growing her team.
No matter where you are in your blogging journey, we know that you’ll find Camila’s story and insights both inspiring and encouraging. We hope you enjoy this episode!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Camila started sharing recipes online and launched her blog
- How cooking and meditation helped get her through a difficult season in life
- How she narrowed her content focus and leaned into a niche
- How she grew her traffic by focusing on SEO and Pinterest
- What tasks she decided to outsource for her business
- What she shares in her Macaron School
- What her different revenue streams look like
- Why she’s hoping to create a course soon
- How she works with a video editor
- Pies and Tacos
- No Diets Allowed
- Everything Food Conference
- Meditate – Marisa Peer
- Julie Ela Grace – Insight Timer
- Pinch of Yum Income and Traffic Reports
- Simple Pin Media
- Email on Autopilot
- Macaron School
- Macaron School Cookbook
- Fantastic Filled Cupcakes Cookbook
- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Adobe Lightroom
- Follow Camila on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
- Check out the Food Blogger Pro YouTube channel (and subscribe while you’re there!)
About This Week’s Sponsor
We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our friends at InfluenceKit!
InfluenceKit is the only tool that lets you:
- View real-time influencer campaign data
- Create and share professional reports through a simple link
- Prove your work’s value to the sponsors that you work with
- And more!
It’s a super slick tool that we love using over at Pinch of Yum, and you can make an InfluenceKit report for free today to see how it works.
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This episode of the podcast is sponsored by our friends, literally these are my friends, Bruno and Chris at InfluenceKit. We actually use InfluenceKit, that’s one of the things that I said when we were starting to do these podcast ads. I said, “I want to make sure that these are companies that it’s super easy for me to talk about.” And InfluenceKit is one of those because we use them to make reports for our sponsors on Pinch of Yum, which is our food blog, as many of you know. And it’s actually come up multiple times, both from brands and creators, who have come on the podcast. They’ve mentioned InfluenceKit. It’s just come up and we’ve actually had InfluenceKit on the podcast twice to be interviewed. So why are sponsored content reports so important? I think you know if you’re a creator. But sponsors pay you money for a blog or social media post, and these reports cover post performance, engagement, and reach, and it’s a great way to prove your value.
Bjork Ostrom: So what you’re doing in the world as an influencer or a creator or a publisher is you’re saying, “The things that I’m creating are really valuable,” and you’re needing to prove that to a brand. And one of the best ways to do that is a really clear, easy-to-understand report. So you could build these reports manually, which that word should always be a little bit of a red flag. We shouldn’t be doing stuff manually. We have these incredible computers and incredible software to help build these things. And like I often say, the best first hire that you can make probably isn’t a person, it’s software. This is an example. So you can build these reports manually by pulling all of those links and numbers one by one into a static document or a PDF, or you could just use InfluenceKit, which generates the reports automatically.
Bjork Ostrom: And this is the really cool part. It keeps them updated as your content gets more traffic and shares. So let’s say in the old way you would have a Pinterest pin, for instance, maybe you post something to Pinterest or an Instagram post or Instagram reel, let’s say, and you’re posting that and it gets a bunch of traffic, but all that traffic and interaction and engagement comes after the fact, it comes after you’ve shared that PDF with the brand. They’re not going to see that. But if you use InfluenceKit, it’s going to update in real-time. So when they look at the report, it’s going to be the actual live numbers. It’s awesome and it’s a perfect fit for people who listen to this podcast. So InfluenceKit, super slick tool we love using. And if you go to kit.new, K-I-T, dot, N-E-W, you can create an InfluenceKit report for free so you can check out how it works.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s the easiest way to take the next step with any type of software is just to interact with it and use it a little bit, and you can see. So if you have some type of sponsor content deal that you have coming up, you can use InfluenceKit for free by going to kit.new to check it out, you just have to enter some information and you’ll get all signed up. Takes a few seconds to create a report, and you’ll quickly realize how valuable they are for content creators and sponsors. So both for you and the brand, because you’re able to prove your value. Again, it is kit.new, K-I-T, dot, N-E-W to create a free report on InfluenceKit. And thanks to the team over there for sponsoring this episode. It’s the first non TinyBit sponsor that we’ve had, and we love what they’re up to. I couldn’t think of a better match. So thanks to InfluenceKit for sponsoring this episode.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey, Hey, Hey, it’s Bjork. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Today, we’re having a conversation with Camila Hurst from Pie and Tacos. She’s going to be sharing some really inspiring parts of her story. She’s going to be talking about what it was like to grow up in Brazil, move the United States. What a season it was for her, the season of moving to the US and figuring out life, and the season of loneliness and how she came out of that. And what really helped her come out of that was this creative outlet of photography, recipe development, and building her business. And she has built that and she has found success with it. She has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, and tens of thousands of followers on YouTube and TikTok, and she’s going to be talking about what that was like to use this creative outlet to help guide her through this difficult season and some of the things that she’s learned along the way.
Bjork Ostrom: And also, what it was like for her to focus in on some really specific niches, a specific niche. And she actually started with this idea of savory and sweet pies and tacos, and then decided to really focus in on sweet, and she’s going to be talking about why she did that and what that has meant for her as she’s focused in on this niche. So one of the things I love about this interview and about this conversation is that so much of what we’re doing here is beyond tactical. So much of what we hear as advice is, “Do this thing in order to increase your following. And here’s a tip or trick or a hack.” But so much of it really comes down to making sure we’re understanding where we’re at, the self-awareness of what we need in order to show up every day and be our best self.
Bjork Ostrom: And sometimes we’re burnt out, sometimes we’re tired, sometimes we need a creative outlet. And all of those different factors or considerations that then ultimately play into how we create work in the world. And that’s what I love about this conversation is that you really see that as a through-line, is we need to understand how to be our best selves in order to do our best work. So I think you’ll enjoy this conversation with Camila Hurst from Pie and Tacos. Oh, and one more thing before we jump in. I just remembered this. I want to give a shout-out to the Facebook group. Raise your hand if you are part of the Food Blogger Pro podcast Facebook group. We actually have almost 350, it’ll probably be 350 folks who are a part of that now, and these are just podcast listeners that want to become VIP podcast listeners.
Bjork Ostrom: So you can ask questions ahead of time when we share a guest that we’re going to be interviewing. Sometimes those guests come on after and answer any questions, and it’s just a great way for us to continue the conversation in another place. Podcasts are hard places to have conversations, and so we wanted to find a way to have podcast conversations in a more conversational way, and that for us is this Facebook group. So you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/facebook to get access. You’ll need to apply, I think is what it’s called, or request to join. And if you do that, we’ll review that. And unless it’s some weird scenario, we’ll probably let you in. So again, that’s foodbloggerpro.com/facebook if you want to be a part of that group. No cost to join, just would love for you to join the conversation. All right, now for real, let’s get into the podcast. Camila, welcome to the podcast.
Camila Hurst: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s going to be a great conversation. One of the things that I’m really excited to talk about is the success you’ve had with your site and some of the strategies you’ve had around that, focusing on a niche, building out a school, educational component of it. But before we do that, I want to rewind the tape to what was just a 10 year anniversary of your moving from Brazil to the United States. Take me back to that moment. What was it like when the plane wheels landed, and where was your headspace at, at that point?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, so I came here with an exchange program. It was just supposed to be four months, and I only came with one suitcase and I was working at McDonald’s. That was the program, I came through McDonald’s to work there and, you know…
Bjork Ostrom: In what city?
Camila Hurst: I was in upstate New York, it was called Schenectady. Yeah, and then I ended up meeting my husband when he was here and it was hard to go back to Brazil.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.
Camila Hurst: So I just ended up staying, we got married, and started building a family, and I started building my life. Yeah, I just felt when I came here, you know those feelings that you feel like you belong? I had that immediate feeling when I got here. I felt like I belonged and-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, can you pinpoint that to anything? What was it about how you felt where you were that made it felt like you belonged? Was it specific to the people that were around you or the place or climate of New York, snow on the ground?
Camila Hurst: Right, yeah. I think it was a little bit of that too, but it was an immediate thing. Maybe even on the plane coming here, I was already feeling it. And when I got here yeah, of course, New York City, that’s the first place I landed. I spent a week in New York City to do the training for the program, and it’s just beautiful. I was amazed about everything in New York City, and things that we only see in the movies in Brazil. And I was seeing that in person and it was just amazing. But it was just the people and talking and the culture. And I don’t know, I saw a future here. I just felt like I belonged.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What are the things just, out of curiosity, that you miss the most about Brazil?
Camila Hurst: My family, of course. And in the beginning, it was the food. I missed the food a lot. But mostly my family, just having that… My family’s very, very united and together. To this day, every day, we talk all day long on WhatsApp. We face chat every day. I’m very close to my sisters. We talk every single day, and it’s like that in person too. Everybody’s at each other’s houses, and we are all celebrating everything together. So I miss that a lot being here, because I don’t really have family here. And yeah, so that’s what I miss the most.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. One of the things I realized, my wife Lindsay and I spent a year in the Philippines, and the Philippines is so different than the United States, especially an area in the Midwest like Minnesota. Where in the Philippines, you just are hanging out with family all the time. And even if you have a small house, people are just together all the time. And you look at culturally different places and the role that family plays, that just looks different from place to place. And I would consider myself to be really close with my family, talk to my parents often. But then you go to the Philippines and it’s like, “Oh, people are with their family in a really different way and live their life in a different way than what I would consider to be, oh, I’m close with my family which means I see them every two to three weeks and we’d hang out for three hours.” And it’s like, “No, you’re just hanging out a lot.” Is that true, would you say, broadly speaking for Brazil, or it sounds like for your family specifically?
Camila Hurst: It’s definitely a cultural thing. It’s a Brazil thing. People are very, very close to family, the notion of family. And you buy a house next to your mom’s house. My mom lives on the same road as my grandma, she goes there every single day still to my grandma’s house. So it really is like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. To me, it feels like such a good thing. It feels like what we need, which is close connections to people who we know, like, and trust, and family being oftentimes, not always, but the most obvious example of that. There was a time where Lindsay’s sister, her family was looking at buying a house that neighbored her parents’ house. And we were like, “Wow, that sounds awesome to be close to family.” And again, I know that’s not true for everybody. The idea of being close to family for some people, it would be like, “Absolutely not.”
Bjork Ostrom: But there was something about it that seemed like, “Wow, that would be really cool to just have our kids be close to their grandparents.” And so I can understand that. And you also mentioned food, which is a good transition into talking about what you do. You have a successful food business, food blog, social media following. At what point along the way did you say, “Hey, you know what? I want to start something, and the thing I’m going to start is publishing content online, specifically recipes.” And was any of that tied back to like, “Hey, I want to make the food that I miss and publish that.” Or was it just like, “Hey, I just want to publish recipes online and we’ll figure out a niche that makes sense to focus on.”
Camila Hurst: Right. So I grew up in a bakery. Like I said, my grandma lives on the street that my mom lives, and my grandma had a bakery there for 50 years. So I grew up in a bakery. I always loved baking. I always loved being in the kitchen playing cooking TV shows with my mom while she was cooking dinner. I was pretending I was being the host of the show. So I always liked that scene. And when I was here in America by myself in New York, I didn’t have family, didn’t have a lot of friends, didn’t know a lot of people. And on my days off from work, I would just cook my husband all these five-course meals, very elaborate meals, because I had all this time. So I would just be doing that and I’d be writing my own recipes down, and I loved changing recipes, making up my own stuff. And I would just spend my time doing that because I had a lot of depression at the time from being far from my family.
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely.
Camila Hurst: Yeah, so that was like my therapy, just being in the kitchen and cooking, and mainly baking is what I love to do the most. And I would just write those recipes down. And I had seven binders of recipes that I had handwritten and made my own recipes after a couple of years. And I started taking pictures of them, just snapshots with my phone. And I started posting on Instagram. And that’s how I started connecting with people that were like me that liked to cook, liked to bake at home, because I didn’t really have that type of connection in person with people from my circle, because I was very obsessed with doing it, and I still am. And people online are the same way. People on Instagram from the food community, it’s an amazing community.
Camila Hurst: The bloggers and just the people that post their foods to the macaron community, mainly that’s what I’m really into now. So I started making those connections with people, posting on Instagram, and I wanted to share the recipes. And people would be like, “Do you have a recipe for this?” And I’m like, “Okay, I got to post a recipe.” And I was on a food photography Facebook group, and I saw that Kami from Everything Food Conference, she had posted something that they had a blog, No Diets Allowed, and they were looking for people to write recipes for their blog. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, this would be perfect. I really want to do this.”
Camila Hurst: So I got the gig to write recipes for No Diets Allowed. And for a few months, I did that. And I was writing recipes for the blog, I learned a little bit of SEO at the time. Learned know how to do WordPress because we had to post the recipes. I was trying to improve my photography because that’s a part that I lacked a lot at the time. I wanted my pictures to reflect what the food was actually like to me. And so I was trying to improve all those things and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to do my own blog where I can just do my own thing and just post whatever I want whenever I want and just write about whatever it is that I want, all my personal recipes.” And then just a few months later after I got into-
Bjork Ostrom: When was this? What year was it?
Camila Hurst: So I started my Instagram in May 2017. And then I think in August I got into No Diets Allowed, the blog.
Bjork Ostrom: And that’s, for context, Kami, who had a conference called Everything Food, also had a blog. And so I see the connection there where you connected with her and started to produce content for that site. One of the things that I feel like is just, as a real quick aside, important to point out is, and I had this mindset early on as well, which is, “Hey, if you can learn the thing you want to do and get paid for it, what a wonderful thing to do.” And I think sometimes we think about learning for free, which sometimes we need to do, you do photography and you do writing and you’re doing it for yourself and you’re learning as you go. But you can also figure out ways to say, “Hey, I want to become better at writing,” and to actively look for a job where you can get paid to do that and get better along the way.
Bjork Ostrom: I was at a nonprofit and they had a job where they needed somebody to help with the website, very similar, to work within WordPress and to do some light design work. I was like, “Great. I love the idea of learning this stuff and also got paid to do it as a nonprofit.” So it wasn’t like I was making a ton of money, but I was getting compensated and also learning the thing I wanted to learn. So for you, that was 2017. You started your Instagram. It sounded like shortly after that, started to do some of the freelance work, get paid for it, also learn along the way. And then you’re like, “Hey, I should also do this for myself where maybe I have a little bit more freedom around focusing on something that I want to focus on.” In what year was that, that you started to do that?
Camila Hurst: That was October of 2017. So I started my own blog on October 16th of 2017. I started Pies and Tacos. At the time, I wanted to post about all kinds of foods. I love making tacos and even savory food.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So the idea being pies, sweet, all the way to tacos savory, kind of like everything in between.
Camila Hurst: Exactly. That was my mindset at the time. I’m like, “I love pies. I love tacos.” And that was going to be the blog. And then started shifting along the way to more baking, and later on more cupcakes and macarons and stuff like that. But yeah, that’s how it started.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great. Well, one of the things that you referenced, and you’re pretty open about, is working through a season of depression. And I think a lot of people can relate to that, especially in this world where we are now where we’re restricted around the social connections that we have. And maybe not as extreme as it was a year and a half ago, but there still is that element, maybe for people who have some level of anxiety around what’s happening and are more prone to not go out and not be around people.
Bjork Ostrom: Huge disclaimer, that there’s all different levels of depression, and best step is obviously speaking with a professional. But I also think kudos to you for being open and talking about that because I think people don’t do it enough and it’s helpful to hear other people who have been through that. I’d be curious to know in that season for you, what were the things that were my most helpful? It sounds like finding something that you loved was a part of that, and doing that thing that you loved. But what else was helpful? And if you’re speaking to people who are maybe in a similar season, what advice would you give to them?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, so at the time it was my husband who gave me this advice. He was like, “You need to find something you like doing. Find a hobby and just do that. Find something you like doing.” And that’s when I started cooking more. So this would be my very first advice. Do something that you love doing, even if you’re not good at it. Even if you think you’re not good at it, just do something that makes you happy, that makes your heart happy, and just follow the next step. I felt like I was so lost, I was a waitress at the time, I didn’t want to keep being a waitress for the rest of my life, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had no idea what was ahead of me.
Camila Hurst: And that was also part of my depression, and I just had to embrace where I was in the moment and just do what I loved. That is the best advice that I could give somebody is just to do something you like. Do it as best as you can with whatever you have right there. And then I didn’t have much, I didn’t know how to take pictures, I didn’t know how to make macarons. I didn’t know anything. With what I had at the time, I just tried to take one step at a time, one day at a time. And what really helped me was meditation also. It’s something that really helped me, and I recommend that to anybody. It just changed my life.
Bjork Ostrom: How did you get into meditation?
Camila Hurst: So I got into it by listening to guided meditations on YouTube.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an app that you liked or YouTube?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, I don’t use apps. I actually took a course at the time with Marisa Peer. She was big on meditation and stuff, and I just did a lot of YouTube guided meditations. They’re free, you can just put the headphones on and just lay there and just find something a meditation you like, a voice that you like, music that you like, and just listen to. It doesn’t have to be much, it can be just five minutes.
Bjork Ostrom: And what do you feel like meditation did for you?
Camila Hurst: It just brought me to the present moment, made me feel, I don’t know, grateful for what I was, made me outside of myself. it just expanded my mind. It just quiets your mind, quiets that voice in your head that’s always criticizing yourself. I had like that big self-critic inside of my head. And I feel like I feel the effects of that throughout the day. I do it every day still in the morning, and nighttime before I go to sleep. But if I don’t, I feel really fussy and I do feel the effects of that negatively impacting my day if I miss out or if I get lazy about it and I just do it laying down and falling asleep.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. I have a friend who came over recently and he was like, “Can we do a guided meditation?” I was like, “Sure.” So together the two of us, I’m trying to remember the app that he sent over. Oh, here it is. It’s called Insight Timer. And it was a five-minute morning practice on gratitude, and her name was Julie Ela Grace. Anyways, we can link to it in the show notes. But yeah, the idea of gratitude is just such a powerful thing, and I’m reminded of that every time I forget about it and then I come back to it. And if I remember right, within this experience, it was things like feel the warmth of the sun shining on your face.
Bjork Ostrom: And there was all these different things and it’s like, “Oh yeah, these are things that I could potentially be grateful for, but I otherwise never would, unless somebody actually was guiding me through that.” And it was powerful. And my friend said he’s been using this in really small ways to help push back against some of the same things you listed, like depression or negative thoughts and self-doubt and things like that. And again, it’s not a fix for everything. And there’s, again, obviously different levels of depression and it can be clinical and require medication.But also, these things are definitely helpful for anybody regardless.
Bjork Ostrom: And the last thing that I want to point out that you talked about that I think is really important is this idea of small steps. And this same friend of mine said, “The thing that I’ve been doing in this season of depression is every day I try and get out of my house, go sit in front of the water,” you lives by the water, “and sit on a bench and just be still for five minutes, and that being the anchor for my day.” And I think it’s important because we, as creators, are exposing ourselves to some potentially really difficult things, primarily social media. We spend a lot of time on social media, and that can be a really hard thing to combat against because you are potentially putting yourself up against other people’s highlight reels over and over and over, and then comparing that to your own. So have you found that meditation has been helpful for you as a creator, as a business owner, to help level set against the comparison trap that oftentimes exists?
Camila Hurst: Oh yes, definitely. I was very hard on myself. I still am a little bit, but I was very hard on myself. I had very terrible self-esteem issues and stuff like that. And just meditation, I feel like to create a successful business and my blog and everything like that, you need to learn SEO and you need to learn photography and you need to learn all of that. But for me to be able to take all those steps and to tell myself, “You don’t need to be perfect right now. You don’t need to be Pinch of Yum right now. You don’t need to be like that. You can be where you are right now and work with what you have.”
Camila Hurst: And I feel like that mindset shift, switching from a fixed mindset, “I am you terrible at photography, or I don’t take as good pictures as this other person does,” to growing like, “I’m not good right now, but I can get good.” I feel like for me to get to that type of mindset, meditation was just fundamental because it got me to the place where I could quiet my mind and I could just accept things about myself that I wanted to change, but I could still accept them. And that gave me power to be able to change them.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. And I think the other mindset that can exist within that, not only is it true like, “Hey, I’m might not be where I want to be now, but I can be, I am capable of becoming that. And also I think if I look at where I am today compared to where I was a month ago, I’m probably better at a lot of different things,” especially if you’re showing up, even in small little chunks, say taking 10 minutes to learn a little bit about photography or to spend some time doing the thing you want to do, even if it’s as simple as, “Hey, I might not be better, but I’m now dedicating time to this. That’s something that didn’t happen and now I’m doing.” So all of those things, making space for all of those things, I think can be extremely impactful.
Bjork Ostrom: So you talked about this idea of savory to sweet, you want to cover all of it, but shifting that over time and focusing in on a niche. So I’d be curious, in your business journey, as you started to get into this, as you started to think about, “Here’s how I can not only do this thing I love,” and that being a powerful thing, but also potentially getting better at it and developing it into a business, what did that journey look like and where along the way did you say, “I think it makes sense to focus a little bit more on something specific versus a broader take.”
Camila Hurst: Yeah, sure. Yeah, so I feel like it happened naturally. I wasn’t intentional about niching down to macarons and cupcakes and sweets. It just kind of happened. I felt like I was better at those things and I had more pleasure out of making macarons and photographing them than I had out of making tacos and making a savory dish, for example. So I really followed what made me feel better. So those things made me feel better, I enjoyed doing that the most. And since I was doing that mainly to do what I wanted and to follow my heart, I figured I’ll just really do that. I’ll just really follow my heart and do what I love. And that’s just following what made me the happiest.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. There probably also, I would imagine, was some type of positive correlation for your followers as well. I’m trying to think of an extreme example, but if I really loved making edible snow sculptures, so in terms of other people who are looking to do that, probably not many. Maybe I could make it quirky and you can build a following around it. But it seems like, unless I’m off on this, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts, the sweet spot is the thing you’re passionate about, that you feel a really strong pull towards, that you like doing, that feels like a good fit, and that there’s somebody else on the other side who is interested in receiving that, interacting with it, at least in our world and at least in regards to business.
Bjork Ostrom: You can do whatever makes you happy and whatever you love doing if it’s something where you’re like, “And I want to create a business for it,” there has to be somebody on the other side who’s willing to give it their attention or to purchase it if it’s a product you’re building. So did you find that to be true? Or did you say, “Hey, you know what? I know I want to do this and I really hope there’s somebody out there who is interested in consuming this content that I’m creating.”
Camila Hurst: Yeah. No, definitely. It happened simultaneously. There wasn’t a lot of macaron content at the time when I started, a lot of thorough explanations. I couldn’t find the explanations that I needed to understand how to do it right, and I felt like I just had to explain better. So that was part of it too, and a lot of people felt the same way, that I got messages on my inbox, I still do every single day, questions about macarons, and that started building my macaron community. And I’m like, “Okay, so I got to post about this. And a lot of people are asking about this kind of stuff, so I got to post about this. Or I got to research about this.”
Camila Hurst: Because a lot of that stuff, I didn’t know. I learned from the problems that people were coming to me with the problems, because I never faced this type of problem. But if five people came to me with that problem, I’m like, “Okay, let’s look into it.” So I would research and I would find other bakers and Facebook groups that were going through the problem, and I would try to help all these people and try to answer all the questions and try to help everybody troubleshoot their problems, and I learned a lot doing that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, along the way. What’s interesting about that, it feels like it parallels what Food Blogger Pro was for us, where on Pinch of Yum, there’s a food blog, but we started to produce business or blogging type content because we had a lot of people asking questions around that. Eventually, we spun it off. It became its own thing. But it seems like you were doing a similar thing where you’re like, “Wait a minute. I see this pattern of questions, people coming to me with this specific question often about this specific thing.” And realizing, “Oh, there’s something here.” We talk about this with the different products we have, like Clariti, where, “Hey, if people have feature requests, or if they have questions about how to use it, that’s a really good thing because it shows that they’re interested in it.” So was it hard for you to say, “You know what? I’m going to let go of this idea of sweet to savory and everything in between, and really focus in on this one thing.” Or did that just happen naturally?
Camila Hurst: Very naturally. It happened very naturally. And even now, sometimes people go, “Where are the tacos?” And I’m like, “There’s no tacos. Mostly macarons.”
Bjork Ostrom: Tacos no more. But what’s interesting is not only did you produce content around that, but you also started to introduce some business elements around it. Would you consider it a school or a class or a course? I’d be interested to hear you talk about the evolution of your business, and is it right that your husband’s also now starting to help out with what you’re doing? So what were the different steps along the way from, “Hey, this is a hobby and it’s a really good thing for me to do from a health perspective, mental health perspective, it’s something I enjoy,” to, “Wait a minute, there’s some traction here,” to, “Hey, actually, this is a business and it’s able to support me as a career.” What did that evolution look like, and what were the different steps along the way?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, so I started the blog, and of course I wasn’t making money for a year. I didn’t make basically any money on the blog. I had just a few sponsorships here and there and they weren’t anything great. And I was still working as a waitress. And then I got Ezoic on my blog, and that’s how I started making a little bit of money. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is kind of nice to make a little bit of money doing this.” And I wasn’t expecting that it would be really anything too, and I started reading people on Facebook groups talking about making six-figure incomes, and even reading the reports from Pinch of Yum that you guys used to post.
Camila Hurst: And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this can be really something.” And I started to really laser focusing on it, on the idea of actually growing the blog, and that’s where SEO and all that stuff came in, trying to combine all of that with what I feel like people are requesting of me through their questions and DMs and comments on social media and stuff like that. And then a year and a half after I started the blog, that’s when I quit my job because I was making the same amount of money from the blog that I was making on my part-time job. So that’s-
Bjork Ostrom: It’s a great checkpoint to say, “Okay, these are comparable.” I’m guessing the question is which one has more potential upside? And it’s like, “Hey, instead of spending time in this other job which is paying me the same amount and not building a snowball, it probably makes more sense to double my time available to work on my blog.” Is that how you thought about it? Or were there other elements that you thought about at that point where you’re like, “Hey, I’m making as much from this as my full-time job.”
Camila Hurst: Yeah, absolutely. I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.” I just didn’t want to be there. In my job, I was a waitress. I thought about doing stuff for the blog the whole time. It was getting in my way doing stuff that I wanted to do. So I gave myself a date and I was like, “I’m going to quit by Easter of 2019.” And I was able to do it four months before that, I gave myself that date. I was like, “I’m going to work as hard as I can and I’m going to try to pull this off,” and I did it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. What were the things that were most helpful to get you to that point? Would you be able to say, “Hey, really focusing on a niche, SEO, ads.” What were the things that if you were to go back, start at zero, you’d say, “I need to prioritize these things.”
Camila Hurst: Yeah, that’s when I got on Mediavine. So for you to get on Mediavine, you have to have a certain number of sessions. I don’t remember what it was at the time. I think they changed it. But I think it used to be 25,000 page views per month. So I was like, “I got to focus on my page views. So I got to try to bring traffic to my blog through Pinterest and through SEO and trying to make my posts optimized for SEO and through Facebook.” So I started investing very heavily on Pinterest at the time too, and it was awesome. So I was spending a lot of time doing that and just putting as many posts as I could, putting them out there, and trying to get people to come to my blog. And that’s what I was focusing on, my traffic.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. At that time, was the focus really, “Hey, I’m going to increase traffic, and because I’m with an ad network, Mediavine in your case, that I know that, hey, traffic correlates to increase in revenue.” Is that the mindset for where you were at?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, yeah. And not only just traffic, you need to be able to keep people in your page to offer them useful information. So I was trying to really focus on those elements.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. What were the things that were most helpful with increasing your traffic?
Camila Hurst: I feel like it was Pinterest and SEO, really.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And I think a lot of people can relate to that. Have you seen, we’ve seen this with Pinch of Yum, a drop in Pinterest traffic? Is there anything that you’re doing to try and regain that if you have seen it? I know for us, I don’t know the exact numbers, and even in the conversations I’ve had with Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media, it seems like things are changing with Pinterest and it’s just becoming increasingly difficult to get that traffic. Have you found that to be the case at all?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, definitely. I still have Pinterest is my second source of traffic, the second-best source of traffic. So I still have pretty good Pinterest traffic. I have somebody managing my Pinterest for me, so I don’t really touch Pinterest. Oftentimes I go there and I take a look and she sends me my stats every month. I did have a drop, a significant drop, but I think we’re still making it work, it’s still working for me. So, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s always hard to know with anything social media-related because when it’s great, it’s great. So there was a time where Facebook was like that. And if you had a huge Facebook following on a page, you could post an article and thousands of people would click on it. You could immediately get a bunch of traffic, and then literally it was like a switch getting flipped. And in my mind, it’s like somebody in a Facebook back room with a dashboard and being like, “Okay, we’re going to turn off Pinch of Yum today.” And it’s like the next day you post and you just don’t have the same amount of reach. And I’m sure it’s probably some algorithmic thing that they roll out over time, but it’s hard because when it works, it works.
Bjork Ostrom: TikTok, people can grow super big followings really quickly there, and that’s working for a lot of people, and then things change. So it feels like there always has to be this balancing act of where you’re focusing your time. Don’t build on just one platform, but also if there is a platform that’s working, maybe you want to dedicate more time to that. How do you view that, doing this full time in regards to what your day looks like, any platform that you focus on? Are you trying to optimize around joy in the work, going to do the stuff that brings you the most joy? Or is it optimizing around growth potential? Do you have any reflections on how you spend your time in your days?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s a mix of both. So the things I don’t like to do, which are Pinterest and Facebook and editing videos, I have people doing those things for me because it takes a lot of my time, especially editing the videos. I like recording them, I don’t like editing them. So I have people doing those things for me. Anything that I don’t enjoy doing, I try to get somebody to do it for me. It took me a long time to be able to afford paying somebody to do it for me, but I’m very happy to not be doing those things right now. I really like being on Instagram, I like posting on Instagram and connecting with the community there. I feel like that’s really valuable, and that’s where niching down comes in. Because even if Pinterest goes away or whatever, I feel like I’ve established my name as a good, big name for the macaron community.
Camila Hurst: So people, they go naturally to my website to look for stuff for macarons. So I think that’s something very valuable, to be a name that people are looking for. I’ve seen on searches like macarons, Pie and Tacos because people are looking for that. So they’re naturally coming to me. I’m not really relying on a platform or anything. Also, I’m trying to build my email list. I took the course, I think it was email autopilot. So I did a sequence so I can send to people so I can have people coming on my blog all the time, providing them with useful information for their macaron baking skills and stuff like that. So I feel like I’m really focusing on building around my niche right now. I feel like that’s very valuable to have that at this time where it’s so uncertain, what’s going to happen with the platform. Because even Instagram could go away or Facebook or whatever.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Idea being what I heard you say a little bit is not even just thinking about, “Hey, is this traffic back to my site?” But, “Hey, when somebody searches on Instagram for macaron, is it going to come up and are you going to show for that?” Optimizing around that and viewing it not just as a traffic driver, but viewing it as a community. That was the other thing that I heard you say, and that being so important. And I think as much as possible, if we can move away from thinking about just traffic, like, “Hey, we need to get more traffic because then we can get more ad revenue,” towards what I heard you saying, “Hey, can I be the name that people think about when they think about macarons?”
Bjork Ostrom: It’s one of those words where I feel like it’s probably 50% of the time people are saying macaroon. In my mind, I hear people saying that. I feel like that would be something you’d always have to deal with. But I’ll say macaron like Ron from Parks and Rec. But as you focus in on that and you become the person who’s known for this niche, people go to you and they say, “Hey, you know what? I want to learn more about this. I’m really interested in this thing.” And you’ve created a school around that. And I’d love to hear you talk about what you’ve learned from creating content that is not only a niche, but also this advanced level training, so to speak, all around this real specific niche. What has that been like, and has that been a helpful thing to focus on?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, that’s been very helpful. There isn’t a lot of free macaron information online. You can find a lot of paid courses and stuff like that. But as far as giving out information for free, there isn’t a whole lot of people doing that. A lot of people sell their recipes or they sell courses that you buy and you get to have the recipe and get to learn about macarons. So I give all the information for free, and I feel like that’s been really huge also because the information’s all there and I can just focus. I have a whole list of things that I want to talk about and write about and make videos about, and this is something that I can expand on forever. It just can go on and on and on, right?
Bjork Ostrom: You’d think that you’d run out of content, but if you go deep on a niche, you can get pretty deep.
Camila Hurst: Yeah, definitely. So yeah, it’s been very helpful. And for me to learn, I became a much better macaron baker because of this. So it’s like a feedback loop. So I’m getting all this, I’m learning from teaching at the same time. So it’s pretty awesome.
Bjork Ostrom: And so for you, you think of, “Hey, I’m going to brand something as a school. It’s going to take you through essentially all of the different things that you would need to know. But I’m not going to charge for it. So I’m not going to create this paywall. The content’s going to be there, you’ll be able to monetize against ads.” Have you ever thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll also have a product that I sell, like a premium course maybe.” Or do you view that as your cookbooks? Because I know you’ve done those as well. And maybe within that, when you look at your business, the lay of the land, or the pie chart, to use a better word, pun intended, is it like 90% based revenue from ads? Does it come from sponsorships? Does cookbook sales come from that? What does the landscape look like for you or the pie chart?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, so most of it, it’s from ad revenue, I’m with AdThrive now. And so I get also a little bit of YouTube, I’m growing my YouTube every month, and I don’t do a whole lot of sponsorships. I don’t enjoy doing them, so I try to stay away from them. I don’t like anything that is limiting me or telling me what to write or telling me how to talk to my audience. I don’t like that at all. There’s only one company that I’ve been working with, and they just give me pretty much freedom to do whatever, which is why I like working with them. So I’m going on three years working with this company, and I really like it. And that’s it. I also get revenue from my books, from writing the books. I’ve written two books now. And well, one hasn’t been published yet. But from the books, from Amazon affiliate market. And also-
Bjork Ostrom: And that would be macaron-related products and tools? And so you can see how that works well?
Camila Hurst: Yes, yes. And yes, my content is free. I still have a lot of people. My intention was to always have my content be entirely free, but I have a lot of people that still ask me for a course. Almost daily, they ask me for a class or ask me for a course. So my intention is to get all this information I have free and turn it into a course that’s not going to have any ads or anything, just going to be a course that you can have forever on your computer with videos and just the written information. I’m still going to give that information for free.
Camila Hurst: I am on my blog and on my YouTube. I’m not going to stop giving the information for free, but I feel like just having a course where somebody can just have it on their computer and just have everything just organized and right there, people still ask for that. So my intention was to always have it for free, but since it’s a demand and it’s something that I feel like it would be a really fun project actually to do that. So that is my next big project that I’m going to do. Not writing any books for a little while, so that’s what I want to focus on.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, going to take a break?
Camila Hurst: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: As a creator, you’re juggling a lot of different things. You have a team, I’m guessing contracted relationships that you’re working with to help with different elements of the site. Obviously, you’re producing a lot of content, you’re capturing video, you’re photographing. What are the tools that are most helpful for you in what you do? If you’re on an island and it’s like, “Hey, you have to download these tools or bring this hardware, whatever it might be, to an island and you have to do your job,” what are the things that you’re like, “Hey, I’m putting this in my take to the island bag.”
Camila Hurst: Yeah. So it’d probably be Premiere to edit my videos, Lightroom to edit my photos, my camera obviously, and just my MacBook. I feel like everything’s on my MacBook and I have WordPress so I can publish my posts. I still use Tailwind, the people that do my Pinterest, they do use Tailwind. I know a lot of bloggers are leaving Tailwind behind. We’re still using it. So I guess this would be the tools that I would take.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. Tailwind because important for Pinterest. That app, as I understand, is becoming more generic and less Pinterest-focused. Obviously MacBook. And then Premiere. You had mentioned that you work with a video editor, are you occasionally editing as well, or what does that look like and how do you facilitate that relationship if you’re shooting and then sending that off to an editor?
Camila Hurst: Yeah, so I do like to make my own reels. So I do like editing those myself, and sometimes I’ll edit a video because there’s just not enough time for me to give her so many videos for her to edit and I want to publish some things. So sometimes I’ll edit a video. So what I do is that I’ll record a video and then I’ll have all this little videos and I’ll go through video by video, and I write down what I’m going to say, because I do a kind of voiceover on the videos. And so I write video one, this is what I’m going to say, and I send this document along with the clips to my editor and she just puts them together in a video and she just edits for me and she sends it back.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. How did you find those people to work with? I think that’s one of the things a lot of people want to do is, “Hey, I need some help. I’m maybe at the point where I can justify bringing somebody on.” So when did you reach out to people that have them help, and then how did you find those people?
Camila Hurst: So I found them on Upwork. So this girl, I found her on Upwork. She’s really, really good. I tried a couple people and she was the best. So I stayed with her. I also have an illustrator. She does illustrations for me. So I also found her on Upwork. And the other people I met through the community, the people that do my Pinterest and my Facebook, somebody told me about them and I told other people about them so they also hired them. It’s kind of like a word to mouth thing. I think it’s really powerful because if somebody’s like, “Okay, I really recommend this person.” And yeah, that’s how I found them. And the girl that does my web design, I met her through Instagram and everything.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome, yeah. It seems like a lot of times what happens is it’s a hodgepodge of ways that people are connecting with folks. It might be Upwork, you find somebody really good, you continue to work with them over a long period of time. Maybe it’s a friend of a friend or you’re in a community and somebody recommends something. We’ve found that to be the same when we work with people, whether people who are part of our team in a full-time capacity or on a contracted basis, it’s kind of like putting the word out there. Like, “Hey, I’m looking for help with this thing, would you be a good fit? Do you know anybody who might be?” But just being okay and being willing to put that into the world with your audience.
Bjork Ostrom: I think back to first video hire we had for Pinch of Yum, and it was actually her mom was a follower and then passed it along to her. And so it wouldn’t have happened unless we spoke that out into the world. So love that, and good for you for building the team. So one of the questions we’d love to wrap up with is if you were to go back in time and sit down and have a conversation with yourself before you started what you’re doing, what advice would you give to yourself? So knowing what you know now, let’s say you go back in time, you’re able to have one dinner conversation with yourself, what would that advice be, maybe to your earlier self, knowing that you’d be embarking on this same journey?
Camila Hurst: I don’t know, I kind of like every part of it. I think I would just tell myself, “Just really follow what you like to do. Follow your heart and just do what you want to do. Just follow the bliss.” Even my mistakes that I’ve made, I wouldn’t be here without making the mistakes. So I don’t want to eliminate them. So I would make them all over again. I feel like the advice would just be work with what you have and don’t get overwhelmed with the entirety of the task. Don’t think, “Okay, I want to build a six-figure food blog,” just think about what you can do today to make it work today. It’s like you’re going to run a marathon and you never ran before, you’re not just going to run 26 miles in a day. You’re going to put your shoes on and go for a run down the block. And then you come back and you do a little bit more the next day. So I feel like that’s what I would tell myself.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. Love that. Where can people follow along with what you’re up to? I’m sure there’s lots of places, but would love to hear your story. And we were able to hear your story, but would love to hear where people can follow along with what you’re up to.
Camila Hurst: Yeah, it’s all Pies and Tacos. It’s Instagram Pies and Tacos, Facebook also Pies and Taco. YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest.
Bjork Ostrom: All the places.
Camila Hurst: Main platforms, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. Camila, thanks so much for coming on. It was great to chat with you. Really fun conversation, and I know folks will get a lot out of it. So thanks.
Camila Hurst: Yeah, it was awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for this episode. Thanks to Camila for coming on sharing her story. As always, one of the things that I really appreciate is when somebody’s willing to tell the ins and outs of their journey, not just tactical things that helped, which is always helpful, we like to hear those things, but also the reality of this being something that we’re navigating as people who have highs and lows and learn things about ourselves along the way. And I think that was a great part of this interview. So thanks to Camila for coming on, sharing her story. Be sure to check out Pies and Tacos and everything that she’s up to over there. And if you want to continue the conversation, head on over to foodbloggerpro.com/facebook to join the podcast group, or join us at Food Blogger Pro, which you can find more out about by going to foodbloggerpro.com. Thanks, make it a great week. Bye-bye.