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Welcome to episode 302 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Nisha Vora from Rainbow Plant Life about how she has grown her brand online.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted about using Google Search Console. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Nisha is a lawyer-turned-food blogger, and she’s here on the podcast to talk about her journey and to share what has made the biggest impacts in growing her brand online.
She talks about creating engaging YouTube videos and how YouTube analytics can help shape your video strategy, as well as how she’s building her team in order to thrive in the work she loves to do.
Her brand, Rainbow Plant Life, has seen quite a bit of growth over the past few years, and you’ll learn about her most successful growth strategies in this episode.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What her experiences backpacking around the world was like
- What she changed about her life after her backpacking experience
- How she got into food blogging
- When she realized she could blog full-time
- The most impactful things she did to grow her brand
- How she grew her YouTube channel
- The most important metrics on YouTube
- Which platform is the most valuable to her and her brand
- What her week looks like as a creator
- What it’s like to build a team
- What she expects her brand to look like in the future
- Her advice for her past self
- Rainbow Plant Life
- 298: Book Nook – Six Takeaways from The E Myth Revisited with Bjork Ostrom
- Mr. Beast
- Who Not How
- Follow Nisha on Instagram and YouTube
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community!
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: Very excited to have Nisha on the podcast today. For the first time ever, we are doing a intro during the actual interview, so I’m going to set this up. You can let me know how accurate it is, Nisha. We’re going to be talking about a lot of different things today, growing your business with success within the past few years, which is great because a lot of people are like, hey, you have these people who have been blogging for like 12 years, which is great, but I want to talk to somebody who’s built something in a short period of time. You’ve done that. We’re going to talk about leaving your job as a successful attorney. We’re going to be talking about backpacking around the world. We’re going to be talking about hiring a team, which you’re starting to do, which is so important.
Bjork Ostrom: Then also, a lot of different platforms that you’ve had success on your blog, Instagram, YouTube. Anything I’m missing there or does that do a good recap intro of what we’ll be hitting here today?
Nisha Vora: I think that sounds good. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Cool. Welcome to the podcast. Super excited to talk to you, Nisha, for a lot of the reasons that I talked about before. Before we jumped into talking about your blog, your site, your business, I wanted to rewind the tape a little bit to 2014, where you have this kind of pivotal moment, it seems like, from reading about your story a little bit, where you leave your job as a successful attorney, successful lawyer, whatever bucket you’d want to put that in, and take six months to backpack around the world with your partner. What was that time in your life like, and why did you decide to pull the rip cord on your currently successful career and have a big shift?
Nisha Vora: Well, thank you so much for having me on the podcast, Bjork, big fan, so really excited to be here. Yes, 2014, definitely a pivotal moment in my life. I had been working as a corporate lawyer, one of those like big law firms on Wall Street for two years after law school and hated it as much as you could imagine hating a job for many reasons. I had the markings of success, like the trappings of success. I went to a “prestigious” law school. I’m using air quotes for people who can’t see. I was working at a prestigious law firm, I had done all the things like I was supposed to do in my field in terms of being successful, but I was miserable.
Nisha Vora: I was like, why am I living this kind of life where I dread getting up in the morning, even though I’m a morning person. I live for the weekends, but I can’t even enjoy my weekends because I might have to work, and I’m just living in a constant state of anxiety. My partner was also working a lot when we decided to just kind of up and quit. We’ve been planning for a couple of months about where do we want to travel and like how were we going to make it happen and how were we going to budget it? It was probably the biggest risk I had taken up to that point, being a very type A risk averse person.
Bjork Ostrom: At what point in that process did you know like, oh shoot, I’ve spent a lot of time building up to this being my career and now I don’t want this to be my career?
Nisha Vora: It wasn’t that dramatic because I knew that I didn’t want to work at a big corporate law firm for the rest of my life. I knew that was going to be kind of a short-term thing, but I also knew that I was young and that I didn’t really have that many other opportunities to do something this interesting and this off the beaten path, and it just felt like I was really stuck in that moment and I wanted to explore something different, and I definitely did that while we were traveling.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. In those six months, what do you feel like you learned coming out of it about yourself and career?
Nisha Vora: I call it my eat, pray, love moment, like as a joke.
Bjork Ostrom: But also seriously.
Nisha Vora: Yeah, it’s like you discover, what are the things that make me happy in life? What are the steps I need to do to build an intentionally conscious, purposeful, happy life, because being happy requires work in some sense, like you have to create practices that you cultivate and stick to. It just doesn’t like fall from the sky, and I really wanted to be more intentional about how I was living my life in a way that aligned with my values, but also would just make me happy and enjoy myself.
Nisha Vora: I’ve never been shy of working hard, so it wasn’t like I didn’t want to work hard, but I wanted to work hard for something that I was genuinely interested in. We had a couple of moments along the way during our travels where it was very clear to me that like, oh wait, you only have one life to live. Again, super corny, super cheesy, super vague.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, super real.
Nisha Vora: But also you’re like, oh no, but I really just have this one life, and if I’m not living it with purpose and with intention, anyways, I desire to make the world a better place and to make myself a better person, then what is the point?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Do you remember one of those moments when you were on that trip and you’re like, oh my gosh, one life to live.
Nisha Vora: Yes. We were in Nepal. We did a long, like three week … It was supposed to be a three week trek in the Himalayan Mountains. It was an October, which is supposed to be their best season for trekking. Unfortunately, there was a freak avalanche on the route we were on and actually like 40 people died, and they were a few days ahead of us on their trucks. So, it was just a complete freak accident and it was really scary. With hindsight, I was like, that could have been us. Things like that will definitely kick your butt into gear in terms of like, figuring out what kind of life you want to live.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. Just this morning, I recorded a podcast, we’re doing this series called Book Nook, and it’s recapping certain books that we’ve enjoyed or talked about on the podcast. One of them is E-Myth, the E-Myth Revisited, and in that book, he talks a lot about how your business is a component of your life and you have to be just as intentional with building your life as you do with your business. I think a lot of what we do, and a lot of what people are interested in when they are building a business is also figuring out how to fit that well within their life. What is something that both I’m passionate about, I’m interested in, but then also, aligns with how I want to be living? Coming out of that, what did that look like? What did you change about your life and the work that you’re doing?
Nisha Vora: I returned back to New York city where we were living and I continued practicing law, but in a much different environment that was more aligned with my values of justice and equality. I also scaled back on the things that I thought were making me happy, like living in a luxury apartment and going to fancy dinners. It was more like, oh, no, the things I enjoy are spending time with friends and family, even if it’s not in a super fancy schmancy setting. I practiced basically non-profit law for almost two years, but after the first few months, I knew that there was still something missing. I felt more comfortable in that environment. I felt like I was working towards something better. But I just knew that I wasn’t really supposed to be practicing law.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. At what point did you realize that, like you were like, oh my gosh, this actually isn’t for me?
Nisha Vora: Yeah. Probably like six months in because I had great work hours at this point. I was working like 9:00 to 6:00, instead of like 9:00 to 10:00 or these crazy law firm hours. I was working with incredible human beings who were just like the most selfless, wonderful, loving people. It still wasn’t clicking, and a lot of the work I was doing was in court and I just hated the adversarial nature of it. I’m like, I should have known that’s what I signed up for. But until I was put into the situations, I didn’t realize how much I hated being in those conflict heavy situations.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Have you ever done StrengthsFinder? It’s like a personality quiz and it gives you your top five strengths. One of them is harmony. For me, every time I’ve done it, it’s like, harmony is always like a strength. I just really don’t like when there’s people that are disagreeing on things, which is like, I’m okay with it and we can work through it, but it’s like, I have friends who seek that out. It’s like, oh, they’re great attorneys. Those are people who you want to argue and argue hard and not give up. Whereas, if I’m in a situation like that, as quickly as possible, I want to get to a point where people are understood, they feel good about where everybody’s at.
Nisha Vora: Yeah, I wanted to make people feel good.
Bjork Ostrom: It sounds like a version of that was true for you. Whereas like, hey, I don’t necessarily want to be in continual situations where people are in disagreement.
Nisha Vora: Yeah, and there was also the more structural issues of like, I went to law school super naive and bright eyed thinking that I could use the law to change the world and help people. It’s a really conservative, static force that is hard to change. Obviously, it does change on occasion and very slowly, but I felt like I wasn’t really able to make changes in people’s lives in the way I thought that I could have very nicely.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Was the next version of what you imagined doing like publishing content online and building a brand?
Nisha Vora: No. When I had this second job where I had better hours, I just started posting to Instagram my food photos as a hobby. I have always loved cooking and food. I started teaching myself how to cook when I was a teenager. I was like, oh, I have all this free time. I’m just going to do this as a creative outlet. I didn’t even really know what a food blogger was at the time, aside from the fact that I had been to food blogs, but I didn’t know what it was like as a job. So, it was definitely just starting as just a fun outlet.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and at what point were you like, hey, I could actually do this?
Nisha Vora: I could actually do this, there’s two chapters to that. After about, I don’t know, eight months of doing, just like food Instagram really is all I was doing. I had a blog, but it was more related to the things I was talking about earlier like my experiments with happiness and the things I had learned from traveling. But I was like, oh, I’m having this success on Instagram. I’m like really enjoying this food space. Can I leverage that into a job, like an actual job at a food startup or food publication? Then a couple of years later, I was like, okay, can I leverage this into my full-time business?
Nisha Vora: I went to work at a food startup starting at the very beginning of 2017 at a place called Hungryroot. It’s like a healthy, casual, fast-food startup, delivering food in New York City and across the country. I started there doing social media, like recipes, photography, all these things. I was like, hey, look, I can do this on Instagram. I can do this for you too. I was doing that while I was building my own business on the side.
Bjork Ostrom: Did you know at that point? My experience was, when I was at a nonprofit, they needed help doing like random IT stuff. I was like, awesome, I’m interested in that. I know it’s somewhere that I kind of want to go generally speaking. Did you know at that point that the work that you were doing was leading up to something that you eventually wanted to do as a business owner? Or did it happen just to be that you came out of that with those skills and abilities that then you just, instead of working for another company, you folded that into what you wanted to do. Did you know it was kind of like on the job training for being an entrepreneur and building what is essentially a publishing business?
Nisha Vora: When I started, absolutely not. Again, I didn’t really know that people did this for a full-time living. I was just trying to get out of law and leverage my new found creative skills and to work where I was getting paid, I was getting a salary, I had benefits, and I was like, I liked the workplace, I liked the people, I liked the job. Initially, it was definitely not like, I’m going to then use these skills to start my own business. It was more that like Rainbow Plant Life continued to grow as a side hustle while I was working there and eventually it just became too much to do all of them at the same time.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. Lindsay and I had a similar experience where we’re working our full-time jobs and also working to build the thing that we’re trying to build. At some point, you realize you’re doing essentially two full-time things and you can’t do that for a long period of time. How did you know when to make the switch, and how did you feel confident in making that switch?
Nisha Vora: A couple reasons, I felt like it was time. One, I just knew that I was having this itch to be my own boss. I think that’s something I’ve probably had in my DNA. My dad is the same way. He’s like, I’ll never work for anyone else, once I’ve worked for myself kind of thing.
Bjork Ostrom: What did your dad do or does do?
Nisha Vora: He’s a doctor. He’s like semi-retired now, but he started his own practice without very much knowledge or money in a small town, and was just like, I’m never going to work for anyone else. So, probably part of my DNA. But also, I truthfully had a little bit of a mental health crisis. I was just working so much like 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM, Monday through Friday, probably eight to 12 hours on the weekend. I was just doing too much, and I felt like I couldn’t do the best at either of my jobs and I knew I needed to make a change. I felt like I had gotten a lot out of the job that I was working out in the food startup.
Nisha Vora: I had gone from just doing basic stuff on Instagram to managing really large photo shoots and things like that. I felt like I had developed a lot of important skills and gotten a lot out of it, and I just felt like it was time. The biggest, I think, not hurdle, but the thing that was stopping me was like stability. Again, being a lawyer in the past, I’m a risk averse person. I was like, am I going to be able to make a stable income? I would have taken a pay cut, that would have been fine. I just needed to know like, will I be able to make enough money to make ends meet, especially living in New York City? But yeah, it felt like the right time to make that switch.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. At that point, did you have like a year track record with your business and saying like, okay, I know that if I look back at how much I’ve earned from the site, Instagram, YouTube, whatever, it would be that, with some level of predictability, I can have this moving forward? Or did you have to backfill that and say, now that I’m focusing on this full-time, I’m really going to have to hustle to fill the gaps in order to live in New York City, pay rent, do all the things that you need to do, because I think a lot of people struggle with that.
Bjork Ostrom: When you are capped out, do you cut what you’re doing and say, now I’m going to focus on this full-time and really try and make it work, or do you do whatever you can to get to the point where you can get on the low end of what it takes to sustain day-to-day, and then make the switch once you’ve gotten there? For Lindsay and I, that’s what it was. We were coming from jobs, where number one, we live in the Midwest in Minnesota. Lindsay was a teacher and I worked at a nonprofit, so our lifestyle-
Nisha Vora: You weren’t making-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We didn’t have a huge amount to replace from a lifestyle perspective, but still, there was a little bit of nervousness around that. We were really slow to make that transition. What did that look like for you?
Nisha Vora: I definitely wasn’t making that much in my business when I quit, because I wasn’t able to focus on that stuff. I didn’t even have ads on my blog at the time. I don’t think I had … I probably have enough traffic to have ads, but I did not have ads at all. I had a very small YouTube audience at that point, so I certainly wasn’t making enough or really that much at all. But I did have the cookbook, so I had written a cookbook. Probably my cookbook came out like a month before I quit, so I had like advances from that. It was a nice chunk of change.
Nisha Vora: I had savings from my past jobs, so I didn’t have a very clear sense of all the different ways I was going to scale up my business monetary-wise, but I also knew that I’m super hardworking. I’m pretty good at what I do and I knew that there was so much more room for improvement and optimization. Talking to other friends who were doing this full-time, I was like, I’m sure that I could make it happen, and if I don’t after a year, then I will reevaluate and try to find a more traditional job back in the workforce. So, it was-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s something that sometimes people forget is like, it’s not do I do this or do I not do this? It’s you can make the decision to do it, but then also have a fallback. Like, hey, in a year, if I’m not there, I can fall back on these other things, whether that be, in your case, you could do law. You have the skills and abilities to do photography, recipe development, you can product manage, or project manage. If you were to go back and look at that time period where you did make the switch, would you have done anything different?
Nisha Vora: I would’ve made it sooner, honestly, for my mental health.
Bjork Ostrom: Why is that.
Nisha Vora: As I mentioned, just spent too many months being frazzled and all over the place. Also, again, I didn’t know that this could be a very financially lucrative career. I really had no sense of, if you could optimize certain things, then you could make a nice living. I think I would’ve just done it earlier and then I would have started this earlier in terms of … Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s like, you don’t know until you know. With Rainbow Plant Life, you had mentioned that before, that’s your brand, what were the things that you did optimize early that were the most impactful? You get into it, now you have this time, you’re used to working 12 hour days, so it’s like you’re willing to hustle and work hard and you say, okay, I need to make this work as a business, what were those things that were most impactful?
Nisha Vora: I would say honestly, the first six months weren’t that impactful in at least in terms of the output and the results I could see. I was definitely putting in a lot of work on the input side. But I think the first six, maybe nine months were like building up towards that, getting the momentum, figuring out how to better write a blog post, figuring out how to like produce a more thoughtful well-planned out YouTube video. I think spending a lot of time on the analytics of my YouTube channel really helped it grow as much as it has in the last year.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about that? I think that’s a really … You had said two things within that. A thoughtful well or well-thought out YouTube video and then spending time within the analytics. How do you do that and what was the outcome for you doing that?
Nisha Vora: The how you do that part is a shout out to my partner who is like very analytical minded and loves sitting with the numbers, and I don’t at all. One, I just am not a numbers person, but I also think it kind of pulls away the creativity from me by focusing on all that. So, it’s a lot of him looking at that and saying like, okay, your watch time was really high in this month and that’s because we did two videos that really brought in a bunch of new audience members, and like, we should iterate on that and create more videos like this, or your audience retention is really low in this video. It’s probably because you just blabbed on at the beginning without getting straight to the point. Next video’s like, your intro has to be super tight and needs to be like 20 seconds or less whatever.
Nisha Vora: Then thoughtful planning out of videos, so I think when I first started YouTube a couple of years ago, I literally did not watch YouTube at all. I didn’t know how, why people came to YouTube, what they were looking for, and I was just like, oh, other vegan creators are making videos like three healthy salad recipes or three overnight oats recipes. I was like, maybe I will do that. It was never content I was super interested in because I would much rather create recipes where I’m like teaching how to cook and I’m showing you something a little special or a little bit extra.
Nisha Vora: And so in the last year, give or take, I’ve been like, okay, let’s be thoughtful about the content that I’m creating and making sure that it’s on brand, making sure that I’m giving value to the audience and not just doing what every other content creator is doing.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s such a hard thing to do though, because you see other people doing something and you’re like, I need to do that same thing.
Nisha Vora: Yeah, and of course, you might have success with it, but if someone else has already done it first and has done it better than you, you’re probably not going to see success with that, and also just in terms of like delivering value, how much more value are you delivering if we’re just doing an iteration of what someone else is doing, even if it’s totally different recipes, you’re not copying the recipes, but it’s still not super valued.
Bjork Ostrom: It seems like there’s kind of a cool balance that you have there, which is figuring out what your brand is, what’s on brand, who am I as a content creator, along with, how do people respond to the content that I’m creating, and then allowing the analytics and the data to inform how you are going to change as a content creator, as opposed to just looking at what somebody else is doing and saying like, well, I’m going to try that. An example being like tightening up and making sure that you have a short to the point intro.
Bjork Ostrom: It was one of the things I noticed when I was watching some of your videos is like, hey, you jump into it really quick, and the significance of watch time as it relates to a short intro. There’s a couple of things with YouTube that you mentioned watch time, and then there’s another, I forget what the other one was, but can you talk about some of the data that’s available in the YouTube backend and what you’d consider to be the most important data and the most important metrics about YouTube, knowing that maybe it’s not this place that you spend most of the time, if you’re like grocery, I’ll check isle seven for that stuff, and then people can go and learn more about it on their own, but what would you consider to be the most important metrics for YouTube?
Nisha Vora: Yeah, I would say watch time. That’s like the amount of time watched of your video. So, if you have a 10 minute video, but only three minutes of your video were watched, like maybe that’s not the best time, but if seven or eight minutes of your video are watched, like that’s probably quite good. The way to improve your watch time, again, part of it is like hooking your viewer in the beginning without giving them all this extra fluff. Unless of course, you’re already an established channel and maybe you’re known for vlogging and people are like, would you just spew off the cuff? Finding that hook, and then like, a lot of things that help are like constant cutting of different angles, like different like B roll.
Nisha Vora: Keeping the audience engaged instead of just you doing one thing on camera or just showing an overhead like, oh, and then I’m going to add this to the overhead shot and then this and this. You just like, you want to like provide different angles and different cuts and different jump cuts so people are staying engaged. The other that are, I think, important, I guess, I mentioned audience retention earlier. So, if you, within the first 30 seconds lose 50% of your audience, that’s really bad. You need to think about, how can I get at maybe like 60% or 70%, whatever the metric that you want to work up to, to get them to stay within the first 30 seconds.
Nisha Vora: Part of doing that is again, not blabbing in the beginning about use of things, but also delivering on what your title and thumbnail promised, and this is something I’m still working on., so I don’t want to pretend I’m an expert because I’m not. But if your title says that you’re going to teach someone how to make the best lasagna and you have this beautiful photo was on you in the thumbnail, but in the first 30 seconds, you’re talking about how your grandmother used to make you lasagna, and it’s just this narrative part, and you don’t see any actual lasagna that looks like the best lasagna, people are going to click out of that.
Nisha Vora: I think, overall in terms of YouTube, views in general are the most important relative to like subscriber account. You can have a relatively small channel and still, if you make an excellent video on a topic that people really want to watch or are searching for, you could get hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of views, even if you have a small account. It’s a little bit more of a meritocracy, think then like Instagram or having a blog. Yeah, that was a lot.
Bjork Ostrom: No, that’s great. It’s interesting, some of the videos that I watch, one, because I get sucked in because they’re so good for that exact same reason, but also almost as an observation of content creators on YouTube of which we’re … That’s not as specialty for us, but I’m interested in just from a content platform. I think of MrBeast Have you ever watched any MrBeast videos?
Nisha Vora: I’ve seen a couple, but I know he’s huge.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s not like you’re going to have a MrBeast swag that you’re wearing or something, but for anybody who is interested in YouTube, I feel like it’s a great channel to check out, because some of the things that you talked about, like delivering on the title of what it is and how quickly things move, it’s amazing in a movie, in a TV show, or on YouTube, how quickly you have to cut from one thing to the next. It’s like a few seconds sometimes in between, and MrBeast content, the longer form stuff does a really good job of showing that. It’s like three seconds here, three seconds there, and it’s really significant things that they’re showing.
Bjork Ostrom: You could probably do a minute just in one area, whatever it is, like digging out a car to try and find the car keys, then you win … It’s like all of these crazy weird things, but it moves so quickly, and that just being so important for YouTube. You have YouTube, you have Instagram, that’s kind of where you started. You have your blog. Would you consider one of those to be the most valuable platform, and do you focus on one of those more than the others?
Nisha Vora: Oh, that’s a good question. I started with Instagram. I don’t think it’s the most valuable, I think it’s great for building a community and I love my community there, and so this is not to say that they’re not beautiful. I love being in my DMs with my people, all this stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: Not an observation that people can follow you there, but just like, yeah, business value.
Nisha Vora: I mean, I think it’s monetizing now. Maybe that’s going to be helpful for creators.
Bjork Ostrom: Through sponsor content?
Nisha Vora: I think they’re also monetizing IGTV, but IGTV is kind of dead, so I don’t really know what the plan is, but it also doesn’t drive traffic. If I look at my analytics, it’s such a tiny percentage of the traffic that goes to my blog relative to how big my audience is there. YouTube, on the other hand, is I would say the opposite. The people there are so much more engaged with you as a person because you’re on camera, whereas you can be on camera on Instagram, but if you’re a food blogger, it’s mostly your food that you’re presenting, and so a little harder for people to get invested in you as a person and you and your content, because there’s so many other food photos to look at. I think YouTube is super valuable for creating a very engaged audience that’s really, really interested in what you’re doing and when your next video is coming out.
Nisha Vora: They’re also going to be super excited to try your recipe. I think now, whenever I release a video, there are tons of people who are making my recipe that same day. They’re like super excited about it. Whereas like, maybe they’re doing on Instagram. I have no way of knowing, but there’s just so much more excitement around people who are following you on YouTube consistently, and they’re also going to be better, I think, blog readers in the sense that they’re spending more time on the page, at least from what I can gather. They’re more likely to leave a comment or rate the recipe or things like that.
Nisha Vora: I have a hard time comparing the blog with YouTube or Instagram because it’s not social media. It’s a bit different, but it is, I think super valuable in terms of building your credibility as a recipe developer, because that’s where people get the recipes from and that’s where they’re going to see whether it works or not and they’re going to leave they’re glowing or not so glowing reviews. Obviously it’s monetized, so you’re going to be getting what is essentially passive income for content that you might want to already create. But I don’t really know how to compare the blog with social media.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. One of the things I see sometimes is somebody is like all in on YouTube and they are kind of a YouTube personality, and then the blog is almost like this afterthought where maybe they post their YouTube videos to that, or you see people who are all in on their blog, Pinch of Yum is going to be an example of this, and YouTube as an afterthought, where like, we have these videos, they’re kind of optimized for Instagram. They’re may be like a minute long. We’re going to post them to YouTube. As you know, that’s not a great way to produce content on YouTube, but I think you … What’s interesting with what you’re doing is, it’s a really good balance between both.
Bjork Ostrom: You’re doing an awesome job on YouTube, have a really strong following there, 500,000 plus, and you have a really well done site and a really quality site. The balance between those seems like a really hard thing to do. I’m interested to know, how do you do that? What does your day to day look like? Are you still working 12 hour days, but it just feels better because it’s work that you like? What does the day to day, week to week look like for you as a creator?
Nisha Vora: The one thing I will say real quick is that this is my planner and this is what that helps me stay like super organized in terms of like the different buckets, because I like, we’ll do a weekly review. I just did it this morning. There are the buckets of like, okay, here are the things that need to get done for YouTube, here are the things I need done for Instagram and for blog, and Pinterest, and all the different things. Some of it overlaps and some of it’s like very distinct. I try to set aside certain days for those kinds of things, although now that I’m writing my second cookbook, it’s like a little bit messier. But also, I mentioned my partner, he unofficially works part-time with Rainbow Plant Life.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Assistant? Is it Max?
Nisha Vora: His name’s Max.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, okay. Great.
Nisha Vora: He does a lot of the administrative upkeep and the operational stuff that I don’t have time to, so that helps to keep me organized. I have various people on my team who aren’t like full-time, but are really good at what they do, and so they help to like pick up the things in certain areas that I don’t have time for. Yeah, I still work a lot, but I also love it and it’s really exciting to be able to work on a business that I’m building that is super valuable to, I think, at least valuable to my readers and to my audience members, and also super valuable to me. I probably should work a little bit less, but I also, at the same time, really enjoy it. It’s a tricky balance.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s the thing that’s interesting to observe is, you could potentially be working the exact same amount that you were when you were a lawyer, but your relationship with that work might be different. I know that’s the case for me. If I have a really long day with work that I have a bad relationship with, that I don’t look forward to, or that I don’t enjoy the feeling of that is different if I have a really long day of work that I really enjoy. We kind of use this, it’s like there’s only one word for snow in the English language, but in other countries where there’s snow all the time, Minnesotas, we should probably have more than one word for it.
Nisha Vora: Yeah, you should.
Bjork Ostrom: They have multiple ways to describe snow, but I feel like the same could be true for work, right? You could work 12 hour day, and it could be like terrible work or awesome work, and what it feels like to come out of that is very different. At the same time, you had talked about starting to work with people who are supporting you. A lot of times, that happens within our family, whether that be, I know people who have hired or brought on their parents, sometimes a spouse, kids, depending on where people are at in their family and who’s available and interested and willing to help out, but it sounds like you’re also working with some people to support you who are outside of your family.
Bjork Ostrom: What did that look like to start building that team? I saw that you’re now also hiring somebody in kind of like a 20 to 30 hour capacity. So, it’s like, oh, this is officially starting to get into building a team. It’s not just you now and your daily planner, it’s now building that out into other people and sharing tasks and projects. What does it look like now and what are you building towards in terms of building a team?
Nisha Vora: My goal, at least for now is to take everything off my plate that I don’t think I’m the best at, or that I really don’t have the time for and don’t want to make the time for. I hired a video editor last year to edit a lot of my videos, not all of them, but the YouTube ones, some other things. I don’t dislike video editing, but I don’t have advanced skills, and it also takes up a lot of time. I have an assistant who works remotely and does a lot of behind the scenes social media stuff, Pinterest stuff, again, stuff that I could do, but I’m not necessarily great at, and she’s much better at, and it’s off my plate.
Nisha Vora: I am hiring right now for an in-person role to be like in the kitchen with me, who’s going to test all the recipes who’s going to like help me tweak recipes, just do a lot of kitchen things that I could for instance, develop three recipes a week instead of one right now if I had someone else doing that kind of stuff for me. I hired a CPA because I literally have zero interest or desire to look at the taxes and the financial stuff. Finding little areas where I’m like, this could save 10 hours of my week or this could save five hours a week or this could save 20 hours of my week. How can I do that? Now that I … COVID is sort of slowly lifting up and people are getting back…
Bjork Ostrom: Better than it was at its worst, for sure. Yeah.
Nisha Vora: Yes. I wanted to start hiring someone in-person literally, I was thinking about it last March and then obviously that couldn’t be done. As things start to get back into a little bit of a safer place, I’m definitely interested in continuing to build it more of a team that I can work with, maybe not every day in person, but a little bit more for structure and things like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. How did you find some of those, like the assistant that you worked with and then the video editor? I think once you get into the rhythm of doing it, you kind of discover, oh, especially as a creator blogger, you have a built-in audience and people who understand you and kind of you know that they’ve self-selected into being … In your case, it’s like, there’s a good chance they’ll be vegan, and that’s probably an important piece for somebody who’s going to be recipe testing that they understand that. But how did you find those early people? What did that look like to bring on employee number one or team member number two or whatever you would want to call it?
Nisha Vora: My assistant was someone in my community who reached out and we kind of took it from there. For like the more contractor roles, I would say, where they’re like, we do video editing or we do blog maintenance or whatever, it was a lot of looking at what other people were doing in terms of like, if they listed, who they worked with, or if it was someone I knew, and I asked like, who are you working with? And are you willing to share that information? Or looking at websites for instance, and seeing like, who did the website or who do they list as like their point of contact for X thing that they do a Y thing, and kind of like going down a rabbit hole. So, it’s a little bit of a mix of both. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: What I love about that is I think one of the shortcuts that we can have as business owners is figuring out who, not what. It’s actually the title of a book. I was talking with my friend Bruno the other day, who has a site called InfluenceKit. It looks like Dan Sullivan, Benjamin Hardy are the authors, but the idea is like, you know that you need blog maintenance. You don’t know exactly specifically what it is that you want, but you know, if you find who it is that that does it and does it well, it’s going to be a shortcut to getting that done. I feel like accounting and CPA work is a great example of that. But essentially, finding the people who are really good at it, bringing them on and saying, I want you to do what you are good at in this capacity.
Bjork Ostrom: I think of another example of four TinyBit, which is the parent company over Pinch of Yum Food Blogger Pro. We knew that it’s going to get really complicated from a finance perspective, because we have one parent company and then these companies underneath. So, we were working with a fractional CFO who has a history in private equity, which is … They would buy all these companies and operate them. So, we’re like this really tiny version of what he used to do, but it’s great because I don’t even know sometimes what I need to know.
Bjork Ostrom: It sounds like you’re starting to look at doing that where it’s like, hey, bring in a CPA. Great. I don’t want to do accounting. They know accounting. The key piece to what you’ve talked about is finding people in similar industries. It’s helpful if you can reach out to people you know, maybe you’re in a group, Food Blogger Pro. You could go in and post to the forums. People have done this, hey, we need to CPA, ideally somebody in California, does anybody know anybody? If you have somebody who can say, yeah, we work with this person and they understand blogging and publishing, there’s going to be a shortcut there. You’re not going to have to explain stuff. They’re going to know, and they’re going to understand it.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have thoughts on how big you’d want to grow that? Do you have an ideal of like, hey, I would love to be a five person team, but no bigger than that. Then the second piece of that is, do you always want to be kind of the front and center? Is this going to be a personality driven brand where Nisha is the business and the brand, or can you see it building beyond that at some point?
Nisha Vora: For the first question, I don’t know. I am not someone who has like a five-year plan or a ten-year plan. I am very organized, but I also try to like stick to what’s happening now or what’s happening in the near future. I don’t have any specific thoughts about how big I want the team to grow or how big I might be able to grow it.
Bjork Ostrom: Which I wouldn’t have an answer for that either. Yeah.
Nisha Vora: As for the personality, I love what I do and I love the community I’ve created and I’m creating. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, but I have been having these conversations recently with other creators who have written cookbooks as well. As I think alluded to, I’m writing my second one now. It’s hard to be both a social media personality and a cookbook person. I think they’re kind of separate realms, where most people who write successful cookbooks are either chefs or have worked in test kitchens or food publications or things like that. They’re taken very seriously as food writers and as chefs or as cooks. Maybe some of them do social media really well, but most of them are … It’s a little bit like they have it, but it’s not like their main thing.
Nisha Vora: A lot of social media people are like, they might have a huge audience and a huge community, but they’re not necessarily thought of as like serious recipe developers or really people where you’re going to get the best recipes from. I’ve been having these just internal conversations, a little bit external, but mostly internal thoughts about like, which one do I want to be? Can I be both successfully, because it’s really hard to do both from a time perspective, but also from just, how do you want to be perceived? That’s kind of what I’ve been thinking.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have a leaning at this point?
Nisha Vora: I would like to be able to do both and I just don’t know if that’s … Technically, I am doing both right now, but I think I need to have the conversation with myself. Like, do I want to continue writing cookbooks? Do I want to be a corporate person? I’m writing my second one now, but do I want to maybe write like five cookbooks in the future or do I want to just continue building my business through social and through my blog? Maybe if I expand the team, I can do both, but it’s just an open question I have for myself right now.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Do you have to pause on certain things that you’re doing within your operating business, social media, recipe development, things like that for the blog in order to do the cookbook, or do you try and do both at the same capacity?
Nisha Vora: I mean, currently, I’m doing both. I have a few days of the week where I’m just mostly primarily working on the cookbook. Yeah, as a result, I can only upload to YouTube twice every two weeks instead of every week. I’m probably only sharing one new recipe on my blog per week as opposed to like two or three, which is probably what I was doing last year. Yeah, I post to Instagram now apparently two, three times a week as opposed to everyday. It hasn’t really made a huge difference, maybe a small difference, but I also am really, really excited about the cookbook stuff and need to just like spend more time on it. I’m telling you this to ingrain it into my head to remind myself.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. I think one of the interesting things that I’ve noticed is I think those compliment each other. I think more and more you’re seeing people have success with cookbooks because they have a following, they have a strong YouTube following, they have a strong Instagram, they have a strong blog following, and publishers being really interested in people who can do like built-in promotion, which to some sense, somebody who is even a celebrity chef, unless they do have a strong following, maybe doesn’t have in the same regard like a celebrity chef would more than somebody who’s really deep experienced without a following.
Bjork Ostrom: But I think also, what you’re seeing is, going through the process of publishing a cookbook is a huge validation for areas that don’t have as much like credential validation. Anybody can start a blog, anybody can start an Instagram account, but not everybody can sign a deal to publish a cookbook. Those two compliment each other really well. The hard thing, to your point, is actually executing on both of those things, especially at the same time, but I see like both of those being such a great compliment and something that allows you to, on both sides, grow quicker and faster if you’re able to pull that off. One of the questions that I do have related to growth is, as you look back at the past three, four years that you’ve been doing this, four to five, what would be the accurate? 2017, four?
Nisha Vora: I would say 2017, because 2016 I had started my Instagram, but like I didn’t share recipe … It was for fun.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Past four years, relatively short amount of time, when you think about bootstrapping, meaning it’s not like you’re taking outside funding or anything like that, so it’s just you sweat equity, a content business, which also takes a lot of time. Like, if you’re building a software product and it takes off and people are interested in it, you can grow up quicker. Content’s a little bit harder. What do you feel like were the growth levers, if you’d call them that, that you were able to change or adjust or pull as you were going through the process of building this thing, or is it more of like showing up every day and figuring out how to produce stuff that’s valuable? Is it that, or were there things where you were like, this was something that kind of unlocked the next level of growth?
Nisha Vora: Definitely both. An example of a growth lever that we unlocked, I think, is just having … Optimizing my blog. I was on Squarespace literally until Christmas of last year. Squarespace makes beautiful websites of whatever they say, but they’re not good for food blogs and I had a very unoptimized blog there in terms of SEO, but also reader usability, so many things. Once we switched over to WordPress, like around Christmas of last year, so it hasn’t … It’s been like three months, I guess, it was an enormous shift in terms of traffic, time spent on page, to reader satisfaction, all of these things.
Nisha Vora: It’s a lot of hard work though, so to your second point, it’s like being really being willing to put in the hard work every day. I don’t want to glorify overworking because I think we have enough of that, but like …
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, you’ve been down that path.
Nisha Vora: If you want to build a successful content business, as you said, it’s a constant thing. You don’t just get to create content for two weeks and then you’re set for the rest of the … You have to be willing to show up every day, work hard, and also iterate on what works and kind of say by to what doesn’t work. For me, that like involves a mix of looking at what my audience specifically likes, but also doing a little mix of what I want to do, because what I want to do sometimes diverges a little bit, and if I didn’t do what I wanted to do, sometimes I probably wouldn’t be as happy.
Nisha Vora: I think there’s a lot of learning curves with all of these platforms, especially a blog and YouTube, and really investing the time into learning the things that you need to about those, whether it’s again, like we talked about, increasing your watch time on YouTube or learning how to optimize your blog for search traffic. There are so many things in all of these platforms that there are to learn, and you just got to take the time to learn them. Then once you get to the point where you can maybe hire someone to do it, great, but it’s important to understand those things and just put the time in.
Nisha Vora: I think investing in myself in terms of one, how can I improve my photography skills and my videography skills, but also two like, okay, I have some money that I could spend on X, but it would be so much better if I spent it hiring someone to take the business to the next level.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s something that’s really hard, especially after you’ve hustled for a really long time and you’ve had sweat equity and you’ve been able to translate that into income for your business, to then take a piece of that and then put it back into the business. Is a difficult first step, but I think, once you do start to do that, the feeling of wow, somebody is coming in helping me with this, is the burden isn’t completely on my shoulders is such a freeing thing. One of the things you had talked about was the ability to stop doing things that aren’t working. Do you have thoughts on some of the things you’ve stopped doing or examples of that?
Nisha Vora: Yeah. I’ll give you two. I mentioned recently that I only post Instagram now two to three times a week, which is mostly because of my cookbook and I just can’t spend as much time there, but also, I think when I was posting every single day, I don’t necessarily think every piece of content I was posting was that useful or that valuable. Now I feel like I’m only posting the things that I think are educational or inspirational, or some other value to my audience. So, even if I weren’t writing a cookbook, maybe I would post a little more than twice a week, but I certainly wouldn’t need to post every single day because I don’t think it serves any value, and I feel like I’m actually getting more engagement when I focus on the higher value stuff instead of being like, well, I have to post again today. The second thing-
Bjork Ostrom: Just for the sake of posting.
Nisha Vora: Just for the sake of posting. If I had the ability to turn out amazing content every single day, then sure, but I don’t. The second thing is going back to YouTube and being more strategic and thoughtful. So, when I first started I was literally just like, again, as I mentioned, looking at what other people were doing and not really putting any thought or effort into how the video should be structured, how it should play out, things like that, and now I spend so much time in the pre-planning stage, which I think has been a huge factor the growth, and the reception to my videos is putting in that before work. Like yes, the filming part is super important, but the pre-filming part is probably even more important.
Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s George Washington. It’s like George Washington, Mark Twain, or Oprah Winfrey. It was one of these people that this quote is from.
Nisha Vora: Very different people.
Bjork Ostrom: No, it’s not actually, I just feel like they’re always … Like, there’s these random quotes and it’s like you see the same quote, but attributed to different people. But the idea of like sharpening your ax. Like, you have to cut down a tree, you sharpen your ax for seven hours in order to cut for one, versus sharpening for one hour and then hacking away for seven hours. It’s a really hard to do because sometimes it doesn’t feel like work. It’s a different type of work. It’s not actual production. It’s like pre-production, which feels different, but what I’ve seen is the people who have the most success aren’t trying to, to your point, aren’t trying to like publish on a schedule just to do it, and put so much time and energy into everything that goes up before the actual production of the content, before they actually hit record, which I think is a huge takeaway and something that’s really important for people to think about as content creators.
Bjork Ostrom: So, we’re coming to the end here. I’m curious to know if you were to go back, have a conversation with yourself, maybe you run into yourself as you’re hiking back in 2014 and you’re like, oh my gosh, good to see you past self, I have some advice for you. What would that advice be around, both building your business or creating this new version of a life that you’ve created?
Nisha Vora: Ooh, that’s a good thing. I would first ask for my fitness back from 2014. I would like that back. Definitely gone downhill, from trekking six hours a day to sitting on my desk. I would say, just get started. I think I have gotten started in certain ways where I didn’t like know everything before I started, so I’ve done that a little bit, but even more so, take those risks, leave your job earlier. You are a very hardworking person who learns things easily. Don’t let your fears of what other people are doing or your perceptions of what other people are doing hold you back, and just like put your head down and focus on what you’re good at and what you want to create. Just don’t let the noise get to you. I think those are like a couple of different messages in there, but …
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. Super helpful. Nisha, I’m curious, we obviously know where to follow along. I’ve been watching some of your videos and have been able to dive into that, but for people who are interested in what you’re doing and what you’re up to, where are the best places to find you and connect with you?
Nisha Vora: Yeah. I’m on Instagram fairly often, again, like not as much, but I’m at Rainbow Plant Life there. I try to share cooking tips and things like that and my stories all the time, so even if I’m not posting every day, you’ll see that. My blog is where all of my recipes live, rainbowplantlife.com. I share super detailed recipes there, so if you want to get into the why behind cooking, if you want all these tips on how to improve your vegan cooking, you can find that there, and similarly on YouTube at Rainbow Plant Life, where I share again, a lot of the why and I teach you how to be a better home cook, especially with vegan cooking.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Nisha, thanks so much for coming on the podcast, really fun to talk to you.
Nisha Vora: Yeah, thanks so much for having. It was really great. Thank, Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: Big thank you to Nisha for coming on the podcast and sharing her story. Interviews like that are not only packed with good information, but also inspiring. I know that, speaking personally, for me, it’s inspiring to hear how she approaches content and how she approaches the work that she does, and I hope that you had some takeaways from that as well. So, if you’ve been listening to the podcast, I will say for one year, two years, if you’ve been a long time listener, we would love it if you leave a review. It’s one of the main ways that podcasts can get exposure.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s one of the variables in the search engine optimization in the podcast world, and the more people we can reach, the better, and that would be hugely impactful for us. If you have, I would say a minute, maybe two minutes to jump in, leave a review for the podcast, whether that be on the podcast app, if you are an iPhone user, or maybe you listen on Spotify, any of the podcast aggregators that roll up the podcasts and allow you to play them, leaving a review would be hugely impactful and we would greatly appreciate it.
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks for all that you do for this community, whether that just be following along with the podcast, whether you are a Food Blogger Pro member, and you’re actually engaging in the community forums and interacting there, or if you just occasionally reach out via email, we love all of those things and are deeply appreciative of those things. So, thanks for tuning in, make it a great week. We hope that you can get a tiny bit better every day forever, that is our mission. We’ll see you next week. Thanks.
What is the personality test/quiz that Bjork mentioned early on in the podcast? Thanks!
Hi, Sara! It’s the StrengthsFinder test. 🙂
Here’s a link to some more information about how it works!