200: The State of Food Blogger Pro with Bjork Ostrom | Food Blogger Pro

200: The State of Food Blogger Pro with Bjork Ostrom

An image of Bjork Ostrom and the title of his episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'The State of Food Blogger Pro.'

Welcome to episode 200 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks about the tools that we use to run Food Blogger Pro.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Lindsay Ostrom about how she’s managing life, work, and her new normal. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

The State of Food Blogger Pro 

And the day is here! Welcome to the 200th episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! To celebrate, we’re focusing on…Food Blogger Pro!

More specifically, this episode focuses on how we run Food Blogger Pro as a membership site, business, and producer of content. Bjork talks about all of the tools that are essential to running Food Blogger Pro, and we encourage you to think about the ways that you could incorporate some of them into your own blog or business.

Whether this is your first Food Blogger Pro Podcast episode or your 200th, thank you for making the FBP Podcast a part of your week!

A photo of cupcakes with candles and the text, 'Thanks for 200 episodes!'

In this episode, Bjork shares:

  • How we built a membership site on WordPress
  • The plugins we’re using on WordPress
  • How we work as a team
  • How the business works
  • How the podcast works

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify:

Resources:

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

If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.

Transcript:

Bjork Ostrom: do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do!

Bjork Ostrom: That was not as cool as I thought it was going to be. Episode 200 we are here, and I am amazed that we have made it. I shouldn’t say that I’m amazed, I would say that I am appreciative, I’m grateful, I am thankful that we are here at episode 200 of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. As I was preparing for this episode, I took some time to just kind of reflect and review on the podcast specifically. And it’s crazy to think that this all started back in 2015.

Bjork Ostrom: In the summer of 2015, I released a podcast episode called Our Beliefs, Our Hopes, and Our Dreams, which is kind of … Lindsay gives me a hard time about whenever we hang out with people I’ll ask the question, what are your hopes and dreams? But that was the first episode we ever released, Episode 000 where we talked about what our hope would be for this podcast, and we talked about this idea of feeding the world. And we want to feed the world with good information, we want to feed the world with good food, and we want to feed this audience with actionable advice that will help them build something that they are proud of and that they are excited about. And that has been the case for this podcast through the years.

Bjork Ostrom: And a huge reason why, is because of the incredible guests that we have had on. Today there are not going to be any guests it’s just going to be me sitting in the room talking and sharing a little bit about Food Blogger Pro, the State of Food Blogger Pro. In the last episode we talked about Pinch of Yum specifically, and today we’re going to be talking about Food Blogger Pro. It’s not going to be interview style, it’s just going to be me chatting about some of the things that I think you might find interesting about Food Blogger Pro. And hopefully some of those things will help you do what you do and build what you want to build.

Bjork Ostrom: And the idea with this is specifically to talk about … we live in Minnesota and the governor recently did an address, they call it the State of the State. And they kind of do a recap what’s happening, what’s good, what’s been working. This is going to be State of Food Blogger Pro, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about how we run things. The tools that we use, the processes that are important, the areas that we think are really valuable for us.

Bjork Ostrom: And the hope here is to reveal some of the things that are really good tools to use, really good processes that we’ve discovered and to give you a little sneak peak behind the scenes of how we do what we do. And you might be able to take some of this and apply it to what you do. We always talk about this idea of actionable things right away or back pocket things. And the difference between those would be sometimes there might be a tool or an idea or a strategy that I mention that you could implement right away, and you can take that and you can start to use it on your site or you can use it for marketing or you can start using the tool. That’s great.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s also going to be things that I mention here that are maybe interesting, but they’d be more back pocket, which essentially means that you take that and you put it in your back pocket and you say, “Okay, good to know. Maybe some day I’ll use this, maybe I won’t, but I’m just going to use this as information gathering as opposed to action taking.” So think about that as I talk through some of the things that we do here at Food Blogger Pro. Is this something that’s actionable right away or is this kind of back pocket information that’s good to know and I can maybe implement that sometime in the future?

Bjork Ostrom: What I’m going to do is I’m going to actually break down different areas of the business, different areas of … kind of different departments so to speak for Food Blogger Pro, and talk about the different things that we use, the different processes that we use, and how those are helpful to us in the way that we use them. When you distill it all down, when you remove all of kind of the front facing stuff, there’s a lot of different pieces that are put together to make a business work. And you’ve probably noticed that as you’ve started to build your site or build your business that, man, you have to bolt on a lot of different things in order for this business that you’re building to be able to run. And we’ve found that to be the case with all of the sites that we’ve started including Food Blogger Pro.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m going to start by talking about the actual website itself, how we built that. And we just went through this really big transition process where we moved from a content management system called ExpressionEngine. And that is what Food Blogger Pro had been running on for years and years and years and years since we started way back in 2013, and we moved it over to WordPress. I’m going to be talking about how we built a membership site on WordPress and the marketing tools that are really important, the content management tools that are really important, and how we structured that. And then I’m going to be talking about how we work as a team, some of the tools that we use.

Bjork Ostrom: As you think about communicating with other people, maybe you’re thinking about potentially hiring somebody, even if it’s just somebody a couple of hours a week and if they’re not with you, if they’re not sitting down with you, how do you communicate with them? How do you stay in touch with people? What are the tools that are most important? And then I’m going to be talking about some of the … kind of the bones of the business, how we make sure that we have a really healthy solid business and the tools that we use for that. And then I’m going to be talking about the podcast, just sharing a couple of things that we do for this podcast that help to make it sustainable and allow us to do this for four years.

Bjork Ostrom: You have to have some stuff in place in order to make sure that you have systems that allow you to continue to create content, and that’s true for the podcast, it’s true for a blog. I’m going to end by just sharing a couple of different things about the podcast that have been helpful through the years and hardware that we use, as well as some of the software.

Bjork Ostrom: Let’s talk about Food Blogger Pro. We just went through this huge migration process. A few weeks ago, I released a podcast episode that talked about that and why we were so excited to make the move, whether it was such a good fit. And the other thing that’s really great about it is that WP Tasty, which we’ve talked about a lot in this podcast, we are creating these plugins that we love. We use on Pinch of Yum, we use on the blog for WP Tasty, but we wanted to use some of those for Food Blogger Pro as well.

Bjork Ostrom: This move really it helps us go all in on the WordPress Ecosystem and we can eat our own dog food so to speak, and use the tools that we are creating on WP Tasty within Food Blogger Pro as well. We’re really excited to finally be on WordPress and excited to make that move. For Food Blogger Pro members, you’ve seen that, you’ve been able to log in, you’ve been able to see the site, there’s been some immediate wins and then already we have this list of ideas of things that we’re going to be implementing down the line, that it is easier now that we are on WordPress to do some of those things.

Bjork Ostrom: What are we using to run our membership site on WordPress? I’m going to talk through some of these things so you have an idea of what that looks like and how that works. The first thing that is really important that’s different within a membership site compared to let’s say Pinch of Yum, or a regular blog where you’re publishing content and anybody can access it, is that there’s some content that’s public. You can go to foodbloggerpro.com/blog, or you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/podcast, and you can go there and you can access any of the content that we have published on the blog or within the podcast. It’s free. Anybody can get that, anybody can access it. You don’t have to be a member. But there’s also hundreds and thousands of pages, thousands in the case of Food Blogger Pro, of pages that aren’t public and you have to be a member to access that. And it’s a little bit of a different way to manage a site and you need something to manage that process.

Bjork Ostrom: And what we are using is a plugin called Restrict Content Pro and it sounds exactly like the name. And essentially what you are doing is you are restricting some of the content on your website. And for us the areas that we are restricting on Food Blogger Pro, we’re restricting the courses. You have to be a member in order to get access to the courses. One of the things that we do that’s a little bit different is if you sign up and you’re on the waiting list for Food Blogger Pro, you get the first course for free. That’s an example of one of the ways that we are releasing content that is usually behind … they call it a paywall, but we are giving that for free.

Bjork Ostrom: We want people to be able to move right away if they’re interested in setting up a site, so we give them that first course for free. Other than that first course that you get when you sign up for the waiting list, other than that first course, everything else is behind what they call a paywall, or it’s protected and so it’s members only. Courses is one area.

Bjork Ostrom: The forum. The community area of Food Blogger Pro is a really important area and that’s where people are having conversations, they’re asking questions, they’re asking for help. And all of those conversations that are happening on a daily basis on the forum are protected. We put that behind Restrict Content Pro. Another area is the deals page. If you are a member of Food Blogger Pro, you know that we offer deals and discounts for certain products that we recommend, and that deals page is protected. And one of the reasons why is because when we have these conversations with the different brands we’re working with, the different companies, they’ll come to us and they’ll say … or we’ll come to them and say, “Hey, we have this deals page but it’s not open to anybody.”

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s beneficial to them because somebody can’t search for instance like CoSchedule coupon, and land on our page because it’s protected. Only certain people, only members can log in and access that. That’s how we use Restrict Content Pro. That’s the plugin that we use to manage the membership component and to restrict certain content on the site.

Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that’s really important that I mentioned about Food Blogger Pro is the community forum. And you need something that works to manage the community forum. We’re not going to build a forum from scratch. We could if we wanted to, but it would be a ton of work and it’d be really involved. And so the plugin that we’re using for that is called bbPress.

Bjork Ostrom: The press part makes you immediately think of WordPress, which makes sense because bbPress is a WordPress plugin, which is great because it is built by the WordPress community. It integrates really well within WordPress. There’s lots of different solutions for foreign plugins and we went through the process. The team, Raquel, Alexa, Daniel, as we were making decisions about what we wanted to use for different tools, we had this expansive spreadsheet and all credit due to Alexa, Raquel and Daniel for going through this process. This wasn’t my idea but they built out this spreadsheet where they analyzed all the different solutions that existed for a forum solutions, for WordPress.

Bjork Ostrom: And one of the things that was a really important factor with bbPress is that it integrated directly in with WordPress. There’s other forum solutions that you can build if you have a website, but a lot of them require, let’s say two sign ins. You’d sign in to Food Blogger Pro and then you’d have another sign in to get into the forum component of things. Or if you wanted to remove that, you had to kind of do some hacky type stuff to make sure that the two sites, the WordPress site and the forum would talk to each other. And we really liked how clean bbPress was and that allowed us to have a Canvas, a WordPress Canvas that could build tools in the future that we understood and we had flexibility and kind of the freedom that we needed to add to it as we went.

Bjork Ostrom: We have Restrict Content Pro, we have bbPress for the community forum. Those are oftentimes really common questions that people ask. When it relates to a membership site, when you are building your site, what are you using? What are you using for the membership plugin? What are you using for the community forum? For us, we decided Restrict Content Pro and bbPress would be the best solutions. These are some ones that don’t require quite as much explanation but I think are still interesting to know.

Bjork Ostrom: We process payments. When you sign up for Food Blogger Pro membership, there has to be a way to take payment. If somebody puts in their credit card information or they use PayPal, how do they do that? Well, for credit card, a really, really common way to process credit cards is this company called Stripe. And Stripe is a really great payment processor because they integrate super seamlessly and for developers it’s really easy to work with. A super slick platform to process credit cards. And then we also use PayPal, specifically PayPal Express.

Bjork Ostrom: PayPal is a little bit harder to work with but the benefit of having two options is that there’s a lot of people who for online transactions, they prefer PayPal. The downside is it’s not as easy to work with, but the upside is it layers on some additional sign ups. You can read about different studies that exist where people have A/B tested and they said, “Okay, if we don’t have PayPal versus if we do have PayPal,” and they found that there’s an increase in sign ups because there are some people if they can use PayPal, they are more inclined, the conversion rate is higher because they trust PayPal in a way that they don’t with maybe putting their credit card information in. So that’s our reasoning for including PayPal.

Bjork Ostrom: And we’ve found that to be especially true if you have an audience that is international, outside of just the US, a lot of times there’s issues with processing or it could be the opposite. Let’s say that if you are in Canada, let’s say, and you’re building out a SAS app or a membership site, one of the issues potentially could be that somebody could enter a credit card in … or this would be maybe more common if it was, let’s say UK, or if you live in Europe somewhere. You put a credit card in, in the US … and this has happened for me where that credit card will say declined. And I’ll say, “Well, why has it declined?” Well, it looks like an international purchase depending on how your site is set up and how your business address with that site is communicated back to the credit card company.

Bjork Ostrom: A lot of people we found will use PayPal to get around that because it’s not going to decline the card, you’re not going to have issues purchasing internationally, in the same way that you would with credit card processing. We use Stripe and PayPal Express. It requires a little bit more of support, development, and handholding. And PayPal’s a little bit more dramatic at times in terms of how they handle things and not quite as easy to work with, but we found the benefit to outweigh the cost when it comes to PayPal.

Bjork Ostrom: A couple of other tools that have been really important for us, these would kind of fall under the external communication. How do we communicate with members and non-members? We use a service called Intercom. And if you are ever thinking about setting up any type of product where you’re going to have customers and you’re communicating with them, Intercom is a great way to manage that process. And my guess is that you are very familiar with Intercom, whether you know it or not because it is a really common chat interface that companies use to have conversations with their customer.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s not just a chat interface, they do a lot of other things. For instance, we can see within our Intercom account, we can see how often somebody logs in. We can see if somebody goes to a certain page, we can show them a message. On Food Blogger Pro, let’s say the first time somebody goes to the community forum page, we can trigger a message with Intercom and you can imagine it in the bottom right side of your browser. And that message will pop up and it will say, “Hey, just a heads up. We see this is your first time at the community forum, here’s how it works.”

Bjork Ostrom: You can help communicate, it helps communicate with members or customers in a way that’s really, really seamless. There’s a messaging app, but you can also do email. You can send email messages. One way that we use Intercom is if somebody is a monthly member we will say, “Hey, did you know that there’s a yearly membership option available?” We can do that because we can see somebody is a monthly member and if they’ve stuck around for a while, if they’re an engaged member, maybe it makes sense for them to go to yearly. They’re going to save money, they’re not going to be billed every month. Strategically both for us and the member, it makes sense to bring that up and say, “Hey, just a reminder. There’s the yearly membership. With the yearly membership you get a free year to Nutrifox.”

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a way for us to communicate back with the members, and Intercom is this incredible tool. And if you want to see what that looks like, you can just go to foodbloggerpro.com. It’s not just for members, it’s also a customer support for anybody who’s not a member. And in the bottom right, you’ll see this little blue circle. When you click on that, there’ll be the ability to talk to our team and have a conversation, ask questions that exists for customers that are new, Intercom does. And it also exists for customers or members of your site after they sign in or purchase. It’s a really powerful tool.

Bjork Ostrom: And then we have ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign is how we communicate externally. If you are not a member, we use ActiveCampaign to communicate blog post updates, podcasts that go out occasionally, there’ll be an automation. And an automation is essentially something that happens when you sign up and it automatically goes out. A great example of an automation is if you go to foodbloggerpro.com/blog there’ll be a way that you can sign up for the email list and let’s say if you go to … Alexa posted at the end of March, trending now in food blogging. The different things to be aware of, the different trends that are happening, and you look at that post. On the right hand side there’s the ability to keep in touch and you can put in your name and your email and that will add you to the Food Blogger Pro email list and there’ll be some automations that go along with that. That’s all run by ActiveCampaign.

Bjork Ostrom: Another really common email service is ConvertKit and that kind of does similar things to ActiveCampaign. A few other things that are really important for the site that we use to manage Food Blogger Pro … this is more on the course side of things. As we are recording courses, as we are communicating with our members, as we’re recording content and packaging that up, we use Vimeo to deliver that content. And Vimeo is great because they have some really powerful ways to set up like restrict where your videos show up. We set it up so nobody on Vimeo can find it. Even if you follow Food Blogger Pro, you’re not going to be able to see it. The only way you can see it is if it’s on the URL, foodbloggerpro.com.

Bjork Ostrom: And that allows us to upload our content in a player, a video player that’s really slick, but it’s behind the paywall of foodbloggerpro.com. That’s the only way that you can see it and interact with it. To record those, we use a service or an app called ScreenFLow, which is a really cool way to a record content on your computer. If you ever want to communicate something that you’re learning, maybe you’re learning a new way to use a tool or you have something that you really like and you want to show people how to do it, create a YouTube video around it, ScreenFLow is a great way to do that.

Bjork Ostrom: We actually have another tool that I’m going to be talking about in the next section for recording and sharing with our team that’s even better than ScreenFLow but a little bit of a different purpose. Those are just a handful of some of the most important tools that we are using right now to help power Food Blogger Pro. If you’ve thought about setting up a site, maybe it’s a membership site, maybe you’ve thought about going through the process of building out a membership component of your site, you can refer back to this if you ever want to check in again and say, “Hey, how do you guys do what you do? What are the tools that you use to make that possible?” That’s all specifically to foodbloggerpro.com the website.

Bjork Ostrom: But another really important thing that we do is, we have a team and the team we don’t all go into an office, we don’t sit together. I’m sitting here right now by myself, but we have a team and we’re all working today and we’re remote though. How do we do that? What are the tools that we use to work together as a team? These would be tools that for you would be really good to start using. Even if it’s … some of these you could even start using just on your own if you don’t have a team member, but these are also tools that you could start to use maybe if you have a peer group, if you have people that you want to connect with and stay in touch with. It’s not quite as lonely.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a huge part of being a solopreneur, an entrepreneur, in the early stages. Is that you can be really lonely. And so these could be communication tools that you could use with a peer group. Or maybe you have not a team, but you have a team member. You have one person that you’re working with that’s helping. Maybe it’s a contractor or maybe it’s somebody who’s part-time, maybe it’s a family member or a friend, you could use these tools to help with your communication. And the great thing about setting these tools up is that if you are at the point or when you get to the point where you’re starting to build your team, you’ll have these in place. You’ll be able to really quickly get people up and running.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the most important tools that we have is called Slack. And Slack is this tool that it was … I don’t know when it came out, maybe five, six years ago. And the backstory is, it was actually this … don’t quote me on this, but they were starting another company. It was like a video game company or they were building a game company, something like that. And they built a tool to help them communicate with their team as they’re working on this other company. And then what they realized is that this tool was so good that they decided to focus on just building this tool. And they put the other company on the back burner and Slack came out of that. And it’s a really common tool across the board for startups and companies and it’s one that we use and we really like.

Bjork Ostrom: Two of the main ways that we use it. We use Slack for a lot of video calls and just regular calls. We’re a remote team, but sometimes it makes sense to say, “Hey, let’s jump on a call and talk through this.” And so we’ll use Slack to jump on a quick call and obviously that’s over the internet so you’re not in your computer, so you’re not needing to use your phone. And the other thing that we do is we do what’s called a daily stand-up. And that’s … there’s different versions of what this looks like, but our version is every morning we kick things off by having everybody “Stand up,” it’s not actually standing up. Everybody’s just sitting at their computer, but they give a little update. It could also be called a daily update. It comes from … the term daily stand-up comes from one of the ways that people do it. Like in a physical office location, a lot of times people will do a daily stand-up where they all gather round in a circle and they give their update for their daily stand-up update.

Bjork Ostrom: And what we do is we say, number one, “What did you do yesterday? What were the things that you worked on yesterday? Anything that’s noteworthy, anything that was interesting, do a little update. Number one, what was your day like yesterday?” And then we do number two, “What are you planning on working on today? What is your plan? What are the things that you’re going to dive into? What are your goals for the day?” And then number three, “What are the things that are either kind of a bottleneck that you’re waiting on somebody else for, that you need some help with, or anything that you need to bring other people in on?” Maybe you’re waiting on somebody for something, or you need something to happen and somebody has to do something before that can happen.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s kind of like a quick check in with other people, “Hey, can you do this so then I can finish my project?” Or whatever it might be. It might be a reminder about something that’s coming up. And those are pretty simple. Just a one, two, three list and it’s maybe a few sentences. And we’ve found that to be really helpful to continue to keep each other updated. So as an example, maybe you don’t have a team yet or you have a small team, but maybe you have a peer group and you want to keep each other accountable. And so you create a Slack team and every day you do a little update. You say, “Hey, here’s what I worked on yesterday. Here’s what I’m doing today, and here’s where I could use your help on.” It’s a way that you could be using Slack to stay in touch with and communicate with the team and to not feel quite as alone.

Bjork Ostrom: And that daily stand-up for us really came out of when we had some conversations with our team and they’re like, “I kind of feel out of touch. We’re working remote. We enjoy the stuff that we’re working on and that part is good, but in terms of the team dynamic, we haven’t been really able to connect.” That was a small thing that we implemented to say, “Hey, let’s stay in touch. Let’s continue to communicate. And this is a simple way we can do that is just jumping on every morning and giving people an update of what we’re up to and what we’re doing.”

Bjork Ostrom: In terms of managing our projects, we use a task management tool called Asana. And what Asana does is it allows you to create individual tasks to assign those, to create a due date, and also to create projects. A great example of how we used Asana was with the migration of Food Blogger Pro from ExpressionEngine to WordPress. There’s this huge project that we created that had all of these different steps and all of these different things that we needed to do. All the way at the beginning we were doing discovery. We were learning, we were researching. And then we went through the process of actually implementing that, testing it, QAing that.

Bjork Ostrom: And then we had another list that was the list that we worked through when we actually went through and did the migration. Asana worked great for that because we could communicate as a team, we could comment on tasks, we could have conversations there. And that’s what we use for our projects. Another example of similar task management tool it would be Trello, which you’ve maybe heard of and either of those are really great tools.

Bjork Ostrom: A few other tools that we use as a team that I think you’ll find really interesting, I don’t have to dive quite as deep into these, Zoom and Loom, which is really funny because these two tools are not the same company, but they’re both video companies. And you’re probably familiar with the company Zoom.

Bjork Ostrom: Zoom allows you to do really high quality video conferencing. We use Zoom most often for external communication. I use it for the podcast, which we’ll talk about at the end. And also we use it if we’re doing a call with another team or a company. We’ll use Zoom for that. And sometimes we’ll use Zoom as our backup for Slack. If Slack is struggling a little bit well, we’re okay. Let’s jump on a Zoom call because it proves to be pretty reliable.

Bjork Ostrom: Loom is the tool that I had talked about before. It’s kind of like ScreenFLow, but Loom is really great for recording quick little snippets that you want to communicate out to other people and it records your screen. You can have the option to record a video of you and there will be a little circle in the bottom left corner that shows your face kind of a floating head in the screen or could be just your screen or could just be audio. But what Loom does that’s really great is you start recording, you communicate what you want to communicate, and then you press stop and it automatically creates a URL that you can then copy, paste, and then send to somebody else. I do that all the time when I’m trying to communicate an idea via email. And if I’m either just sick of writing, sometimes that happens at the end of the day where I feel like, “Oh, I’ve been typing all day, I’m just going to take a break. I’m going to communicate some things with a different part of my brain, the audio part as opposed to the written part of my brain and use Loom to do that.”

Bjork Ostrom: But it’s also really helpful, let’s say if you’re working with a designer. We do that all the time when we’re doing design tweaks. If I have an idea or a concept, I don’t try and communicate that in writing. I just use Loom and I record a quick video and say, “Hey, here’s what I’m thinking. Would love to move this button over here. Or what if we changed this area and moved it down here?” You can do all of that a lot easier. It’s easier for me at least, to do that when I’m recording and I can move my mouse and I can show people. And it’s also really helpful if you’re troubleshooting something. If somebody is trying to figure something out or they’re having an issue or if you need to communicate something on the screen really easily, Loom is going to be a great way to do that. Zoom and Loom are two great communication tools for us as a team.

Bjork Ostrom: And then the last one that is worth mentioning that most people are probably familiar with is this service called G Suite. And G Suite is actually from Google. That’s what the G stands for. And that allows us to have branded emails. If you ever email anybody at Food Blogger Pro, it’s just going to be their name at foodbloggerpro.com. And all of that is run by G Suite. The thing that I love about the version of G Suite that we are on, we were paying customers of G Suite, and we’re on the Middle Tier Plan which is $10 a month per user.

Bjork Ostrom: If we have five team members on a team, then it’s going to be $50 a month. And I think that’s actually recently gone up, but that’s right about where it lands. Then we also get … and this is where it’s really awesome, unlimited storage with Google Drive. And there’s this unique part of G Suite as it relates to Google Drive. And Google Drive is kind of like Dropbox. It’s Google’s version of Dropbox. But there’s this really great benefit that comes with having the plan that we have where it’s unlimited storage. And the thing that I love about the unlimited storage is that we are putting all of our files as it relates to video and photography into Google Drive.

Bjork Ostrom: And what happens is Google Drive uploads that. If I put a video file into our video folder, Google Drive will upload that but it doesn’t keep it on my computer. And that’s great because for … let’s say for Pinch of Yum, for the videos that we are recording, we have so many files, it’s so heavy. The number of files that we have as it relates to video and how big those files are. That the big thing is like we’re recording high definition video for YouTube and for the blog and for Instagram and one way we could store that is on an external hard drive. But then the issue is, you’re having to send those back and forth if somebody needs to get access to them or somebody needs to review them or look at them or get the files.

Bjork Ostrom: Everybody has access to the files and folders that they need, but they’re not downloaded under our computer so they’re not taking up a bunch of space, which is one of the reasons why I love G Suite. And it’s unlimited. We can have Terabytes of data stored in Google’s cloud and we can only access it when we need it. I can have … like today I’m recording this podcast on a MacBook Air but I have access to Terabytes of photos and video through G Suite but I’m only downloading those if I need to.

Bjork Ostrom: If you are starting to share files with a team, or even if you have let’s say two computers, and you’re trying to figure out a good way to make those files accessible in different places, maybe you’ve been using an external hard drive, then you can look at G Suite as an option. Dropbox has that as well. But the thing that I love about G Suite is the unlimited storage. One important factor that you want to consider with that is you want to make sure those are backed up. The issue would be let’s say, if something happens, it gets deleted. How do you make sure that that’s backed up?

Bjork Ostrom: There’s two ways that we are doing that. One is called Google Vault, which is a Google product that is kind of an archival system, it’s not a true backup. But we are doing backups with the service called Backupify. And Backupify is backing up all of the components of a G Suite account. It’s email, it’s calendar, it’s docs, and it’s everything within Google Drive. Those are important considerations. If you are starting to do file storage online, you want to make sure that you have backups and backups in multiple places, and we use Google Vault and Backupify for those.

Bjork Ostrom: All right, let’s keep moving on here. There’s two other categories that I want to talk about as we’re talking about the State of the State. No, we’re talking about the State of Food Blogger Pro, things that are happening here, tools that we use. We get these questions all the time and excited to talk through some of this stuff. And also excited to have this as something to refer back to. Maybe you are a podcast listener, you listen to the podcast in real time. If you are, thank you wherever you are listening. Working out in the kitchen, chilling on your couch just listening to our podcast which altogether it sounds awesome and really uncommon, but if that’s you, love it and thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: You might be somebody that listens in realtime, but you also might be somebody who has come across this after the fact where you’ve reached out and said, “Hey, how do you run your membership site? What are the things that you use to build your team? Or how do you do what you do?” Essentially that might be you and if you are, welcome to the podcast, glad that you’re listening and would encourage you to check out the 199 other episodes that we have released. This is episode 200. We’re so excited to be here and so grateful to have done this for almost four years.

Bjork Ostrom: To continue talking through kind of the State of Food Blogger Pro, what are some of the other things that we’re doing as it relates to kind of the bones of the business? How do we manage and make sure that the business itself is successful? And this is really critical. It’s one of the most common things that I hear whenever I talk to somebody who is a businessperson over just a blogger. If they are really intentionally thinking about business building and not blogging just for the sake of blogging, if they’re blogging and businessing, then they talk about how important it is to really understand your books, to have clean books. People use that phrase a lot. What does that mean?

Bjork Ostrom: Well, clean books essentially means that you have a really good understanding of the income in your business, where that’s coming from, and also the expenses for your business. What are the things that you are spending money on? And if you’re in the early stages, maybe you’re not having a lot of income but you do have some expenses. Bookkeeping is still going to be really important in that instance because you want to have a good understanding of early stages. How much money are you losing? That’s going to happen. It’s not uncommon to spend money before you make money when you are building a business. And for that, we use Quickbooks online.

Bjork Ostrom: Quickbooks obviously is a really popular service that people use. Back in the day it just used to be on your computer, you’d download it, it would be a program, it would maybe import stuff from your bank account, but now there’s an online version of it. And we use Quickbooks online for all of our different businesses. We have different books. Pinch of Yum has different books than Food Blogger Pro, has different books than WP Tasty. And that allows us to have a good understanding of each business. If we’re spending more money than we’re making, that’s really important to know. And if those were all kind of in one similar set of books, it’d be a little bit harder. There’re ways you can do it, but it’d be a little bit harder to see those. And so we try and have really clean books for each business and we use Quickbooks for that.

Bjork Ostrom: Some quick little tips for how we go about doing that. You might know somebody or you yourself might really enjoy the process of bookkeeping. That’s not me. And so one of the first hires that we made for the business was somebody to help with the bookkeeping. We knew we wanted to have clean books. I knew that I wasn’t going to be the one to do that so we hired somebody just locally here that has an accounting shop and they also have the ability to do bookkeeping. And to make it as easy as possible what we did is we actually obviously gave them access to Quickbooks.

Bjork Ostrom: Quickbooks syncs with our bank account. All of the purchases that we do for our business are done through a credit card or debit card for that respective business. If I’m buying something for Food Blogger Pro, I use a different card than if I am for Pinch of Yum. In your case, if you just have your one business or your one site, I’d really encourage you to get a card specifically for that so all of the transactions you’re doing are going through that one card. It’s a great way to keep things separate and to keep things clean. And then Quickbooks imports all of that data.

Bjork Ostrom: We also give read access, Read-only access. Read-only access means that you can’t go in and change things. You can’t manipulate or update or change things. But we give Read-only access for our bookkeeper, for the business bank account. They can go in and they can see. If they need additional information, they can go in and see the information related to that.

Bjork Ostrom: What about receipts? If you are purchasing things, you also have to keep track of those receipts so you, if you’re ever audited, you can validate and verify that you actually purchased that thing that you said that you did. And the purpose for it was business. We use a service called the Shoeboxed to send in all of our receipts. We will either take a photo and send it in, or on certain accounts with Shoeboxed they send you a package, an envelope, and you can put all your receipts in, send it back to them and they scan them all in. It’s a little bit of a higher tier plan, but if you have a certain number of receipts, it probably will make sense for you to do that so you don’t have to worry about doing that on your own.

Bjork Ostrom: We also give our bookkeeper read access to Shoeboxed. If she has a question about a certain receipt or a certain expense, she can just log in to Shoeboxed and see, “Oh, that was a purchase at office depot and it was additional pencils.” Not that we’re using pencils a lot, but just as an example. And then she knows, “Okay, that’s office supplies.” Quickbooks and Shoeboxed is really important. And then working with the bookkeeper, if you are not somebody who’s going to do the bookkeeping, it would make sense to find somebody. And chances are there’s somebody in your area or somebody that you know, that would have experience with bookkeeping and would be able to jump in and help you with that if you are not the person that is interested in doing that.

Bjork Ostrom: A few other things. These are kind of HR related. One of the things I learned really quickly with hiring remote team is the complexity, the complexity of the paperwork involved with hiring. This isn’t as true if you’re working with contractors. And contractors or 1099 hires would be different than W–2, or full-time team members. And the difference’s contractors would be people that you might work with for a little bit. They might be project base, maybe you’re working with them but they have a super flexible schedule. And we work with, John, the designer we work with as an example, he would be somebody that we work with on a contracted basis.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re not talking about schedule with him, we’re not talking about needing a certain amount of hours each week. It’s really flexible and the relationship is different than if you have a team member, not maybe a more critical role that is more integral part of the team and they need to have … there are ingrained a little bit more within the company. They’re more a part of the company than maybe a contracted freelancer would be. And so when I’m talking about hiring and the complexity of paperwork, this is specifically with full-time team members.

Bjork Ostrom: And I learned that when we started to do some hiring and then I started getting all this paperwork from these different states having to do with how we have to set stuff up. I was like, “Ah, we need a solution for this.” And we used Justworks for that. And Justworks it’s called a PEO. Essentially what a PEO does is, they … it’s called co-hiring. They are the parent over the hiring that we do. The great thing is if there was ever an issue, if there was ever something that had to get done, they would be the company that would be able to do that as it relates to the logistics of hiring within a certain state.

Bjork Ostrom: A lot of startups will use PEOs. And at Justworks … what I like about Justworks is the UI, UX, the interface of Justworks is really easy to understand and navigate. And we’ve been using Justworks for a few years now and we partner, we bolt on, to Justworks. Two different things, Slavic401k. For our full-time team members we have the ability to do investing a 401k and then also health care. We use a company called PeopleKeep and that’s a health care service called an HRA. That’s a little bit in the weeds and maybe you’re a little bit outside of the point where you’d be thinking about that. But those are the really important pieces of the puzzle for us and kind of a really important way that we manage things in relation to our team members.

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s for us too. I’m an employee of the company so I’m set up in Justworks and just like any of our other team members. One important note would be you might not be at the point where you’re hiring full-time team members, but you’re probably at the point where you’re starting to think about working with people who would be contractors or freelancers or who are kind of 1099 basis. It’s important to know that when you’re working with them, you actually still have paperwork that you have to do. If … I think the number is $600, if you’re paying that person more than $600 a year, there are services that you can use that make that process easier. We’re not going to jump into exactly what the process is for having to do that and how you do that but there are services like Track1099.com, that make that a little bit easier.

Bjork Ostrom: And if you are at the point where you’re starting to hire freelancers, starting to work with people that are contractors, that’s something you want to be aware of and you want to automate that process as much as possible. And there are services out there that help with that. I’ve heard of but haven’t used Track1099 and we’ve actually received those occasionally for the different businesses from other businesses. That’s a little bit about kind of the HR accounting. A lot of times people ask about what that looks like, how that works and that’s a really important part of this business. It is not only obviously the finances, making sure that we have enough coming in to a cover our bills and to grow. That’s the Quickbooks, that’s the accounting side of things.

Bjork Ostrom: But also our team, the team here is so, so, so important. And we want to make sure that we have everything set up, everything really tied up really well so we’re not doing that loosely and kind of in an ad hoc way, but we want to be really intentional about that. Justworks and the 401k, Slavic401k, and PeopleKeep HRA, are really important pieces of the puzzle for us.

Bjork Ostrom: And then the podcast. You are listening to podcast, maybe you’re interested in podcast. How do we do this? Well, one of the things that was fun for me to think about was thinking way back to when we first started the podcast. It was episode 000, and a shout out to Raquel who helped the process of launching this. Raquel is a really important lead and contributor on the WP Tasty team. She’s over there doing development work and helping to lead the customer support team. And now Alexa, shout out to Alexa, has taken over the podcast as a part of her work with Food Blogger Pro. She’s the general manager of Food Blogger Pro. Members, you probably know Alexa and I’ve interacted with her, I get her weekly updates. She’s also doing the podcast and does an incredible job with that. And without, Raquel starting it and Alexa continuing it, we wouldn’t be able to do this podcast. So a shout out to both Raquel and Alexa in making this happen.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a lot of stuff that happens after a podcast is recorded, but I just wanted to share a little bit about kind of how we do it and what the process is like. Sometimes we do these solo interviews, or non-interview, but these solo recordings where it’s just me talking and sharing some thoughts like today’s podcast has been. Other times we’ll do recordings where we do an interview. When we do those interviews, we actually use two tools that I mentioned before, Zoom and ScreenFLow. In recording with both of those in case there’s an issue with Zoom, then I have a backup recording with ScreenFLow or vice versa. If there’s an issue with ScreenFLow, then I have a recording with Zoom. And those audio files we prefer ScreenFLow. It’s a little bit of a higher quality recording, but sometimes we’ll use Zoom if there’s an issue with the ScreenFLow recording. Those are the audio files, the raw audio files that we use and we take and we edit.

Bjork Ostrom: In terms of the hardware, the mic that I’m using right now is a Heil PR40. I’ve talked about that briefly on the podcast before. It’s kind of like a prosumer which essentially means it’s not like a consumer mic that anybody would get, but it’s also not the pro-level audio mic that you’d use if you had a radio show. It’s kind of right in between there. And it’s not cheap, but it’s also not going to be thousands of dollars. There’s a couple different versions that you could get and I think it has to do with essentially how it’s … I don’t think it’s the quality of it, it has to do with the style of it.

Bjork Ostrom: You could get a $400 gold or chrome PR40. Maybe there is a quality difference with that, I don’t know. The other one that you could get is a black version which is $329. But the other really important piece of that is you need to have something that the mic is running into that converts the sound into USB that then runs into a computer. I use this … it’s called a USBPre 2, and it’s by a company called Sound Devices. And that is a really high quality audio signal that that brings into the computer that then we record with. That goes through Zoom, that goes through ScreenFLow, and that’s what you hear.

Bjork Ostrom: If I were to switch over and to use the computer mic, you’d notice really quickly how different that sounds. So that’s a really important piece. And we also use this mic and the same setup when we’re recording for courses so it’s that same high quality audio.

Bjork Ostrom: And then the last piece that’s important is we distribute the podcast on this service called Libsyn. And this is a great note to end on because what Libsyn does is it allows us to upload the podcast and to put information about the podcast like the name and the description and kind of the metadata related to it. But it also keeps track of the total downloads that you’ve had. And what’s been really fun is on this 200th episode, when I log in and look at the stats, I can see that we are at … we crossed 1 million downloads. And so it’s really cool timing to see that we are publishing this podcast at the time when we crossed over 1 million downloads for the Food Blogger Pro Podcast.

Bjork Ostrom: And here at episode 200, one of the things that I want to do is I want to reflect on this idea that we talk about often on the podcast and it relates to, anything that you’re doing, any goal that you’re pursuing, any endeavor that you want to get better at, any skill that you want to develop, it’s this idea of 1% infinity. And we’ve tried to apply that to the podcast, to Food Blogger Pro, to Pinch of Yum, to all the things that we’re working on, it doesn’t have to be just business it could also be personal things in your life that you’re working on.

Bjork Ostrom: But the idea is how do you … what are the ways that you can figure out to show up every single day and get a little bit better? And sometimes what can happen is we can get overwhelmed by the amount of things that we need to do, the advice that people are giving us and the actionable information around that. “Ah, somebody who’s doing this, this is the new cool thing, this is what I should be doing.” And that can be completely overwhelming. But the good thing is the way to win, the best way to win, is to figure out how to show up every single day, make small improvements, and to continue to do that over a long period of time. We call that 1% infinity. But the basic idea is continual improvement and commitment to the long-term.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s not about three months, it’s not about four months, it’s about three years, it’s about four years, it’s about 10 years. My guess is that as you hear the story of people who have created, have built something, have had success in a certain area, even if the success that they have with this specific story they’re telling, maybe it’s they launched this software product and in two years it did really well. My guess is the extended story goes beyond that, that they’d tried something else before and it didn’t work and then they tried something new. Or they had been studying as a research assistant for four years before they decided to go on this new endeavor, or they worked at another company and got a lot of experience.

Bjork Ostrom: And the point is that it takes a really long time and it takes a lot of work and it takes continual improvement to get to the point where you feel like you have found success, where you have reached a goal, where you have gotten to the point where you can look back and say, “Wow, now that I look back, when I started I can see the level that I was at and I’ve made so much progress.” That progress doesn’t come in a short amount of time, that progress comes from taking tiny steps along the way. And that’s what we would encourage you to do as you think about what it is that you’re doing, what it is that you’re building and that’s what we’re trying to do here with this podcast.

Bjork Ostrom: And the 1,000,000th download happened. It was a while ago, but we we’re approaching 1.1 million and that’s really fun to reflect on that on this 200th episode here. I really appreciate you listeners. It’s been so fun to hear emails that come out, conversations in the forum with Food Blogger Pro members, conversations in person when we meet up, it’s just always really, really encouraging.

Bjork Ostrom: That is the State of Food Blogger Pro. A little reflection on where we’re at, the things that we’re doing, the tools that we’re using, the things that we have found helpful. And my hope would be, there might be a couple things here that you can pull out and apply to your business to help you get to your 200th blog posts or your 200th podcast or your 1,000th video, or to continue to do what you’re doing for another year or two, three years. And these tools and processes and things that you use, are just tools but oftentimes they can be helpful and can play an important role in helping to build a solid business.

Bjork Ostrom: We appreciate you, we appreciate the community that is Food Blogger Pro, and we’re excited to release another 200 episodes. On that, we will catch you on the other side.

Bjork Ostrom: Make it a great day. Thanks.

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