442: How Eric King Took easygayoven Full-Time by Diversifying His Income Streams

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A blue photograph of a kitchen with the title of this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'How Eric King Took Easy Gay Oven Full-Time by Diversifying His Income Streams.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and Raptive.

Welcome to episode 442 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Eric King from easygayoven.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Cree Carraway. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How Eric King Took easygayoven Full-Time by Diversifying His Income Streams

This podcast episode is chock-full of pearls of wisdom — there is really no other way to describe it! Eric has been running easygayoven full-time for just over two years, but you would think it had been much longer with all of the knowledge he has to share.

Eric shares about the beginning of his career in journalism and social media and how it influenced his strategy for easygayoven. He also explains how he took his site full-time by diversifying his income streams (and what he’d do differently).

Bjork and Eric also chat about brand partnerships, Substack, storytelling, and so much more in this wide-ranging interview. It’s just a joy to listen to!

A photograph of Caramel Rice Pudding with a quote from Eric King that reads, "Unless yours is the best or the easiest, you have to have something new to get people's attention."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • More about Eric’s professional background at TED Conferences and how it impacted easygayoven.
  • The importance of capturing someone’s attention in the first 3 seconds of a video on social media (and how to do that!).
  • How he combines the visual and written aspects of storytelling on social media and his blog.
  • Why he wants to share more than just the recipes on his site (and why it prompted him to start a Substack newsletter).
  • Why he focuses on both sentiment and analytics when measuring the success of this content.
  • How he protects his mental health in this profession.
  • How he balanced working full-time with starting easygayoven (and how he took his blog full-time).
  • What his first few brand partnerships looked like (including one with Netflix Family!).
  • Why he turned to Substack as a means to diversify his income.
  • How he has navigated the ebbs and flows of brand partnerships.


Thank you to our sponsors!

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and Raptive.

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Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode!

Sign up for Clariti today to easily organize your blog content for maximum growth and receive access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing, 50% off your first month, optimization ideas for your site content, and more!

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Thanks to Raptive for sponsoring this episode!

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

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti. You spend a lot of time on your blog content, from planning, to recipe testing, to writing, to promoting, but do you know if each of your posts are bringing you the most traffic they possibly can? With Clariti, you can see information about each and every post, which is automatically synced from WordPress, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console, so that you can make well-educated decisions about where your existing content may need a little attention, think broken links or broken images, no internal links, or missing alt text. You can also use information that Clariti pulls about sessions, page views, and users to fuel the creation of new content because you’ll be able to see which types of posts are performing best for you. Get access to keyword ranking, click-through rate, impressions, and optimization data for all of your posts today with Clariti. Listeners to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast get 50% off of their first month of Clariti after signing up. To sign up, simply go to clariti.com/food. That’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I .com/food. Thanks again to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey, there. This is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team, and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Happy New Year. I can’t hardly believe it’s 2024, and we have a whole new year of amazing podcast episodes coming up for you. We are kicking off the new year with a really great episode with Eric King from easygayoven. Eric has so many incredible pearls of wisdom in this podcast. It’s hard to believe he’s only been running easygayoven for just about four years. This is a super wide-ranging interview. Eric and Bjork chat about everything from the importance of storytelling to Substack to brand partnerships, and how to take your site full time.

Eric took his site full time after just about two years, and he has lots of recommendations and tips and strategies for how others might want to do the same thing. He’s just chock-full of good advice and recommendations. It’s hard to believe that he’s only been running his site and his social media channels for four years. I really loved this interview. I think it’s just a fun one to listen to and I can’t wait for you to hear it, so without further ado, I’ll just let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Eric, welcome to the podcast.

Eric King: Hi, thanks so much for having me on.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’re going to talk about your story. One of the things that I love to do is talk about pre creator entrepreneur doing this as your main gig, and then post creator entrepreneur doing this as your main gig. Your story is fascinating because you were kind of doing similar-ish type work before you started doing this for yourself. Is that more or less accurate, and can you talk a little bit about what that work was that you were doing before this?

Eric King: Sure. I started out my career in entertainment news, and then quickly shifted to a job in social media, kind of landed in my lap, and this was after I had started easygayoven, my Instagram. So, I was working on that while also working at TED Conferences, working on their social media, so I got a lot of practice programming, writing copy, choosing assets, just getting a whole overview of the social landscape and figuring out what people really want. We were really focused on audience, so finding out what our audience really wanted and giving them more of that. So, I spent about two years there, and then at the end of 2021, really more the start of 2022, I went full time with my blog and my project, easygayoven.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Is easygayoven a play on Easy-Bake Oven? Is that the idea, where it comes from?

Eric King: It sure is, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Did you ever have one-

Eric King: I always joke-

Bjork Ostrom: … growing up?

Eric King: No, I never had one.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Yeah. I feel like that needs to happen where you need to order one and at least have one available. My brother and I had this thing called Incredible Edibles, and it was like a version of that, but it was these little metal plates that you could put, and it would be bugs and creatures and stuff, but they were edible, and there was this little oven that you’d put it in, but what a magical thing as a kid to be able to have this thing where you could actually make something. And our daughter now is at the point where she’s getting really excited about baking, so she makes these creations. Are there Caribou’s in New York? I’m trying to think. Probably not. Caribou Coffee?

Eric King: Oh, maybe. Maybe up West. I don’t know.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Caribou started and I think it’s mostly Midwest, and then randomly Seoul, South Korea. We were in Seoul, South Korea, and I tried to use a Caribou gift card, and they’re like, “We can’t take that here.” But our daughter, Solvi, who’s five just started what she calls Solvi Boo. Her name is Solvi, and she loves making drinks and-

Eric King: Oh, that’s so cute.

Bjork Ostrom: … creating these egg bake things that we eat, and there’s egg and cinnamon kind of creations, but just that age of when you’re young and excited to make these random things, I think of Easy-Bake as such a great callback to that. You did some writing in the entertainment world. What did that look like? It sounds like it was maybe kind a short stint.

Eric King: I had a couple of internships in college, and then my last internship out of college and then my first full-time job, I was doing a lot of basically entertainment blogging. And then, eventually, I went to work for a Broadway news site. Spent two years there while also working on easygayoven. But I really had a passion for entertainment, and I went to school for journalism. I still love to write. I think I just got tired of it and that job in social media, so I left that job without another job, and the job at TED Conferences sort of came to me and I didn’t really know what else I would be doing, so I was like, “Well, I need a job,” and it really just worked out. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: The thing that I love to tap into in these conversations with people who have the experience that you have leading up to eventually working full time or freelancing and building your own following is what are the pieces that you picked up along the way when you are working in these adjacent industries? Even for myself, I was at a nonprofit, but I was working on the WordPress site, and I remember that was kind of picking up pieces for me that we could eventually apply. When you look at the journalism part of, let’s say, specifically writing articles about news that’s happening in the world of Broadway and your time at TED doing social, were there things that you could look back to and say, “I picked these things up along the way, working within a bigger company, and applied them to what I’m doing within my own media or publishing,” and that kind of accelerated what you were doing or were those kind of completely separate and there weren’t things that applied?

Eric King: Well, I think that writing is just the most valuable skill, and it’s something that will follow you everywhere. It will always be a boon to you to be able to write, and if you’re in STEM, if you want to become a leader, if you want to work in nonprofits, if you want to do what we do here, it’s important to be able to communicate clearly. So, that has always been pretty clear to me, and I’ve always known, depending on what industry I’m in, depending on what field I’m in, that I want writing to be at least a part of what I do. So, I would say absolutely getting an education, and being concise, being accurate. I’m kind of one of those people who really nerds out about the definition of collide. So, you can’t say-

Bjork Ostrom: All of these kind of stuff? Yeah.

Eric King: You can’t say a car collided with a tree because the tree, it’s not moving.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Collide has to be, both things have to be-

Eric King: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Eric King: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: My question is, at a party, will you correct somebody if they say that?

Eric King: It depends on how much I like them.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. If you like them a lot, will you be more likely to correct them? That would be the follow-up question.

Eric King: That’s a good question. Yeah. I would say depending on how likely it is that person is going to keep talking to me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. Totally. You have to read it. Yeah.

Eric King: Yeah. And then, when I went and started working in social media, it was a very different thing because I remember being in college and there was almost a stigma against being in social media if you were in journalism school. I, for a long time, resisted taking any of the social media classes. I just didn’t think that’s where I was going to end up because I thought I was going to be a reporter. So, I wish I had taken that more seriously at the advent of social media, but in a way, it didn’t matter because my generation are social natives anyway, so we know how the platforms work better than, no offense, any professor could have taught us at that time.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. It’s not like you would’ve taken the class on Instagram, and then three years later would’ve been like, “I’m really glad I took that class on Instagram because now I know how to use it better.”

Eric King: Pretty much. I mean, of course there’s something to be said about strategy and campaigns. I mean, I learned a lot more when I started working at TED obviously about social media and scheduling tools and programming a calendar and writing compelling copy. I mean, that was our whole job, was to capture someone’s attention. It was being a headline writer to be able to capture someone’s attention within the first three seconds, which is literally what we do every day on Instagram when I edit my videos. So, I would often write scripts for video cut-downs of TED Talks, give feedback on those, and it was all about how do I capture someone’s attention and make them want to click the link.

Bjork Ostrom: So, how do you do that? You probably have these things in your mind right now that you use as kind of a filtering process or a framework around attention, getting somebody’s attention in a short amount of time. Could you pull those out and say like, “Here’s some things for people to consider when you do think about capturing somebody’s attention”?

Eric King: I would say in writing, people gravitate toward a lot of things, but I’ll just give you two examples. The first one is if you mention you, if you say the word, you, people will stop because people are not interested in what’s happening to you. I mean, they might be, but they’re mainly interested in what’s happening to them. So, if you say, “You should do this,” or, “Have you ever,” blah, blah, blah. And then, there’s also our natural instinctual human negativity bias. We’re biased towards negative words like don’t, no, stop. Those are words that people naturally pay more attention to. It makes them want to keep reading.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Do you know why that is? Is there any thoughts around the psychology behind that? Is it there to bring-

Eric King: I’m going to go ahead and… I mean, I think it’s pretty established that to survive, humans had to be focused towards the negative.

Bjork Ostrom: Negativity. What’s the threat?

Eric King: Threats? Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Eric King: But I don’t want to go into any psychology. And then, what we do on Instagram and TikTok, I would say it’s a couple of things. People gravitate toward something really beautiful, beautiful light, chocolate falling down onto something being drizzled in chocolate, or I would say intrigue is really important. So, if you see, one of the videos that does really well for me is my Everything Bagel Puff pastry puffs. Not what they’re called, but basically they’re just little circles of puff pastry, and I squish down the middle.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I saw that.

Eric King: And there’s this really satisfying crunch, and it’s a perfect circle and it goes straight down, and that’s really satisfying to people. But then, there’s also-

Bjork Ostrom: And novel too, I think, is the other piece like, “Oh, interesting.” I remember even when I was looking at your page, it was on a website, so there’s all the different things I could look at, and that was the one where I was like, “Oh, interesting. What is that?” Yeah.

Eric King: Yeah. I’m lucky if I get one of those every couple recipes because since the Instagram and TikTok and Google are so saturated, it’s so important to be able to be like, “People have seen this before. Unless yours is the best or it is the easiest, you have to have something new to get people’s attention.” So, those are just a couple of things. I look out for the satisfying nature, the intriguing nature. Someone’s like, “What is that,” or, “What’s going to happen next,” or, “How’s that going to look when it comes out?” That’s why I think a lot of creators have started to edit their videos in a way where it’s like, “I’m going to almost show you the end product, and then we’re going to go back to the beginning, so that you watch the whole video.”

Bjork Ostrom: It’s almost like, and maybe you said this, but intrigue, curiosity, you kind of become a mini storyteller, whether you’re actually telling a story through the words that you’re using or not, and collectively, it’s like you’re thinking, “Okay, if it’s a video, what does that look like? How do you hook somebody? How do you engage interest? How do you create something novel?” But then, also in the writing as well, that’s an important piece of it. So, when you think of yourself as a content creator, obviously, these platforms are so visual, but it sounds like you are somebody who’s very much anchored in your expertise and skills as a writer, so how do you marry those two things, the visual aspects at least on the social side, but also on websites as well, or email, or whatever it is, with the importance of the words that you’re kind of wrapping it all in?

Eric King: Yeah. This is something that I’ve been working on because sometimes I find that I have a lot to say about things that are not the recipe. I find it very satisfying to create a great recipe that people want to make at home, but I think there’s a mental block in my head where I’m like, “Can you express the reason why you wanted to make this recipe?”

Bjork Ostrom: You’re asking yourself that?

Eric King: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Eric King: So, I think doing the Substack is partially one reason I wanted to do that, because of course, the blog has text that accompanies the recipe like everything else does, but I kind of just wanted to be more intentional about writing about the recipe, and then also writing about things I like, things I’m consuming, recommendations, things going on.

Bjork Ostrom: In the world.

Eric King: But… Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe there’s an analogy or kind of a through line with food in our lives, which is you sit down for dinner with a friend and you do talk about the food that you’re getting, but it’s maybe 10% to 20% of what you’re talking about, but it is a vehicle to host that conversation. And it’s interesting to hear you reflect on that a little bit, where even on these platforms, that same thing could be true, where the food, while it’s the main thing that’s bringing people there, it’s not the only thing that you’re talking about necessarily. Is that kind of what you’re getting at, sometimes even if you’re posting a reel about something you’re making, what you’ll talk about isn’t necessarily just that thing?

Eric King: Yeah. And I think a lot of creators have seen a lot of success in that regard by not just talking about the recipe, but talking about, I mean, really anything, but it has to be relevant to that creator and it has to be a good story. I mean, some of the best engaged with recipe videos have an accompanying story that might have nothing to do with the recipe. I’m trying to find my way into that, but I always tell creators who maybe are new or even the ones that inspire me or the ones that I’m friends with, I try to remind them. I’m like, “People don’t want a recipe. They want your recipe.” It could be literally anything from Google. I’m sure you’re a great recipe developer. Everybody’s great. Everybody’s so creative, but the reason that people choose you is because they trust you and they want to be part of your online community, and that’s a whole other thing. But I try to remind people that they can get a recipe anywhere. They want yours.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. I think that’s super valuable. I think if you go the other route and you’re like, “It’s just a recipe,” you can build a following in that way, but the business you’re building or the following you’re building is going to be much different, and in some ways, the competition is going to be much more fierce because you’re competing with everybody with the same type of medium, which is a recipe. But if you are a part of it and your story is a part of it, suddenly that’s a really defensible thing, especially in a world where we are approaching content that can be generated by non-humans.

What does it look like in five years or 10 years when you can get a good recipe from whatever we’re calling them, large language model, AI? They’re not there yet, and it might take a while, but they’ll get there. So, what does that look like in that world? Well, if you have people who are connected to you and follow you because of who you are, that’s a really valuable thing that is, for lack of a better word, defensible, because there’s only one you and that can’t be replicated.

There’s a couple of things that, before we get too far away from it, I’d be interested to hear you talk about. One of the things you talked about when you were at TED that I think is really valuable was you said, “One of the components of the job was talking to people, getting an idea of what they wanted and giving them more of that.” Can you talk about what that looked like at TED? And then, is that something that you’re thinking about as you create content for an audience?

Eric King: Yes. I would say that we really paid attention to obviously what performed, but there are so many things that go into analytics and engagement and view count and sentiment, and all the other ingredients are so important to take as a big picture because something could have underperformed in terms of view count or likes and comments, but there’s all these saves and all these shares, and you’re like, “What’s that all about? What is it about this piece that strikes a chord with people, makes people want to share, makes people want to come back to it?”

So, it’s really important, and I try to look at all of my content as the big picture too because also with algorithms, things go up and down. Things change. Sometimes you have a really great week. Sometimes you don’t. There’s some things you can’t control. There’s a lot that you can’t. Yeah. But I would say we try to listen to sentiment just as much as we listen to maybe… Well, I won’t say what they do now. I have no idea. But I would say now, I find it important to listen to sentiment almost as much as I listen to the numbers because I think people say the numbers don’t lie, but yeah, they don’t give you the whole picture.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you talk about what that means? What does listening to sentiment functionally look like?

Eric King: Yeah, sure. I would say we would pay attention to comments, retweets, shares on LinkedIn. And it’s hard to get everybody’s opinion because it was such a massive operation. But for me, it’s really easy because I just go through my comments and you just look for patterns in what people are asking about, what people are happy about, what they’re not happy about. And sometimes you have to go, “Okay, well, just because it’s negative engagement doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post it or that whatever,” but you just have to take it all into account.

Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. Yeah. Every day I’m still learning this, and it’s the importance of listening to people that you are trying to talk to. In our normal day-to-day relationships, it’s built in. You talk to somebody, and then you listen to them in the healthy relationships that we have in our life. The weird thing about our online relationships is we could just kind of blast people with content all day long and not really know how it’s being received by them on the other end.

Like you said, you could look at metrics like, “How many view counts did it have,” and whatever it might be, but to get the full picture, another phrase that you use, one of the ways you can do that is by seeing how people are responding to it. Specifically, the thing that I thought was really interesting is what questions are people asking, and getting a better idea of maybe the gaps in the content that you’re creating or another piece of content that you could create that would help fill the picture out. So, how do you do that while also preserving your mental health? Because I feel like not all people, but for some people, the idea of spending time reading people’s comments would be a really hard thing to do because you know are going to come up against those negative things.

Eric King: Yes. I would say in the food blogosphere, Instagram, TikTok, I mostly receive positive feedback, unless sometimes on TikTok when it breaks out and goes beyond my following, and people don’t know me. I heard a lot of creators say they’re actually scared of going viral, and they do not want to because there’s just so much vitriol, especially in that corner of the internet, and I don’t know what it is about the platform. A, I think it’s a little bit more anonymous than Instagram. It’s sort of like YouTube comments where people are not showing up as themselves. It’s also the reason why people are so well behaved on LinkedIn because they are who they are. They’re attached to their work. Their boss is there. So, on TikTok, I feel like most people aren’t posting. They’re just viewing and maybe they’re not being public with who they are.

So, that’s part of the reason, but I’ll just get a lot of people who… I don’t know. It’s people who make bad faith judgements or jump to conclusions about things without really knowing who you the creator are or what kind of content you post or the intention of the post. I’ve been lucky to avoid most conflict, but sometimes people just want to write something mean. I would say where mental health comes into it, it’s much harder for me at least to deal with comparison, jealousy, feelings of inadequacy, the constant churn that we feel to post and create.

Bjork Ostrom: You have two hours after you post to kind of relax a little bit, and then you’re like, “Better get after it again.”

Eric King: Seriously. I mean, I say this, I did not go to pastry school. I didn’t go to culinary school. I take a long time to develop recipes sometimes, and that’s just how it goes. I can only go so fast without sacrificing the quality of a recipe, and if that doesn’t work for what TikTok or Instagram wants for optimal growth, then too bad. I don’t know what to say.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things I’ve been trying to think about for myself as we continue on in this journey of creating online, and you see all of these different stories of people reaching incredible levels of success, and you see other people who kind of fold up and say, “I’m not going to go forward anymore,” there’s all of these different scenarios, and in a lot of those, you can do this kind of comparison type stuff where you’re looking and it’s, “Oh, man, they’re doing really incredible,” and feeling bad about it, but have been trying to, as much as possible, think about how do I play my own game and how do I show up every day with an idea of what I’m trying to get out of what I’m doing? What is my goal? What is my purpose? And then, using that as kind of the North Star that I follow as opposed to looking left and right, but it’s really hard to do.

I’d be curious what it looks like for you. Especially for me, my main platforms aren’t Instagram or TikTok where I go on and then see this inevitably. In order to participate, you kind of have to have exposure to it like other people and other pieces of content. So, what does that look like for you? Any tools that you’ve used in your mental health tool belt to approach that from a healthy mindset?

Eric King: To approach?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. To rephrase the question, for you as a creator… It was a long, convoluted thought. For you as a creator, how do you not get caught up in comparison and stay focused on what you’re doing?

Eric King: Oh, okay. Thank you. I would say I do get caught up in comparison, that I do not know that well. No. I mean, yes, that is true, but I would say yes, it’s important to recognize the places where your life, your circumstances, your financial situation are very different from other people. You’re not seeing the whole picture as we’ve been talking about. You might not be seeing that they’re working with a team of seven people, or they have an assistant, or they have a partner who’s helping them do stuff, or maybe they had years to build this up while someone else paid the bills. That’s all good, but you’re not seeing that, so you’re making all these judgments about yourself and about others without all the information.

I think about it all the time I’ve been working on this. I mean, I started with Instagram, and then eventually, I got the website, and then the TikTok. I started the Instagram in July 2019, so sometimes I look at how people have this great overnight success. They hit the ground running. Again, it’s digital natives. People either have the resources or just know how to get started, and it’s hard not to see that, and see overnight success and people shoot past you and just in terms of follower count, and not feel like there’s something wrong with you. So, I’ve just tried to remind myself again, it goes back to why are people following you? Why do people stick around? Why is your engagement good, even if you’re not growing crazy fast? What makes you special? But it’s hard. It’s really difficult. I don’t think there’s any kind of magic.

I know people with millions of followers who still get caught up in the same thing or feeling like their content didn’t perform or feeling like there’s something wrong with them or their content, and it’s almost built to make you feel that way. Scratch that. It is built to make you feel that way. So, it’s certainly something I struggle with.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think everybody listening, in some ways, probably one of the most helpful things to hear is like, “Yeah, it is something that exists,” and if somebody listening is like, “Oh, me too, you’re not alone in that,” I think it’s a pretty universal felt thing just with social media or the human experience in general. Even outside of social media, I think it exists in a lot of ways.

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You talked about starting your Instagram in 2019. What has that kind of progression looked like for you, and is this something where today, and we’re recording this mid-December 2023, is this your full-time thing that you’re working on, along with some other projects, or tell us about what that transition looked like when you started to today, that four-year period?

Eric King: Yeah. I became very interested in… I mean, I’ve been a lifelong baker. I started using baking as a hobby, as a creative outlet. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my jobs. I wasn’t feeling creative or I was doing good work. So, I think I started baking these really serious baking projects, as a way to cope with that, and I started documenting them just on my personal Instagram. And people were like, “You have to start an Instagram that’s separate from this,” but I was like, “I don’t know why you want me to do this. What’s the difference for you?” And people were adamant, and eventually, I just did it and then just started making other people’s recipes. I tried my hand at a few recipes that I had developed, and then July 2019 happens. I start easygayoven and quit my job. The first job, I quit.

Bjork Ostrom: Job quit number one.

Eric King: Right. It’s important because I quit that job and spent a month working on easygayoven, and that was a great month. I think back to that month all the time and how happy I was. Did a little work there. Got another job. Worked there. Pandemic happened. Then I started getting really involved in creating recipes of my own, shooting them with professional lighting, professional setup, professional camera, and then still working my day job shooting at night. I mean, I’d be up until 2:00 AM shooting things, but it was fun. Also, it was COVID, so I mean, it was deep lockdown.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Especially in New York.

Eric King: So, what else are you going to do?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Eric King: I was living with my parents for a while, so luckily I could just… I wasn’t seeing anybody.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. You can focus on it. You had the ability to really go deep in this one specific area while also working a full-time job. Yeah.

Eric King: Yeah. And then, 2021 happened. I started getting some clients, and then this kind of became a side gig.

Bjork Ostrom: How did you get those first clients? I think that’s one thing that’s for people, they are always interested in what does that look like? Was it people reaching out to you, you reaching out to people?

Eric King: It was mainly people reaching out to me, and that’s what’s so great because that’s another thing to talk about comparison. I’ve been fortunate that a lot of the people who want to work with me come to me because they think I have something special, and in my view, that’s just as important as pure social media metrics because really at the end of the day, no one’s doing this for free. Well, some people are, but it’s important to understand why businesses would want to work for you or with you.

Yeah. So, I was working with some clients. They came to me. I had one client who was a friend of a friend, and they paid me what I thought at that time was a fair price. It’s just now, I could look back on it and it was kind of fun to do your first thing that you’re getting paid for. And then, one of my big clients that year that I was working, I would say, on the side for was Netflix Family and their Pinterest account. The team who ran their Pinterest account wanted to… They had a couple titles that they were trying to promote, and they wanted recipes to go with those titles, and to make Pinterest stories. I don’t work much on Pinterest. I don’t work at all on Pinterest, but it was basically just making content for them that wouldn’t appear on easygayoven. So, I was developing recipes, shooting those recipes late into the night, again, because I was working a day job.

I did two for Pride Month. That’s why they reached out because easygayoven. That’s another thing. It’s what made me stick out. When people searched gay baker on Instagram or Google, they often found me, so I was able to get a lot of Pride campaigns when I started. So, did such a great job on the first two that they were like, “We’re going to give you 15 more.”

Bjork Ostrom: And this was Netflix?

Eric King: This was Netflix, yes. Netflix, the company, the streamer, they had a Netflix Family division which had their own Pinterest account, which had at that time, I think something crazy, 4 million Pinterest followers.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, wow.

Eric King: Yeah. I did that for them going to the end of 2021, going into 2022. And then, at the start of 2022, that’s when I really started easygayoven full time because I left my job in social media at the end of 2021. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Talk about that first year. We’re coming up on two years now of you doing this full time, and I feel like that’s a really good time to have a conversation like this because it’s not like the first two months where you’re looking around and being lucky. It just feels different when you’re getting up and you’re the one setting the schedule for the day. What have those first two years been like for you working on this full time?

Eric King: Oh, gosh, it’s been a roller coaster. I would say for the first couple months, I was just really excited. I was really excited and kind of fearlessly diving into it. I had I think at the end of 2021 about 10,000 followers on Instagram. Would not recommend going full time with your food blog business if you don’t have amazing SEO or whatever site traffic. I did not. I supplemented a lot of my income by writing for publications like Serious Eats, so I did that maybe half the time. And then, I was running easygayoven, and I consider that as one full-time gig change. Yeah. The first year, it was good. It was a little scary. I had to leave the studio apartment I was staying in because of course, my income changed dramatically. I had to move in with two random people. Here’s the thing, I always say it’s always good to go down a roommate or live alone, but I don’t recommend going back up.

Bjork Ostrom: Going up?

Eric King: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.

Eric King: I love my roommates now, but it was a big lifestyle change. It was a big lifestyle change because I was now my own boss because that was really hard to get used to. I respond well to deadlines and making the people in charge happy, so it was hard to be disciplined with myself and say like, “You have to get out of bed and start your day, and you have to focus, and you have to create a schedule for yourself because no one else is going to do it.” I’m still honestly getting over that hump, but it’s gotten a lot easier this year. There was a point, I would say, halfway through this year that I really had to look at my finances and be like, “Is this going to work?” Because I would say every creator kind of noticed, there was a tightening of marketing budgets in this past, earlier this year. I would say Pride campaigns were nowhere to be found, you could say, because there was such a huge blowback on some brands.

Bjork Ostrom: Like brands experienced blowback from doing a Pride campaign, and therefore, the resulting impact of that is them maybe quietly rejiggering the budget to not have that blowback. Yeah.

Eric King: Or just one very visible brand got slammed, and now everybody’s too scared, that combined with the vibecession, everybody’s tightening their belts.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Are you speaking to Target, some of the stuff that happened with Target?

Eric King: Target, Bud Light.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Eric King: I didn’t practically get any brands reaching out for Pride, which is very unusual because I had a friend who was working with me for a while. She works in influencer marketing. She would help me do my negotiations, my contracts. She very graciously helped me for a long time, and I’m so grateful to her because at that time, I really couldn’t afford to pay anyone else to do it. So, she kept asking me, where are all the brands? Because last year, even when you were smaller, people still wanted to work with you.

Anyway, it was kind of scary because then I had to take on a lot of extra work for writing for publications, which I’m happy to do, but I kind of wanted to focus on easygayoven and growing. So, I would say first year, I didn’t make any money the first six months of doing easygayoven. I was so focused on growing, and I was lucky because I had savings and a safety net. I say this all the time to people that I would not have been able to do easygayoven if I didn’t have savings and family that could help me if I had a problem.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yep. One of the things I heard on a podcast recently, and this was in the context of startups and companies that get funding from raising around, but they’re talking about founder salaries. And one of the things he talked about was the combination of your business budget, but also your personal budget, and then therefore your business run rate and your personal run rate. And what I think is great about your story is you were saying, “Hey, I know I want to do this. I want to give this a shot,” and what you did is you extended your run rate. Previously, when you had a studio apartment on your own, you knew it would last two months, but if you reduce that amount and you have your savings, suddenly, it’s going to last six months or eight months. And that is an incredible amount of time to get momentum with the thing that you’re doing, the thing that you’re building.

So, I think it’s for all of us, especially those who are thinking of making the leap into building a thing and the contemplation being, do I grow this until it is a full-time salary, which would be really hard if I’m doing it in the margins of a W–2 job, or do I save up and then work on this full time with the hope of compressing that timeline to get there quicker? And using the variables at play, whether it be where you’re living or just what those recurring expenses are, and adjusting those down as much as possible, I think that’s really wise.

The other thing that I think is worth pointing out as people think about this world of building into the thing that you’re working on into a full-time gig is how do you think of yourself as a CEO? The CEO is not just your creator business, but it’s everything that is bringing money in for you and everything that is an expense. So, for you, if you’re a CEO of Eric Enterprises, part of that could be the freelance division where you’re writing. It’s also easygayoven where you’re working with sponsors and building a following. It could also be a part-time W–2 job or maybe in some seasons, full time, and almost viewing them as divisions. Is that kind of what you’re getting at a little bit when you said, “I kind of view that as part of what I was doing was freelance is also kind of under this umbrella of me as an entrepreneur”?

Eric King: I viewed it at that time as something that I had to do, but at the same time, I preferred that over perhaps going and getting a job at a coffee shop or a bakery. I was doing it because I love Serious Eats, I think. I use Serious Eats as a resource all the time. I think they do great work. I love a lot of the people who work there, so I was also considering, this helps me raise my profile in the world of food media in a small way.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Totally, yeah.

Eric King: But still, I was also thinking at that time when I left my full-time job the second time, I kind of was like, “I’m not making any grand statements about what exactly I’m going to be doing for the rest of my career. I’m not making any grand statements of the fact that I’ll never come back to media,” because I was also like, “That could very well happen. It could still happen.” I want to keep my options open. I want to be able to say, “Work on my blog. Work on the Substack. Work on Instagram. Work on TikTok. Work for publication. Be an on-air talent, hopefully one day.” But that’s why I try not to pigeonhole myself. So, I was doing it because I needed the money, but also because it was keeping one foot in the world of New York food media.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. That’s great and strategic in that way. It’s not just, like you said, getting a coffee job at a coffee shop, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but it’s maybe outside of the arena that you wanted to be in.

Yeah. You mentioned Substack. I love to talk about that a little bit, as a last kind of focus topic here. A lot of times folks will think about ConvertKit or Mailchimp and these email platforms, but I don’t think we talk enough about Substack as an option for building a community, and it really has more of almost a community feel for than a traditional email marketing platform. And the other thing is you can build your list for free. There’s not a cost with it. As your list grows, it’s not like you have to pay more, and it even could be a profit center at some point if you start to charge for it. So, can you talk about some of your thoughts around building on Substack and what that’s been like?

Eric King: Absolutely. I’m very interested in Substack at the start of this year. I did a lot of research on the competitors and Patreon, and beehiiv was kind of an interesting one that I was looking at. I kind of came down with Substack just because it seemed like food people were having a lot of success there. I had seen some food people change from Patreon to Substack. Again, the fact that it was low barrier to entry really helped, and a big part of the reason why I started it is because I was so frustrated with the vulnerability of not being able to rely on brand partnerships all the time, and not being able to rely on Instagram and TikTok and their shifting algorithms. I mean, my whole thing, my mom, who I learned a lot about being a professional from, she would say, multiple streams of income.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. All right, mom.

Eric King: It’s great advice-

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally.

Eric King: And to make yourself invulnerable. But I was just honestly fed up. I was like, “We have people who base their entire businesses on these platforms who owe us nothing, who have no regard for the people who keep the wheels moving, so why should we act like tomorrow, it couldn’t all just shut down?” I mean, that would be really bad.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s happened. I feel like Vine is kind of the ultimate example of a platform where people built huge followings and it literally just shut down. I mean, I don’t think it’ll happen with the-

Eric King: Well, I think about-

Bjork Ostrom: … Instagram.

Eric King: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, go ahead.

Eric King: But they’re such a monopoly and it’s ubiquitous. But I also remember, it was only a couple of months ago that for the first time in its history, Facebook lost users. The users went down for the first time ever, so I think everybody should be looking ahead to, eventually these things will phase out. Something new will rise. A new TikTok will come along. It’s just what happens. So, I was hesitant to get on TikTok. I probably got on a little too late. I also hopped on Reels too late. I always say if I were to go back, I would start either a year earlier or a year later because if I started a year later, I would’ve had more savings, but if I started a year earlier, I would’ve been able to hop on all the trends that you’re seeing now. Anyway…

So, I started Substack because I wanted to kind of create a buffer, and I can see that being much more reliable source of income as I grow, than just relying on brand partnerships because that’s another thing. We don’t know how much longer the current influencer marketing market has left. We don’t know how that’s going to change, so I think that’s another thing people should really keep in mind is saying, “How can I build a one-on-one relationship with my audience? How can I own a segment of my audience?” Because I could build it on Substack. Great thing about Substack, you can take that email list wherever you go. They don’t own that email list, at least not now. So, that was another thing that was really… And right now, I am making money with it, which is great.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. The predictability of that, there’s something really nice about saying, “Okay…” And there’s always churn with any of these. Some people sign up and some people cancel, but generally speaking, we’ve seen this with software businesses where you can get some predictability with that, in a way that we’ve also seen this with sponsored content and partnerships. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh, this month, we’ve had five people reach out. Awesome.” “Oh, for eight months we didn’t have anybody reach out, not awesome.” It’s great if that becomes a bump, but not the baseline, so call back to your mom and her wisdom. What does it look like to have multiple streams of income? And especially great if those multiple streams of income are diversified in terms of the nature of that income.

You might have ad income. You have some subscription income. You have one-off projects. Maybe freelance. We talked about this idea of the egg carton, and if you have this idea of how much you need to make, let’s say, it’s $60,000 in a year, you’re not living in New York, you’re living somewhere else where you could live on that more affordably, $5,000 in each kind of egg spot in the egg carton. Okay. How do you put that together and think about diversifying that? So, I think a ton of wisdom in your mom’s advice there for all of us, as we think of business building.

As people hear about this, I’m sure that they’ll want to connect with you. Maybe there’s some brands listening that want to reach out, but also creators, influencers, publishers who’d want to follow along with what you’re up to. Can you do a little shout-out for the different places where people can follow along with what you’re up to, Eric? Maybe include Substack there as well, so people can follow along there.

Eric King: Absolutely. You can find me at easygayoven.com, @easygayoven on Instagram and TikTok. The Substack, I think, the nomenclature is easygayoven.substack.com.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Eric King: If it doesn’t sound right, just Google it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. We’ll link to those in the show notes as well. Last question for you, Eric, for anybody who is in the early stages that are thinking about making that transition going full time with it, what would your advice be to them? If you’re sitting across from them with a cup of coffee and they say, “What have you learned in these last two to three years that you could tell me to help me take the next steps,” what would you say to them?

Eric King: I would say, how much do you like your healthcare?

Bjork Ostrom: Totally.

Eric King: I would say make sure that you have a lot of savings and make sure that you really, really like what it is that you want to do. I would say having that safety net is really important because you don’t know if you’re going to be able to go find another job like the one you had. Yeah. The multiple streams of income thing, really important. Being proactive networking is really important. I always say, another thing I learned from my mom, the strength of weak ties, which-

Bjork Ostrom: I love that. I’ve never heard that before, but that’s great. Yeah. Can you explain that?

Eric King: I say that some of the best opportunities I’ve gotten were from people who I sort of knew, so treat everyone like-

Bjork Ostrom: Well, you even said friend of a friend that one of the deals came through. Yeah. Treat everyone like… You were saying?

Eric King: I would say treat… I hate the word. I hate the actual word and-

Bjork Ostrom: Is the word person?

Eric King: Of networking. I think that it’s important to create a network before you need it. Don’t network because you want an opportunity now. Meet people, develop relationships because one day, someone’s going to be like, “I really need this person for this kind of project,” and they’ll think of you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great. The strength of weak ties.

Eric King: And maybe one day, you’ll be able to help them too.

Bjork Ostrom: I love that. That’s awesome.

Eric King: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Eric, thanks so much for coming on. It was a joy to talk to you and I love to hear about your story, so thanks for coming on.

Eric King: Oh, thanks so much for having me, Bjork.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, hi, hello, Alexa here. We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. I’m here today to give you an update on what’s going on in the Food Blogger Pro membership side of things in January. January is going to be a great month for Food Blogger Pro members, and if you’re interested in joining the community and learning a little bit more about what’s offered within the community, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/join. There, you can learn all the things, and then get signed up whenever you’re ready. What we always like to say is that a Food Blogger Pro membership is going to look different at the end of each week because we’re always adding value to your membership. We’re always updating old content, publishing new content, and everything in between, so it’s just a great place to be. If you have some goals this year that you really want to accomplish, it’s a great place to stay accountable and get up-to-date advice and strategies.

On January 4th, we have a coaching call coming out with Food Blogger Pro member, Pam, from Our Table for Two, and this conversation just makes me smile every time I think about it because Pam is just so dedicated and excited about her blog, and I think starting off the year with a conversation like that, it just makes you feel good. Some of the questions that Pam and Bjork talked through are about hosting events, impressions on the site in terms of user experience, category strategy, and more. It’s a great coaching call and you can expect that on January 4th.

Then on January 11th, we have a live Q & A with Chelsea Clarke about qualifying for an ad network. So, if you’re working towards qualifying for an ad network this year, this is a cannot-miss Q and A. We’re so excited about it, so Food Blogger Pro members, get this. It’s already included in your membership, so January 11th, you can tune in, but if you’re not a Food Blogger Pro member and you’re not quite ready to join for the full membership, you can head to foodbloggerpro.com/webinars and actually register for this webinar for only 25 bucks. That’s a great way to kind of test the waters to see if the Food Blogger Pro membership could be right for you if you’re interested.

And then, on January 18th, we have a great new course coming out. It’s all about Pinterest, but advanced Pinterest like how to get the most out of Pinterest? If you’ve kind of already got some of the fundamentals figured out, how to pin, how to post videos, how frequently you should pin, this course is going to take things one step further into the advanced realm of Pinterest, so we’re so excited about that. Again, if you’re interested in joining the Food Blogger Pro membership or just learning a little bit more about what’s all included, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/join. Otherwise, that does it for us today. We hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time, and until then, make it a great week.

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