Welcome to episode 272 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Les Alfred from Balanced Black Girl about building a brand that allows you to share your message.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Melissa Lanz from The Fresh 20 about running subscription businesses in 2020. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Create Your Own Room
Have you ever worked on a project and just felt that something about it was…off? It’s as though it just doesn’t fit with your vision, your wants, or your passions?
That’s exactly where Les found herself two years ago when she was a food and fitness blogger at The Balanced Berry. She took a step back, leaned into the discomfort she was feeling, and ultimately started a new brand, podcast, and website all under the Balanced Black Girl name.
It’s under this brand that Les is able to relay the message she feels called to share to her audience and have meaningful conversations with others who help her spread her mission.
In this conversation, Les shares advice for bloggers who feel like they need a break, how she deals with Impostor Syndrome, and how to manage feeling lost and get back on track.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Why she started her own food blog
- How she knew it was time to pivot
- Her advice for taking a break
- How Les knew Balanced Black Girl was going to be a good fit
- How she builds her podcast journey
- How she manages her podcast queue
- What it’s like to start something new
- How she dealt with Impostor Syndrome
- How she uses her podcast as a piece of her business
- Her encouragement for people who are feeling a bit lost
- The Balanced Berry
- Les’ “A New Chapter” blog post
- Balanced Black Girl
- Balanced Black Girl Podcast
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
- The Life of a Project Graph
- Steal like an Artist
- Black Food Bloggers Club
- The War of Art
- Les’ #WellnessSoWhite podcast episode
- Follow Les and the Balanced Black Girl Podcast on Instagram
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, hello, and welcome to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. My name is Alexa, and we are so honored and thrilled to have you here listening to the show today. I want them to start off this episode by just saying I have goosebumps. The way that I typically edit the podcast episodes is that I listen to the entire episode, make any edits that are needed, and then record the intro and the outro after that. So I just got done listening to this episode and I definitely have goosebumps. So today, we’re talking to Les from Balanced Black Girl, and it’s really cool to be talking to her because I actually knew her way back in the day when she was a food blogger over at The Balanced Berry, and just so much has happened, so much has changed for her, and she’s really leaned into her Balanced Black Girl brand and podcasts, and it’s just very awesome to see.
Alexa Peduzzi: So in this episode, Bjork and Les cover quite a bit, from leaning into discomfort and thriving in being bold in your decisions, how she felt called to relay her message, how to get her audience involved, and how to understand when things aren’t working, and how to make changes from there. It’s a fantastic episode. I’m so excited for you to check it out. So I’m going to stop talking and I’m going to hand it over to Bjork. So without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Les, welcome to the podcast.
Les Alfred: Thank you so much for having me. It’s funny because I’ve listened to Food Blogger Pro a lot and I’m so familiar with your voice, I feel like your voice has been in my ears so many times that to talk to you, like, “Oh, now he’s talking to me.”
Bjork Ostrom: It’s one of the great things about having a podcast. And speaking of podcasts, I get giddy whenever I talk to somebody who also has a podcast, because it’s like the minute we connect, it’s like you have a great mic, you’re really well spoken, it just makes it so easy. But you didn’t start with a podcast, it actually started with a food blog. And the ironic thing about the Food Blogger Pro podcast today is we’re going to be talking about your transition away from your food blog, which I think will be a really helpful conversation to have. But take us back to that beginning point when you said, “Hey, you know what, I think I want to start a food blog.”
Bjork Ostrom: What was going through your mind at that point? And what led you to that decision?
Les Alfred: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a fun journey. I started my old blog, it was called The Balanced Berry, back in 2014, which was actually something I went back and forth about for probably a good four years. I started getting really into reading blogs, mainly recipe blogs, healthy living blogs when I was in college, and honestly, spent so much time reading blogs that finally, I was like, “Why don’t I do this? I’m good at cooking. I’m good at being creative. I can write. Why am I reading everyone else’s blog when I could just start one?” And so I did in 2014 and at the time, I really loved it. I was working in a very corporate stiff job that I didn’t love, classic blogger scenario.
Les Alfred: It was a really great creative outlet that was a break from this boring financy job that I had at the time. And the platform just really grew and evolved a lot over time.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by that?
Les Alfred: Yeah. It started off with me sharing healthy recipes. And especially back then 2014, 2015, I feel like the internet was so different than it is now, the wellness space was so different than what it is now. So back then, it was all about taking foods that were not seen as “healthy” and then making a healthy version of them and talking about why doing that is so balanced. And I kind of cringe now because I just-
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, as we all do, as we looked back on our past.
Les Alfred: Exactly. Yeah. And over time, I actually realized it’s not really about the recipes or the food you’re eating or the workouts you’re doing, but so much more about your mind and your mindset. And so just during my years of creating content, I found myself drawn to so many different things from what I started with.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that’s interesting when I look back at a blog post that you have on The Balanced Berry when you talk about this upcoming evolution of what you’re doing, the blog post is called The New Chapter. And I think a lot of people can relate to this first sentence, and you said, “Ever since I created this space, I felt like I was throwing spaghetti at the wall, just trying to see what’s going to stick, and nothing felt quite right.” So one of the things that I think is interesting for us as creators is trying to know how long we should throw spaghetti at the wall before saying, “Ugh, maybe this is the wrong wall and that’s why it’s not sticking.”
Bjork Ostrom: How did you know when you got to the point, or how do you know when you get to the point for people in general where you’re like, “Gosh, I think I need to shift. I think I need to pivot.” Was there a point that you remember that happening in a really clear way?
Les Alfred: I did. What was interesting was that I knew for a very long time, probably like a year or two before I ended it and before I did pivot that I didn’t want to do The Balanced Berry anymore, that I didn’t want to talk about recipes, I didn’t want to talk about workouts. But I thought, “Okay, I’ll stop and I’ll do something different when I have a better idea.” I was so afraid of letting go of what I’d built so far that the idea of walking away from it without having a backup plan, it terrified me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s like the difference between shutting something down and turning the creative energy into something else?
Les Alfred: Yeah, exactly. And I realized that by clinging so hard to the old blog that I created, I actually didn’t have space for a new idea to come to me because I was still so busy creating content and doing all of these things, I didn’t have time to ideate anything else. And so it really started with me just taking a break, taking a break from blogging, taking a social media break. I think I took like a month or two off in 2018 and just completely unplugged for a bit, and then that was when I realized the pivot that I wanted to make, but it’s a little scary when you create something and it’s your baby to let it go for a bit.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have advice for people who are maybe thinking about doing that and are nervous in the same way to let go of that thing that they’re working on, whether that be a food blog or a social media account, or just a creative endeavor that they’ve been working on?
Les Alfred: Yeah. I think a lot of it, at least from my perspective, it came from scarcity. I was afraid to lose people, lose an audience, but I realized if I built an audience once I can do it again around something different or something better. And it can even be bigger, and to not be limited by what you’ve seen or done so far.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And in that process of making that decision, taking a step back, using the creative space that you did have to process through ideas or brainstorm, was that structured or was it kind of like, “I just need to give myself space to think?” What did that month or two look like when you stepped back?
Les Alfred: Yeah, it was totally unstructured, totally gave myself space to think. I think I had a vacation planned, I went to Mexico for a week. I just did a bunch of my favorite things that I purely just enjoyed and wasn’t focused on converting or monetizing, but just, “What do I like how do I feel when I’m just chilling and in my best self?” And that’s where the great ideas came from.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting I think of the times in my life where I’m not sitting at a computer or I’m not hanging out with friends or family, essentially when I have space, and it’s amazing, those are the times, and it makes sense, where your mind starts to work in a different way than when it’s has a task in front of it like, “You got to take photographs, you’ve got to write, you got to do recipe development,” whatever it is, it’s occupied by that. And when you allow yourself to step away from that, it occupies with some other thing, whatever that is that you’re tasking it with, and it sounds like this time away from you allowed you to task your mind with figuring out what the next step is and where you’re going.
Bjork Ostrom: And I’m curious to know, at what point did you know, “Hey, this is what I want to do.” So you had The Balanced Berry and you said, “This isn’t what it is. I’m going to step back, I’m going to do some creative thinking around what I do want to do.” At what point did that idea become solidified enough to take the step forward? And how did you become confident enough to then step into that new reality as your next endeavor?
Les Alfred: I love that question. It’s funny because that time when I was making the transition from ending The Balanced Berry to creating Balanced Black Girl, I just feel like I took a series of actions that were just so not myself, they were kind of ballsy and bold and that’s not how I would normally describe myself. I’m usually very timid and risk averse.
Bjork Ostrom: Where did that come from? Were you aware of that at the time?
Les Alfred: I was in a place where I finally felt like, “Okay… ” With Balanced Black Girl, the idea came to me of what I wanted to create and how I wanted to serve people, and I thought, “If I don’t do this, if I don’t create this right now, someone else is going to, and I’m going to feel like crap when I see somebody doing what it is I want to do, so I’m just going to jump in and do it.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It sounds like there was enough motivation to say, “You know what? I know that this is something that I want to exist in the world. And if somebody else puts it into the world, I’m going to be sad that I didn’t do it.” And that in of itself was enough to encourage you to take the next step and to jump into it. How about on the passion side of it? There’s a section from this, a blog post where you talk about like creating recipes. I’ll just read this here. “I love cooking… ” This is probably awkward for me to read something back to you that you wrote, but I’ll do my best job with it.“ I love cooking and creating recipes, but something about a food blogger didn’t sit right, working out is my jam but training others led to burnout time and time again.”
Bjork Ostrom: Being a fitness influencer, you say didn’t feel like a good fit. But after reflecting and thinking through like, “What is a good fit for me?” Balanced Black Girl felt like a really good fit. How did you know that at the time? Or was it like, “I need to try this on and actually see if it’s going to be a good fit.”
Les Alfred: It’s such a good question. You know what? At that time, it’s funny, it’s taking me back. I just felt this burst of confidence in it that I never really felt before about anything, even when I started The Balanced Berry, I mentioned I spent years reading other people’s blogs. It took me like two years to finally talk myself into starting that blog. And when I wanted to create Balanced Black Girl, I was like, “Oh, this is it.” I just didn’t have a doubt. I was like, “This is what I’m supposed to do. This is where I can put my gifts to help others.” I didn’t even have a doubt.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I’m not going to do justice for the general concept, because number one, I haven’t read the book. And number two, I don’t remember the specifics, which is like the worst for relaying a concept or a story. But Lindsay talks about this, there’s a book called Big Magic, and I think it’s in that book that she talks about this concept of the muse. And the muse is like this creative thing that visits you. And this is where it gets a little weird. I think it’s interesting to think about, or even just to explore the idea of like this thing that visits you as like an idea and inspiration. And in the book she talks about, as Lindsay told me, the muse doesn’t stay with you forever. If you don’t manifest that in the world and create that thing, it’ll go to the next person and it’ll visit somebody else.
Bjork Ostrom: And it sounds kind of like, I’m not saying that was the muse, but that idea is like, “Oh, this is something that is aligned and it’s a good fit for you and it feels like it needs to exist in the world,” and you moved forward on it. Do you still feel that same thing now getting into it, or is it kind of like, I’ve talked about this before, there’s a graph from a book… Austin Kleon wrote a book about creativity and it’s called The Life Of A Project, where it starts out as like super passionate, interested, this is going to be the best ever. And it’s this graph of like going down, and then there’s this point where it’s like the dark night of the soul, where you’re like in it and working on it and it’s really hard.
Bjork Ostrom: Where’s that for you right now, being that you’re a few years into Balanced Black Girl?
Les Alfred: Such a good question, actually. And I think you relayed the message from Big Magic very well.
Bjork Ostrom: Have you read it?
Les Alfred: I have, yes. And that’s definitely how it felt.
Bjork Ostrom: I should have just asked. You can do a better job. Is that the general idea of the muse and visiting, if you remember that part from the book?
Les Alfred: Yeah, I think so. It’s very similar to my interpretation of it, and it very much describes how I felt during this time as well.
Bjork Ostrom: When you look at your story, as it relates to that idea of still being passionate and well aligned versus like, “Oh, now I’m getting into it,” there’s a little bit of a grind in a similar way to other creative endeavors, but maybe the passion and the interest and the desire is there in a way that wasn’t.
Les Alfred: Yes. I definitely reached a point, and it was probably about a year ago where I felt like, “Okay, I’m now a year into this pivot, I’m a year into podcasting,” which I was still feeling very new at at the time, and it was for sure feeling like a grind. But, I was also just getting this feedback from my audience about how much the content meant to them and how it was having such a big impact on their lives. There are women who are guests on my podcast, saying after they were on the show, they started getting more business from people who listened. And I was just realizing that it was so much bigger than me. And I did have to really reprioritize what I was doing and start outsourcing so that it could be more sustainable to me. And once I started changing how I worked a bit, that passion definitely came back.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about that? So that was about a year ago?
Les Alfred: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: How did you know you were at that point and then what did you do to remedy that?
Les Alfred: Yeah. I think anytime we start something new, at least this is my experience, maybe you can relate, you’re excited to jump in and learn everything there is to learn about the new thing you’re doing. So when I started podcasting, everything related to podcasting was so exciting, it was so exciting to book all my guests myself, and it was so exciting to edit every episode myself. And then a year in, I’m like, “Oh, I’m actually a lot better at interviewing people than I am at editing conversations. Maybe I can let someone else do this so that I can only do the parts that are still really exciting to me.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If you were to say what those are, what would those be for the podcast side of things?
Les Alfred: The things that I like or the things that I outsource?
Bjork Ostrom: Well, both. First the things that you feel like are most well aligned for you or that you enjoy the most, and then some things along the way that you’ve outsourced, editing being one.
Les Alfred: Yeah, definitely. So I would say for the things that I really love, I would say are the strategy piece behind it, planning content, mapping out content. I’m also a content marketing manager by trade, so it’s just how my brain works, planning out content, and the creative process, ideating. I also love the interview process. So I love researching guests and coming up with good questions and learning about who they are, and then the conversations that I have with them, I really love. I would say everything else outside of that, editing, scheduling, social media.
Bjork Ostrom: All other things. Yeah.
Les Alfred: All other things that aren’t either like brainstorming ideas or getting to talk to people. I am very comfortable letting someone else take.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, man, I think that’s so important, this idea of the core competency. And for you, as the person visioning the content that’s to come, and then actually executing on that by doing the interviews, if that’s what you’re good at, great. Love the idea of building as much as you can people around you to support you. So you don’t get bogged down with whatever it might be that feels like it’s something that bogs you down. I’m curious to know, now this is me selfishly asking, what does it look like for you on the, on the planning and content calendar side of things as it relates to your podcast?
Bjork Ostrom: Do you try and have like mini seasons or themes or storylines, or is it topical and you’re trying to have conversations on what’s happening as it relates to news and media? What advice would you have for podcasters, myself included, around building a journey, a podcast journey or a story that’s compelling and interesting?
Les Alfred: Yeah. I love this question because I definitely nerd out about this stuff. I’ve found what works best for my show and my audience, I don’t publish the show in seasons, but I create and produce the show as if it’s in seasons. So I usually batch about four to six episodes at a time and then we release them continuously and do each cycle every other month or so. And I have four main content pillars that I focus on for my content. Because it’s all wellness focused, there are conversations around physical wellness, there’s mental and emotional wellness, social wellness, which is like relationships, financial health, things of that nature, and then there is spiritual wellness.
Les Alfred: And as I’m mapping out content, I’m looking for guests who can provide tools, resources, and meaningful conversation to align with a specific bucket. And so then we map out the batches of episodes that we produce so that we can have a representation from each of those areas for each batch of episodes that we create.
Bjork Ostrom: And is there a tool that you use for that, like CoSchedule or is it just in a doc that you’re brainstorming notes? What does that look like?
Les Alfred: A little bit all of the above. I use Airtable to manage my content calendar, and then it’s also like a CRM for my guests. So whenever my guests book with me through my little scheduling link, they automatically get a record created in my Airtable, which I then assign to a certain episode and I have their photo, their bio, like all their info automatically.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you talk about what Airtable is for those who aren’t familiar?
Les Alfred: Yeah. Airtable, it’s like a combination between a spreadsheet like Trello and Google Docs on steroids and all in one place. It’s like this magical spreadsheet tool that you can customize to keep track of just about anything, and it’s really great for storing a lot of information, but in a very visual way. So if you have a lot of data that you’re trying to store, but the idea of a plain spreadsheet makes your eyes cross, you can use Airtable to track that data in a more visually appealing way.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I feel like it’s like a well branded spreadsheet.
Les Alfred: Yeah, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: We haven’t used it a lot, but it is one of those tools that I feel like I would be a lot better if we did figure out ways to start to integrate that in, because there’s so much that it can do. And I know a lot of people use it in really smart ways to help build out their processes. And then you had mentioned using it as a CRM. Can you explain what a CRM is for people who aren’t familiar? Because for a lot of creators, we’re used to and understand this idea of like our blog post as the main thing, but for you, one of the ways that you create content is by your connections to people, and it sounds like that’s an important part of the process for you. So can you talk about that a little bit and how you do that?
Les Alfred: Yeah, definitely. So a CRM is basically like a contact records management system. So a lot of businesses will use it if they have say customers that they sell products directly to, that’s where they’ll keep track of all their sales to a specific customer. But I use it basically to keep track of the guests that I feature on my show to make sure I have their contact information up to date so that I know what episodes to reference if I’m resharing something on social media and to keep my communications with them organized in one spot. So I would say for anybody who does have either a lot of clients or contacts or people outside of their organization that they work with and they need all their contact information in one place, it’s a good idea to have a system where you can easily access that information.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. I’ve even thought about that personally. Lindsay and I moved last year and I thought, “Oh, I need to create like a little database for our neighbors. I want to remember our neighbors and their kids’ names.” And so as much as possible, finding places to store that information is beneficial, because one thing that I am learning is like how bad my brain is at storing those things. And especially if the connections you have are one of the most valuable things you have, which I think is true in life, but especially if you’re doing podcast interviews and that’s one of the main forms of content you have even more so. I’m curious to know, in getting into podcasting, what are the things that were unexpected in regards to that as a medium of content?
Bjork Ostrom: Because before, we’re publishing blog posts and recipes, taking photographs, and then pivot to podcasting, that’s a really big change in terms of what type of content you’re creating. Is there anything that’s surprised you about what it’s like to produce a podcast and what goes into it and anything that you really love about it?
Les Alfred: Ooh, I love that question. I would say if there’s anything that’s probably surprised me the most, it’s how much listeners feel very connected to you in a way that’s very different from people who maybe read your blog or follow you on social media. And I think it’s because conversation and voice, like if your voice is literally in someone’s ears, people feel so much more connected to you. It’s just so much more engaging than anything I had created before, and I don’t think I anticipated that. Even though I loved podcasts and I felt that way about people whose podcasts I listened to, I guess I just still didn’t, I don’t know, saw myself differently.
Les Alfred: As far as actually creating a podcast and the difference between creating the content, I think podcasting is, it’s not easier by any means. I would say it is a little bit less curated depending on the style of your show and depending on how you go about it, but you can just straight up flow in a conversation and things can happen off the cuff, versus with blogging, it was very much, “I have to take a million photos until I get the right shot. I have to edit it perfectly. I have to do all of these very curated things.” And podcasting, I think leaves so much more flexibility for being a little more real.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting for Lindsay and I, because I think we both are really comfortable in different categories of content. I love the idea of sitting down and not really knowing what I’m going to say for an hour, maybe having a general outline of what that is. And I think for Lindsay, she’s like, “Oh, I would just really not like that.” But she’s great at that kind of structured process of testing a recipe and developing that and photographing it and then creating content around it. So when you reflect on your content journey, how did you understand one thing wasn’t a good fit and then come to podcasting and say like, “Hey, you know what, this is a good fit”? Is it just generally how it felt when you were doing it and your ability to do that for a long period of time or were there other factors that were involved with that?
Les Alfred: Yeah. I think how it felt is a big part of it, it’s do you dread it or do you enjoy it? And also, do you dread the idea of getting better or putting in the work to get better? Because if you do, it might not be the thing.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally. It’s such a good point that I think not many people think about, but do you want to be good at this thing? And I remember I had a conversation with a friend who was working on a blog, it was really early 2010. He’s like, “I realized I just really didn’t like taking photographs.” I was like, “Oh, this is an important piece of the puzzle, it’s probably not good for you to be doing that.” What other things do you think go into it?
Les Alfred: I think also too, as we were just talking about, do you also enjoy the process? Because there’s a very big difference between enjoying the process and enjoying the final results, especially as a content creator, whether that is a blogger or a podcast or a blog posts, maybe takes five minutes to read, but takes hours to create, a podcast can take an hour to listen to you, but hours of work went into that, do you also enjoy at least having some involvement on the back end outside of the final result?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. And then how about on the actual focus of the content side? One of the things that I think is so cool when I read through that, a new chapter, post on your site, you talk about your wellness journey and you say, you’ve been on a wellness journey for several years and have taken countless classes, been in numerous workshops, attended tons of meetings, but each time the same discomfort remained, I was often the only woman of color in the room. And it sounds like that was… And then I feel like this line that you say here, and then you say, “Because so often there were so few, if any women of color in those rooms with me, I decided to create my own room.”
Bjork Ostrom: Wow. What a great visual, so inspiring. How did you go through that process, and what advice would you have for other people who are looking to create their own room? because that can be, I would assume, kind of a scary thing.
Les Alfred: Yeah, it can be. I remember, I had felt that way for a really long time, and I would go to these different wellness events with like bloggers and fitness influencers and be like, “Oh my goodness, there’s another room, it’s not very diverse. Somebody should do something about that.” Not at all thinking that maybe I should do something about it, just didn’t occur to me until I started getting feedback from my audience. And it was actually when I had taken that break, that social media break that I mentioned earlier, I was getting messages from followers saying, “Hey, Les, I know you’re taking a break, but when you’re not posting actually, don’t see women who look like me in these wellness spaces. I’m not seeing this content from people I can relate to when you’re not posting.”
Les Alfred: So that’s when I realized, “Oh, okay, maybe I can create a room and maybe people would join me, or maybe people have been waiting for me to do that this whole time. And I just didn’t recognize it.” But I think that the biggest thing for anyone who’s maybe nervous about that is to remember that if you’re feeling something, if you’re feeling discomfort with something, you’re probably not alone, there probably is other people who feel the same way who are maybe too afraid to speak up. And so if you’re willing to speak up, you probably have more people supporting you than you think you do.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I remember a story that Jasmine on our team, who we work with, talked about and she related as one of the reasons why she started her black food bloggers group was, she talked about the lack of color in hands and pans videos, like hands and pans recipes videos. And that’s always stood out to me as such an obvious way that that’s manifested in the world. And it’s like, “Oh my gosh, yes. You can see that in a real visual way when you scroll through Instagram.” So you have this decision, you have this moment where you’re like, “Man, this isn’t right, somebody should do something about it.” And then it’s like this beat, and then you’re like, “Whoa, maybe that person is me.”
Bjork Ostrom: How does it look like to start a new thing? I think that’s one of the challenges with anything is starting something new, but it’s also really challenging when you have something that you say, “I’m going to wind this other thing down and start up something new.” Maybe related, but it’s in a different category with a different focus. Do you bring some of your audience along to that? What did that process look like for you to create this new version of lesson in this new community?
Les Alfred: Such a good question. It was so scary, I was terrified. I thought that I was just going to lose everyone, everyone who had followed her engaged with me outside of maybe the group of people who had given me that feedback that they feel I represent them, that wasn’t a majority of my audience previously. And so I thought, “Okay, well, I’m just going to lose everything and I’m just going to start over and it’s scary, but I feel very convicted to relay this message.” And so that was just what I told myself was, I did it once, I can do it again, assuming that I would have to build from the ground up.
Les Alfred: And that’s actually not what happened. I think though it is good, if you are completely repivoting to understand that that is a possibility. I feel pretty lucky that isn’t what happened to me, but it could have. And I think part of why it went over well is because I knew that and didn’t necessarily let it be a deal breaker.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by that?
Les Alfred: I think if I would have been too concerned about whether I keep a certain audience or keep followers or whatever, I still wouldn’t have been authentic in my message, and it wouldn’t have landed. And I think that boldness of that willingness of either like come along or don’t, but this is what we’re doing, I think people were really able to resonate with that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things that we talked about as we were chatting a little bit before we press record was this idea of imposter syndrome. I think I’ve felt that in real ways that I can think back to like the first time I ever pressed record on a food blogger podcast and video, I literally remember being short of breath and it’s just me in a room., but I’m like, “What am I doing? Is this something that I should be doing or that it makes sense for me to be talking about?” And you talked about that just briefly as a part of your story, as you were thinking of going into this new medium and this new focus, what did that look like for you? And then how did you move through that?
Les Alfred: Such a good question. I felt super scared to jump into podcasting, definitely felt a lot of imposter syndrome because I had no experience in it. I didn’t know that many people who were doing it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought, “Okay, nobody fully knows what they’re doing, even people who are doing it now, didn’t always know, they had to learn, and if they learned, you can learn.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting when I look at… I was talking to a friend who works for a big e-commerce company, and he was telling me about some of the things that they’re struggling with, and it was essentially the systems that were Frankensteined together. I was like, “Oh my gosh, if that’s happening at that huge company… ” It’s almost inspiring to know that it’s happening to somebody else, and so it’s okay if it’s happening to me. Do you feel like you’ve moved through that? Was there a point where it’s like, “Hey, I’m going to press record, I’m going to show up, I’m going to do it,” and then eventually, that imposter syndrome goes away or do you feel like it’s always there in some sense?
Les Alfred: I think it is there in a lot of senses still, but I think the more you do the thing, still even feeling it, you realize that even having that feeling doesn’t have to be so limiting. When you still can have imposter syndrome and do the thing anyway and still have movement, you’ve learned that impostor syndrome you’ll always feel it, but it doesn’t have to stop you.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So the idea of being that almost come to embrace it in a weird way, it reminds me a little bit of the idea of the resistance, which we’ve talked about on and off on the podcast before, but the book, the War of Art, he talks about this idea of the resistance and you feel that as a creator and it comes up against you. Is that a book that you’ve read? I feel like it’s in the same genre as Big Magic. Are you familiar with that?
Les Alfred: I have heard of it, but I haven’t read it yet.
Bjork Ostrom: I was just nervous about doing another job of poorly communicating a concept that you could have communicated better, but the resistance is like this thing… And he talks about it in the same way as like the muse concept where he believes it to be this real thing in the world, but it’s essentially something that you feel that keeps you from doing the thing that you’re trying to do. And he talks about it from a writer’s perspective, but it’s sitting down to write and being like, “My desk is out of order, I should clean that up.” Or like, “I’m going to do the dishes and then I’m going to do the work.” Or it’s checking social media instead of sitting down and writing or photographing or doing podcasts or whatever.
Bjork Ostrom: And he talks about it as almost this thing where you got to embrace that because that means you’re doing good work. When you come up against the resistance, that’s pushing you in another way, that’s a sign that you’re actually going in the right direction. But when it comes to the podcast, do you feel like you have that? Do you feel like you have an interview coming up and you feel a little bit of like anticipation or that it’s something that’s continually hard to show up for, but yet you do it?
Les Alfred: Kind of, it depends on the interview. I would say at the beginning of every interview that I do for the show, I’m always just like, “Ooh, got a little bit of butterflies, we’ll see how this goes.” And usually two minutes into the conversation, it’s fine. But yeah, I definitely sometimes still feel this like, “Oh, what am I doing?” I normally will have just a page of notes that I have for each interview, just so that I can keep track of what’s going on. And I’ve started writing at the top of every page of notes before I interview somebody, I just write, “You are so good at this.” Anytime I doubt like, “Girl, what are you doing? You don’t know what you’re doing,” I just look down at that, and it’s a reminder of like, “You’re good at this.”
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. I’m curious to know the podcast in general, so for Balanced Black Girl, would you say that it’s a podcast-forward publishing that you do? Is that the kind of hub, I know you have a site that supports it, but as you think about building that, is it building the podcast?
Les Alfred: Yes. I would say the podcast is the hub, it’s the center, and the conversations that I have on the podcast are the center. I am at a point where I’m starting to expand because as you know, podcasts are amazing, but also when you’re helping people do new things, a conversation on a podcast can only do so much. And so I’m starting to create other things such as wellness offerings and workshops to supplement conversations of the podcast. So it’s like, “Hey, we talked about stress management on this episode of the podcast as a concept and as some tools and resources, but now we’re going to have this class where we can really go deep into ways that you can actively manage stress in your life.”
Les Alfred: So the podcast is always the center for the conversation and introducing new things, but finding new ways to help our community apply the concepts to their lives.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. And it ties into one of the questions that I had that I was always curious about is, podcasting is this interesting medium where if you look at what you could downloads you could get or views you could get on a YouTube or Facebook video, or page views you could get on a blog post, and then you look at the potential for downloads on a podcast. Those numbers are smaller compared to the bigger reach of some things that don’t go as deep, but podcasts can go so deep, which is one of the things that’s so interesting about them. But a unique thing to build from a business perspective in that, you could do ads on podcasts, and that’s one of the ways that a lot of people will create income from a podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: You talked about a little bit, I’m curious to know for you to inform other people who are maybe thinking about doing a podcast, building a podcast, obviously you have to get the audience first, Balanced Black Girl has some awesome traction, 100 episodes, which is fun to be at that mark. It’s like you don’t want to publish one for a while because it’s such a clean, nice mark, 475 ratings, five stars. It’s solidly in the, let’s call it top 10, maybe 5% of podcasts if you were to look at all the podcasts in the world. So you have that audience and you have that traction, which I want to ask about, but what are your broad ideas around what it looks like to build in some of those business components around it, and asking for myself as well as other people who are doing the podcast thing.
Les Alfred: Yeah. I think podcasting is a really great way to determine proof of concept. If you can get somebody, thousands of people to spend an hour with you listening to you, have a conversation, chances are, they’re probably going to be really interested in other things that you can do and offer as well. And yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with what you were saying about the numbers that podcasts don’t necessarily have the reach that maybe YouTuber or blogs do yet, I definitely think that’s going to change, but the people who do listen are just like they ride so hard, they always slow down.
Les Alfred: And just that level of engagement, that level of connection, I think can be a really great foundation. I think for folks who have businesses, it can be a really great way to build engagement for other aspects of their business. I think if you are trying to podcast and just have the podcast to be your business, you can do that, it probably is going to take quite a bit of time to get enough traction where that can be your only thing. But I think podcasting is still so new and it’s still picking up steam in a lot of ways that there’s so much opportunity we haven’t even tapped into yet.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What did it look like for you to build that in the early stages? I think people who listen, think about building their blog, building a podcast seems like a really hard thing. Us, I’m even trying to think back when we first started, it was like, “Hey, let’s start a podcast.” And then we would occasionally email about it. And then it’s just been organic, any growth, which is not super strategic, but were the things that you did early stages are things that you’re doing now as you think about building that audience that has been helpful?
Les Alfred: Yeah. I think so much of it is around conversation. Podcasting is a very conversational platform where you’re either having a conversation with the guest or whatever it is your format is, but remembering to invite your listeners into the conversation, ask them what they thought about it. I’m constantly asking people like, “Leave a comment. If you listened to the last episode, what was your biggest takeaway?” Because it gets people involved. And then when people do that, then they want to tag a friend, “Here’s my takeaway from this episode, so-and-so you should listen to this.” And it is still organic, but it brings the listener in with you so that you’re not just talking at them.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. And they become a part of that community, and in some ways they enter that room with you. You are creating that room and welcoming people into it as opposed to just standing in and shouting out from it. It’s saying like, “Hey, come and be a part of this.” Which I think is so cool and so inspiring. What would your advice be? Somebody is in the early stages, well, let’s say this, somebody is doing something that they’re not sure if it’s the right fit for them. They’ve been working at it for a while and they’re in that same spot that you were, call it two years ago, where they’re wondering, they know that they still want to pursue something creative, to build a thing, to create things in the world and put them into the world, but they’re not sure what that is.
Bjork Ostrom: Les, what would your encouragement be to those people who are in that place right now knowing that you have gone through that and have come out the other side here successfully?
Les Alfred: Yeah. I think it’s important to know, even if you don’t know what you want to do, get really clear on why what it is you’re currently doing isn’t working. I think it’s very easy to be like, “Something’s off. I don’t know what, but it’s something.” And you got to get clear on what that is, what is it that you don’t like? Because I know for me what I didn’t like, I was tired of creating recipes and having to take photos of them when I had natural daylight, because I was living in Seattle at the time and had no light, and spending all of this money trying to create these recipes where if I created something that was kind of meh, and it was just me, I’d be fine still eating it, and I wouldn’t care.
Les Alfred: And I was tired of creating workout videos all the time because it just made me physically tired. I understood why I didn’t want to do that thing anymore. And when I understood what wasn’t working, I was way more able to understand what would work. But sometimes we just get so vague about what we don’t want to do, and then it’s easy to stay vague about what you do want to do.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s almost like you’re building some parameters or borders around your decision-making process. And if it’s too wide open, it’s like, you don’t really have a clear understanding of what that would be, but if you say, “It’s not going to be this, it’s not going to be this.” That can lead you to a where you have a more clear understanding of what it will be.
Les Alfred: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. How about this, we’ve talked a lot about your story, your journey. We’ve talked about some of the things that you’ve learned Balanced Berry and Balanced Black Girl, but who are the people that you were talking to in your audience? Who are the people that can follow along with Balanced Black Girl and where can they do that, and follow along with you as well? And we’ll link to all of these places in the show notes as well.
Les Alfred: Yeah, definitely. So I am, I would say, most active on Instagram. I’m at @balanceLes and @balancedblackgirlpodcast. And with Balanced Black Girl, the conversations are really featuring black women experts in wellness, but I would say anybody is welcomed to listen and to learn something from it. I know this year in 2020, there have been a lot of shifts and a lot of efforts to spotlight different voices. And I have archives and archives of episodes of black women and experts you can learn from who share incredible work. So Instagram @balancedblackgirlpodcast. And then we have new episodes of the podcast on all major podcasting platforms, every other Tuesday.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Would you have a couple of episodes that you would highlight as like if it was a Spotify playlist, for an artist, the top songs that people should check out, they would surface, do you have ones that you can think of off the top of your head that we could link to, or that we could point people to right off the bat? It’s kind of a hard question because even for myself, I’m thinking, I’m like, “Oh, what would that be? But any ones that you can think of?
Les Alfred: Yeah, definitely. And I cringe saying this because I’m like, “Oh, they’re early episodes, they probably don’t sound as good. They’re probably a little rough around the edges.” But they do really set the stage for why I created the platform and why the platform is important. So I would say the first couple of episodes, I have one in particular called Wellness, where I talk about my experiences being a woman of color in the wellness space and why I felt it was so necessary to create Balanced Black Girl. That was, still one of the most listened to episodes because it does really set the stage for that conversation. So I would definitely, definitely recommend starting there because it really sets up the rest of the show.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And that’s one of the earlier episodes, you don’t remember that episode number by any chance?
Les Alfred: Yes. I think it’s episode two. I think it’s episode two.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Got it. That’s awesome. Well, either way, we’ll link to it in the show notes to make sure that people can check that out. That’s really great to connect, really great to talk to you. And thank you so much for sharing your story, and thank you so much for doing good work in the world and creating things even when it’s not easy and continuing pressing forward and moving through some big challenges to create things in the world that are making a big difference. So I appreciate you doing that on your podcast and also for coming on to this podcast as well.
Les Alfred: Thank you, Bjork. Thank you for having me. This was such a fun conversation, so I really appreciate it.
Bjork Ostrom: All right. Great. Thanks, Les.
Alexa Peduzzi: ~Such a good episode.Thank you again so much for tuning into this episode. We hope you enjoyed it, and we hope that you go and check out Les’s podcasts and her Instagram channels. Again, they’re linked in the show notes. You can find the show notes for this episode at foodbloggerpro.com/272. If you have any thoughts, feedback, we’d love to hear them, they’re in the show notes for the episode, or like Les mentioned, if you want to share a screenshot of you listening to this episode, to the podcasts on Instagram, on Facebook and tag us, we are @foodbloggerpro, And Les, she is @balancedblackgirlpodcast or @balancedles.
Alexa Peduzzi: It would be awesome to see people listening to this episode out in the wild. That would be so great. And I just have a feeling that I’m going to refer back to this episode quite a bit. I’m coming from somebody who has definitely had their fair share of times where I understand that something isn’t working in this creative endeavor, whether I’m writing a blog post or writing other things or photographing things, I know something isn’t quite right, but I’m not sure what it is. And it’s just really great to see and hear that Les leaned into that and came out the other side with just this fantastic brand that is so aligned to what she wants to be doing and the message she wants to convey.
Alexa Peduzzi: So, I’m so excited for Les. Les, if you’re listening to this, you’re awesome, very excited for you. And to our listeners, to you, we just appreciate you so much. We are just so thankful that you are a part of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast community, and you are just such a big reason why we do what we do. So thank you again for tuning in. And that’s all from us this week, we will see you next time, next Tuesday, and until then, make it a great week.