This episode is sponsored by Clariti.
Welcome to episode 379 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Shweta Garg from Masala and Chai about how she’s grown her blog while working a full-time job.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Tessa Arias from Handle the Heat about the unique ways she monetizes her business as a food creator. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Growing Your Blog with a Full-Time Job
Are you growing your blog while also working a full-time job? Do you struggle to find enough hours in the day to get everything done? If so, you’re not alone!
Today, we’re chatting with Shweta, the blogger behind the site Masala and Chai. Since launching her blog, she has been growing it while also working a full-time job, and she’s been very strategic about maximizing her time and resources to grow and monetize her site.
In this episode, you’ll hear her five best tips for growing your blog while also working a full-time job, as well as what she’s done to earn $9,000 in one month from her blog. We hope you enjoy hearing Shweta’s story and advice in this episode!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Shweta started sharing food content online
- What she does for her full-time job
- Why she moved away from doing restaurant reviews
- How she improved her food photography
- Why she recommends setting business hours for your blog
- Why content batching can help you maximize your time as a blogger
- Why it’s so important to invest in yourself and your business
- What courses and masterminds she went through to grow her blog
- Why she recommends planning your quitting criteria
- Why it’s so helpful to build connections within the food blogging community
- Masala and Chai
- The Feast Plugin
- Media Wyse
- Frosting and Fettuccine’s Food Photography Classes and Workshops
- Style Me Creatively
- 021: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free with Amy Lynn Andrews
- Cooking with Keywords
- The Food Blogging Mastermind – Sweet Tea + Thyme
- MrBeast’s YouTube channel
- Why Jim Carrey Wrote Himself a $10-Million Check Before He Had $10 Million
- Follow Shweta on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
About This Week’s Sponsor
We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!
With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.
Sign up for the Clariti waitlist today to receive:
- Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
- 50% off your first month
- Optimization ideas for your site content
- An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
- And more!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This podcast is sponsored by Clariti, that is C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com. And really the name says it all. The purpose of Clariti is to have a clear and straightforward tool that allows you to have clarity, that’s where the name comes from, into areas of opportunity for improving content on your blog and managing those projects along the way. And what we found was for many bloggers, ourselves included, there either wasn’t a great system at all to manage projects or find areas of opportunity, or it was like Google Sheets or Airtable, which those are really powerful tools and those are awesome tools. And if you’re good at using Google Sheets or Airtable and connecting all of the different elements that you need, more power to you. I think that those tools are incredible.
Bjork Ostrom: But what we wanted with Clariti was to ease the burden of some of the more technical considerations that go into hooking all of that information up. And so with Clariti, what we’re doing is we’re bringing what we consider to be some of the most important information for publishers and bloggers into the same place. So Clariti brings in WordPress metadata. So how long your post is, what the links are, external, internal links, alt text within images or images that are maybe broken. We bring all of that information in. We bring in information from Google Analytics. So you connect your Google Analytics account and your Google Search Console account.
Bjork Ostrom: All of that information comes into one central spot. And from there, you can use Clariti to find opportunities. So maybe you want to improve the number of links that are coming to a certain post. Just this morning I looked for Pinch of Yum and we have some new posts that we’re actually not linking to. So I made a note and I was like, “Oh my gosh, we need to link to these new posts that we’ve published within other posts.” And I wouldn’t have been able to, on my own, just kind of think of that or check on that if not for that being surfaced within Clariti. So you can find those opportunities, but then you can also create a project around those to then make sure that you can check back and say, “Great, here’s what I need to do.” You can create tasks within that project, and you can work through that to make sure that you improve that piece of content or that area of opportunity over time.
Bjork Ostrom: And this is the key piece with it, is you can take notes along the way. So you can look back three months, six months, a year from now and say, “Hey, that was an improvement that I made. Did that have an impact? Great. If it did, what are some other ways that I can do that in other places on my blog to continue to optimize and improve?” And what we’ve found is, especially for people who have been blogging for a certain number of years, a huge part of what you need to do is not only think about new content, but continually maintaining and optimizing your existing content.
Bjork Ostrom: So it’s been fun to see Clariti grow as we’ve talked about it, and shared it with other publishers over the last year or so. And just last month, we had 60 bloggers sign up to start using Clariti. If you want to check it out, the best way to do that is to go to clariti.com/food, so that C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food. And podcast listeners can receive 50% off of your first month if you go to that URL. And again, it’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: Hello. This is Bjork, you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. And today we’re going to be having a conversation with Shweta Garg. And she’s going to be talking about her balancing act between a really intense full-time job as a cloud consultant. And she’s going to be talking about what that is and what goes into that career and balancing that with growing a successful and thriving online following and blog. And she’s able to earn a substantial amount of income and also is able to continue focusing on her career.
Bjork Ostrom: She has five tips actually, for how to go about doing that, and she’s going to talk through each one of those after she shares a little bit about her origin story and how she got started and is also willing to share numbers along the way, which is really helpful. Now let’s jump into the interview with Shweta Garg. She’s going to be talking about her story of building her following, building her blog, while also being able to maintain her focus on her career. Let’s go ahead and jump in. Shweta, welcome to the podcast.
Shweta Garg: Hey, happy to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we’re going to be talking about five tips that you have for people who are not only just thinking about growing a successful blog, a successful business, a successful publishing, whatever you want to call it, online. But we’re also going to talk a little bit about your story as a creator, publisher building a successful blog, which in August you had revenue of 9,000, which is incredible. But you also work a full-time job. So in August, you had this weird reality of having a full-time income, the equivalent of a full-time income from the work that you’re doing online, plus you’re also working a full-time job. So tell us what a normal day looks like for you and how long you’ve been doing this balancing act of full-time work along with publishing content.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, so I guess just to start off, I pretty much started blogging, I’m more of a Instagram Restaurant Blogger back in maybe 2018. So I did not have a website. I did not have any intentions to be a recipe developer or food blogger. I was really just going to restaurants and trying out food, taking pictures, posting them on my Instagram. So that’s kind of how I started there. And so now that I’ve kind of grown my business into something completely different, still relating to food, my day has significantly changed with the way that it looks. So 8:30 to about 5:30, I’m actually a team lead of about 15 people at my full-time job. I’m a cloud consultant at a large consulting firm. So-
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about what that is? Cloud consultant?
Shweta Garg: Yeah. So I mean, it very much depends where you are in cloud consulting. My title is Cloud Migration Specialist. So what I’ll do is I’ll go into a company that is interested in moving to the cloud. I’ve typically done strategy around their applications and doing a discovery on them, so how large the applications are, what their dependencies are, and then how do we move them to the cloud. So whether that’s Azure, AWS, Google. So I was kind of doing some of that. Now I’m more very much hands on where I have my team, they are wave managers. I’m a wave management lead. So we move these applications in waves and I make sure that those waves are successful.
Bjork Ostrom: This would be, I think of my friend who has a photography business and he works with companies that do… You’d go into a Walmart and they would have a little photo area.
Shweta Garg: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: And he has a software program that runs the kind of backend for these companies. But he has all of those on servers that he’s racked in his office. And part of the stress of his job is keeping those servers up and they’re local. So what you would do is somebody would come to you and your team and they would say, “Hey, we don’t want to have these servers anymore. We want to move these to Amazon Web Services or Azure or something cloud based, where we don’t have to maintain these servers.” And you help them do that while keeping the application up, making sure there’s no downtime, and then eventually, they can power down those servers that are local and then they’ll just entirely cloud-based. That’s what you do.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, exactly. Word for word, that’s what I do. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: So do you feel like any of that work that you did when you started in 2018 and then eventually started to focus on blogging and publishing, did you have any experiences or mindsets or even just knowledge, industry knowledge that you felt like you were able to apply right away? Or was it all relatively new information to you as you started to learn about publishing and blogging?
Shweta Garg: I think it was completely new. Getting my site up and running in WordPress was a nightmare to start with, because the fact that I started with WordPress in the first place, I thank God I did because I was going to start on Squarespace. So that would’ve been a nightmare to migrate over because I think a lot of bloggers have great websites on Squarespace, but I know I eventually would’ve moved to WordPress. So just those little things where it’s like, “Where do I even start? Do I need Feast? Do I use another one?” What are those things that you need to even start a website at the very base. Those things are… There’s a lot of information out there, so sifting through that and finding what’s right for you. And there’s tons of people selling crazy things and affiliate codes and whatnot. So finding out what’s right for you and if those will even work, that’s really hard because for me, I came as a person that loves food and loves photography. I’ve had my camera actually for scuba diving. Did not purchase a camera for food photography.
Bjork Ostrom: But you had that background that then-
Shweta Garg: I had that background.
Bjork Ostrom: … switch over to a new subject. Yeah.
Shweta Garg: Exactly. Yeah. So it was a hard transition for sure to become a publisher, become a blogger. There’s so much about SEO that it’s hard to find out unless you’re really stocking Casey Marque and people at Top Hat Rank, stuff like that for food blogging. So it’s rough. It is a rough transition for sure.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So you said you started out publishing on social, and I think that’s a relatively common kind of arc that we hear is people will start on Instagram, maybe it’s now TikTok, and they’ll start to get some traction and start exploring other avenues like publishing to a site. And that opens up this entirely new door. You think it’s a room in the place that you’re exploring and you open it up and it’s like, wait, actually it’s a new universe? To your point, there’s all these different things that you need to learn and discover and figure out. And what did that transition look like for you? And then at what point did you realize, hey, I can actually start to create an income from this because to earn such a substantial amount in a short amount of time, that’s pretty impressive. So what did that process look like for you to get there?
Shweta Garg: Yeah, so like I mentioned, starting out with restaurant blogging. I think it was October, 2018 maybe. I was actually traveling for work. So I was just eating out all the time, Monday through Thursday. All my meals would be wherever I was traveling. And then I would come home and I’m not going to buy groceries for three days. So I wasn’t cooking either. So I was going out to these restaurants, taking pictures of food. And that’s expensive. That is really, really expensive. More expensive than you think. And I think one time, I have Chase, so the Chase app was like, “Hey, you spent $9,000 on eating at restaurants in the past six months.” And I was like, “That doesn’t sound right.” And so at the same time, I’m posting on my Instagram, people are loving the content and brands are starting to invite me into their restaurants, actual companies. One of the first companies I worked for was a gluten-free pasta brand. They paid me for a recipe. And so it was just small things like that where I was like, okay, there is a way to make money off of this, but not from restaurants because restaurants are small businesses. I want to support them, I want to give them my money, but I can’t sustain that. I can’t be spending $8,000 on food in a month or it’s six months. That’s crazy. So I was really looking for how I could at least break even at the minimum. But again, if you’re going to restaurants and stuff, there’s not a lot you can do unless you want to become a commercial photographer and do restaurant photography. And even that is really rough because you’re pitching yourself to restaurants. You need to have a portfolio, you need to be able to deal with different kinds of lighting, stuff like that. Whereas when you’re just a restaurant IG blogger, you’re going to a restaurant, the food looks amazing already. You take a quick picture and you eat it and you leave and you post it on IG and you’re like, “This was amazing. You should go.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Shweta Garg: So before the pandemic, it was about January, 2020, I think, at this point where brands were reaching out to me and they’re like, “Hey, can we send you our product in exchange for a post?” And then I had a few friends that were like, “Why don’t you ask to be paid? Your photography is beautiful, so why not?” And so I was starting to get a few brand things here and there, maybe 50 bucks, 150 bucks, really not charging what I was worth at that point. And then during the pandemic, I was actually ordering in food from restaurants. And so I was at home trying to style this takeout food. And if you scroll down my IG, it’s so ugly.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s so hard though because it’s… And I can think of those times when we would get the meal that we’d usually get in a restaurant, like sushi. And it’s just by the time it’s been packaged, it’s in somebody’s car for 20 minutes, they drop it off, you pick it up, it’s a lot of work.
Shweta Garg: I have my IKEA plates.
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
Shweta Garg: So I’m trying to support businesses and all this stuff. But then I’m like, “Let me start putting out recipes.” And I’m getting a crazy amount of saves and shares. Everyone’s cooking at home. So I started the website at that point and I really was just focusing on getting ads on it. That’s all I really cared about. I didn’t really care about brand work because there’s so much work on top of already being a full-time blogger, working full-time. So I was just focusing on ads. I was like, “I’m going to mind my own business, I put out my own content and get ads on my site.” That’s all I want. So that was kind of the journey from being a restaurant blogger all the way to a publisher blogger.
Bjork Ostrom: And was the inflection point when COVID happened? And it’s interesting, I feel like I’ve done enough interviews with people in their kind of business journeys now, and it’s so obvious when you think of it, but COVID being such an inflection point for so many businesses. Was that true for you? Because if not for COVID, you maybe would still be doing restaurants and kind of focusing on that, but suddenly it was like, “Wait, this isn’t as fun. I have to style this and it’s not what I want it to be, so why don’t I just create my own recipes and publishers?”
Shweta Garg: Yeah, and I think it was not only my inflection point, but it was a catalyst as well because I think I was already kind of heading there. Just personally eating out all the time, I was gaining a lot of weight, I was really struggling with time management, just the way that I was interacting with even my friends where I was like, “Do you want to go eat this?” Instead of, “Hey, do you want to watch a movie or something?” So I was kind of hitting that point in January, February, where I was having discussions with people in my life where I was like, “This is not sustainable for me anymore. I hate it. I want to do more at home content. I want to cook.” My mom is an amazing cook and we’ve been cooking together via FaceTime for years. So the pandemic was definitely that inflection point and that catalyst, cause I was kind of already heading there, but I just didn’t know where there was.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep, yep, that makes sense. So at that point, you start to publish content, you start to really focus on growing traffic. What did it look like in those early stages? What were the most important pieces to grow to the point where you were able to produce this great side hustle income?
Shweta Garg: Yeah, I think for me, a lot of it was just figuring out where to invest in myself and just in my business. And so one of the early pieces that I did was actually a mastermind with Frosting and Fettucine, Sam. And that was for food photography because at that point, I’m still focusing on IG and just how everything looks. I want followers, et cetera, et cetera. So for me, I took that food photography class and that was a major turning point for me because I met so many different people there that were also very much in the same space. Some of them already had blogs, but most of them were newer bloggers. And this was their first mastermind as well. I think this was probably October, I want to say, October of 2020. So we’re all at the inflection point with the pandemic where we all started our blogs and have no idea where to go, don’t know about any resources. We just love Sam from Frosting and Fettucine, she’s a super-talented food photographer. So that’s where I had started for my initial journey.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. So you actually touched on, we’re going to talk through these five tips and would you say these tips are really around what it takes to build a successful thing online, business online? It’s not just a blog, but everything around it, build a successful business online while also having a full-time job. Is that kind of this… Yeah. So let’s jump into those because I think these are important and it’s always nice when there’s a structure around the conversation for people to be like, “Okay, I get this.” So you talked about this idea of working 8:30 to kind of 5:30, a normal business day. So already the margin that you have is pretty slim. You have weekends, you have nights, maybe early mornings, and you’re having to figure out what does this look like and how do I do this well and how do I keep momentum going? So let’s go through it. Tip number one, what would that be for people who are looking to do a similar thing?
Shweta Garg: So tip number one, I think this is really important is creating business hours because all businesses have business hours. So I know blogging isn’t very traditional, but why shouldn’t we? Because it goes into so many different things where you’re creating expectations for your day. I know from 8:30 to 5:30 I’m going to be working. I’m very busy from that time. I could barely look at my phone and text people back. So that’s that expectation that I have set with people in my life and for myself. And so then, “Okay, what do I do after my 5:30 to 9:00 PM? Maybe I go to the gym, maybe I go to dinner with someone, whatever that is.” And so it’s just looking at your day and being like, “Where can I fit in blogging?” Blogging is extremely important to you. How do you get these non-negotiable hours in that you can work on your stuff? Maybe you have kids, whatever it is, but you just want these non-negotiable hours where you are working on your blog. And if you have to sacrifice something, so be it. There are so many times where I have gone to my friends and been like, “You know what? I know today is a Saturday, but I’ve set it aside for a blog day. I’ve already went and bought my groceries. I hope you understand. If you want to come over and watch me, hang out with me, watch TV while I do it,” whatever it is, they truly will understand. So setting these business hours for yourself, it also helps you avoid burnout. And I mean, I can’t tell you the amount of times I have worked until 2:30 AM on a blog post because I just desperately want to get it out. I want it off my plate. And just doing that and then waking up at 8:00 AM for work and then doing it again and again and again because you’re trying to get out Q4 content, whatever it is, it’s exhausting. So setting those boundaries with yourself, with the people in your life, it’s really important. And I also think it’s important if you’re looking at growing your business while you’re working full time, because if you’re not available from 8:30 to 5:30, then how do you fit in talking to your contractors or to your employees that you hire? So if you’re really serious about your business, I do think that business hours are going to be important so that again, people have expectations of you and you have expectations of yourself.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. This is crazy for me when I look back at this, but there’s an interview we did in 2015 and it’s with an individual named Amy Lynn Andrews. And I don’t think she’s actually active anymore, but I always think of this interview and she talked about this idea of time blocking. And it’s kind of a similar idea where you’re saying, “Okay, what does my day look like?” And I’ve thought about this even… So we have two girls now and wanting to spend time with my family and there’s work stuff. Do I have enough time to actually do what I’m setting out to do? Because I think sometimes we have these unrealistic expectations. We’re going to do all of these things. Once you actually put it in your calendar, it’s like, “Oh wait, I am going to have to have something shift here. I can’t do all of these things. I can’t do a weekend road trip with my friends and get this blog post out in the same weekend.”
Shweta Garg: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: So what does that mean? Do I not go on the trip? Do I push that to the next weekend? It allows you to see realistically how much time you actually have and how much time you’re spending.
Shweta Garg: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: And also, do you feel like this is true where it gives you permission to take some time away when you’re not scheduled then to say, go and do the thing that is fun and not feel guilty about it?
Shweta Garg: Yeah, exactly because I think as influencers, bloggers, publishers, our brains are always on our businesses. There are babies, we always want to work on them. Especially for me, even during work, I’ll have an idea and I’ll be like, “Let me write it down really quick, but let me get to it later.” But our brains are always on and so yeah, just setting those boundaries have been so important.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so will you go into your calendar? Do you have another calendar set aside for your publishing and that’s where you will block in this time and schedule those business hours? Or is it more like, “Hey, I know every Thursday night from this time to this time I’m working on my blog”?
Shweta Garg: Yeah, I’ve kind of become a little bit lax, I would say in the past few months now that I’ve kind of monetized and seen bad income. But I would say when I was really, really serious about it last year and trying to get on Mediavine, I was blocking it out. I was-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, would actually schedule it.
Shweta Garg: My phone was on silent. I would actually schedule it. And that kept me very disciplined for sure. I think I pumped out maybe 22 recipes in 30 days or something like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, that’s incredible.
Shweta Garg: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Shweta Garg: Very focused on it. And I think that the business hours and knowing when I could work on my blog and just thinking ahead of what I could accomplish, I was able to accomplish it. So if you’re looking to be really disciplined, then yeah, for sure.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great. So creating business hours, number one. Speaking of looking ahead, tip number two, you’re talking about batching content and planning ahead for holidays. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Shweta Garg: Yeah, so for anyone listening, first of all, if you don’t know what batching content is, it is a method of productivity to create and share your content during a set time. So there are a hundred ways to do this. There are so many ways to do this. I personally like to look at all of the tasks that I have to do for creating a post. So first of all, it’s ideating stuff, keyword researching. So I will usually set maybe two to three days to kind of write down all the recipe ideas that I have or even look at the list of recipe ideas that I have because I do everything according to the categories that are already on my site. And then I add an idea into that category. So I’ll kind of go through those and be like, “You know what? I feel like making this breakfast item this week because that’s what I want to eat.” And I will put that into the category or into my list and say, “Okay, let me go keyword research all of these things now.” So I’ll spend a couple of days doing that. Once I have that, I will go and get the groceries for that. I will figure out how to cook what I need to cook. So is this a breakfast item that I’ll eat in the morning? Is this something that I need to drink the day of because it’s with ice cream? Stuff like that, a little bit of planning. And then actually cooking it over two, three days where I’m cooking, styling, shooting. And then once all of that’s done, then I have maybe a week or two where I’m actually just sitting there and writing my blog post. And I actually do that during times where I find I’m a little bit… I have these periods where I’m just extremely, extremely creative. I am just a million ideas, want to do a million things, I’m ready to cook, ready to-
Bjork Ostrom: What are those? Can you predict when those times would be?
Shweta Garg: I have no idea. I just feel it coming on. I get super motivated, maybe I just see someone else doing really great work and I get really excited and I want to do stuff like that myself. So I try to anticipate those. And then I also have one or two weeks where I kind of feel lower. So during those lower periods is usually when I’ll try to do the computer work. And I think that’s really just going to be assessing the way that you are, the person that you are. And so that’s how I’ve kind of batched my content is during those two or so weeks where I just feel like I’m ready to do stuff, where I’m ready to photograph stuff, because that’s actually very physically intensive, photographing, exhausting. So that’s kind of where I plan around how I batch my content. Now for other people, this is going to be much more different. It might be, you spend two hours a day writing down your social media captions, maybe another two hours towards a blog post, another two hours where maybe you go on a walk or whatever it is. It could be something that you plan for your day for the span of the week, for the span of the month. I personally think it is assessing the person that you are and how you work well.
Bjork Ostrom: And optimizing the work that you’re doing for the kind of head space that you’re in during that time. So in your case, you talked about these really creative stretches, making sure that during a really creative stretch that you’re not reviewing numbers or doing bookkeeping or something like that.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: You’re doing actual creative work. I don’t use this a lot, but there’s been seasons where I’ve tried to, if I have tasks, I’ve tried to tag them with one of the tags I use is light productivity. The things that are kind of productive but not actually super impactful. And it’s probably towards the end of the day when my brain’s been drained and I still want to do a little bit more work but not super creative work. But to the other side of things, maybe you could take things with high productivity or high creativity, prioritizing those things for when that you’re going to be in kind of that mindset or head space. So I heard a lot of people talk about the importance of batching content and just focusing in on that. But especially so when time is so valuable. If the majority of your day is focused in on your full time job, then you know you’re going to have these really valuable blocks of time where you’re going to be able to do the highest impact work that you can do. And if you’re a creator or a publisher, there’s no better work than creating valuable content and making sure that you’re prioritizing that. That’s great.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, because I mean if your business hours are from 7:00 to 9:00 AM and then maybe you have 7:00 to 9:00 AM and then maybe 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, you’re probably not going to be cooking a dinner recipe at 7:00 AM in the morning. So those are just some things to figure out as you try to see how you can batch the content that you’re making. Are you cooking and shooting from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM and then maybe writing your blog post from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM? Those are just some things that I think it goes on a very much of a person-by-person basis to see what works for you and what works for your day and how can you get out all this content that you want to get out in a very short amount of time.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool, that’s great. So number one, creating business hours. Number two, bashing content, planning ahead for holidays, really thinking ahead to what’s coming up, what’s coming down the line. Number three, you actually referenced a little bit earlier, but this idea of investing in yourself. Can you talk about how you think of that and why that’s an important thing to be thinking about?
Shweta Garg: Yeah, I think investing in myself was actually probably the number one thing that got me to monetizing. I think people don’t invest in themselves enough because it costs money to invest in yourself. And that’s scary because you’re trying to monetize and you have a full-time job and you’re trying to pay rent, et cetera, et cetera. You have bills, you have a life going on outside of your blog. But your blog is a business and you have to invest in it. I never saw myself being in an entrepreneur growing up. I always thought I was going to be 9:00 to 5:00 corporate job type of person. Once I learned, you really have to invest in yourself and invest in your business is when my blog started growing. So that also comes in many shapes and forms. Is it investing your time? Is it investing cash, money? What is it? So for me, it was obvious, it’s both. But where I was investing the cash was where I was seeing the growth. So for me, one of the first things I did was I made sure I had really good photography because that’s what’s going to entice people. So like I mentioned, I took Sam’s mastermind, so that was a really good base for just learning what was going on in the blogging, the publishing world, because it’s very confusing to start with. And just meeting people that are very like-minded. And then from there, I was kind of like, “Okay, well I really suck a keyword research, I don’t quite understand what that is.” And so I was perusing the Facebook pages and people were saying Cooking with Keywords, everyone was raving about Cooking with Keywords. So I took Cooking with Keywords and the things she says just makes so much sense and it really gives you that really great base of using the tools that are out there. So that was a really great thing to start with. But again, I was also like, “Well, okay, so I have good photography, I’ve done this keyword research, but I still have 30 page views a day, so clearly something is wrong with my SEO.” So then I was looking for a course on SEO. I was looking for something that was very food blogging specific. And so I took Sweet Tea and Thyme’s food blogging mastermind, Eden, she is a close friend of mine and she has a 16 week mastermind that I took. And that was a big game changer for me. She spent so much one on one time with me and with everyone in that mastermind, just redoing my website, redoing all of the messaging, the branding, posts, things, just topped it down. And that’s where I really started to see growth. And at the same time, really just growing that business mindset. So creating an LLC, getting a business credit card, stuff like that. Just really having that support and someone with experience, who’s an expert in what I want to do and where I was finding that I was really weak. So that was the next investment I made. And then after that, I intend on continuing to invest in myself. So whether that’s new props, whether that’s new backdrops, if I want to trademark my website, stuff like that. Just continuing to invest in yourself and investing in your growth, your skills, that’s all incredibly, incredibly important. And I think people really shy away from that. But going to experts and learning what they have to offer is how you’re going to continue to learn and to grow. And that’s only going to mean your business is going to grow as well.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.
Shweta Garg: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you know Mr. Beast, do you?
Shweta Garg: Yeah, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. It’s always interesting to see how many people know who this person is, because it’s like, for those who aren’t familiar, probably one of the best-known YouTubers, but he talks about that all the time. Every single dollar that he’s made with his channel and he has I think a hundred million subscribers now. And the reason it’s so interesting for me is, it’s a creator in a different space. It’s just purely entertainment-based content. But every single dollar that he’s made, he’s invested back into the channel and he talks about that all the time and just continues to grow and grow and grow. And it’s like, that’s what he’s all about is how do I grow? And as you’ve talked about it, it’s kind of the same idea of to the extent that you can, one of the best places to invest. Warren Buffett talks about that too. People are like, “Where’s the best place to invest? Where’s the best place to put my money?” In different words, he essentially says, “In yourself, invest in your own skills and abilities because that’s your greatest tool for creating an income is yourself.” So I love that. And it’s one of the advantages that you have with continuing of the full-time job is that you can kind of use that to cover the basis of what you need. And then anything above and beyond that could be reinvested. You don’t need it at this point.
Shweta Garg: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: But that does bring me to the next question, which is kind of a lead into the tip number four. So you could invest back into your business forever, but at some point, you probably want to start thinking about what it might look like to make that transition and focus on this full-time because we all know, you can’t work essentially two jobs forever. So what does that look like? And you talk about it in tip number four is planning your quitting criteria. What does that mean and how do you go about doing that?
Shweta Garg: So I actually love this one. I think it’s so fun. This is something I a hundred percent give credit to Eden from Sweet Tea and Thyme for her. One of the first things she had us do was plan our quitting criteria. So like you said, you are working full-time at your job and then you also have your job, which part-time, full-time, whatever it is with your blog. It’s a lot of mind space. You cannot do both forever. I would say I am currently only doing one very well, that will be the corporate job right now.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Shweta Garg: It is what it is. So planning your quitting criteria is really just going to be checking in with yourself and seeing emotionally, mentally, physically, what do you need to say, “I feel comfortable to leave my full-time job and work on this blog full-time”? So where do you need to be financially? Do you need to maybe make 75% of your current full-time job salary and then know that you’ll make that other 25% by putting that full time energy into your blog, that you couldn’t because you were otherwise occupied for a few hours a day? Do you have a big life change? Are you moving across the country, you have to quit your job anyways? Can you get a part-time job or do you just want to fully dedicate yourself into being a full-time blogger and just take that leap? Are you maybe having a baby and you just want to take that leap and say, “Okay, I want to spend time with my child, I can’t do this and part-time and be good at doing my blog anymore”? So it’s stuff like that where you have to check in with yourself and say, “Let me make this list of five things I need to accomplish so that I can check them off as I go” and say, “Okay, now I am where I want to be financially I am where I want to be, whatever, mentally, physically, whatever it is. Now I feel comfortable I could quit my job.” Because if you don’t set that criteria with yourself, I don’t think you’re going to quit. For me, I know living in New York City, the rent is extremely, extremely steep. So for me, it is going to be financial mostly. Can I pay my rent? Can I pay my bills? Can I pay the bills for Masala and Chai as well? And do I have money left over to travel to do whatever I want to do? That is what it is going to take for me to quit. So for me to get there, do I need to move? Do I need to leave New York City? Is that what it is? Do I need a higher paying job for a little bit? What is it? So those are some things that I think everyone needs to evaluate so that we can feel comfortable to quit that full-time job and be a full-time blogger. And the other thing is maybe you don’t want to be a full-time blogger. So that’s something you should check in with yourself as well and say, “What are your goals? Do you want this passive income while you work?” Double income is amazing, I’m not going to lie, I love it, but can I… Doing it right now, I know that I’m putting a lot of focus into my full-time job right now and Masala and Chai has been kind of neglected for the past month and I feel really guilty doing that because I love doing it and I want to put more time into it. So for me, I’m going to have to revisit my quitting criteria and see where I am, how I’m doing and what I need to do to level up to get there.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. And one of the nice things is with a blog being what it is, it’s okay for that to happen. I remember there’s a couple times where Lindsay, we went to her family cabin and it would kind of be sign off and it’s like, you have enough coal in the engine of the train that it can keep going on its own. You don’t need to attend to it every day. And in that regard, it is passive in the sense that it continues to work every day. It’s earning income and can’t do that forever. But it’s one of the great things about having advertising income and traffic is that it advertises-
Shweta Garg: That’s why we get into this, right? Even with my one month of neglect, I’ve seen a 60% increase in traffic just from having good content that’s going to keep moving up in rank and also Q3 moving into Q4.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Shweta Garg: It’s a good time to chill out if you need to or go extremely hard.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. So love that idea, planning your quitting criteria, really thinking about and getting clearer around what it takes to pull the trigger and to say, “Okay, now I know I’m going to make the transition, I’m going to make the leap because I’ve outlined this and I have that number and I know what that is.” It reminds me a little bit, and I’d have to remember specifically what it is, but Jim Carey talked about this idea of, he wrote down a number to his future self of how much you would make from a movie. And in this case, it was multiple millions of dollars and put that away. And it’s something to revisit once you actually get there, but you kind of establish this goal in your head and you work towards that. It becomes something that is a reality. And as I look back at my own life, I can think of those times when I thought, “Hey, I’m going to do this thing.” And then eventually it happens, partly because you had that thought and then you start to work towards it. So-
Shweta Garg: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Love that idea. So we’ve talked about creating business hours, we’ve talked about batching content, planning for the holidays, investing in yourself, planning your quitting criteria, and then finding your community. Can you talk about that tip number five, why that’s important?
Shweta Garg: Yeah, so I love this one as well. I mean I love all of them, of course, but finding your community because blogging is really, really lonely sometimes, especially during the pandemic, where people were not seeing each other. And so some of my best friends were some of these bloggers where we were DMing each other, FaceTiming each other on a daily basis and being like, “Can you read this? Can you look at those photos? Does it look okay?” Stuff like that, where you’re essentially finding the people that are going to love and support you and be like, “That photo is crap. Redo this.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Shweta Garg: I think that’s super important because a lot of us don’t have a community that is really supportive. I know a lot of people have been… I’ve gone to people who have been like, “Yeah, I do food photography and recipe development, I’m a food blogger.” They’re like, “Oh, that’s cute, cute.” So just finding those people that are going to fill your day, are going to support you, are going to give you the real talk when you need it and be like, “Hey, you’re sabotaging yourself right now. Go write that post.” Whatever it is, those types of people are really important and those are the people that are also sharing your blog. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I’ve gone back and visited my parents in Arizona and I’ve had some auntie come up to me and be like, “I tried your recipe that your mom sent me.”
Bjork Ostrom: A PR team.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, exactly. And they’re the ones that are spreading these recipes on their Facebook and whatever, their WhatsApp groups. And just having those people that support you is just one of the most important things about blogging. Otherwise you’re going to feel lost, you’re going to feel lonely, you’re just going to have questions that only they will really understand because I mean, no one really understands an influencer, a blogger, a publisher quite like another person does, that’s in the space. So I think having those friends in the space, having your real life friends be like, “Hey, I’m really proud of what you just accomplished.” And then your family also understanding what you do and how much time you invest, how much money you’ve invested is really important. And so just getting on the same level with the people means a lot. For my dad, I don’t think he really understood it until he was helping me with my taxes and he was like, “I did not realize how much money you invested this last year.” He’s like, “Shweta, you were in a financial hole. And I was like, ”No worries.”
Bjork Ostrom: I’m committed to it.
Shweta Garg: I was like, “You could see how serious I am about this.” And now that he’s seeing these income reports, he’s like, “I get it. I’m really proud of you and the fact that you made 9K in one month from something you’re so passionate about is amazing” and that’s all my dad would want for me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, I really find… Yeah, sorry, go ahead.
Bjork Ostrom: Well to your point, to have those people who are in your corner, and it could be family and it might be your family, if those are those people, even if they don’t get it fully, people who are cheering you on wanting the best for you. Or it could be people who are actually doing a similar thing and know, hey, this can be lonely or this can be hard when you get a negative comment or whatever it might be. And people that can understand in a way that maybe others can’t. But really, the point is that I hear you saying, let me know if this feels accurate, is it can be hard to do this thing by yourself. So don’t do it by yourself. Find the people who can surround you and support you and you can support them as well.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, exactly. And one thing I also want to add is mentorship. I would love to see people doing just more of that in our community because I think a lot of people have amazing blogs, have reached amazing numbers, et cetera, et cetera. And just taking someone on that’s kind of aspiring to be where you are and sees what you’re doing and loves it and has taken time to DM you and been like, “Hey, I have this question for you,” or whatever it is. Being a mentor and helping someone find that community or helping someone set business hours, whatever it is, I think that’s really important right now too. So that’s something I’m investing a lot of my time in is if someone DMs me, I’m immediately, I’m answering their question. I’m like, “Hey, let’s set up a Zoom or whatever. I’ll answer questions for you.” Or even my friends that just started their blogs and are struggling with SEO or whatever, I’m like, “Hey, let me take a look at your site.” Whatever it is. So just investing back into the people that have invested in you, that’s how you build your community as well. Because I know a lot of people are like, “Hey, I’m a new Blogger, how do I meet people?” And as someone that’s an introvert, that’s very much no new friends, it is hard to find your community. And a lot of it is you do have to put yourself out there. You do have to be a little bit outgoing. You do have to DM someone and see if they be willing to have a chat with you. And really, I would say approach it from a place of what I call not being a vampire. So you’re asking them for something, but you’re not draining them. You’re offering something in return. So it is a lot of putting yourself out there and hoping for the best. Maybe you’ll get rejected, maybe someone will just like your message, whatever it is. But trying the next person that you feel like you could have a connection with, that might be in the same place as you.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. That’s a great lead in to, as we wrap up, how people can get ahold of you. So you’ve mentioned your blog a couple times, but on Instagram, where’s the best place for people to connect with you to follow along with what you’re up to? Because I’m sure that people will get a lot out of this episode, but would also be interested in connecting with you and having conversation.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, so DMs for sure Instagram. I answer pretty much every single DM. I love mentoring people, I love answering questions. I am fully available there if anyone wants to connect. My website, of course, I don’t know if you email me, I will probably respond in two business days. Not the greatest, but definitely Instagram, if you have any questions. Yeah, I will definitely be available.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. This is a really fun conversation, Shweta, I really appreciate it. Thanks for coming on, for sharing your story and excited to see where you go.
Shweta Garg: Yeah, thank you. I had so much fun. Hopefully people take away from this. And again, feel free to ask me more questions about working full-time. Well, also blogging full-time and growing your blog. So I love this topic. I could talk about it for hours.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Well that’s great. I’m sure you’ll get some DMs so people will take you up on it. Thanks so much for coming on.
Shweta Garg: Of course. Thank you.
Leslie Jeon: Hello, hello. Leslie here. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We really hope that you enjoyed it. Before we sign off, I wanted to mention quickly a little bit about the Food Blogger Pro Forum in case you don’t know how it works. So if you are a Food Blogger Pro member, you get full access to our wonderful forum, which is one of my favorite parts of the community. So on the forum, we have lots of different areas such as building traffic, photography, video, and in all these forums, you can chat with your fellow Food Blogger Pro members. You can connect, collaborate, and troubleshoot with them. Maybe you just want to get some advice about your site or maybe you have a question about Core Red Vitals. The forum is a fantastic place to bring those questions and chat with others in the community. Our industry experts are also always popping into the forum to share their expert advice, whether that’s Casey Marque or Andrew Wilder, and they’re always willing and excited to help our members out with their questions. So the forum is just a fantastic place to learn from others, to chat and have a community, to really engage with other food bloggers and just really, to show that you’re not alone on this journey of growing your site, of growing your business. So if you do want to join Food Blogger Pro and get access to this community forum, you can do that and learn more by going to FoodBloggerPro.com slash join. And there you can learn more about our membership and feel free to join us there. All that being said, we really hope that you enjoyed this episode and we can’t wait to see you in the next one. But until then, make it a great week.