452: YouTube, Meal Plans, and Business Growth with Nisha Vora

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A blue photograph of someone slicing an avocado on a countertop filled with produce with the title of Nisha Vora's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast ('YouTube, Meal Plans, and Business Growth') written across the image.

This episode is sponsored by Memberful and Raptive.

Welcome to episode 452 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Nisha Vora from Rainbow Plant Life.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Katie Higgins. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

YouTube, Meal Plans, and Business Growth

Nisha Vora (who just so happens to be the YouTube Expert on Food Blogger Pro!) is back on the podcast this week to chat about all things YouTube, business growth, and her brand-new meal plans!

Bjork and Nisha kick off the conversation with a deep dive into YouTube — YouTube shorts, longer-form videos, monetization on the platform, and more.

Nisha also recently launched Meal Plans by Rainbow Plant Life and shares more about the process of developing and marketing the meal plans, and what the future of Rainbow Plant Life might look like!

A photograph of a layer cake with berries and flowers on top with a quote from Nisha Vora's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast that reads, "Be okay with practice."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How she prioritizes creating content for her different platforms (blog, YouTube, newsletter, and social media).
  • How her income varies between platforms.
  • Her current strategy around YouTube Shorts vs. long-form videos (and how monetizing differs between the two).
  • How she developed her meal plan product.
  • Why surveying her audience played such an important role in the development of her meal plans.
  • What meal plans version 2.0 might look like.
  • How she tested and promoted her meal plans.
  • How she continues to improve her skills as a content creator.
  • How she balances creating content and managing the business side of Rainbow Plant Life.
  • How she has grown the Rainbow Plant Life team.


Thank you to our sponsors!

This episode is sponsored by Memberful and Raptive.

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Thanks to Raptive for sponsoring this episode!

Become a Raptive creator today to start generating ad revenue on your blog and get access to industry-leading resources on HR and recruiting, SEO, email marketing, ad layout testing, and more. You can also get access to access a FREE email series to help you increase your traffic if you’re not yet at the minimum 100k pageviews to apply to Raptive.

Interested in working with us too? Learn more about our sponsorship opportunities and how to get started here.

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

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Memberful, looking to find sustainable sources of income from your blog this year that don’t include fighting against changing search engines and social media algorithms. With exclusive membership content, you can create a new source of income by turning your food blog into a membership business while creating the content you’re passionate about.

Memberful has everything you need to quickly get your membership program up and running with content gating, paid newsletters, private podcasts, and much more. Plus, Memberful seamlessly integrates with your existing WordPress website or you can use Memberful to create your own member home within minutes using their in-house tools. And with Memberful, you can create multiple membership tiers, limiting access to certain recipes, meal plans, and cooking tutorials to better connect with your most devoted followers and monetize the content you’re already producing.

By using Memberful, you’ll have access to a world-class support team ready to help you set up your membership and grow your revenue. They’re passionate about your success, and you’ll always have access to a real human when you need help. Food creators are already using Memberful to foster community within their audiences and monetize their content. And listeners to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast can go to memberful.com/food to learn more about Memberful solutions for food creators and create an account for free. That’s M-E-M-B-E-R-F-U-L.com/food. Thanks again to Memberful for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey there. This is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team and you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This week on the podcast, we are welcoming back Nisha Vora from Rainbow Plant Life. Not only is she the YouTube expert here at Food Blogger Pro, but she has also been on the podcast before and we’re just huge fans of everything she does, so we’re thrilled to have her back on the podcast today.

Bjork and Nisha kick off this conversation with a deep dive into the current status of food content on YouTube. Nisha shares more about her current strategy on YouTube, including her approach to YouTube Shorts and longer form videos and what monetization looks like on the platform. Nisha also just recently launched meal plans by Rainbow Plant Life, and shares more about the process of developing and marketing the meal plans and how she has leaned on her team to help grow this new part of the business.

She also chats a little bit about what the future of Rainbow Plant Life might look like, and how she balances creating content and managing the business side of her brand. It’s an awesome interview. We love Nisha, so I’ll just let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Nisha, welcome back to the podcast.

Nisha Vora: Hi, Bjork. So lovely to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we’re going to be talking about, so you are an expert in YouTube, so you’re in the world of our Food Blogger Pro community represent our source for all things YouTube, but you also have all the other platforms. You have a site as well. So you understand the world of blogging, you understand the world of content creation, and you also deeply understand the world of video creation. That’s one of the tools that you have used to build an audience. I’m curious to know from your perspective, when you think about what it is that you do, how do you refer to yourself? Do you think of yourself as a YouTuber first, a creator, a publisher?

Nisha Vora: Fantastic question. I literally had to fill out forms for a new doctor appointment the other day, and it was like, occupation, and I was like, “I don’t know?” So I don’t know. I do a lot of YouTube, but I don’t know if I identify as a “YouTuber,” because I do do other things. I think people who identify as YouTubers, that’s their bread and they’re on YouTube all the time. So I don’t know. I also sometimes say cookbook author. I also sometimes say food blogger, and sometimes depending on the audience, I throw in a couple things.

Bjork Ostrom: It almost depends on who you’re talking to as well. If it’s people who don’t understand digital media, you’re like, “Well, we publish content online. It’s kind of like a digital magazine.” You kind of have to frame it up depending on who you’re talking to. But how about this? What do you feel like is the most important platform or place that you publish content, your blog, YouTube, Instagram?

Nisha Vora: For me, I think I would say YouTube because the long form content really I think serves my strengths, which for me, I believe are teaching folks how to cook excellent recipes, which you can of course do through a blog, which I have, and that’s where all the tips and written content goes. But I think cooking can be a very visual thing, and so having a long form content for me I think is really important.

I also think that once my YouTube channel started to take off in 2020, that’s also when I started to get a lot more blog traffic. And having that personal connection with people who see me on camera for six, seven, 10, 12, sometimes 20 minutes, makes it a lot more likely that they’re going to go to the site, make the recipe, review it. So even though the blog is our biggest income earner out of the YouTube/Instagram blog, I think the personal connection that I can build on YouTube has been the most important.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting. We had an interview today this morning, which we don’t do a lot of these, but it was an interview with a journalist for Digiday, which is this news outlet that reports on digital media, and they were interested in Google SGE, like search generative experience. For those who aren’t familiar, the little box, it’s experimental right now, you have to turn it on, but it generates a response at the top of a search result. And they’re like, “What does that mean for you if Google or other AI interfaces start to create answers, maybe it’s about a recipe, maybe it’s something else, and populate those answers, what’s your defense against that?”

And the best answer we had was to lean into our humanity and our connection with people. And it feels like what you’re describing is a version of that where video allows you to create a connection, establish trust, feel like there’s some sort of understanding of who somebody is, and that’s a really valuable thing that can’t be replicated by a chatbot or AI, at least at this point. Hopefully not in the future.

Nisha Vora: Not yet.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, not yet. But that’s something that is really important in this space because what we’re doing is as we are consuming content online, we’re trying to find places that we trust, and also people that we know that we feel aligned with. And one of the best ways to do that it feels like is video. You referenced long form, meaning the traditional horizontal video you go, you watch 10, 15, 20 minutes.

But I also know there’s been a really significant shift to short form content like YouTube Shorts comparable to Instagram Reels. It feels like, I don’t know, YouTube as well as you do, it feels like YouTube Shorts are an important growth consideration for channels. Does that feel accurate in terms of when you look at the landscape of YouTube right now, is it kind of like you have to be doing YouTube Shorts if you want to be growing?

Nisha Vora: It is definitely a good avenue for growth if you are interested in growing the size of your audience. Some of the shorts I’ve posted have racked up like three, four and five million views, and they bring in tens of thousands of followers. But I would also say YouTube has not quite found a way to integrate the two. So a lot of the new followers that come from Shorts, they’re a different audience. They have different interests, so they want to watch more short form video. They’re not the kind of users who are typically watching 10-minute videos, so you might gain 30,000 followers from a short, but that’s not necessarily going to translate into those same viewers watching your long form video. I don’t think YouTube has quite figured out how to mesh those two together. I think as a creator, it’s also a struggle because YouTube is like, “Oh, you should create short form content that aligns with your long form content.”

So it’s possible for some people. I’ve seen some people do it successfully. For me, part of my long form content value is teaching you how to level up your skills in the kitchen, and that’s a little hard to do in 30 seconds or 60 seconds. And so, I struggle with that personally. And I think a lot of creators do for many reasons. It’s really hard to do both of those well because they are very different types of content. They require different types of attention. They require different types of editing and filming. Yeah, so I think a lot of creators, including myself are in this like, “Where should I put all of my eggs? Should I split them between short form and long form? Should I do 70/30? Should I do a 100/0?” And I’ve toggled back and forth between those as well, and I’m not sure I have the right answer yet.

Bjork Ostrom: What is it for you right now if you were to say what the split is in terms of focus, what is it?

Nisha Vora: It’s a hundred percent long form.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Nisha Vora: A couple months ago, yeah, I posted maybe five or six shorts just to experiment. And in the past I was kind of doing maybe 20% short form, 80% long form, but as I mentioned, my follower count was going up or subscriber count was going up, but I wasn’t necessarily saying like, “Ooh, I’m getting more views on my long form videos because I have more subscribers.” So for me, it hasn’t felt like it’s worth it, but it’s possible. I also just haven’t been able to create short form content that long form viewers also want to watch and vice versa. It’s a tricky balance.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. I’ve seen a handful of different accounts. There’s a while where YouTube optimized for trick shot videos. For me, it’s just the best example of a YouTube Short where it’s like a guy in Iowa bouncing a ping pong ball off of seven two by fours, and then it goes into a cup. It’s like somehow I find myself being like, “Oh, I actually do want to watch this,” and it has 42 million views on it, so other people want to watch it as well. But then you look at the long form content, and this is somebody who has 1.2 million followers.

And I remember from an observation perspective as somebody who’s interested in platforms and creators, I remember checking back in and it’s like, “Oh, this account is growing pretty quickly.” And then you look and you can toggle over and look at the other long form videos like traditional YouTube videos, and it’s like, “Oh, low thousands of views.” Like 5,000 views or 10,000 views.

And it almost feels like it’s one platform. Maybe it’s like a grocery store where you go in and there’s the bakery, but then there’s also the dairy. And somebody who’s really good at making bread isn’t necessarily really good at making cheese. And some people will be good at both of those things, but they seem like they’re different departments. Is that how it feels to you?

Nisha Vora: Yes, yes. Yes, a hundred percent. I feel like there are two types of YouTube creators right now. One are people who started at least three, four or five, six years ago, including myself, who their bread and butter is long form content. They’ve found a way to make interesting long form videos. And then there are lots of people who started when TikTok came around who are really good at making short form videos and have seen explosive growth on YouTube as well through shorts. But most of the time there are exceptions of people who can do it all and hats off to them in their teams. But a lot of the people, the latter category are struggling with the opposite of what I’m struggling, is how do I get people to watch my long form video?

I have a friend who’s enormously successful with short form video, but just cannot get her long form videos to translate. And you’re right, they are different departments and they kind of rely on different skills and I don’t know, different little trigger points that people are interested in and can be very hard as a creator to not… You want to do it all, but at the same time, I think really focusing on one or the other can work to your advantage if you are really good at one of those because it is hard to do both at a very high level.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like you want to go deep on the thing that you’re good at and that’s working, but what’s tempting is to look at the other thing and be like, “Oh, this is also YouTube and so I’m going to do this because I’m good at this thing.” And so then it should translate over and it’s like, “Oh, actually it’s like a, maybe a different language, or it’s in a sport, it’s a different position and it’s not. Or in music it’s a different instrument.” And just because you can play the saxophone really well doesn’t mean because you’re in band, you can also play the French horn.

Nisha Vora: Sure.

Bjork Ostrom: And so I can see how it’s tempting to look at it and say like, “Oh, I’ll just kind of do this thing over here.” But it’s learning a new skill it seems like. For your friend that has become successful with shorts, what does it look like for them to turn that attention into business revenue? I think that’s one of the considerations is the normal mechanism with long form content on YouTube. The easiest is you have monetization turned on, and while you still have to have a significant amount of views in order for that to translate into a meaningful amount, the amount of views is less than you would with long form than it would with short form. So can you talk about what that looks like maybe using a friend or other people that, as an example, who have these big followings with short form content?

Nisha Vora: Yeah, I do think a lot of people who have found success through short form content, one of the reasons among I’m sure many that they do want to break into the long form content on YouTube is that it is much more monetized. And I think at the beginning of this year or the end of last year, YouTube did announce that they were going to do a profit sharing system for short form content. But again, the number of ads you can display in a 30-second video, I guess shorts can be up to 60 seconds, but a lot of the popular ones are like 10 seconds. So the amount of advertising you can do through that is so trivial compared to a 10 minute or 15 minute or 30 minute video. So yeah, as far as I know, people, like I mentioned my friend who have a lot of success with short form video aren’t making a living from that.

Whereas if you are a creator, a long form YouTube creator, and you don’t have a large team, like lots of people to pay, and you’re getting several hundred thousand views per video, you can make a living from that alone. Of course, in order to get to that level, you often do need a team to help you out. So then you-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Nisha Vora: … do have other people to pay, but you can make a living from doing just long form content. I think where you can leverage the short form content is with partnerships. I’m sure people listening are familiar with that, but you’ll see lots of short form videos that feature partnerships, and at least as far as I know, they can pay quite a lot. So you might not be able to get the advertising revenue, but you can make up for it in other ways.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so you work with the brand, the bet for the brand is, “Hey, you’re really good at creating videos that get a lot of attention, and we’re going to see if you can create a video for us. And if that video gets a lot of attention…” Occasionally you’ll also see people who will pay to promote that. So artificially get attention to that, but it feels like organic content. And so I could see that being an opportunity as well.

I think it’s an important point. In our world, I think the easiest thing that we can do is look at, or a common thing to happen is to look at how many followers somebody has on TikTok, or on YouTube, or wherever it might be, and think like, “All of those numbers are the same. A YouTube subscriber is similar to a podcast Listen, which is similar to a TikTok follower,” but there’s probably somewhere where this exists. I haven’t looked into it, because I haven’t thought of it until now, but what is the actual value of those respective platforms?

And it feels like even within the platforms themselves, how people are consuming that content differs. And it seems like one of the most valuable ways that people can consume content is in a long form format, podcast as an example, or a long form YouTube video because the amount of attention that somebody is giving, it makes sense, a 60-second short versus a 15-minute video. Inherently more attention is usually more valuable. And so if it’s a longer video, it’s more valuable. In the case of YouTube, there’s ads, there’s maybe more ad inventory that there’s selling against those. And so that makes sense.

So when you look at your platform, you would say YouTube, which is a hundred percent long form for you right now, you’d put at the top, “Hey, this is my most important platform because of how I communicate with people. The trust that it established establishes the relationship.” Would you put your blog alongside that or maybe underneath it in terms of when you look at what is most valuable?

Nisha Vora: Yeah, I would put my blog right below it. We’ll talk about my new subscription as well later, but that is a new business, and so that’s hard to rank those. But the blog is for sure enormously valuable as an income source, and it’s where the recipes live and it’s the thing that I own, and I’m sure you’ve talked about this at length with lots of different people about the value of owning a website that you get to control. Obviously you don’t get to control whether Google surfaces-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Nisha Vora: … you in search results, but it is enormously valuable. That’s where my recipes live. And because the nature of my content is super in-depth and I want to really help you master every recipe that you make, there’s a lot of useful information in there. But I would also say my email newsletter is probably right below that. I don’t know if that’s the same as a platform?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, no, I think it’s different. Yeah.

Nisha Vora: That is something I do own. I can’t control whether people click or open an email, but-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Nisha Vora: … there’s no one deciding whether my email gets delivered, right? It’s going to get delivered. So I’d say my email newsletter is right there as well. And I think to your point about the value of a YouTube subscriber, versus an Instagram viewer, versus a TikTok viewer, versus a blog reader, I think email newsletter readers have an enormous value in terms of they’re taking the time to sit there and read an email that you’ve written, and they’re often more likely to click over to your blog to read your recipes, or to buy something that you’re selling. And then below that, I put Instagram, which is-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Nisha Vora: … a fun little place, but for my business personally is not a big part of what brings in money or brings in devoted followers and things like that.

Bjork Ostrom: Which is crazy, because you have the 800,000 followers on Instagram. I think anybody else would look at that and be like, and I think there probably are people who are doing Instagram full time with 800,000 followers. Have you made the decision like, “Hey, I’m not going to pursue sponsor content, work with brands.” And so you could technically do that and be very successful in it, but just have made a business decision to not do that on Instagram?

Nisha Vora: More or less. I’ve done, I don’t think I did any partnerships last year. I don’t have any on deck for this year. I enjoy Instagram to a certain extent, but I also have realized over the last several years that it doesn’t, it is nice to bring people in, but it doesn’t necessarily create a devoted following of people who are going to buy your products and go to your website. It’s so hard to get people to click over from Instagram. I know they have this new thing called Manychat, which I literally just experimented with yesterday. No, today.

And so that’s maybe an easier way to get people to come to your site, but for a long time I focused so heavily on Instagram, but I don’t know if that was the best business decision for me. On the other hand though-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Nisha Vora: … if you are an Instagram, a hundred percent Instagram creator or a short form a hundred percent creator, you can definitely build a great community there and build a great audience there, but I think that you have to be fully focused on that for that to happen. The creators I’ve seen take off on those platforms are people who are a hundred percent there and have their focus a hundred percent there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. So you mentioned Manychat. For those who aren’t familiar, this tool that allows you to do opt-ins or automated communication, it’s like a chatbot and you can hook that into Instagram. You can deliver prompts to people that say like, “Hey, DM tacos to get my taco recipe,” or whatever it might be. And so that being a place, a playground that you could experiment with, maybe that could result in conversions. Speaking of conversions, you reference this where you recently released a product, meal plans, and it looks awesome, was looking through the sales page and the process and it was obvious that a lot of work went into it.

And one of the things that I really appreciated in watching the explainer video that you released letting people know that this was coming down the line, was talking about the number of conversations that you had with people who followed along with you. In the world of software, they call it customer development, and it was going through the hard work of asking people what they actually need, which I feel like is so uncommon when somebody jumps into the world of products creation, information product, or software tools or whatever it might be. What was that process like and how long did you sit in the development stage crafting what these meal plans would be? And then we can talk about specifically what that looked like.

Nisha Vora: So I have been creating mix and match meal prep videos that are sort of like meal plans for many years, that have always resonated with my audience. Actually, this is hilarious. Started the version one of this in January, 2020, which-

Bjork Ostrom: Nice.

Nisha Vora: … as you know what happened in March, 2020, nobody wanted to do any meal prep. Then I started working on my cookbook. So it just went on a long back burner. But a couple years ago, as I started to build my YouTube audience, and my blog audience and email audience, I wanted to just figure out what are people actually looking for? I know people come to me for recipes, but what could make your life easier? And so I would ask open-ended questions in surveys to my email audience like, “Hey, you have five minutes, please complete the survey. And it would be questions like, what are your biggest cooking challenges? Or a drop-down of 10 different answers like, ”What are the things you struggled with the most when it comes to making weeknight meals?

And a lot of the things that people said were around like, “I want to eat interesting meals, or I want to eat good food, or I want to eat more vegan food, but I find it hard to do this on a regular basis, or I find it hard to get dinner on the table without spending an hour every night. And then I just default back to my five, 10 minute recipes that do the job, but aren’t very interesting and I get bored of.”

And so, we collected tons of data through that, through YouTube community polls and tried to map out what’s a product I could create that still delivers the value that I think I’m known for, which is really high quality, very delicious vegan recipes that aren’t your standard 10-minute meal with four ingredients and kind of taste the same, but how could I do that in a way that would meet some of these or take some of these burdens off that people were mentioning and do it in a streamlined way so that your weeknights felt a little bit less stressful and more enjoyable and you’re still eating meals that you would be excited about. So yeah, we did a lot of surveying, basically just type form. I don’t know the names of them, there’s just different websites you can use for that. So it was a lot of surveying at the beginning.

Bjork Ostrom: And then how do you take that and craft that into, what does that process look like? So you talk to people, you get a general idea, you know what you’re good at and maybe what you have a vision of for it, and then how do you marry those two things?

Nisha Vora: Yeah, so I mentioned I had been doing these mix and match meal prep videos because when I’m not knee-deep in recipe testing, the way I actually like to cook is to spend an hour or so on Sunday or whatever day works best for my schedule and make a couple of components or what I call components. Maybe a batch of grains, a pot of lentils, a couple of condiments, and then use them in different ways during the week so that I’m eating interesting meals, but I’m not cooking an entire meal from scratch every night.

And I know that resonate with people because I think people at least who follow me want to cook interesting things and eat interesting things, but planning what to cook, figuring out what you can make ahead of time, making a big grocery list, doing all that stuff is a lot of work and not necessarily, I think a skill that a lot of us learn growing up.

And so I started imagining what would this look like if I could get people to do an hour or two of meal prep on a Sunday, not to make a full meal from scratch, because they want the meals to be fresh, but what are the things that they could do and then combine them. Maybe use the same sauces to make two different meals, or maybe use the same pickled vegetable to make three different meals. And so that you’re kind of saving on the amount of time you’re cooking, but you’re still getting completely different meals.

So yeah, I kind of just started making meal plans, writing them down in Google Docs, seeing how many I could come up with without feeling like, “Oh, my creativity has been tapped, or it’s not actually doable to provide these high quality meals in a streamlined weeknight fashion.” And once I got to the point where I was like, “Okay, I’ve created many of them. I feel like I’m not going to get tired of creating ideas.” Then I was like, “Okay, I think we can do this. And so now we need to have everything tested by a Recipester.”

Bjork Ostrom: So one of the things about being a creator like you are, and also creating product is you’re creating the content. You’re publishing content, you’re doing the maintenance of everything that comes along with the day-to-day, and then you go into product development, you’re developing a product, but then you’re also having to build a system to deliver that product. So what did that stage look like and what did you learn? You go through the product development stage and you start to get an idea of what the type of product would resonate with your audience, customer development, do you feel like you can actually deliver on it? You test that out a little bit, and then you have to get into how are we actually going to sell this? What did you learn in that process as you started to learn about the system for selling it and even marketing a product, which is a little bit different than just creating content.

Nisha Vora: So many things to think about. So many things. In the early stages. I had told my partner Max. Max is both my domestic partner and my partner in the business, so I have to clarify, some people are confused. But I was like, “We’re starting an entirely new business. Are you ready for this?” And he was like, “No, no, no, it’s not. It’s just a little thing.” And I think since we’ve launched at least once a week, I’m like, “Do you remember when you thought it wasn’t a separate business?”

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. Let’s do the rewind on that conversation, play it back in slow motion.

Nisha Vora: I’m not someone who likes to be like I told you, but-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Told you so.

Nisha Vora: … Yeah. But yeah, there were so many points to explore. Like how do we get this in user’s hands in a way that’s user-friendly, that’s not just my Google Doc with my way of processing information? How do we create an email sequence that gets people the right information at the right time or cancels them if they want to cancel or puts them back into a flow if they re-sign up? Just so many different things to think about. And so we actually hired last fall when we were like, “Okay, we’re doing this.”

We put out a job opportunity for operations, general manager type of role, and we were very lucky we found someone who used to be a product manager at a technology company. So she’s used to building products from the ground up and incorporating user feedback and tweaking the product as necessary. So that was enormously helpful for us in the two-and-a-half months before launch to have someone who could think about these issues, mostly her and Max thinking about them so that I could focus on more of the creative stuff.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, that’s great. What is the actual platform that you use for it? Is it a pre-existing platform or something you built?

Nisha Vora: So the meal plans are delivered through ConvertKit, just our email program, and then it’s just a PDF, so it’s not anything super complicated, but one of the things that we’re working on with Rachel, who’s our general manager/operations manager, is what does meal plan 2.0 look like? Is there a website? Is there an app? Is there a portal, et cetera. So we’re still in the very initial phases of I knew I had a product I wanted to sell that I thought would be useful for at least some people in my audience. So I didn’t want to wait until it was a hundred percent perfect, because that can take forever.

Bjork Ostrom: It will never come.

Nisha Vora: Yeah, it will never come.

Bjork Ostrom: That will take literally forever.

Nisha Vora: So I wanted to get it out and not be a perfectionist about it being the ideal platform. But yeah, now we’re starting to think about how might that change?

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. No, that’s great. And know a lot of people, we’ve done the same thing, have delivered product through ConvertKit, and it’s like the system’s there, and especially if that’s a platform that you’re already using, I think there’s a lot of wisdom to spread yourself too thin across tools. You have this thing that does this, and this, and this, and this. And before you know it, you can have 12 different things and there’s something to be said about simplicity and siloing as much as possible what happens where.

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In terms of your different platforms, what did you find to be the most impactful when you go through the process of the marketing part of it because it all operate differently. We talk about email being kind of this direct connection. That’s usually my understanding, one of the best places to direct people to purchase, but also you have this longstanding relationship with YouTube people and people who are following along there. And there’s a couple finance people that I follow, and they’ve recently released courses, and it is interesting to hear them market those on their channel.

And the great thing about YouTube that’s different than email is then that exists forever. You’ll always have a link and you’ll always have a few people trickling in or thousands of people watching something. So in some sense, it’s this evergreen piece of content that’s always marketing for you in the background, but what did it look like for you if you were to do that same rank order in terms of platforms that were most impactful, would you be able to pinpoint ones that were more or less impactful?

Nisha Vora: Well, it was kind of a combination of YouTube and the email platform. I didn’t do any on Instagram. I still haven’t posted on Instagram that I have a meal plan subscription because I actually took a-

Bjork Ostrom: You got to do it.

Nisha Vora: … I know I took a break from Instagram in part initially just I needed a mental break from it. And then that was also when we were gearing up for launch and I was like, “I don’t have time for this,” so I didn’t do anything on Instagram for it. So I think you referenced, maybe you did, I’m not sure. I posted a sneak peek announcement video maybe two months, two-and-a-half months before launch, and it was a short video explaining why I wanted to create this product because of I’ve had these conversations with people in my audience and then showing a sneak peek of a meal plan and how it could help you in your life and how it could transform your weeknight meals. The product was definitely not ready then, but it looked good enough on an iPad.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Nisha Vora: And then from there, we had created an email automation like, “If you are interested in learning more, sign up for our wait list.” And that got lots, and lots, and lots of people on the wait list. And from there we asked people, “If you’re on the wait list, do you want to be a beta tester?” So we could have some beta testers test out the plans in their kitchen, get feedback from them, see if we needed to do any tweaking to the plans. So through YouTube we were able to build a pretty robust email list. And then in the last, I don’t know, period before we launched, we emailed people to let them know like, “Hey, this is coming soon. You’ve been waiting. Here are some exclusive discount codes that you get as a thank you for signing up for the wait list.”

And so it was a combination of YouTube and the email list. We did do a launch video at the beginning of January on YouTube, which was like, “How meal planning changed my life,” and walking you through the steps of how you could do it on your own. But also it’s a lot of work, so here’s our service at the end. So it was sort of a marketing video. It didn’t perform very well because I think a lot of people get turned off when you try to sell something.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Nisha Vora: At the same time, a lot of people signed up for it through the video and still brings in some number of people even though it’s not a high performing video. So yeah, it was a combination of starting with YouTube, but then using that to leverage our email list and build a wait list and a community of people who are interested.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. So now that you’re on this side of it, how long has it been since you’ve launched that?

Nisha Vora: Two months.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. What do you feel like you’ve learned about yourself as an entrepreneur, as a creator? It’s adding in a really significant additional, like you said, it’s a new division within your business, and I feel like anytime that happens you learn things about yourself. What have you learned about yourself in doing this?

Nisha Vora: I don’t think that I’m a great entrepreneur, honestly. I like being the creative, and so luckily I have Max on my team and Rachel who can funnel it in the way that it needs to in order to be a successful business. But I love doing the creative stuff. I love coming up with the recipes and I love putting the meal plans together, and it’s really hard to toggle off and back and forth between being creative and being the businessy stuff. Thinking about finances and thinking about marketing and how many people you need to get to hit X threshold. I don’t enjoy that at all, so I’m glad that I have people on the team who can handle that. Yeah, I would say for me, I did mention it is a separate business, but to the extent that I can just treat it as another arm of my content, it feels better to me because it’s just like, “Oh, these are things I love doing.” Not like, oh, “I have to think about revenue and all the things.”

Bjork Ostrom: Conversion rates on pages.

Nisha Vora: Conversion rates. Yes, all those things.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s insightful. And if you were to sit down and talk to Lindsay, she would say a very similar thing, and I think it’s something to be aware of for anybody who’s listening, who’s creator-forward, you find your draw towards creating a video, or a recipe development, or photography, or recipe, writing a recipe or whatever it is. If that’s you, I feel like the trick and the really challenging thing is how do you protect that? How do you protect the part of you that is nourished through the work that you’re doing and you get energized through it? Because I think sometimes what can happen is there’s opportunities and you can get pulled into those, but suddenly you’re doing something that even though is maybe good from a business perspective is not good from the health of your soul perspective. But then the question is, in your life you have Max and he’s able to step in and he’s able to do that.

It’s one of the reasons why it sounds like you’re saying it works well because you create content, you create the meal plans, and then the additional infrastructure around that you have somebody who’s able to come in and help with that. Do you have any thoughts for somebody who doesn’t have that. They’re at a stage where they’re a creator, they love creating, they’re interested in building a business that is around content, but they don’t have somebody who’s also like, “I’m excited to see if I can increase the conversion rate on this sales page.” What does that look like for somebody who’s in that position?

Nisha Vora: Yeah, so early on, I don’t think you should be trying to sell a course or a subscription. So let’s just start there. One of the things that I think is helpful is to be okay with practice. Getting into the mode of practicing. So I’ll just give you my example with YouTube, but this can apply to writing recipes, it can apply to food photography, it can apply to creating short form video is when I started YouTube, I was still working, so it was never a full-time thing, but I had no idea what he was doing. I was so awkward on camera. Watching it now I’m like, “Oh man, she is so uncomfortable on camera.”

And I could have just given up and been like, “This is not for me. This is not play to my strengths.” But I just kept doing it and I started to eventually get better pretty gradually, never overnight until the point where I think I was making a video one day and I was like, “Oh, I feel totally natural on camera and it’s easy to be myself,” because I just kept putting in the practice.

So I think part of it in the early stages is not giving up even if you don’t see results immediately, even if you don’t see results in the next six months or in the next year. I’m not saying you should continue doing something that you’re really bad at, but if you enjoy what you’re doing and it feels good, don’t give up because it means you probably just need to keep practicing. You need to keep honing your craft and you need to keep getting better at what you do.

I think it’s really hard with social media being so pervasive to see numbers, see folks who have millions of followers, millions of views, and it feels like they did it overnight. Almost always they did not do it overnight. And it can be discouraging when you start something new, or you start a new channel, or start a new platform and it’s not a hit overnight, it can feel very discouraging because you’re like, “Well, so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so has all this traction and all this success.”

So to the extent it’s possible, put on little blinders, I try to do that when I go on social media is focus on my content and what I want to post and what I want to share and what I want to interact with people and try as much as you can to just not worry about what other people are doing so that you can focus on improving yourself and improving your content and continuing to practice and continuing to strengthen the things that you are good at. I would say.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Yeah, I think one of everybody has an app idea. One of the app ideas that I would love to create, I don’t know what the name would be something more creative than this, but send only, you can only post. It’s like you have all of your respective logins, but you don’t have to ever worry about logging in and then suddenly a feed, seeing the feed or notifications. It’s only a dashboard for you. And you could create different versions of that with different schedulers and stuff. But I think it’s trying to solve that same problem, which is like you get into it, you get discouraged, you have other people showing you the concept that they’re creating, which inevitably you get into this compare and despair mindset if you’re there too long. But how about if somebody is that creator and they realize that they love creating, they realize that they commit to doing that.

One of the things that I think comes up occasionally is somebody is working on a thing, they’re the creator and they have somebody in their life, whether it’s a domestic partner or just a business partner that they’ve connected with somehow who handle some of that other stuff. I feel like it’d be interesting to talk about that for somebody who’s in a place that doesn’t have that, and what does it look like for somebody, let’s say they do eventually get good at creating, they do get some momentum and they do get to a place where, hey, they’re ready for the next step. It’s almost like I’d be interested to chat with you, but for the sake of that person who’s listening, how can they build their business if they aren’t the person who wants to do the business stuff or that’s not the thing they want to be good at?

And I guess maybe the answer is just like you either… It’s a drag and you put yourself through it and you do it, you don’t do it, or you hire somebody to do it. That’s probably the answer. What would your thoughts be on that for somebody who’s in that position similar to yourself, who loves creating and wants to protect that, but also knows they need some of the business backbone of all of the different considerations that come with running a digital business online?

Nisha Vora: Yeah. Okay. So a couple things. One thing that I have done several times when I try before I’m like, “I’m too overwhelmed with all these things on my plate. We need to hire someone.” I do an exercise that, I think it’s called the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s a four quadrant thing where you have a top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right, and I can’t even remember which quadrants you put what in. But basically in one quadrant you put all the things that you currently do that you love and that you are the best at. For me, that’s recipe development and making YouTube videos and probably a couple other things, but let’s just leave those high level. In another quadrant you put all the things you love that you currently do, but that you’re maybe not the best at. I enjoy food photography, but there are lots of people who are better at it than it than me.

In another quadrant, you put all the things that you actually don’t like doing, but that you’re probably the best at, at least in your sphere in this current space. So for me, that might be getting the meal plans into a place where that feels really good. I don’t dislike it, but it’s really time-consuming and I wish I could maybe take some of it off my plate, but I’m not sure right now who that would be. And then the fourth quadrant is all the things that you do that you don’t actually really like and that you’re not necessarily the best at. So obviously those things you should outsource first. And so a lot of those might be the businessy types of things, like an accountant, a bookkeeper, what are all the other things I might have forgotten.

Bjork Ostrom: Analytics guru, like somebody to…

Nisha Vora: An SEO person who can-

Bjork Ostrom: A developer.

Nisha Vora: … Lots of different things that are required of our jobs and start outsourcing there. That’s not necessarily the same as hiring a business partner who will know how to do everything.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Nisha Vora: But depending on how early you are in your career, I definitely recommend starting in that quadrant. And then between the other two quadrants the second and third one, it’s depending on who you can find that fits the bill better. You might hire for things that you’re good at, but you’re not the best at, or you might hire for things that you don’t want to do anymore, even though you are good at.

Another thing that I think could be helpful if you are at the stage where you have had some success and you are ready for someone who is going to come on and really help you take your business to the next level is this is kind of, I don’t know, not awkward to say, but a lot of people who are, I don’t know, I feel like a lot of corporate people who have a lot of education, a lot of skills hate their jobs and are looking for something else-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.

Nisha Vora: … and looking for a more creative, more alternative path. And I feel like there are so many people out there who would be interested in working in a creative space, particularly if you are in a niche that they’re passionate about. For me, I’m vegan. And so I feel like I have a lot of people who are interested in working with me who are vegan because they have the same values or the same kind of things that they care about in life.

And so tap into your circles. Either people you know, maybe if you went to business school, there might be people you went to business school who would be interested in working with you. If you have a large enough audience, I guarantee you there’s people in that audience who would be interested in working for you and have certain skills that you don’t.

It’s going to vary widely depending on the skillsets that you do need and the type of person you’re looking for and how many hours and what their strengths are. But we’ve hired pretty much exclusively through my audience. It’s been very, very helpful and very rewarding. And we’ve had long-term employees who are really critical and vital to the team that we found just by asking people like, “Do you want to work for me?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And what does that look like? So you put together a job description, you develop some of the examples of tasks somebody would be working on, projects they’d be working on. And then do you mention it on YouTube, send out an email? It’s probably all the above if you wanted to?

Nisha Vora: Yeah, I mean, it depends on where your audience is. I think email is probably the best place for that kind of stuff. I think people are thinking a little bit more professionally when they’re reading emails opposed to-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Nisha Vora: … scrolling Instagram. But I think I try to post it wherever it makes the most sense and to get as many eyeballs on it. So I would encourage people who have a sizable audience to tap into that if they are looking for a new employee, maybe their first employee.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. And the other thing that’s so nice about that is somebody’s coming to the table and they know what you’re about. They generally know how you create content, how you’re showing up. It’s kind of hiring somebody from your tribe as opposed to somebody from the outside. And like in your case, if you get somebody who’s not vegan, that’s probably okay. But it feels different if somebody is aligned with worldview or the type of content that you’re creating. And for them as well. Beneficial for somebody who feels like this is important to them to then be doing that work. What a gift for people to do work that they feel like is important and matters. And also autonomous, you can operate differently than maybe you can within a big corporate company where it’s a little bit more narrow. So I love that.

And then also love the idea of building that matrix out and saying, “Hey, what are the most important things that I’m least interested in, least capable of doing?” And using that as a starting point to hire out, whether an agency, contractor, somebody freelance, maybe it is a part-time W2 role, but using that as a starting place, I think is, I love that. So that’s awesome.

What do you feel like when you look ahead the next year, two years, three years, what do you think is going to be most important? Where are you pointing the ship and what are you prioritizing as the world around us is ever-changing. Algorithms, platforms, AI, all of this. For you personally when you look ahead, where do you envision yourself going at this point? Knowing that it can always change?

Nisha Vora: I will preface this by saying, as I mentioned earlier, I love being the creative, not the entrepreneur. So in my mind-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Nisha Vora: … I’m thinking three, six months ahead, not three years ahead.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, which is great.

Nisha Vora: For me I like to just enjoy every day. But I also know I should put on big picture hat and think about this more. But I do think that with the increase in AI and just how easy it is to replicate certain things, I do want to continue doing video and leaning even more heavily into video until someone can completely replicate me, which who knows, that might not be that far away.

Bjork Ostrom: Next year. Next year.

Nisha Vora: But yeah, I think video just leaning more heavily into long form video, continuing to do it, doing more of it to the extent that I can. I also have my second cookbook coming out this year, and as long as it took to do, I do genuinely love writing cookbooks and the creative freedom you have to develop recipes that are about anything and to just work on this one big project. And so I would love to do more cookbooks in the future and have that be a big part of my work.

But I also think that there’s room to do more products and more, not necessarily more subscriptions, but maybe a course, maybe a physical product. People are always asking me for spice blends and sauces that they can buy at the store. And so I think the problem is there’s just too many options for me to be like, “Yes, in five years I will be doing X and I’ll be making X amount of money.” It’s like, “I could be doing a hundred different things.” And so I think that’s both a good and bad thing. I don’t know if it’s actually bad at all. I think it’s a good thing because it’s just like there’s so many exciting possible things to work on. And I don’t know. I like to take things not day by day, but week by week, month by month, and see how they shake out.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think part of it too, being a good creator is responding to what you’re excited to create. And I think that energy comes across in the video or in your writing or in how you are communicating, where if you are excited about the thing that you are doing. And for all of us listening, primarily what we’re doing is we’re creating content. That content is either monetized through product, or sponsorship, or ads. And so it’s important for us that our main product, which is our content, is captivating, is engaging. And I think one of the best ways to do that is to make sure that it comes from a place of true, genuine passion.

And I think as the world of information switches more to transactional with search, “Hey, give me this information.” Generative AI gives it to you. Our competitive advantage can be found in our humanity, which is like, “I’m going to go to this person, I’m going to go to Nisha because I feel like I want to interact with her content and with her, as opposed to a transactional interaction.”

And you do such a great job with that. So appreciate you coming on and sharing state of things for you. But also it’s an industry to hear what you see as a extremely successful creator. For people who want to follow along with what you’re up to, check out the meal plans, can you do a quick shout out for the best place to follow along with you online and also the meal plans?

Nisha Vora: Thank you. Yes. You can follow me at Rainbow Plant Life. That’s Instagram. YouTube. My blog is rainbowplantlife.com and you can check out the meal plans at Rainbowplantlife.com/mealplans. All things Rainbow Plant Life.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Thanks Nisha. Thanks so much for coming on. Really appreciate it.

Nisha Vora: Thanks so much for having me.

Emily Walker: Hello, Emily here from the Food Blogger Pro team. I wanted to pop in today and thank you for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We are so grateful for you for listening. Before we sign off, I wanted to talk a little bit about the Food Blogger Pro Forum in case you didn’t know how it works. If you are a Food Blogger Pro member, you get access to our amazing forum. It’s one of my favorite places on Food Blogger Pro. I spend a lot of time there myself. And on the forum we have tons of different topics for you to explore. We have a building traffic section, a photography section. We have an essential tool section. We chat about generating income and essential plugins. All sorts of areas for you to ask questions and chat with your fellow Food Blogger Pro members. It’s a great place to connect with fellow members, troubleshoot any issues you’re having, and brainstorm together.

Our industry experts are always popping into the forum to help members with their questions. Casey Marquis and Andrew Wilder are always popping in, and so is Danielle Liss our legal expert. It’s a really great place to get access to these experts and have them help you with your concerns. The Forum is also just a fantastic place to find a community in this food blogging space as you’re working to grow your site and your business. If you’re ready to join Food Blogger Pro and get access to our wonderful forum, head to foodbloggerpro.com/join to learn more about our membership. We really hope you enjoy this episode and can’t wait to see you next week for another great episode. Have an amazing week.

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