This week my guest is Stephanie Parker from the popular food blog, Plain Chicken. In this episode we talk about how Stephanie started Plain Chicken as a hobby, and how she turned it into a super successful business.
We delve into how she figured out how to make a family income as a food blogger, where she and her husband could quit their corporate jobs, travel, and become satisfied, creative entrepreneurs.
We also discuss her blogging schedule, what to do when you feel blogger burnout, and her adorable cats!
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Table of Contents
Transcript: How to Make a Family Income as a Food Blogger with Stephanie Parker
Jillian: [00:03:37] Hello, everyone. Welcome back to The Blogger Genius Podcast. Today my guest is Stephanie Parker and she’s a food blogger, and she has this really cool food blog called Plain Chicken.
Jillian: [00:03:50] What’s really interesting about Stephanie’s story is that she started this as a hobby in 2007, and then she grew her blog big enough so that not only could she quit her job her corporate job, but her husband could quit his job. And together they run Plain Chicken. So welcome to the show, Stephanie.
Stephanie: [00:04:10] Thank you so much.
Jillian: [00:04:11] So I have been an admirer of you. I found you because you were an early user of MiloTree. I saw your blog and I said, oh my god, she’s doing something really beautiful. And I loved the name of your blog, Plain Chicken.
Stephanie: [00:04:28] Thank you.
Jillian: [00:04:29] So can you tell the story of how you started and what the inspiration was for your food blog.
Stephanie: [00:04:37] So I started Plain Chicken because I would take food to work. And months later, or weeks later, people would come to me and say, hey a few weeks ago you brought some dish to work. Can I get the recipe?
Stephanie: [00:04:52] And I didn’t have the recipe because it was something I’d found online, or some cookbook, and I make things and then just move on to the next thing. So I thought well, why don’t I start a blog just for recipes storage.
Jillian: [00:05:05] Now wait, at work. Were people tasting the food or it just looked really good?
Stephanie: [00:05:12] Yes. I would just bring food that I cooked at home, cooked up I always enjoyed cooking. So I would make a dessert. And there’s only two of us in our house, so I would take the leftovers to work.
Jillian: [00:05:22] Got it.
Stephanie: [00:05:23] And people would be eating something that I had made, and they would come back later and want the recipe for it. I didn’t have it, or I’d have to go and search for it because I couldn’t remember what it was and where I got the recipe from.
Stephanie: [00:05:36] So I just started I just thought, why don’t I make a blog and just keep track of all the recipes that I’m making there. So that’s kind of what I started. And so I just went on blogger.com and got a free web site.
Jillian: [00:05:52] And this is in 2007?
How to come up with a name for your food blog
Stephanie: [00:05:56] In 2007. And I was sitting there, and I’m trying to figure out what to call it. So I’m like, I don’t know what should I call this so I just started brainstorming names and I came up with Plain Chicken.
Stephanie: [00:06:09] Because when I was growing up I was a very picky eater. I really only liked plain food. And so when we would go on vacation you know you’re, sitting at the table and your parents are there and I had my little brother and my dad would say, hey so what’s everybody going to get to eat?
Stephanie: [00:06:26] And before I could even see it’s my little brother would say plain chicken. And it was true. I just liked chicken on bread or just plain chicken. So I thought well that’s a funny kind of name I’ll just name it plain chicken.
Stephanie: [00:06:40] And so it just started that way. And then as Pinterest came along, that’s when my blog exploded. I started when Pinterest was still in the invitation stage. So I went from getting you know just a 100,000 views a month to over 100,000 views a day.
Jillian: [00:07:02] Oh my gosh. Wow that’s incredible. OK so wait. First of all when you were coming up with Plain Chicken, did you think to yourself, oh my god people are going to think they’re only playing chicken recipes?
Stephanie: [00:07:16] No because I never thought that I would do this as a job.
Jillian: [00:07:21] So now knowing that, would you have named your blog Plain Chicken? If you were starting a food blog today.
Stephanie: [00:07:26] Yeah. I would. I mean people think that it’s chicken. But once you’re on the site. Yes I like to say it’s all right to say it’s anything but plain chicken. But it’s everything. And I think once you’re on the site, and like if you’re on Pinterest, and you’re seeing my recipes you know it’s Plain Chicken, but you see it’s a steak.
Jillian: [00:07:48] I have to be honest first of all, my daughter is the pickiest eater on the planet. I totally relate to the idea of plain chicken. Because we ordered that at a lot of restaurants. So I like that it’s playful.
Jillian: [00:08:02] We obsess about naming our blogs, and we don’t want to lock ourselves in with our name, that kind of thing. I like that there is something kind of like winking at the camera a little bit.
Stephanie: [00:08:17] Right. And I started it so early before people were blogging basically. I didn’t worry about all those things. I just went with what I liked, what I thought was fun. And so there wasn’t, there wasn’t a ton of analytical thought behind it sounded fun.
Jillian: [00:08:38] Now did you teach yourself to take photographs?
Teaching yourself photography when you’re a food blogger
Stephanie: [00:08:42] I did.
Jillian: [00:08:42] And how was it?
Stephanie: [00:08:43] It’s a learning process, obviously. When I started it, you know just as recipes storage and then I saw there were food blogs out there. So like some of the first ones I saw were the Pioneer Woman and Jenny at Picky Palette. I followed her from her beginnings as well and Bakerella.
Stephanie: [00:09:03] So you see their photographs and their photographs from when I was looking at them till they are now have also improved greatly.
Stephanie: [00:09:11] It was just like, oh here’s this whole world. And so I need to make recipes and then take pictures and then it got to be where I need to make them better. I need to figure out how to get the lighting or I get the set up right.
Stephanie: [00:09:25] And it just became something as I started blogging and it started getting larger. That was something that I started focusing on and then once I started doing it, I just really enjoyed it. And so it just became like a challenging hobby.
Stephanie: [00:09:41] And with Pinterest you can see a lot of ways people are photographing things and you can go Oh well that’s an interesting angle. Maybe I should do something similar to that. Or you know you brainstorm from seeing other people’s photos.
Stephanie: [00:09:59] You don’t copy them because you’re not making the same recipe, but you go overhead shot. OK. Or super close up shot. Or spoon shot. Or a drizzle photo. And you see what people like. And it’s just kind of experimenting as well.
Stephanie: [00:10:17] Like with mine. I know that like the pour shot might do better than a far out shot, or the zoom shot is what people really like, and that’s what really draws them in. So you just kind of experiment and see what your audience likes and then you kind of focus on that.
Stephanie: [00:10:32] And then I also worked on you know upgrading my camera.
Jillian: [00:10:38] And the macro lens. When I discovered a macro lens doing food, my life changed.
Stephanie: [00:10:44] Yes I shoot a lot with the 100 millimeter lens. Because it gets me the close up shot that I want, and then also have a 24-70 lens like my everyday lens for the larger shots that I want to get more of the food in. And it has the ability to get a smaller aperture for it if I want the blurry beautiful, you know the dreamy background.
Stephanie: [00:11:09] But with food I try not to pick like one single focal point because then it kind of gets too blurry then like the dish itself is blurry.
Stephanie: [00:11:27] Because you can sometimes, if you focus too much in one spot, like on the corner then everything else is blurry and people can’t see the food. So it’s just a give and take.
When a food blog becomes a business
Jillian: [00:11:39] At what point then did you start to think to yourself, oh this could be a business?
Stephanie: [00:11:44] So I was at an Auburn football tailgate and I had a friend that I met on the internet who emailed me, and she’s like, hey we’re going to be in Auburn, can we come bye the tailgate? Sure.
Stephanie: [00:11:58] So she’s a blogger and I had seen some of her recipes, and we were talking at the tailgate, we had never met and I was like, so what do you do besides the blog? She goes, I only do the blog. I’m like, excuse me?
Stephanie: [00:12:11] She said yeah, I only do the blog. I’m like well, and this is so rude, but I was like how much money do you make? Not meaning tell me how much money you make, but I mean like how much money can you make doing this?
Stephanie: [00:12:21] And she’s like well I make as much money as my husband did when he had his first job out of college. I’m like, are you kidding me.
Jillian: [00:12:28] Can you share how much she said she made?
Stephanie: [00:12:31] She didn’t tell me she just told me she made as much as her husband did when he graduated college. And so I was like, that’s insane. Like so how do you do that? And so she started telling me there’s ad networks and all those things.
Using ad networks as a food blogger
Stephanie: [00:12:44] So I started being like, well I’ve got to figure this out. I don’t even remember the first ad network I was in because it was so long ago. So I started, I got an ad network and I started making a little bit of money, and then I got into at the time BlogHer and my first month on BlogHer, I made three times as much money as I made being a corporate controller.
Jillian: [00:13:13] No way.
Stephanie: [00:13:14] Yes. I hated my job because it changed and I just hated it. And I thought to myself, why am I sitting here, making myself miserable when I could be making money just doing the blog. So after a couple of months of being with BlogHer I was able to I quit, and then a year later my husband quit his job.
Stephanie: [00:13:38] Because we were making enough money that we didn’t need his corporate income. And that way he could help me do things with the blog, and then I traveled, and we wanted him to travel with me and he didn’t have enough vacation to take a week off every month to go somewhere.
What’s it like working with your husband on your food blog?
Jillian: [00:14:00] So what was that like when he first came home, because that’s always like the blogger dream is I start my blog, it’s successful. My husband quits his job and he works with me. How is that? What was that like when he did that? Which I was reading your bio, so in 2013, he quit his job so you guys have been together working for five years. What’s that like?
Stephanie: [00:14:27] For us, it’s easy. It is hard being with somebody 24/7. Because we’re in the house together all day together. So we just kind of have our separate areas. I have an office that I edit photos and write on the blog, do social media and all those things from.
Stephanie: [00:14:48] And then his role is not as much with the actual on the computer part, He cleans the kitchen, he loads and unloads the dishwasher, which is sometimes two or three times a day depending on the day. He does the grocery shopping, he runs to the grocery store if I’ve forgotten something. He will call people to collect money if somebody is late paying, which is always nice.
Stephanie: [00:15:16] He helps me brainstorm ideas. He’ll look at photos if I have two or three that I’m trying to pick from. I get his opinion on which one I should use. Before we had Instagram scheduling, he would get the reminder and post the photo for me if I was traveling.
Stephanie: [00:15:38] And then just you know anything I need, like if I’m traveling, like I went to Iowa this past weekend and I live in Birmingham, Alabama. But I wanted to fly out of Atlanta because it was a direct flight, and so he drove me the two and a half hours to Atlanta to the airport.
Stephanie: [00:15:54] And then he picked me up on Sunday. If he were working he wouldn’t have been able to take off on Friday to take me to Atlanta and then come pick me up. It would just be you know, it’s just easier to have him as my partner to just do the odds and end things.
Stephanie: [00:16:11] I do all the recipes and photographing, he holds the light for me when I’m photographing. He’ll hold the spoon or he’ll do the syrup pouring over something, so he does all those kinds of things.
Jillian: [00:16:25] Got it. That’s funny so my partner in life and Catch My Party and MiloTree is my husband, David ,and he’s the technologist so he builds everything and he does all the all the stuff that I don’t understand.
Jillian: [00:16:39] But he’s also my hand model. I’ll be like make sure your nails look good because you’re the one holding the spoon.
Stephanie: [00:16:46] Exactly.
Jillian: [00:16:47] Which is really funny. I don’t think he ever thought of himself as a hand model. And he does not want to be on camera, so I’m like you have to take a photo, like just turn around and I’ll kind of get over it over the shoulder shot.
Stephanie: [00:16:58] Yes yes. Same with my husband.
Jillian: [00:17:01] So it’s very funny that like you know, he’ll be building some big technological thing and I’ll be like come in here, I need you. Hold the spoon. Take a bite.
How many hours a week do you work on your food blog?
Jillian: [00:17:16] How many hours a week are you working on your blog?
Stephanie: [00:17:20] Well I work every day.
Jillian: [00:17:24] Including Saturday and Sunday?
Stephanie: [00:17:25] Including Saturday and Sunday. Sunday is my biggest day just because that’s the biggest traffic day. I post a weekly menu on Sunday. So I pin all of those recipes from Sunday into a weekly menu board on Pinterest.
Stephanie: [00:17:42] So I get up, I make sure all those pins are going out. I make sure that everybody got their email, that there wasn’t any glitch because that’s the day everybody’s favorite email is Sunday for the menu.
Stephanie: [00:17:55] And then I go through and I take those posts that are scheduled on the menu on Sunday. And that’s what I share on my Facebook page during the week.
Jillian: [00:18:08] So every week you’re creating a menu? And then you create the recipes for the menu?
Creating a weekly menu as a food blogger
Stephanie: [00:18:16] They’re just my recipes from the from the blog.
Jillian: [00:18:20] So these are past recipes?
Stephanie: [00:18:23] Correct. So it’s a way to get content back out in front of various people again. So it may be something that they’ve made, but it just comes to the forefront of their mind again.
Stephanie: [00:18:34] Or it could be a new person to Plain Chicken, and they’ve only been around for a couple of weeks. So they’ve never seen any of these recipes. So it’s just a way for people to think about these recipes because I give a main dish and a side and then I share one dessert at the end.
Jillian: [00:18:53] This is in a newsletter?
Stephanie: [00:18:55] No I do a blog post.
[00:18:57] This is a blog post. Ok so this is your Sunday blog post.
Stephanie: [00:19:00] Yes. So on Sunday I spent a lot of time making sure all those all that content gets shared to Pinterest. Answer anybody’s questions because people have questions when they get it. And then just scheduling those out. That’s what I’m going to reshare on my Facebook page for the week.
Jillian: [00:19:23] Got it. I love that way of repurposing your content. I love that you found a different way to package your stuff that makes it relevant for people.
Stephanie: [00:19:34] And it was when my blog started getting popular. My dad was like you need to republish some of these recipes you have because they’re really good and nobody’s seen them. And I thought well, instead of doing individual post, why don’t I just do a menu.
Stephanie: [00:19:49] It just kind of went from there, I thought well everybody is getting ready for the week on Sunday night. So maybe they’ll make one or two of the recipes but it’s something that they’re like oh this is good I could make this. We could have this Wednesday night.
Jillian: [00:20:06] In a menu, give me an example of the three recipes that you feature.
Stephanie: [00:20:11] All right let’s just pull up Sunday.
Jillian: [00:20:15] OK let’s do it.
Stephanie: [00:20:17] I do seven say I have seven recipes. I do one for every day of the week.
Jillian: [00:20:22] Oh my gosh.
Stephanie: [00:20:23] The one for this week was a spicy barbecue ranch grilled chicken with a side of Parmesan Pudding.
Jillian: [00:20:35] Are you going back to those blog posts and updating those blog posts and republishing the blog posts?
Stephanie: [00:20:42] No it is a individual blog post, I have a photo and when you click the photo, it links to the original blog post and then right underneath it says what it is like, spicy barbecue ranch grilled chicken. And you click on that. It takes you to the blog post and then I have a picture of the pin it button. If you click that then it takes you straight to Pinterest so that you can pin my original pin.
Jillian: [00:21:11] I love that idea. Okay so Sunday let’s go back. Sunday is your busiest day.
Stephanie: [00:21:15] Yes. And then I also cook every day. So we may all figure out what we’re having for lunch, and that’s a blog post for later, or if I don’t have like a main dish, if we’re gonna like something on the grill and make an a side or if it’s something I need to make a dessert for. That’s what we do.
Jillian: [00:21:41] Cook and create blog posts every day?
How to batch your recipe content as a food blogger
Stephanie: [00:21:44] Yes. So kind of a batch. I do my blog in batches, so like right now it’s July 31st, and I’m cooking for December. So I already have August and September. I have all of the recipes made, photographed all the collages made for Pinterest. The blog post written and scheduled to Facebook and Pinterest.
Stephanie: [00:22:12] So right now I’m making the collages for all of October, and so by the end of the week, I’ll have almost all of October written and scheduled, and then November after I finish that this week.
Stephanie: [00:22:28] My goal is by Sunday to have everything done. So Monday I’ll start editing all of the November photos, and while I’m doing all this, I cook one thing a day.
Jillian: [00:22:41] OK so let’s let’s break this down. Every day you are making one recipe and you are photographing it.
Stephanie: [00:22:50] Yes.
Jillian: [00:22:52] So that is seven recipes a week or five?
Stephanie: [00:22:56] I work seven days. We don’t have kids so there is no weekend.
Jillian: [00:23:02] Got it. So you are making seven recipes a week. Are you pushing out one blog post with a new recipe everyday?
Stephanie: [00:23:12] I post seven days a week but I only have four recipes a week. I post recipes on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.
Stephanie: [00:23:21] Saturday is a travel post or if I haven’t been anywhere, I’ll do a roundup post of like “Top 12 pasta salads.” And you know just whatever’s relevant. Or like right now, back to school recipes.
Stephanie: [00:23:36] And then Sunday is the menu, and Monday is Meow Monday. And those are photographs of my cats.
How to create unexpected content as a food blogger
Jillian: [00:23:42] That whole post is photographs of your cats?
Stephanie: [00:23:45] Yes, we have we now have four cats. So it’s one photo of each cat. And then I have sponsored posts for me on Monday, so if there’s a sponsored post, I’ll post pictures of the cats and the sponsored content whether it’s food, cat litter, or whatever. I’ll do that below and then incorporate it into post.
Stephanie: [00:24:05] But I just send out pictures. And right now I’m sending out updates because we just adopted a stray cat a month and a half ago, so everybody wants to know how he’s fitting in.
Jillian: [00:24:14] So you’re monetizing via ads and sponsored posts. So brands will come reach out to you and say, hey can you use my tomato sauce in a recipe?
Stephanie: [00:24:29] Correct.
Jillian: [00:24:29] And then you do those posts. But you only post those on Mondays?
Stephanie: [00:24:36] Any sponsored post for food, I will do it Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. I don’t post anything on Sunday or Monday because I only want one post a day. And people who are followers of my blog know, Sunday is the menu, Mondays the cats and then recipes are the other.
Jillian: [00:24:57] Oh I love that. As soon as we get off the phone I’m going to go check that out because I didn’t realize that. Explain to me the relationship you have with your audience through your cats.
Stephanie: [00:25:14] So I just started Meow Monday because on my phone, my camera I just had pictures of food and cats and I’m like I need to do something with these cats, and so I’m an alliteration person, so I thought Meow Monday. What a great idea. I’ll just start posting pictures of the cats on Mondays.
Stephanie: [00:25:29] And then it just kind of started morphing into a weekly thing and now people will comment on the blog. They’ll email me pictures of their cats. Yes they’ll send me pictures, they’ll ask me questions they want to know.
Stephanie: [00:25:46] Like this week, I just got back late Sunday night from a sponsored trip, and I didn’t put the update about our new cat in the post. Somebody sent me an email like what, no Nacho Man update this week? That was my favorite part of Meow Mondays right now. It’s like, oh my gosh I’m so sorry.
Stephanie: [00:26:05] So I emailed her back an update and then I put it back on the blog because I knew other people would be sad, and so it’s like I have an obligation. I feel like I need to help these people are like and I get e-mails or comments saying Meow Monday is the only good thing about Monday.
Jillian: [00:26:20] Wow. You know it’s funny. That’s great.
Stephanie: [00:26:23] People love cats and I also get negative comments, but I’m like you know you just ignore those people. If you don’t want to see the cats, it’s not a law that you have to come every Monday and look at Meow Monday. You know, it’s a choice.
Jillian: [00:26:42] So if you were to add up the hours you work on your blog every week what would you say?
Stephanie: [00:26:48] I probably work at least 80 hours a week. My whole life is Plain Chicken because everything I do. We go to a restaurant, I’m going to order something I know looks good and I’m going to put it on Instagram. Or if we go out of town, I’ll do a travel post about it.
Stephanie: [00:27:12] So we like to go to Las Vegas and sometimes we go twice a year. So I find new restaurants. Because I want new content. If I were to just go to Las Vegas in the same places it wouldn’t be a new post, I won’t be able to write it off. Everybody knows that when they order, they save it and I take pictures of everybody’s meal.
Stephanie: [00:27:52] So it’s something that I do as you know, is conscious and I consider that working, because if I wasn’t going to post that on my blog, we’d just eat it and I’d just order a plain chicken sandwich and be done with it, but instead I get something different because I want to make sure that it’s something that is good for the blog.
Stephanie: [00:28:16] And like I’m not a big sweets eater, but I know that’s what does well on Instagram. So we’ll go and get cookies or crazy ice cream or crazy whatever just to have that for the blog.
Jillian: [00:28:27] Now here’s a question Have you ever had to deal with burnout?
Dealing with burnout as a food blogger
Stephanie: [00:28:34] Yes.
Jillian: [00:28:35] And talk about that, because when I hear what you’re doing and the consistency of it, I am so impressed and I think to mysel.f oh my God if this were me. I’d probably experience burnout.
Stephanie: [00:28:49] Some days it gets hard just because of being inundated with social media. And it might be a day where just everybody’s complaining about something. But I work so far ahead that I have the luxury of saying, I’m going to go get my nails done and I’m going to come back tomorrow. I’m going to turn off my laptop at 5:00, and I’m going to just go watch TV for the rest of the night.
Stephanie: [00:29:17] Because I work ahead and that’s why I like to work ahead, because if I want to go get my hair done and then go to the you know stop at Pottery Barn on the way back, I can because I have enough content that I can take that day off or and I have enough time, but I could just say, hey let’s go to Atlanta for the weekend so that I can clear my head.
Stephanie: [00:29:44] It’s really just about taking a step back. Usually just a day, saying I just need to get out do something fun and you know come back tomorrow.
Jillian: [00:29:55] Got it. Got it. I mean I agree. I have to do that as well. The nice thing about being your own boss is you get to do that. I’ve learned though you’re also the one who’s up at 2:00 in the morning going, oh my god this is all on us. I can’t phone it in.
Stephanie: [00:30:15] Correct. That is the scariest part. That was the scariest part about walking away from corporate, was you have a guaranteed salary and you know it’s going to be there, and to walk away and to say, I’m doing this on my own is super scary because you’re a blogger and a business person and an entrepreneur. You know that you don’t get fifteen thousand dollars every month.
Jillian: [00:30:46] You have to work your tail off for that.
Stephanie: [00:30:49] Right. And you might get $4,000 one month and you might get $5,000 and then you have a good month and you get $10,000. But it’s not like it’s a steady consistent paycheck.
Jillian: [00:30:58] You’re totally right.
Stephanie: [00:31:00] It’s like your working on commission completely. So you don’t know what it’s going to be.
Jillian: [00:31:05] You were an accountant?
Stephanie: [00:31:09] Yes.
Tools to stay organized as a food blogger
Jillian: [00:31:09] So I take it you are very organized? Can you give tips on how you are able to be as organized as you are. What tools do you use? Are you a spreadsheet person?
Stephanie: [00:31:24] I am so I’ve always been super organized in my work. I’m a super planner. So like I already know my trips I’m taking the rest of the year. I have a ballpark for where we’re going to go next year. So I have a spreadsheet that I use for my blog calendar.
Stephanie: [00:31:45] I have Google Drive so I can see it everywhere. And I just have it scheduled. Also I will, say I’m working on November or whatever, so I’ll just go and I’ll be like okay what recipes do I want to make, and I’ll just start jotting down ideas on each day of the week that I post a food recipe.
Stephanie: [00:32:04] So I just go through and so I may have for November, I need to think about Thanksgiving you know sweet potatoes. Let me think about carrots and then I’ll just start thinking about what I want to make, and the time of the month that is and I’ll just drop it in the spreadsheet and then that’s what I cook.
Stephanie: [00:32:20] After I look at the menu and I feel like this is a really good menu. This is a really good assortment of recipes main dishes, side dishes, breads, dessert. This is what I’m going with.
Stephanie: [00:32:34] Then I just go on WalMart.com order my groceries. My husband goes and picks them up from the pickup thing, and that’s what we just start working our way down the list.
Stephanie: [00:32:45] So I’ll just start, you know, we’re going to make these five recipes this week. Plus you know I’ve got these two desserts. So that’s what we just we just kind of work through it.
Jillian: [00:32:58] And then you’ve got your files of photos and you’ve got your systems for collages and those kinds of things?
Stephanie: [00:33:04] Yes. So I will cook everything for a month, and then after I’ve cooked the month, then after when I’m ready to start, once I’ve finished the previous month scheduling, I’ll just start.
Stephanie: [00:33:14] Like right now finishing October. So I’m in the middle of making all the collages. I make a lot of different collages for Pinterest as well.
Stephanie: [00:33:21] You want people to have a choice what they’re pinning. So any image that I have, I will do a separate collage with like you know the words on the top, so that it stands out and I also do a zoom photo so I’ll do all of those.
Stephanie: [00:33:41] And then once I have all those done, I’ll load them into the blog and then I start writing the what I call the “mmm this is good” part. The part that says like, you need to make it.
Stephanie: [00:33:54] These are the tips and nobody reads it because they know because they always email me the questions that I’ve answered them. And then my recipe. And make sure that it’s formatted and then I schedule it to Facebook and Pinterest, and then I hit publish and I’m on to the next list and I just work my way down.
Stephanie: [00:34:13] So since I post four recipes a week, I try to write and schedule four posts a day, when I’m in my writing mode. So it’s like one week I can get it all done. It’s just being disciplined.
Jillian: [00:34:29] I think I am organized but, my friend, you blow me out of the water. I look like the biggest slob in comparison to you. That is impressive.
Jillian: [00:34:38] So in terms of social media I take it Pinterest drives a ton of your traffic.
Stephanie: [00:34:42] It does. It really does. That’s what I focus on.
Jillian: [00:34:45] OK. That’s what you focus on. So are you getting Google search traffic?
Stephanie: [00:34:51] OK. I have a lot of direct traffic as well. I have a large email list. I have 200,000 people. So they come direct from there.
Jillian: [00:35:01] And how often are you sending newsletters?
Sending out your blog posts
Stephanie: [00:35:05] I don’t ever send a newsletter. I only have my RSS feed.
Jillian: [00:35:10] Can you explain what that is?
Sending out an RSS newsletter to your email list as a food blogger
Stephanie: [00:35:12] So every time I post, my blog makes a feed it creates a new post in your RSS feed. So I have my email service set up so every time it notices a post in my feed, it will automatically send an email out to all my email subscribers and I have my email list segmented into three categories cat, food, and travel.
Stephanie: [00:35:45] So you initially get all three but if you unsubscribe on Mondays you’ll never see another cat, but you’ll still get the recipes and the travel guide, and don’t want the travel you can unsubscribe to that and just get cat recipes. There are 3 individual feeds for each subscriber.
Stephanie: [00:36:04] I didn’t want people to if they want the recipes that don’t want cats. I didn’t want them to not get the recipes.
Jillian: [00:36:11] So what email service do you use for this?
Stephanie: [00:36:14] I use ConvertKit. I have looked at other ones because I have a large list and I send out every day emails. Providers have limits on how much you can send like MailChimp they charge you per email. It’s so astronomical for what I would be sending out. But with ConvertKit I get unlimited emails.
Stephanie: [00:36:41] I know people are using MailerLite, but I’ve talked with them several times that they automatically create an email for your RSS feed, but I would manually have to go in every day and hit send. For me, that’s a deal breaker.
Stephanie: [00:36:56] Just because I’m going to be in Italy next month. Their time change is like six or eight hours. I can’t wake up every morning, figure out what time is to send that email. It has to be automatic.
Jillian: [00:37:11] People feel mixed about the RSS feed, meaning some people feel like it’s not personal enough because it’s just the blog post. But I have thought I believe that for food bloggers who are constantly creating new recipes where people want new recipes, that that’s a really good strategy without having to then construct newsletters all the time.
Stephanie: [00:37:36] Right. I don’t think people care about me at all.
Jillian: [00:37:39] Right. Well they care about your cats.
Stephanie: [00:37:43] They care about the cats, they care about the free recipes. That’s what they want. I mean I give them some personalization on travel post and all the cats, but I just think as a whole, nobody even really understands that Stephanie is behind Plain Chicken, like I have gone to a friend’s house and she had like at a party, and she introduced me “she’s Plain Chicken.” And they’re like, what?
Stephanie: [00:38:14] It’s like I follow Plain Chicken on Pinterest. I love all their recipes but I didn’t realize you were a real person. So that’s kind of you know, and I’m on Pinterest which is what everybody knows me for, being on Pinterest so they just know Plain Chicken.
Stephanie: [00:38:32] I don’t have any concept that Stephanie is sitting at her desk in her shorts a t-shirt everyday doing this for them. They just want to come and get the free recipe. So personalization, I get it, I just think that bloggers sometimes put too much thought into what they’re doing.
Stephanie: [00:38:56] I don’t want Pottery Barn to email me and tell me what’s what’s going on in their life. I want Pottery Barn to send me a coupon code for free shipping.
Viewing yourself as a brand as a food blogger
Stephanie: [00:39:06] Yeah I mean Williams-Sonoma sent me the email that tells me with forty nine dollars I get free shipping. I don’t care what you’re doing in your corporate office suite, Williams-Sonoma, and that’s kind of how I view myself as a brand, not as a person.
Jillian: [00:39:18] Yep. It’s funny. I think that there are different categories of bloggers, so Catch My Party we have a blog. We have a lot of user generated content. Nobody cares. I see this all the time, nobody cares about me or my life, nobody cares about me unless I can provide value.
Jillian: [00:39:37] I’ll go somewhere, like to a friend’s house or another mom will be talking and somebody will say do you know, she’s behind Catch My party and they’re like what? I use that to plan parties.
Jillian: [00:39:48] I’m like yeah that’s our site and it’s like no concept no concept of kind of what we do or anything. And sometimes somebody will say you know, she’s a blogger like I’m this cute mom blogger who does this as a hobby, and I’m like no this is our business.
Stephanie: [00:40:05] I do think “blogger” has a negative connotation to it.
Jillian: [00:40:08] It has a cute connotation.
Stephanie: [00:40:12] So if I tell people I’m a blogger they’re like awww. And it’s like whatever you, if you saw my bank account you’d be like now how do I start blogging?
Jillian: [00:40:24] Totally. Absolutely. So funny but I think that again, I once went to a dinner and there were a ton of these style bloggers and they were like in their 20s and they were moving in with their fiances, and decorating their apartments, and their followers loved every little detail of their lives.
Jillian: [00:40:49] It was eye opening because I realized different bloggers have different audiences and the audiences want different things. Your audience wants a recipe period.
Stephanie: [00:40:57] They just want the recipe.
Jillian: [00:40:58] Yeah. And mine want party ideas. So it’s interesting to understand that, and to not take it personally when you recognize that for some people like you and me, our audiences don’t care about us and that’s OK.
Stephanie: [00:41:12] Right and I know they don’t care because they don’t read the words I’m writing at the top of the recipe. They only go to the recipe because they asked questions that I have specifically answered right up in the top right before they got to the recipe. So I know they don’t read it.
Recommendations to a new food blogger to grow their business
Jillian: [00:41:28] So if I were a food blogger and I wanted to grow something like Plain Chicken, and I know you’ve been at this for a long time, but would you say for example, would you say focus on Pinterest? Would you say video? I don’t want to put words in your mouth. What would you recommend?
Stephanie: [00:41:45] I would recommend really grow your email list. That’s really the only thing you own. There’s no algorithm for that. There’s no correct size for that.
Stephanie: [00:41:57] You know you’re not going to create images for Pinterest that are long images, and they’re going to want short images. You own your email list and you can have access to those people they’ve chosen to hear from you.
Stephanie: [00:42:09] And so if I could have started growing my email list earlier, I would have because once I started to focus in on it, it grew. And that’s like when all of this change happened with Google and they’re changing their search you got to have certain things or you won’t show up.
Stephanie: [00:42:25] It doesn’t affect my traffic because I have such a large email lists that I get a lot of direct traffic. For me, you have to do things and see where you’re getting your traffic and that’s where you put your focus.
Stephanie: [00:42:42] It’s hard to block out the noise of other bloggers but you have to look at your traffic ,and you go, I get all my traffic from Twitter which is crazy because it’s not going to happen. But you just say you do. Then you focus on Twitterm you don’t listen to the cool kids are doing Facebook.
Stephanie: [00:43:00] You say that’s not where my people, are my people are here on Twitter. My people are on Snapchat. You go where your people are and try to just block out the noise of everybody else.
Stephanie: [00:43:12] I do think video is important now, I don’t think just for Facebook. But I think that brands want video and they don’t even care. It doesn’t have to be high quality. They just want the content because that’s where the world’s going is video.
Stephanie: [00:43:29] So that’s you know, that’s what you need to do and that’s where you go. Don’t listen to what other people are doing. And now all the cool bloggers are doing. Look at your individual traffic and you have to march to the beat of your drum if you want to maximize your traffic.
Jillian: [00:43:46] Yes. And are you doing video?
Making videos as a food blogger
Stephanie: [00:43:49] I have video. I’ve I’ve done some myself. But then I have a lady that does videos for me because it doesn’t cost a lot of money to have somebody make you a video.
Stephanie: [00:44:02] And it’s not worth me taking a day out of my schedule to do a video, like I had a sponsored post recently and they wanted a quick turn around. So I did the video. It takes half a day and it’s easily doable. But if it’s not super quick turnaround, then I just have this lady that does a really great job. You know the Tasty style videos, I don’t do the ones with me on camera.
Jillian: [00:44:37] Yes. And can we talk about MiloTree? What are you growing using MiloTree?
Why MiloTree is great for food bloggers
Stephanie: [00:44:45] I use it for social media. So I have cycled through Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
Jillian: [00:44:55] Got it.
Stephanie: [00:44:58] It’s really helped with Instagram especially because it’s not intrusive it just slides in, and it’s easy, it’s easy to see the X to close. So I’ve never gotten a single complaint about it.
Stephanie: [00:45:14] I get complaints about everything, but nobody complains and I’ve had so many blogger groups are like, Stephanie what are you using, that thing that shows your Instagram or that shows your Pinterest? MiloTree! And I send them the link and they’re like that is awesome.
Jillian: [00:45:33] Wait are you an affiliate
Stephanie: [00:45:35] I’m not. I know I should be. MiloTree iss so unobtrusive so it’s not on top of my recipes. I think it’s just, it’s just right there on the side and even on mobile it’s so easy to see how to you know click off of it.
Stephanie: [00:45:56] And it’s, you know, very well labeled. It’s not like some of things that are like where’s the X? You know, I can see it and then it also may come from Pinterest, and it may show Instagram, and people are like, oh I’ll follow you on Facebook, so they might go on the Facebook page. It’s a steady growth of people that I think would not have followed me on a different social media platform would follow me, because they see that come through.
Jillian: [00:46:28] Right. Food bloggers really like it. That’s one of our biggest user bases is food. I think because social media is so important for food bloggers.
Stephanie: [00:46:41] It really is.
Jillian: [00:46:42] So Stephanie, I have to say thank you so much for being on the show and for sharing what you do, and for your success and your organization. I’m still thinking about that. I really am impressed with how you’ve been able to create this life for yourself.
Stephanie: [00:47:04] It’s amazing. It’s not something I ever thought would ever happen. I thought I’d be an accountant forever. But it’s wonderful the Internet is a wonderful thing. And I’m just very fortunate to have gotten in early and created a product that people like.
Jillian: [00:47:20] Well thank you so much. Oh sorry. One last thing people want to reach out to you to learn more, see your weekly schedule, to connect with you. What is the best way to do that?
Stephanie: [00:47:32] They can email me at Stephanie@plainchicken.com or shoot me a message on Instagram. I’m not good at messaging on Facebook. You can friend me and all I’ll see it but I’m on Instagram. Or just email me, is really the best way.
Jillian: [00:47:53] Wonderful. Well thank you again.
Stephanie: [00:47:56] Thank you so much for having me.
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