Welcome to episode 178 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Sonja and Alex Overhiser about balancing content, working together, and podcasting.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Emily Caruso, Pinch of Yum’s Video Specialist, as part of our recent Video in 2019 Summit. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Life, Podcasting, Blogging, and Cookbook Writing
Sonja and Alex seem to be doing it all: publishing consistent quality blog content, focusing on SEO, sharing their content on social media, publishing a cookbook, and producing a podcast.
How do they balance it all? That’s a good question. And that’s the exact topic of this episode.
They cover their typical day-to-day, small changes that helped them find balance, and more. Let’s dive in.
In this episode, Sonja & Alex share:
- How they started their blog
- How they keep improving their process
- What it was like to transition to working on A Couple Cooks full time
- What their typical day looks like
- How they work together as a family and find balance
- Why they started their podcast
- How to Make Sourdough Bread: The Simplified Guide on A Couple Cooks
- 12 Healthy Freezer Meals on Pinch of Yum
- Hashtag Jeff
- A Couple Cooks | Small Bites Podcast
- Pretty Simple Cooking Cookbook
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, Laine Oliver! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I chat about planning for the new year, and then Bjork interviews Alex and Sonja from A Couple Cooks about producing quality content in a ton of different ways.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey hey hey, wonderful listener. You are listening to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. I’m Alexa, and we are just so excited, so thrilled, so honored that you decided to tune in this week.
Alexa Peduzzi: Before we head up into the episode, I’d like to take a second to thank our sponsors, WP Tasty. WP Tasty is our sister site and the site where we sell plugins for bloggers. We have a recipe plugin called Tasty Recipes, a Pinterest plugin called Tasty Pins, and a super slick, auto-linking plugin called Tasty Links. We use all three on Pinch of Yum and they’ve actually become essential to the way we run Pinch of Yum. So, you can learn more about all of those plugins at WPTasty.com.
Alexa Peduzzi: And if you’ve been around the FBP Podcast for a while, you’ll know that we like to offer you a little tasty tip along with the information about our sponsor, and today’s tasty tip is all about planning for the new year. I know, I know, you’re probably saying, “Alexa, it’s not even December yet. Don’t make me start thinking about 2019. It’s too early,” but friend, there’s really no time like the present to start thinking about the processes and tools you’ll use to stay on top of your work in the upcoming year, and an easy way to do that is actually to look backwards. Look at this past year and really think about the things that have been working, the things that have brought you joy, and the things that, well, happened.
Alexa Peduzzi: Do you remember the solo podcast episode that Bjork did a few months ago, and it was about keeping it fresh and avoiding burnout? I think it was number 155, and you can go and check that out by going to FoodBloggerPro.com/155. But in it, he talks about making things I do lists and things I don’t do lists. This time of year is the perfect time of year to reevaluate those lists and move things from one to the other. So, I invite you to look back on your year and ask yourself those questions. What are your pain points? What have you been struggling with, and what can make next year even better?
Alexa Peduzzi: And now the episode. I had the honor and privilege to meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser a few weeks ago when they were in Pittsburgh, my hometown, for a blogging event, and they were just so inspirational. I knew we had to have them on the podcast to chat about what they’re up to.
Alexa Peduzzi: They balance a lot for their blog, A Couple Cooks. They run a podcast. They consistently publish quality content on their blog. They recently published a cookbook. They appear on television shows, like The Today Show, and that’s all on top of raising a toddler. If it seems like a lot, it probably is, but Sonja and Alex have learned ways to balance and exceed in it all, and that’s exactly what they’re here to talk about today. So without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Alex and Sonja, welcome to the podcast.
Sonja Overhiser: Thank you so much for having us.
Alex Overhiser: So glad to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, this is officially my first podcast back. We kind of loaded up the queue, took some time away with our daughter Solvi, and this is the first one back, but it’s an easy podcast to get back into because we are old friends. You were actually what I would consider to be our first internet friends. I was trying to remember the year that we first connected. Do you remember when it was? 2010? 2011?
Alex Overhiser: I think the summer of 2011.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay.
Sonja Overhiser: Roughly, roughly around July 5th.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, around there-ish. Yeah. About July 5th, 6PM. So, thinking back to that time, I remember for Lindsay and I, we were going to visit a friend in Indianapolis, and I think that you guys had connected, Lindsay, before previously and maybe heard that we were coming out there and you were like, “Hey, you should swing over.” For us, it was this first time of like, “Oh, these are internet friends,” which is so common now. You get to know people and then maybe if they’re in the city, then you connect, but I remember for us, that was such a big deal.
Bjork Ostrom: But you guys go back. You started your blog in 2010, so you’d been doing it for about a year, and the same for us. Take us back to that time when you started your blog. What was the reason for starting it? And you kind of have an interesting story, as well, with your interest in food in general, and together working to kind of fall in love with food and everything around it. So, rewind the tape a little bit and take us back there.
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah. So, Alex and I are college sweethearts. We met here in Indiana. I’m actually from Minnesota originally. I came to Indiana for school. We met first day of freshman year, fell in love, didn’t date until sophomore year, and then ended up getting married, moving to Indianapolis, and buying a house. We bought this house and we said, “Oh, what’s the adult thing to do next?” Have people over for dinner, right?
Sonja Overhiser: So, we realized at the time we had no cooking skills whatsoever. I ate a lot of Hot Pockets and breakfast cereal. Alex ate a lot of Taco Bell, and so we really didn’t have anywhere to start in the kitchen. So, we said, “Okay, let’s learn how to cook something.”
Sonja Overhiser: So, we started looking for cookbooks. At the time, my boss at work had a cookbook. I asked her, “What’s a fancy French cookbook?” And she said, “Julia Child.” I said, “Who the heck is Julia Child?” And she gave me the cookbook, and so we started paging through it and I just kind of fell in love with her personality. She was so just warm and genuine and said, “If you’ve never learned to cook before, you can do it.” I was like, “Oh man, that’s so great. I don’t know anything,” and that’s kind of where we started. We tried a couple recipes from her book and they actually turned out. I think it was beginner’s luck, because then after that, we had a lot of failures.
Bjork Ostrom: Some that didn’t turn out.
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah. We kind of started just to fall in love with the process of cooking together and having people over and enjoying this food.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting because for me to envision, and again, we know you guys, so I can kind of fill this picture out a little bit. I have this idea of who you are individually and as a couple, and for me to think back and imagine Alex eating a Taco Bell taco, it is such a strong contrast-
Alex Overhiser: A chili cheese burrito, actually.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, okay. Yeah. Right, right. It could be anything from the Taco Bell menu. But it doesn’t compute in my mind, but it’s fun to hear that origin story of how you guys said, “Okay, let’s” … And it sounds like part of it was, “We want to host people. We want to be a people about people,” and part of that is food, and how do we start to learn how to do that.
Bjork Ostrom: My question for you, as long as we’re talking about specifically food and the skills around that, which is such an important piece of this and sometimes we talk about the more technical things on the podcast, but for each of you, it feels like you’re continually trying to evolve that. You’re trying to get better at the craft of creating meals, and I would assume it involves a lot of testing, a lot of learning, but Alex, are there places that you go to say, “Hey, how do we continually become better at our craft of creators around food and recipes?”
Alex Overhiser: Absolutely. We’ve really become really passionate about making recipes that other people can follow. I think early on in the blog, we were passionate about just creating new things and hoped somebody else could create it as well, but we’ve realized that it’s really, really fun when somebody can make your recipe, follow it to a tee, and have it turn out, so we’ve really kind of dedicated ourselves to creating recipes that are simple to follow and will turn out if you make them. That was a bit of a change for us.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you talk about that? Number one, why did you make that change? And then we’ll talk about some advice that you have for people who want to create kind of these clear, easy-to-understand, kind of doable recipes. So, first of all, at what point did you realize, “Hey, this is something maybe we need to shift in terms of how we’re approaching the content on our blog”?
Alex Overhiser: I think early on, the blog wasn’t a professional blog. It was just purely a hobby, and so we were just doing things out of passion. We were so excited about these new recipes, so excited about these healthy nutritious foods, that we just wanted to put them on the internet as soon as possible.
Sonja Overhiser: I would just say, “Hey, have you heard of quinoa? It’s so good. Yay.”
Bjork Ostrom: Right. Publish.
Alex Overhiser: We didn’t really put that professional spin on it. The funny part is, in our day jobs, we actually worked together previously at a technical writing company, and so writing instructions was our actual job.
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah. So our job was to take really complex things, like products. We worked a lot in medical devices or software, and take these really complex things and then translate them to make them easy to understand for the everyday reader. And so that’s actually, we realized, what we do on the blog every day is to take a process and to really distill it down and to think about who is on the other side, who is the user of these instructions, how can we make it fail-proof, how can we make it something that anyone of any level of cooking can understand and follow. That has kind of really become our passion of what we do is to make these recipes that are easy to follow for people of all kinds.
Bjork Ostrom: So, do you feel like there are recipes, then, that you are super excited about, you really personally love, and you would love to share with your audience, but they don’t pass the filter of accessible or whatever you would want to call it in terms of a recipe that you can publish on your blog? Is that a hard thing to have that filter?
Alex Overhiser: Oh yes, blog-worthy is such a difficult subject. We had it even more so when we wrote our cookbook, because there were some recipes that we just really loved and wanted to put in that cookbook, but our title for our book was Pretty Simple Cooking, and we really wanted to kind of distill recipes that were simple, but we are tackling some newer, more complicated things. We just did a sourdough bread recipe on our blog, and that took like a year and a half to develop, to try to figure out what is this super complex thing and what’s the way that we can spin it so that other people can do it, too.
Sonja Overhiser: So, it’s super complicated. It takes three days. The most labor-intensive day, it takes five hours to put this together. So, what we decided to do was number one, write super, super clear instructions. Number two, do a very in depth video to show people how the dough should look, and then number three, what we feel like was our really innovative piece was to create a checklist because Alex found that he was always forgetting what step he was on of our sourdough bread, so we created a really simple checklist for people so they could check off after they do each step. We made it a printable on our blog. So, we feel like we took something that was really complicated and we made it simpler to follow, and we’re seeing results. We’re seeing people making our sourdough bread and tagging us on social media, and it’s just really, really fun to see that all this time and energy and years that we’ve put into making simple recipes is actually paying off.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I think this is a missing … It’s not a missing piece. I think it’s something that’s important to point out. How long do you feel like … I know it’s hard to know for sure, but between the two of you, to create that one piece of content, how long would you guess total that it took?
Alex Overhiser: That one was on the extreme side, but it had to be … I don’t know.
Sonja Overhiser: I don’t even want to know.
Alex Overhiser: 50 hours maybe. Pretty insane.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Okay, that’s the thing that I feel like is so important to point out, and it’s like, when you stop and think about it, it’s an insane amount of time, but I think it’s so important to point out that if you’re gonna produce a piece of content and you want that piece of content to do really well … It’s not true all the time. You don’t have to spend 50 hours for every single piece of content, but I think that there are these kind of pillar pieces of content that creators need to think about that will take 40, 50 hours by the time that you factor in, in this case, recipe testing, you created a guide, all of the photographing, developing and tweaking the recipe, doing the photography, the video. But, then what happens is, and this is the beautiful thing about the recipe content, is that it just lives forever and it’s not like someday, that recipe is going to not work anymore. It is forever gonna be a really valuable piece of content, but it’s hard to put that much time and energy into it.
Bjork Ostrom: We did that recently with Pinch of Yum, and by we, I actually didn’t have anything to do with it, but Lindsay and some of our team members put together a freezer meal piece of content. It was kind of the same strategy where, “Hey, we’re gonna put together printables. We’re gonna test these recipes. We’re gonna have really specific instructions on it,” and it takes a ton, a ton, a ton of time. The good thing is, though, often, not always, but that is rewarded by, like you said, people interacting with it and making the recipe and having success with it, but it’s not easy.
Bjork Ostrom: So, let’s talk about … You talked about the different components that were a part of it, a printable, like something above and beyond just the written content, the video, which I think people understand, but one of the things that I think isn’t as easy to understand or as easy to immediately develop as a skill, but that you guys have, is this ability to clearly communicate in writing. So, for those that are looking to help the people that come to their blog have success with a recipe specifically, or just instruction in general, what would your advice be to those people as they approach writing?
Sonja Overhiser: That’s a great question. It’s something that takes a lot of practice. I would say to read a lot of cookbooks to kind of understand the style of recipe writing. I think that’s something in the early days that we kind of said, “Oh, well, we can just write these in our own words and it can be pretty loose and it doesn’t really matter if the ingredients are in the same order,” but there’s this very standard practice of how to write a recipe. So, I would say get familiar with some style guides and cookbooks. Just read recipes to understand the basic structure of them.
Sonja Overhiser: And then, another thing that I do and what we’ve learned in our technical writing jobs is always start with an action verb. So, say, “Stir the pot,” or that type of thing. Always start with that, and then just really think about your recipe and break it into logical steps. One thing that we’ve also learned from our technical writing careers is that people’s brains can’t understand more than 10 steps at once. So, trying to break things down into logical groups can help, and doing sub-steps. So for example, with our sourdough bread, there were so many steps that we really had to start to kind of put those into groupings of smaller steps to make it a little more modular and easier for our brains to understand.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I think that’s great, and you think about writing, some of the most, especially content online, some of the easiest content to read, there’s a flow to it where there’s a heading, maybe there’s some bullet points, there’s numbers. I pulled up the sourdough bread recipe, and that’s true for this recipe. You can see day one, there’s a little walkthrough. There’s an area where it’s bold. Feed the starter, and then it goes day two. There’s italics. There’s a flow and almost a design to how the information is communicated, and I would assume some of this even just comes without you guys thinking of it because you have crafted this skill from your job, as well as from reading.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting to hear you talk about the importance of reading. I remember when Lindsay was, and she still is, super interested in developing the craft of writing and writing in a way where people feel like they are connected with you. She said what she learned from other writers that she really appreciated was exactly like you said, the most important thing to do is read other people and then write as much as you can. It sounds so obvious, but it’s like any other skill where you need to observe people that you appreciate and want to pursue in terms of their level of skill. You want to get to that place, and then also practice on your own. So, I think it’s great advice and something to consider because writing is so important, both accessible writing, and then also technical writing is so important.
Bjork Ostrom: So, you’ve talked a little bit about the career, your previous career, and you kind of have an interesting story where even before working together now, you guys were working together before, so it’s kind of this …
Bjork Ostrom: You guys were working together before, so it was kinda this, or at least at the same company. So, Alex can you talk a little bit about your story of your career before you were doing A Couple Cooks full time?
Alex Overhiser: Yes, so Sonja got her first job out of college at this small technical writing company and I was finishing school and so she was there for a year or two. And then they needed a graphic designer at the company and I jumped on board. So we worked together for this small company for, Sonja 13 or 14 years and me for 12 years.
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sonja Overhiser: He actually got the job by Photoshopping our boss’ cats into funny scenarios. And she was like, “Oh you are good at Photoshop. Okay. Do you want to be on-”
Bjork Ostrom: Hired. Little did you know cat pictures would be, would trump a fine tuned resume.
Alex Overhiser: Absolutely, a little bit of humor will get you the job.
Bjork Ostrom: You were at this company before and the interesting thing is, as I understand it, there was kinda potential for this to become a company that you were really involved with or even kinda had, like you were a partner in. And Sonja, because you had kind of come in early, that was a potential pass. So it kind of seems like for some people like “hey this is something really, really cool. This could be like something I could develop, I could become a part of,” and you guys made the hard decision like, okay, this is, for some people they would really have this strong desire to become entrepreneurs kinda in this different setting, but it maybe wasn’t the best fit for you, or you said “hey we are so passionate about what we are doing with Food and A Couple Cooks,” that you made the hard decision and said, “hey, we’re gonna walk away from some really cool potential here in order to focus on A Couple Cooks.”
Bjork Ostrom: So, can you talk about how you came to that decision and then what that was like to make the transition from, both of you, which is an interesting complexity to the story, make this transition into then working on A Couple Cooks full time?
Sonja Overhiser: Yes, it was a very long and hard process. I worked there for 13 years, and in the last six years I was there I came on board as a partner of the business with my former boss. She became my business partner and she had started the business herself, it was kind of her business baby, and she was asking me to be her partner and then eventually run the business in the long term. So it was a great career path and a really exciting field to be in. But at the same time, it was a lot of hours, as you know, just being in a small business setting, the clients are always there, there’s always more work to do, especially being a manager and a partner, so just started to become pretty overwhelming in terms of the work-life balance aspect. And at the same time we had A Couple Cooks, it was always our kind of passion project, our hobby, over the years, but it started to make just a little bit of money and so it was kinda becoming a little bit of a side hustle for us and eventually just started growing. It was hard, because I had a very set career path, and being, I call myself kinda an older Millennial, Xennial, if you’ve seen that term.
Bjork Ostrom: I haven’t, but I love that.
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah, so it’s like people who were born-
Bjork Ostrom: Kinda Gen-Z, Millennial hybrid.
Sonja Overhiser: Right, right. They’re kinda right in between the generations. And so for me, I never would’ve conceived of running a business online. I thought, you know, you have to go into these professions where you stay and you work for a corporation and so in my mind, this was the secure career path, and that the salary and the benefits and everything-
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and it’s also a little bit entrepreneurial. Like, you’re able to come in as a partner of this company.
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah, so it was hard for me to think of this hobby that we had on the side as something that could really sustain our lifestyle, but we continued to grow it and we decided actually that we were going to go into the adoption process and so when we decided on that, we decided, “okay, we need to have a change here. There’s no work-life balance right now.” So we decided that once a child appeared in our lives that I could step down and start running A Couple Cooks.
Alex Overhiser: And I feel like, oh, sorry-
Bjork Ostrom: Oh no, go ahead.
Alex Overhiser: And I feel like one thing that’s kinda different from us from a lot of other bloggers that we’ve talked to is that a lot of people started their blog at a time in their life where there was a lot of free time, maybe they were between jobs or right at the end of college or something like that-
Bjork Ostrom: Or had a job where they could work on it while they were at their job.
Sonja Overhiser: Right, exactly.
Alex Overhiser: But for us, we had very successful careers, so it was really hard to build into the blog as a business because we just didn’t have time for it. So it was still a leap to set aside two full-time salaries and say, “we’re gonna try this, even after seven years of blogging.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and what, in that process, what are some of the things that you’ve learned?
Alex Overhiser: I think one of the big things is that being strategic about where you’re investing your time, there’s a lot of different aspects when you’re running a blog and you’re kinda doing it all by yourself, or between the two of us, and we realized that we can be strategic, like work on SEO, work on new content, don’t spend too much time worrying about social media, just get your stuff out there and keep creating great content.
Bjork Ostrom: Huh. So the, one of the things that’s interesting to hear you talk about and I think it’s hard for people to understand this, but the balance of social media, and you talk about “hey, this isn’t necessarily where you should be spending all your time,” but sometimes it feels like that’s where everybody else is spending all their time, is their social media, so how do you balance that as creators and say, “okay, we know that we want to, like at the core of what we do is really solid, reliable, good recipes.” So that has to be the core of what it is. But also, we know that in order for this to be a sustainable thing, people have to see those and get to that in some way, whether that be through your podcast, which we’ll talk about in a little bit, through the blog, through social media.
Bjork Ostrom: So what does that balance look like for you? And each of you can talk a little bit about what your role would be, but what does that balance look like for you in terms of content creation versus content promotion versus graphic design, you have such a beautiful site, what does that look like? How much time do you spend on that? If you were to break down a typical day or a week, what would it look like for each one of you? And Alex, you can start.
Alex Overhiser: So we both develop recipes, that’s the one thing that we share fully. We bounce ideas off each other and kinda split up recipes to take on and we develop them and test them together which is really fun and really the best part about this job for us. But then I do a lot of the more technical thins, so I do all the website design, I manage all the backend, I do SEO research and keyword research, I edit the photos, so all that kind of technical stuff I take on. So throughout the day, when we have Larson at child care, or we’re splitting up our time, I’m working on those things.
Bjork Ostrom: And before we get too far away from it, I know people will hear this “SEO, keyword research,” and that’s kinda this black box for a lot of people. For anyone that’s interested in doing that, do you have any advice for them, how to go about doing it, and kinda even just like a one-to-one, “hey, how do you get a little bit better at understanding ‘keyword research.’ It’s kinda this complicated thing, or seemingly complicated thing?”
Sonja Overhiser: It is complicated.
Alex Overhiser: We’ve been kinda mystified by SEO for the last seven, eight years, and then just this year have really started to learn. And the big thing for us is to understand that the way Google works is kinda like a human. If you’re giving it good information, then it’s gonna take that information and give it to other people. If you’re giving them a blog post with a recipe and you don’t talk about the recipe at all, they’re not gonna think you really care about that recipe.
Sonja Overhiser: So we have years and years of content of me just saying, “quinoa’s yummy.” And not talking about the recipe itself or any of the components within the recipe.
Bjork Ostrom: Hm, and what does that look like, to talk about the recipe, when you say that?
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah, so maybe explaining some different components inside the recipe. For example, I was just re-optimizing a curry recipe so maybe talking a little bit about ‘what is curry powder.’ And if you don’t know, go research it. I had to go research it a little bit and I learned some interesting things about curry powder. And then kinda explaining a little more about the process around the recipe. Instead of just relying on the recipe card to tell people that, maybe kinda walking them through some of the different techniques that are used and then maybe some things that you might want to pay attention to or tips. All those things that I just thought, ’oh, it’s in the recipe card, so people are gonna read it there and understand it." Putting some of that up in the body so that people can grab that content and see that you are really an expert in what you’re talking about.
Bjork Ostrom: And is there a tool that you use for doing any of the keyword research or is that kinda like be organic and just, you know, search a keyword term to see maybe how competitive it is or how other sites are ranking for it? Is there one you really like as far as a tool?
Alex Overhiser: We did the e-course from Hashtag Jeff, I think, has he been on your podcast?
Bjork Ostrom: He hasn’t, but-
Alex Overhiser: Okay-
Bjork Ostrom: Yep, I’m familiar with Jeff.
Alex Overhiser: SEO expert, we did his e-course, and he recommends SEMrush and so we’ve been using that the last few months. Which is a big investment, but we do feel like it’s really useful as far as organizing all the keyword research.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Cool.
Sonja Overhiser: And it’s absolutely paying off. So-
Bjork Ostrom: Cool, that’s great. And that’s inspiring for people to hear that are maybe, that have been creating content for a long time and maybe haven’t considered that, to say, “hey, it doesn’t, you can get into it anytime, even if you’ve been blogging for a substantial amount of time, to say, ”hey, we’re gonna start thinking strategically about some of the content." And it doesn’t mean that you have to then produce content that you don’t enjoy or you’re not passionate about, you’re just maybe a little more strategic about what that looks like and how to create that.
Sonja Overhiser: Exactly. It’s kinda finding that great sweet spot of what are people looking for, what do they want, and then what am I passionate about? So yeah, that’s what we’ve kinda been focusing on. And it is inspiring, when we started and for so long we were just kinda doing this as a fun passion thing and not being strategic about it. So it is encouraging that you can decide to be strategic late in the game and it can still pay off.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. And then Sonja, what does, in terms of a typical day for you, or a typical week, what are the things that you’re focusing on in the areas that you spend most of your time with?
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah, so I am the main writer for A Couple Cooks. So I write all the posts and I do all the communication, so any of our work with sponsors, we do a lot of sponsored content, and we actually really, really love it. I love working with different brands, that kinda fit our values and figuring out ways to work with their product, so I do a lot of that communication. And then I do Instagram, which is our main social media outlet, and what else do I do, Alex?
Alex Overhiser: I don’t know, but you’re very busy.
Bjork Ostrom: But you do a lot of it. Yeah. So this is actually, as we’re talking about time and what you spend time on, this is a completely selfish question. So as I mentioned at the beginning, this is my first podcast back, and we have our daughter Solvi-
Sonja Overhiser: Congratulations.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, thank you. Really appreciate it. And you have Larson at home, and I want to know what advice you have for me as I’m kinda figuring out what this looks like and how it works. What was that like for you guys, knowing that it was an insanely busy time for you, knowing your story with that and your cookbook, and how all those things kinda happened at the same time. But can you talk about the things that you’ve learned as a family and working together as a couple and being entrepreneurs, building your blog and your following online, publishing a cookbook, all of those things. What are some of the things that you’ve learned in terms of what it takes to find that balance that you talked about. Maybe there are times when there isn’t any balance and you just have to accept that. But what would your advice to me or to people that are listening who are trying to kinda figure out what that looks like, to both have a family and run a business, and maybe even continue with their normal job too, if that’s a part of the puzzle as well. Sonja I’ll start with you. The pressure’s on for you, you’re in the hot seat. And then Alex, you can have some time to think.
Sonja Overhiser: Sure. So we, as I mentioned, we’re part of the adoption process and so when you’re waiting for a baby, you don’t really know when they’re gonna show up. And part of our story, actually we had a few fall through in the process, so it was a long period of not knowing when our family was gonna start. And in the same time we were working on this cookbook, Pretty Simple Cooking, and we had a year to do all the content development and our draft deadline was in February. So we ended up having a call about a baby who ended up being our baby Larson, two weeks before our manuscript was due. So we were super scrambling. Actually when we were driving to the hospital I had my laptop out and was working on our manuscript. Because I was so nervous, I was like, “I just need something to channel this nervous energy.”
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, sure, it was almost an escape.
Sonja Overhiser: Yes, so yeah, so we drove a few hours and ended up having the most beautiful baby boy and brought him home, and then we had this deadline. So there was a lot of him sleeping on our laps while we were working, and actually, when I look back, having a newborn is, you know, they sleep so much. It was actually a great time to be productive. But now having a toddler, there’s not-
Bjork Ostrom: That’s not the case.
Sonja Overhiser: Much that you’re getting done. But, what I think the main thing for us is, being an entrepreneur, being your own boss, is an incredible privilege when you have a family. Because you can be so much more flexible than you could be working kinda a normal desk job and reporting to a boss. So the fact that we both are home, that we’re working for ourselves, that we can be flexible with our hours, we are just so grateful for that every day. And that is what helps us to have a good balance with our family. We don’t mind working in the evenings, we don’t mind doing that if it means that we can go to the zoo with Larson during the day. That’s a trade off I would make in every second. So we just kinda shift our hours around Larson’s schedule. We do a little bit, we usually work kinda after he goes to bed, he goes down around 7:00. So we’ll usually work in the evening a little bit.
Sonja Overhiser: But the cool thing is we love what we do, so it doesn’t feel bad to do work in the evenings. And then now, now that he’s a toddler, we’ve put him into an early childhood program so he goes three days a week for six hours and, like today, we can do podcast interviews and really catch up on work. So that’s been a nice new element of balance. He can go, he can learn from his teachers and have fun with all the kids, and then we can get some good time to get some stuff done.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s, the, what I’ve learned in our, it’ll be seven weeks tomorrow, is that it’s just a continual process of rediscovering what works. And like one, a week, this week will be different than next week, and it’s staying flexible and figuring out, “okay, like what’s gonna work this week?” And in those gaps that you have, in those margins that you have, how do you go heads-down and get stuff done. Alex, how about you? When you think of what it’s been like to kinda juggle the blog, cookbook, family, maybe even fitting out some personal time in there as well, in the tiny margins, what advice would you have for people that are looking to be successful in all of those different areas? It’s not easy to do, but what would your advice be to those people?
Alex Overhiser: I think one of the things that we’ve done that’s been really useful is to create an ongoing task list. So we use Asana, it’s an online task management system where-
Sonja Overhiser: Is that how you say it?
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, I know, that’s one of those where you like, you probably go there 14 times a day, but you say it out loud three times a year.
Alex Overhiser: Uh, yeah.
Sonja Overhiser: We were saying Ah-sana, but then, weren’t sure.
Bjork Ostrom: Ah-sana, that’s how I say it as well, so-
Sonja Overhiser: Asana, but then-
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, Asana-
Sonja Overhiser: Weren’t sure if that’s how-
Bjork Ostrom: That’s how I say it as well-
Bjork Ostrom: We have this thing with our team where it developed into two words, “A sauna.” So like, it would be this joke of like, “hey, let’s go meet about that in a sauna.” As if we had this virtual place to relax and hang out. But yeah, Asana is what we say as well.
Alex Overhiser: So its great for teams, but even by yourself I think it would be really useful.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Alex Overhiser: To be able to know what your priorities are put on … for me it’s important to say I have to get these four things done, everything else until tomorrow, and then I feel like I’m being successful. Because otherwise I feel like you can feel not successful when you have 40 different jobs to do.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. They just recently. I’m not sure if this was across the board, but they just pushed out an update. Have you seen that update in Asana yet?
Alex Overhiser: I think so, I haven’t really dug into the differences.
Bjork Ostrom: Super clean and really fast, and so it’s a great tool. I think it was actually some of the Facebook early employees or co-founders that then split off and started this and it’s a great tool.
Sonja Overhiser: Interesting.
Bjork Ostrom: So we use it as well.
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah. We actually also used it for our adoption paperwork-
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, right, you can use it for all of that stuff!
Sonja Overhiser: First time we used it, actually. And you’re like, oh my gosh, there are like-
Bjork Ostrom: So much paperwork!
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah!
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. So one of the last subjects that I wanted to talk to you about was the podcast. That’s something that you guys started. In your first season you had, was it over 60 episodes? Is that right?
Alex Overhiser: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m trying to think … so a substantial amount. More than almost all podcasts. Now you have a second season that you’ve come out with. Curious to know what the intention was behind the podcast, and why you started that, what you learned in the first season, and then starting in the second season, some of the things that you are changing and tweaking as you think about evolving that part of your brand. So Alex, you could talk a little bit about that.
Alex Overhiser: Sure. We started the podcast in 2015, which seems like forever agon now-
Bjork Ostrom: Isn’t that crazy?
Alex Overhiser: … in blog years. Yeah. And we wanted to do something where we could really engage with our audience in a way that you can’t through writing. I feel like there’s something about talking, about hearing somebody’s voice that allows yo to dig into deeper subjects than just recipes. So that’s what we were excited about and why we wanted to start the podcast.
Alex Overhiser: And so, we did it every other week for about two years, which ended up with 62 episodes. And it was just a really great opportunity for us to talk to interesting people, inspiring people, And we found that we didn’t have a huge audience on the podcast, but the people who listened were really paying attention and seemed to be really engaged with our brand.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. When you’re used to page view numbers, to have podcast numbers to contrast it against, it’s like, sad trombone. It’s like, wah-wah-wah. But then when you think of the fact that, okay, what is the level on which you are connecting with those people. And it’s so substantially deeper. And so, the plot might not be as big as it might be with a blog, but in terms of the depths of the roots of the connection that you have with those people that listen, it’s so much more!
Bjork Ostrom: And I know that’s true for people who listen to this podcast. The conversations that we have when I meet somebody who listened to the podcast, it’s like, oh we are able to pick up so quickly, because we have this established relationship, although, maybe we’ve never even had a conversation before. We kind of understand, okay, these are some things that we can start with right away. And if somebody I’ve never met, they can say, “hey, this is something I really connected with,” and have that starting point. So in terms of relationally, for people it is absolutely something that’s worthwhile, to have those connection.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have thoughts on when it comes to the podcast, talking about the amount of time it takes to work on something. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of energy. When you think about dividing the amount of work that you have in a normal day, is the podcast 10% of what it looks like for you guys in a normal week, or month? Is it 25%? How do you section off that amount of time? And in terms of actually producing an episode, do you have thoughts on how long that might take start to finish by the time its all said and done?
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah, that’s a good question, and I’ll back up just a little bit. So we had our podcast season one, and podcasting is really fun, it’s exciting, you get to talk to a lot of really amazing people and learn a lot. But it’s also a ton of work, as you said. There are a lot of technical issues.
Sonja Overhiser: And also marketing podcasts is really a different beast. I don’t know if you run in to that, too. We though, oh, we have all these blog followers, they’ll just go over and listen to a podcast! But it’s a lot harder than that! When we started, people didn’t even really know how to listen to podcasts, so it was a lot of education around, okay you go get a podcast app, and subscribe. So it was so, so, different from blogging that there was a big learning curve.
Sonja Overhiser: So when we launched our book, “Pretty Simple Cooking,” we decided to take our season form the podcast. So we stopped podcasting for about a little over 6 months. And honestly I wasn’t sure if we wanted to come back to it because it was so much work. We also had some adds on the first season on some of the episodes, but it wasn’t really a big revenue stream for us. And so we were just spending a lot of time of it without a monetary return, so we just wanted to make sure it was worth our time. Because now that we have Larson, and I’m sure you feel the same now that you have a sweet baby, every passion project is time away from him!
Sonja Overhiser: So trying to figure out, okay, what are the things that I really want to be focusing on with our business. So we took some time away, and we though about how can we make this less time to produce, how can we make it easier and how can we make it better content for our listeners? And so we came up with this concept, have you ever watched comedians in cars getting coffee?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. Love it.
Sonja Overhiser: So it’s a Seinfeld show and he just takes out really cool, funny, comedians and pairs them with a car, because he’s obsessed with old, cool cars, so he pairs them with a car and the just talk! And it’s fun, and it’s cute, and it’s only, lik 7 to 10 minutes long. So we were kinda inspired by that style of like, just really short, short and sweet and because we’re not funny bring it kinda deep, have a little more deep takeaway instead of a funny take away.
Sonja Overhiser: So we though of the concept called, “Small Bites.” So we decided let’s make our podcast shorter, lets make it 15 minutes, let’s make it cut out all the small talk and just get right to the point. I’m just-
Bjork Ostrom: Love that.
Sonja Overhiser: For example, we just released one today about eating, and how what we eat affects climate change, which is actually kinda a big subject. But we packaged it down into less than 20 minutes. We’re about 15 to 20 minute conversation.
Sonja Overhiser: And that make it a little bit easier to schedule interviews. So our interview slots are only 30 minutes with people and then our intro and our outro that we record are shorter, too. So we hope that it’s better content and it’s also taking less time.
Sonja Overhiser: So, in response to your question, how much time is it taking, this is kind of a new normal for us. So now, I would say, what would you say Alex, maybe…
Alex Overhiser: Maybe two hours for each of us instead of double that.
Sonja Overhiser: Per an episode.
Alex Overhiser: Yeah.
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah. So I would-
Bjork Ostrom: I love that! I think that, oh, well finish that though, and then I have some thoughts …
Sonja Overhiser: I was just going to say, I think it’s hard to quantify, some of … a lot of the time was just put into researching guests. How can we curate these topics, these people from different aspects of the food industry, people from diverse backgrounds. How do we find all these people? So that has been … that is a hard, kind of a longer process, figuring out who are going to be guests, but I would say we’re drastically cut down on the amount of time it takes to produce an episode.
Bjork Ostrom: I was thinking about doing a podcast episode where it was just me, unrelated to the comedians in the cars getting coffee, this would be me probably with a coffee in a car, but I’m not a comedian and I would be by myself. So there’s actually no connection to that. But the connection actually is to thinking strategically about what you have done and what’s working and what’s not working, and then evolving that.
Bjork Ostrom: So what I love about it is say, okay, this is something we wanna do. It doesn’t have to look exactly the same. And there’s a really good chance that we could produce something better that also doesn’t have as many of the negatives, in this case time that it took to create it, and I feel like what you guys are doing with the podcast is a great example of that, where it’s strategically thinking about evolving something. And so it’s still a good fit for what you’re doing, and just trying something new.
Bjork Ostrom: And there’s this fine balance between sticking with something for a really long period of time. Sometimes winding that thing down, but often times its not either one where you just put your head down and do the same thing over and over, or wind it down, but you say, how do we create a better version of this? And it could look drastically different and so, the point with the podcast episode in the car, it was going to be an exercise for myself to say, hey, there could be something still valuable ina very different format. Maybe the audio’s not as good, I’m by myself, I’m not reading off an outline or something like that.
Bjork Ostrom: And so I love the example that you guys have, in evolving the podcast. If people wanna check that podcast out, what’s the best way for them to see that and to listen?
Alex Overhiser: It’s called, “A Couple Cooks | Small Bites” and it should be in any of your favorite podcast app.
Sonja Overhiser: Go get a podcast app, no, I’m sure-
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, start with that!
Sonja Overhiser: … everyone knows how to listen to podcasts.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s the nice thing about being on another podcast, is that you know you can take about a podcast and people know exactly how to find it.
Sonja Overhiser: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is just this huge advantage. So last thing-
Sonja Overhiser: So look for Small Bites. And we’re really excited about this season. We have some kinda big names coming on. actually the person who inspired our whole cooking journey, or one of the people, Mark Bittman-
Bjork Ostrom: Cool!
Sonja Overhiser: He wrote the book, “Food Matters.” Yeah, we’re gonna have him on the podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: Well that’s awesome!
Sonja Overhiser: … so excited. I’m gonna try not to fangirl too much.
Bjork Ostrom: Right, right, right, yeah.
Sonja Overhiser: And then some other really exciting people including Tiffany Amber Theissen who was on “Saved by the Bell.” She has a new cookbook coming out.
Bjork Ostrom: How awesome!
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah, so that’s another reason that we love podcasting, it just the ability to talk to some really interesting and great people in the world of food.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. So this will be my last question for you guys. We talked about your cookbook a little bit and we’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes so people can check that out, but you guys were on the “Today Show” for the cookbook! And I’m always curious to know what that experience is like when someone has an experience like that. Obviously a huge, influential media outlet, and what was that like for you guys to be a part of that?
Sonja Overhiser: Yeah, it was so much fun. We had blast. I mean, it was pretty terrifying, too. To be on it. I mean, like, going in and getting my makeup done next to Carson Daly, it was just so crazy.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, for sure.
Sonja Overhiser: And then, Al Roker just popping in and saying hi. It was so crazy. And then just being able to have Hoda on our segment was very cool, because she’s also an adoptive parent. And so it was just really amazing to be able to connect with these people.
Sonja Overhiser: The show is very, very well produced so a lot of the local show’s that we’ve done cooking segments on, you have to do everything yourself. You have to bring all the food-
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, for sure-
Sonja Overhiser: You know, you guys have-
Bjork Ostrom: We’ve been there.
Sonja Overhiser: … done it before. Lindsay’s done it. And on a national level they do it all for you. So they had it all prepared by food stylists, they block it all out for you and have it in little stations, you get to do a dress rehearsal where you walk through each one. So that was amazing. We just had to show up! We just kinda rolled out of bed and we’re like, “hey, were here!”
Alex Overhiser: Yeah. It was kinda a fifteen minute, you roll out of bed, walk over to the Today Show, do the shoot.
Sonja Overhiser: Yep, then you’re done.
Alex Overhiser: We’re drinking coffee at like 7:30. We’re like, wait, what’s going on?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. And for those that wanna check out the book, can you talk a little bit about what that is? We’ve kinda mentioned it here and there, but I just wanna make sure you get a little chance to promo that.
Alex Overhiser: Yeah, this is our first cookbook. It’s called “Pretty Simple Cooking,” and it’s 100 vegetarian recipes for non-vegetarians, as we like to say. It’s really accessible, delicious, kinda everyday type of food, and they’re recipes that will actually work if you try them.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, awesome. Alex and Sonja, so fun to have you on the podcast. I appreciate your friendship and also you insights as fellow creators and business owners. I just really appreciate you guys. So thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Alexa Peduzzi: And another successful episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast is in the books, but before we sing off, I’d like to feature one of our reviewers from iTunes. And this one comes from Laine Oliver and it says, “As I’m working towards launching a food blog of my own, my husband and I have both enjoyed listening to this podcast. Bjork is a fantastic interviewer. He asks all the right questions and I leave each episode inspired and informed. Thanks for all you do!”
Alexa Peduzzi: Thank you so much, Lane. We appreciate your review so much! And if you, dear listener, would like to be featured in another episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast, all you have to do is head over to iTunes, find the Food Blogger Pro podcast, and leave us a review! We’ll give you, and your blog name if you leave it in the review, shout out in an upcoming episode of the podcast.
Alexa Peduzzi: And that does it for us this week, and from all of us here at FBPHQ, make it a great week.