320: Learning By Doing – How Chelsey White Grew Her Online Community of Millions as a Solopreneur

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An image of a laptop and the title of Chelsey White's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Learning By Doing.'

Welcome to episode 320 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Chelsey White from Chelsweets about how she’s grown her various social media platforms and how her content strategy has evolved over time.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Mike Johnson from Mike Bakes NYC about how he managed to transition to full-time blogging after running his successful Instagram account. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Learning By Doing

Today on the podcast, we’re talking to the baking queen herself: Chelsey White from Chelsweets!

While she originally started by just baking cakes for her coworkers, Chelsey has since built up a massive social media following sharing her elaborate cakes and baking creations online. With over 1.2 million followers on Instagram and 2 million followers on TikTok, she has established herself as one of the top names in the food space.

In this episode, she shares how she started sharing content online, how she likes to approach sponsored content, and how she adapts her content for different social media platforms.

It’s a super fun, inspiring interview, and we hope you enjoy hearing Chelsey’s story!

A quote from Chelsey White’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'If you're really creating good, quality content, people notice and people will find you.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • When Chelsey started sharing baking content online
  • How her content strategy has evolved over time
  • Why posting on her blog is her number one priority
  • Which social media platforms she enjoys using the most
  • Why she oftentimes likes waiting for brands to approach her first
  • How to figure out your rates for sponsored content
  • How she has created sponsored content for TV shows and movies
  • How she maximizes her efficiency when creating content for different platforms
  • What she would focus on if she had to start over again from scratch
  • How she balances passion publishing with performance publishing
  • How she manages her content calendar with Google Calendar

Resources:

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

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

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: Hello. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This is Bjork Ostrom, and today’s interview is one that I’m really excited to share with you. It’s with Chelsey White, from Chelsweets. Chelsey is going to be talking about how she’s grown her different social media accounts to literally millions of followers. That’s not like cumulative like if you add them all up, like on Instagram, on TikTok, on each of those respective platforms, she has millions of followers, and she’s going to be talking about some of the things that she’s learned, how she switches to stay up-to-date with different trends that are happening, where she places her focus.

Bjork Ostrom: She’s going to be talking about the journey that she went through from when she started to where she is now and how she does a lot of this just as a solo creator. She doesn’t have a huge team that’s helping her to do all of this. She’s doing this on her own. She’s also going to be talking about kind of the split between how she makes her money as a creator and she’s gonna be talking about how she views her different social accounts, and which ones she prioritizes, and also how her blog fits in there, and kind of something that surprised me in regards to what’s the most valuable asset for her, where she’s focusing most of her time right now, strategically, from a business perspective.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a great interview. I’m excited to share it with you. Chelsey white from Chelsweets. Let’s go ahead and jump in. Chelsey, welcome to the podcast.

Chelsey White: I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it will be great. One of the things that is really exciting for me to do on this podcast is talk to people who have would be able to coach me on a lot of things. I feel like you are one of those people because when you look around at your following, your site, the niche that you’ve kind of landed on, you’ve had a lot of success with it, and it feels like my guess is that you have some pretty strong opinions or some thoughts around what it looks like to build a following, to produce content online and to do that successfully.

Bjork Ostrom: Before we jump into the specifics of that, can you rewind the tape a little bit and talk a little bit about how you started, and are you generally in the same place in terms of focus, content, the things that you’re creating content about right now as when you originally started?

Chelsey White: So many great questions. I always try to keep things brief because I feel like I could ramble on about the evolution of Chelsweets for forever, but I think long story short, is that things are always changing. Whether it’s prioritized content on different platforms, like reels didn’t exist like a year and a half ago. TikTok wasn’t as big of a thing when I first started. It wasn’t a thing at all. I guess musically it was still around, but so things are always changing and that also means my priorities are changing, but I think I really started this like on a whim.

Chelsey White: I never intended to be doing … I call myself like a baking blogger and content creator, but you really could call what I do a lot of different things, but I never intended to do this full-time. I mean, it started out really just as kind of a passion, even though that sounds cliche, it’s true. It’s really just a creative outlet, but I think that because I really loved what I do, it show is, and that’s what helped me grow my audience and get to where I am today.

Bjork Ostrom: When did you start?

Chelsey White: I originally started baking. I didn’t even know how to bake when I started in 2014. If you really get aggressive and were like had too much time on your hands and you scrolled on my feed, you see some pretty terrible looking baked goods, but it’s still there.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, cool. Which is fun to see because you get to see the evolution of somebody. It’s not like you come in, it’s hard work, it’s hassle. We talk a lot about that idea of 10,000 hours. Like, it’s a lot of time working in perfecting a craft. One of the things that I thought was interesting that you mentioned was your priorities are always shifting. If you look back, 2021 today, 2014 when you started, would you be able to pinpoint, kind of steps along your journey where your priorities shifted in terms of the platform you focused on, the type of content that you were focusing on? Take us at like 2014 and bring us up to today, talking about kind of the major milestones from a content perspective.

Chelsey White: For sure. There’s definitely been some very pivotal moments in my path. I’ll try to highlight them all.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Chelsey White: I think when I started, like a lot of bakers, I was really like actually just selling custom cakes. So, just focusing on decoration and photos. Video wasn’t a thing as much back then. I don’t even think video was an option on Instagram, and people didn’t really start posting until 2016. 2016 was like a pivotal point in time because right, as soon as videos started becoming popular, I was seeing the reach they were getting from other … I would see other cakes on there that were doing amazing, and I was like, why am I not doing this?

Chelsey White: That was a big turning point for me. I bought a really terrible little tripod and some box lights, and I was like, let’s try this. So, starting to make videos was huge. And then in 2018, I started TikTok also. I actually did it on a whim as part of a partnership. I got paid to create an account and share content on there, and I’m so grateful that I did-

Bjork Ostrom: Your own account.

Chelsey White: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Got paid by TikTok … They reached out to you and said, hey …

Chelsey White: It was an agency, but yes. They like got me instantly verified. That was also huge doing that partnership, because I think, like any platform, getting in early always helps. It doesn’t mean you can’t establish a page or a presence on platforms later, but it always helps to get your foot in the door first, so that was huge for me. Then also like I started working with the Food Network in 2017. I don’t even know how they, I guess it was like end of 2016, I don’t even know how they found me, but I did a shoot with them, and then I started doing Instagram or Facebook lives every week for like two years.

Chelsey White: That was also a huge growing opportunity for me just because it was a lot of reach of people that didn’t follow me already. It really helped me grow my craft and it also was profitable enough where I could stop selling cakes and really focus on content creation. That was huge for me too, because it’s way more profitable. Just like in my experience, a lot more personally satisfying, because you get to experiment a lot more, try new techniques, and grow in different ways than just like meeting people’s orders…

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Chelsey White: Those are all the big moments.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a certain level of stress, I would imagine, that goes with producing a cake that somebody is going to have on display and they need it at a certain time and they have feedback. Everyone is different.

Chelsey White: Yes. I was working full-time too in corporate finance. So, trying to negotiate pick up and drop offs and like having to stay late from month end close and things, it was just really complicated. That was a huge turning point also for me to actually start sleeping a little bit more and living almost like a real person instead of just like a zombie, like I was before.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You had mentioned that it became profitable enough. Was that Food Network reaching out to you and saying, hey, we’ll pay you to do these events or Facebook live. And so now you had a relationship, it was ongoing, it was recurring. And that allowed you to say, okay, I know that the expectation is six to 12 months, or did they outline it and say like, hey, we want you to do this for a certain period of time? It was just like …

Chelsey White: I think they’re like sort of intervals they do, or when you sign a contract, but like anything, it’s subject to change. A month later, they could have been like, also I could have just not done a great job and it could have been like, you know, this isn’t working out great. So, I really didn’t know how long it was going to go on for, but I just tried my best and hoped that it kept going.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you look at the different platforms that you have, was there a shift in terms of what you considered to be most important? At one point where you’re like, hey, my blog is the thing, and now it’s like, hey Instagram, and is there a shift towards TikTok at all? Was there any pivot or change at that point and does part of it have to do with how many followers you have or is it more of like, kind of the stickiness of the platform, the energy around the platform, Facebook versus Instagram versus Pinterest versus TikTok all of those?

Chelsey White: So many good questions. To start with, I excluded that part from pivotal moments on accident, but I really started focusing on my blog when I quit my job, and I’d always been sharing recipes, but mostly just for my own, for myself to know what I was making and what was working or what I really liked. And then also for Food Network, people on the lives always be like, what’s the recipe? So, it was nice and an easy way to drive traffic and say like, here you go.

Chelsey White: I started focusing my blog more in like 2016 through 2018. Then when I quit my job in 2019, I really started focusing on it because I didn’t … I had no idea how profitable blogs can be. It sounds so cliche and nobody would ever believe that, but like, that’s my biggest source of income. I do make a lot of money through partnerships as well, but my blog makes a lot of money. I’ve definitely started focusing on that once I quit my job and really saw the returns, and it continues to grow.

Chelsey White: Even though I think people don’t realize that because of my social presence, my blog is 100% my focus. I’m so focused on creating things that I can rank for that, like revamping old posts, posting regularly on a consistent schedule. I am all about that. That is my number one priority. Even though social media matters too. I always try to put the two together. It might be like something that doesn’t sound that exciting for my blog, like a blueberry cake, but I’ll try to really jazz it up and decorate it in a cute way, so for social media, it’s like more exciting, which is what I’m going to do on like a week of blueberry cake.

Chelsey White: That’s a big thing. Then going back to social media priorities, I think it really depends on what you’re going after. If you’re really looking for growth, I think like TikTok, the virality of the algorithm, you have a lot more opportunity for growth there than you might on other platforms. It also just depends on how you like filming what type of content you like creating. I personally love Instagram because I love taking photos. I take photos for my blog, I’m always trying to improve on that. I love that.

Chelsey White: I think a really pretty photo of a cake is just awesome. I love sharing carousels on Instagram with like video and photos, and you can’t do that on TikTok. I’m 31. I’m not the target content creator age on TikTok, so I’m still sharing there. I film and I repurpose my content for all the different platforms, but I don’t feel like I’m … I actually have the most followers on there. I have 2 million, but I feel like my content I create on there, it’s never … I don’t talk fast enough. Like I’m not editing fast enough because it’s just not my energy. I’m like-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s a different type of content.

Chelsey White: Yes. I think it just depends. I personally love Instagram, but I think that’s just because its formats most favor my strengths. But I think that a lot of newer creators that are trying to come up and create a presence for themselves, like TikTok is such an amazing place where you can easily get traction, and once you do, you really have so much opportunity to grow. I think it just depends.

Bjork Ostrom: Sorry I’d pulled up these different accounts, just looking at your different profiles. This is me giving you a chance to talk through this because I think it’s really impressive. Can you talk through each of the different accounts you have and the number of followers you have? So, 2 million on TikTok, 1.2 on Instagram, is that right? Yeah.

Chelsey White: You’re going to make me blush. You’re just like bragging about me.

Bjork Ostrom: Well, it’s awesome, and I think it’s important for people to know going into it that its perspective on the advice you’re giving and the thoughts that you have. Facebook, multiple hundreds of thousands, what is…

Chelsey White: I’m like 760,000 or something like that. Then YouTube is the smallest, and I think I had like 270 thousand.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, great. In terms of the ability to get sponsored content on those different platforms, have you seen that shift over time? I know even … I look at Captivate. Captivate was a company that does … It’s almost like an influencer marketplace. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it or have ever worked with brands on there.

Chelsey White: I have, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Captivate as, and there’s, this is an aside disclaimer, we did a small angel investment in Captivate early through a syndicate. So, we weren’t like really involved with it so that’s why I’m somewhat familiar with it and track along with it. I’ve seen them start to shift a little bit in terms of their positioning, in say TikTok. Before it was really Instagram. Within the last couple of years has been TikTok. Have you seen that reflected in terms of any brands or sponsors who reach out to you and say, hey, it used to be three years ago everybody would want to work with you on Instagram? Have you seen a shift to TikTok or like more people on YouTube? What does that look like in terms of an interest from sponsors?

Chelsey White: I think that the large companies that have the big social media budget, the big social spend are so slow-moving. I used to work at L’Oreal and I used to manage the social budgets there for Garnier, Maybelline, Essie. I have like a very unique insider perspective. I also worked at a PR agency doing corporate finance there. So, I’ve seen both sides of how everything works. A lot of times, it takes large companies. They were still shifting from like TV spend to digital spend when I was starting.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. Billboards to… yeah.

Chelsey White: Some companies are still like just moving to Instagram. Because everybody wants the metrics on like what … That’s the number one question like, well, how many sales is this generating? Sometimes you can’t always tie it that neatly or create that like direct of a number. It takes companies a long time to move. I think that I’ve actually seen more sponsored posts on Instagram for me than I ever had this year, and I think the social spend is increasing because companies know that so many people are spending so much time on their phones and aren’t watching TV and things, and YouTube videos and stuff on there.

Chelsey White: I think that they know that’s where consumers eyes are, so spend is going up in that category as a whole. I definitely have gotten more TikTok sponsorships, but it’s been so slow-moving and I think it will take a lot more time for companies to get comfortable with that. They’re definitely like pivoting quickly, but that’s still just takes like so long. It’s going to be a long road.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, quickly in terms of corporate, yeah, movement.

Chelsey White: And especially like they might be buying ads on the platform, which is great. And TikTok has done a really good job incorporating that in, but in terms of paying influencers to create ads and things like that, I think it’s still coming. It’s happening right now, but there’s more to come.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Which would make sense now kind of at the peak of the shift towards Instagram, maybe 2, 3, 4 years from now, that will change to a platform that currently has a lot of traction.

Chelsey White: Doesn’t even exist. It could be like a new platform.

Bjork Ostrom: For Sure. What do you feel like you learned, when you had the role of … What was the first role you had talked about? It was like, you were managing their for spend?

Chelsey White: Yes. I worked in like corporate finance or FP&A at L’Oreal, and I was … Yeah, I just managed the social budgets for those brands.

Bjork Ostrom: What do you feel like you learned from that experience and then now apply with your day-to-day of like being an influencer who would be getting paid from brands?

Chelsey White: I love that question because I think a lot of influencers, and it’s not like this is the wrong thing to do, but a lot of people think that you should like reach out to brands and contact people directly and not sit around waiting for brands to come to you, which it never hurts to be proactive. That’s a great thing to do in life, but a lot of times, the way these budgets are formulated, like you create buckets, and you make them like before the year even starts, so where you’re going to allocate your funds, shat big campaigns you have, when that spend is going to happen.

Chelsey White: It’s laid out, it’s tied to your revenue because your P&L is like a work of art. It has to flow just right to hit sales numbers, especially if it’s a publicly owned company. You can reach out to a brand and be like, I’d love to work with you. But realistically, they have like thousands of dollars set aside in September for this specific activation, and they’ll reach out to you when they’re ready to work on that campaign. You can make them aware of you, but they don’t just have a slush fund of money sitting around to put aside to random things like that.

Chelsey White: That’s just not how this big companies work, and that’s where the big dollars are. So, in my experience, I initially was like, oh, I should be reaching out more. But realistically, when companies have money to spend in their agencies that they work with, they’ll find you. It’s hard to get your foot in the door at first, but I think once you start doing some campaigns, like brands will become more aware of you, and as you grow, they have systems where they track influencers on their different platforms, their followers.

Chelsey White: The analytics are crazy, and a lot of large companies or agencies have their own systems that they do that in. You just need to like, have a big enough presence to hopefully get into another systems, and then you can come up when they’re searching for people that are the right fit for different campaigns and different clients.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Almost advice, well maybe the question is, would your advice be, hey, you can reach out. It’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to make a connection. It’s not a bad thing to pitch, but if you’re going to spend 50% of your time doing that, it’s probably better to spend 50% of your time figuring out how to build your following, how to create engaging content, because those are the things that will tip you into these databases, where they say, hey, we want to find somebody who focuses on baked goods and has over 250,000 followers. Filter, they see the list. We want an engagement rate of at least 4% filter. You see the list and then people reach out to you. Is that kind of what you’re getting at?

Chelsey White: Absolutely. That’s exactly what I mean. I think that like, if you’re really creating good quality content, I like to say people notice and people will find you. I think that’s the best place to put your energy into is just trying to create the best stuff that you can.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For you, when you’re working with brands and sponsors, mostly on Instagram for social, are you doing any on your blog or is it mostly social when it comes to sponsored content?

Chelsey White: I was going to say something about that earlier, and then I forgot. I was going to say, it’s really great if you can’t … It’s super challenging to grow across platforms because they’re all uniquely different, and trying to really make the best possible quality content across that many different formats is challenging, but it really helps to have a presence across different platforms, because a lot of times a brand will be like, we want an influencer that can make a YouTube video, an Instagram video and a TikTok for this new product that we’re launching. So, it’s really helpful to have that array of platforms so that you can do …

Chelsey White: I mean, it’s not to say that you won’t get partnerships because a lot of times it is just one platform, but being able to offer those options and include them in your rate card and showing that you can do that is really helpful. I’ve found a lot of big partnerships want for you to share it across your platforms, and so I’m so grateful, even though it is a pain. I think I kind of do a B job across all my platforms instead of focusing on one and doing like an A-plus job, I still think it’s a better way to like divide my energy so that I’m ready for any opportunity that comes my way.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think of that with Pinch of Yum. Lindsay, my wife, kind of does the day-to-day with a great team there for Pinch of Yum, and all credit to them for building that as a platform. But they do, like if a sponsor will come to us and they’ll say, hey, we would be interested in working with you. We’ll have, like you said, a rate card, and it’ll break it out and say like, hey, we could do like blog posts. We could do videos. If we do videos, here’s what it would look like to publish it to Instagram and to Facebook and to the blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Is that kind of what it looks like for you, a brand will reach out, you send to them what it would look like to work with you, and then you kind of work together to put a package together? Are you doing that?

Chelsey White: 100%.

Bjork Ostrom: If so, what have you learned about that? That you could teach other people in terms of putting together a package that’s competitive and you’re getting paid well, but also something that would work for the brand?

Chelsey White: Yes. I love having a media kit ready, which includes a bunch of stuff, kind of talks about me, what my brand is about, shares about any accomplishments that I’ve had, which could be like TV appearances. If you’ve done a book, you could put a book in there, like anything that you’re really proud of. I talk about the different formats of content I create, and through my platforms, my following count, and just what platforms I have a presence on. Then I also share stats about my blog and also examples of past partnerships that have done well, because they want to see what you’re capable of.

Chelsey White: It’s a PDF, but I embedded like a link in it, so you can click to the sponsorships and actually see what I’ve done, which is nice. I think that’s good just because it kind of shows a brand what you’re capable of. It gives them a quick snapshot. Realistically, they’ve probably already done the research if they’re reaching to you, but if they’re reaching out to you just as an inquiry and they have like 10 influencers they’re considering, and they’re only going to have three for the campaign, it’s so helpful to just have everything laid out and to look really professional.

Chelsey White: I made one in Canva. It’s like not super. It’s a little bit time consuming. It’s not super hard to do and you can update it then as you go. So, I highly recommend having a media kit and then a rate card that shows either yes, like you mentioned, your individual pricing. I have like a full package that’s obviously like a better deal. So, they’re more motivated to do everything like blog posts, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Instagram stories, the whole works.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally.

Chelsey White: But yeah, I will send that back. And then a lot of times though, a brand already knows what they want. So, you can work with them and figure out what makes sense, but they know that they want like an Instagram post and a TikTok, or they just want a TikTok video, or whatever it is. So, there’s not too much of that, but there’s more negotiating in terms of like what I’m going to make and how I’m going to use their product or how I’m going to share it on my platforms. Then you get into the actually integration of the content and the content review. But usually, brands have a clear idea of exactly what they want from you when they email you, is what I found.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yep. Do you have, don’t have to share what the actual rates are, but I mean, but I think a lot of people are like, how do I go about figuring out what my rate is? I think a lot of people come to the table and they’re like, I don’t know. Either on one side like, hey, I want to work with brands and I’d be willing to get paid, not a lot to get started and build my portfolio, or on the other side, don’t want to send people something and they’d look at and be like, what? You think you’re going to get paid that much? Never. And then no reply.

Chelsey White: Such good questions.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you feel comfortable with a rate that’s like competitive, but also paying you well?

Chelsey White: It is hard, especially when you’re starting, because number one, you doubt yourself. You’re like, am I worth this? Am I creating things? So, I totally get that feeling. Yeah, and just like when you’re new to it. Luckily, I had a background in it, so I was like reviewing influencer contracts, like managing those things. So, I saw what people were charging and I was familiar with it, which helped a lot. But I think, kind of like the going rate is like a dollar per a hundred followers.

Chelsey White: If you were to take my following on like Instagram, say it’s like 1.2 million, it’d be like $12,000 a post. That’s not to say that you, like, if you have amazing engagement, maybe you charge more. Or like, also if you have less, I know, I think if you have like 250,000 followers, you probably could charge more. I think there’s like a band. And on the upper end, you probably can’t charge too much more because it really is like so much money and out of a budget. But if you’re on the lower end, you probably can charge up a little bit. But that’s just like a rule of thumb. That’s like, by no means you need to adhere by that.

Bjork Ostrom: The ultimate, yeah.

Chelsey White: Also, sometimes I will get a pitch from a brand that I really love or I genuinely love the product or it’s like a show that I’m like a huge fan of. So, even if budget is lower than my like rate card, I’m usually willing to work with it, but I mean, you do need to negotiate because it’s not that they’re buying just your time. They’re buying your audience. Like you’re feeding this ad to your audience. And you’ve spent like how many years building this page and building this audience and following.

Chelsey White: You don’t want to undervalue yourself, but at the same time, especially when you’re getting started, some money is better than no money, and if you’re trying to make a go of it and be full-time like, it’s all about what you’re comfortable with and what you feel good about. So, it’s hard and it varies, and you want to stand firm, but at the same time, it’s okay to be a little bit flexible. But some brands, if it’s not some huge brand, probably don’t have a huge budget. So, you might want to be more flexible with that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It seems like some of the variables are, to your point, like how much do I like this company? How much do I like this brand? Another variable would be, how much do I like doing sponsored content? And there are some people who hate doing sponsored content so they quote a ridiculously high rate and some people will say, hey, we really like working with you, so we’ll pay it, so they don’t enjoy it, but they feel justified by the price. Another would be like, how closely aligned is it with the content that you’re producing?

Bjork Ostrom: For you, you talked about, hey, this would be a show. I think some people would hear that and be like, wait, show? Wait, a show will sponsor you? Can you talk a little bit about how that works and how that plays into you creating recipes, but then how it could also be a show?

Chelsey White: Yes. When I say show, I just mean, like I did a partnership with Rick and Morty, which like, I love animated TV shows. I love SpongeBob. It’s a long saga. But I got reached out to, but then they were like, can you make a reel to celebrate the fifth season of Rick and Morty? And I was like, oh, heck yeah. I made a pickle Rick, unless you watch the show, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Bjork Ostrom: I know. I’ve read. This is like how I consume content. I’ve read articles about Rick and Morty, but I’ve never actually seen an episode of it.

Chelsey White: That’s totally fine. So, there’s like a really iconic episode that’s like the season, I think, won an Emmy, or I don’t know if it was the show, but there’s like a very iconic season, and if you like the episodes, if you like the show you’ll know this. So, I made a cake of that and it performed really well, because anybody who likes the show is obsessed with that. They understood it. Which I was nervous about because I was like, is this too niche? Is anyone going to get it? But people did. But there’s stuff like that all the time where like movie premiers, like I made a overall cake for like Mamma Mia 2 years ago. That was one of my first bigger partnerships. I was like, this is crazy. They sent me overalls. It was a whole thing. It was fun.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s cool.

Chelsey White: I generally like making sponsored content. I prefer doing my own stuff 100%, but a lot of times the way I … My platforms are like, I really try my hardest to do something that’s fun and that I’m proud of. So, I can make a cake or something that’s really cool and aligned with what the brand wants. I’m excited to make it, so I really try to stick with opportunities like that. I never do things that are off-brand like SugarBearHair gummies or like slim tea. I get so many things like that that just I would never, ever do. It’s also about picking the right opportunities that are aligned with your brand.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes sense. In your case, it sounds like sometimes the sponsor content can even be the best performing content. If it’s a niche, if it’s about a show, people would be excited about it. That to me is the best type of content. It’s a win for the brand. It’s a win for you if your followers are excited about it. All of that stuff aligns. I think that’s where a sponsor content work the best, is when you can align all of those things. How about in terms of growth? You have 2 million followers on TikTok, 1.2 million followers on Instagram, what have you found that has worked well for growing on a platform like TikTok?

Chelsey White: TikTok is such a rollercoaster of emotions. You can have a video just go absolutely viral, like millions, like 30 million views or more. Then your next video can get like 20,000 views. I, number one, try to emotionally detach because you have no control over it and you just got to try to create stuff and hope the internet will like it.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you do that? How do you emotionally detach?

Chelsey White: I mean, I just don’t do a good job of it. That’s what I try to do. I try not to like, number one, limiting my screen time. I just try not to be on my phone all day, because that way, if you’re constantly checking it, you get kind of obsessed with how things are going and then you might either feel better or worse about something when you already feel like you did a good job on it, so you should already just be happy with what you did. It’s not easy though, but I think that … Just trying to make fast moving videos that …

Chelsey White: Most of my followers are people similar to me, like similar in age. 90% of my following, in general, across my platforms is female. So, I just try to make stuff that I would want to watch and that I think is entertaining, and it doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. And you just try, also volume, just continuing to create stuff, and eventually something will get traction and will stick. Sometimes it won’t, sometimes it will. You just got to keep chugging along.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you do that? What is the day to day, week to week look like when you’re producing content, developing recipes? Are you doing editing yourself? Do you have a team that you work with? How do you scale all of that and stay sane?

Chelsey White: I literally am a one woman show mostly because I’m like, not a control freak, but like I don’t love managing people. I really need to outsource video editing. I eventually, like pretty soon we want to start trying to have kids so I really actually do need to like build a team soon. But it’s like a little bit of a struggle, but I kind of like it. Not the struggle, but I like doing everything because it feels like the full process is coming complete. You’re recipe testing, then you’re filming, then you’re editing it, you see it coming to life, you see the final product, you share it.

Chelsey White: And then like, it’s like this whole life cycle of really feeling accomplished with what you did. Also, I don’t ever want to do just all filming in the … It gets really exhausting being on your feet for like 12 hours a day and filming. I’m like running around my island by myself, like I’m clear. I like, one day on my feet all day, the next day editing on my computer, and I try to just alternate and balance things out so that I don’t get burnt out. Because you also need to be creative, which is something that’s so hard to feel like inspired and motivated to do. So, I try to just, like some days in the kitchen, some days off. But it’s a lot of work. I think people underestimate how much work goes into it, but I’m sure you guys understand.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think I was just having a conversation earlier on the live Q&A that we had with Food Blogger Pro members, and that’s exactly what I said. I think people underestimate just exactly how much time goes in, start to finish, recipe development, shooting, writing, publishing. Have you learned things that have been able to make that process more efficient, even in regards to publishing to multiple platforms? If you’re doing video on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, is it the same? I look at YouTube shorts sometimes, and it’s like, it’s obvious that some people have just exported those from TikTok. There’s just the branding, Tiktok branding on them, where it’s just like creators being like, I’m exhausted, I’m just going to straight upload this to YouTube.

Chelsey White: Yes. I definitely try, like I film … I try to film with usually two cameras, so I like some different angles. Because some angles just like … that’s the worst thing ever. It’s like trying to film horizontally and crop it vertically, which like you have to do for YouTube or for like, if you’re going to have a video on your blog, like it has to be horizontal and again, blog is always secretly the priority. So, like it’s so hard to get your framing right, and then you have to crop. I film everything just once or I try to, and then I do just try to crop it down and I try to keep that in mind as I’m filming so that I can just make it work, but it’s a struggle.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Are you publishing YouTube shorts as well?

Chelsey White: I was for a while. And some of them did well. It’s honestly one of those things where it’s like, you already have like X number of platforms and then that’s like that last thing in the back of your mind that you’re like, oh, I should schedule those, and I do…

Bjork Ostrom: Should do that yeah.

Chelsey White: And then I forget. I’m creating the content for TikTok already, and I’m creating it, like not in the app. I like have vertical videos saved. I could very easily upload them. I just don’t. It’s hard. It’s one of those things where I need to like hire a team so that I can have other people. It’s just things fall through crack and that’s one of the things that has been lately, but there’s good opportunity there. I really should be focusing more on that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. But there’s always going to be another thing you could or should be doing, and especially, as just you doing it, it’s like, that is so much. I’m interested to hear you talk a little bit about, when do you know when to stop, or don’t you? Sometimes we’ll interview people and they’re like, it really is like, from when I get up until the last like hour, maybe I’ll slow down of the day. Do you feel like that’s true for you or do you feel like you’re able to build in rhythms to say like, hey, I’m going to wrap up at 3:30? No, that’s not … What does that look like for you?

Chelsey White: I think that I struggle with that a lot. I think pretty much anyone that’s self-employed, when you’re working towards something that you directly benefit from, or it’s like something you’re growing towards like a very tangible goal, you want to work on, and I genuinely enjoy what I do. I like the variety, I like the creativity, I like the autonomy. So, I wake up and I exercise, always thing I try to like run or do something, like go to the gym.

Chelsey White: Then I started working and I work pretty much all day. I try to make time for friends, will go get coffee with a friend or like dinner or something. But if I don’t have that planned, I’m just working until a half hour before I go to bed when I like will brush my teeth and read a book and then I go to bed, but I’m not unhappy. I really do try to plan things to get me out of my apartment and … Just because burn out is so real. But yeah, I do work a lot. My husband works a lot too, so it’s kind of like … It’s this really bad cycle where like, I’m like, oh, you’re working late. Okay, I’ll keep making some extra pins for Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: So then I will. I mean, he’s like, well, you’re working late and yeah, so I will. What does your husband do for his work?

Chelsey White: He would say he works in insurance, but he does insurance for mergers and acquisitions. So, it’s like a lot of geo-based work that has really tight timelines.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so, yes, they have long days because there’s a deal that’s going to close and they have to make sure that …

Chelsey White: Exactly. And just like weekends. Like, oh, we thought this was going to close next week, but it need to close early, so they go the weekend, and you’re like, okay, well.

Bjork Ostrom: Then you say, as long as you’re working, I might as well schedule these extra pins.

Chelsey White: Or like, let me make those muffins I was going to make, totally get ahead on that.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So, what would your advice be? Let’s say everything resets, everything goes away and you are where you are today, and you are wanting to build a successful business, but you don’t have any of the things that you’ve had before in terms of traction in any platforms or following, what would that look like? Where would you start? Where would you focus your time and what are the things that you’d be doing each day?

Chelsey White: That is such an interesting question. I haven’t thought about that perspective in a while, but I think honestly, if I was starting from scratch, I would be focused on TikTok because I just think you can grow a lot there. I think I would, other than that, be done a lot of the same stuff I do now, of just consistently working hard, having a content schedule of things listed out that I want to do and that makes sense strategically.

Chelsey White: For me, blogging, like I would see what I could ring for. And even if it was like a much easier keyword, I would still be trying to focus on that. I really, and just working hard, I think you do just have to grind it out. It’s a volume game. That’s not easy, but I think that’s why people that are successful in this space are the people that are willing to work the hardest. There’s obviously a little bit of luck involved, I think at least, and I’m so grateful for the way things have worked out. I think there’s like a saying of like luck is when opportunity meets hard work or something like that. I think that’s ….

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, or luck wears overalls.

Chelsey White: Yes. But it’s so true. I think I would just keep trying to grind it out. It’s a lot harder when you have a full-time job and you haven’t been able to make the transition, and like that’s a whole other conversation of like when that’s the right time. But I think just also focusing on something that you love helps a lot. Sorry.

Bjork Ostrom: No, totally. It’s a good point me to interject to say, how much of, we just had this question come up regarding that, how much of it is, hey, I’m just doing stuff that I love versus you had talked a little bit before about doing keyword research? A lot of times keyword research isn’t like, and this just happens to be the thing I love the most as well. It’s like, oh, there’s opportunity here. I don’t really love this, but I might be able to rank for it so I’m going to create this, or there’s this thing I really love, but nobody’s going to really search for it. How do you balance those things as a creator?

Chelsey White: I love that question because I have been actively working this year on trying to do two things a week that are strategic keyword research that I know will benefit me in the long run, and then one fun thing that’s just for social media. For me, I’ve been making like sheet cakes of SpongeBob characters, and it can be something silly, but it’s just something that I genuinely like, and that it’s easy. It’s so much fast, when you don’t have to do a blog post, it’s so much faster to edit for your platform. It’s easier to crank out content.

Chelsey White: It’s not like it’s that big of a time sync. Even though I feel like it doesn’t get me towards all my goals, I think it makes me happy and keeps the creativity flowing. So, I try to give myself a little bit of time a week to just play with something or just genuinely make something I want to make, and that has been so helpful, especially during the pandemic because I found myself just working all the time because there’s nothing else to do. So, having that kind of outlet and allowing my work to still be a creative outlet for me in a fun way was really nice, and I highly recommend doing that if you’re able to.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. One of the things that I’ve heard you say a couple of times is just this consideration around the different platforms. One of the things that’s interesting on the performance side of things is like search doesn’t really exist on an Instagram or TikTok. Technically, it does, but that might be …

Chelsey White: Nobody uses it like that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, but that might be a better outlet for something where you’re like, hey, this isn’t going to be like a keyword that’s going to rank really well. I’m just going to be really excited to make this. You could maybe put it on your blog if you want to, but you know that it’s not search-oriented content, but then you do have stuff where you know that blueberry pancakes aren’t going to perform super well on, if it’s just like a standard recipe on Instagram or at least considering the focus of your following that might not be true.

Bjork Ostrom: But it wouldn’t potentially be a keyword that you could rank for. When you’re doing that keyword research. Are you using a tool for that? And what have you learned about that process that’s been helpful in your journey?

Chelsey White: I love keyword research. Actually, I find myself falling down rabbit holes of just like things like oh, or this, or oh, that, and then different flavors of that, and I will just go on a tangent for like long periods of time. I think it’s like the inner like accountant…

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, data and spreadsheets and yeah.

Chelsey White: I love the number. I have spreadsheets, I list things, and then I like prioritize what I want. Anyways. I use a tool called Keysearch, which I really love. It’s super easy to use. There’s tons of great tools out there as I’m sure you’d know. I’m sure most people following this podcast know about, but I think it’s like one of the cheaper options. I’m not going too crazy with that. I’m really just trying to think of ideas. I’m not like targeting competitors keywords and things like that. I’m really just going with the flow. For me, it works really well, and it’s like I think $18 a month or something and so I really like it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It feels like the kind of tool where it’s like when you go to Target and then like, can you tell me where the peaches are? And they’re like isle seven. It’s directionally where you want to go, but they’re not like, aisle seven, halfway down, three steps to the right side. So, you can know like, hey, this is guiding me generally where I want to go in terms of content perspective, which I think is what a lot of people need.

Bjork Ostrom: What’s the general idea with this? It doesn’t have to be specific. There’s no like hard and fast rule, but it allows you to make educated decisions around content that you have coming up. Another thing that you mentioned was your content calendar. Being a finance person, are you managing that in a spreadsheet or do you have a process that you use for that? What does that look like?

Chelsey White: I’m not like cool enough to be using like Asana or something like that. And also it’s just me, I don’t need to like share with other people. I literally just use Google calendars, which I started … I did that in college when I had like meetings and classes. I just like have my flow of stuff on there. I have everything mapped out there, what I’m creating that week, when I’m going to edit things, what meetings I have, what I’m sharing on social, they’re all color coded.

Chelsey White: It’s like kind of aggressive-looking when you glance at it. But I love it because I turn everything green when I finish it, which is very satisfying. And then I never get everything done in a day, so I constantly just drag things to the next day, and it’s time-blocking, but it really helps me visually to see what’s going on for a week, and even like buying groceries for the week. It’s like, what do I have coming up? I just use Google calendar and it works really great for me at this point in my business.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Idea being you maybe will have three things that you’re focusing on for that day. The time-blocking thing, I think is really important too, because I think sometimes, if we use just a standard list tool, we can be like, great, I want to do these five things, which are super important, but it’s like, realistically, one of them probably takes three hours, another takes four hours, and then it’s like, you’re doing email and other stuff in between, so there goes your day.

Bjork Ostrom: But to put it on a calendar, it makes it look and feel a little bit different than just a task that would live in Asana or things, which is an app that I use. It’s one of the things that I appreciate about that idea and then being able to move them and then turning them green, that feeling of like done, checked off. It’s like the color version of crossing it off, which, which feels great. That’s cool.

Bjork Ostrom: Any other thoughts that you’d have for somebody looking to say like, go to the next level or to find traction? You talked about working hard, you talked about grit, finding the work that overlaps well with what you love to do, but also being open to finding out what might perform well. Any other advice or insight that you have for folks who are, look at what you’ve done and say like, wow, that’s really impressive. I would love to do something similar. How do I do that?

Chelsey White: I think one thing that I forgot to mention is like, looking at how things are performing, and even though I said earlier like, don’t get too attached to it. Don’t think you failed if you created something really beautiful and people don’t like it on the internet. I always joke around that people never like what I like. And whenever I think something is stupid that I made, people love it, but that’s not how it always is.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah, yeah, but it sometimes feels like that.

Chelsey White: That’s exactly, yeah, exactly how it feels. But it’s really good to look at how things are performing. For me in general, weird things always perform better. It’s like more of a story. This is getting too much into the baking niche, but it’s like more of a story, you’re watching this whole thing come together. I cut a slice. You really feel like you’re making it with me, whereas a cupcake usually doesn’t perform as well, just because it’s not as exciting. It’s just like, there’s not as much going on there.

Chelsey White: It doesn’t mean that that’s like a hard rule, but in general, like I know cakes perform better, and I also love making cakes and decorating them. I probably try to make more cakes, but that can be applied to any niche. If you know a certain type of format or a video is really working for you, and even on different platforms, like one thing might be working on one and a different thing on another and just really trying to be flexible, test things out, try different formats, try different styles of filming and editing, and just seeing what is getting traction and then sticking with that and continuing to grow and expand in that category.

Chelsey White: I think that’s like the hardest thing. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we’re making or what we want to make, but it really also is just like, what’s actually working? What’s giving you growth? So, taking a minute to look at your analytics and just see what’s … Usually, you know if you have a viral video. You’re like, oh, that looked really well. It doesn’t always mean it’s going to be viral next time you make the same video. And realistically, it probably won’t the way the algorithms work, but if you see a format’s working well, just keep working with that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Is that generally how you’re doing it, is kind of like high level observation and gut? Like, hey, let’s look at the analytics, what blog posts did well? Why do I think that did well? Is there a way that I could sort of replicate that? Or like on Instagram, hey, this reel performed well. Why do I think that may be performed well. Let me try a similar but different thing. Is that kind of the premise of what you’re getting at?

Chelsey White: Yeah, absolutely. I had never done like a lot of sheet cakes. I did that pickle Rick cake for the Rick and Morty partnership and people loved it. And I was like, oh, I can do like these sheet cakes. They’re so much faster to make, so much easier, and I like this, and this works okay. I’ve been doing some of those and it’s been fun, and I like it, and I probably wouldn’t have thought to do that earlier, but like I tried this new thing, worked well, so I’ve been doing some more of it. A lot of it too is the gut and that’s like a hard thing, but I think, you know deep down, like what probably is going to be good and what’s not.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s the art and science of it, which is the world that we live in. Chelsey, super fun to chat with you. For those who want to follow along, they have a lot of options, the different platforms that you’re on. Are your handles the same on all of them, and can you highlight those?

Chelsey White: Yes, absolutely. Oh, I always just say you can just search for like @Chelsey, it’s on most social media platforms, and you’ll find me, but that really just includes TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or just literally Google. Just Google chelsweets.com and you’ll find all my recipes.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Really encourage people to check those out. I know, I will … It’s one of those where it’s, I feel like I could watch this content, but at this point, I could never make that content. But it’s the type of stuff that is that perfect in-between of entertainment and education, but also I’m sure that you get people who message you back and will show you there, what was the Rick and Morty character name?

Chelsey White: The pickle Rick cake.

Bjork Ostrom: Pickle Rick cake and show like, this will be my last thing. This is one of my favorite things of all time, is that nailed it, like the Pinterest nailed it. Where somebody tries to do it and it’s so far off. Do you ever have people who are like, hey, here’s my pickle Rick cake, and it’s like so far off that you can’t even understand what it is?

Chelsey White: Yes. I get a very … My DMs and emails are very interesting from people, but like, it’s fun. And like a lot times, it can be someone’s like first cake. I remember my first cake. It wasn’t that long ago, so it’s always entertaining. But you know what I love about it? Is that no matter what the cake looks like, usually whoever sends it is extremely proud of themselves, and that’s like the best feeling, because you inspired somebody to do something they loved and create something, no matter how it might look to everyone else that they’re really excited about. It does vary, but I just love it in general. I’m always like super encouraging and so excited whenever I get emails like that, no matter what they look like.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Well, that’s great. Chelsey, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Really appreciate it.

Chelsey White: Yeah, thanks so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for this episode. As always, just a quick reminder to subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t done that yet. If you want to see all of the different podcasts we’ve done, if you want to easily search through our podcast database, even see different blog posts or commentary from different experts that we have, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com. And if you want to drill down a little bit more, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/podcast. One of the great things about the search functionality on Food Blogger Pro is we kind of break it out into different areas.

Bjork Ostrom: So, if you go to Food Blogger Pro, you click on the search, you can see podcasts, you can see different experts on our panel. So, we have Food Blogger Pro experts who all weigh in on the community forum for anybody who’s a member of Food Blogger Pro, and you can also see the time that it was posted. So, you could go and you could say like, hey, in the past month, I want to see all of the podcast episodes about Instagram, or in the past year, I want to see all the podcast episodes about Instagram. It’s just a little filtering that we do for anybody who’s interested in drilling down a little bit more if you want to find a specific podcast episode as opposed to just kind of listening to whatever comes up on your podcast feed when there’s a new episode.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks so much for tuning in. We appreciate you. We couldn’t do this podcast without you, and that’s why we do it every week, and that’s why we will be back here next Tuesday with another episode. Until then, make it a great week. And we hope that we can help you get a tiny bit better every day forever. That’s why we’re here. Thanks for listening.

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