332: Featured Podcast – Strategically Monetizing Your Food Blog with Bjork on the Eat, Capture, Share Podcast

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.

An audio control panel and the title of Bjork Ostrom's featured episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Featured Podcast.'

Welcome to episode 332 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, we’re sharing Bjork’s episode from the Eat, Capture, Share podcast with Kimberly Espinel.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Abbey Rodriguez about how she founded and grew Tastemaker Conference. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

In today’s episode, we’re switching things up because it’s actually Bjork in the interview seat! We’re really excited to be featuring an episode of the Eat, Capture, Share Podcast.

Kimberly recently interviewed Bjork about his journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur and online business owner. You’ll hear what the first streams of revenue were for Pinch of Yum, Bjork’s advice for those wanting to make a living through food blogging, and why he believes in the idea of 1% infinity.

It’s a really inspiring conversation, and we know you’ll enjoy hearing more about Bjork’s story. We hope you enjoy this featured podcast episode!

A quote from Bjork Ostrom's featured pocast episode on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'Even though you see somebody get to a similar point that you want to get to doesn’t mean that you should take the same path to get there.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The quick story behind Pinch of Yum, Food Blogger Pro, WP Tasty, Nutrifox, Clariti, and TinyBit
  • How Bjork and Lindsay leaned into their strengths when building Pinch of Yum
  • What the first streams of revenue were for Pinch of Yum
  • His advice for how to transition to making a living through food blogging
  • Why he launched the Food Blogger Pro Podcast
  • His top tips to quickly monetize doing what you love
  • The biggest mistakes that he sees creators making when trying to grow their businesses

Resources:

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

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

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: Hello. This is Bjork. As you probably know, you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. And today we are sharing an interview with me. It’s not me interviewing me, but every once in a while I’ll go on another podcast. And occasionally we’d like to reshare those podcasts here on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. So this is a conversation that I had with Kimberly from the Eat, Capture, Share Podcast. She was actually on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. So we did a little crossover podcast episode.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ll be talking a little bit about our story, which you’ve probably heard before. But also sharing some things that I consider to be kind of tips, tricks, things that we’ve learned along the way. And my hope is that anytime that we can share our story that there’s little pieces that you can pull from it and apply to your story. And as always, as we often talk about the hope here is that we can help you not only get a tiny bit better every day forever, but also get to where you want to go.

Bjork Ostrom: And for all of us that’s a little bit different. We want to go to different places, but our hope is that this podcast and the stories that we share can be a part of that journey. So let’s go ahead and jump into the interview. There’s not going to be an official welcome like there usually is because it’s going to be the conversation that I had with Kimberly, but we’ll go ahead and jump in. Enjoy.

Kimberly Espinel: Bjork, thank you so much for agreeing to be on the Eat, Capture, Share Podcast. It’s a really special moment to have you here because I’ve listened to your podcast for years. And I feel like I know you because you have been accompanying EMI commutes and things like that for a very long time. But then maybe people tuning in who don’t know you, who don’t know Lindsay, who don’t know what Pinch of Yum. So please do introduce yourself.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Sure. Great to be here. Our quick story over 10 years ago, my wife Lindsay started a website called Pinch of Yum. We started it on Tumbler, which is so crazy to reach way back to these old platforms, but it wasn’t really a great blogging platform, but nonetheless we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were trying to figure it out. The first couple of blog posts that were ever published, which if you searched really hard on the Internet you could find them.

Bjork Ostrom: But Pinch of Yum started way back when and our story really has been one of continual small improvements and showing up every day. And for a long period of time it was just that super early stage of trying to figure out what it looked like to publish content online and for people to actually see it, which was really hard in those early days. But over time we started to get some traction.

Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay started to get really interested in photography, which is as you know and as your audience knows is such an important thing, started to get interested in improve recipe development and writing and along the path that she was taking I was taking a different path of getting really interested in online business and advertising, affiliate marketing. And what does it look like to build and scale a website? So we kind of worked on those things side-by-side.

Bjork Ostrom: It wasn’t necessarily us sitting down and kind of crafting this business plan. It was more of us just working on things that we were naturally interested in and it just happened to be that those things kind of paired well for building a blog. And along the way we tried to do a good job of listening and seeing what else was needed in the world and the questions that people had for us and have created products or brands or other businesses that correlate to some of those things that we heard people saying that they needed.

Bjork Ostrom: So we created a food blogging membership site. So for people who were interested in building a food site kind of like Pinch of Yum, publishing recipes online, learning about SEO, photography, video. We created a site called Food Blogger Pro. That was 2013 range. We have a WordPress plugins business called WP Tasty. We have a nutrition analysis website called Nutrifox to help creators put nutrition labels in.

Bjork Ostrom: And then our latest endeavor is a site called Clariti, with an I at the end instead of a Y, clariti.com, and that’s for people who are starting to think about kind of strategically looking at the content they have and improving it. So creating some processes around that and for those who are in the content world they know that that’s becoming a really important thing.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s not just publishing new content, but updating old content. So all of that sits under this brand called Tiny Bit and Tiny Bit is based on this premise of getting a tiny bit better every day forever, which is kind of how we’ve thought about our work for the past 10 plus years.

Kimberly Espinel: Amazing. Wow. There’s something that I didn’t even know. This me listening to your podcasts and other things happening, but I’d love to actually know kind of taking it back step by step. When you set up Pinch of Yum on Tumbler all those years ago, why did you do it?

Kimberly Espinel: Because from what I know from your story, Lindsay was working as a teacher, you also had I think another full-time job. Was it a hobby? Did you go into it as a, let’s just express herself creatively or was there something from the outside that you knew that you could turn this into something big?

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. So Lindsay was a fourth-grade teacher. I was working at a nonprofit that worked with schools. So we’re both kind of in the education world, but we had these kinds of little pockets of passion or interest. And those are essentially what I alluded to before. So for Lindsay, it was food, it was recipe development. It wasn’t right away, but it started to become photography over time.

Bjork Ostrom: I initially did the photography, which lasted six weeks because we were like, wait, this is weird because it was kind of Lindsay directing me on what she wanted, but eventually it was like, we got to figure this out because this is not the best way for us to work together. What it ended up being was kind of these pockets of interests that we had.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think for Lindsay it was a creative outlet and for me it was maybe a little bit more, hey, I think that we could build this into a business. And partly because it was just the content that I was listening to and consuming. Most people in the social space would know somebody named Gary Vaynerchuk and potentially a polarizing figure depending on kind of where you land or your opinion.

Kimberly Espinel: I love him.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Great. But I think there’s some key takeaways and sometimes this is all that it takes. It’s like one concept to shift how you view things or your idea of the world. And when I was commuting to my nonprofit job, it’s maybe a 20 to 40-minute commute, depending on how long it was, I would listen to podcasts and I would listen to audiobooks. And one of the audiobooks that I listened to I was trying to find anything in the online business content creation world.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think his was first book was called Crush It and it’s a very Gary Vaynerchuk term. But the idea was in an area of interest in an area of passion you can create a sustainable business online because when you publish things online you have access to the world, not just your local market like you would with a brick and mortar store.

Bjork Ostrom: And the key takeaway, the key thing that he shared in that was this idea of if you are a worm farmer and you really love worming, I don’t know if that’s the correct term for it, but you can create a business around that. And that really made a lot of sense to me because you think of all of these industries that exist in the worm world and my brother for a period of time had some worms that he would compost food.

Bjork Ostrom: And when you look into it and it’s like, oh, there’s people who sell worms, and they sell the containers you put them in, and they sell food for it. And so there’s this industry around that world. And I was listening to that and then thought, well, I feel like that could apply to recipes and recipe development and food and the food world. And so I had started to look into it and read about it. And there was two different theories that people had published online.

Bjork Ostrom: One was, hey, if you’re going to produce food content online, you’re going to have to do it for free. There’s no way that you can create an income around this. And then the other one was this idea of, hey, even if you’re into worm farming, you can create an income around that in a business around that. And so I thought, man, I think we could potentially do this. On Pinch of Yum I started a once a month a kind of a writeup, a business report almost.

Bjork Ostrom: It was almost like if you had investors in a business and you send a monthly update, except it was publishing that to the people who followed along with the site and said, hey, here’s how much we earned. I eventually started to talk about traffic and over time started to get some traction and see, oh, this is something that you can do. In one month it was $20, then it would be $40, and then it would be $100.

Bjork Ostrom: So early on I think I had always been interested in building this as a business and something that could create income. I think for Lindsay not to speak too much for her, but I think initially it was, how do I take better photographs? How do I create content that is engaging for people? And those two things pair really well and you can’t have one without the other.

Bjork Ostrom: So it wasn’t something where we were super strategic and built a business plan. I think we were lucky in that the things we’re interested in early on complemented each other and worked hard as well to figure out how to do those things well over time. And that’s what eventually led it to be a career for us.

Kimberly Espinel: Thank you for sharing that. I actually would love to, again, go back just a tiny little bit and I’d love to know what kind of the first one or two things that allowed you to earn an income through the blog.

Kimberly Espinel: Because I know there’s a lot of people listening in who, I mean, some have been blogging for a very long time, so photography for a very long time, but they’re also many people kind of at the start of that journey where I don’t know how to monetize this. So I’d love to know what the first one or two income sources for you were that I’d love to sit there. It’s okay.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Absolutely. So the first was advertising. So traditional display banner ads. If you look back to that first report ever did it was I think $21. And then $21 if I’m remembering right all came from an advertising network. That was before advertising networks like Mediavine or AdThrive, Sortable these ad management companies existed. So it was you going out and saying, hey, I’m going to use ad sense or I’m going to use other ad providers and kind of manage it on my own and optimize it on my own.

Bjork Ostrom: So that was the first one. And the second one was affiliate marketing. And for those who aren’t familiar, affiliate marketing is when you have a product that you like and you would recommend and you have a link that can be tracked and if somebody purchases it, you get a commission or you get a percentage of that sale. It could be a digital product. It could be a physical product. One of an early commission that we got was the quick story behind it was I noticed that I put this stuff together.

Bjork Ostrom: I put some affiliate links and I said, here’s the resources we’re using. I talked about some of the theme we were using for our blog, which had an affiliate link hosting, which had an affiliate link. And then I think the next day or the day after I noticed a sale come through and I was like, oh, my gosh. And it was for us at the time significant. It was $40 or something like that, or $80. I don’t remember what it was, but it was just so amazed and surprised and really excited.

Bjork Ostrom: And so I started to look into it a little bit, trying to figure out when did this happen? Who could it have been? You can see IP tracking, so where it’s coming from. And I looked and I was like, wait a minute. The sale happened in Minnesota. So we’re from Minnesota. And it was like, wow, that’s really amazing. That was somebody from the same state that we’re from.

Bjork Ostrom: And then I started to realize and that I saw when it happened and then eventually I made the connection, oh my gosh, I think what happened was I was buying this thing for the nonprofit that I worked for as I was doing some work for them kind of similar online website work. I bought the thing that I had recommended on Pinch of Yum, which we also used, but because I was testing the affiliate stuff on the same computer it credited me with the sale for the thing that I bought.

Bjork Ostrom: It was actually me purchasing the thing for the nonprofit. So it was this moment of pure joy and, oh my gosh, this is going to be awesome. If people are buying this once a day like this then you start to play the numbers game. Then I realized, oh, wait a minute, this was just me buying it after having talked about it.

Bjork Ostrom: And eventually other people started to purchase it and recommend. It wasn’t as frequently as maybe I thought it was in that early stage when it was 24 hours after I posted the link or whatever. But those are the first two ways, display advertising and then affiliate marketing.

Kimberly Espinel: Amazing. And what’s really coming out super clearly from what you’re sharing is that from the outside there was intentionality behind your actions. So it doesn’t sound like you were kind of waiting for something to happen. It was more about what can I do to make this work and then kind of figuring it out. Which kind of really inspiring and also super helpful. So thank you so much for sharing that.

Bjork Ostrom: Well, with that I think it’s worth acknowledging one of the hard things is, especially in the early stages, you can be intentional. You can work hard, you can show up, but sometimes it feels like, wait, is this the right thing to be working on? I’m putting energy, I’m putting time in, but it doesn’t feel like there’s necessarily a payback on that.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think one is just acknowledging that. I think it’s important to know if you are feeling that that’s a relatable thing and don’t get discouraged because not only are you working on getting traction in those early stages, but you’re also working on your own ability and your own kind of sixth sense around understanding the best things that you should be working on.

Bjork Ostrom: Because as a creator, as a business owner, as a publisher or whatever it is that you want to call it, there’s always something that we could be doing and we’re never going to be fully done. So then the question becomes what is the most important thing to be working on that will actually yield the best results.

Bjork Ostrom: And it’s hard in the early stages because you don’t know that, but one of the things that you’re working on isn’t just getting traction and making progress, but it’s also understanding the best payback for your time and that skill will develop over time. You’ll get better at knowing what the most important things to be working on are.

Bjork Ostrom: So just acknowledging that if you’re in that early stages and you feel like you’re kind of floundering a little bit or trying to find traction, part of what you’re doing is committing to a period of time, years, not months, to get better at the craft of figuring out what the most important thing to work on is because nobody is telling you what to work on.

Bjork Ostrom: But you have a job. The thing that you do is the thing that somebody tells you to do and that’s what you do. If you are an entrepreneur, if you are a creator, the thing you do should be the most important thing for you to do. And it’s hard to know what that is in the early stages, but you’ll get better at it.

Kimberly Espinel: Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. Now I would like to know, again, kind of thinking about people tuning in who they’re kind of between a rock and a hard place where they still have a part-time job or even sometimes a full-time job and launch their blog, or they’ve set up their Instagram, they want to kind of do food photography, food planning full-time and it’s almost like their “real job” doesn’t give them the time and space to really delve deep into what they actually want to do with their lives.

Kimberly Espinel: Yet that job that they currently have pays the bills. And so my question to you would be when did you and Lindsay know that you were ready to let your teaching job and let your nonprofit job go? What was the point? Do you have any advice that you could share around that?

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Acknowledging the spectrum of people’s situations are going to be so massively different. So I can share what we did and then a few thoughts around that. So one thing that’s worth acknowledging is Lindsay and I were coming out of a season where she was a teacher. I worked at a nonprofit.

Bjork Ostrom: And then actually when we were making the transition to focusing on at the time Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro, those are the two businesses we had, when we were making the transition to focus full-time, we were actually overseas in the Philippines. Lindsay was teaching at an orphanage that we have a connection to. I was still working kind of part-time and helping at this orphanage in the school. But the point with that is that we didn’t really have inflated lifestyles.

Bjork Ostrom: And what I mean by that is our costs were relatively low. So I think that’s one of the things that you can start working on that isn’t connected to your business right away, but it’s going to make the transition a lot easier and it’s expense management.

Bjork Ostrom: So what are the things that you’re spending money on that you could adjust and change to reduce the cost of your lifestyle to make that transition easier? And my guess is if you do an audit chances are there’s going to be some areas that you could cut back on or where you could operate a little bit leaner. And if..

Kimberly Espinel: Sorry. This is so Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s very much about cut your spending or live frugally. So you’re definitely a student of things I can tell.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I haven’t followed along with him as much recently, but I know that so much of what he talks about is practical. And it’s not necessarily tips, hacks or tricks, but it speaks into what does it look like to practically make that transition? And that’s what it was for us. So reducing expenses and part of it might be not just cutting something out, hey, I have a Netflix, I’m going to cancel that. That might be what it is. Or, hey, I’m not going to have this expensive coffee drink.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m just going to make my own. Part of it might be, hey, what does it look like to call your Internet provider or your cell phone company and just ask, is there any way that I could be on a plan that’s more affordable? And I’ve done that multiple times and oftentimes the answer is yes. Let’s take a look and see here. Here’s how you can save $20 a month, $30 a month.

Bjork Ostrom: And that stuff adds up. So I think that is an important consideration. It’s just what is your lifestyle look like to make the transition easier? The second piece for us was there’s going to be a period if you are able to commit to it where it’s just you’re going to have thin margins, you’re going to be working maybe on your lunch break. And for me I would take a one-hour lunch break and I would go eat in 10 minutes and then I worked for 15 minutes.

Bjork Ostrom: And for Lindsay it would be working early in the morning or we’d work at night. It’s easier for us to do and worth acknowledging we didn’t have kids at the time. And so that’s one of those spectrum considerations where it’s going to be different for you depending on where you’re at and how much you’re actually able to do that. And then the other thing that we did, which everybody can’t do this, but it would be worth trying to figure out if you can, there’d be two pieces here.

Bjork Ostrom: One for me when I was at the nonprofit there’s some flexibility in what my job looked like and what my role looked like. So I tried to take on as much overlapping roles as possible. So they needed a site redesign I said, hey, I would love to learn how to do HTML and CSS and work within WordPress and build out some email auto responder stuff for the nonprofit where I was at. So I was learning about this stuff that I was interested in, took on some video stuff. So, hey, I want to shoot video, edit video.

Bjork Ostrom: If there’s a need there. Again, that was flexibility within the role, but it was an intentional shift to say, I know I want to go in this direction. So I’m going to focus on that and seek out those opportunities. The other piece was we made really slow transition. So one year we were both full-time, the next year we were each kind of 50% to 75%. So we cut back.

Bjork Ostrom: So there’s a day or two where I said, hey, the stuff we’re working on is becoming too much so I need to take a day, two days, whatever it was Wednesday and Friday and have those days as days that I was working on our business while still going in the other days and working for me it was at the non-profit and Lindsay I think was at 0.8 or 0.7 time for her teaching position. So we made a slow transition.

Bjork Ostrom: So essentially if you were to look at a graph, as the business was becoming more stable and growing and we had a track record of at that point probably two to three years of slow but continual growth, as that started to go up, we started to wind down our “normal jobs” our 9:00 to 5:00 jobs. And so there was an inflection point where eventually those crossed and we were working more within our businesses as opposed to our “regular jobs” but it was probably over two years.

Bjork Ostrom: And then eventually we just said, hey, this is what we’re going to be doing full time. So for us it was a slow transition. It’s not possible for everybody to do. And part of it depends on your risk profile and it also depends on how much do you have in savings? Do you have six months, 12 months of runway where once you reduce those expenses you say, hey, I know that even if I don’t make any money I can make it 10 months.

Bjork Ostrom: And then if I’m not at the point where I’m earning enough to transition out then I have two months to find another job. The last thing I would say here is another way to make this transition easier is to not look for what people would call passive income.

Bjork Ostrom: Even though it’s not truly passive or it’s no monetization through ads, or affiliate, or a product that you’re selling, but think about is there a service I could offer which is easier to sell and sell that service alongside the passive income that you’re looking to build.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s going to, in my opinion, usually make the transition shorter and a little bit easier if you’re willing to trade your time for money while also trying to build up something that is a little bit less service-oriented and less time for money. So those would be a few considerations that I’d have.

Kimberly Espinel: Yeah. So I’m going to try and summarize just to make sure I got it and also just to kind of process it because there was a lot there. But I think the first thing I heard you say really is that you had a very good grip on what your income and your outgoings were. I actually think that’s a real kind of crux point because a lot of the times when it comes to finances many of us want to stick our head in the sign type of thing not actually face it.

Kimberly Espinel: And also sometimes I think there’s this thing about, oh, I can’t afford it or rather than actually breaking it down. So I think that was really helpful. Now, the other thing I heard you say that you didn’t say it specifically, but it kind of underlying is that, well, there was a regular income, there was traction that you were observing that gave you the confidence. And then you had quite a few safety nets and kind of a gradual process, which I can relate to. Did I get that? Is that a good summary?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, 100%. And what that looked like was the ability for us to look at the last two years and say, if history is the greatest predictor of the future, which usually it is, if you want to see what the future will look like you can look at the past.

Bjork Ostrom: And especially when you’re extrapolating on a trend and if the trend was things are slowly continuing to grow and will probably grow quicker if we are focusing on this as our sole thing, then it makes sense for us to transition into focusing on this. As opposed to what we’ve seen other people do which is, I just can’t get any traction here. I’m not able to earn anything. I’m not getting anywhere. And it’s because I’m not able to focus on this full-time so I quit.

Kimberly Espinel: Oh my God, yes.

Bjork Ostrom: And then by quitting that’s going to be the thing that gets me traction. What I would say is find that traction first. And then once you have a history of growing and that being sustainable, then you have the ability to more confidently kind of pull the ripcord and say, this is when I want to make the switch. Part of it is a risk assessment, but for us that’s what we felt most comfortable with.

Kimberly Espinel: Yeah. I have to say I’ve talked about this very poorly on the podcast. I’m very risk-averse, just come somewhere I’ve come from. And so for me it was very much the same way that you describe it. So it was a very gradual, gradual, slowly, slowly. The only thing I would say and I don’t know if you experienced this and I have to say what I did was I would not recommend it.

Kimberly Espinel: So I was working part-time when my son was still a toddler and I was studying, and I was doing the blog and it was very long hours. As you said, it was the lunch, it was early mornings, it was after he’d gone to bed. And there was also a kind of on an emotional and practical level, I do want to say this for me. And I’d love to hear what it’s like for you. I was exhausted.

Kimberly Espinel: That transition phase was the most exhausted, I think, I’ve ever been in my life because I wasn’t quite in the office, I wasn’t quite studying, I wasn’t quite his mom. There were so many plates I was sitting at the same time that also in part, that exhaustion also pushed me to go, wait a minute, do you need to make a decision here? I don’t know, did you and Lindsay experience that too?

Bjork Ostrom: I think we would have if we had a toddler. But I think my role, specifically just speaking for what it looked like for me, the nonprofit that I worked for was flexible enough that I could kind of change that role as I needed, and then we didn’t have kids. And so I think those two factors led it to be not as exhausting because I could change and adjust as needed. I didn’t have kind of strict requirements.

Bjork Ostrom: It was I would have to go in when I would say that I would go in. But even within that, there’s kind of some flexibility. I think we’re in the season right now of we have a 10-month-old and an almost three-year-old. I think that is just such a level of, if you want to be an involved, committed parent, that is such a important and also significant, and also it requires a lot of energy.

Bjork Ostrom: And energy that if you are all in… We’re with our daughter right now. We’re trying to figure out how do we get her to just at the end of the day, lay down in her bed, and just hang out there without us needing to be around. And to do that for an hour, hour and a half is really exhausting. And there are days when I start and I think, oh, once kids are down from 9:00 to 10:30 or whatever, then I’ll be able to kind of do some more work.

Bjork Ostrom: But I’m so drained by the end of that, that it’s really hard to think about doing that. Whereas 15 years ago, 10 years ago, that wouldn’t have existed for me. So I think that’s one consideration. And then also I think it just is exhausting and there’s going to be that season. And it’s important to know that it can’t be forever. And to your point, you will have to pick and say, I can’t focus on everything.

Bjork Ostrom: I can’t do everything. So what is it that I’m actually going to do? And there might be a certain level of risk where you say, I know that what I want to do is I want to be a full-time photographer, and I’m not there yet, but I also know that I can’t stretch this out over four years, five years. So I just need to pick and commit to this one thing.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think that’s totally valid and makes a lot of sense. Obviously, there’s endless variables that go into that consideration, the things we talked about before, but totally valid what you’re saying. And I think worth considering that it shouldn’t be something that you do forever because you’ll burn out if it is.

Kimberly Espinel: I love to actually go back to something you mentioned before, obviously that you started Food Blogger Pro, the podcast. And from memory, you were really an early adopter there. I can only think of maybe one or two other food blogging podcasts at that time. And so I would love to know why you decided to start a podcast and what role the podcasts has played in establishing Pinch of Yum even further, if it’s been worth it.

Kimberly Espinel: And also with food being a visual medium, to go to something that’s purely audio versus starting a YouTube channel or something else? What was your thought process? And also do you feel that podcasts have an important role to play for food bloggers?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So I think one thing worth pointing out. So for the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, I know you’re maybe remotely familiar with it, out of our entire team, I’m the least qualified to talk about anything food-related. So the Food Blogger Pro Podcast is less about food, recipes, seasonality in regards to what you should be publishing on your blog. More about the stuff that I’m interested in, but just in the niche of food and recipe, because that’s what Pinch of Yum is.

Bjork Ostrom: So it’s about kind of some of the things that we’re talking about here. So it’s kind of the behind-the-scenes business mechanics. If we do get into the food category, it’s through an interview, not necessarily me weighing in on my expert opinion on it. So that makes it easier from a topical conversation standpoint, because it’s not like we’re talking about here’s how we arranged this photograph for the soup series that we’re doing on Pinch of Yum coming up.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s more of like, hey, here’s the mechanics behind why as a team, we decided to do a series-based content. So it’s kind of analysis on the business side of things and observations in that realm, which makes it a little bit easier conversationally. In terms of the reason why, I think an important consideration for any content creator is what is the type of content that you can show up and create on an ongoing basis over a long period of time.

Bjork Ostrom: And for me, the easiest thing to do would be audio content. It would be asking people questions. I love asking people questions. I enjoy talking to experts. It’s my preferred way to consume content. And so it just made sense for me, if we’re going to have content marketing, be a part of what we do the easiest way for me to do that was through a podcast.

Bjork Ostrom: But the reason that Food Blogger Pro gets more signups and interest from the podcast, as opposed to lead generation from the Food Blogger Pro blog is because that’s the primary focus of our content marketing and the place that I feel most comfortable creating content.

Bjork Ostrom: So I think the takeaway for anybody listening is the strategy around content, in my opinion, is less about observing what works for somebody else and trying to replicate that and reflecting on what works best for you and what you can commit to for a long period of time and getting really good at that.

Bjork Ostrom: So some people would be great on video, some people would be great with audio content, and some people are incredible writers, and those should be the areas that you focus on, whatever you feel best and most comfortable with. So is a long explanation to say, it’s just a matter of figuring out the category of content that’s most comfortable. And for me, it was audio content. It was interviews and it was having conversations with people.

Kimberly Espinel: Amazing. I think I don’t watch YouTube. So it was really hard for me to even contemplate doing that because it’s not a medium that I consume, but I love podcasts. And I also loved blogs. I still do, but not in a way. So for me, starting a blog and starting a podcast just felt natural because it’s something I consumed and loved, I guess too. I would love to really let the listeners leave with some kind of real, tangible, practical tips and little hacks around monetizing their blog or their podcast.

Kimberly Espinel: And I was wondering if you can maybe share kind of five tips beyond the ad revenue and the affiliate that you already mentioned. Easiest, isn’t the right word, but some ways that you’ve found that you or some of the people in your membership community have found a good and quicker way to monetize doing what they love.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think the quickest way is to, I mentioned this before, but to figure out a service that you can sell, and it could be a scalable service, and then to write about that.

Kimberly Espinel: Can you give an example?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So if you’re a photographer and you’re really interested in building your photography business, you haven’t gotten anywhere yet, the thing that you could focus on right away is restaurant photography. And you could create content around it if it feels comfortable, or if not, if I was interested in becoming a photographer for restaurants tomorrow, what I would do is I would go out and reach to my 20 favorite restaurants and say, I would love to come and shoot for free.

Bjork Ostrom: And then in services businesses, and really any business, the thing that’s going to make a difference is the product and also how you are communicating and how trustworthy and reliable you are. So if you’re showing up on time, if you’re delivering the content that you said that you’re going to deliver… I just had an interview with Cassidy from Bob’s Red Mill. So Bob’s Red Mill is a great company. They do oats and grains and things like that.

Bjork Ostrom: And she talked about on the sponsored content side, the most important thing for her is not only how high quality the content is, but how much does she trust the team to do what they say that they’re going to do? So if you show up and you do three shoots with restaurants for free and deliver the highest quality photographs, you do it in a timely manner, that’s going to be the quickest way to get to a point where you can then come back to them and say, hey, if you want to do another shoot, let me know and would love to work with you again.

Bjork Ostrom: Here’s what my rates are. Here’s what it looks like. Or to say, if there’s anybody that you know that’s maybe in your circle that’s needing this, here’s what that would look like. So I’m not afraid to recommend working for free in the early stages as a way to build your portfolio. And I think that too quickly, people look to create something passive when the real key is service-oriented, if you were looking to create income as possible from a craft or skill.

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s in our world. This may be a little bit different in the photography world where that’s a little bit more accepted and people are more comfortable with that. So that would be the first thing. And you can create content around that as well. Now, you could eventually scale that into a little course, but starting with services. I think the other piece that I’m starting to get more interested in and I think there’s continued growth in this area, it’s getting easier for people to do this is instead of starting your own thing, looking to acquire something. So this is almost on the opposite side.

Bjork Ostrom: This wouldn’t be true for services businesses. But if you’re looking to build a website, create a company online, there’s ways that you can buy a blog, a website, maybe it’s an e-commerce business, and sometimes you can even do it with debt. So let’s say it’s a company and it’s making $250,000 a year. You could maybe buy it for this is getting into bigger numbers, but you could buy it for, let’s say $750,000 or a million dollars, but you could use debt to acquire it.

Bjork Ostrom: In the U.S. it would be called an SBA loan. It’s different in different places around the world. But you could scale that down all the way to a site that’s making $10,000 a year, and maybe it’s in a category that you’re interested in. It’s a photography site, or it’s a food site. And somebody who just kind of is burnt out and ready to be done, you could acquire a site that’s making $10,000 and you could acquire for maybe $30,000 and then you have something that’s making money right off the bat, and you don’t need to start from scratch.

Bjork Ostrom: So that’s a new concept for a lot of people. Almost everybody that we talk to thinks about, how do I start from scratch and see if maybe this thing can exist within the world when there’s a lot of businesses that have some level of success and for whatever reason, their owners kind of looking to part ways with them or with it and move on to the next thing. So that would be something that you could look into.

Bjork Ostrom: There are sites like MicroAcquire, which focuses on all sorts of different businesses, FE International, my friend Mark, who we’ve interviewed on the podcast has a company called Quiet Light Brokerage. There’s a site called Flippa, which is kind of smaller sites that focus on that. And you could even do cold outreach, which is a whole different category, but something worth acknowledging, and might spark an idea for somebody.

Bjork Ostrom: Another idea that you could look into is thinking not just about podcasts, thinking not just about your blog, but thinking about your email list. So what are the ways that you are going to build in some kind of automatic marketing to your email list? And for those who aren’t familiar with an autoresponder series, or kind of a drip sequence, that would be something to be aware of.

Bjork Ostrom: And if you have an affiliate product you recommend, if you have your own product, it could be digital, maybe it’s an eBook, or a course, or a physical book, make sure that part of your email series as people sign up, mentions that. So the nice thing about that is, let’s say you have 50 people who sign up for your email lists a month.

Bjork Ostrom: Every one of those people, if it’s part of your autoresponder series or your drip sequence, every one of those people is going to get that email. So want to make sure that you’re paying attention to the things that are less visual, more behind the scenes like email, and making sure that you are building in kind of your most valuable offers into that series, into that autoresponder or drip series. Another thing that I think a lot of people forget about, this would be four, is doubling down on what’s already working.

Kimberly Espinel: I love it.

Bjork Ostrom: So let’s say that you have something that went really well, think about how you can just do that thing again. I think sometimes we think we have to recreate stuff from scratch every time, like hey, this was awesome. Now, I got to go back and do it again. It could be a piece of content that went really well and thinking about how you can create something that’s similar, but different.

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe you had a video that went viral, you can think about why did that potentially go viral and could I create kind of a spinoff that’s related to that? Maybe you have a course or a product that did really well. You could iterate on that. So observing the things that are working and doubling down on those. And this last one is less of a tip or trick or hack, but I think it’s a mindset of continual improvement.

Bjork Ostrom: And it comes back to the name that we’ve named our company, TinyBit, but it’s getting a tiny bit better every day forever. We talk about it as 1% infinity. So what does it look like to show up and get a little bit better today? And it’s almost the opposite of a quick win, where it’s a mindset that you could adopt quickly, but that’s going to allow you to say, hey, I’m committed to this for three years, not three months.

Bjork Ostrom: And I’m comfortable if I’m in my business making $10, $20 more next month, or $100, or $200, whatever it looks like because I know that that represents continual improvement and I’m committed to this for a long period of time. And it’s moving away from thinking about how do I make more from this? How do I earn more?

Bjork Ostrom: And it’s committing to how do I enjoy this work so much that I’m comfortable showing up every day, doing the work, knowing that it’s a commitment for a long period of time, as opposed to, gosh, I need to be at this point in two months, otherwise I’m just going to be burnt out on this and I can’t do it anymore.

Kimberly Espinel: It’s so interesting you say that because just as we’re recording this, this week, I released an episode called Pathway to Success and kind of talking about qualities and mindset and all the things that you need. And one of the things I mentioned is patience, that this whole online, creative living, and all that, that it’s really, will sounds very cliché, but it is a marathon and not a sprint. And I think once you realize that, you know that you’re in it for the long haul rather than wanting the quick, quick, quick, win, win, win.

Bjork Ostrom: The analogy that I use often is I read this article about a guy who did, as a fundraiser, he crawled the London marathon. And I feel like it’s so analogous to what we do where for somebody who looked at him at the start and they’re like, “What is he doing? He’s going to crawl this thing?”

Bjork Ostrom: And then they go away and they maybe the travel a little bit, they hang out, they do their work. They hang out with friends and they, I don’t remember how long it took, but then a week later, they’d come back and then they see him crossing the finish line. It’s oh my gosh, he just crawled a marathon.

Kimberly Espinel: But he got there.

Bjork Ostrom: But he got there. And I think that’s what can happen sometimes is maybe there’s an example would be somebody who maybe saw what we were doing five years ago, and then you kind of go away and then you check in again and you’re like, oh my gosh, you guys have made progress. The team has grown, the business has grown. But it hasn’t come from massive growth or it hasn’t come from any type of growth hack that we’ve figured out. It’s just showing up every day and doing the work.

Bjork Ostrom: And if you do that for a long period of time, you’re able to make progress. But for him crawling the marathon, you don’t ever really feel like you’re making progress, but eventually, you’ll cross the finish line. And I think the same is true in business where every day, every week, you never really feel like you’re making progress. But if you do that for three years and you compare where you were to where you are, you’ll realize, oh, I have made progress.

Kimberly Espinel: Yeah. I love that. Thank you so much for it. Now, I know I’ve taken so much of your time. I have one more question and then the final question that I always end with. But I’d also love to know, are there any pitfalls, any mistakes that you see food bloggers who could have a business make on their journey monetizing that you could share for them to avoid?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, sure. I think the first one that I think of right away is it’s more mindset. And I think it’s protecting yourself from comparing yourself to people who aren’t you and don’t have a similar path. And it’s really hard to do. And for me, it’s just not using social media. I don’t use Facebook, I don’t use Instagram, I don’t use Twitter, I don’t use LinkedIn. None of them. And not that we don’t use those within our businesses, we do. It’s not me doing it.

Bjork Ostrom: And part of it is just preference. It’s not somewhere that I find myself being like, oh, I’m really excited to create content for any of the social platforms. But part of it is just that I know myself well enough to know that if I get too deep into any of those platforms, that I’m going to get really in my head around… It’s the opposite of gratitude. I’ll become ungrateful for the things that I have, the progress I’ve made when putting that against a highlight reel of somebody else.

Bjork Ostrom: But that’s hard to do if social is one of the ways that you’re going to be growing. I would say though, there’s probably ways that you protect yourself against that. Even something as simple as only using social on your computer versus your phone, which is not as easy, but that’s kind of the point. So I think that would be a consideration. And then I think the other thing is the pitfall would be having a really clear idea of where you want to go.

Bjork Ostrom: And the analogy I would use is if you are standing at the top of a mountain and you look and you can see another mountain or another mountain top, and you can say, I know that I want to get there. And you have been standing there long enough to see a path that somebody else has taken and they’ve gotten to that same point that you want to get to. And you say, you know what? I want to get to that same point.

Bjork Ostrom: And so what you do is you take the same path. But what you didn’t realize in taking that path was that was actually a stream, and that person had a kayak and that’s why they were able to get down the mountain is because they’re able to take the kayak down the stream. You don’t have a kayak. And so you get in and the waters wash over you and you’re flopping around and you’re like, oh, this is terrible.

Bjork Ostrom: Why was it so easy for the other person? Well, it’s because they had a kayak. And the analogy there is people have different skills and abilities and are able to execute in different ways. And so even though you see somebody get to a similar point that you want to get to doesn’t mean that you should take the same path to get there. And so that requires you to do some reflecting on what is the best path for me to take in order to get to the point that I want to get.

Bjork Ostrom: And oftentimes, it’s not the same path that you’ve seen somebody else take to get to a similar place, but it’s in observing other people get getting there. The easiest thing is just to say, hey, I’m going to just take that path. I’m going to do those same things. That’s how I’m going to talk and operate and what I’m going to post about as opposed to doing whatever you can to understand who you are and how you operate and finding that path that’s going to hopefully lead you to the same spot.

Kimberly Espinel: Thank you so much for that. Here traditionally, I always end the podcast by asking my guests what their most favorite thing to eat, what their most favorite thing to capture, and what their most favorite thing to share is. So I’d love to hear your answers to that question.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. This isn’t eat, this is drink. The thing that I’ve been looking forward to as soon as I finish it every day is a coffee. And it’s so simple, but it’s such a joy for me to start my day. I’ll do hot coffee in the morning and iced coffee after that. And those are the two coffees that I have throughout the day. I just love it. And so that’s coffee and a little bit of cream.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s as simple as you can get, and also keeps in line with me being the least credible person on our team to talk about food. In terms of capturing. I think the thing that I love capturing is people in food. And this just happened this weekend. We had some friends over. We have two girls. They have two girls. We’re sitting on our back patio. We had pizza and it was a beautiful day.

Bjork Ostrom: And Lindsay took a photo of all of us just sitting out there together sharing a meal. And that just feels like such a significant thing to capture is because it’s such a significant thing to do. It’s sharing a meal with somebody. So I would put that in my capture category. In terms of share, I would say stories. Stories around food or stories around, this is what gets exciting for me, how people are using their expertise and their knowledge around food to create a business which impacts their lives.

Bjork Ostrom: I just did an interview with a creator on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, and her name is Sarah. And she has a site called Sustainable Cooks. And she was talking about how she grew her site from 17,000 page views to 600,000 page views. And she produces content around sustainable food and canning. And to me, that’s so exciting to see somebody creating content that they’re interested in, that they’re passionate about, that’s impacting other people’s lives.

Bjork Ostrom: And in doing that, they’re creating a business that impacts their lives. And she talks about what that has meant for her as she’s grown her business. So that, to me, is the most exciting type of thing to share when it comes to food, is those stories around how food has allowed people to create unique and exciting careers?

Kimberly Espinel: Amazing. Thank you. I’ll link to that episode and all the other things and resources that we talked about. There’s a lot here today, and I know that so many of them are going to be really, really helpful to focus on. So Bjork, I’m so grateful that you came on the podcast. If anybody wants to connect with you or find you, where should they go?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, sure. Thanks. You can just shoot me an email, [email protected] TinyBit is T-I-N-Y-B-I-T.com. And if you want to check out the different businesses that I mentioned, it’s just tinybit.com. So that’ll link to Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro and all those other businesses that I mentioned, if you’re curious to see a little bit more about what we’re up to.

Kimberly Espinel: Fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and so many resources. It’s been amazing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Thanks for having me on, Kimberly. Really appreciate it. All right. That’s a wrap for this interview. Thanks. It’s always fun for me to share a little bit of our story, a little bit of our background. And one of the easiest ways to do that is by sharing any time that we are interviewed on another podcast. So thanks to Kimberly. Be sure to check out her podcast, Eat, Capture, Share.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ll link to it in the show notes. You can also find it just by searching for that in any podcast app that you use. And as always, be sure to follow along by going to foodbloggerpro.com or you can follow us on Instagram. You’ll see that we have a little bit more of a presence there. We’ve always had a presence, but we’re starting to strategically share the podcast as well.

Bjork Ostrom: So you’ll see little clips that we consider to be kind of the highlight of the podcast shared to reels and within Instagram itself. So that’s just Food Blogger Pro on Instagram. You can follow along there and join in on the conversation. Thanks as always for tuning in. As we talk about often our hope is that we can help you get a tiny bit better every day forever. That’s why we are here and continue to show up as we will next week same time, same place. Until then, make it a great week. Thanks.

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