Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.
This episode is sponsored by Clariti.
Welcome to episode 385 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Ashley Covelli from Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen about teaching cooking classes as a food creator.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Toni Okamoto from Plant-Based on a Budget about how she runs her two food blogs and how she’s grown her email list to over 80,000 subscribers. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Teaching Cooking Classes
Have you ever wanted to teach your own cooking classes but are not sure how to get started? Then you won’t want to miss this episode with Ashley!
In addition to sharing recipes on her blog, Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen, Ashley also runs online cooking classes in partnership with local libraries. You’ll hear how she started doing these classes, how she got comfortable being on camera, what equipment she uses to run the classes, and more.
If you’re looking to add a new revenue stream to your business, cooking classes might be a fun option to look into!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Ashley started sharing food content online
- How she started teaching in-person cooking classes
- Why she switched to teaching virtual cooking classes
- How her cooking classes work
- What equipment she uses to run her classes
- How she got comfortable being on camera
- How she uses time blocking to maximize her productivity
- Why she recommends documenting your processes
- Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen
- Ashley’s Upcoming Cooking Classes
- Aputure Amaran P60X Panel Light
- Alvoxocon USB Lavalier Microphone
- Food Blogger Pro Video Courses <– for Food Blogger Pro members only
- The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
- Follow Ashley on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
About This Week’s Sponsor
We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!
With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.
Sign up for the Clariti waitlist today to receive:
- Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
- 50% off your first month
- Optimization ideas for your site content
- An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
- And more!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com. And I’m going to give you a really specific example of how you can use Clariti if you sign up today. And that is post or page-specific tracking of changes that you’re making. And you can use the notes area within Clariti to make a note anytime that you make a change. An example of when you’d want to do this, let’s say that you’re switching over some of your YouTube videos to be AdThrive or Mediavine video players. You want to make sure that you’re tracking to see when you look back three months later, the change or the impact that had.
Bjork Ostrom: And personally, what we’ve noticed as we’ve worked on content is you forget. If you don’t have a system, if you’re not making a note of that somewhere, you’ll forget. And so within Clariti, there’s the ability to leave a note anytime that you’re making a change or improvement on a piece of content to allow you to go back and see how that change impacted things. There’s lots of other ways that you can use Clariti, but I thought it’d be helpful just to give a really specific example. If you want to see what those other ways are, you can go to Clariti.com/food to get 50% off your first month. Again, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.Com/food To get 50% off of your first month. You can start taking notes on the changes you’re making and explore all the other features. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.
Leslie Jeon: Hello. Hello. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This is Leslie from the Food Blogger Pro team, and today we’re really excited to share this interview with Ashley Covelli. She is the Blogger behind the site Big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen, and she’s actually been blogging since 2006, which is just so incredible. So in this interview, she chats with Bjork all about how she got started with her site, but the main focus of the conversation is about these cooking classes that she’s done both in person and virtually in her local community. So she’s actually partnered with local libraries to run cooking classes, and she’s been doing them for a couple years now. So she’s learned a lot along the way about what equipment to use when running cooking classes, how to get more comfortable on camera, what information you need to provide people attending, whether that’s the recipe, what equipment they need, and so forth.
Leslie Jeon: You’ll hear all about her entire process and why she loves doing cooking classes, as well as why it’s a great revenue stream for her. She talks a little bit about the different income streams she has for her business and cooking classes actually make up a large portion of that. Before we jump into it though, I wanted to mention something very exciting, and that’s our Cyber Monday sale on a Food Blogger Pro membership. So this sale is going to run until Wednesday, November 30th. And if you take advantage of this sale, you can actually get $100 off an annual Food Blogger Pro membership. So our membership is normally $350 a year, but until tomorrow, you can take advantage of an annual membership for only $250. And if you continue your membership year after year, you’ll be locked into that $250 price as well.
Leslie Jeon: So in case you’re not familiar with the Food Blogger Pro membership, if you sign up, you get instant access to all of our courses, our deals and discounts, our community forum, monthly live Q&As with industry experts, as well as coaching calls with Bjork that we’ll be launching in the new year.
Leslie Jeon: So you get access to all of that when you sign up for membership, and we would just love to have you join the community. So if you’d like to take advantage of this deal and sign up for Food, Blogger Pro, and save $100 on a membership, you can head to FoodBloggerPro.Com/cyber to learn more and join. All right, that being said, let’s jump into today’s interview with Ashley. Bjork, take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Ashley, welcome to the podcast.
Ashley Covelli: Thank you so much, Bjork. Long-time listener. First-time caller.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. And we have exchange messages and have had some back and forth as you do online and rare to then be able to connect with those people that you usually interact with just via messages and emails and whatnot to jump on a call and have a conversation. But we’re having a conversation because you know this world, well, this world meaning publishing content online. Running an online business, because you’ve been doing it for a long time. You started in 2006. Which I think when I think of the hundreds of podcast interviews we’ve done, I don’t know if there’s anybody who’s ever started a site that we’ve had a conversation with in 2006. My guess is it wasn’t WordPress. As a matter of fact, we had this conversation before. So the platform was different than what we’d normally think of, even different than Blogger. Tell us a little bit about how you got started.
Ashley Covelli: I started on LiveJournal actually, and it was because I did graphic design for a living and I wasn’t feeling creatively stimulated at my job, so I was like, I’m just going to start taking pictures of food because we have to eat. I might as well make it look pretty. And I went to art school, so I had photography experience and all that which, but back then it was not good. It was on a flip phone, but I would just post on LiveJournal to share with my family back in the Midwest. I live in New York now, just like, “Hey look, I’m cooking things and it’s cool.” And then years later I moved to Blogger before I went self hosted.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Cool. On WordPress. It’s always fun to have those conversations about pre 2010. What did that look like? Because it so different for some the people And the name your side, Big Flavors, Tiny Kitchen that comes from having a tiny kitchen, I would guess.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah, yeah. And we’ve talked about moving and I’m at this point the site name will stay the same if I ever had a big kitchen because you got Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen. It’s been here long enough and I’ve established an llc. I think it’s worth keeping it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So tell us about what that journey has looked like. So you started just posting pictures, kind of what you’re eating, kind of a hobby a little bit, Hey, I want to do something a little bit creative. But if you could chunk that out into different steps or stages along the way, what did that look like for you over the last 15 plus years?
Ashley Covelli: I know it’s ancient in the terms of online things, but I just started, I was trying other people’s recipes and I would just write everything. I’d be like, “I made this recipe today and we thought this.” I used to be a really picky eater, so it was a way for me to try new ingredients. And I was really determined, especially after moving to New York to give things a good try. Something I wouldn’t eat previously, I didn’t used to eat seafood. Now I eat pretty much everything. So I would try it in a bunch of different ways before I would rule it out that I don’t like it. So I just was doing that for a few years and then I can’t remember at what point brands started, “Hey, do you want this free thing to talk about?” And way back then it was like, “I absolutely will totally do this and post about it.”
Bjork Ostrom: It’s the coolest thing ever.
Ashley Covelli: Oh my gosh. Yeah, you’re going to send me barbecue sauce?! And then I think it was 2013, I reached out to this yogurt brand that I used to use in the kitchen a lot because we eat a ton of yogurt and I saw that they had a Blogger team or ambassadors. So I reached out to them and they had two different groups. One was for moms and one was for just regular recipes. And at that point I had a toddler at home. I had quit my full-time job, I was working part-time from home and I was like, “Hey, can I join this thing?” And I applied and I think I was only, or one of the only people that was in both of those Blogger groups. So I started doing actual sponsored work for them and got out from there to some other brands.
Bjork Ostrom: So at that point, that was kind of the first step into like, oh, this can be a thing where I can get paid to create content and post it online.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah, absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And did that kind of spark then the idea of, hey, I’m going to kind of pursue this in a way that maybe I wouldn’t have if not for that experience?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah, I think once I started doing, I had joined a couple of the Blogger ad networks where you could pitch to different brands or be considered. And once I started doing that occasionally, I liked the creative challenge because it gives you some sort of parameters to work within instead of just make whatever you want with whatever you want. It’s like you need to use this ingredient and it needs to be fall themed. So I kind of liked that challenge. And once I started doing that more, I was like, okay, so I could actually probably make decent money off of this.
Bjork Ostrom: And the interesting thing, we had some conversations as we were talking about the podcast is as you’ve kind of grown your site and grown the business, you’ve started to think strategically about where you’ll focus on in different areas. And usually people would think about, okay, we’re going to have added income so we’ll make money from that affiliate income, maybe sponsorships you’ve talked about. But you’ve kind of broken into a unique area where partnering with libraries, is that right? What does that look like and how did that idea come up?
Ashley Covelli: So actually years before I was ready to do it, I had a librarian, I used to do the rounds with story times and everything with my son. So I got to know all the librarians and one of them asked me, “Hey, I know you have a food website, would you want to teach classes at the library?” And I was like, oh no, I could never, I’m not a chef, whatever. And they kind of kept prodding me about it. So it was 2018, I decided, I was like, okay, I’ll do a demo kind of thing. I think we did Christmas cookie or holiday cookie decorating. So I baked a bunch of cookies at home, brought them into the library and had a bunch of parents that came and we all decorated them together, had them help me make the icing. And it was a lot of fun and they really enjoyed it. And then we did a cheeseboard demo that I put so much work into the back end of it was probably, they paid me, but it wasn’t sure necessarily the right balance.
Bjork Ostrom: I feel like the first time you do a lot of those things, that’s when you learn. Because somebody pitches you on it and it’s like, oh this would be really cool. I think sponsor content for a lot of bloggers is this, Hey, we’ll pay you whatever the amount is, $250 when you’re starting out. It’s like, awesome. I’d be creating content anyways, but then I get this kind of additional money for it. But then once you get into it, you realize there’s a lot of back and forth and you’re reviewing contracts and not that you have this big contract with libraries, but you realize how much goes into it and how much work it actually is, which then allows you to approach it differently next time around. So is that what it was for you that those first few times were kind of like, oh, this is actually a lot of work?
Ashley Covelli: Well, and I think because I kind of want to do everything myself. I’m like, oh no, I can do this. I could add on extra things or I just had to learn where to step it back. And because I had worked in a creative department, I know what goes into ad budgets, not for libraries, but sponsored work wise. And then I started doing just with the one library in my town, shout out to Ossining, New York if anybody’s listening from there, I started doing classes with the teen room. So after school they had this program where we would come in and we would cook together, but it’s on a little push cart with a hot plate and it’s not like you’re in a professional kitchen or anything. So yeah, it was a different vibe, but it was a lot of fun and it was attention that the kids might not necessarily get at home focused on something that’s a useful skill. And I’m a big nerd. I like video games and stuff. So we got along.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. One of the things that I think a lot about with the work that we’re doing is what is the impact that we’re having? And I think all of us when we’re producing things in the world have the ability to have impact. Whether that’s producing something online or in person. The hard thing with online is sometimes you don’t see that, this podcast and as an example, if you have thousands of people who listen, there might be somebody who takes something away, impacts how they think about things. Maybe they change the way that they’re going to operate in the world. But you don’t often hear those stories and you definitely don’t get to see the people as they’re consuming that and interacting with it. One of the benefits it feels like of doing an in-person event that is, it’s so much more personable. You get to interact with people in a different way and you get to hear from people in a different way. You get to see the light bulb moment when somebody realizes how to do a thing. And that’s really meaningful. And one of the things we talk about on this podcast a lot is income. But one of the things that I think is important to remember is there’s different types of income. There’s relational income, there’s monetary income, there’s impact income, these deposits that we can have. And for myself, I found it important to think about what are those other ways that I’m seeking to have the work that I’m creating make deposits. And it feels like that’s a way where it’s both of those things. It’s a source of revenue for your business, but it’s also a way to have an impact in a very significant way.
Ashley Covelli: It really is. And I had done, actually in February of 2020 with another town, the word started getting out that I was doing these library programs and I spoke with a librarian who they were doing a winter camp for elementary aged kids. And that particular town, a lot of those kids don’t necessarily have resources at home to do. So it was one side of the class was computer coding. And then they would do art projects and then I would have one group and we would do cooking together and then they would swap. So everybody kind of got this well rounded creative and engineering and cooking stuff. And we did it for three days and it was a lot of work, but it was super rewarding because there was even a kid with allergies who she just so wanted to be part of something. She couldn’t touch certain ingredients. And I had to make sure with her mom, are you sure that this is, she wore gloves, but they were just so sweet and I was going to do a week long summer camp with them in 2020. But that did not happen. And that’s kind of what-
Bjork Ostrom: As many things in 2020.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: So what does that look like for you now in terms of your day to day or maybe week to week? Is that something you’re doing on a consistent basis?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah, so now I’ve moved to virtual, I did that back in 2020 when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do in person anymore. And I kind of found that I preferred virtual classes. I mean, yes it’s great to interact with people, but I find with kids, teenagers and adults, not just with one, doing something in my kitchen and you’re cooking in your kitchen, the next time you go to do it you’ll say like, oh, I remember when I made these waffles with Ashley. I had to go get this, which was over here in my kitchen. Or just, it’s not the same as if you’re in an industrial kitchen or you’re at a library with a push cart and a really weird convection oven. So I find that it’s a little more repeatable and it’s something that it can really help them to feel empowered in their house when they come back and cook with their families.
Bjork Ostrom: So is that through the library still?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah, right now I think I’m working with maybe seven different libraries.
Bjork Ostrom: And it allows you to do that because you’re not having to travel.
Ashley Covelli: I mean so far I’m just sticking within my county pretty much. I have one that is going to come on next year that’s a little more north of here. But yeah, I’m able to not have to track ingredients down, the library doesn’t have to pay for ingredients. So it’s good for them because when I would do them in person, they’d have to buy all the supplies. But yeah, I’m also able to, if I do a class with your library and say we’re making sloppy joe’s and green beans, I can do that same class with another library without basically reinventing the wheel, which is nice. Because at first it was a lot of create all these programs, make sure it’s different and exciting every time. And that’s a lot of work.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So what does that look like? What does it look like to do a virtual cooking class? Is it done through Zoom? I’m curious to hear the operational stuff but also the softer skills of how you pull off a cooking class well?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. So what I typically do is a library, either I’ll partner with them for a couple months at a time and we’ll do one class a month or we’ll just do one-offs and they’ll come to me and sometimes they’ll have a scene, they’ll say, Hey, we’re looking for something for Hispanic Heritage month or something Christmasy or whatever. At this point, they all know me, they just trust with whatever I send them. But I’ll propose whatever the class I want to do is. So this week we did chili and corn muffins and so I pitched it a cozy winter comfort food type of class. I put together a recipe packet. This is what I used my graphic design skills for now is I put together a PDF and it lists any special notes if there’s an ingredient that could be tricky to find or you could substitute, what equipment you need. So you’re going to need a baking sheet, you’re going to need measuring cups, whatever. And then recipe cards so that they can feel prepared. And people can either cook along with me, I love when they do or they can watch it later. So usually with a library, they’ll send out the Zoom information for everybody. So that kind of helps me because for a while I was trying to do them myself and trying to promote them and do all the things when you’re a one person shows a lot.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s hard. And so is the library then, is it listed as an activity that people can sign up for? They’re promoting it and then you come in as talent and run the event?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. So usually one of the librarians, not always, but usually one of them will sit in there and as the host and I’ll be the cohost. Now I do two cameras. So I have one overhead over my cutting board and one three quarters. My kitchen, again is very small, so it’s like I can’t get a straight on view. But yeah, so we’ll do a Zoom. It’s a lot of moving parts at first, but once you get used to it and get into routine, it’s just kind of second nature. And then they’ll list them on their website. Usually a library will have an events page. And then I have an events page on my website that just lists all my events in one place so that they often don’t mind if people from other areas sign up. So you don’t have to live in Ossining to go to a program. They’re just like, libraries are such a good resource. I’m such a fan girl. It’s great.
Bjork Ostrom: When we were in the Philippines for a year, one of the things that I realized when I came back is like, man, there are some really incredible public services that we have. Libraries being one of them. You go in, it’s just these beautiful buildings. You can get all of these resources for free, whether it’s books or movies or music that you can check out. So right there with you and classes. This is an example where you can go through a class and learn. So if nothing else just to shout out to libraries and a reminder of that as a resource for people.
Ashley Covelli: And cookbooks, I mean for a bit, I’m not doing it anymore, but for a bit I was doing a cookbook program with my library too virtually where we would have a theme and we would talk about cookbooks. And it’s like some people don’t realize you can get those from a library. And it’s like, especially if you have short amount of space, it’s a great way to test, drive a cookbook and see if you’re into it before you buy it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Ashley Covelli: And it’s there.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Totally. So I see on your events page, it looks like you are doing a class maybe once a week, once every two weeks. Are you repeating classes or is every class kind of one that you build from scratch depending on the season? What does that look like?
Ashley Covelli: So I actually broke it down before this. I was like, I’m curious, I almost burned myself out on classes previously because I don’t like saying no. If it’s a library that wants to do something, it’s so much fun, but it’s a lot of setup and everything. So quarter one this year I did 13 different library classes. If it’s with the same library and the same age group, I won’t repeat the class. I mean at this point I’ve been doing it for almost three years. So maybe now they would want the same because it would be a different group if it was kids or something. But so far I haven’t repeated but I’ll repeat it with a different library. So I did a class last night with Ossining that I’m going to do the same class in Rye in January.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, got it. So you can use it for different libraries.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. So I did 13, I did 14 and quarter two this year, quarter three, I only taught two classes in June because July and August I took off from teaching, I did other work but my kitchen air conditioning doesn’t get in there and I turned 40 over the summer and I took a trip, I was like I need some time off. And that was kind of a good reset because it can you burn out trying to be on, especially I have to set up, we don’t have great lighting so I had to set up lighting equipment, my tripods cramming that all in the tiny space and I can’t do dishes while I go. That’s the biggest setback time wise. I can’t do dishes while I go because nobody wants to watch me watch dishes except maybe my husband, I don’t know. So it’s a lot of extra time. It’s not just the hour class, it’s a significant amount prepping for it and all that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. In terms of equipment, you had talked about two cameras. Is it one computer that you’re doing or what does the setup look like for that?
Ashley Covelli: So I have a laptop that I put on top of the base of this Persian tea maker that my dad brought me from Iran because I needed it to be a little higher. And that’s kind of like a three quarters type of view on one of my counters. I have an overhead monopod type of thing that I can do with my phone now. I’ve got a light panel that I use. That’s great because you can control it with an app. So you can change the light temperature and save presets so that I have to set up so that can actually, people can see me. And then I have-
Bjork Ostrom: Do you know what that light panel is? What it’s called?
Ashley Covelli: I do. And I have another one in here.
Bjork Ostrom: And if not we can link to it in the show notes too.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah, definitely. Because I had a different one and it broke after not using it too long because I used two for shooting video. And the new one is even better because of the app and everything.
Bjork Ostrom: To be able to control it.
Ashley Covelli: And to save color temperature is different times of the year. And then I have a lab mic that I clip on through the computer.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Nice. Yeah, so to your point, it’s not just that hour, there’s some, there’s prep that has to go into it. You have to have all the stuff ready. My guess is to some degree you have ingredients ready, all of that stuff laid out. Would you have a guess start to finish? How long it ends up taking in terms of one class?
Ashley Covelli: Well, I mean outside of prepping the materials, if it’s recipes that I’ve already made, they’re already on my website or it’s just something that I’ve made a lot. The materials don’t take me too long to put together. If I’m developing a new recipe, it could take quite a while. Classes I usually set an alarm for myself an hour and a half before I get all the lighting and everything set up and all the non refrigerated ingredients. So depending on the complexity of the recipe, maybe 20, 30 minutes. And then I have another alarm that goes off 15 minutes before class. So I’ll pull out anything that’s cold. Nice. And then after dishes just stink. We have a dishwasher, but it’s a tiny one so it’s, it only fits maybe six plates. Better than no dishwasher.
Bjork Ostrom: And then, yeah, our dishwasher went out for a few months and you realized quickly how nice it is to have a dishwasher. And then the other question about the classes that I had. So you’ve been doing it with the libraries at pretty consistent basis where you can do one or two a week if that’s what you’re wanting to do sustainably. Have you ever thought about doing your own cooking classes for blog followers or selling a cooking class? Or is it nice to have the kind of built in audience that a library has?
Ashley Covelli: So yes, and I was doing that for a while and it was hard to keep attendance at a level where when you’re doing it that you’re doing a per ticket price. And I was using Air Subs when that first came out, which was great. Then they went out of business. So I kind of hacked away around it where I would sell a ticket through Gumroad and I can keep the materials there and I still do that sometimes. And then I still do it through Zoom. But actually somebody who had come to several of my library classes with one of the local libraries, she was reaching out to me over the summer. She’s like, Hey, I noticed there’s not much coming up on your events page. Me and my son really love cooking with you. And she was asking if I cooked in people’s homes. I said no. If I would sell the food that I make. And I was like, I don’t have a professional kitchen. I mean that’s lovely and it’s very flattering. But it ended up turning into, she asked if I do private classes and I said yes. So now we’ve been doing almost weekly basically whenever I have time. So I’m cooking with her and she’s somebody who loves different types of food but is a little kind of hesitant in the kitchen. She has, I think five kids. She doesn’t cook meat. And I asked if it was a dietary thing and she said she’s afraid that she’s not going to cook it and make her family sick. So in working with me, we’ve done things, we did sloppy joe’s together and I had, we did two batches and one we used beyond me and one she cooked Turkey for the first time and I walked her through, she could show me on her camera, I could show her what mine looks like. And so just empowering her to do that. It was so awesome.
Bjork Ostrom: And that’s virtual as well?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things that I think is great with that is thinking creatively around what does it look like to create an income from doing this as a business. And there’s lots of different ways. There’s probably hundreds of ways if you really sat down and thought about all the different ways that you could do it. And one of the best ways is that where you have somebody who has a need and you have a skill that you can teach them and you pair those together and that’s a really beneficial, helpful thing in the world.
Ashley Covelli: And it feels good because there’s so many things that we do that, I mean I fought putting ads on my website for the longest time just because I don’t like how they look personally. But I did it several years ago and now it’s like the majority, it’s a good chunk of my income and has been for several years and I’m like, man, I can’t think of how much would I have made if I did it sooner. But with this particular client, it’s great because she was doing things with me for free. So when I do a program at the library, people can attend for free. The library pays me. But when I do them on my own, it’s a ticketed price or per session. So it’s nice that she went from doing free with me to, Hey, I’m going to pay you pretty much weekly.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. What does that look like for you from a business perspective, if you were to as a percentage basis kind of look at where income sources are for you, being that you have multiple varieties of that, what does that look like, if you were to break it down?
Ashley Covelli: So I tallied it up because I was, I feel like this might be an interesting thing this year so far, ad networks, about 45% of my income, classes are close to 30, sponsored content, which I started doing again kind of a little bit last year. And then this year, because I had to step it back once my son was home during school, during the whole pandemic. So sponsored is about 16% right now and then the rest is 2% is affiliate.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. And the great thing about that is you have something that not a lot of other people have in that kind of pie chart, which is those classes. And anytime you have anything finance related, it’s helpful to have diversification. And what you’ve done is you’ve diversified. And so if some dreaded Google algorithm update comes by and traffic drops, you’re not out of business because you have these income sources that aren’t reliant on traffic. It’s offline. It’s using same skills and abilities and all of the components of what make you successful publishing content online but in a different way. And I think that it’s kind of a sleep well at night consideration for some people to say how do you diversify and make sure that you’re kind of protected from downside in certain areas. So let’s say somebody’s interested in that, they’re like, gosh, that sounds kind of cool. Whether one on one to many or one with a client who then facilitates in the case of a library, what do you feel are the skills that either you’ve developed or that you naturally have that allow you to do what you do well? Because my guess is you wouldn’t go from one library to two libraries to six continually have people showing up if you didn’t have something that allowed you to do that well. So it’s a little bit weird because you have to talk about your own skills and abilities. But if you were to distill it down, what would that be?
Ashley Covelli: Well, it’s interesting because kind of doing things on camera live was something I pushed back on for a long time. And I’ve been a Food Blogger Pro member for many years and I did the video editing course and I shot this beautiful video that I still have not edited together because perfectionism. But I went on a press trip in 2019, I think 2018 or 2019. And we were doing a cooking competition for the guest judge was from Food Network and they have live cameras there with us. So I was like, you know what? I have to get over my fears and I have to do something live. And I realized you don’t have the time to make everything perfect. You just have to roll with it. You have to be able to laugh at yourself because mistakes happen. The class I taught the other night, I kept dropping things on the floor and I’m just like, all right, well this decided it wants to jump off the counter today.
Bjork Ostrom: It becomes, yeah, well maybe you’re going to say this. People like it. It’s part of what makes it good.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. Well, and with my photography and everything, I really have these perfectionist tendencies that I try to think published is better than perfect and you have to just go for it. But every time I do a class, and this is my son’s favorite thing, I shoot a video on my phone, just a quick video for Instagram stories. And I say cooking class aftermath and I show my kitchen because it’s a disaster because I can’t clean as I go. And just showing people it’s not always pretty, pretty, pretty or being authentic and saying, I’m teaching this class on this recipe. My son won’t eat this part because if a potato has a texture that he doesn’t like, sure. Even though he’ll eat paella, he won’t eat a potato. You know what I mean? People want to be able to relate to you. So I think being relatable is a huge part and being genuinely interested in helping other people succeed or do something out of their comfort zone. Or just being there for people. I mean some people just come and watch, they don’t necessarily cook along and I love it. I’m happy to talk about food or whatever.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep, yep. Yeah, it’s almost like the skill is a certain level of comfort on things being unpolished and a willingness to roll with the punches and to say, Hey, this is good enough. It’s not perfect in a departure from if you are somebody who’s used to photography as an example, or even video editing, you’re able to work towards perfection because you can re shoot, you can edit, you can change, you can crop. But if you’re doing something live, you don’t have any of those options. And so you need to be able to get more comfortable with that.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. So it was a forced comfort and I think it was really good for me. And prior to that, when I had a full-time graphic design job, I was working on print campaigns, so things that were going to be on billboards or on TV or printed. And so once it’s out, it’s out. You can’t change it.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you feel like you had to do in order to get to a level where you were comfortable with that? Was it a mindset thing? Was it just exposure therapy where you just after pressing start on Zoom enough times that it got to the level that you’re comfortable? And then I’d be curious to hear you talk about what that’s like for you now. Do you still feel some anticipation?
Ashley Covelli: So I think exposure therapy for sure. And also I guess the fact that the first time I cooked on camera in front of somebody, it was somebody of a level that I would’ve never thought that I would’ve cooked for. And just seeing that we were able to have a really authentic conversation while I’m trying to do something within a time limit. So that was a lot. And after that I was like, that’s not so scary. And so before I started teaching classes online, I came home and I was like, I’m just going to start going on Facebook Live. So for a while I was doing just for free, just for my followers at noon every day, because I work from home, I’m going to make lunch on Facebook Live, come join me. And that was great. And it got me comfortable in front of the camera before I started doing classes. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Ashley Covelli: I mean because it was kind of a class and I would print out, I still print out because I’m like, what if technology fails me? I print out the recipe just in case, even if I’ve done it a million times, I don’t want to forget an ingredient or an amount. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s nice to be able to step into something where stakes are a little bit lower. And in that case it’s like Facebook Live is a little bit more casual. It’s not an official class and that people are signing up for it and it allows you to get a feel for what that’s like. But it’s still live. It’s not like you’re talking into a void and nobody’s there. So that’s great. When you think of dividing your time, one of the things that I’d be curious to hear you reflect on a little bit is how do you approach that? Because we all have these responsibilities. A lot of us might have kids that we’re taken care of, or if not that family or just day to day responsibilities. You’ve talked about your son. But then you also have classes, but you’re producing content for your blog as well. Maybe you’re doing some sponsored content. What does that look like for you to navigate these different kind of components of the business and to make sure that you kind of attend to them all?
Ashley Covelli: That is a great question and one that is very difficult. I found that my best process happens if I time block and there was some quiz and I can’t recall what site it was on, but it was like, what’s your best time management strategy? Is it Pomadoro, is it time blocking? And mine, I had a feeling would be time blocking. But just sitting down and saying, okay, for a while I did it by days of the week. I’d be like, okay, on Mondays I’m going to edit photos and if I finished somehow I’ll go on to, I’d have two different things. So instead of for one blog post, shooting it, editing it, trying to do everything in one day, I would try to batch that type of stuff. So time blocking is a big help. As much as I’d love to say I have it figured out, it just varies. And life happens. So I have things that I shot for Thanksgiving last year that I’m hoping to get up before Thanksgiving, which is one week from today. Stuff happens. And I think part of it is showing yourself a little grace and being like, you know what? You’re doing all these things and it’s a lot. So time blocking for sure helps though.
Bjork Ostrom: And how do you that? Is that every week you look ahead and say, block off a section of time, say this is what I’m going to focus on at this time?
Ashley Covelli: I try to, and I started quarterly trying to do all of my newsletters. So I was the worst at sending newsletters for the longest time because I personally hate getting emails. It’s too overwhelming. But then I worked with Allie from Duett and she helped me get to a head space where I didn’t dread it. And then I realized what’s good for me is if I can write newsletters for the whole quarter, once a week. I don’t want to do more than once a week, but get for the whole quarter and then it’s done. And then I use CoSchedule, I’m a little behind right now, but I try to schedule quarterly social media shares just so that it helps me to, that I don’t have to worry about it. And then I see something, I’m getting comments, I’m like, all right, I set that up already. And then it’s not constantly trying to keep above water. But recently I’ve had a few sponsored video things come in, which I re watched portions of that premier course because I’m editing with Adobe Premier and now I’m able to do it. So I’m like, okay, I’ll go back to that footage from a few years. But that stuff comes in and there’s a deadline, so that’ll take priority. So just leaving yourself some flexibility. But I think if you can get into a good routine, if I’m tired in the mornings, I’m not going to do my best writing in the mornings. So maybe editing photos is best for me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. And part of that is you learn over time what type of work you do best and what time slots of the day, and prioritizing those for that type of work. And also, I know some people work best like, Hey, I’m going to send something out tomorrow and I’m going to write it today. And that’s just how they work. But then there’s other people like yourself who are like, I know that I’m not going to send something out unless I take a day and write 12 different newsletters for the quarter ahead. And that’s how you’re going to be able to get it done. So much of it is self-awareness too.
Ashley Covelli: And templatizing things. I was using the free version of, I used Mailchimp, now I’m using MailerLite. I used the free version for a long time, but now I’m using a paid version because you can make templates. So I kind of try to rotate through types of emails. So if I’m focusing on one recipe, I have a template, so I know I need to put a picture here, I need to put a little blurb here and I need to do this here. And most of the work’s already done, I just have to kind of plug in the pieces. Same with blog posts I don’t use, there’s a feast, I think, I don’t use that theme, but the idea of they have a, you need to put this type of thing here. And then whatever. I made a reusable block that I use in Gutenberg that I put in my new post and then I ungroup it and then I’m able to fill in just so I make sure I hit all the things like make sure you add step by step process photos.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about that? When you say the Gutenberg block and then ungroup it, what do you mean by that?
Ashley Covelli: So in WordPress, if you’re using the block editor, which I fought for a very long time. I was very hard team classic editor. You can make these blocks that you can basically a piece of content or a couple pieces grouped together that you can repurpose across multiple posts. But if you have to set it to a regular block, if you want to be able to change it and not have it change in the other places where it is.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Got it.
Ashley Covelli: So I have just placeholders, quick excerpt here, image. And then I have to make sure there’s space before and after the images, because I know that was something I think Mediavine had told us to do. Just so I have all the pieces there, and this is where the recipe card goes, and this is where related posts should go.
Bjork Ostrom: So it’s this, to your point, a template that you can follow to reduce even micro decision fatigue, which is like, how is this, what do I put here? And to build that out in a way where you’re not having to make those small decisions or even remind yourself of what it is. It’s just pre built in there.
Ashley Covelli: And just because even though I’ve been doing it forever, the way things happen or are recommended has changed significantly over the years. So I have old posts that I go into and I’ll make a copy and I’ll add that template so that I can do those things. And I don’t want to forget about putting in, I mean, I wouldn’t forget to put in the recipe card, but there’s just certain things that you’re not necessarily on autopilot with.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Yep. That’s great. And I think in general, as much as we can create a template to follow things, there’s a really popular book. It’s actually in the medical field, or that’s what it was based on, by Atul Gawande, I think is his name, and it’s called the Checklist Manifesto.
Ashley Covelli: Oh, I read that. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Did you?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: And the kind of subheader for it is how to get things right. But I think about that a lot just with anything that we’re doing in life. It’s like if we can have a checklist that accompanies it and the checklist can evolve over time as we realize things that need to change or be included or not included, just what a difference that makes.
Ashley Covelli: And also checking things off just feels good.
Bjork Ostrom: Um.
Ashley Covelli: I was a big paper planner for a long time, but now I use good notes on an iPad with an Apple pencil, but I still can check things off and I’m just like, yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it feels so good. Yeah, totally. Totally. That’s awesome. Well cool.
Ashley Covelli: I will say-
Bjork Ostrom: Go ahead. Sorry.
Ashley Covelli: Coming up with systems and processes for the things that you do often is hugely helpful just to make sure that you’re not forgetting steps. When I was setting up classes on my own instead of with libraries making sure that I got create the thumbnail and I create the different components that go with it. So I started doing Google Docs and then if I ever decide to outsource that to somebody, they can just follow my process that I have. Because even if you think the order that something goes through when you’re doing it, if you actually take notes as you’re doing it, you’re like, oh right, I forgot to add the fact that I do this every time.
Bjork Ostrom: Where do you store those? If you create a checklist?
Ashley Covelli: Just to Google Drive.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If you have a Google Doc that has it or Google Sheet.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. I try to title them smartly and then for a while I have things all over the place. I’d have notes, I’d have paper handwritten things, but I’m trying to keep them all together in a font. So if I have ones particular specific to classes or blog posts or video editing.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. Yeah. The other thing that’s really smart with that is even if you’re working on your own, it supports you. And the next time you come around to do something, you can see, okay, this is how it’s done. You don’t have to think of it. We talk a lot about this idea that the brain’s a really bad place to store things. It’s a really good place to think creatively. And so as much as you can store things in other digital places, kind of a second brain, the better off you’re going to be. But then you’re also building in a system. If there is ever somebody who comes in to help with a certain thing, you can say, great, here’s the exact process that you can follow to go through this and be successful with it.
Ashley Covelli: And we did that in my graphic design job too. We would have a brand guide and these are the fonts you use and this is the size of type you use, and these are the colors. And it just really helps to keep things consistent regardless of who’s working on it.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. So Ashley, you’ve been at this for a long time. What are the things that you feel like you’ve learned along the way that are most important? If everything went away today, you’re starting back at zero, what would you say are the most important things that you’ve learned that you’d implement right away or think about early on?
Ashley Covelli: Don’t be afraid to say no. And don’t be afraid to say yes out of fear of what if I fail? Because sometimes trying something new like me with doing something in video can end up turning into something that you really enjoy. But I was scared to do certain things for so long because I don’t change. I like it in some ways, but I’m like, this is working, let’s just keep doing that. But I think sometimes it can really bring on some great things and now it’s like, yes, it’s a lot of work. And I will say, working with libraries, they have budgets. They’re not huge. You’re not going to make a ton and ton of money working with local libraries, generally speaking, but it’s so rewarding and just like it’s one of my favorite parts of what I do. And if I would’ve never gone on a camera, I would probably still be afraid, where would I be right now? I don’t know.
Bjork Ostrom: So that idea of saying yes to things that maybe you have a little bit of fear around, but also the piece of saying no is important as well. Can you talk about that?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. I think a lot of times as women or moms, I mean humans in general, you feel kind of obligated, especially if you happen to feel like you’re a nice person or you like to help people. It can be hard to not just take everything on. And sometimes it’s just either you don’t have the brain space or it’s not financially a great decision. And there’s some quote, and I wish I knew who said it years ago that somebody said, and it stuck with me, they said, don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm. And I’m like, that’s so good. Because you’ll just burn out and you have to protect yourself and your space. And when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re not on all the time, but you’re on all the time. I might be going to pick my son up from school, but in my brain I’m like, oh, “Should I try a recipe for this?” Or, “I should reach out to this person”, and it doesn’t really stop. So you got to cut yourself some slack and especially some, oh, sorry.
Bjork Ostrom: Well, I was just going to say, it’s a great quote. Yeah, it looks like Penny Reed, I’m not familiar with who that is, but it looks like maybe an author and.
Ashley Covelli: I just always say Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin said that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly. The source of all good quotes, Ben Franklin. And you were saying just kind of, do you remember the thought that you had and where you were at?
Ashley Covelli: Oh, I have found, it’s also possible if you’re a nice person and you help people out and you do things you can get taken advantage of. And sometimes people overstep because you’re willing to help them out and you just have to watch out for that. And it stinks to have to think like that sometimes. But it’s important.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. And that balance of like yes and no, I think so much of that as people, but especially as entrepreneurs, it’s figuring out when do yes to a thing that maybe stretches you or pushes you outside of your comfort zone a little bit. And then when you say no to the situations that could potentially be good, might be helpful in a certain situation, but the reality that you just can’t do everything.
Ashley Covelli: Yeah. You can’t. You’ll just burn out and then you won’t feel good. I don’t know. I want to feel good at the end of the day. I want to be able to sleep.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. So we mentioned the name of the site, Big Flavors, Tiny Kitchen. Is that where people can follow along with you around the web, Ashley?
Ashley Covelli: Yeah, it’s big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen. It’s bigflavorstinykitchen.com. And actually when I was on LiveJournal, my first name was Chopaholic, like chop, knife. But that quickly changed. But yeah, I’m on all the social medias at BigFlavors and now YouTube, you can do the channel handle, which is great. That was new if you have under a certain number of followers that you could change it. And then Twitter is BigFlavorsBlog though. I’m wondering if Twitter’s still going to be around much longer.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. The way things are trending right now. Speaking of setting yourself on fire, it feels like Twitter is maybe doing a little bit of that and if people wanted to check out a class. Do you have to be a member of the local library to do that or could they?
Ashley Covelli: I list everything, all the public classes that I’m doing I list on my website. So if you go to bigflavorstinykitchen.com/events, so you’ll see I have stuff right now, I think through March scheduled and yeah, you can join any of them. I always link to the registration. So it’s the registration page would be through whatever library. But yeah, people, I always love having people join and funnily enough, when I take someone else’s cooking class virtually, I don’t cook along. I like to watch, even though I love having people cook along with me, I prefer to absorb it and then do it later. But yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense either and either one works for classes, it sounds like. Cool. Yeah. Ashley’s so great to connect. Thanks so much for coming on and sharing your story.
Ashley Covelli: Me too. Thank you so much, Bjork.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hi, hi. Alexa here. Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. I’m here today to tell you that our biggest sale of the year, our Cyber Monday sale is live right now and only through tomorrow afternoon. So this Cyber Monday sale will give you an annual Food Blogger Pro membership for $100 off. So you’re saving $100 on an annual membership and that price will recur as long as you remain a member. So you’re grandfathered into the lowest rate we offer. If you’re interested right now in signing up or just learning more about our membership, you can go to FoodBloggerPro.com/cyber as in Cyber Monday, and all of the information and sign up links will be there for you. So with a Food Blogger Pro membership, you get access to a lot of stuff. Let’s just say a lot of stuff. Your membership is always growing in value as well, because we’re always adding new content to the site. So some of the things that you’ll get instant access to the moment you sign up are hundreds of lesson videos about things like monetization, SEO, plugins, and more. You get access to at monthly events like q and our brand new coaching calls with Bjork. So Bjork will talk with a member and answer some of their questions on just video, and all of the members will get access to that conversation. You get access to the community forum where our Food Blogger Pro experts are industry experts, like SEO expert, Casey Marque, Andrew Wilder, who is an expert in WordPress, Kate All who’s an expert in Pinterest, and so many more amazing experts. They are all there helping our members grow and getting their answers to the questions that they have, as well as some exclusive deals and discounts on some of our favorite blogging products, Ericson Surfaces, Tailwind, Nerd Press, and so many more. It’s just also an incredible community. I was actually talking to our support person, Mary today, and she was just saying how awesome it is to be able to offer support to our members because they’re always so sweet and kind and it’s just one of the most positive places to be on the internet to be completely honest. So I love the community and I know you will too. And we also offer a 60 day money back guarantee. So it’s very low risk, no risk at all. You can always cancel your membership and request a refund within your first 60 days of being a member. So if you’re interested in signing up and learning more, you can go to FoodBloggerPro.com/cyber as in Cyber Monday. You can learn more about the membership and get signed up right there. So once again, that URL is FoodBloggerPro.com/cyber to get signed up and learn more. And that tells it for us this week. We will see you next time and until then, make it a great week.
OMG! I also teach at our local library in-person and virtual. Totally agree, Im so grateful for our library for giving me the opportunity to teach. I also partnered with a company that offers recreational cooking classes. I love that my job makes me feel like never worked in my life.
As a FBP member, I can say I’m learning so much, thank you for the podcast and everything else.
That’s incredible, Jen! Teaching classes can be so rewarding, and that’s awesome you’ve found so many opportunities to do so. 😊
We’re so glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the FBP community and podcast!