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Welcome to episode 313 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Charli Prangley about how she grows her business, builds her team, and does the work she loves.
Last week on the podcast, we re-shared our episode with Jenna Arend from the Pinch of Yum where she talks about some of the systems they use to manage their sponsored content work. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Side Hustle Income
Charli is the Creative Director at ConvertKit, but she also does a ton of work on her side hustle. So much so, she was actually able to double her side hustle income in just a year!
This episode is jam-packed with advice for people who are trying to grow their businesses while working full-time jobs. Charli talks about how she views branding, how she hires help for the things she doesn’t like to do, and how she has diversified her income.
Charli’s advice will be a great reminder of why it’s important to really hone in on what you’re actually trying to accomplish when you’re creating content online and what it takes to get there. We hope you enjoy this episode!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What marketing design means
- Why she doesn’t like pop-ups
- How to make decisions based on your branding
- Which of her platforms is her favorite
- How she doubled her side hustle income in a year
- How she works with a channel sponsor on YouTube
- Why Twitter is a great place to connect with people
- How she makes decisions about what she works on
- Why investing in help has been key for her business growth
- Tips for hiring email help
- How to work with designers on your blog’s branding
- Common traits of successful brands
- How to be authentically vulnerable
- Charli’s YouTube channel
- Design Life Podcast
- Inside Marketing Design Podcast
- The Future Belongs to Creators Podcast
- Charli’s site
- Charli’s Twitch channel
- Pinch of Yum
- Doubling My Side Hustle Earnings – 2020/21 Income Report
- 309: Create with Intention – $130,000 in the First Week by Creating Premium Offerings for Your Audience with Shawn Blanc
- 097: How to Create a Full-Time Income from Blogging Using The Egg Carton Method with Bjork Ostrom
- TinyBit’s Administrative Assistant Role
- Black and White Studios
- Dianne Jacob
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 the Clariti waitlist today to receive:
- Early access to their $25/Month Forever pricing
- Optimization ideas for your site content
- An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
- And more!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: All right. I am very excited about this. You heard this on our… well, a couple of podcasts episodes ago, but we officially have a sponsor for the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. It’s actually our sister site, Clariti, C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com. We built Clariti really as a solution for a problem that we had for Pinch of Yum, which was figuring out how do we organize and optimize our content? How do we get a clear look at it? And then once we get a clear look at it, how do we build campaigns around… or projects groupings around things that we want to improve and enhance? Clariti is the tool that we are working on continually improving. We’re right in the middle of building and growing and optimizing the tool itself.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s the tool that we built to solve the problem we had for Pinch of Yum, and you can sign up and use it. And instead of spending thousands of dollars building this thing on your own, you can sign up for $25 a month forever. That’s a campaign that we’re doing 25 forever for anybody who wants to sign up in the first year really of when we’re allowing people to sign up and use the tool in the beta stage here. One of the most powerful ways that bloggers are using Clariti is to do what I had talked about before, to make their content better through the use of campaigns or groups or projects.
Bjork Ostrom: You might think of a campaign as a group of projects that need similar updates. It might be old posts that need to be no indexed or deleted, seasonal posts that need to be refreshed. Maybe you want to create a campaign around posts that you want to do a full revamp on, or you could use Clariti to slice and dice your content and see where the broken links are, or where all text is missing. Maybe there’s some content you want to reshoot or top posts that you want to go back and make sure that they are continuing to do well.
Bjork Ostrom: Campaigns really are the heart of how bloggers are using Clariti right now. We’re going to continue to add on and build functionality down the line, but it’s really the main thing that we’re focused on right now. It’s filtering, and then after you filter, you can build campaigns against it. It’s maybe a little bit hard to understand, but if you want to test it out, if you want to take a look at Clariti is probably the best way to do it.
Bjork Ostrom: The best way to do that right now is to go to clariti.com, again. It’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food, F-O-O-D, and you can sign up for the waiting list. We’ll follow up after you sign up for the waiting list and onboard you so you can make sure that you understand your content that you have within Clariti and understand some of the campaigns that you can use early on. We’ll also invite you to be part of the Slack group of early users that are using Clariti and sharing the different ways that they’re using it, feedback that they have on it to help guide the tool as we are developing it. And really, just a way to see what other people are up to and doing as they’re improving, optimizing their content in service of growth of their sites.
Bjork Ostrom: Again, that is clariti.com/food, C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food. And that will get you access to that 25 forever plan. We’re offering that to the first 500 users of Clariti. That 500 mark is what we’re going for, where we have a super solid group of users early stage who can offer feedback. Once that happens, we’re going to switch over, we’re going to figure out what the pricing mechanism for Clariti is going to be on an ongoing basis. But if you sign up in this early stage, because we are early, because we’re growing, we want to solidify that monthly plan at $25 a month for forever. That’s the bonus that you get for being an early user of Clariti. You can get that by going to clariti.com/food. All right, let’s go ahead and jump into this week’s episode.
Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello, hello. This is Bjork Ostrom. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Today, we are talking to Charli from Charlimarie.com. She’s the creative director at ConvertKit, but she also does incredible work with her side hustles. She has a YouTube channel. She does Twitch. She creates content. She is putting together products. All of these different things are a part of her kind of CEO of herself. That’s how I like to look at it. Even if you work a 9:00 to 5:00 job, you are the CEO of your own career. I think sometimes we only think of CEO as the role of somebody who’s leading a company, but you are the captain of your ship. Charli talks about what that’s like for her and how she does that well, how she thinks about branding her personal brand, how she thinks about diversification as it relates to the income sources that she’s getting.
Bjork Ostrom: For those of us and most of us listening to this podcast, this would be true. For those of us who appreciate the idea of building a thing and also have a full-time job, this is going to be a great interview because Charli’s going to be talking about how she does that and does that well and some of the ways that she’s been able to focus, but also some of the ways that she’s been able to work intentionally over the years. She talks about things like working in public, where she actually streams her work. We talk about the difference in her highest earning income side hustle and then some of the areas that just helps support that. There’s a lot of great information packed into this episode and really appreciate Charli being so open in sharing all the different ways that she’s creating an income. Let’s go ahead and jump into this interview. Charli, welcome to the podcast.
Charli Prangley: Thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, excited to chat here. It’s always inspiring for me to chat with somebody who’s a digital creator and a really good digital creator because you pull up the video, it’s like the scene is set, it’s lit well, like you have great design behind you. It just feels like maybe what we’ll do is we’ll just schedule a bunch of interviews from here on out. It’ll be like a series that we do with you.
Charli Prangley: Right, yup. With the backgrounds already prepared, anytime.
Bjork Ostrom: Exactly. Reason being is because you do a lot of this. For those who aren’t familiar with who you are and what you’re about, if you could share your background, not only what you focus on in your day job, but also you aren’t unfamiliar with pressing record on a video and publishing that, where you have a YouTube channel and some other channels as well. Tell us a little bit about what you’re about and what a day or a week looks like in your life.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, so by day, or like… I don’t know, sort of into the evening because I live in Europe and work for a US-based company?
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Charli Prangley: I’m the creative director at ConvertKit, where I create a marketing platform. I believe that actually you all at Food Blogger Pro use ConvertKit.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, we do. Yep, yep, yep.
Charli Prangley: And then as well as doing that, as well as doing design work and managing the brand team at ConvertKit, I have a YouTube channel, where I talk about design. I’ve been doing that for almost eight years. It’s been a while. I also make a lot of other content. I have two podcasts… well, three, I forgot one momentarily. I have a design podcast that I host with a co-host, a friend of mine. I have one called Inside Marketing Design, where I speak to other marketing designers in the tech industry. I have the Future Belongs to Creators Podcast that I do with some teammates at ConvertKit. I also stream work on Twitch. I tweet a lot. I write a lot on my blog. Maybe not as much as I should. I’m currently working on writing a book about marketing design as well.
Bjork Ostrom: When you say marketing design, can you explain that, what that means and for those who aren’t familiar with that term?
Charli Prangley: I love to explain it because I believe it is a very undervalued role in design and in tech. Marketing design is essentially a role within a company where you’re designing the marketing materials, designing for the brand to promote a tech product or a service or something like that. It’s the design of the marketing site, marketing materials that go out on social media or an advertising and those sorts of things.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And the design in that case wouldn’t just be like you think of print design, you’re doing a poster. What does that include from a design perspective that like graphic design wouldn’t? What are the other filters that you’re looking through or parts of your brain that you’re having to tap that would have to be educated if it was a graphic designer?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, yeah. Marketing design is a very like… I think it’s quite a tech specific role. And because of that, it’s very digital. You might end up doing a bit of print work, but most of it is digital design and using a lot of the UX/UI design thinking that product designers, the ones designing the apps that we use might use in their process, but you’re applying it to a website that markets a product instead of applying it to the product itself, if that makes sense.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting because it’s one of the things I’ve learned over the past few years is like when you’re launching an app, like ConvertKit being an example, you have what you would call the marketing site and then you have the app. A lot of times it’s like app.convertkit.com-
Charli Prangley: Exactly, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: … or we’re working on an app called Clariti, so it’s app.clariti.com. That’s an entirely different branch where you’re making considerations around UI/UX, how somebody would use it. But then for us, it’s Clariti, C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com, clariti.com. There’s a marketing site and that’s just clariti.com. And the considerations that you have around that versus the app are very different.
Charli Prangley: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Did you getting into design knowing like, “Hey, I’m actually interested in marketing and design. Awesome. There’s this thing that I can build… a career that I can build around marketing design,” or have you moved into that in the last few years and said like, “Wait, this is a sweet spot for me. I didn’t know this existed 5, 6, 7 years ago.”
Charli Prangley: I feel like my answer to this is in the middle of what the options you just gave, in that I’ve been in marketing design in my whole entire career, but I didn’t know that that was its own specific niche to start with. I started out as a graphic designer on the marketing team for a company that distributed fridges and heat pumps, like super sexy first job in the design industry.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.
Charli Prangley: And moving into tech, I saw this role called marketing design. I was like, “Wait, but is this a marketing role or a design role?” The company was like, “It’s kind of both. You’ll be designing, but your marketing mindset really, really helps you be successful in the role.” I was like, “Perfect,” because I’d studied both of those things in university. Yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
Bjork Ostrom: Are those things ever conflicting? A lot of times you think of like design and engineering or like in the food space, if you have a food blog, you’d think of like speed and like aesthetic and photos, like the more photos you have, the slower your site goes. Do you feel like with marketing design that like… if you think of the old-school classic like squeeze page, that’s what I’d think of like internet marketing, and a designer would look at that and they’d be like, “Oh my gosh, this is terrible.” You might have a beautiful site, but then even like conversion optimization person look at it and be like, “Wait, here’s what you have to change.” And then they change it and it doesn’t look as good. Are those conflicting things, or do you feel like there’s a happy medium where the most well-designed version can also be the best performing from a marketing standpoint version of something?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, it’s both. It’s both because it is this push and pull between the art and the science, which is what I love about this role and that you are thinking about conversion and the user journey and the user experience and all that. But you’re also thinking about the brand that you’re building through the design. I think brand is especially important when you’re marketing a product, maybe more so than when you’re in the app and in the product itself, because the brand can be a big reason why you choose to pick one company over another. I guess for food bloggers as well, I’m sure they know this, that your brand could be a big reason why someone chooses your blog over another to follow. It’s about making those decisions to improve the conversion rate and get people to where you would ideally like them to be going without compromising the brand, because no one wants to feel like they’re being sold to or feel like they’re being forced down a path. Yeah, it’s a fun.
Bjork Ostrom: When you say compromise the brand, what’s an example of how that might happen.
Charli Prangley: Ooh, okay. I have a really good one. And that is that I refuse to put a pop-up on our site to subscribe to our email list or anything really. The closest I’ll get is an exit intent. When someone’s moving away from the site, I will accept a pop-up there to try to catch them before they leave. But I think it compromises the reading experience or the users’ journey to have something interrupt them when they’re reading on your website. And so I am not a fan of pop-ups. I think that they would compromise our brand if we implemented them.
Bjork Ostrom: We just had this conversation because we have on Pinch of Yum, which is the food site that we have, the sister site to Food Blogger Pro, brother site, and we have a exit intent pop-up on desktop, but the implementation of that is hard to do on mobile. It ends up being this thing where you’re like, “It’s not truly exit intent.” And just this week, we had a conversation, we were like, “We need to scale this back a little bit,” because we heard from some people and Lindsay, my wife who oversees day-to-day at Pinch of Yum along with Jenna, had received some feedback and they were like, “Hey, this is a hard… There’s a lot of stuff happening here.”
Bjork Ostrom: And to your point, that impacts the brand and somebody’s thought on what it’s like to interact with it. But the hard thing is it’s not measurable. How do you make decisions on something where it’s like it’s more of the art side than the science side? And especially if you’re working with a team, but even as an individual, how do you say like, “Wait, this is just a feeling I have. How do I know if it’s right or not?”
Charli Prangley: Yeah. Well, it’s important to start with that feeling, like having the feeling of what you feel like your brand should be. Especially as an individual, as a creator online, I think is really important. And for ConvertKit, we’ve had a lot of conversations internally about who do we want to be as a brand. It gives us this framework to run decisions through. Like, for example, a really key part of our brand is making creators the hero. With everything we do, we want to make sure we’re showing creators in a really good light. And anytime there’s a chance to profile a creator or feature a creator, we’re going to take it. And that helps us make decisions about, “Okay, what image should we have here? Should it be in illustration? Should it be a photo? It should be a photo because then we can show a creator and then we’re making them the hero of our brand.”
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Yeah, that’s great.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, having that sort of framework for yourself can really help you when it comes to that decision-making.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s almost like making a decision once, almost like a core value, “Here’s who we are,” and then you pass decisions through that. That then becomes… like in the art and science, it becomes the hard line, or like a line where you’re like, “Wait, creators are the heroes. We have this really cool doodle, but that’s not a creator. So let’s focus on the creator.” For a publisher, like a blogger, you might say, “Hey, one of the values we have is to making the recipe be the easiest thing possible.” An example for Pinch of Yum, that’s a line that Lindsay drew, was like, “I’m not going to put an ad in-between the instructions and the ingredients,” because then you’re going back and forth between the instructions and ingredients. You’ll be able to earn more. ConvertKit would get more email signups if you had a pop-up, but it doesn’t align with some of the core values they have, which I think is awesome.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, that’s a great example. It’s like deciding where your line is in terms of how far you want to go and just trusting the process, the effort and the like, I guess, compromises you make in building your brand, they’re going to pay off long-term because think of all the big companies that we look up to and admire like the Nikes, the Apples, Patagonia, all of them have focused really strongly on brand. They’re not putting pop-ups interrupting your experience and putting an ad in-between you searching for their products. They’ve invested in their brand and it’s paying off for them. I think we can do that as creators too.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. You do a lot of different things.
Charli Prangley: I do.
Bjork Ostrom: You talked about the podcast, you talked about YouTube, said you have a Twitch channel. Which one of those is your favorite? Is there one of those where you’re like, “I get to do this and I’m really looking forward to it today”?
Charli Prangley: Oh, man. That’s like asking me to pick like which is my favorite cat out of the two that I have.
Bjork Ostrom: Depends on the day.
Charli Prangley: It does depend on the day. YouTube will always have a very special place in my heart. It’s where I have grown my audience. I’ve got up to almost 200,000 subscribers on there. It’s just been awesome to have been accepted into that community and to be building an audience on there. But honestly recently, I have been loving Twitch. I’ve been doing live streaming as I work.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain what that looks like?
Charli Prangley: Yes, it looks like me with my webcam on and sharing my whole screen as I work inside a Figma file on design projects. It was very scary.
Bjork Ostrom: Are you talking over it?
Charli Prangley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I’m narrating as I go, talking about what I’m doing. There’s people in the chat and they ask me questions or, I don’t know, raise topics themselves. It’s the chat that makes that fun for me. It’s fun to have a little community of people giving you live feedback on your design as well. It’s been cool.
Bjork Ostrom: And scary, though.
Charli Prangley: Yep, very.
Bjork Ostrom: Like to show somebody something that isn’t complete seems like as a designer, you have the ability to withhold until the final product. But to not do that, seems like a scary thing. For you, what is that doing? Why are you doing that?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, I’m doing it because going back to the brand and the feeling and what you’re trying to do, I am trying to teach other designers by sharing my process. I’m not creating tutorials like how to do this, I’m letting you learn just by following along with what I’m doing. And so on YouTube, that often looks like me sharing a project, talking through design decisions. But on Twitch, you get to see those decisions being made in real time and sometimes me going back on decisions because I realized they’re the wrong one. And so it’s like another avenue for doing that and for transparency.
Bjork Ostrom: When you’re live streaming that, how long is a live streaming like live work session?
Charli Prangley: Honestly, I think the live streaming has been a key to me finding focused design time this year as I’ve stepped into this role of creative director-
Bjork Ostrom: If you pull up another random-
Charli Prangley: Yeah, go check Twitter.
Bjork Ostrom: … like check the news real quick, it’s like, “Yeah, it sounds like a productivity hack.”
Charli Prangley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I would say my live streams can go, I don’t know, like two to four hours sometimes I’ll be streaming, just like solidly walking and interacting with people in the chat. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: And then is that available live after you wrap so that somebody if they wanted to, could go back and watch that?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, yeah. You can see them for like 14 days after my Twitch channel, but I also spun up a new YouTube channel just called… I think it’s CharliMarie TV Live VODs, which stands for video on demand, just like Twitch would, where I upload them to… There’s an archive of all the streams.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. The other thing that I was interested in hearing you talk about selfishly because it’s something that we’ve thought about with Food Blogger Pro is I noticed that you did a job board and you used a platform for that that I wasn’t familiar with. I’m curious to know what the intent is with that. Did a little bit of reading on it, but not enough. It was one of those like take this with pocket to come back and read later. Tell me a little bit about the platform and then also your thought with creating a marketing design job board.
Charli Prangley: Yep. The platform that I’m using is called Pallet. They’re a fairly new product, from what I understand, and they are for creating a job board for your community. It’s not like a mass job board like… I don’t know, like an Indeed or whatever, like a Remote OK.
Bjork Ostrom: Right, monster.com, like the ultimate.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, yeah. Those giant ones. It’s meant to be for a specific niche, a specific community and focused on a specific creator or blog, I guess, as well. For me, I chose to curate mine around marketing design jobs. And that’s the thing is that they are curated. People can apply to have a job posted on your board and you can choose to accept it or not. You can set your price for how much it costs to have someone post to your board or not. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Is that something that you’re doing? Are you charging to have a… Yep. And then how do those people… I’m guessing from your YouTube channel, from essentially you’re your followers. So it’s a way to say like, “Hey, I have these followers who are interested in a really specific thing that a lot of companies really need and a company is going to be willing to pay $100, $200, $300 to try and get their position in front of as many targeted people as possible.” Can you talk about what that process has looked like and ways that you found success with that? It’s relatively recently that you launched…
Charli Prangley: Yeah, it’s very new. I can’t talk much about any successes I’ve had. I think I’ve only had one person. One company paid a post on it so far, but fingers crossed for the future. My thinking with it is like you said. I know I have an audience of people who are designers or are interested in marketing design. And so it’s the perfect place for any company looking to hire someone for that role to get the job in front of a bunch of people. And also if it’s a company and often the designers on the team might’ve seen my videos as well and respect the standard of the information I’m trying to get across, you can assume that, okay, if someone’s… Maybe this sounds big headed saying this. But if someone’s watching my videos and trying to learn from me, I’m setting them up for success in marketing design so they can trust us like-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, like a student in design school essentially. Yeah.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Like a job fair where they set up a little-
Charli Prangley: A little booth, a little digital booth. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: … table. Yeah, right. That makes sense. How about in terms of earnings? I know that you shared a post, we’ll link to that in the show notes, and you break down. You have your job, include that information, “Here’s how much I’m learning from my full-time work, profit sharing from ConvertKit.” And then you have kind of laying out the income that you’re also earning from your side hustle. As a creator with significant followers on multiple platforms, what have you found to be the most effective way to create an income and then advice around that for other people who are looking to do a similar thing in a different industry?
Charli Prangley: Yeah. I doubled the income that I made from my side hustles last year, which was really exciting. I think that doubling came… I can pinpoint it to three things if we have time to go into them.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we do. Can you say what it was and then what it went to?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, yeah. I’m going to speak in pounds because that’s the currency that my business is…
Bjork Ostrom: Just to do the math in your head would be impossible. Yeah.
Charli Prangley: In the previous year, I earned £19,638 from my side projects. And then in the last year, I earned £41,580. I think it was like technically 112% growth, if we want to be specific.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, which is awesome. Would it be like 1.4… I have no idea what that like multiple on that.
Charli Prangley: I think it’s like almost 60,000 US dollars would be what I earned this year, something like that. Yeah, to give us some frame of reference for the rest of it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Everybody who usually operates in pounds is just going to be like, “Finally, like-”
Charli Prangley: Yeah, yeah, someone speaking our language.
Bjork Ostrom: In order to honor that, we’ll have to do the reverse whenever that comes up in US dollars.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, there we go.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, three things you attribute that to are what?
Charli Prangley: The first thing is I managed to land a channel sponsorship which gave me consistent income throughout the year. This is with Figma. They’re a design tool. I use them for my work. Love them, featuring them in my videos often.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we just started using Figma for all of our brands. And the same thing, it’s awesome.
Charli Prangley: Yup, love it. And so they pay to sponsor my channel monthly. They pay me $2,000 a month. And what that gets them is a link near the top of my description on every video. It gets their logo. It says powered by Figma at the start of every one of my videos. And it’s like a brand alignment, I guess, is what they’re paying for there.
Bjork Ostrom: Yup. And that’s like the tool you’re using, which makes it a really easy yes for you. You talk about live streaming, my guess is 90% of the time it’s you in Figma-
Charli Prangley: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: … working on that. Yep. How did that come about? Did you reach out to them? Did they reach out to you?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, I actually did reach out to them and suggest it because I’d had a… Previously, Webflow sponsored my channel for a few months, which is another tool that I use regularly for streaming a lot. They had some changes, slightly marketing priorities and my channel was sadly no longer one of them for our channel sponsorship. But I was like, “This has been great, having regular income from YouTube that I can count on.” And so I reached out to Figma and was like, “Would you like to take over this slot, this channel sponsorship slot.” And pitched to them, gave them some details on my view counts and just really tried to make the pitch based on aligning our two brands and how it would be good for them for us to be aligned and they went for it.
Bjork Ostrom: What person is it and how long did it take you to get to that person to have that conversation?
Charli Prangley: Luckily for me, it didn’t take a long time because I feel like I’ve just been building up my network within this tech design, web design world for the past five, six years, something like that. And so it’s a case right now of, “Okay, I know I’m going to know someone who knows someone at the company that I want to speak to.” I think for Figma, if I remember correctly, I might’ve honestly, now that I’m remembering, reached out to their CEO who I’d met at a conference and we had chatted and I was like, “Hey Dylan, what do you think about this?” He was like, “Let me pass you on to the right person.” I think that’s how that one went down. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. I think a lot of people might hear that and think, “Oh, email the CEO.” But actually the important little piece before that is the phrase where you said, “Met at a conference.” That work was done well beforehand and it was probably pretty genuine. It wasn’t like, “Hey, I have this idea of like I want to get a sponsorship is like I love Figma, great to meet you,” having a conversation, showing up at the conference, doing the hard work of sometimes just like meeting people without any purpose in that interaction. You call it networking, call it relationships, whatever it might be. It’s a great example of the phrase of your network is your net worth or your net worth is your network, whatever that phrase is, but just the significance of the people that you know.
Charli Prangley: Totally.
Bjork Ostrom: Is there a way that you manage or keep track of the connections that you have? It’s been something I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been testing this app called Folk, folk.app, I think is what it is, or is it more of like, hey, you know that you have Gmail or whatever it is use, you save contacts in there, but is there any type of process you have around your network?
Charli Prangley: Most of mine, honestly, centers on Twitter. I’m a big fan of Twitter. I’ve been on the platform for over a decade. It’s terrifying to think about if you wanted to scroll back through my old tweets and hear what I was thinking when I was in university, I don’t know. But that is the core place that I would say I do “networking.” I like to follow people and not just follow passively, but get involved in conversations with the people who I admire. I will do that purposefully, watch what they’re talking about, what they’re working on, and respond to them, give them praise when it’s deserved, and yeah, that sort of thing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We talked about Shawn Blanc, who’s a friend and somebody you’ve interviewed on the podcast before. It feels like that would have the potential to be like a Twitter connection at some point. Did you remember connecting with Shawn on Twitter? Is that how that connection mostly happened?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’ve connected on Twitter. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. He’s talked about that as well, like the connections he’s had from his Twitter followers. I don’t really use it. And so for me, it’s interesting to look at Twitter… because I think a lot of times we… and people who listen to his podcasts think of Twitter as like… or think of social platforms, it’s like, “How do I get more traffic? How do I grow?” But I think Twitter is an excellent tool to have meaningful connections with people and to build relationships.
Charli Prangley: Totally.
Bjork Ostrom: And you said you… Go ahead. Yeah.
Charli Prangley: Taylor Lawrence, who is a journalist for The New York Times, I believe, I saw her tweet the other day that like perfectly summed up my approach to Twitter. She said, I think, “Sure, I guess I post a lot on here if you consider Twitter a social network, but I see it as a chat room.” I was like, “Yep, that’s exactly how tweet… I treat it.” Man, Twitter’s on the brain, treat it. That’s how I treat Twitter, more as a chat room, less broadcasting and more conversing. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. And so somebody posts something, you respond to it. When you post something, maybe there’s an opportunity to respond, have a conversation based on that. Yeah, for sure. Rewinding back to the start, that was number one? Is that number one?
Charli Prangley: That was number one. We only did one. Yeah, let’s speed through some others.
Bjork Ostrom: Number two.
Charli Prangley: That channel sponsorship was 18,837 pounds worth of the 41,500-ish total. That was quite a significant chunk having that regular income. Having that, let me focus on other things that I was interested in playing around with rather than having to follow up with brands and get other sponsorships and that sort of thing. I had a couple.
Bjork Ostrom: It simplifies.
Charli Prangley: Totally, it simplifies. And really what’s happened for me in the past year has been an expansion of my income streams. I have way more income streams, but some of them are earning just little amounts. But when they all come together, it all added up to this doubling of my income? Yeah. And so the job board is part of that for this year coming.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I love that. One of the things that we talk about, there’s probably a better name for this, but the egg carton method where we’re like, “Hey, if you want to earn $50,000 livable income in some places of the US, not everywhere…” If you’re in San Francisco or New York, maybe not. But what does it look like to have a consistent income and you’re just getting started? Some people will look at that and say like, “I got to figure out how to get $50,000 of sponsored content.” That’s going to be really hard. But what if you look at it like an egg carton and say, “Okay, I have 12 spots. How do I get… or 10, if it’s a little bit easier, math-wise, how do I get from 10 different places $5,000 a year?” Suddenly, those numbers look a little bit different, then you say, “Okay, divided by 12, what does that look like a month?” I see you approaching that a little bit where you say, “Great, sponsored content is an important piece, but I also have these other…” How many would it be? Seven, eight different-
Charli Prangley: Yeah, like 10 even. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: … places where you’re earning… Yeah. My follow-up question on that would be you have the increase in income from the sponsorship, that being significant, the increase in the number of places that you’re earning income, how do you make the decision between going wide to a lot of different places versus going deep and getting really good at one and just focusing on that?
Charli Prangley: Yup. I think this is a… maybe we’ll call it a luxury that I have as a part-time creator. Because like we said, I do have my full-time job, which more than covers my bills. I don’t need to earn income from my side hustles. It’s more of like building up my own business on the side and it’s fun to explore different ways to earn income. I honestly take the approach of following my own interests. I don’t always make decisions based on the earning potential of them. It’s more like how fun is this going to be to walk on because it is something I’m doing in my spare time and I could be doing this or I could be going hang out on the beach or something else with my life. And so, yeah, that is a big part of it for me is following the interests. And that keeps the work fun, though. I actually really liked that I can do that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, huge part of it is your relationship with the work. And if you’re just it to try and increase your income, it could potentially move towards soulless. And so part of the consideration is like what is soulful work plus bonus if you’re also able to create an income that you’re able to fold in as a greater part of your portfolio-
Charli Prangley: Yeah, it’s a good one.
Bjork Ostrom: … that you’re creating an income from? Number one, more income from a specific area, number two, broader in terms of the areas that you’re creating income from, number three would be what?
Charli Prangley: Number three would be… and maybe this is a little counterintuitive, but actually investing in help. I spent, I think it was like £19,000 in the past year on outsourcing on software or equipment, that sort of thing. And that has been key for me in being able to keep up with my side hustles alongside the full-time job. I have two video editors who edit all my content. I think I’ve edited one of my own videos in the past year.
Bjork Ostrom: Where did you find those people to work with?
Charli Prangley: Well, one of them was actually a viewer of mine who had watched my videos, the ones that I’ve been editing myself for years and heard that I was interested in outsourcing and reached out. I thought, “This is great. You already know my style and my content, what I like, perfect.” And that’s worked out well. The other is the sister of a friend here in Valencia who does video editing. I was like, “Great. Yeah, let’s work with you.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting, that’s similar to how we’ve found folks that we work with is either friends of friends like, “Hey, we know that you’re good at this.” Maybe you’re not our first tier friends. I am a little bit cautious of working directly with friends. But when it’s like friend of a friend or like family friend, it’s like tier two, you’re not going to hang out with them on Friday night, a little bit safer. And then also the great thing about having a group of people who follow you is that it’s the reason people would pay you to have a job listing-
Charli Prangley: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: … because you have these people who get it and know it, but then you can just take advantage of that and not have to pay anybody because it’s your network and your followers. The video editing was a piece of it? Was that the primary thing that you would outsource or were there other things that you’d hire people to help out with or even mentioned software as well?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, yeah. I also outsource all podcast editing. The biggest thing for me in the last year that I added was a creative VA and a VA who handles my bookkeeping, so two assistants. The creative VA, Chloe, she handles uploading all of my content. She’ll draft the title and the description, even sometimes make the thumbnail and Instagram content for me. And that has really helped me on the… I love the creating side of creating and not so much the marketing side of it, which-
Bjork Ostrom: Which just sticks and… Yeah.
Charli Prangley: I run it because that’s what I do for my job is like marketing and design. That’s been huge because that’s kept up my energy for my content, not having to do the part that drained me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about is what are the things that matter if I’m doing them? Like for you, I think of… Just because this is the stage we’re in, we have a two-and-a-half-year-old. Bu you knowt Blippi, the YouTube creator, maybe, maybe not. This is like-
Charli Prangley: I don’t have a two and a half year old, so maybe that’s why.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m like, “You’re on YouTube. You should know this person, but it’s the internet essentially.” So kind of this like I think one of those situations where I just stumbled into this, but will do kids songs or he’ll go to the zoo and walk through the zoo, but has like… I don’t know, I haven’t looked, but probably 5, 10 million followers. But there was this big to-do where he switched out the Blippi character and it was no longer him. And it was like a different character still called Blippi but dressed in the same thing, but different person. And it’s like everybody was up in arms about it. We weren’t, but like-
Charli Prangley: That was the big drama in kids’ YouTube that week.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, in toddler YouTube. But point being like that’s not something that can easily be replaced. You couldn’t replace yourself on your YouTube channel. But there is a laundry list of things that you probably do touch and interact with that don’t matter if you do it, uploading, editing potentially if it’s somebody who’s a good editor. Are there other things that land in that category for you around like things you don’t need to do, but still need to happen?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, I think, well, the business admin side is one of them and someone handling the bookkeeping, making sure that these people that I work with get paid on time, sorting my inbox as well. I find my email inbox really overwhelming. And so having Katie, my VA, who goes in and puts things in different piles for me and tells me which ones to pay attention to has taken a weight off there and made that less overwhelming to go into. Instagram as well like just… I don’t know. I feel like when I was publishing my own videos and doing my own uploading, I would hit upload, share it on Twitter and be like, “Ah, done. Right, onto the next one.” And that’s missing out on a big audience on Instagram. It’s huge. I’m sure, especially for food bloggers, they all know this. But I really have only used Instagram as a… I don’t know, maybe I’ll say like as just a person, as a human, and less as a creator.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, not as a brand.
Charli Prangley: Not as a brand. Exactly. And so yeah, it’s been really helpful to have Chloe help me navigate that and suggest what to post because she’s really good at it. And yeah, just get things out there and she’s helping me grow on there more too.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’re recording this on a Friday. On Tuesday, we will be publishing, I think, if everything goes right position for TinyBit, which is our parent company and then Pinch of Yum, an admin assistant role to do that exact same thing for me and for Lindsay on the email side of things because it’s like email is just so overwhelming and some of it matters for you to do it, but other parts don’t. What advice would you have for people who are looking to have somebody help with email?
Charli Prangley: I think get getting clear on what you want to get out of it and what is your current issue. One of the issues for me… well, the two main ones were dealing with the sponsorship requests, like going through them, seeing what I wanted to explore further and what I didn’t or partnerships, whatever that sort of thing, and also making sure that really important emails didn’t get lost amongst all of the former, whether that’s replies from people that I’ve reached out to personally or there’s some key contacts that I always need to talk to, like my video editors, for example.
Charli Prangley: I also wanted to make sure that I was seeing all replies to my newsletter because if someone’s going to take the time to read an email and reply to me, I want to make sure I’m reading that and hopefully replying to them too. And so yeah, she set up my inbox in a way that makes those things clear because I knew that that was my main issues that I was trying to solve for with email. So trying to think through that rather than just saying like, “Ah, my email inbox is overwhelming.” It’s like, “Well, what is overwhelming about it?”
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. And what you found to be overwhelming was everything was equal priority.
Charli Prangley: Yes. I felt like I was missing things. And so I was going in and reading everything and looking at everything to try and find the gold. And so having someone come in and tell me what I should pay attention to and what doesn’t need to be read right then.
Bjork Ostrom: If you were doing a four-hour live Twitch stream and you have an hour after do email, probably shouldn’t spend 30 minutes of it reviewing random follow-up delivery notifications from a package or whatever it might be to have somebody who will sort that for you and then prioritize that and say like, “Hey, here’s a bucket for newsletter responses, here’s a bucket for VIP.” What are the different… You mentioned a few of those. Is it like labels within Gmail?
Charli Prangley: Yep.
Bjork Ostrom: Kind of specific, but I’m curious.
Charli Prangley: It’s labels within Gmail as well as a specific view of my inbox, first page you see. I don’t even know how to set this up. That’s great that she’s been doing it for me. But there’s a section for sponsorship requests, so I can just very quickly when I’m in that zone go through and I have a text expander that I can type to decline automatically if I want to, like an auto response, or choose to follow up if I want to. I can quickly clear that out and then there’s the VIP section and then a bunch of other photos that she’s made for organizing every single email really. But they’re the ones that I don’t need to go into unless I’m specifically looking for something.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yep, that makes sense. I want to switch a little bit and talk as the back half of the podcast about people who are interested in doing design or marketing design for their brand really well, but they might not be good at doing marketing design. I think about that in this building that we’re in. They just put up some in the hallway, we hired them to do… like it’s Shea, local design company, and they had all these awesome ideas, painting the pictures of the different cities around Minnesota. Just today, they polished it off and it looks awesome. I would not have been a good person to do that, so we hired Shea to do that.
Bjork Ostrom: I know there are bloggers, there are creators who will look at your site, will link to your personal site, or they’ll look at another blog and they think, “I really like how that looks. That’s done really well.” I’m not going to be the one who’s going to figure that out. How do people work well with designers or even marketing designers, finding them, job board, plug for your job board, how do you find them? And then also, how do you communicate well with those people?
Charli Prangley: Yeah. I would say that if you find the right designer, you shouldn’t have to worry about the communicating part. They should know what questions to ask you to pull out the information that they need.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s part of their job.
Charli Prangley: It’s part of their job. Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s done well. Yeah.
Charli Prangley: And so if you feel like you’re not being heard, or, I don’t know, the designer hasn’t asked you any question, it’s just off doing something, that would be a bit of a red flag for me. Although, I will recommend my friend, Hollie Arnett, she creates content under the brand Black & White Studios, she’s a brand strategist and she has a couple of great Instagram posts and some freebie opt-ins and things that can help you work through a strategy for your brand. It might pay to have done something like that, some thinking about what you want your brand to be before you talk to a designer because then you might feel more confident that you know what you’re asking for. That could be a good option.
Charli Prangley: And then as far as finding them, I’m going to go back to networking and relationships. I think that’s going to be your best bet honestly is talking to other creators, talking to your community and seeing who other people have worked with and who they’ve enjoyed working with is a really great way to find someone. That’s honestly how I’ve done almost all of my hiring. The only exception that I have is my VA, Chloe, who I tweeted that I was looking to hire a VA and she sent me an email after seeing it. I did that, but yeah, yeah, I think that that’s the way to go.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense. And that I think it comes back to a little bit of what we had been talking about before where the work isn’t really even in the moment of searching or hiring, it’s almost like you need to be doing this work even before you know that you’re at the point. It’s maybe encouraging, some people will listen to this and be like, “I can’t hire somebody. I’m way too early in the process to need to do that.” But that time will come eventually and you’re going to be in a better place now if you start those conversations, if you start to interact, if you start to network, if you start to ask those questions when year two, three years down the line you’ll be able to move on that pretty quickly.
Charli Prangley: Yeah. You never know what else you might need as well that you could rely on a community for. We have this little WhatsApp group, myself, and a few other design YouTubers, where we can talk about like, “Hey, I’ve gotten this opportunity. What do you think about what they’re offering me?” I don’t know, it’s just like a nice little space to sense check and talk to people who get it. There’s so much value in building that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You interact with a lot of creators, both ConvertKit with your role there, with the work that you’re doing with your YouTube channel, Twitch. What do you see as common threads between individuals creators or brands who are having success with what they’re building online?
Charli Prangley: Yeah. Okay, I think the thing that came to mind for me with this, and I think it’s become even more important over the past year, and that is authenticity. I think that this is a word that has become like a buzzword. Everyone wants to be authentic and relatable, but just wanting to be that doesn’t mean you are. I truly believe that you can see right through false authenticity or people trying to be relatable or whatever. When you can genuinely show up as yourself and be a little vulnerable, honestly at times, I think that’s where people have been finding success because everyone wants to know the person that they’re following online is a human just like them who might have similar struggles, or, I don’t know, have ideas about things that they want to know about beyond just the… in this case, the recipes that you write about, for example.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. There’s Dianne Jacob, she speaks a lot on writing as it relates to food. She talks about how important story is. In the food space, there’s a lot of people who are like, “Don’t tell us the story, just get to the recipe.” She’s like, “No, please tell us the story.” It’s so important to have you as an individual that has a voice and is representative in the content that you’re creating. My follow-up question to you on that would be… and Lindsay and I talk a lot about this is like how do you know the level to which you are being authentically vulnerable? And what I mean by that is it’s almost like… At its worst, I think vulnerability, people can hear that and they can think it’s almost like a strategy and then would maybe use vulnerability as like, “This is what I’m supposed to do in order to like-
Charli Prangley: Be relatable. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: … be relatable.” Yeah. And so how do you find that balance between like this is genuinely me wanting to share my experience to connect without it being vulnerable in service of like as a strategy?
Charli Prangley: Yep, totally. And that’s something you absolutely have to watch. I’ve seen creators get that balance wrong and then watch them pull back and be much happier as people when they are actually sharing less online. It’s totally a thing, but you have to decide where your line is. And so for me, it comes back to, “What am I trying to do when I’m creating content?” I’m trying to teach other designers. I aim my content at people who are a few years behind me and I’m trying to teach through sharing my process. And so for me being vulnerable online doesn’t really look like… Sometimes I tweet about this, but it doesn’t really look like making content about, for example, the struggles that I face living in Spain as someone who doesn’t really speak Spanish.
Charli Prangley: I had some difficult things happen this week that were really stressful and I was sick with anxiety about it in the night. And that’s not really what I focus my content on. It might be a brief mention if I want to vent, but it’s not what I focus on because that is nothing at all to do with helping designers progress in their careers and develop their process. The more vulnerable stuff I would share is like, “Ah, I’m having one of those days where nothing’s working. I can’t get it right, this carousel I’m trying to design.” Other designers will be like, “Oh, yeah, I feel that too.” That’s the sort of thing I do. But also, I’ll say vulnerability doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. It can also mean just being genuine when you’re proud of something too, when you’ve made something you’re really proud of and being like, “Hey, I did this thing and I worked really freaking hard on it.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Charli Prangley: “And yeah, it’s out there. I’m so proud. Here’s a little bit things I learned along the way.” That could be another way to approach it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. I love that. Vulnerability in service of your mission, that’s a little bit of what I heard is if your… For TinyBit, our purpose is helping people and companies get a tiny bit better. What does it look like for us to be vulnerable in service of that? I think that’s a great takeaway, and for me, an important consideration as we think about how we operate in the world.
Charli Prangley: Yeah. I would say sharing things that have helped you get a tiny bit better and maybe some things that you tried and didn’t actually… maybe that made you a tiny bit worse.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally, things that worked, things that didn’t, but just being open to that and potentially not being as guarded to share things that would be helpful for other people to hear like, “Oh my gosh, I can relate to your point about like having a bad day or nothing seeming to go right with the design process,” or even if you do feel comfortable with it, somebody who does share more of like day-to-day personal stuff, “Hey, living in this other place and it’s been super hard.” I know bloggers, actually some who live in Spain, have talked about what it’s been like to go through the process of having a kid in another country.
Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay lived in Spain for a semester. I remember her when we were dating in college, she would be like, “I just had this terrible experience and I was trying to interact with this person.” So I can relate through her stories for some of that stuff that you talked about. We covered a lot of awesome things here, and I know people will be interested, whether they are design focused or not, following along with what you do and what you’re up to. Would there be one platform that you would point people to, or would that be your site? Where’s the best place to follow along with what you’re up to and what you’re doing?
Charli Prangley: I think yeah. Head to my site, charlimarie.com. Charli is spelled without an E on the end, for some reason. That’d be the best place to find links to my YouTube, to my podcast, to my Twitter. If you’re a Twitter person, I tend to hang out on there as my water cooler. If you want to chat, that’d be the place to do it. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Cool. We’ll link to those in the show notes if people want to check that out. Charli’s been great to talk to you.
Charli Prangley: Me too.
Bjork Ostrom: I know that I have a lot of takeaways and I think that to the tiny bit better mantra, I think some listeners will have some stuff to take away as well. Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, of course, thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for this episode. Thanks again to Charli for coming on and sharing her story. I know that I was inspired from it. Hope that you were as well. One quick takeaway here, a little call to action, we talk about this occasionally, but probably not much as we should. If you want to learn how to do some of those side hustle things as it relates to blogging and building a business online, specific in the food space, Food Blogger Pro would be a great place to check out. You can go to foodbloggerpro.com/membership to learn more.
Bjork Ostrom: The thing about a Food Blogger Pro membership is you’re not tied in, there’s not like this recurring payment that you’re committed to. You can go in and check it out. If you’re on the fence, if you think, “Hey, this might be helpful, this might not, I don’t know,” you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/membership and sign up. There’s a 60-day money back guarantee. Even if you get in, you’re like, “Hey, this isn’t a good fit for me,” you can reach out to us, we’ll give you your money back. There’s no real risk in signing up and checking it out.
Bjork Ostrom: You can also go to foodbloggerpro.com/testimonials to get an idea of how different bloggers of all different stages have been helped through the years if you want to see some folks who have talked about that. I want to mention that as a resource and hopefully something that will help people get a tiny bit better every day forever, which is what we are about here on Food Blogger Pro. Thanks so much for listening. Hope you enjoyed this episode. We’ll be back with another episode next Tuesday. Until then, make it a great week.