In the first podcast episode, Bjork interviews Lindsay about her food blog, Pinch of Yum, and digs deep into the motivation behind POY and how Lindsay built her blog.
Lindsay Ostrom on life as a career blogger, building a blog while working full-time, and tips for sticking with it.
We all know Lindsay. She’s a big part of the reason we are all here right now. But how well do we really know her? How did Pinch of Yum get started? Was it’s Bjork’s idea in the first place? How in the world did she take her baby food blog that started on Tumbler to the beautiful & inspiring food resource that it is today?
In this 58-minute episode, Lindsay tells Bjork:
- Just how Pinch of Yum came to be
- What her weekly schedule looks like
- The longest amount of time she went without posting
- Why she has been able to keep it up for over 5 years
- Why Technical skills aren’t needed to start a food blog
- The reason she keeps her blog within the personal sphere
- And where you can get more info on the infamous and entirely adorable Sage (and what her nickname is)
Listen to the first episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or on iTunes:
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email us at [email protected].
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Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number one of the Food Blogger Pro podcast.
My name is Bjork Ostrom, and on this episode I am really excited because we have the author behind my favorite food blog of all time, Lindsay Ostrom from “Pinch of Yum.”
In this episode, Lindsay talks about what it’s been like to grow a Pinch of Yum over the last five years including some of the routines she’s established, how she consistently posts to the blog even during times when she’s really busy, how she’s developed her voice as a writer, why it’s important to tell personal stories, and towards the end of the episode I ask Lindsay what she thinks has had the biggest impact over the last five years when it comes to the growth of Pinch of Yum.
Without further ado, Lindsay Ostrom from Pinch of Yum.
I would like to give a big warm welcome to somebody who I think, I’m maybe a little bit bias is one of the best bloggers around. Lindsay Ostrom, Pinch of Yum, welcome. How are you doing?
Lindsay Ostrom: I’m doing good. Thanks for that really nice intro, babe.
Bjork: Kind of weird, because we’re in two different spots right now. You’re at home, and I’m in our bare office, the one that you always come into and say, “I think that you could do a little bit of decorating in here little by little.” But for those of you that maybe are envisioning us sitting together holding hands, we’re not actually doing that.
We’re in two different spots, so this is kind of our official test round for the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Yay, round of applause, so we can do a digital high five. One, two…
Lindsay: It’s exciting.
Bjork: …three. Did you do it?
Lindsay: Did you hear that?
Bjork: Thanks. I appreciate that. This is kind of the test round, but what I want to do is as weird as it is for us, because we’re husband and wife to do a formal interview. It would still be valuable, because not only for me to kind of practice doing this, but also because there’s a ton of questions that we get as I’m sure lots of bloggers do about blogging.
My hope in this was to be able to address some of those, to have some conversations around that. So not only can we test our first ever Food Blogger Pro podcast, but also so we can hopefully pass along some valuable information just about what we’ve learned, and this is going to be about you, specifically about Lindsay and Pinch of Yum.
What you’ve learned over the past five years of doing this which is really incredible. That’s actually kind of where I want to start. For those who aren’t familiar, you don’t have to pretend like you’re saying this to me, but may be those that are listening because I know most of the story, but maybe there are pieces that I don’t know.
Lindsay: You probably know more than I do.
Bjork: I maybe…I’ll correct you if you’re wrong.
Bjork: Can you back of time and tell us the story? Pinch of Yum, what is that all about? How did it come to be?
Lindsay: Bjork, Pinch of Yum started as just a blog for fun, just a hobby. Just a way for me to share recipes and not only share recipes, but I wasn’t a super awesome cook at the time. I just really like food, so sometimes I would post recipes. Sometimes I would post recipes from other places, a link to a recipe. “Hey, I tried this.” Or I’d post something about a product I had tried.
It was really just a place for me to say, “Hey, I love food. These are the things that I’m trying with my cooking.”
Initially, when you and I got married, when we got married — it’s so weird — that was one of the most fun things for me was now I have somebody to cook for. We’re this little family. Instead of going to Facebook and just inundating my friends with all the recipes and all the stuff that I was cooking, which I would do every night, I’d go report to Facebook like, “Hey, we had this for dinner tonight.”
That was what started the conversation about like, “Hey, maybe rather than doing that on Facebook, maybe we should start a blog.” I don’t know. You and I kind of…we can’t exactly remember who started, like whose idea it actually was…
Bjork: Yeah. We’ll share.
Lindsay: …to start a blog, but I do know 50-50…
Bjork: The story from now on will be that we said it at the same time. We looked at each other and we were like…
Lindsay: Yeah, like super inspired moment.
Bjork: …”Let’s start a blog.” Yeah.
Lindsay: Blog, yeah.
Lindsay: But I know that for me, I was like, if it would have been my idea or whatever, if it was my idea, it was like half joking or three fourths joking. I really had no idea what a blog was. I didn’t follow blogs. I wasn’t into that Internet world at all.
So that was really a stretch for me to be like, “OK, this is a thing that people do. You don’t have to be a formally trained chef to have a food blog. This can just be a journal and a place for you to adventure with your food and play around, and share that with people. Share that with the world.” So that’s the story.
Bjork: Yeah, and one of the things that I — not to like have it be a weird gushy podcast where everybody’s saying, “OK. This is weird.” But one of the things that I appreciate about you, Lindsay, is that sometimes I’ll have an idea or something. I think this is common for a lot of people, like do it for a little bit and then maybe don’t do it anymore.
But you have this idea to start a blog and it’s like you committed to it 100 percent even when nobody was coming, right?
Bjork: We talked about that idea of finally installing Google Analytics. It’s five people and we can track it down and say, “OK. Well, there’s your mom, my mom, your dad. Your mom again.” But you continued to do it and committed to it. I think that’s one of the things that’s so impressive and so important is committing over a really long period of time, especially during that first year or two years, when nothing is really happening.
Where you’re still learning, but committing to the process. I have so much respect for that. I’ve learned a lot from you because of that.
Lindsay: That’s so sweet. Thanks, hon!
Lindsay: This is officially going to be the weirdest podcast I ever do, ever.
Bjork: Or maybe it’s a good first one to do, because it’s the weirdest one that we’ll ever do.
Lindsay: Oh, my gosh.
Bjork: For this podcast.
Lindsay: [laughs] Just get the weird part out of the way.
Bjork: We’ll edit that out.
Bjork: Maybe not.
Going back to that, though, I think that’s something that’s, like I said, that I’m really impressed by and I think is really important, but do you know — we chatted about this a little bit before — the longest that you’ve ever gone in the past five years without publishing a post to Pinch of Yum?
Lindsay: When you mentioned that before we started, my guess would have been like months. Because I specifically remember when I started, it was different then. It wasn’t like, even at that time, we didn’t really have Google Analytics. I wasn’t thinking about, is anybody seeing this? It was just for me. So I thought that it had been months for sure in between posts.
But I went back and looked, and I can only find a stretch of like 10 days at the most when I didn’t post. So I don’t know. It’s kind of cool to see. I guess I never even knew that about myself, but 10 days is probably the longest I ever went without posting, even from the beginning.
Bjork: Was that in the first year or two years?
Lindsay: Yeah. That was probably even in the first month. Like in the first two months that I had a stretch of 10 days or so when I didn’t post.
Bjork: Related to that, what do you think…We talk a lot about mindset and how mindset is so important, really, with any type of creative work that you do but what has your mindset been in creating content consistently over a long period of time with a lot of times, it would be situations where it’s not ideal situations, where it would be really easy to say, “I’m not going to post for a month here.”
The example that I think about is when we were transitioning to living life in the Philippines. We had a ton of stuff that we had to do and things that we had to get ready for. Not only just moving abroad, but also leaving our jobs for a year.
Through all of that stuff, transitioning, traveling, getting married, living abroad, you continued to post consistently. What is the mindset that you have with posting that’s allowed you to continue to do that consistently over a long period of time, over five years?
Lindsay: I don’t know. I think it changes or it has changed, based on where the blog is at. But I think the overarching answer would just be I just like it. It’s just I really like doing it. I want to come back and do it again. There is a sense of obligation, especially now that I don’t think was there in the beginning. Like hey, I’m on a schedule. This is my job now. I need to show up and I need to post.
But I just really like it. When I think back to the beginning, looking at these posts right now, on my old Tumblr site, like the very first ones. I think at that point, my mindset wasn’t like I need to post again. It was just like, “Oh, this is another exciting thing that I have that I want to share.”
I think that was kind of phase one. The mindset was just, “Whoa, this is so fun! I have got to share this.” I’m looking at…These are pictures from when we went to that cooking class. I think stuff like that or when we went to “Taste of Chicago,” there’s a post about that. It was just like, “Oh, this is fun. I want to share this. I want to share this.”
There was stuff happening. I was cooking. I was doing the farmer’s market. Then I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I think that there was kind of a shift into that second phase, when we did actually have Google Analytics and we were paying attention to those numbers. For me, the motivation was I love this and also, I can see that more people are coming. I can see measurable progress and really enjoying that part.
There’s a next phase, where it’s like, “I’m starting to get comments.” Every post is almost like a self kind of competition of can I get people to engage with this? How can I get more comments? Then sharing and all of that.
I feel like it changes depending on my mindset or maybe even my internal motivation for why I show up consistently has changed throughout the different phases of blogging. But really at the root of it all, it’s like I can’t not post. I just love it. I love sharing what I’m doing and I love the idea of developing this place.
There’s also a piece of that, too, that’s in — you know this, obviously, because you’re my husband and we talk about this stuff — but part of it is just personality. When I go down a path, I’m going to go down it. That’s been true for a lot of different areas of my life. I think that also then translates over to the blog.
Part of that legitimately is just a personality thing. But yeah, like I said, I’m kind of just repeating myself. But like I said, the biggest underlying thing is that I just really enjoy it and I enjoy making the food and I enjoy the process of sharing that. That, for me, is like the fuel that has kept me going and kept me coming back for five years.
Bjork: It’s a really important point, because occasionally, we or I or you will have conversations with people. It sounds like or the things that they communicate are like, “I’m doing this, but it’s such a pain.” Like, “Oh my gosh, like to write a post every time and to do the photography or to do the recipe development.”
It almost sounds like there’s tension there in the creative process, which I think exists, right?
Bjork: When you’re writing content, when you’re producing creative things, when we talk about it, we call it the “resistance.” This idea that there’s something that keeps you from doing creative things. This podcast, for instance. Before we got on, I’m like, “Ah, maybe we should reschedule or do it at a different time. Or it’s kind of rainy today and I might not be totally cheery when I’m doing it.”
But there’s this idea of the resistance, but there’s also this idea of passion and things that you enjoy and really diving deep into something that you get a lot of enjoyment out of.
How do you know the difference between those two things? Whether it’s like the resistance keeping you from doing something that’s really important versus something that you actually don’t enjoy and even if you had all the time in the world to do it, you still might not enjoy it. I think that’s something that’s important for people to contemplate. Does that make sense?
Lindsay: Yeah. The question being just like how do you identify when it’s the resistance and you just need to push through it?
Lindsay: Can you restate the question?
Bjork: Yeah. How do you know when something is the resistance keeping you from doing something big and creative versus something that maybe…
Lindsay: Just not the right fit.
Bjork: Yeah. Or not the right format. It doesn’t have to be, if you’re going to write about or if you’re going to produce content about food, it doesn’t have to be a blog, right? We’re this Food Blogger Pro, but maybe you have a YouTube channel and that’s all that you do. So how do you know the difference between those two? Or do you have any thoughts around that?
Lindsay: No, that’s a good question. I would say I kind of in my mind, I relate it a little bit to working out for me. I love to run. So here’s the thing, I love to run. I’m like, “Oh, I’m so excited Saturday. Then I can go for a run.” Then Saturday comes and it’s like, “I don’t really want to go for a run. I’d rather just sit here on the couch.” It’s harder to get up and actually go.
I know, because of the amount of time that I’ve been a runner, how good I’ll feel…not even necessarily when I’m doing it. I do have days where I run and I’m like, “This is awesome.” I also have days when I run and I’m like, “Ah, like just hurry up and get this run done with.” But for sure, for sure, every time when I come back from a run, I feel awesome and I feel like, “Oh, I’m so glad I did that.” Like I never regret doing that.
I feel like it’s the right thing. I feel like there’s some kind of similarities to how blogging can feel sometimes for me. There are times when I feel like I don’t want to do this, but once I get started doing it, for the most part, I find myself getting lost in the process and enjoying it. Then feeling really good when it’s done and enjoying that progression.
I don’t know. The resistance is real. Even when it’s something you really like. Like I talked about I’ve been doing this for five years and the biggest underlying thing for me is that I love it, but also there have been plenty of times, as you know, Bjork, more than anybody, where I’m like, “Ah, I have to do a post before tomorrow.”
Or before whenever. In two hours I have to do a post or whatever.
I don’t know if there’s any necessarily secret or formula for knowing what should signify a change in course for someone, but I think it’s just got to be like — how’s this for obscure? — just kind of a gut feeling.
Bjork: No, that’s good. Makes sense.
Lindsay: Just like an ongoing, just [inaudible 16:12] would call it “monitor and adjust.” How are you feeling about this process overall? Is it every time you hate this certain part of it? If so, how can you change that?
For me, in the beginning, I really, really hated the writing. I loved everything else, and I would just hate to sit down and write the post. But the more I did it, I don’t think you can tell after like one time of doing something. You need to give it a couple months. Maybe you even need to give it a year. Say, “Hey, I’m going to commit to this and doing this a certain way. I kind of like medium like it.”
Then after a year, maybe you find it hasn’t. My like, my enjoyment of it hasn’t increased. It’s either gone down or it’s gone up, because I’ve gotten better at that particular part of the process.
It’s a really obscure answer, but I think you have to trust your gut. I think knowing that there is going to be resistance, even if something is a really good fit for you and just acknowledging that. I love blogging and I love what I’m doing, and still sometimes, I would rather do other things than sit down and write a post.
There’s definitely a real part of that, even when you’re doing work that’s a really good fit for you.
Bjork: I think that the point that you made about when you start or when you finish how you feel is a really good point. I think about the concept of flow and I think that everybody listening to this knows that idea of flow, where when you get into flow, it’s kind of like you lose track of time.
For you, Lindsay, I’d assume that’s maybe photography or cooking, if you’re preparing a recipe or something like that. If you can find those areas where you feel like you’re in flow, that’s a really good sign of something that might be a good fit for you even though it might be hard to start.
What does it feel like when you’re doing it and when you finish? If it feels like something that you’re excited about, that’s probably an area that’s good for you to focus on.
The reason that I bring that up is because I think it’s important for people to hear that, that there’s 1,001 different ways that you can build something. For us, we talk about stuff around the food industry, but there are 1,001 ways that you can build something. It doesn’t have to be a blog. It could be a podcast. It could be YouTube. It could be traditional blog, but maybe it’s more of a website and you have an email list.
There are so many different ways that you can do it. I want to encourage people to continue to search those ways that feel like the best fit. Then, like we talked about before, to commit to those over a long period of time. I think that results in really cool things.
It was kind of an obscure question, but I think you did a really good job of answering it. So thanks for…
Lindsay: An obscure question, obscure answer. Yeah.
Bjork: Thanks for taking a shot at it.
I want to ask one more question about the history of Pinch of Yum, and then shift towards the more current conversation of where things are at right now. When you look back to when you first started, I think one thing that’s important for people to hear, for those that are in their first year or two years, or maybe even thinking about getting started.
One of things I think is really important to hear is that even though you’re starting with something brand new, which is maybe social media or like all things online, and it’s this scary space of, “Man, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing here. This is all new.” There’s a reality that people are coming to the table, or the computer, with skills that they might not think as skills that apply to what they’re doing.
In reality, we all have things that we can bring into this new thing that we’re doing that are really helpful. I feel like for you, Lindsay, an obvious example of that is teaching. Can you talk a little bit about how your first five years as a teacher helped you, where you are now, and something that most people wouldn’t really think about as something that would apply to blogging but in reality, I think it makes a big impact and it helps?
Lindsay: Yeah, in the beginning, honestly, it was more of an identity and story thing than anything else. It was like, “Hey, I’m a teacher,” and I would sometimes talk about what was happening in my classroom, or talk about my daily misadventures in the classroom. But, literally, the skill of teaching started to come into play more as I actually developed somewhat of an audience and started developing skills that I could then teach.
The skill set of taking information, breaking it down into its easiest form, make it really simple, make it consumable for people, and easy for them to understand, that’s something I really enjoy. It’s also something that I have experience with from being an elementary school teacher. Even though, obviously, the content of both the classroom and, for example, teaching about food photography, those are two totally different types of topics that I would be teaching about the same general concepts of teaching would apply.
I think, though, it was a lot and still is a lot that I bring into the work that I do with Pinch of Yum that relates back to my background as a teacher. I think not just even background and experience, but the reason I chose that career is because I really enjoy that process. I really enjoy watching someone go from not understanding to understanding something, and everything that’s involved in that process.
That skill and also that passion then has infused itself into what I’m doing with Pinch of Yum. I don’t think that was necessarily intentional. Actually, I think that you were a big part of that. Again, the weird podcast thing where I just reference you. “You” were a big part of that in saying, “Hey, I think you really could do this.”
For me, once I got started doing things, I’m thinking about “Tasty Food Photography.” Once I got started actually creating that book, I was like, “Wow, this is so fun.” I really enjoyed the process of taking that content and thinking really down to this specific level, “How do I build that into an easy to understand framework and an outline? How do I make it visually easy to understand?”
There’s been a lot of overlap as the blog has developed and as I’ve increased the things that I know that I can possibly teach to other people. Teaching’s probably the biggest example of that. I think, though, another thing would be I did come in. I wasn’t a great cook, but I had a love of food. You and I will talk about this, but I’ve been watching Food Network for years with my family, and doing these food competitions.
Again, not like I was formally trained for anything, but having an interest in that, having read healthy eating magazines for five years, or whatever, and having some whatever background in that area.
Even though, it’s not like I knew anything about blogging or had any formal experience. Everybody’s going to come to the table with some of that background experience, background knowledge. Probably, almost always, if you play it right, there’s a way to tie those skills back into what you’re doing online.
Bjork: Exactly. That’s what if somebody pulls something out of that, what I want people to hear is that you’re never starting at zero when you start something new. You might be learning a new skill, a new software, learning how to communicate better via writing, or something like that. But you always have these skills that you bring over that you can apply to what you’re doing.
I really want to encourage people that are a little bit scared about getting started in maybe launching their blog, something like that, to really not be too hard on yourself in being a beginner. A lot of times, I’ll get emails and people are like, “I’m a total new at this.” It’s like, well, at this little sliver of a thing, but you also have this huge life pie, if we’re going to use a food analogy, where you have all these other skills…
Bjork: Thanks. There’s a little slice that maybe you don’t understand, but you can fill that in. You have all of this different experience and skills that you can apply to that. I think that teaching example is a great example of that. We are going to shift a little bit here.
We are going to move from looking at the past, analyzing where things were, and we’re going to look at the now, the here and now, and maybe a little bit at the future as well. But before we do that, I’m going to take a quick moment to say a little word from our show sponsor, which is, drum roll, please.
Bjork: Food Blogger Pro. We don’t have a show sponsor. We are sponsoring ourselves. But we want to do a quick little promo here. If you are a food blogger or somebody in the food space, we’d love for you to join the Food Blogger Pro Community. At the time of this recording, we’re right around 900 people, 950 people that are part of Food Blogger Pro.
We really view it as three different areas. There’s the community, something that we are really excited about, because I think that’s a huge part of this, is we live in this world where we’re doing our own thing every day. We’re at our computers and we don’t interface with people like we do at a normal office.
On Food Blogger Pro we have this community forum where people come, and not only are people asking questions but they’re answering those questions. They’re helping people out and there’s just general support as well. We talked about some of this mindset stuff before with Lindsey.
How do you continue to consistently post new content when life gets hard? An example, on Food Blogger Pro of the community that’s helped to solve that problem is that there’s been these people who have formed these accountability groups, “Hey, let us keep accountable to continuing to create content, to continue to put stuff out there,” knowing that that mindset of continual concentration is something that’s really hard.
We also have tutorials, so you hear Lindsey and I talking right now. These tutorials are essentially us talking, but with a screen cast. We have a plug-in that we’re talking about, how to use a certain plug-in with Word Press and we’ll talk like we are now. We’ll walk you through the process, click through that and then Lindsey does a lot of photography tutorials.
We talked about that gift of teaching that Lindsey has, being a great teacher and she uses those and applies those to the different photography tutorials.
How do you take photos with artificial lighting? Maybe you have a weird work schedule, where the only time you can shoot is after 8:00 PM when there’s not good, natural light. We have a course on Food Blogger Pro where we talk about, or Lindsey talks about, how do you shoot with artificial lighting and still get food photos that look appealing? There’s that course in Food Blogger Pro, the education section.
The last section is this new section that we’re developing. It’s different tools specific to people that publish food related content, and the one we have right now is this super easy to use nutrition label generator. The nutrition label generator is a one button solution for creating a little nutrition label.
If you want an example of that, you can go to most of Lindsey’s recipes that she publishes on Pinch Of Yum, and you can see this little nutrition label down there, and that’s created on Food Blogger Pro. We have this copy and paste solution where you copy all the ingredients, you paste them into this little box, you press “analyze” and it creates this nutrition label.
That’s the same data, they called it an API, but it’s the same data and API that “New York Times” uses for their recipes that they analyze on their site, their recipe site “Whole Foods.” There are all these different places that are pulling from this API, really reliable data, and to create these nutrition labels that food bloggers and other food related websites are using on their site.
That’s Food Blogger Pro. We want to thank them so much for sponsoring this podcast. It’s very generous of them.
Now let’s shift a little bit, Lindsey, and talk about where Pinch of Yum is at right now and some of the things that you’re looking forward to in the future. I think it would be really valuable to hear.
We talked about the past, where things were, but what does it look like now when you’re running a blog as a business? This is your full time job. This is what you’re doing. If you stop doing then you essentially have fired yourself. You don’t have a job anymore. Talk to me a little bit about your daily, weekly routine. What does it look like for you each and every day to run a food blog?
Lindsay: To be honest, I really wanted to get a good structure for what I’m doing. I’m a big fan of structure and schedules and routines, especially after being an elementary school teacher. I want everything color coded, and everything mapped out down to the hour and whatever.
It’s just really hard when you’re working on something that has flexible and open as your own Internet business and blog. You’re everything and every week is different, every day is different. If I had to say what a typical week or day might look like, I would say in general, kind of like the overview, what I’m trying to do lately is have two days during the week where I do recipes development and photography, or I would say maybe two or three days.
Usually I have that be a Tuesday and a Wednesday. I’ll do Tuesday and Wednesday as kind of my days to cook and take the pictures of the food. Thursday, Friday would be meetings and drafting posts and doing more of the computer work. Then kind of looping back around to Monday,
I would use Monday to catch up and to, again, go grocery shopping, or do some of that other stuff. I find that with this job being what it is, being like that half of my life is at the computer, and doing computery stuff, and the other half of it is more creative. It’s in the kitchen and it’s active and whatever.
I just find it helpful to have that separation where I’m not going from the mornings on the computer to afternoons in the kitchen. It’s helpful for me to wake up and say, “All right, on this day my only job is developing these recipes and getting them ready to photograph tomorrow.” Then wake up and say, “OK, today, my only job is photography, so what’s the light like today and where am I going to set up?” and all that stuff.
In terms of like a posting flow, I post Monday, Wednesday, Saturday right now. I’m trying Saturdays. It’s always been Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but right now we’re doing Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and I write my posts like live, in the morning.
On those post days, I usually just get up a little bit earlier and I try to write my post and publish it before nine. The earlier the better, but sometimes it doesn’t happen, but just getting them out in the morning and then to spend the rest of the day doing other stuff.
I found that when I try to write the post during the day, it just ends up taking more time than it used to when I was teaching. When I was teaching this is how I used to do it, like I used to write posts in the morning and it’s like, you and I talk about this, but like squeezing your work into the margins a little bit in order to actually get stuff done and that you need to. I was finding that I was just taking too long drafting and writing posts.
It’s like I needed to do other stuff, so I thought, “Well, let’s just go back to that schedule,” acting like I still have a day job and just writing my posts in the margins because it works, it’s fine, it kind of limits my time a little bit and so that’s kind of how I structure that times. I do all that writing in the morning.
Bjork: Yeah, the ideas that we talked about is like you will always feel the amount of time you have with the work that you need to do. So like if you have.
Bjork: Obviously there is a lot of flexibility with that depending on what it is and how much time you have and stuff but the idea like you have an hour to write a posts so then you write it in an hour whereas if you give yourself four hours then you take four hours to write the post.
Lindsay: Right and I think that what I was finding is that I was basically taking a whole week to do what I used to be able to do in my nights and weekends, when I switched from teaching over to fulltime blogging. So that’s kind of weird though, the motivation for that came in was saying like, “Hey, you need to limit yourself,” like now that you’re fulltime blogging does not mean that you should spend four days working on posts.
Bjork: I think there’s something to be said about the idea of, not being scrappy but limiting yourself to the amount of time you have to work on something so you are more efficient with it. I also think there is something to be said about the liveness of a post that makes its feel especially for the type of content that you write where it’s not necessarily like just about the food, there is also a little element of kind of lifestyle tied into it, which actually takes into my next question.
One of the things that Pinch of Yum not necessarily is known for but is a reality of Pinch of Yum is the fact that it’s not just food, there’s also like Lindsay and Bjork and Sage.
Lindsay: And Sage.
Bjork: We call her Rooney because we call here Sage or Rooney. If you really want to be on the inside sometime whoever you are if we meet in person someday, you can say, “How’s Rooney?” and if that happens, I won’t smile and shake my head and give you a high five.
Lindsay: And I will never speak to you again. [laughs]
Bjork: Lindsay would turn away and put her head down and stomp as she leaves through.
Lindsay: She is seating right next to me right now.
Bjork: Such a good dog. But I was saying that she is on the news. Lindsay had this little local news thing and it was like they talked about Pinch of Yum but really they were like, “And the dog sage.” They’d do this like slow motion panning circus, it was awesome. We were so honored, I was just really proud of her.
Lindsay: I know. She worked so hard to get back.
Bjork: Yeah, she has gone through a lot.
Lindsay: To get to that place.
Bjork: To get to that place where she is on the news and featured. It was like it meant so much to us like parents. Where were we? I totally forgot.
Lindsay: I don’t even know.
Bjork: Oh, lifestyles.
Lindsay: Yeah, right.
Bjork: There is this element of lifestyle where you’re not just talking about food, it’s also like here I am as a person I want to connect with you, can you talk a little bit about that and why you…I would say its intentional, right? Like why you were intentional about doing that. Both from like a personal enjoyment angle, but also like, is there any intentional reason for like growing a blog to do that?
Lindsay: Yeah, there are reasons both for it and against it and I think whether a person decides to do that or not with their food blog or I guess whatever kind of blog, it’s easiest for me to say if we talk about it from a food blog angle because some blogs that’s what they are. It’s like a lifestyle blog but this is a food blog with an intentional kind of lifestyle personality story element to it.
There are reasons both for it and against that and the decision to include that or not is going to be based on like what are the goals for the blog and the blog as a business, too.
One of the things that I hear a lot from other bloggers is that they are trying to remove themselves from their food blog in terms of like remove their personal story. So they want the writing in the post to just be a description of the food and they want it to be like pretty broad like anybody could come at any time and it would make sense to them.
It’s pretty straight forward and it doesn’t have any elements of personality.
Bjork: There are no pictures of their dog.
Lindsay: Yeah, [laughs] there are no obsessive pictures of their pets. No, but we have to put more focus on the food.
The reason for that is, from the bloggers that I have heard from anyway, they either don’t enjoy the personal side of it and showing that stuff and/or maybe they have a goal to sell their site at some point. They want to remove their own personality from it so that at some time someone could acquire the site and it would already be of ready to go like a generic recipe site rather than a personal blog.
For me, I really enjoy reading other blogs that have personal stories involved in them and I’ve heard, I don’t know if this is a widely known quote or idea or whatever, but just this idea that you should write the blog that you want to read. For me, that’s what I love to read. I follow all these food bloggers and whenever they do a post about their cute baby or where they went on vacation or whatever, those are the things that I like to read.
For me, that’s played into my decision to want to keep that. Also, I think that part of that enjoyment piece comes from feeling like, this is a real thing, I’m a real person, it’s not just a business, but it is a personal blog. It’s a food blog but it’s also a personal blog.
I feel like I’ve kind of really embraced that, even just recently after doing this reader survey, where I asked people, “Hey, what do you like about Pinch of Yum? What do you not like about Pinch of Yum?” Obviously, you’re going to have the same things that people either love or hate. Some people were like, “I hate that you talk about your dog all the time” and some people were like, “Oh my gosh, I love your dog.”
You’re going to get both end. I really felt that the results kind of strongly showed people’s interest in the story behind it. There are plenty of websites out there that are just doing recipes and, for me, I guess the thinking behind it is, anybody can do that and anybody can make recipes that are like mine. I feel like the one thing that I have that nobody else can have and do is be me and have my story and have our story and that, for me, is a piece of branding Pinch of Yum.
Intentionally, for business and for all of that, but also from a personal standpoint, that’s what makes me really love the blog and feel like it’s my place. It’s me, it’s mine, it’s ours and it makes it more enjoyable for me.
Bjork: Yeah, absolutely. I think that now, by no means, is it bad to remove yourself from building a brand, or building a blog…
Lindsay: Not at all. In some ways it’s probably…
Bjork: In some ways it might be better because you can build it and there’s no attachment to you and you can remove yourself. It’s maybe more of a business in that sense.
Bjork: That your building something where maybe, eventually, you just manage other editors or other contributors. In a lot of ways, I think that’s smart. I think that one of the things that’s a reality with injecting your personality into things is number one, we are people-oriented people. We connect with people, not necessarily brands.
In some ways, if you’re just getting started it could be — I don’t think this is necessarily the right term — a competitive advantage in that you’re able to connect with people and bring readers on because there are people out there that want to connect with you.
Even if you feel like, “I’m not very good at telling stories,” or “my personality doesn’t lend itself to that,” I always tell people there’s eight billion people in the world, or whatever. I know for certain that everybody that’s listening to this podcast right now. There is at the very least a thousand people that are cut of the same cloth that you are.
They will follow you in whatever you are doing if you continue to be authentic, put yourself out there, look to help other people.
If you do those things, I think people will come and they’ll find you. Sometimes, it takes a lot time and effort and it doesn’t mean that it’s easy, but I think it can be a very smart intentional move to have yourself be part of your blog or part of your business because people want to connect with people, and we’ve seen that to be true.
Not at all that it’s bad to do a more business-y blog, but it’s definitely something to consider for those that are listening…
Lindsay: Yeah, and I think that…
Bjork: Go ahead.
Lindsay: I think what I would say to anybody listening who is maybe starting her blog or in that early, or not in that early stages of blogging, maybe you’ve been blogging for a while. For me, the biggest thing was just making that a conscious decision and I did have a distinct time.
It was even just recently that was part of doing the survey but where you really say, “What do I want my blog to be? Do I want that to include personal stories? What are my goals with my blog? Do I want to build it up and sell it as a recipe site? Or do I want it to be a personal blog?” Making that decision intentionally, for me, has felt really good and it’s been really helpful in identifying a strong direction that I want to go with my blog.
I would really encourage anybody listening to, if you haven’t, just take some time to think about that and ask your readers. I feel like some of that branding stuff, a lot of it is just intentionally sitting down and making those decisions about where you want to go and what you want to be about. So, just the benefits about that, I guess.
Bjork: For sure. One quick point I want to make about that because we’ve been to a few conferences and people have come up to you and they say, “How do you, you have such a good voice, when you write.” I think that’s really something that is incredible, too. It’s like when you write, you have a voice and people feel like they can connect with that and understand your personality and it’s enjoyable to read.
Do you have any thoughts on how you develop a voice in writing and then I have some things that I want to say that are true too but I don’t want to speak for you, go ahead.
Lindsay: You want me to do a minute to switch and start asking you?
Lindsay: You just tell me what to ask you and then I’ll….I would say for writing, here is what I would say, “Go to pinchofyum.tumblr.com and go right to my first post and read them,” and throw up in your mouth a little bit. It’s a really boring bland, like just embarrassing bad. It’s really bad. Then go to a post I’m doing now and it’s not like whoa, I’m such a good writer now but it’s like wow, it’s a lot better. It’s a lot better.
I think a big part of that is just obviously you do that three times a week for five years and you’re going to get better at it. Also with the same idea of trying to write the blog that you want to read, I really took a lot of inspiration from people that I liked reading. Like in the food blog world, I really, really loved, one of the first blogs that I started reading was, “How Sweet Eats Bites.” It’s a blog by someone named Jessica.
I’ve never actually met her. Hi, Jessica, if you would ever listen to this, I love your blog. Also, I would read “Eat, Live, Run.” It’s a blog by Jenna. I would read Jen Hatmaker. I read Glen and [inaudible 44:07] and these people who have these personalities in their writing. I would just take little tidbits from that and piece it together to make my own style.
There’s this idea like, “Well, then you just taken these writing people and then it’s not your own, you’re copying these people.” But it’s like that’s how you develop a style when you don’t know where else to start, like you’re starting with nothing. To go to my Tumblr, my own Tumblr and read it. It’s like you’re starting with zero or nothing.
So take pieces from people and try them out in your own writing and use that as inspiration. To not just do the same thing but to really work yourself into your own style and to develop what feels good for me, what feels natural.
For me, like looking at other people’s writing that I really liked and what I liked about it was a helpful thing in determining my own style for writing.
Bjork: That is exactly what I was going to say is this idea of like its practice. I feel like you’ve done such a good job like we talked about the beginning of continuing to create content and like even when there was this tension of like, “Ah, I feel like maybe I could be doing something different a little bit better.” It’s like you continued to do it.
I think much like for us, we look back at this for first podcast in 2030 when we’re still doing the food blog podcasts.
Lindsay: In five minutes actually probably.
Bjork: After a request to stop recording and think, “What were you doing?” No, but the idea like it just takes a lot of time to get good at something and there is this book called “Talent is Overrated” that is a really good read, really interesting. But also some really applicable stuff that you can get from it.
One of those things is like everybody that is an expert has this tipping point kind of where they’ve essentially put in 10,000 hours and we think, “Man, that person is just so talented.” That’s a piece of it always. There is always talent there but a lot of times it’s like, it’s time, it’s 10,000 hours. It’s that fast. That added up over a long period of time can get you to a point where people are like, “Wow, you’re really talented.” In your case, it’s like you have a really good voice. That’s from time after time after time practicing and showing up every day, which I think is really cool.
A couple of more questions before we wrap up, Linds. Pinch of Yum started out five years ago and it’s grown to the point where it’s now your full time job and talking about numbers here because we reveal these every month on Pinch of Yum but, so you starting out on zero page views, you’re not making any money from it and you got to a point where now on any given month there’s maybe between two and three million pages and potential profit would be anywhere from 20 to 30 thousand dollars a month.
That’s a really big jump. Again it’s a lot of time. It’s five years. But from zero to where it is now, when you look back what are the things that you say, “These were the things that have the biggest impact overall,” on where things are right now? If you could pin point some of those things, what would those be?
Lindsay: It’s kind of a hard question. This is like the foundation of it all. It just doesn’t happen period if you don’t show up, so you have to show up. There are plenty of people who are far more talented than I am with any of the things that I’m doing, but a strategic advantage or whatever you want to call it, like something that has helped me to sustain my blog and grow it is that I just showed up for five years every three times a week or whatever it’s been.
It sounds overly, like I don’t want to overly simplify it but I just want to reiterate like you cannot make something happen if you’re not doing something. [laughs] You have to post, and then you have to like have something there in order to work with these.
As we’ve gotten smarter about things that we started working on ways to monetize and all of that, obviously that’s like a different thing but just that…It’s just like really a reminder to anybody listening that the foundation of that is a solid base of good content and you can’t do much without that solid base.
Showing up every day is huge. I also think looking for ways that we can teach people and what’s valuable to people and like listening to people’s pain points and their concerns of what are we constantly questions about and then kind of developing our brand around that. Like what do people already see us as experts at and would come to us for support and then using that to offer value to people whether if you’re free content or paid content or whatever it might be.
I think that’s been a huge part too of developing not just like keeping it going, but actually developing as a business and thinking strategically about how we want to monetize the site and kind of grow it.
I don’t know, I feel like it’s always so hard for me to like, “Well, what’s the secret.” There are things you can do strategically to build your blog as a business, but I always really struggle to articulate like one or just a few things which is why I always kind of go back to that really solid base of hopeful content for people.
In my case it was recipe posts and doing enough of those where you start to build traction with that, because without that, you can’t think about monetizing if you don’t have people coming in for any reason to your site and all of that.
Bjork: I think that’s awesome and I think that it’s maybe reassuring for people that there is no secret. It’s not like we hold some type of secret ingredient that we’re applying that we’re not letting anybody know about it. It’s fairly simplistic. It’s not easy by any means, but the formula itself is pretty simplistic.
I think that the other thing too that is important to talk about, you know we talk about this idea of like one percent affinity but its showing up every day and then along with that, I think you’re really good at this, Lindsay, is never becoming complacent with where you’re at. I was thinking about and I see this most with your photography like how do I get better? You’re never satisfied with the photo.
Lindsay: [laughs] Never. I’m actually like, this to a fault I am like never ever satisfied with anything.
Bjork: Which is a blessing and a curse. But I think the take away is how can you show up every day and then not like get leaps and bounce better, but just get a little bit better. What is this one thing that you can do a little bit better with your writing, with your photography, with your recipe, social media, how can you continually be learning.
I don’t think I need to tell that to these people that are listening because they’re listening and they understand the idea of education and continuing getting better but I think it’s an important point to make.
If there’s nothing for you listening to this, I want to say good job to you because you are learning and becoming better and you are awesome.
Closing question, Linds, we are going to wrap this up. If you were to go back to April of 2010 and there is the younger Lindsay, she’s just about to press publish on her first ever post, “Chocolate cheap muffins on a Saturday morning,” what piece of advice would you give her knowing that it’s going to be this journey?
She’s about to start on this weird blog life as Pinch of Yum aka Lindsay Ostrom. What would you tell her?
Lindsay: I would tell myself, I think I would say probably in some way like this Lindsay from the future and what is in for me….
Bjork: So you’ll give yourself a warning, that it’s actually you so that you don’t get confused, that’s great.
Lindsay: I would say just like from where I am now and looking back to that time, I would tell myself or somehow like get it in my head that there’s never going to be a point where you arrive and you feel fully satisfied and fulfilled and 100 percent perfect and great about what you’re doing. Maybe some of these are just my personality like we said before to a fault I’m always like looking to make things better or always able to find something that could use a little improvement.
I think I would just like make sure that I really knew from the get go that like even those early times where nobody was reading my blog, like that was…I would say as fun, it’s not even in some ways, it’s more fun and enjoyable and fulfilling than what I do now. I’m really proud of everything that Pinch of Yum has become and I feel really thankful for the growth that we’ve seen over the last five years.
I had a great time in the beginning and I had a great time when I remember I got a hundred people on Pinch of Yum in one day and that was like, “Whoa!” It was such a big deal. I would just tell myself to really enjoy the process like there is not an arrival point. This is about the enjoyment of building a business and just the enjoyment of food for a food blog and the enjoyment of learning the skills and the process that goes on with it.
And kind of like not to wait or expect that, that arrival point where all of a sudden you’ve made it and everything is awesome but that the whole process in its entirety is really what’s rewarding and fulfilling about the journey.
Bjork: Yeah, and you know we’ve talked about this where we know people or maybe hear of people that build really incredible businesses or blogs and they’ll sell them for seven figures and then what do they do? They go and they start something else. The realization is it’s not that point where you start doing it full time because that’s what we are doing and it’s not like its more or less enjoyable than it was before.
It’s not like the point where you sell your website and then you have seven figures and then you live life on the beach. Because what we’ve learnt is that people always go back to the work and it’s the process like you said. It’s being creative, it’s engaging in new things, it’s learning new things. It’s the means not the end. I think that’s a really good point to end on actually.
Bjork: Linds, thanks so much for being on. It made it really easy for me to interview you and maybe weird for other people to listen to it, but before we wrap up where can people find you online?
Lindsay: My blog is pinchofyum.com, sometimes people think I say pinch of young, like Y-O-U-N-G but no, it’s pinch of yum like Y-U-M. Pinchofyum.com and then I really love Instagram and you can find me there @PinchofYum and twitter @PinchofYum, Facebook @PinchofYum.
Lindsay: Yeah, right, and my most recent online place that I’m kind of loving is Snapchat.
Lindsay: I’m also @PinchofYum on Snapchat.
Bjork: That’s the only place on social media usually that Sage will make an appearance, is that right?
Lindsay: That is. Although I do have a…Maybe worth the mention actually, that I have a VIP Group. So that’s a group of readers who want a little bit extra than just the regular recipe updates and that’s on Facebook. It’s a private group on Facebook, if you just search, I think it’s called Pinch of Yum VIP group or something like that and if you just search for that and then you request to join, I will approve you.
We have a thousand people that are in that group and I just share stuff behind the scenes, new products that are coming up and pictures of Sage as well.
Bjork: Hey, Linds, thanks again for being on the podcast. It was really fun. It was enjoyable.
Lindsay: Thanks for having me, babe. [laughs]
Bjork: Sounds great. Signing off the first official Food Blogger Pro podcast.
Lindsay: OK, see you later.
Bjork: Hey, that’s a wrap, thank you so much for listening. We really, really appreciate it. It’s our first ever Food Blogger Pro podcast, really exciting. Two things that I want to say before we wrap up. Number one, I want to give a huge shout out and a huge thank you to Raquel, our team member from Food Blogger Pro who has done a lot of work getting this podcast up and running.
Number two, if you have time, or if you’d be interested, we would really appreciate it if you jumped into iTunes and leave a review for this podcast. Those ratings and reviews have a huge impact on who end up finding the show, so we would really appreciate it if you are able to do that. Thanks so much for listening to our first ever episode, we’ll see you in episode two.