462: Monetizing Three Blogs, Outsourcing Tasks, and Self-Publishing a Cookbook with Julie Evink from Julie’s Eats & Treats

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A blue photograph of a woman working at a desk with the title of Julie Evink's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Monetizing Three Blogs, Outsourcing Tasks, and Self-Publishing a Cookbook.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and Memberful.

Welcome to episode 462 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Julie Evink from Julie’s Eats & Treats.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Alanna O’Neil. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Monetizing Three Blogs, Outsourcing Tasks, and Self-Publishing a Cookbook

Julie started her first blog, Julie’s Eats & Treats, back in 2010. Since that time she has taken her site full-time, started two other blogs, grown a team, and is self-publishing a cookbook!

In this interview, Julie shares more about growing her blog and how that experience changed her approach to her other two sites. She also chats about outsourcing tasks, how she hires team members, and what she thinks is working really well in her businesses currently.

Her cookbook was recently released (on May 21!), so we also get to hear about the process of self-publishing a cookbook. It’s always fun to hear about the journey of someone who has been blogging for as long as Julie has (14+ years!) and we know you’ll enjoy this interview as much as we did.

A photograph of strawberry mousse with a quote from Julie Evink's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast that reads: "Put your head down and don't compare yourself to other people."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • More about the origin story of Julie’s three blogs.
  • What she learned from her first blog (Julie’s Eats & Treats) in 2010 and later applied to her second blog (Gimme Some Grilling) in 2018.
  • How monetization differs between her niches.
  • How she has built her team over the years (and why she likes having part-time employees).
  • What her day-to-day workflow looks like.
  • Her advice for making food blogging as a career less lonely.
  • What she thinks is working well in her businesses these days (hint: passive income!).
  • How she has diversified her traffic sources (and why that matters to her).
  • The importance of growing an email list.
  • The process of self-publishing a cookbook (including the workflow and initial investment).


Thank you to our sponsors!

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and Memberful.

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Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode!

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

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

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

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Memberful. Looking to find sustainable sources of income from your blog this year that don’t include fighting against changing search engines and social media algorithms? With exclusive membership content, you can create a new source of income by turning your food blog into a membership business while creating the content you’re passionate about. Memberful has everything you need to quickly get your membership program up and running with content gating, paid newsletters, private podcasts, and much more. Plus, Memberful seamlessly integrates with your existing WordPress website, or you can use Memberful to create your own member home within minutes using their in-house tools.

With Memberful, you can create multiple membership tiers, limiting access to certain recipes, meal plans, and cooking tutorials to better connect with your most devoted followers and monetize the content you’re already producing. By using Memberful, you’ll have access to a world-class support team ready to help you set up your membership and grow your revenue. They’re passionate about your success and you’ll always have access to a real human when you need help. Food creators are already using Memberful to foster community within their audiences and monetize their content. Listeners to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast can go to memberful.com/food To learn more about Memberful solutions for food creators and create an account for free. That’s M-E-M-B-E-R-F-U-L.com/food. Thanks again to Memberful for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey, there. This is Emily from The Food Blogger Pro team and you are listening to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. This week on the podcast, Bjork is interviewing Julie from the food blog Julie’s Eats & Treats. Julie started her first blog, Julie’s Eats & Treats, back in 2010. Since that time, she has taken her site full-time and also started two other blogs, Gimme Some Grilling and Kids Activity Guide. In this interview, Julie shares more about how she grew her blog and how everything she learned from going her first site changed what she did with the other two sites. She also shares more about growing a team and how she has prioritized doing what she actually likes to do as part of her business and how she figured out what she does actually like to do. She gives some details on how she hires team members, what she looks for in a new team member, and what she really thinks is working well in her businesses at the moment.

Her cookbook is also being released this month and, in this interview, she tells us more about the process of self-publishing a cookbook, including what the financial investment was, what the process looked like, if she would recommend it or not. Everything really from beginning to end, so it’s really interesting to hear her perspective on that. As a friendly reminder, if you enjoy the podcast today, we would really appreciate it if you would leave a rating or a review anywhere you listen to podcasts or even share the episode on social media or maybe in your email newsletter. We always appreciate it when you help us get the word out about our podcast. Without further ado, I’ll let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Julie, welcome to the podcast.

Julie Evink: Thanks for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s fun to have somebody. Maybe the fidelity of the conversation is higher when you are closer. You’re not technically just down the street, but you are as down the street as it will get when we do podcast interviews with people from Australia. It’s fun to have a conversation with somebody who’s close by here in Minnesota. I would be interested… We always want to talk about somebody’s story, where they’re from, and their origin of being a creator. I want to start by maybe jumping to the middle for you. One of the things that’s interesting about what you’re doing right now is you juggle multiple sites. Talk about how things got started and then talk about starting additional sites to surround what you’re doing and what I would assume to be your main site.

Julie Evink: Yeah. I started Julie’s Eats & Treats in 2010 and that is my main blog. It’s just an everyday Midwestern, easy meals, easy pantry, staple ingredients blog, and it’s super successful. But I would say it was like six years ago, I started a second site and that is called Gimme Some Grilling. That is completely focused on doing backyard grilling, so off the grill, off the smoker, and now off the Blackstone. I created that website. I had grilling recipes here and there on Julie’s Eats & Treats and I saw this evolution of backyard grillers.

The smoker just started to get popular and I was looking for recipes and I’m like, “No one’s taking the Julie’s Eats & Treats approach to backyard grilling, like easy, family-friendly, not sitting by your smoker for 38 hours,” that type of thing. I was like, “I think there’s an opportunity here” I did not own a smoker. We had a really cheap grill and I started it and my husband came home and I was like, “Okay, we have a second blog,” and he’s like, “We might need to buy a grill.”

Bjork Ostrom: For you, it was like you saw an opportunity in that content space and said, “Hey, I think that it would make sense to produce content here.” We also know food and food sites, and so you approached it almost from the strategy perspective, but also having this skill set from the past. You said you started when?

Julie Evink: 2010.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. And then you started the grilling site when?

Julie Evink: In 2018 or ’19, I think.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. So you had eight or nine years of experience producing food content online. I’m always interested the second time around you’re able to apply this knowledge and insight. It is a real life answer to the question that we sometimes ask people, which is like, “If you’re to start today, what would you do?” In that case, what did you do that maybe was different than when you first started? What was the mindset? One of them, my guess, is you’ve had a niche, you picked what that niche was, you saw an opportunity because of the way you saw a market going, people starting to do this more, so there’s an opportunity there. What were some of the other things that you did from a strategy perspective, having the eight to nine years of experience you did and then starting a new site in an adjacent space?

Julie Evink: Yeah. When we started, it was not pretty photos necessarily. We didn’t write a lot about the actual food, that type of thing, so it was fun to jump in. You knew SEO and you knew you needed pretty photos and you needed to share on social and have that all set up and an email list. I mean, in 2010, I think there was Facebook and that was it. Where Julie’s Eats & Treats, the evolution of it was also an evolution with the whole social media and all that. We just learned as things came out, where you started a new one and all that was there. It was like, “Okay…” It was almost more overwhelming because I knew how much went into it, whereas in 2010, it was just fun. You started it as a hobby and you didn’t have all that pressure where you knew what was possible With the second one, I would say,

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. for a handful of people especially who started early, it’s like you were doing it because maybe you think there’s an opportunity, but also because you just are naturally inclined to share content online and it grows with you. there isn’t this inherent pressure of like, “I’m going to build this thing and it’s super competitive and there’s a lot of other people doing it.” It’s just like, “Oh, it becomes a thing.” But when you approach it from the standpoint that you did eight, nine years down the line, it’s kind of like, “Hey, we’re going to be strategic with this. We’re going to probably invest some money into it, some time into it.” It’s a little bit more of a business decision.

So how do you weigh and then… Well, and let’s talk about this Kids Activity Zone. My guess is part of that comes from… We’re in this world. We have a three-year-old and a five-year-old, and so we see all of the different things online, and oftentimes I come up against them and I’m like, “Oh, there’s a cool opportunity here to create kids stuff.” And if you know it, it’s like transferring some of those skills and insights into another category, but also, again, it just takes time and effort. Talk to me about how you make decisions or how you kind of thought through, “Hey, you have this success with your main site and then you want to take something from zero to one, which takes a decent amount of effort.” Let’s say if you have 30 hours in a week, 40 hours in a week, however much time you have… If you take half of that and devote it to a new thing, the inherent risk, the opportunity risk is maybe pointing that time at the thing that was pre-existing and improving that a little bit would have a higher return.

I almost am saying this to myself because I’m a starter as well. How do you process through some of that? Or do you? Is it like, “Hey, this is something that would be fun. I think it would be a cool thing and it has the potential to be a cool business. Let’s do it”?

Julie Evink: Back in the history of Julie, I tended to be a job hopper because I would be like, “Oh, this is fun and new,” and then I’d be like, “I’ve got it,” and then it’s like, “What’s next?” It was just boring.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. Right as you got content.

Julie Evink: Yeah. I was just boring to me at that point. I think that history explains the evolution of all the blogs, but I was also in management. That’s what I’m trained on. I am bachelor’s degree in hotel restaurant management. My brain, back when we were starting blogs and stuff, a lot of people kept all the tasks to themselves where my approach was never like that. As soon as I had money to invest in help, I would hire things out because my motto is, “What doesn’t need Julie, Julie doesn’t do.” My brain is more free to dream and think of the next thing, whether it’s a site or a cookbook or a product or whatever, but that helps. Sometimes starting something new is purely for my brain and keeping me interested in going and it’s not always for the monetization, I would say.

The Kids Activity Zone was actually a COVID baby. I had my kids at home and I started looking for things to do and I was like, “I’m not impressed by the sites I’ve found.” There’s some really good ones, but there’s a lot of them that aren’t set up like food blogs, where they’re easy to find, they’re easy to find the directions, they’re easy to find the printables. I was like, “Oh, I can do this. I can do it like a food blog and approach it that way and make it super easy to use.” That’s kind of where that one started, so I will say monetization on kids’ activities is not as lucrative as recipes, I found out.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Sure. Yeah, it’s interesting. I think sometimes people don’t think about that. The analogy or the example that I have thought was insurance. If you had an insurance blog with as much traffic as Pinch of Yum, what an incredible thing that would be, because advertising the world of insurance is just through the roof because it’s such a lucrative industry for anybody who converts a new customer. Just even across genres of content, that can look different.

Julie Evink: It’s so different. I actually have a little hobby right now, a credit card point hacking, and that’s social media and a website using it for travel. That’s an affiliate thing. That’s where the money comes from there. I’m used to 3% Amazon affiliate and where these other affiliates are paying 100 to $200 a thing. It’s so different how different blog niche is. You make the money in different areas.

Bjork Ostrom: You think of sites like The Points Guy, where it’s like that’s all that they talk about. People go and they look about how to optimize credit card hacking. Here’s a question about that. I’m terrible at that. I’m terrible at travel and I’m terrible at optimization of points. Somehow, I always end up sitting next to the bathrooms in the very back seat and probably paid more than anybody else. For a long time, I was just strictly debit cards because I was like, “That’s all that we’re going to do.” And then Lindsay’s like, “Why?” I was like, “Debit cards. Debit cards. Debit cards.” And then eventually it was like, “Actually, we’re spending quite a bit of money within the businesses, personally. It would probably make sense to think strategically about this.”

Is the main opportunity with credit card point hacking setting up and closing out accounts, or is it like… Because we have American Express Delta SkyMiles cards. That’s what we’re doing and we will maybe get decent flights within it. Maybe this could turn into a credit card points podcast. We could do a segment on it, but what is your strategy for doing it? Does it have to do with opening cards and getting points and then transferring those primarily?

Julie Evink: Yeah. A lot of it is these credit card signup bonuses where you sign up and then you get 75,000 points if you spent $3,000 in three months. A lot of it is that and it’s just being strategic about that and referring your player two, which would be Lindsay for you-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Sure. Sure.

Julie Evink: … and opening up another one. But it’s fun. I saved $16,000 on a vacation I just booked for my family for next February. I mean-

Bjork Ostrom: Through points. Yeah, that’s awesome.

Julie Evink: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Here’s my last question with that and then we can get back to talking about blogging. Would you do the purple Delta card? That’s the thing that I always kind of wonder. Should I do that? It’s like where you have to pay $650 a year, which just feels so ridiculous.

Julie Evink: I didn’t do the purple Delta card. I did the Amex Platinum Business card. That’s like $695, but you have to look at what they give you for that. Because I have the silver Delta one and so you’ll get the companion pass and all that stuff. So kind of have to weigh-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s personal. Yeah.

Julie Evink: … how much you’re traveling and if it’s going to make sense.

Bjork Ostrom: This section brought to you by Amex. Maybe we’ll see if we can get them as a sponsor.

Julie Evink: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, interesting. You have these sites. You’re load balancing across them and you talked about working with a team. One of the things that you talked about that I really like is this idea like, “If it doesn’t matter if you do it, then you don’t do it.” Is that more or less what you’re saying?

Julie Evink: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a lot of those things. I do a lot of those things. I think about that every day. I show up, I’m doing these things, and it’s like, “Gosh, this doesn’t really matter if I’m doing it. It needs to get done.” It’s important for it to get done, but it doesn’t necessarily matter if I’m doing it. What has that been like to find people to work with, to train people to work with, and then what does your current team look like?

Julie Evink: Yeah. Those tasks you talk about, I always feel like there’s some of them that maybe slip because I just didn’t enjoy doing them. It wasn’t in my space. I’m a firm believer of hiring people that would thrive in that position where I am not. I would just literally start a list and I would write down what I didn’t enjoy doing, didn’t bring me joy, didn’t fill my cup. And then as my income progressed and I had the opportunity to hire that out, I would find someone to do that. The ways I kind of found people was, really, over social media just personally or through my blog. I actually really like to hire people that are like 5, 10, 15 hours.

They’re a stay at home mom, they need some extra cash, things like that, where I found it nice because if somebody quit, I could scoop up those tasks and it didn’t stress me out. Where if I had a full-time employee and they quit, I cannot as easily scoop up tasks and get them done for a month until I find somebody else. For me, that was what worked. I never had like, “I need a full-time employee. I have that many things to do.” If I took everyone now, I could, but at that time I would just hire as things like I needed help. That’s kind of how I built my team and I probably have… I mean, I have some professionals, I mean, photographers and videographers, but then I also have the more virtual assistant positions that are those 5, 10, 15-hour a week jobs.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. My guess is that you have somebody 5 hours, 10 hours. It’s flexible for them, they can work when they want to work, it’s a contracted position. Are those people sending you an invoice then and just whatever their process is for invoicing… They maybe have multiple clients, maybe they don’t, and then you or maybe somebody on your team processes the invoices for those people that you’re working with?

Julie Evink: Yeah, exactly. I just have them. Usually, it’s once a month or once every two weeks depending on how they want it set up. They’re subcontractors, they invoice me, and that’s the thing. It’s a flexible position and being a mom, being a woman, I just felt like this was my opportunity to give back. I live in rural Minnesota. A lot of them are somewhat local and there’s not a lot of positions and they’re hard to find, and so-

Bjork Ostrom: Like a remote position that’s 10 hours a week? Yep.

Julie Evink: Yeah. I was just like, “Well, this is how I can get back to my community and give these people opportunity to do something while staying at home with their kids and things like that.” That’s kind of how I looked at it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, that’s great. To recap, essentially it’s like you keep this list and the list is a little bit of a monitor around the things that you might be doing that you don’t want to be doing, or maybe you do like doing them but they’re not the best thing for you to be doing. You have this list and then over time you can create a little part-time job around it and then, using your community, social media, the following that you have, put a little bit of a soft ask out, “Hey, does anybody know somebody who’d be a good fit? Would you be a good fit for this?” Do you actually put a job description on your site somewhere and say, “Here’s what it is,” or is it more of like, “I’m looking for somebody to help with Pinterest five hours a week. If you’re interested, send me an email”?

Julie Evink: Yeah. It’s usually just a static post I put on social media and it’s like, “5 to 10 hours a week, this is what it is,” and then description. I’ll say, “Email me, shoot me a message. Let me see your resume,” and that’s usually how… I get wonderful applicants.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Extremely qualified, extremely capable people who want a flexible job.

Julie Evink: And usually people that are already familiar with my site, because that’s where I’m asking, you know what I mean? Which is a huge thing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, that’s great. This is kind of in the weeds, but I’m just curious. What does it look like for you? Is that something where then you’re actively managing or is it more of like, “Hey, you have this role, you have this position,” and that’s just what it is? “We’ll kind of check in, make sure that everything’s going okay, I’ll send stuff over.” My guess is there’s not a team meeting or a team standup or something like that. It’s like people have their positions. Do team members interact at all? Do you have a Slack space where people work or what does that look like?

Julie Evink: No, it’s really… When I hire them, I’m always like, “I am not a micromanager.” I hire people, I think, that can do the job, and if we need to retrain or anything, we’ll talk. You have questions? You ask me, but it’s very… They do their own thing. They have a very specific realm that they live in and I send them tasks. I use Asana and I just send them tasks and we set up their schedule like they like it. Some people want everything due on Tuesdays and Thursdays, some people like one thing a day. It’s very flexible and I try to make it so it meets their needs. I’m always like, “I don’t want this to be a stress in your life. If it is, we need to talk.” That’s really how I approach it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. That’s great. And then how about you? You’ve been doing this like we have for 14 years. My guess is what you’ve done has evolved and looks different today than it did 14 years ago. What does a typical day or week look like for you?

Julie Evink: Yeah. I also have my husband that works with me. He quit his job two years ago, built us a house, and then came on full-time with us.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.

Julie Evink: I was getting really burned out in the recipe developing aspects, and so he took that over. He’s the man that probably could make a pizza when we got married, so very impressive.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. Incredible.

Julie Evink: But my day-to-day basis is, really, I manage the team and the tasks. I do a lot of the keyword research and what recipes I want developed and just I manage more of the… I would say I’m definitely the manager by now. Does that make sense? I’m not in the weed.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s almost like operations-

Julie Evink: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Bjork Ostrom: … and less of maybe what you’d consider to be individual contributor work, like content creation, photography, video. You talked about that. Is most of your time you have a day, you have some time allocated to work, you’ll sit down, and it’s computer work?

Julie Evink: Yeah. Mm-hmm. 99% computer work.

Bjork Ostrom: And you have a team that’s working to develop the recipe, photograph the recipe, produce video content, and write as well?

Julie Evink: Mm-hmm. And manage social media.

Bjork Ostrom: And social media. That’s a big evolution from being the primary person that is creating it. It’s always so interesting to see with people navigate into their ideals and create their ideal job. It’s one of the benefits that we have and we can talk about that, but for me it looks different than it would for you than it looks different for Lindsay. Lindsay’s dream would actually be to only spend time in the kitchen and to maybe never be on a computer. For other people, it’s like they would love to live in the numbers and the analysis. I think it’s one of the things that’s so incredible about the work we do is even though it seems so similar, there’s actually all of these different, quote, unquote, “job descriptions” that we can build for ourselves. For you, as you thought about building your ideal, was it the continual refinement of your job through the process of saying, “These are the things that I don’t want to do,” and passing those off to getting it to a place now where you are primarily doing the things that only you want to do?

Julie Evink: Yeah. I never really went in with it. I was like, “I want to be the operations person and just do all the delegating and stuff.” That was never my intention. It’s just as you hand it off those things, you’re like, “Oh, so that’s really what I do enjoy.” It was kind of a self-reflection thing. I like to grow and build and create a business so that I’m not the creative brain space probably. When I got into it, reflecting now, I’m like, “No, I like the challenge of growing something.” I mean, I want to help people. I want to have recipes and I love the idea of that, but my true passion and my talent, I would say, is to manage and get everyone, find other people to thrive in positions that I wouldn’t thrive in.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s almost like what you are building is just as much… For some people it would be a recipe, but for you it’s like your recipe is the business. The thing that you are building is the business and that’s almost like the creation. Does that feel accurate?

Julie Evink: 100%. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s your canvas then that you’re building on. When you look at what you’re doing now and that evolution, what do you feel like has been most beneficial for you to actually achieve that, to get the growth of a business without you being involved? Because I think for a certain group of people, that sounds like a really desirable thing. You have this business, you build the business in a way where you kind of replace yourself, and then what happens is you are orchestrating the business, but that’s a hard thing to do. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of creativity, takes a lot of effort. What do you feel like has been most helpful for you as you’ve made that transition into being a place where you can do that?

Julie Evink: I think having the right people with you. You know what I mean? They’re doing their job and stuff and it’s virtual, but knowing the people you trust… You begin that trust, I mean, because they’re doing your baby. This is what you grew. To have that trust and that relationship and that support, I think, is so important. I also think when Jason came home having… It’s been interesting, but having that support from him, too. He’s always been super supportive, but sometimes it’s a lonely road, as we all know, and to connect with other people. He comes on and I’m like, “I don’t like doing this. Would you want to pick up this side?” That type of… and sitting down and being like, “Well, what’s our goals now,” or whatever. I think it got really lonely on top.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Julie Evink: Finding that support and cheerleader and all of that, I think, really is important.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I think it’s one of the realities that a lot of us face is we’re creating businesses digitally that we own. So, naturally we don’t have coworkers and naturally we’re going to not be in an office. We might be in a home office, but we don’t have coworkers. It can get to be really lonely, and if you have a spouse who can come alongside you, incredible. That can be a really a beneficial thing. If not, I think, important to think about who is that person. Do you have thoughts on… or maybe have you seen situations where people maybe don’t have that partner maybe because they don’t have partner, or maybe it’s somebody who doesn’t really get it and isn’t super supportive? Where do you think people find that? Because it’s still an important thing to have a support network. What does that look like and how do you do that, especially in real life situation where it feels like that’s maybe the most valuable or as close as real life as you can get?

Julie Evink: Yeah. We’re lucky because we started blogging so early and I feel like we naturally all lifted each other up, because none of us knew what we were doing. We’re all just trying to figure it out. People that don’t have that support in their day-to-day basis, I would just say find other food bloggers. Join a mastermind, create a mastermind.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.

Julie Evink: Do those type of things because… Go to a conference, meet people, because people don’t get what we do. They do more now, I would say. It is becoming more normalized than it was 5, 10 years ago, but… And then even your friends, even finding a couple friends that might not totally get what you do but you could take a break and go out to lunch with or go grab coffee or something like that and not completely secluding yourself. Or finding someone that may not be a food blogger, but maybe they own their own business or graphic designer or something and bouncing ideas off of. I did a lot of that in our community and stuff. Just finding those little people in your life that can just be that support system, I think, is so important.

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

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You’ve done a lot, so we’ve talked about your three sites. You also have experimented with and have launched a… It looks like some rubs or seasoning for the grilling site. You have a cookbook that’s coming out, which we can talk about. I’m interested to hear, as a creator who’s done a lot of different things and had success in those different areas, what do you feel like is the thing that’s working well for you right now?

Julie Evink: I think it’s always going back to the recipes. I like to serve people in that area and it also is so flexible, that part of the food blog world, creating our own schedule and all that. You don’t have physical products. They always say to diversify your income. That’s great and all, but as I had physical products, it’s a whole new world. I mean, there’s shipping and there’s ordering and there’s marketing and…

Bjork Ostrom: Product development, yeah.

Julie Evink: Yeah. I always think the ROI on building a site tends to, for me at least, just be so much better, so I keep going back to that, I guess. I think that brings me the most joy, so I naturally go back to that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Like a website that brings traffic and that traffic is monetized via affiliate or advertising, maybe working with brands. That, as a formula, is working well. Is that what you’re saying generally speaking?

Julie Evink: Yeah. And it’s passive income.

Bjork Ostrom: And within that recipe content, yeah.

Julie Evink: Right. That passive income is… I mean, that’s all of our goals.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For the sites themselves, could you talk a little bit about what is working from a traffic perspective? I think people are always interested to hear… For a lot of people, it’s search. For others, it’s Pinterest. Some people have a really good strategy around email. Is there anything that you could shine a light on like, “Hey, this is something that’s been helpful or has been working well”?

Julie Evink: My sites have always been slow and steady growth. I’ve never had that unicorn moment and I think we get hooked up on that like… Oh, you watch somebody and all of a sudden they’ll launch off and it’s like, “Where’s my moment?” But I have always been slow and steady and my traffic has always been pretty diversified. I mean, it’s usually 30-some-percent Google, 30-some-percent Pinterest, and then the rest is made up of Facebook and email and different things like that.

I get stuck and I see all these people like, “Oh, search is huge. Search is huge for them.” But then if something happens and something updates in search… I have to remind myself not to get kind of hung up on like, “Oh, I’m not way up on Google or way up on Pinterest.” I like my mix. I have just gotten into email a lot more in the last year and I’ve really focused on growing that. I always go back to that’s the people you kind of own, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Julie Evink: I just said the algorithm can update and something happens. I truly think, in this day and age, that email and the things that… If you’re in the food blogging and know about the cookies going away and all that stuff, I just think email is really where it’s at right now and everyone should be at least trying to focus on that because that’s really key.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s important to point out just this idea of cookies, third party cookies going away, the importance for anybody working with an advertiser to have email addresses because those represent a first party identifier, which allows you to serve more targeted ads. Not only is there the benefit of growing your email list, which allows you direct contact with people, which is a really beneficial thing, but then it also allows you, if you are doing advertising, to earn more in advertising per visit if it’s coming from somebody who’s been identified through their email address. A really important thing to point out, probably could be an entire deep dive podcast episode just on that. But I’m glad that you pointed that out because it is really important.

I love that idea of consistent, diversified, steady growth. We’re in a season where a lot of people have been impacted by a Google algorithm update. If the majority of your traffic is from search and you get a Google algorithm update, that’s a bummer because that’s felt in a very real way. But if you can think strategically about saying, “Okay, I get a lot of search traffic,” what would it look like then to think strategically about email as well or Pinterest, like you said, to diversify that is a really helpful thing.

You called this out a little bit, too, to also be aware of… Oh, man, there’s always going to be somebody who has astronomical growth somewhere. No matter the business you’re in, you could be an actor, you could be a landscaper, you could be a food blogger. There’s always going to be a case where there’s somebody who’s experiencing something that is really desirable in so much of what it looks like for us is finding ways that we can continually show up in an inspired way and avoid that compare and despair mindset, which I think is so easy and so common.

Julie Evink: It is. It’s so easy to do. Every time you get to the next level, I feel like you just look up to the next level and-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s just the next thing. Yeah.

Julie Evink: You never celebrate where you’re at like, “I really did that,” and then it’s like you immediately look for the next thing, and sometimes you just got to get out of your own head.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. Talk to me a little bit about your cookbook. What was the process like for that? Going into it, did you have any thoughts or strategies around how you wanted to approach it?

Julie Evink: Yeah. I think cookbook writing and releasing for food bloggers have really… It’s shifted in the last few years. I remember five, seven years ago, a publishing company would contact you and be like, “I need 100 recipes on this topic in three months and I’m going to pay you $5,000.” I had those and I did the math and I’m like, “I can’t even pay for ingredients and test those, let alone come up with a hundred recipes in a really short amount of time.” It was always hard to pass up those, because I wanted a cookbook and stuff, but when you sat down and penciled it out, it just didn’t make sense.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Julie Evink: I think, in the last two years, I’ve seen other food bloggers come out with cookbooks and they’re self-published. I saw one of my friends did it and I reached out and I was like, “How did you do that? Who helped you?” Because it was like, to me, self-publishing was like you had to figure it all out. You had to figure out the layout and you had to figure out the printing and the editing and all the logistics, and that was super overwhelming to me. Once again, I wanted to find somebody that could help me because that’s the name of my game.

Last January, I sat down with Jason, my husband, and we were just going through our goals and I was like, “My bucket list item is I want to write a cookbook.” And I’m like, “I don’t know if I’ll actually make any money. I don’t know if I’ll sell it.” You know what I mean? But that’s my bucket list. He is like, “Let’s do it. Let’s do it this year.” I reached out to a self-publisher and contacted her and we got things lined up and started in the spring. It was so nice because all that stuff I said was overwhelming. They just walk you right through it. They have the context, they have the editor, they have the printers, they have the shipment, they have the distribution. they have all of that, so my job was to come up with the content which I chose. Nice thing about self-publishing is you don’t have anyone telling you what your cookbook needs to look like, so you get to choose your content and how you structure it and what’s included. I got to make it exactly what I would want in a cookbook and what I thought would help my readers the best.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s like you have complete control over it, which is really nice to not have somebody else weighing in or trying to craft what they think it should be. It’s just like you get to do it. Like you said, usually the intimidating thing in a situation that would be like, “I have to learn how to do all of these things.” But it sounds, like what you said, is you found somebody who knew all of those things and just kind of walked you through it. Can you talk about, even just from a business standpoint, what does the initial investment look like? It could be ranges. Also, what are you able to earn when you sell a self-published cookbook? Will you do a run of thousand cookbooks and have those or will it be print on demand? Talk a little bit about that because I think people would be interested to hear.

Julie Evink: I mean, just hiring the publisher and stuff like that, I mean, that was $30,000. It’s a large investment and then you have to… I forgot to pause and think about, “Oh, I’m going to have some new recipes. I need to hire a photographer that and all those things. I have to ship the cookbooks from China to the US and I have to pay to have them.” There’s a lot of ways you can distribute them. Where I went with a distribution person where they set up Amazon for me, they set up getting online with Barnes & Noble and Target and Walmart and all of those things. I had a larger investment. My cookbooks sells for 34.99 and I get about 12.24 back on each cookbook. You can totally, if you want to, set up a Shopify site or whatever you choose and sell it and ship it and house it and do all that. You can and you’ll get a bigger return, but to me, I didn’t want the headache of figuring out sales tax and shipping and storage for how many cookbooks you order. Like for what I did, you have to order them in bulk. You can order 3,000, you can order 5,000, you can order 10,000. I went with 5,000 just because you get a break on them after so many and you are just throwing a dart at a dartboard. You have no idea.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You haven’t done it before, so it’s like you don’t really know. Yeah.

Julie Evink: Yeah. That’s just what I went with. And then, yeah, they’re all in a warehouse at a distribution center and they have the connections with Amazon. When somebody orders on Amazon, Amazon has ordered from this distribution warehouse and they have them stocked and different things like that. There’s a lot of behind the scenes things that I never imagined.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. But the nice thing is, like you said, if you work with somebody who knows that process, they’re able to walk you through it so you’re not necessarily having to learn it. How did you find that person, the person who has played the role of… It’s almost like a general contractor, but instead of building a house, you’re building a cookbook.

Julie Evink: Right. Unfortunately, Jason can build me a house, but he cannot build me a cookbook.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, right.

Julie Evink: Lauren from Tastes Better From Scratch had just released a cookbook and we know each other, so I just reached out to her. She worked with a self-publisher and gave me her contact info. I approached her and did a meeting with her. I’m a firm believer of you need to click with people or… You know right away if you kind of do or don’t, and we did. Lauren raved about her, so that’s kind of how I picked her and went with her.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. The great thing about that is… We talk about on the podcast occasionally this idea of product. It’s one of the great ways to diversify income if, let’s say, you’re primarily earning from affiliate or maybe ads. To have a product is really great thing and a physical cookbook is a product. Now every a hundred people that sign up for your email list, maybe one or two of them ends up buying a cookbook. You start to build in these layers, and it kind of goes back to that diversification as well. It’s just like all of that over time weighs in on that slow and steady growth kind of trajectory that you talked about and it stacks. And you do that for 14 years and suddenly you have this really incredible business that allows you autonomy, flexibility, and also can be a really well paying job. But you have to do it for a long period of time and you have to show up every single day. For anybody who’s out there in the middle of it, what would your advice be to them to figure out how to stick with something for a long period of time?

Julie Evink: Yeah. I mean, I finally quit my full-time job. I started in 2010 and I didn’t quit my full-time job until 2017 or ’15. I mean, I always know… Yeah, it looks wonderful right now where, in 2024, I got this team. It’s amazing. I got this flexible schedule. There was a lot of years where that was not the case. Don’t compare your now to my now. It is not the same. I think that’s where we, a lot of times, go wrong is seeing where they are after 14 years to where we are after two years, and that’s not the same. But the really big thing is to, I mean, push our head down and don’t compare yourself to other people and find your passion and run your business like you want to run it.

Find out that works for you. What works for me and my team and how I built it may not work for you. Maybe you need an operations person and you want to do the content creation. That’s the joy of this. You can create it however you want and just to keep working. Things are going to fail and not to get hung up on that, to try to learn from it, and try something else or ask questions for somebody or use the resources that are amazingly out there now that I didn’t have. And just to keep plugging away and growing and steady and slow does not mean you’re not growing. It just means that you’re building a great foundation and I think that’s so important, too.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Yeah. I think there’s so much truth in that. We can often compare ourselves to somebody else that’s not a fair comparison for whatever reason, like time being one of them. Maybe available resources is another. We all just have such unique perspectives and unique situations that we’re bringing to the table and there’s something so valuable about playing your own game. Defining what that is, defining what your rules are, and defining what success looks like for you, and then getting after it within your own realm of success and playing your own game. I think that’s awesome.

Julie Evink: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Kind of fun, because as of right now, when this podcast is scheduled to go out is also the day that your cookbook is officially set to be released. If people want to check that out, where can they do that? We’ll link to it in the show notes, include it in the email as well, and so let us know where we can find it. And then any fun launch things that you’re going to be doing on May 21st?

Julie Evink: Yeah. Well, first of all, they can find it online at Amazon, Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble. They all are stocking it, but I have a local boutique, Inherit and Co, and they are a lot online, like 90% of their business, and they do live sales. I know the owners and stuff, so they just finish off this beautiful old building. They redid it and it has a gorgeous kitchen in it. They’re like, “We would love to do something with you sometime,” and I was like, “This is the perfect opportunity.” Actually, we sold tickets to a live event and so there’s going to be an audience, and we are going to sell my cookbook. Whoever orders one gets a signed copy during it and I will be making a few of my recipes that night and the audience gets to taste them and we get to hang out and…

Bjork Ostrom: Fun.

Julie Evink: Yeah, it’s something new, it’s something unique, and it’s just kind of a fun launch celebration.

Bjork Ostrom: This is Inherit Company. It’s like a clothing company?

Julie Evink: Yeah. Uh-huh.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, cool. Yeah, I have it pulled up. That’s awesome.

Julie Evink: Yep.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, what a fun way to kick it off. Yeah. Well, congratulations on doing that. Huge success just in order to get through the process of doing it. Also so great to hear your story. I love of this theme of consistent, slow, steady growth and what happens… We named our company like TinyBit. It’s like tiny bit better every day, forever. What happens is you do all of these things day in and day out and it culminates and you have this cookbook and people buy tickets to an event and you were able to launch a thing into the world. But the only way you can get there is through a thousand small steps. There’s a Food Blogger Pro member in the forums who talked about feeling overwhelmed and she said, “But I remember inch by inch, everything is a cinch.” I was like, “Oh, I love that.”

Julie Evink: Oh, that’s good.

Bjork Ostrom: And I hadn’t heard it before, but I feel like it so applies to everything that we do day in and day out. Last little shout out, if people want to follow along with what you do, Julie… We’ve talked about a few different sites, but is there a social platform that you do spend some time on? I know you have your team doing a lot of that, but if people want to reach out or connect with you, follow along with what you’re up to, what’s the best way to do that?

Julie Evink: Definitely Instagram. I am on there. That is how I connect with people and it truly… I love it because I get to interact with people. I am the one on stories and I am the person there.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. Okay. We’ll make sure to point people there if they want to connect with you there. Congratulations on the book launch and continued success, Julie. Thanks for coming on the podcast.

Julie Evink: Thanks for having me.

Emily Walker: Hey, there, Emily here from The Food Blogger Pro team. We hope you enjoyed this week’s podcast episode and really appreciate you taking the time to tune in and listen. In case you didn’t know, in addition to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, we also have The Food Blogger Pro membership, which is where we teach our members how to start, grow, and monetize their food blog. We have lots of incredible resources to help you on your food blogging journey, including our courses, our community forum, our member-only Live Q&As, our deals and discounts page, and so much more.

You’ll get instant access to all of this when you sign up for a Food Blogger Pro membership. We have two awesome membership options available to you, our yearly membership or our quarterly membership, which is just $99 a quarter and allows for some more flexibility if you want to try the membership out and see if it’s a good fit for you. If you’re interested and want to learn more or to sign up, head to foodbloggerpro.com/join. We are so grateful for our Food Blogger Pro community and we would love to have you join us. Thanks so much for tuning in this week and we’ll see you back here next week for another episode. Have a great week, everybody.

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