310: The Confident Pitch – How to Naturally Build Relationships with Brands with Candice Ward

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An image of someone speaking in front of a computer and the title of Candice Ward's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'The Confident Pitch.'

Welcome to episode 310 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Candice Ward about pitching brands and monetizing food photography.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Shawn Blanc about the way he produces products for his audience. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

The Confident Pitch

Working with brands can be a great way to monetize a blog or food business, but the process of pitching brands and fostering a relationship with those brands can be a bit intimidating.

Enter: Candice! She’s on the podcast today to talk about working with clients, getting paid, and reaching a successful stage in her business in a short period of time. In this interview, Candice talks about how she pitches brands, monetizes her food photography skills, and finds the right brands to work with.

A quote from Candice Ward’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'What audience am I trying to attract to my blog and what types of products align with that and align with my brand values?'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How she transitioned her business
  • How she improved her food photography skills
  • How she found her first client
  • How to start collaborating with brands
  • Her strategies for creating a media kit
  • How she evaluates brands
  • How much you can expect to make from freelance photography
  • How she finds contacts
  • How she hosts coaching calls


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

Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community at foodbloggerpro.com/membership

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello, hello. This is Bjork Ostrom. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Today’s interview is with Candice Ward from Eat More Cake By Candice. She’s going to be talking actually about photography and building a photography business and how she pivoted a few different times into this business, some of the reasons why, and also how she was able to use her background in sales to have a pretty quick on-ramp into building a successful business where she’s able to work with clients, get paid, and how she’s able to do that off of a pivot from her previous business of cake making and reach a pretty successful stage in a short period of time.

Bjork Ostrom: I know for a lot of us, we talk about this idea of tiny bit better every day, forever, how it takes a long time, and we need to commit to something not for weeks, but for years. But as much as possible, we want to shorten that time period and get to what we consider to be success, it looks different for everybody, but what you would consider success as quickly as possible. Candice is going to talk about how she did that with a food photography business and why she had to do that in the midst of COVID and the global pandemic and all of that.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s an inspiring interview and I love how Candice talks about her hustle and using her background in a different area of sales to create this hybrid skill set. It was photography, it was sales, it was an understanding of what clients needed. She’s going to talk about what that looked like and how she rolled all of that out in a short period of time and was able to get some traction early on. Hope you enjoy this interview with Candice. Let’s go ahead and jump in. Candice, welcome to the podcast.

Candice Ward: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, excited to talk to you about your story. There’s a couple of different iterations in a short amount of time. Sometimes we’ll talk to people and it will be like, “I did this for five years and then it shifted and evolved. I did this for five years.” But really over the past two years, you’ve not switched directions, but evolved. You’ve built on your past successes and had to change your business, starting with COVID, which is true for a lot of people. It shook up a lot of our lives, business and personal. Tell me about what happened with your first business and then when was the day that you realized this probably isn’t going to be my business at least for the next few months and then turned into essentially a year of things looking very different for the industry that you’re in. Tell That story.

Candice Ward: I actually started as a baker in the wedding industry about six years ago. I was building that alongside working a corporate job in sales. When I had my son two years ago, that’s when I decided I’m going to quit my corporate job, pursue my business in the wedding industry and grow that even further. And then COVID hit last year and the wedding industry that actually simultaneously I had been left my corporate job for about six months, so, “Okay, I need to now monetize further for the wedding industry,” and then COVID hit. That’s when I said, “Okay, weddings are on hold. I need to find another revenue stream pretty quickly.”

Candice Ward: At that time, I decided to learn food photography, and essentially I said, “My photos need to be better.” I had also been blogging just as a byproduct, not really necessarily to monetize to track my recipes. And so I really buckled down and said, “I’m going to learn food photography and then I’m going to make this my career.” That’s what my focus was during COVID last year with the photography side.

Bjork Ostrom: You were doing cakes before, what does that like to… It feels like it would be potentially a stressful thing. Anything in the wedding industry feels like it’d be really stressful. We have a really good friend does wedding video and it’s like you have one shot to do it, which is like different than blogging where you can iterate, you can change, copy, you can go and adjust photography, the photos, you can develop the recipe and tweak it. But you have one shot with a wedding cake and people… You’re having to execute on somebody’s vision. They’re like, “Here’s what I want it to look like.” Is everything custom when it comes to the cakes that you’re making?

Candice Ward: Yes, it’s very time-consuming. I actually had my business model less around wedding cakes and I was doing more dessert tables. My niche was small bite sized desserts to take that stress and pressure off of doing these elaborate three tier custom cakes. My ideal client was somebody that just wanted a small cutting cake. It was a little bit more manageable. I was hoping to scale that. But again, at the time, I was working a corporate job, so we only had so much bandwidth. And that’s when I was like, “This isn’t for me. I don’t know if I can…” The wedding industry is a whole different ball game. It’s a lot of stress.

Bjork Ostrom: But it sounds like there was a point you did want to go all in with that. You’d left your corporate job in sales and you said, “Hey, I’m going to try and scale this.” And that was for a year, two years. You’re in the process of building up that business and then COVID hit and you’re like, “Wait, there’s not going to be people sitting around a table eating cake for…” At first we were like weeks and then we’re like months and it turned out to be much, much longer. What was that like for you to have so much energy into a thing and to be excited about potentially building it and then for all of that to go away? Was that discouraging?

Candice Ward: Yeah, it was very discouraging. I had just invested money in a marketing campaign and sent flyers to all of the wedding planners for a referral program. It was probably two weeks later that COVID really hit. At that point, I was like, “I need to do something quickly because I don’t want to go back to my corporate job. I want to take care of my son and I want to make my business thrive.” It was really discouraging, but I knew I had to do something quick.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so at that point, you’re starting to look at other options. If you know that you don’t want to go back to a more traditional corporate job, you know that weddings aren’t going to come back in the near future, then it’s looking at what you do have, which is like expertise and insight around a very specific thing, which is cakes. And then you also have some of these skills that you’d maybe been developing a little bit, but it sounds like on the side, photography, building your blog. How did you go about saying this, knowing what I have now available to me, knowing what I don’t have because of the way industry shift, how did you pick which direction to go coming out of that?

Candice Ward: Ironically, I had actually purchased a photography course like a year prior and I had never had the time to actually do it. I said, “You know what? This is-”

Bjork Ostrom: And now, suddenly you had time.

Candice Ward: I had time. I said, “My photos need to be better for marketing on my social media channels as well as my blog.” And so my only thought really at the time, I didn’t really understand how to monetize as a food photographer. I just knew that I needed to improve on that skill. I also did have an interest in photography. I had taken some courses in college just for fun. It had been a hobby of mine. At that point, I was like, “I’m going to buckle down. I’m going to take this course. I’m going to see how it impacts me.” And then after I took the course was when I was like, “Okay, this is really what? The direction I’m going to go.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, what was the course and what were the biggest takeaways from that that you remember that were unlocks for you?

Candice Ward: It was the Foodtography School course. The biggest takeaways was… I mean, it was really just a foundational photography course. For anyone who’s intro starting out, it was really approachable. I could complete it really quickly, so I didn’t have to spend months on it. It was two to three weeks. But the aspect that I really liked and the whole reason I even purchased it from the beginning was that there was a component on the business side of building a food photography business, which I think is a really underserved part of the industry. And so I said, “If I’m going to do this, I want to at least make money off of it. I don’t want to just be a hobby food photographer.” That was the biggest takeaway, just knowing the different revenue streams and how you can monetize.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so coming into it, you knew, “All right, I’m going to learn photography. I’m going to be able to apply this with what I’m doing with my blog.” We talk a lot on the podcasts around, “Hey, here’s how you can scale a blog in order to get sponsored content, to get more traffic so you can run ads, like that as a revenue stream.” But one of the things we’re trying to do a better job of is talking about, “Hey, that’s not the only path. You can do creative work and build a business and build a brand in your area of interest. It doesn’t have to be building a blog.” That’s a great way to do it. We’ve done that. Other people have done that.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a lot of different paths. One of them is you can use your creative skills, photography as an example, to book clients and to start connecting with people who need that for their business, restaurants, maybe other creators or publishers, maybe it’s food brands to, in this case, like capture really incredible photographs. At what point did you say, “Hey, I think the next version for me is actually going to be trying to connect with brands, or creators, or maybe it’s somebody else who’d be interested in your thoughts on that to try and pitch them my services”? When did that come along in the process for you?

Candice Ward: It was three months after I took the course. It was very fast. I just said I have to make money. I was very motivated. Again, I learned the course and I was practicing for my own blog. I was taking pictures weekly for the recipes that I was developing for my blog. It was going on my social channels. I was simultaneously building that as well. And then I started networking and reaching out to brands through Instagram and ended up getting my first sponsored post three months later. I’m happy to say a year and some months later, they’re still a client of mine. Something’s been working.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you say sponsored posts, is that on your blog or on Instagram? You connected with them and they paid you to photograph and to promote a product of theirs.

Candice Ward: Yep, so I did an Instagram post, I developed a recipe using their product, did an Instagram post, and then I also did a blog post.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. I think for a lot of people in the early stages, they’re like, “How does that happen?” I know that we’re recording this end of May, we’ve come a little bit later, and you can talk about the course you’re doing combining your corporate sales background, pitching and talking to food photographers about how they can all put that together. So you have some experience and expertise in pitching to brands. How did you do that in the early stages to get a deal like this because a lot of people are interested in doing similar things, but don’t know where to start?

Candice Ward: I love that question because I don’t want to say I was clueless in the beginning, but I would say the biggest challenge, I think, is finding that first client, or at least that’s the conception. The other misconception is a lot of people think they have to have a certain amount of blog traffic or Instagram followers. I did not have a large following at all. I had under 3,000 people. I did not have a lot of traffic going to my blog. My pictures were okay, they weren’t… Over time, your skill set gets better. Really, what I did and what my approach was is I just asked myself and took a step back and said, “Well, what audience am I trying to attract to my blog? What types of products align with that and align with my brand values?” I really first targeted companies that were in complete alignment with my brand, my voice, my audience, because it makes the most sense to reach out to those brands when there’s already that alignment and it feels natural.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so you go through this process and Lindsay was just… We were having a conversation about wife Lindsay, she runs Pinch of Yum, for context this last night, talking about sponsored content like you do at ten o’clock at night when you both work on a blog together. She’s like, “The best type of sponsor content is when it doesn’t feel like work because it’s brands that I really like and use and they’re really highly aligned.” I feel like we’re lucky enough to have a lot of those relationships on Pinch of Yum, all the being an example like, “Hey, we’d shop at all the… even if we weren’t working with them.” DeLallo’s another company that we work with. But if you’re in the early stages, how do you go through that refining process? Do you start with brands that are smaller in a similar way so you’re not reaching out to like Target or something like that? How do you actually get heard when you’re in the early stages?

Candice Ward: Yeah, that’s a really good question too. I also do business coaching and I just referenced that because in a lot of my coaching calls, this is a question that constantly comes up, “Who do I know to reach out to when I’m just starting out?” I find that a lot of people are going after the big companies. It’s not to say that it can’t happen, but typically the sales cycle is going to be longer or it’s going to be more difficult to actually get the contact of the correct person, or they might be working with an agency. It’s just a little bit more complicated. I always tell people to start with local companies if you live in a foodie type place. I live in Seattle, so I’m fortunate to have a lot of local food companies.

Candice Ward: Local is a great strategy. First, I was just reaching out to local restaurants. I didn’t end up doing anything in that direction, but again, this was my strategy. When I first started, I was reaching out to local restaurants and said, “Hey, the pandemic hit, you guys are closing your restaurants, but you need photos for Grubhub and all of these food services to do take out orders.” I was just offering my services at the time. I said, “I will offer it to you at a discounted rate to build my portfolio in exchange for the food.” I would keep the food.

Candice Ward: And then in terms of sponsored post and brands, I was picking and choosing smaller brands, but more niche. For example, my baking blog. Again, this really goes back to knowing what your own brand is. I think having a clear understanding of that. My particular brand is focused on desserts, but focused on using quality ingredients. I said, “Okay, what companies are smaller that I can approach that have really high-quality products?” That’s the strategy I took initially. And then I would just start, again, networking, engaging with them on social media, trying to get contacted that way. But in short-

Bjork Ostrom: What does that actually look like when you say networking? Because I think for some people it’s like… Do you pitch right away? Do you open up with like, “Hey, love your brand”? Do you maybe use the brand and say like, “Hey, I used it”? How do you go about doing that well when you say networking? What does that actually look like?

Candice Ward: It’s all of those things. Yeah, so that you could really do it in many different ways. You can either go buy the product, use it, take photos of it for your blog, show them examples of the actual product you’re producing or images you’re producing because you’re showing them value, or you’re giving them a vision of what it would be like if they hired you. That’s one strategy. I actually didn’t do that in the very beginning. What I did is I actually took a poll on Instagram of my audience and I asked them, and I said, “Do you care about learning about the ingredients that I’m using?” People were like, “Yes, I want to know more about your baking ingredients.” I just took a genuine poll of my audience to gauge if they would be even interested in learning about these products.

Candice Ward: And then I would engage with the brand on whether it’s their stories, just again, very natural and organically, like it needs to feel natural on their stories, on their posts, engaging with them. And then I would send them a message basically saying, “I love your brand. I use it. This is what I do. I pulled my audience recently and they want to know more about this product.” And so you’re showing and backing it up with analytics, which is much easier to gain a contact when you’re first starting out, when you have no experience shooting food products, yet you don’t want to say that. I was trying to back it up with analytics of the value I could add to the brand in order to get a contact.

Bjork Ostrom: And especially when it’s a local brand or maybe a more niche brand, a lot of times that’s probably one person that’s either on their team, or maybe even the owner of that brand that’s doing the social. And so you have more of a direct line of communication once it gets to the ultimate example of Target. I remember touring Target, Twin Cities based company. We went into their social media war room. It was like 70 panels and it was like, “Oh my gosh, this is so extreme.” You imagine trying to connect with somebody in a meaningful way with a brand like that, it just would be really difficult. Not that you can’t, it’s happened before.

Bjork Ostrom: For us, Target reached out when Lindsay posted. This was years ago. It wasn’t ingredients, but like 10 healthy things you can get from Target. It was her doing this breakdown of it. It was like, “Oh, Target team reached out. We’ve been sharing this internally.” You can’t get in, but it’s different than when it’s a smaller local brand, and especially when you’re in the early stage to build on that. When you were connecting with these brands, pitching, was the idea that you were pitching your services as a food photographer, or was it sponsored content?

Candice Ward: In the beginning, it was sponsored content. I didn’t specifically say sponsored content, but brands… I still feel this to this day, to just a year later they automatically think that’s the approach that you’re going for. Since I’ve gained more experience, I now understand how to pitch the specific services that I want to offer for them, instead of just keeping it generic and saying, “I’m a food photographer, and this is what I do,” because sometimes they don’t have a need for sponsored content, but they have a need for freelance photography. Maybe they just need images for their website or to use on their social media. But it comes from a different budget than their sponsored content budgets.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, yeah. It’s like product related as opposed to marketing or advertising. For Pinch of Yum, we have a media kit. It’s like, “Hey, you want to work with us? Here’s what it would look like on the blog or Instagram or whatever.” Do you have essentially a version of that for food photography?

Candice Ward: I do. I have a media kit. I don’t put my fees on there. It’s a strategy that I use. I talk about it a lot. But I do have a media kit. I did create one in the beginning. Brands often ask for it because they want to know what your numbers and your stats look like. I think that’s a really big challenge in the beginning because your numbers and your stats are not going to be as high. One strategy that I did to combat that was I actually put just a couple of bullet points that were strengths of mine from the wedding industry. If you have any prior experience or anything that’s somewhat related, I would highlight that over your numbers. Instead of putting your blog traffic or your Instagram following, I would put something different, highlight something else.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. And so for the relationships that did work out, is it a hybrid where you’re doing sponsored content, but then also giving them the rights to the photographs that then they can use? As you were starting out, what is your sense in terms of what people were hiring you for? Were you leading with food photography? “Hey, we’re going to photograph this, you’re going to have this, you can use it on your social. I’m going to post about it as well,” or was it, “Hey, I’m going to lead with sponsored content and bonus, you can use these images as well”?

Candice Ward: I actually completely separated them. I think it was just easier for me in the beginning to understand… compartmentalize my revenue streams and the different ways that you can monetize as a food photographer or even a food blogger. In the beginning, I was more focused on sponsored content. But again, I think it’s because I just got into this routine of sending my media kit. I often found when you sent a media kit, that brands automatically viewed you as an influencer or doing sponsored work versus a freelance photographer. Since then I have shifted and I now don’t send my media kit unless it’s absolutely requested. But when I first initially pitched and sent my email, my strategy looks completely different. Now, I actually research the brand pretty heavily before reaching out to them and I try to uncover where their needs might be. And then I strategically position my services based on that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you give an example of what that looks like?

Candice Ward: Yeah. I’ll give you the most recent example of a somewhat local company in Oregon based, I’m in Washington, but also pretty well-known company. I reached out to them and I had done… I researched their website, their social media, and the questions I ask myself are, “Are they active on social media? Are they using images that they’re repurposing from customers? Do they have a consistent feed or brand?” And that tells me, “Okay, maybe they have a need for consistent food photography photos.” Not necessarily sponsored content, but again, consistent images that’s produced by one photographer. I uncovered that they didn’t. There really wasn’t consistency on their feed. It was a combination of professional stage photos and the taking customer photos that were not so great.

Candice Ward: And then their website didn’t have a blog, which again, their food products. Having a blog is the easiest way to boost your SEO and to generate content and traffic. I noticed they didn’t have a blog. And so I initially reached out and said, “Here’s some work that I’ve done with a similar type of product.” It was an ice cream company and I had created an ice cream cake that performed really well on Google for another client. I basically said, “This performed really well. I could create recipes using your product and create consistent imagery for your website.”

Candice Ward: Initially, they came back to me and they were like, “You know what? We don’t have a need right now for sponsored content. Can you send your media kit?” Which is a typical response. And so I, at that point, thought it was dead in the water. We had nowhere to go from there and I ended up reaching out to her and saying, “I’ve noticed that you guys have some lifestyle images, but not a lot. If that’s an area of direction that you want to focus on, here’s an example of more lifestyle images where I used a product, but use it in a recipe and more lifestyle like action shots.”

Bjork Ostrom: They might include in an email that goes out or-

Candice Ward: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And so it sounds like their initial response back to you was a misinterpretation of what you were trying to say to them and you followed up and you’re like, “Hey, let me try that again. Here’s some other things that I could potentially offer you.” At that point, you’re going back and forth almost like convincing them of the need that they have and showcasing how you would be able to fill that based on previous work that you’ve done. At what point does it get to the point where you’re like, “Great, and here’s how much it costs?”

Bjork Ostrom: What is your advice for people around putting together a package that will justify the time that they spent because we’ve been in the situation where like, “Hey, you get $100 per photo, but then you realize you’re spending six hours developing the recipe, photographing it, and then you send it to them, and they’re like, ”Great, but could you try it again with like the napkin, built it a little bit?“ You’re like, ”Oh my gosh, this is mind numbing.“ How do you make sure that you’re capturing the value that you’re giving them in regards to the price without overshooting what they might have for budget.” I think that’s a scary conversation for some people.

Candice Ward: Yeah, and this is my favorite question, because this is where… This is my strength. I’ll just continue on this example so it all ties together. This is what ended up happening. I thought it was dead in the water. I came back, I gave her an example of what I could do for them, a more specific example. I said, “You know what? I’m actually not even trying to do sponsored content for you. I can offer freelance food photography photos.” She responded and said, “You know what? We actually do have a need for that. Can you provide some insight into what your rates are?” She asked me to send a rate card.

Candice Ward: I don’t send rate cards. I think with freelance photography, the fee’s typically higher, because as you mentioned, they’re either purchasing the rights to the images and it’s usually more involved. They want a higher volume of images. It’s more styled. Essentially, what I had said to her was, “You know what? I don’t send a rate card. I create custom proposals for my clients. In order to do that, I need a little bit more information from you so that I can build that custom proposal.” I really withhold my rates as long as possible until I’m in full alignment and understanding with the client what their goals are and also where their needs are. And then that’s where I build out my custom pricing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And then do you do that in like app? Are you doing it in QuickBooks and sending a proposal or this other proposal apps that you use? It’s a specific question, but I’d be curious to know.

Candice Ward: I use HoneyBook. I’m not sure if you’ve used it.

Bjork Ostrom: I haven’t used it but familiar with it.

Candice Ward: Yeah, that’s what I use for everything. Yeah, it’s amazing. I’ve been using it for like six years. It does everything from like invoicing, contracts, proposals. It’s basically how I manage all of my clients and my projects.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Let’s say this is the first time that somebody is doing this, or maybe they’re doing it, but they’re not doing it great and they need to tighten up their system. What is the general framework for… Once you’ve information gathered, you know what they expect, you maybe know generally how long it will take. What is the high-level framework for then putting that together? Do you have a day rate? You’re shooting for hourly rate, or do you have like… going after the budget they’ve given you, any advice there?

Candice Ward: Yeah. One of the questions I ask, I either try to… I have one of two ways. I have a questionnaire that I’ll either send that has a list of these questions so that it can understand the scope of the project. One of the questions being what’s their budget. The ideal scenario is to get on a call, like a discovery call where you can talk through the scenarios, which is what we ended up doing. And I did, was able to uncover what their budget was. From there, I built my proposal around aligning as closely as possible with their budget.

Candice Ward: There’s a lot of ways you can break down your pricing, especially when it’s freelance. Technically, food photography falls under commercial photography. I do a creative fee and then I also do have a line item for usage and licensing rights of the images. And then the third line item would be any additional expenses. If I’m going and buying food props or additional props required, that would be-

Bjork Ostrom: Travel or… Yeah.

Candice Ward: … an expense, or travel. Yeah. I shoot right now from home, so I don’t have that expense. But yeah, if you were to travel or go onsite, I know sometimes people have to rent Airbnbs for beautiful kitchen, more lifestyle images, that would be an additional fee. I try to keep it really simple for the client.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. So there’s not all these tiny little items that they’re having to add up and just keep it relatively simple, which makes sense. For somebody who’s just getting started, do you go and shoot for free to build your portfolio? At what point do you start actually charging? It’s always such a hard thing to say like, “Here’s a range.” But what range can you expect to make from doing freelance photography? You don’t have to share your specific numbers, but just so people have an idea. Is that like, hey, you’re going and you’re shooting and you’re getting 250 bucks a day, or can you make $2,500 a day? What does that look like?

Candice Ward: Yeah. I’ll just explain the difference between sponsored versus freelance. Sponsored, is the rates really going to be more contingent on your audience? What I mean by that is how many followers you have, like how many people you’re essentially saying to this company or the product, “This is my audience, I’m giving you access to them”? If you have a larger following, you’re going to make more money. It’s simple as that.

Bjork Ostrom: Is more value for the brand. Yeah.

Candice Ward: Exactly, yeah, or if you have a higher engagement. I know they’re looking at engagement now. The sponsored content, I feel like there’s a little bit less wiggle room to negotiate. It is based on those numbers, which is why in the beginning I was doing it to build my portfolio, but I knew that I had to diversify and I knew freelance would actually offer more. The reason why freelance typically offers more is because, again, sometimes they’re buying full rights to the images. Not always, you can, again, negotiate that on your contract. But usually the job is just more involved.

Candice Ward: There’s a higher volume of images that they’re requesting. There’s just more specifics when it comes to styling. The range is definitely more in the thousands versus the hundreds. Most freelance clients that I’ve worked with, they end up wanting 10 plus images. It’s not just sponsored content where maybe they need one to three images, you’re producing a higher volume of images. There’s definitely more potential for being paid a wider range, if you will.

Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. And especially if you’re in the early stages, let’s say you’re super sharp photographer, that’s the direction that you want to go. You don’t have a real strong following online. It doesn’t matter because the skill set that you’re building and selling is your ability to capture incredible photos for a brand. The difference that I hear you saying a little bit is when you’re doing it in a sponsored content capacity, you are, first and foremost, yourself publishing a photo that matches your brand and then sprinkling in the partnership, the brand that you’re working with.

Bjork Ostrom: When you’re doing freelance, you are in a way absorbing yourself into that company or that brand and trying to capture fully their style and aesthetic and what they’re going for. You might showcase that on your site, or maybe you publish it as a recipe, but it’s less sponsored contents, more freelance like, “I’m going to try and do this so you can put it on social and people won’t think, ‘Wait, this isn’t connected with the brand.’” It’ll just seem like something that they took in-house that matches how they style things and how they work. One of the things you said was you’re doing these remotely, so you’re not going on location to do the shoots. Can you talk about what that looks like in terms of brand matching and styling and how you’re able to do that without going to their shoot location or using all of their stuff in the background? Are they particular about how that looks and how that works?

Candice Ward: Yeah. Essentially, I’ve only done freelance work at this point for brands that have fit… Again, I’ve been doing food photography for just over a year. I’ve really approached brands mostly local actually for my freelance side of things that their aesthetic is something that I already know I’m comfortable aligning with and reproducing. For example, if you have a light and break style, I’m not approaching brands that have a dark and moody style. There’s just more work for me. I have, and yes.

Candice Ward: What they do is they provide a shot list, which is very specific about the colors they want, if they have any particular background. Most of these clients have wanted more of like a kitchen setup. So I just use my backdrops that have a kitchen style set up. I switched to artificial light. I have more flexibility now with lighting, with packaging consistency there. But really, it’s just a matter of using my props that exist in my home. I did have one client that their logo was blue and they wanted blue linens, for example, in the photo. They actually had blue linens and they just mailed it to me. It was really easy,

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. They knew exactly what they wanted and they said, “We’re just going to send it to them. You don’t have to find that, ”We’ll just put it in the mail.” Yeah.

Candice Ward: Which is ideal.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, right. And so for the brands that you’re working with, talk about what that looks like in terms of their involvement through the shoot process. Because a lot of times, rewind 10 years, you’d maybe go on location, or we had some friends who have a studio. This is one of the very early podcasts interviews we did. They had a studio and they would do shoots with Caribou Coffee, which is… Do you guys have Caribou Coffee in Seattle?

Candice Ward: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Caribou Coffee was a Minnesota company and then slowly has expanded out. But they would do shoots for Caribou Coffee. You go and look at the menu and they would be the ones that would shoot that. But they would be on location with Caribou. They’d come into their studio and they’d look at the screen as they’re shooting it. How involved is the brand as you’re doing these shoots knowing that it’s probably you, maybe have somebody helping occasionally, but it’s just like you shooting stuff and then you show it to the brand? What you don’t want to do is to have them come back and be like, “Oh, awesome, but we were hoping that it would be X, Y, Z, like look different way.” You need to go back reshoot the whole thing. So you’re checking in with them throughout, or you’re just really intentional communicate to a point where you know exactly what they want before going into it?

Candice Ward: Yeah. I think it’s important to establish what line of communication they want while you’re shooting. It depends on the product too. I had one client that essentially instead of doing all the work… so it was 15 images, but it was multiple different products throughout their product line. I had to style each product separately and that’s what took a lot of time. Instead of doing all of it in one day, and it was the first time working with them, what I did is I shot one product on one day. I edited the images, I sent them a gallery, and I said, “Do these align? This is an example of what I’ve done for one of the products.” Just do a check-in before you invest all of your time with shooting everything.

Candice Ward: I got really good feedback. I was like, “Okay, this is what I’m going to tweak for the rest of the photos or what I need to alter and change.” That’s what helped with that particular client. And then I have another client where they actually said, “The day that you shoot, I’m going to be available via text. You can send me a picture of your setup. We can approve it before,” which obviously I appreciate because it eliminates me having to reshoot anything, which takes much longer.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. When you say send them a gallery, what does that mean and how are you doing that?

Candice Ward: Yeah. For example, if they want two vinyl images for one product, I might send them a gallery of eight images so that they can see different ways that I’ve styled it. I send it through the website that I use. You can do it through Dropbox. There’s a lot of different ways, but I use Pixieset because you have the ability to create a professional, beautiful looking gallery. I don’t have the paid version, I use the free version. And then essentially, you can make it so that they can’t download the images. They can just view the images and then they can favorite their top images. That’s just the best way.

Bjork Ostrom: It allows you to interact a little bit and comment and… Yeah. It’s interesting as things become remote, especially COVID, but just teams in general become remote, how important those types of tools are. For video, there’s a pro version of Vimeo that allows Emily who’s in Ohio recording video to upload it, and then Rita who’s in Minneapolis, but doesn’t come into the office to comment on certain sections. And so those tools are just so important as you get into working with the remote team. Tell me a little bit about being one year in. I think it’s super inspiring for people to hear. A lot of times we’ll speak with creators who have been doing something for 5 years or 10 years, and they’re solidly into this as their career.

Bjork Ostrom: For people who are just starting, it’s like, “Oh, that’s interesting, but they’ve been doing it for so long.” What’s inspiring with your story is you were able to get this up and running relatively quickly and have some success with earning an income from it. You’re connecting with clients, you’ve established this business within a year. What are some of the things that at this point you’re like, “Wow, this is awesome. I really love this”? And then what are some of the things you’re like, “Gosh, this is a lot harder or more difficult than I thought it would be in regards to doing freelance photography with brands”?

Candice Ward: The awesome part is when you connect with a client, like you’ve already said that I was in total alignment with you and it’s just fun and you get to be creative, and that’s the best part. I love recipe developing. That’s why I started baking in the first place. So to be able to tie and bridge all of those together, those creative outlets is amazing. Some of the challenges is finding clients. I don’t have clients. I went from 3K to 11K followers over the last year. Everyone thinks once you hit the 10K mark that they’re knocking on your door.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s not just about number. Yeah.

Candice Ward: No, they’re not. You have to be proactive with reaching out and pitching. Some people are fortunate to have brands reaching out to them. I shouldn’t even say fortunate because it takes hard work to even be visible to brands. It’s usually in the form of you’ve grown in some capacity, whether it’s on social or your blog, so they’re noticing you. But if you’re not one of those people, it takes diligent framework and time to reach out.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. You can’t sit around and wait for somebody to come to you, you have to be proactive and going to other people. Are you doing that through Instagram primarily, like direct messages, comments, or do you hop out and go to like email or other ways of communicating with brands, or have you found that it’s primarily through social or Instagram that’s most effective?

Candice Ward: I primarily start through social just with the sole purpose of gaining an email or a contact. And then I move to email and then I stick to email. Sometimes LinkedIn is a great place to just to find who the person is in marketing, or who the social media manager is as well, if you’re not getting a response. Not every brand responds through DM.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, yep. Take it into email, how long would you say once you make that initial connection before you can get to the point where you’re like, “Hey, and now we’re working together?” Because I think that’s the other piece that maybe a lot of people don’t realize when you say it’s a lot of work, you also have to be patient. Sometimes it might be six months. I’m thinking of sponsored content relationships that we have, where it doesn’t work out, you stay in contact, you continue to stay connected, but there’s a long runway before you’re signing a deal and working together. Have you found that to be the case with freelance as well?

Candice Ward: Absolutely. A lot of it is timing and relationship building. I try to think of it as you’re building a relationship. If anything, you’re just building a relationship, the time you might not work out and that’s fine. But I just keep a list of contacts and when I last reached out to them. I make sure to circle back at least once a quarter, or I make sure to find out from the brand if they don’t have a need, ask them when they might have a need, or when they might have budget, or… I always try to find out, where I just say, “When is a better time for me to reach out to you?” Sometimes they’ll tell me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. Do you use anything to manage all of your contacts or any type of manage your contacts and/or manage like deal flow as you’re thinking about moving these different conversations along?

Candice Ward: Right now, I use Excel. I just have an Excel form where I keep track of my contacts and then I’ll have… I call it the last next steps. I write the last time we corresponded with the date. And then if I actually have gone through the sales process a little bit further than just emailing back and forth, I’ll use my HoneyBook system to actually create a project. Let’s say we were in talks or negotiations, but then something didn’t align, that’s where I’ll actually have a project established and then I can keep track of it. They have a pipeline funnel where you can keep track of all of your projects through there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I’ve started to experiment with this… It’s called folk.app. They’re beta right now, but it’s like the only purpose of it is just this data dump for contact stuff. It’s been okay. I haven’t used it a lot, but just mentioning that for anybody else who wanted to check it out. And then I think the one that we use for Pinch of Yum, I can’t remember what it’s… Basecamp started this… Think, it was not Campfire. There’s another management system for deals that Basecamp started and then they spun off. We’ll link to it in the show notes that we use for Pinch of Yum for other people who want to check that out.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the hard things that we’ve found with that is, or that I’ve found with it is number one, like maintaining it, going back and updating it, and then also doing a follow-up with that. I would imagine part of the relationship building process is even if somebody says no that you’re still checking in with them, that’s not like you close the door. Are you going back and actively checking in with, having conversations with these different connections that you’re making just to make sure that the connection stays not strong, but just alive?

Candice Ward: I’m doing a webinar on June 15th and this is literally what I’m talking about or my pitching strategies. There’s really like two main pitching strategies that you can approach. One of them is you can reach out to a high volume of people. I outlined the pros and cons of both strategies. There’s not one that’s right or wrong. But my particular strategy for my business right now is I actually reach out to a lower volume of brands, but with a much more targeted message so that I can manage follow-ups better because I have noticed that it does take follow-up in order to sometimes even get a response. And so I would rather have an intentional pitch email than just sending out a generic one to a high volume of people and maybe losing track of the follow-up because that’s not as fruitful, typically.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, right. Yeah, it seems like that’s the work part that you’re talking about where you have to be smart about this and it has to be if you have a blog, you think about content, you think about publishing, you think about SEO, you think about social. If you’re building a freelance business, one of the things you have to think about a piece of the pie of your time is relationship management. I think it’s something we don’t talk a lot about, but it is really, really important. You talked about this webinar that you’re doing. I need to double check the schedule for this to see when this goes out. But where can people follow along with the… You talked about doing some of the coaching.

Bjork Ostrom: The other piece that I’d be interested in hearing you talk about is you’ve done multiple iterations within the last year and a half of your business where you had your wedding business focusing on cakes and desserts, and then you pivoted into photography and doing freelance, and now you’re pivoting again into helping other people learn some of the things you’ve pivoted in this last year. You’re going out on maternity leave, congratulations.

Candice Ward: Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Talk a little bit about what that has been like to iterate multiple times. You can use that as a platform to talk about what this next version of what you’re going to be focusing on looks like.

Candice Ward: My background actually is in sales. I spent 10 years in corporate sales. And for the longest time, I never talked about it, went in the creative industry and never even mentioned it. And then I one day started talking about it when I started going into food photography and freelance and how I was able to get clients quickly and how I was able to get clients that align with my brand. People just started asking me questions. I said, “You know what? There’s an underserved part of the industry and there’s a lot of confusion around the pitching process, and not only that, but how to actually build revenue and how to do it quickly.” That’s really what led me to offer coaching calls. I’ve only been doing it for six months and I’ve had consistent clients because I have essentially said, “How can I create what my process is for my corporate job?” When you’re in sales, you have to hit quota, no matter what. I was trained to learn how to create a system and how to be strategic with my time.

Candice Ward: Now, I have translated that and I offer that advice to other food photographers and bloggers, which I’ve now shifted and said, “Hey, I’m going on maternity leave. How can I scale this and offer this while I can’t actually be on phone calls anymore?” Which led to me creating, or am in the creation, I should say, of creating a pitch program that’s really focused on gaining the confidence to pitch by giving you the tools, the resources that you need in order to effectively do that. It’s really designed for people that are either just starting out or upwards of one to three years in. Maybe they’ve had brands approaching them, but now they’ve reached the point where brands have stopped and it’s just been stagnant growth. It’s a great option for those people as well.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. One of the things I love about your story that you talked about there is I think what we can do as we’re thinking of building what we’re building is look at all the different pieces of our story and say, “How can we put this all together into making something unique that I can offer to the world?” For you, it’s like photography, it’s an understanding of blogging and blogging and social media and sales. And that’s a really unique combination that you’re able to put together and say, “I have this skill and expertise in sales that has helped me quickly scale a freelance business.” Other people would need to know how to do that.

Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that I would say to podcast listeners, one of the things I’ve come to learn is as we’re looking to scale what we’re doing, one of the best ways to do that is by finding people who are good at something that you aren’t good at, or don’t want to be good at, and as quickly as possible downloading the information that they have, whether through educational program, webinars, classes, coaching. More and more, I’ve learned that our role as business builders and creators is super routers like, “Okay, I have a sales question. I can’t take the time to learn this. I need to route this to the direction of somebody who can advise me on what I should do here.”

Bjork Ostrom: And more and more I’m learning like, “Hey, stuff is coming in for me. I can’t be the expert on this. Who’s going to do HR? Who’s going to do accounting? Who’s going to do sales?” It doesn’t have to be a full-time team member. It can be somebody who is an expert, your kind of like sales Sherpa. They’re going to guide you on your path to understand sales better. If people want to learn more about that, we’ll link to it in the show notes. But where’s the best place to go and find out more about coaching maybe, if you’re there listening to this years down the line when you’re doing that again, if that is something you started doing again, or some of the programs and classes you’re putting together?

Candice Ward: Yeah. I just want to 100% echo what you said, and I want to make it very clear that I have not gotten to where I am by doing it alone. I have invested in a lot of courses and a lot of training and just listening to podcasts, your podcast being one of them. Honestly, podcasts are free resources right there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Candice Ward: People can find me a couple of different ways. I’m very active on Instagram. I offer a lot of free business advice there. My handle is @eatmorecakebycandice. The second best place would be my website, which is just www.eatmorecakebycandice.com. There is a little bit about my coaching calls on there as well. I will absolutely be picking those up in the fall.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Yeah. Good for you for taking some time off. Lindsay and I just… I did more of like a hybrid paternity leave. Lindsay went on maternity leave a few months ago. I know that you have a two and a half year old. We’re in the same point. We’re like, “Gosh, so wise to be able to take time to step back and just to really secure that time to hang out with family.” And really smart and kudos to you for hustling to put something into place to keep the business moving along. It’s really inspiring to see.

Candice Ward: Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Candice, thanks for coming on, for sharing your story. Really fun for me to hear. I know people will get a lot out of as well. Thank you. That’s a wrap for this episode. Thanks for checking it out. As always, you can check out the show notes at foodbloggerpro.com/podcast. There’s lots of other resources there. Make sure to check out the blog. If you are a member, as always, dive into the courses, the live Q&A’s that we have, the forums, even if you have some follow-up questions. Maybe there’s something that you had as a curiosity or a question coming out of this. If you’re a member, go ahead and drop that question in the forum so we can dive a little bit deeper into this interview or any of the takeaways that you had from it. Candice, thanks for coming on. To you listener, thanks for listening. We really appreciate it. We will be back here same time, same place next week.

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