450: Planning for Extended Time Away from Your Food Blog with Jessica Hylton Leckie

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A blue photograph of a desk with a planner and laptop on top with the title of Jessica Hylton Leckie's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Planning for Extended Time Away from Your Food Blog.'

This episode is sponsored by ClaritiMemberful, and Raptive.

Welcome to episode 450 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jessica Hylton Leckie from Jessica in the Kitchen.

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

Planning for Extended Time Away from Your Food Blog

Jessica first started her blog 14 years ago when she was in school pursuing a law degree. Since that time, she has continued to scale her business and now receives 1–2 million pageviews each month.

While pregnant with her first child, Jessica knew that she wanted to take some time away from her business to focus on being a mom. In the process, she developed a strategy for planning extended time away from her food blog and social media accounts, without losing any of the momentum she had worked so hard to build.

Whether you’re hoping to take a maternity/paternity leave, need time away to support a family member or loved one, or just need a break from being an entrepreneur, this is an incredibly valuable episode all about the importance of planning ahead, delegating, and learning to let go.

A photograph of strawberry pie with a quote from Jessica Hylton Leckie's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast that reads: "Giving myself a little bit more peace and grace that if it doesn't go perfectly, that's also okay."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How she transitioned from her baking business to her food blog (all while in law school)!
  • How she scaled her brand to 1–2 million monthly pageviews and over 1 million followers across her social media accounts.
  • How (and why) she decided to leave her career in law to pursue her career as a food creator.
  • How she planned ahead on her blog and social media for her year-long maternity leave.
  • Why she found it valuable to outsource certain tasks and work “on” her business instead of working “in” her business.
  • How she approaches delegating work.


Thank you to our sponsors!

This episode is sponsored by ClaritiMemberful, 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!

Become a Raptive creator today to start generating ad revenue on your blog and get access to industry-leading resources on HR and recruiting, SEO, email marketing, ad layout testing, and more. You can also get access to access a FREE email series to help you increase your traffic if you’re not yet at the minimum 100k pageviews to apply to Raptive.

Interested in working with us too? Learn more about our sponsorship opportunities and how to get started here.

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. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could figure out how you can optimize the existing posts on your blog without needing to comb through each and every post one by one? With Clariti, you can discover optimization opportunities with just a few clicks. Thanks to Clariti’s robust filtering options, you can figure out which posts have broken links, missing alt text, broken images, no internal links, and other insights so you can confidently take action to make your blog posts even better.

We know that food blogging is a competitive industry, so anything you can do to level up your content can really give you an edge. By fixing content issues and filling content gaps, you’re making your good content even better. And that’s why we created Clariti. It’s a way for bloggers and website owners to feel confident in the quality of their content. 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 clariti.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. This week on the podcast, Bjork is interviewing Jessica Hylton Leckie from the food blog, Jessica in the Kitchen.

Jessica first started her blog 10 years ago when she was in school pursuing a law degree, and since that time, she’s continued to grow her business and now receives between one and two million page views each month, which is just incredible. In this interview, Jessica shares a lot more about how she grew her blog and what the early days of her site and brand were like, and she also chats about some recent life changes that have led to some business changes. She recently became a mom for the first time, and she did an incredible job of planning ahead on her blog and social media accounts for a year-long maternity leave.

In this process, she learned how valuable it is to outsource certain tasks and how to plan ahead for such a long period. Whether or not you are about to become a parent, this is a super valuable interview if you’ve ever just needed a break from your business, if you needed to step away for a little bit to support a family member or for an illness. This is just such a valuable skill to have in your back pocket, and Jessica really walks you through step-by-step how she did it. It’s an awesome interview and I know you’ll get a ton out of it, so I’m just going to let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Jessica, welcome to the podcast.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Hi, Bjork. Thank you so much for having me on.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to talk about your story, growing your site, your social accounts. You’ve had some great success with that over the past 10 years now, which is crazy. But like we do, want to hear a little bit about your origin story, where you got started, and then what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about this recent big transition in your life with having a little one and maternity leave and how you strategically went about that. But you actually had a baking business before you had your blog, is that right?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Yeah, I did. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And that was in college when you were doing that, is that right?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Yeah. So I had started doing my undergrad law degree, and then I guess I somehow came up on this love of baking that started one night. I was like, “I just feel like baking from scratch one night and tried it for the first time.” I was like, “Oh, kind of in love with this.” That then, I actually got better at it after that, and then it got to the point where I was like, “I could actually start doing this at home, selling this.” And it was the very first site I ever had as well, because I shared just the process online as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Shared the process like, “Hey, I’m making this, here’s what it looks like,” or the process of creating the cakes or the process of starting the business or both maybe a little bit?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: I think both. So there were a couple posts about this is how I did it, but mainly it was old school blogging of here’s this beautiful cake, no actual recipe, but this is also what I’m doing in life today. So that’s kind of how it went.

Bjork Ostrom: Almost like a journal.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So what did you learn in that process, because I feel like anytime that we have these conversations, what’s interesting to see is how people stack their experiences to get them to the point where they are. And for you, that’s a really obvious experience where you had a business, you were running the day-to-day. It was in the world of food as well, obviously selling physical products. But what was it in that experience? What were the things that you took with you into the process of building a media business or a publishing business, which we’ll talk about in a little bit?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: That’s a great question. I feel like a couple of things. Customer service for sure. You’re actually interacting with people in person, so I feel like I really got into the deep side of how to help people, how to answer questions, how to really cater to. My audience at the time, of course, were in-person customers, but shifting that into online as well. And I think just in general just building a business, what are the things needed, a business plan. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical, if it’s online, if it’s both, there’s a way that they all overlap. So I think those skills really played, and of course it’s a food blog, so actually baking and cooking as well transitioned very smoothly.

Bjork Ostrom: Skill of what you’re doing.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: In some ways the product is the same, even though it’s so different, which is food, and you’re almost like the medium that you’re selling is different, which is like you’re selling the outcome in one regard, whereas when you’re publishing to a blog, you’re selling the process and here’s how to do it.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Right. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: What was the decision to wind that down? What was that process like? And it’s always interesting for me to hear about the start of a business, but it’s also interesting to hear about the end of a business. What was that like?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: To be honest with you, in Jamaica you do undergrad law for a few years, and then you do law school, I think everywhere in the world it’s like that as well. And I started law school and I was just like, this is great, but I can’t do both time-wise because I would literally leave undergrad and that was a couple of hours, and then I would just, for the rest of the day go into baking. And then when I started law school, it took up a lot more time throughout the day. You’re studying now and everything like that, and just time wise, it just wasn’t making sense basically. That was really the only reason because I love doing it. But just time.

Bjork Ostrom: And so the general steps along the way, you had undergrad and your side hustle, the baking business, and then you went into law school and at that point that’s where you said, “Hey, this doesn’t make sense to do this side hustle. I just need to focus on law school as my primary thing.” And then where did your site fit into that mix? At what point did you start to do your site and think of that as a potential business?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: I think the site was always there in the background, even when it wasn’t a food blog yet. So I started the site as, and this was when Blogspot was the thing, so I started it as jessicabakes.blogspot.com and just sharing, and then from then, it was kind of like, “Oh, I’m getting an interest into cooking as well.” So I’d share a recipe here and there every now and then. And so it was just in the background weaving in. And so when I stopped doing the actual selling of the cakes, the cookies, et cetera, the blog was already there. And then from there, I was like, “Well, while I can’t necessarily do this physical aspect, I can always do this online. This is something I can actually do on the weekends and share here and there.” And then I’ve really started to really fall in love with that aspect of it. So maybe I was in the background of the classroom on Pinterest, there’s a potential that was happening.

Bjork Ostrom: You were taking these law classes and then maybe listening in a little bit, but also figuring out how to build this business, build traffic.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: And so you did law for a couple of years after that and then decided to go full-time into your site.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: So I did law for about a year afterwards, and around that time it was kind of the realization of, “Okay, I’m really enjoying this and I’m starting to make some sort of an income from it as well.” So made a plan at that point in time where I was like, all right, what does it look like if I wanted to transition into this. So it wasn’t an immediate thing, and I would never encourage anyone to just quit just like that. It was more like a plan of whether it’s six months or a year or whatever that looks like to say, this is what it would look like. Do I have X amount of savings? Can I make this plan and move forward into this? Do I feel like there’s a confidence in the trajectory? Is this a scalable business? And I felt like the answer was yes to all of those things. So at that point in time, I was like, “Okay, this is a leap I can take basically.”

Bjork Ostrom: And it’s played out well. You have one to 2 million pages on your site, over a million followers across social, and so you have this successful business, but in the moment-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s hard to make that decision because you’ve invested a lot of time into this career going in a certain direction, and I think that’s a hard thing for a lot of people to go through four or five, six years of education-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Of course.

Bjork Ostrom: And then a couple of years outside of that say, actually, I’m going to do a little bit, or not a little bit, like a significant career change.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: What was it like for you to let go of the work that you had done to understand and get educated in the world of law and get some momentum going there and then say, “Actually, I’m okay with letting that go, in service of trying to build this new pursuit.”

Jessica Hylton Leckie: I love that you brought it up because it’s a big commitment. For example, you’ve decided to do law, that’s even years before university that you’ve made that decision that it’s coming in. So it’s a huge change, which is funny because I know a lot of food bloggers that were lawyers, there’s a big group of us. But it looked a lot like, to be honest with you, getting a lot of support, whether it’s from my partner, my parents, people also encouraging me and saying, “Hey, I see this.” Because there’s a worry aspect. There’s also, you want to make everyone proud of you as well, so you’re like, I’m not sure what this looks like. There’s also, I feel like, trying not to think too much about other people’s opinions because especially 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years ago, there’s a mindset of, “You’re doing what? You’re leaving all to do this online thing, I don’t understand.”

So unfortunately that I didn’t get that reaction from my family or my partner or anything like that. So I think that really helped me confidence wise as well. But it also just looked like trying to take a similar mindset. I think I’ve always been business minded, and I think law also helped as a background to confidence as well of, “Okay, I know I can do this. How can I utilize this degree towards this?” So even for me, that looked a lot like being used to reading, being used to research, being used to thinking outside of the box because you have to do a lot of that in law as well. So trying to say, “Okay, I already have this degree. What can I do with it to use it in this way basically?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I love that. And it’s not necessarily all of the work that you had done, the education and effort you’d had in the world of law, suddenly isn’t valuable. It’s just like-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: “Okay, some of it is maybe not valuable.” But a lot of it could be, and how do you bring that over into this new pursuit? And I feel like we all have those things. For Lindsay, it was being a teacher.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: How can she teach well in what she’s doing and in creating content. For other people it might be, they are a project manager and how does that transfer over?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: And so we all have these skills that we can bring into our new areas of interest or our new pursuits.

The other thing that you talked about is that transition period where you talked about, “Hey, I know I want to do this. I want to figure out how to make it work.” It sounds like you almost talked about having some runway, so you knew, I’m going to try this for a year, I have some momentum, and I can see if I continue plotting this line out, I’ll get to a point where it makes sense. But maybe you weren’t at the point where it made a 100 percent sense in that moment-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: But you knew you could potentially get there. Is that what that season looked like? You were like, “Hey, I’m going to dedicate all my time and energy. I’m going to try and get to this point. If I get to that point, that means that I can continue to do this as a full-time gig.” Is that how you processed it or what did that look like?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Definitely. Yeah, definitely.

Actually, I guess it’s a full circle moment. So even in my office at the time, I would have applied these quotes. I had a quote from you on the wall-

Bjork Ostrom: All right?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: That you had said. Yeah. One percent every day and that actually was very helpful because you can’t see it all in that moment, and it’s trying to just say, “Okay, this is what I can see right now. I know what I want it to be. I have my goals.” And just building on it from there. So there was definitely a lot of trusting oneself, trusting the industry as well and saying, “Okay, I know the potential that this has and this is how I can grow from here basically.”

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. And for those who aren’t familiar, we talk a lot about on the podcast, this idea of one percent infinity. So we have a parent company. The parent company is actually called Tiny Bit, and it’s based on this premise of getting a tiny bit better every day forever. And one of the things that we can do as creators to not get crushed by the overwhelming amount of tasks and to dos, is to show up and say, “Okay, my job today is to think about what is the small thing that I can improve? How do I get a tiny bit better today?” And you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be an expert, but if you stick with it for 10 years, as is the case for you, you can really make some incredible progress and build a really cool thing, which you’ve done, and it’s cool to see that played out.

So what did that look like for you when you thought about making those small improvements, that 1% infinity mindset. How did that actually play out in your day-to-day as you were in the early stages of building this thing?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: So I would definitely say in the beginning it started off like, okay, quite literally a book, a pen. These are my goals for this year. So when I first went full time, it was March, beginning of March. And I would literally say, “Okay, this is what I want this year to look like goals wise, this is what I want this month to look like.” I kind of breaking it down from there to this week or to the date. So really just trying to have goals, but smart goals, actually achievable things. So not just saying, “Oh, I want to make X.” It was like, okay, scalable. This is how much I’m making now. What do I feel like is a realistic, but also shooting for the stars amount? And then just day to day, learning about this business, learning about this industry, editorial calendar for blog posts. This is what I want to do, this is how I’m going to break down my photography, my videography, my blog post writing.

Every day I try to learn something new because at the end of the day, I was still, even though I wasn’t brand new, I was brand new to doing it full time. So for example, Moz.com was a huge resource for me at the time. Every day I’m going to try and read four pages of this or something like that, so that I was always in that mindset. Or joining Facebook groups, which I still find, is helpful to this day, of this is new in the industry or that kind of stuff. Subscribing to certain websites, that was helpful as well. But I think most importantly, was just a consistency of it, trying not to get overwhelmed and just having a realistic schedule. I feel like at the time, I did do like, it was Jessica Big so Jessica in the Kitchen. That’s kind of what I did mainly.

So I dedicated a lot of my life, a lot of my time to it. I don’t regret doing that, but I did say, “Okay, this is what it’s going to look like all day in order to achieve these tasks, in order to achieve these goals, etc.” And it just eventually got, I wouldn’t even say the word easier, but just easier to grasp, easier to continue, basically.

Bjork Ostrom: You start to master the skills that you learn about. And it doesn’t come from one day of cramming, it comes from a thousand days of reading four articles on Moz. And-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: That cumulative effort, after a while, there’s that Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called The Tipping Point. I think it was in Tipping Point-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Tipping Point.

Bjork Ostrom: Where he talks about, are you familiar, like the 10,000 hours?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly. Yeah, to master.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And then there’s a-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: That’s so accurate.

Bjork Ostrom: And the basic idea with it, and I think Macklemore wrote a song about it as well, which is just this great song about dedication to a craft. And a thousand hours, if you think about that, it’s like five years of a full-time job of learning a thing and-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: I think sometimes, as creators, a lot of times we think like, “Oh, this is all stuff that should be easy. Instagram, that should be easy. I know how to use Instagram.” I know how everybody takes pictures-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: As a reader, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: But actually all of these things take a really long time to get mastery of. And I love how you approached it, which is like, “I’m going to stick with this for a long period of time and I’m going to break it down day by day, so over time I can make progress.” And then like you said, eventually you start to look at it and you’re like, “Oh, actually I kind of understand this.” And probably better than most people in the world. You become an expert because of the culmination of thousands of hours of not only educating yourself, but also putting it into practice, like those two things together.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Definitely. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Before we continue, let’s take a moment to hear from our sponsors.

Speaker 1: This episode is sponsored by Raptive. You may have heard of Raptive, formerly AdThrive as an ad provider for over 4,000 of the world’s top digital content creators. Pinch of Yum included, but they’re not just an ad provider. They’re a strategic partner that helps creators build their businesses with the resources they need to grow and monetize their audiences. They offer customized industry leading solutions like an engagement suite called Slickstream, resources on email strategy assistance, HR guidance, and more. So creators can focus on what they want to be focusing on, creating great content.

If your blog has at least a hundred thousand monthly page views, a hundred percent original content, and the majority of traffic from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia or New Zealand, you can apply to become a Raptive creator by going to raptive.com and clicking the Apply Now button. And even if you’re not quite at the point of being able to apply to Raptive, they can support you in your traffic growing goals through an 11-week email series. Head to FoodBloggerPro.com/raptive to get access to this free series. Everything Raptive does is in support of creators like you, whether you’re just starting out or bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to your site each week. Thanks again to Raptive for sponsoring this episode.

Bjork Ostrom: So I’m interested to hear about recently in your life, you talked about the amount of work that goes into it, the effort, creating goals, building up momentum, all of the ambition that you have around what you’re building. And I don’t know if you felt like this, but when we had kids, that’s like suddenly you have a very different variable in your life.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Very, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And it impacts everything. And some of it’s really hard, some of it’s really great, but one of the things that is wonderful is that you have built this thing, and like you said, there is some flexibility with it, and you can craft and control to some degree what that looks like. And for some people, they’ll go into a maternity leave and maybe they won’t really take one because they feel like how the monster needs to be fed. I got to keep showing up and creating content. But it sounds like you took the approach of saying, I want to really go into my maternity leave and do a actual maternity leave. And you probably can’t step away a hundred percent, but like, really step away compared to what a normal day would’ve looked like for you. So talk about what that was like and how you made that decision going into it. How did you know that’s what you wanted going into your maternity leave?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: So it’s funny that you brought up, it changes your life. Because I’m like here, and I’m also hearing my daughter in the background-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Totally.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: I’m not calling over the recording too much.

Bjork Ostrom: No, no, no, it’s not.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: This is life now, right? I think it’s one of those things where it’s such an individual experience. So I have a friend right now, she just gave birth and she knew from the get-go, I want to start back work as soon as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone is going to have their own experience, their own wants. And I don’t know, I just had this feeling of, man, I really want, I remember years ago, I’d first seen someone take, they just took six months. I was just like, “Oh, I didn’t even…” She was also an entrepreneur. I didn’t even realize that that was possible. And everyone’s experience is different. And I said, I wonder what it would look like, if for as much as possible, for Sammy’s first year of life if I could just be there very, very present because I know the time is going to pass, and now she’s almost 13 months, I have no idea how that happened.

Definitely just I think, after finding out I was pregnant and everything, and as I got closer to her due date, I just had this overwhelming feeling of, I love my site, I love my blog, but man, I really want to be able to just really just focus on her, that first year as much as possible. And like you said, I don’t think there’s a hundred percent stepping away. I don’t think I would want to step away a hundred percent either, but I do feel like I really got to step away a lot, and I’m really grateful for that as well. And I think from there, I started off trying to, I couldn’t find a resource of how to take the first year for baby’s life off, as a food blogger. That didn’t exist.

So I was just like, “Okay, maybe I can ask other friends who maybe just did this.” Or checking some of the Facebook groups to see, and there were answers here or there, but I think I realized, “Okay, I have to just build this for myself.” I think that looked just a lot like the same kind of approach to starting a business. And it doesn’t even have to be maternity leave. It could be, I had a long year, I want to take the first month off or want to take the first two months off. What does that big planning look like basically?

Bjork Ostrom: I love that. Part of it is, it can just be what does it look like to step back within the context of maternity leave or mental health or a parent who’s struggling with their health and you wanting to be there. And so all of those, it’s a skill to be able to build a thing that you can, in some ways have levers and control the amount that it requires of you.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: When you went about building it, what did you look at in terms of the different pieces that you needed to pay attention to? Or if there were those levers, what were those levers that you pulled? Did you scale way back on content and just viewed it as maintenance, or did you do a bunch of content ahead of time and work really hard leading up to it? What did it actually look like and what did you learn from it?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: So I think the first thing I did was, what do I want the site to look like when I’m away? And I really wanted it to almost seem as if I hadn’t left, this was content was still going out, videos are still going out, stories were still going out, et cetera. And then kind of working backwards. And it started with a plan again, paper, pen. I have a lot of notes on my computer, but I feel like I’m just a paper and pen person. And so it started from, “Okay, what can I do right now, to adjust myself mentally so I’m not overwhelming myself?” Because pregnancy is such a big thing in your life. You’re changing so much at the same time. And that looked, for example, we were doing three reels a week, and so that looked like scaling it back to one a week.

That was really scary, but it worked. And I was like, “Okay, this is already going to be easier going in.” And full disclaim, I do have an assistant. And that was the biggest help that I could have gotten going in because here was someone who I had been working with for a while who I could say, “Hey, this is the plan. This is what I want to do.” And so it looked like making a plan, especially for the first, I knew I at least wanted the first three months as hands-off as possible. And so drafting out that plan, doing content ahead of time, especially videos, I did a lot of batching for videos. For recipes, it looked a lot like, “Okay, I think we all have recipes randomly that’s not actually on the site, so how do I actually make that something that can go on the site?” Or even saying-

Bjork Ostrom: Like you had something in your back pocket that was a go-to, so you didn’t have to develop it in the same way that you would. It’s just like, “Hey, let’s document this thing. That’s a go-to for me.”

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly. And I had so much more than I realized. That’s the interesting part. I was like, whoa. Or maybe if I did a sponsored video on social media years ago and that recipe just never made it to the site. So I had a lot of those. Or if it was a video I’d done before, it was like, how can I rework this? One of the things I did were these roundup videos, these roundup reels of everything I cook this month or what I eat in a day. Those did really well because I found I could put together all pieces of content to make them anew as well. And we just did reposts as well, for a lot of stuff. Maybe I changed the voiceover or changed the font to feed the algorithm and give it what it needed in terms of new content.

And then a lot of outsourcing happened, a lot of delegating as much as I could. So seeing, okay, how can I work with a team to help me manage, even organize, another blog post, making sure those went out on time or had this in there, etc. And then my assistant did a lot of the actual posting. So we scheduled and we drafted this big schedule for months basically. And then while the first few months of Sammy’s life, my husband was the main point person as well. So if anything happened, if there are any explosions, any crashes, show to him.

Bjork Ostrom: He’s the first line of defense.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: And he did some recipe testing in the beginning as well. So it was just a nice big plan that I’m so grateful actually worked, basically. But like you said, it was just a playbook of how to spend time away, basically.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. And it sounds like the important pieces of that, if we look at those different levers, one of them was adjusting the amount of content, and that can always go up and down. You can-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: Just because you’ve always published three blog posts to your blog doesn’t mean that you need to do that forever. So what does it look like potentially to scale that back or on social media or wherever it is? So that’s one of the levers that you adjusted. Another lever was how much of the work are you doing? And you can adjust that one up or down as well. We could do all the work or we could have people come in and help with that work. Do you have a decision framework that you used for what you would hold onto or you didn’t have somebody else do? For instance, my guess is you didn’t have somebody else showing up on social media. It was always you, but somebody else was scheduling it. So anything that you used as a line in the sand around, like, I’m not going to delegate this.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: I think there were easy questions of, what do I actually want to do? I always knew, I love doing blog comments, so even though maybe that would’ve been easier for someone else to take on, that was something I always knew. I feel like it just gives me a pulse on how readers are feeling about recipes and everything. But like you said, also, what would really help me time wise if someone else was able to do this? And is it possible for someone to do this? You’re right. It will still mean the videos.

So that was a lot of… I remember just batching videos and then just changing shirts to do the actual me parts, but what does it look like if I can, with my assistant, we did a lot more video calls, “Hey, so this is how we’re going to… If this goes wrong, this is how you can fix this. Or this is how you upload this video to X.” So it was a lot of looking at that. But just like you said, that basic thought process of what would help me the most in this time period that I know someone can do this just as well as I would do this basically.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think the other piece with it that I think about is, what are the things that wouldn’t make a difference if I did them or not? Or in your case, if you did them or not? And it would probably make a difference if somebody else suddenly started showing up on Instagram on a…

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: But it wouldn’t make a difference if you were the person who was in the real and somebody else uploaded it, as an example. And so my guess is-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: It’s like what would keep the status quo, basically.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. And I think that for a lot of us, we’re doing a lot of things that it doesn’t matter if we’re doing them or not. And then once you really get into it, you’re like, “Wow, there’s a lot of things that other people could help with.” Now the big question then is, has the business grown to a point where you can justify hiring somebody? Or if it hasn’t, are you willing to invest in a way to maybe potentially grow out faster?

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Bjork Ostrom: Having gone through it, being a year out now, looking back, what are the things that you’d say, “Hey, if I had another maternity leave, I would for sure do this in the same way.” And what are some of the things that you would do different?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: That’s a great question. I do think, as much as I love comments, I would give that over as well. I feel like, just like FAQ sharing, “Hey, someone asked this, maybe there’s an emergency, then reach out.” But I feel like that was the only thing that I felt like I held onto that I didn’t need to. I would definitely continue or repeat the planning beforehand. That helps so much. So I didn’t ever feel like I’m there, Sammy’s just born, and I’m now trying to rush, put on makeup or anything. And definitely there was a lot of time during pregnancy, like third trimester where I was just like, I’m tired. And I tried to just balance that out. But I feel like also just the realization of your audience is here for you. They understand you. They’re not going to be like, “How dare you?”

They know I’m pregnant. They’re not going to be like, “How dare you cut back on content?” So I think just maybe giving myself a little bit more peace and grace that if it doesn’t go perfectly, that’s also okay. But I think everything I did, I’m really happy I did. And I would repeat again. With regard to the delegating, I’d probably even do that even earlier, even from my second trimester, because I found that that was not only the most helpful thing. I’m still doing it now. Because you’re right, it’s like, you realize, “Oh, maybe this is being done slightly differently from how I would do, but that doesn’t actually mean that it’s a bad thing.” A lot of cases, it is a good thing because this person has a specific skillset that they can really focus on this, whereas you were maybe trying to do everything at once. Or even if it is not exactly the way you want it, it’s still being done properly. So that realizing that kind of letting go.

Bjork Ostrom: That was going to be the next question I was going to ask was I think a lot of times we have a forcing function like this. We have kids and we do maternity leave or paternity leave, and we step away and then we realize, “Oh, the thing that I was doing that I thought was really important for me to do is still happening just the same or maybe even sometimes better. Let’s just keep this going.” So it sounds like some of the systems you implemented you continue to have as part of your business today. Is that true?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Yeah, definitely. In fact, I feel like now 2024, a year after she’s been born and everything, now I feel like it’s when I’m actually coming back into the everyday. So I started very slowly coming back in, and at first it was just like maybe during nap times on my phone or something like that. And then, as she was getting a little older, it was like, “Okay, I can get that over here and over there.” And now it’s like, “On these days I can get stuff done, on these days, I’d rather spend time with her. Let’s go to the park or go on the road or something.” But it’s realizing that, wow, this really worked. And there’s a feeling of confusion because I feel like before I told myself I had to do all of this, and so you step back slightly scratching your head and you’re like, “Oh, this is working. Okay, I guess I can just keep doing this.” Monitor it, make sure it’s continuing to scale with the business, and just go from there basically.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s this great book. Have you ever read The E Myth or heard of E Myth?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: I haven’t, no.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s an older book, but in it they talk about this idea of working on your business versus working in your business. And I don’t think-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: I’ve heard that quote before though.

Bjork Ostrom: I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or a wrong, it’s just an interesting way to think about it. And I think for a lot of creators, being the main creator, we are working in the business. We are creating content, we’re publishing that content, but there is this kind of sliding scale where you can adjust it and you can say, and it sounds like this is a lot of what you did, now I’m going to work on the business. And for you, it’s looking at the processes, the systems, the tasks that need to get done and saying who can help out with that? Where you’re not in the weeds actually doing it, but you’re stepping outside of it and looking on it. And then, it’s almost like a lot of what we’re doing is, we have the products we’re creating, the content that we’re creating, we know that really well, but if you step outside of it, your business can also be that. It can be this living thing that you treat as there can be strategy around it, and there can be-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Kind of like the CEO perspective-

Bjork Ostrom: Systems.

Yeah. And so having gone through that and having experienced it, do you feel like your relationship with your business has changed at all? And what does that look like now?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: That’s a great question. I feel like before Jessica in the Kitchen was my baby and understandably, literally late nights and everything, and now I do feel like I still love my business. But I am able to, like you said, step back a bit and say, “Okay, this thing that maybe I needed to work on for a while now.” But like you said, I was so busy working in the business before I wasn’t able to get to it. Now I feel like I can. Or like I said, kind of making those CEO decisions basically and saying, “Okay, I wonder if we need to do this?”

Or even just all the changes happening to our industry. Being able to actually focus on those a whole lot better now and to strategize for them, looking at the scalability of the business in general. So I do feel like I view it a lot more business-wise now, still love it, still especially love Instagram DMs talking to readers. That’s my favorite thing and comments. But being able to step back and say, “Okay, how can I look at this business year over year now?” I don’t think I got to do that as much as I wanted to in the past to look at those 2024 goals kind of thing.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. It reminds me, one of the exercises, Lindsay and I did years ago, we each created a list and it’s like what I do and what I don’t do. And it’s so simple. It’s so simple, but it was such an interesting exercise to go through to say, in our job, here’s what we do and here’s what we don’t do. And it was a little bit of a light job description, but we’re creating it for ourselves. And the great thing is, when you talk about Instagram DMs, that’s a helpful thing. You’re connecting with readers, but it also gives something to you. And so for us, I feel like as entrepreneurs, one of the great opportunities is we can look at that and say, “What are the things that we love doing that are valuable? What are the things that we don’t love doing that aren’t valuable and just not do those? And then what are the things we don’t love doing that are valuable? And then bring somebody in to help and to delegate that.”

So for somebody who’s interested in starting the process of working with somebody, whether it be having an assistant or delegating to other people, what advice would you give to them if they’re stepping into that for the first time?

Jessica Hylton Leckie: That list idea, I did do a version of that years ago, and I’m so happy you brought that up because it is, I’d say a perfect starting point. And like you said, I think the biggest question if you can start looking for help is, what do I actually enjoy doing? And even so there’s stuff we can enjoy doing, that we’re still taking too much time on it. Especially if it’s taking away from other stuff. So I think being very realistic about your business goals, being realistic about, like you said, what are the things I have to do? Just business wise what are the things I don’t have to do? I love that list idea completely. And starting from, where can I find this help? I’m really grateful. My assistant connected us through another blogger friend, but there’s so many groups, there’s so many resources, websites, I feel like the Facebook blog groups are a great place to start.

And just building out a plan from there and adjusting it. Because I think one of the things when I first started getting assistance was realizing it is actually okay if someone doesn’t do things the exact way you do, because everyone has a different skill set. Everyone has a different way of approaching things, and you may learn something new in the process. As long as it’s being done the way that it should be being done, then that’s more important versus the very micromanaging, because then I feel like you’re not actually benefiting from the help if you’re doing too much micromanaging. So finding a way to say, “This is working and let me allow everyone to be human in the process, basically.”

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. Which is a hard thing to learn. And part of it too, I think, is like, “Okay, what is the actual task that needs to get done or job that needs to get done?” And then-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: There might be a really specific way how you have to do it, but maybe not. And as long as you are able to figure out, here’s how this thing has to get done, allowing people autonomy and flexibility in doing that. It’s one of the great joys of work, whether you’re an entrepreneur or somebody on a team, is having that autonomy to figure out and to-

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Exactly, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Have a general idea of where to go.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: I feel like even just parenting in general has taught me to be more flexible. So I think that helped a lot, especially looking over last year and just seeing, okay, maybe there’s something that in any aspect, realizing that there’s a reason why you’re delegating it, let’s start there. And like you said, as long as the task is being done, another person’s personality doing it in a slightly different way, it’s actually probably a good thing. I’ve learned so much, from even just seeing the way my sister did something or someone else that I delegated to doing something that I think was actually really good for me to say, “Oh, never thought about it that way, but that’s great.”

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Jessica, it’s great to hear your story. One of the things I love about it is it applies to so many different people in so many situations. It’s not just somebody who’s going into maternity leave or paternity leave. It’s like, all of us have these seasons of life where we can’t be on in the same way that maybe we have historically. And at the same time, we don’t want things to fall to the wayside and not be kept up. And so these skills and abilities and the ability for us to say, “Hey, we want to keep this going, but we don’t necessarily want to be the only person shoveling coal into the engine of the train.” When you have somebody else come in and help, it’s like, “Oh, it’s really great.”

Jessica Hylton Leckie: It makes a big difference.

Bjork Ostrom: To have some support to keep the train going, and so you’re not the sole person keeping the fire hot. So if people want to connect with you, it sounds like one of the ways they can do that is Instagram, sending you a DM, but if people want to follow along in other places, I know you’ve just been doing such great work. You have a cookbook, you have your site, you have social media, but you can do a overview of where people can connect with you and follow along.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Of course. So the website, jessicainthekitchen.com, I’m actually in there answering comments, so that’s a great place to connect. Instagram as well. Jessicainthekitchen, TikTok, Jessicainthekitchen. Facebook is facebook.com/Jessicainthekitchenblog and by email as well. Jessica@Jessicainthekitchen is my personal email, and I love answering emails from readers as well. So shoot me an email, shoot me a DM, and I’m there.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Jessica, thanks so much for coming on.

Jessica Hylton Leckie: Thank you so much for having me. This was great.

Emily Walker: Hello there. Emily here, from the Food Blogger Pro team. We hope you enjoyed listening to this week’s episode of the podcast. Before we sign off today, I wanted to mention one of the most valuable parts of the Food Blogger Pro membership, and that’s our courses. In case you don’t already know, as soon as you become a Food Blogger Pro member, you immediately get access to all of our courses here on Food Blogger Pro. We have hours and hours of courses available, including SEO for food blogs, food photography, Google Analytics, social media, and sponsored content. All of these courses have been recorded by the Food Blogger Pro team or some of our industry experts, and they’re truly a wealth of knowledge. We are always updating our courses so you can rest assured that you’re getting the most up-to-date information as you’re working to grow your blog and your business. You can get access to all of our courses by joining Food Blogger Pro. Just head to FoodBloggerPro.com/join to learn more about the membership and join our community.

Thanks again for tuning in and listening to the podcast. Make it a great week.

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