Sally McKenney from Sally’s Baking Addiction on Creating Success – FBP003

Welcome back to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast!

We hoped you loved the first couple episodes that we released last week. In the first, Bjork interviewed Lindsay about Pinch of Yum and how she got to where she is today. In the second, the tables were turned as Lindsay interviewed Bjork about how he got involved with Pinch of Yum, and eventually started his own thing, Food Blogger Pro. If you got the chance to listen in, we hoped you loved it! If not, you can find the first episode here and the second episode here.

For this next episode, Bjork had the pleasure of talking with Sally McKenney, founder and creator of Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Sally McKenney on creating success, ignoring the competition, and writing cookbooks.

If you haven’t been over to Sally’s Baking Addiction yet, you are certainly missing out. Sally creates baked goods to swoon over – from cheesecake to brownies to pies, and everything you can imagine with funfetti. She’s also a whiz when it comes to blog success. Sally took her blog from zero to hero (read: full time job) in just two years. She is now the author of two cookbooks, Sally’s Baking Addiction and the soon-to-come Sally’s Candy Addiction.

In this 41-minute episode, Sally reveals:

  • Why comparing your baby blog to the big guns is not a good strategy
  • What she attributes to her rapid success (hint: it’s not luck!)
  • How she juggled her full-time job and growing her food blog
  • How she got a cookbook deal – and kept up her blog while writing it
  • Where her traffic comes from
  • And the advice she would give herself back when she started her blog

This interview was such a great peek into the behind-the-scenes work that went into – and still goes into – the Sally’s Baking Addiction blog. We loved learning from Sally and know you’re going to love what she had to say.

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Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number three of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast.

Bjork: What’s up, everybody? My name is Bjork Ostrom. In episode number one of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, I interviewed the one and the only, Lindsay Ostrom, my wife Lindsay, the author behind “Pinch of Yum”. In episode two, Lindsay interviewed me. What do we do for episode number three?

I’m really excited for this episode because we are interviewing Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’m really excited for you to hear her story because not only will you find a lot of valuable information, but I think you’ll also find a lot of inspiration.

In less than two years, Sally took her blog from a brand new blog to her full-time career and in this interview Sally talks about what it was like to build a blog while working full-time, what has had the biggest impact on her blog’s growth and advice that she would offer to anyone looking to follow in her footsteps. Without further ado, welcome Sally to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast.

Sally: Hi, thank you.

Bjork: Yeah, we’re so excited that you’re here. Sally, we’ve communicated back and forth via email, but we have never been able to jump on a official call like this. I think this would be super valuable for people that are listening. Then also, selfishly, I’m just really excited to talk to you a little bit.

Let’s just go ahead, let’s jump in right away. Take us back to December 11th, 2011. I did a little searching on Sally’s Baking Addiction. I scrolled back and I went deep into the archives, and I saw that that was the first post ever on SBA.

Sally: [laughs] Oh gosh.

Bjork: Just curious, what were you thinking at that time? What was your thoughts going into it? That’s a big commitment to start a blog, to publish a post. What were you thinking when you did that first post? What was on your mind?

Sally: Well, I really just wanted to share a couple of recipes with my friends. I followed food blogs myself, and I thought to myself, this would be really cool. This would be a great way to share my recipes with my friends and family. Everyone is always asking me about, you know, those cookies that you made for work that one day, or what about this cake recipe you made for this birthday party?
I really just wanted somewhere to put all of my recipes. I thought “OK. A food blog is a good online recipe journal of sorts. I could definitely you know like do that in my spare time.”

It was really just a hobby when I first started. I would post a couple recipes in one day. I mean I had no blog followers, it was just like my few friends and my mom. That was the only people that read my blog.

Bjork: Right.

Sally: It was very, very not professional at all, really just a fun hobby for me.

Bjork: I think that’s good for people to hear. Lindsay and I share that kind of similar story, where “Pinch of Yum,” Lindsay’s blog started, and was really something that was just an enjoyable process. It’s really good.
I’ve read some of your blogging posts where you talk about the fact that it really has to be something that you enjoy doing, first and foremost. That’s really wise, because as you know, there’s so much work involved with it.

You started out, it’s something that you enjoy. You were posting maybe a couple times a week, is that right?

Sally: It was very, very random. It would really only be when I had time, or when I made a recipe for something. I wouldn’t just be making recipes for my food blog, it was when I was genuinely making recipes for this on the weekend, or this to bring into work, or things like that.
It was very random. It was really just a couple times a week, if that.

Bjork: It was functional recipes, in the sense that you were bringing it somewhere, or eating it.

Sally: Yeah.

Bjork: Which is a great point for people that are looking to get started, that it doesn’t have to be something that you commit to three posts a week. If you’re just interested, just getting started, it can be the recipes that you’re making, and maybe you have a family dinner, and you take some photos of it, and you put it up on your blog. That makes a lot of sense.

That first year in, you’re starting to post a little bit more consistently. It’s all recipes that you’re using in different places. At what point do you have the thought, “Hey, I wonder if this is something that I could turn into something, or that I could take from more of a hobby to maybe a business?”

Or not even a business, but maybe just side income, or kind of create something in it? Do you remember if there’s a point where that happened?

Sally: I can’t remember an exact point, but I do remember all throughout that first year looking at all the other food blogs around me, and not even just food blogs, just any kind of creative hobby blogs that I was seeing, and everyone had such beautiful photography, and everything just looked so professional, and nicely done.
I said to myself, “I can do this, too. I really wonder if this could ever be profitable for me.” It was at a time where I enjoyed what I was doing. I was an associate for a team of financial advisors at an insurance company.

I liked my day job, but it wasn’t where I felt I belonged. I would go to work, go through my jobs and tasks, go home at 5:00, and that was it. It wasn’t really fulfilling for me, and that’s kind of what inspired me to really research and look into my different options for making this little hobby food blog a source of income for me.

I really just researched it for a while. I kept seeing if you have a food blog, in order to grow it, you really have to improve your food photography. That’s when I first realized, “OK. I need to get a little more serious about this, if I really want it to become my full-time job and make some sustainable income from it. It was probably around the Spring or Summer of 2012, maybe about six months after I started, I began to realize that this could actually be something that I do that could support me one day.

Bjork: Great. I want to go back to something that you’d said before that I think is really important. You had talked about seeing these other blogs, or websites, or creative spaces, and really appreciating what they’re doing. I think one thing that’s so important with that is, to not get totally discouraged with it because it’s so easy to do when you go to another site and you see how beautiful something is or how well done something is.

Sally: Yes. I was doing that.

Bjork: Yeah.

Sally: I was comparing my little baby blog to these successful, millions of readers blog, and I shouldn’t have been doing that, but that’s what you do.

Bjork: It’s so sad and discouraging, and in some ways, it’s completely demotivating. I think what’s really insightful in what you said is, that you researched, number one, which just makes a lot of sense, but also that you were able to look at it and say, “OK. What is it about this that is making it successful?” Then to break that down. The reality is, if anything’s been done, it can be done again, right?

If somebody has a big following on a social media site, or if somebody has a beautiful blog, for those that are listening, for you to know, that’s something that’s totally possible for you as well. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. I think it’s an important reminder.

About six months in, maybe let’s say six months to nine months in, you’re starting to have to these thoughts of, “OK. I think this is something that I kinda want to explore a little bit.”

Sally: Yeah.

Bjork: Then you start to turn the dial up a little bit. Is that right?

Sally: Mm-hmm.

Bjork: In terms of the work and time and energy. Was that an intentional decision? Was that like boiling water in a sense that it took awhile to heat up, or were you, once you made a decision to all in?

Sally: It felt like it took awhile to heat up. Looking back, big picture, it did not take long at all.

Bjork: Mm-hmm.

Sally: Once I started to really hone in on my food photography, and really practice and hold the camera as much as I could, and take as many photos as I possibly could, and really practice and learn about my DSLR, which I was actually borrowing from my boyfriend, now husband, Kevin, he was taking photography class at the time so I was able to borrow his camera.

Once I started really getting into food photography, I started seeing my traffic really increase. I was sharing my photography on the social medias like Facebook and Pinterest.

I noticed my photographs being shared more. The better that they were, they were being shared more. Once they were being shared more, that was just more eyes seeing them and being directed to my blog.

That’s when I really saw the traffic start to take off. I was using food photography sites like Food Gawker and Taste Spotting which I actually still today. I noticed that if you have really, really good food photography, you’ll get more views and website visits that way.

I think the practice, the time, and the willingness to learn with my new camera, my completely foreign camera, I had no experience whatsoever with the DSLR.

Bjork: [laughs]

Sally: I think that the willingness to learn and the time I took to practice and really read the manual and get to know my camera really, really helped my food photography, and therefore helped bring traffic to my blog.

Bjork: Lindsay talks a lot about that. The time that she spent transitioning from just the automatic settings to having a little bit more control of the camera using manual settings, starting to pay more attention to light, and all of those things that go into learning food photography.

Especially when you’re first starting out, totally overwhelming, but a huge part of it is, the learning but then also just the time that goes into it. Kudos to you for doing that. That’s awesome!

Another thing that I think is important to note about, that is, with food photography, one of the things…We think about people that will pin recipes, or share content.

I think it’s the consumer, but for people, to think about the fact that it’s also, a lot of times, there’ll be people that have huge social media followings, maybe on Pinterest, or something like that. Their desire is to look as awesome as possible to their people. They’re looking for photos that are beautiful, that they can share to their large followings.

It’s a win, win in the sense that, that people that are coming to your blog as just readers are more likely to share it. Also, those people that want to have really beautiful photos to share to their social media, will share it as well. It’s a win, win.

Sally: Yes. OK.

Bjork: You’re making the switch. You’re turning up the dial a little bit, but there’s this reality that you still have a full-time job. It’s not like you can just be like, “I want to do this full time, and then now, I’m going to put in my two week notice.”

Sally: Yeah.

Bjork: There has to be some in-between. What did that look like when you were working at a full-time job, forty hours a week, I would assume? Then also spending, what I would assume is a lot of time building your blog, and doing recipes, and photography, and writing, all this stuff that goes into that. How did you do that?

Sally: Oh my gosh. I don’t think I slept for an entire year. That’s what it felt like at the time. Well, as my blog traffic really begin to increase, and new opportunities were arising, and I got new followers, and things like that, more comments, more emails, I found it more and more difficult to obviously keep up with it all.
Right under my nose, I had started this blog which quickly was turning into profitable business. I had ads on my blog. That’s how I was able to warrant some side income. With more and more readers, I put more and more pressure on myself to deliver the best possible content that I could.

When it was truly difficult to juggle both, like I said before, I would cut back on sleep. I would turn down social invitations with my friends so I could get things done for my blog on the weekends, or on the week nights. It was around that time that I realized that I could truly support myself on income I was making from my blog. That’s when I decided to leave my job in the corporate world to really make this blog my career.

In-between then, it just took a lot of dedication, and a lot of time, and a lot of late nights, and a lot of sacrifices. I knew that I wanted it to become a reality. That’s what kept me going.

Bjork: It’s funny, we were talking before this. As I was doing research for this podcast, I dove deep into the email archives here.

I pulled up an email that you had sent, it was November 8th of 2012, and you said some kind things. Then there’s a part here where you said, “I enjoy reading the reports each month. On PinTrivia we do business of blogging reports.” You’d mentioned that one of your goals is to increase your monthly income, so that eventually you could quit your full time job someday.

It’s not uncommon for us to get those emails. What’s fun with your story is that, just a few months later, in April, that was the time when you transitioned into doing your blog full time. Is that right?

Sally: Yes.

Bjork: At that point, had your blog income met what you’re doing with your full time job? Did you know that you could see the upward trend and so it was a little bit of a leap?

Sally: I could see the upward trend. I wasn’t making as much from my full time job, but I was making enough to support myself. I was making enough, that I could pay rent each month, and I could have some savings, and some money for personal expenses and things like that…
That’s when I realized that I could actually support myself from my blog. That was really, really an incredible feeling.

Bjork: Can you tell me a little bit about that? What was that day like, the first day that you didn’t wake up to go in to work, you woke up to work on Sally’s Baking Addiction?

Sally: It felt so strange. I felt like I was just on vacation from my work, or something, and that I was supposed to go in on the next day. It was very weird, because the only times that I would work on my blog period to that were weeknights and early, early mornings, and weekends.

To wake up on Monday morning…I am a natural early riser, so I wake up early no matter what. But I woke up early, and I just said to myself, “I don’t have to straighten my hair, and put on make up, and wear office clothes today. I can gradually answer my emails and comments, and get in the kitchen, and that’s what my day is going to be like.” That was so, so incredible!

Bjork: That’s awesome! You say, it was like a vacation, and I feel like it’s maybe a twisted vacation, because I know how incredibly hard you work. I know that you are maybe able to do things a little bit differently and spend more time with content, and to be a little bit more intentional with certain things, but I also know that you work really hard.

I am curious, right now, for you Sally, what does it look like in terms of your daily routine? Is it working from sun up to sun down, or do you have a structure?

Sally: I work from the moment that my eyes open, to the moment my eyes close. I am always working, but what’s pretty cool is that it doesn’t feel like work. Let me rephrase that. When I am not writing a cookbook, and maintaining my blog content, it does not feel like work.
When I am writing a cookbook, maintaining blog content 3 or 4 times a week, it definitely feels like a job. Right now, I am not writing a cook book at this time. So yes, my days are packed.

Bjork: You’ve written two cook books, is that right?

Sally: Yes, yes.

Bjork: Can you tell us a little bit about what that process was like? I am interested to hear how that developed, in terms of you being able to do those. After that, as a follow-up question I’d love to hear how you maintain your blog while also doing those, like you talked a little bit about. Can you tell us a little bit about the process for the cookbooks, how those came about?

Sally: Yes. It came about from one of my blog readers, who is actually my editor. She was a blog reader in the beginning of 2013, right around the time that I was itching to quit my full-time job. She sent me an email. She found one of my recipes from a Google search. She happened upon my blog, she really loved it, she started reading it every day when I had a new recipe go up.
She sent me an email in the early spring of 2013, right around the time I was about to quit my full-time job. She introduced herself, and said, “I made this recipe. I am actually an editor of this publishing company, and I would love to talk to you about possibly writing a cookbook.”

I read that email when I was at work, at my full-time job, and I almost fell out of my chair. I actually took a deep breath in and I swear, people around me were like, what is wrong with her?

Bjork: Is she OK? [laughs]

Sally: Yes! And I think I screamed inside, it was just such a crazy thing.Then we got to talking. I was really lucky in the fact that I didn’t have to hire an agent, or write any kind of proposal, or anything like that. She was naturally just a blog reader who enjoyed my content and thought a book would be a great step for me. That’s really how it came to be.

Bjork: That’s awesome.

Sally: Ah, yes.

Bjork: I think one thing that’s really cool about that is I think you do a really good job of connecting with your readers and you’re really intentional about that. I think that goes a long way.

Sometimes you’ll be helping somebody just to help somebody and that’s a good thing. Sometimes you’ll be reaching out and connecting and helping somebody that is also going to be able come back to you and say, “and I have this.”

Sally: Yes.

Bjork: In this case it was somebody that was able to help you get a connection for the cookbook, which is really great, and you’ve done two, which is incredible.

Sally: Yes.

Bjork: Not just one but two Congratulations on that.

Sally: Thank you.

Bjork: Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to maintain your blog while also doing the cookbook? What your routine was and how you continued to produce content for the blog as well as for the cookbook?

Sally: The first cookbook I wrote was in the summer of 2013, so it was after I quit my job. I was just beginning this full-time blogging thing, and my traffic was pretty high, but I wasn’t really on a set schedule in terms of blog posts.

I would definitely post three recipes per week, but it would be really random. One would be on Monday, the next would be on a Tuesday, the other one would be on Friday.

I wasn’t on a set schedule. It was much different when I was writing the second cookbook, which I wrote this past winter, “Sally’s Candy Addiction.” When I wrote both of them, it was definitely difficult keeping up with both and having enough creative energy to get through all of the content I had to produce.

It’s almost like having two separate blogs. Two separate, very large scale blogs that you have to run at the same time. It’s pretty difficult.

What’s also difficult is, with my blog recipes, I can make it in the kitchen, I can photograph it. The next day or two I can put it online and I can chat with my readers about it.

With a book, you have to keep it a secret for so long, and you just have to hold onto it for so long and then you finally get to release it. It’s just the best feeling in the world.

During the time of writing them it’s really challenging to have enough time to really get everything done. You just have to be very strict about your schedule.

I had to write down a schedule for every single day, and I had to stick to it. I really never give myself days off now unless I’m going on a vacation or something.

I just had to say no to some things. Even though I work for myself, I was just still very strict with my schedule. I would write down what I had to do each day, and I would prepare every single night before going to bed, “I’m going to do X, Y, and Z first thing tomorrow morning for my blog. Then I can check in with my cookbook and do cookbook recipe testing and photographs the rest of the day.”

Then at night I can sit down and check back in with my blog. Then I can write the recipe for my book. It’s just a lot. It’s a lot. I’m not going to sugar-coat it. It’s a lot of work.

Bjork: I think that’s important for people to hear because, from the outside, sometimes it can seem like we follow these people…whoever…if it’s a food blog or social media star or somebody on YouTube and it seems like they’re able to do all of these things without any work, or it seems pretty seamless.

The reality is, a lot of times it just comes down to being a lot of work and a lot of time and pushing through the creative roadblocks and doing something when you don’t want to do it and continuing to do that over a long period of time.

Sally: Yeah.

Bjork: Congratulations on getting those two cookbooks published. I think that’s incredible and obviously a lot of work with it.

One thing that you had mentioned before was, you said that your traffic had started to grow a little bit. Can you talk a little bit about, maybe just in general, over the past few years…If you’re willing to share traffic numbers from your blog?

As each little bump happened, if you can say, “I think it had to do with this,” or tie it back to a certain reason. We can’t always tie it back to something, but I’d love to hear the different stages that you’d say Sally’s Baking Addiction has gone through traffic-wise.

Sally: I started my blog at the very end of 2011 so I was really only blogging for two weeks before the end of the year, and I’m being very honest when I say my only blog reader was my mom. That was a wash, 2011, it was really just my mother reading the blog.

2012 was my first full year blogging and the beginning of it was very slow. I didn’t follow any schedule, like what I said before, and the entire year I had 3.5 million views, which is a lot for a first year of a blog.

I think that really has to do with the second part of the year. That’s when I really started to practice my food photography and read as much as I could about it and really spend a lot of time and energy into perfecting my photos that I share on my blog.

Also, just producing readable content and I do that just by being myself. The words that you see on my blog are exactly how I talk in real life.

I’m just completely, 100 percent, myself on my blog, and I think that’s what drew people in, in the first year of my blog and they’ve kind of just stayed. Well, hopefully, I’m pretty sure they have.

I think that the first year’s number of around 3.5 million was, most of it was the second part of the year and that’s when I really started to pick up my DSLR and get to know it.

Bjork: Great. Did that continue on then in terms of traffic growing into the next year?

Sally: Yes. Absolutely.

At the very end of 2012, about a month after I sent you that email asking you how, I don’t even remember that email, asking you how to really take my blog to the next level, I actually had to switch website servers.

My website was being hosted by Bluehost, and all of a sudden one day, I think it was December 12 or something so exactly one year after I started my first blog post, this was December 2012, I was getting such high traffic on my blog that my server could no longer hold me anymore. I had to switch servers overnight in December of 2012.

I think that the spike of traffic at the end of that year, during that time, was really just holiday baking. Everyone’s looking for recipes to bake for the holidays, and I had a good amount of readers at that time.

I think that they were sharing it with their friends around their social medias and that’s how it snowballed from there at the end of the year. Holiday baking has a lot to do with it.

Bjork: Absolutely, yeah. Seasons.

Sally: So that’s my “busy” time of year.

Bjork: Sure.

Sally: Then it really didn’t slow down with January, February, March. It just kept going.

More people were on my blog. That means more people were sharing my blog and more people were baking my recipes.

I was getting higher and higher on the Google search. That’s how my editor found me, was on Google search.

Bjork: Right. Great. So, today if you’d be willing to share, and no pressure at all, but in a typical month of Sally’s Baking Addiction, is there a ranges page views that you can expect to see now, in 2015?

Sally: Yes. It’s about seven to eight million page views per month.

Bjork: That’s awesome and really, really incredible. Huge kudos to you Sally.

I know that seven to eight million, it might look like one shot. That it’s just this one month, but just all the work that goes into that over a long period of time. Huge congratulations.

Sally: Thank you.

Bjork: We’re going to do a quick break for our show sponsor, which, believe it or not, is Food Blogger Pro.

Bjork: It kind of works out nice for us, that we sponsor ourselves. Food Blogger Pro, for those who don’t know, it’s a membership site, but really we view it as a community.

We have, at this point, a little over 900 people that are all in the food media space. It’s called Food Blogger Pro, but we have a few people that don’t have a food blog at all.

They just have a blog and they’re part of the community. It’s mostly food bloggers or people who are doing food-related content online.

Sally’s talked a lot about food photography. An example of something we have on Food Blogger Pro is a course all about food photography and lots of tips and tricks.

That’s taught by Lindsay, my wife. She does

With Food Blogger Pro, there’s three elements that we have. There’s the educational stuff. We have the food photography tutorials, we have learning WordPress, we have deep dives into different plug-ins that are specific for food bloggers.

Then we also have a tool section that we’re starting to build out. An example is a nutrition label generator. For those that include nutrition, it’s a really easy, one-button nutrition label that you can use.

Last, and maybe most importantly, we have this community forum where people that get the world of blogging. Sally and I talk here and we both get it, but for the vast majority of people they maybe don’t have people that get what this space is all about.

We have the community forum where people can share questions that they have and provide answers. That’s Food Blogger Pr.

If you’re listening, one of the things that we want to do is say thank you to Sally, so we’ve set up an affiliate link for Sally, and she’s volunteered to come on and give some tips and share some insider info about Sally’s Baking Addiction. If you’re interested in signing up for Food Blogger Pro we’d love that.

If you do, use this link. It’s, and we want to make sure she gets credit for those sign-ups as a way to say thanks for coming on the show. I want to say that, because you’re on the call right now, thank you Sally for being a part of this.

Sally: Yes. You’re welcome. Thank you.

Bjork: Let’s jump back in. I want to talk a little more about the traffic piece. Can you talk about the general percentages of traffic for Sally’s Baking Addiction, where those are coming from right now, the different traffic sources?

Sally: Yeah, most of my traffic comes from search engines online. I’m ranked high in that, and I get a lot of people who are just typing in chocolate cookies, or just typing in vanilla cake, or carrot cake, or whatever. Then they get directed to my blog, and that’s where a majority of my traffic comes from.

The next tier down would definitely be Pinterest. I am all over Pinterest. I, myself, am obsessed with Pinterest, and I feel like I planned my entire wedding on Pinterest. I personally love it.

It’s funny. I have my friends, they text me or they call me and they say, “I know this is your recipe. I saw your hand in this photo, and I knew it was you before even clicking through to your blog. Your recipes are everywhere on Pinterest.”

That’s really where I get a lot of my traffic from is people sharing and Pinning my recipes to their boards. I try to be very active myself on Pinterest because I know that a lot of my traffic comes from there.

Also, because I genuinely love it. It’s just such an easy social media – well, not easy – but it’s the easiest of all the social medias because it really doesn’t take much thought at all. You grab a recipe that you like on your own blog or on another blog and you put it on your board.

Then all of your followers can see it and they can share it, and then their followers share it, then their followers share it and it just kind of snowballs from there. Pinterest is definitely my number one social media in terms of traffic and my number two in terms of overall traffic that comes to my blog because search engines are number one.

Then, after that, it’s really just all my social medias all together. Pinterest is a whole world of its own, but then I get a lot of traffic from Facebook, my own Facebook page.

From there, it’s all direct traffic right to my blog. People are typing in, or they subscribe to my blog and they follow me on Bloglovin, or things like that, and they directly go to my blog, but number one is search engines.

Bjork: Great. You had mentioned in there that you spend a lot of time on Pinterest as something that you really like. In terms of, this might be hard to do percentage-wise, but in terms of a normal day for you, how much time are you spending doing recipes, versus social media and writing content? Could you rank those in the order of like I spend most of my time doing this, and then this and then this?

Sally: Yes. Every single day is different, but if I were to pick a day where I did everything, I was in the kitchen, I photographed, I spent time on the computer, and did social media. If I did all of those in one day, which is common, but not every day, I would have to say the most time I dedicate is to photography.

Sorry if that does not answer your question…

Bjork: No, it does.

Sally: It’s not social media. It’s photography. It’s setting up the shot. It’s taking a billion photos. It’s looking at them on my computer, deciding I don’t like any of them and starting all over. It’s editing the photos. It’s uploading the photos to my blog, seeing how they look, deleting them because I don’t like them anymore then trying it again.

The photography is where I put the most pressure on myself, because I feel like I’ve put myself in a position where I am uncomfortable sharing less than my definition of perfect on my blog. I spend the most time on photography. That’s number one.

Bjork: I think that’s good for people to hear. Sometimes we wonder where people are on Pinterest all day, or maybe they’re on Twitter interacting with people. The reality is, I know this is true for Lindsay as well, the photography stuff takes a really long time. Like you said, sometimes you have to redo the shoot or it’s spending a lot of time arranging cookies, which is the craziest thing in the world.

It’s the reality of what it takes to get a really good shot that’s shared a lot, and people find engaging, so it makes a lot of sense. I want to talk about soft skills that you have to develop with blogging.

I think this stuff is important. It’s maybe things that we don’t think about a lot. I’m curious, as you’ve been doing this a long time, I assume that you’ve had to develop some mindsets in some different ways to view the world, or view a job that you’ve had as a blogger. Can you talk a bit about the mindsets that you’ve had to develop over the first few years?

Sally: I always try to be positive, and I think that is reflected on my blog. I have a lot of down days. Those mostly come from recipe fails, getting a mean comment or someone hates my cookies, or I hate my photography that day ,or things like that.I always have to remain positive, level-headed, grounded and remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place.

The sole reason I’m doing this in the first place is because I love to share my recipes. End of story. That’s the number one reason why I do this.

I need to remind myself when I’m down, having a bad day, when I do not want to write this cookbook anymore, I do not have a post for tomorrow ready to go and I would rather sit on the couch, that the reason why I do this is because I love to share my recipes, and I repeat that to myself.

Bjork: That’s great, and it’s important to remember because sometimes we can get caught up in the end as opposed to the means. One thing that we’ve found as we’ve continued to do this type of work more and more is that the more you can enjoy the process, and the less that you can think about what you’re getting from it, the more enjoyable it can be.

We’ve have conversations with people that have built truly incredible things. A lot of times they’ve even be able to sell those things, maybe it’s a website that they’ve built and they’ve sold, and are no longer a part of it.

A lot of times, they’re like, “I realized that I actually really enjoyed that. It was the work that I enjoyed, not necessarily this end goal that a lot of us have in mind.”

I think it’s really important to have those goals and to strive to achieve big things. I think the more that we can think about enjoying the work, and the reason behind the reason for why we do it, like you said, because you enjoy sharing recipes.

There’s not a number behind that. There’s not something really tangible to…It’s a really soft feeling but it’s something that can help you focus on stuff, which I think is really cool.

Sally McKenney: I think that if you really want to grow your food blog, and you really want to become successful, you have to genuinely love what your doing. That is so important.
If I didn’t love what I do everyday, it would feel like work. I wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t be motivated to keep going. I wouldn’t be motivated to do all the things that I do during the day to make my blog successful. It really comes down to, you have to love it. Really have to love it.

Bjork: Great. We’re coming to the end here Sally. I did want to ask one more question of you.

Sally: OK.

Bjork: For those that are thinking about doing this, maybe it’s not even a food blog, maybe somebody’s listening right now that knows you, or that’s been following along, and they’re interested in pursuing their passion, or starting a blog to talk about food, share the recipes, or maybe something else.

What is something that you would tell that person that’s listening right now? Or maybe, it would even be…No. Answer that and then I’ll ask one more follow up question.

Sally: OK.

Bjork: What would you tell that person?

Sally: I actually was on the phone with someone earlier, or last week. It was one of my mom’s friend’s son who wants to start his own business and he wanted to chat with me about how I did it. Basically, what you just asked. I told him, I said, “Work harder than anyone you know. Look at the people around you. See how hard they work and double that.”

You have to work as hard as you possible can, and you really have to push yourself. It takes sacrifice and time and dedication to build a quality product, whatever it is, especially one that you want to earn a stream of income from. You just really have to keep going, and you really have to love it.

Bjork: That’s awesome. My final question, similar but a little bit different, if you were to go back, we’re going to end where we started, if you’re going to talk to Sally from December 11th, 2011…

Sally: Oh my God. [laughs]

Bjork: …what do you think that you’d tell her, if it was your past self, and not me, on the other line, what would you say?

Sally: I would say, stick with it. It’s going to get hard, and it’s going to get tough. It’s not always going to be easy. Stick with it, Sally. You can do it. You can get through it. You have the capacity to do it.

Bjork: That’s awesome. Sally, we really, really appreciate you and your time here on the podcast. I think that people will really get a lot out of it. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Sally: Thank you so much. This has been a lot of fun. I’m so happy to help out.

Bjork: Thanks.


Bjork: That’s a wrap for episode number three. A few things before we sign off. Number one, if you would be willing, we’d really appreciate it if you jump on to iTunes and leave a review for this podcast. That’ll put fuel in the fire for us and keep us going.

Number two, if you’re interested in checking out Food Blogger Pro, we’d really encourage you to use that link to give credit to Sally. That was so nice of her to come on to this episode today to share some thoughts and insight and some tips and tricks.

Again, that link is If you could use that, that would be really great.

Number three, if you have any ideas for other guests that we can have on the podcast, I’d love to hear what those are. You can email [email protected] with your suggestions.

Until next time, make it a great day! Thanks guys!

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  1. I absolutely LOVED this episode! Thank you so much! I am a huge fan of Pinch of Yum and Sally’s Baking Addiction and it is so great to hear the inside scoop from her! I am just starting a food blog and it can be so intimidating and you all make it much more approachable. I listen to tons of Podcasts and Food Blogger Pro podcast has quickly become one of my favorites. I cannot wait for more episodes!

  2. – This PodCast was amazing!
    Bjork … you did an excellent job with your interview questions, truly. You touched upon all the right topics. It was a joy to hear Sally’s voice, her authentic passion and the truth regarding all the efforts (and pitfalls!) regarding transitioning a baby blog into a sustainable source of income. This is an inspiration for me, indeed!

  3. As someone who subscribes to Sally’s site, I read about this PodCast through a daily post. While I have not had the desire to start my own food blog because I don’t personally develop recipes; this PodCast was a great opportunity to learn more about the process by which SBA came to be what it is today. Thanks for sharing this! Now, I need to try some Pinch of Yum recipes.

  4. I NEVER get tired of hearing “big bloggers” share how much hard work it took to build their brands. It’s so encouraging and hopeful for smallish bloggers like myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other! Thank you, Sally and Bjork!

  5. Hi! I am a big fan of Sally because even though I have not met her yet, I think she is nice; I like that she answers my comment no matter what (LOL) and listening to her interview motivated me to really work harder. When she mentioned how she worked so hard on her photo when she was still starting, and how she took tons of pictures while was a newbie, I was embarrassed because after taking 5 photos, I thought I was done and here I am complaining why I always get rejected in food sites. ANother that inspired me was when she said, :” check your favorite websites and see how they worked hard, then work twice more…” WOOOOOw , loved that.

  6. I loved this interview! I’ve been such a fan of Sally’s for years. Her recipes always come out perfectly and her pictures never fail to make me drool. I also love hearing her story of how she grew her little baby blog into the giant it is now.

    Can’t wait to hear the next interview!

  7. Great interview! It was helpful to hear she had been working her site for a year with just her mother as a follower. Hearing interviews with people working only a few months before they hit pay dirt can be frustrating.

    Hearing that her hard work, over multiple years, paying off for her was very motivating for me to work harder on my food blog project at .

    Looking forward to the next podcast!
    Charlotte, NC

  8. I heard Sally say this in a recent book signing, but hearing it again really helps enforce it – don’t compare a little baby blog to a monster blog like hers. Someday I can, but not yet 😉