Like thousands of other young women, Lindsay Olstrom started food blogging in 2010 with Pinch of Yum. She was in charge of the content and photography. Her husband Bjork, a techie, took charge of the tech issues and business.
Here’s what’s different: Four years later, the site receives more than 2 million page views per month. The couple has created a lucrative business that sometimes grosses more than $30,000 per month.
As the blog grew, the couple got questions on everything from food photography to starting a blog, so they started Food Blogger Pro, for food bloggers who want to monetize their sites. Since 2011, they’ve published monthly public traffic and income reports, becoming transparent to anyone who wanted to know how they made money. A big sales driver is advertising, of course, but also Lindsay’s self-published photography e-book. She has two e-cookbooks and more books are in the works. Today, both are actively involved in monetizing their blog, so they have the chops to run a community of people who want to do the same.
Food Blogger Pro is an excellent tool and resource for food bloggers who want to make an income. For this reason, I became an affiliate. If you subscribe through the links in this article or the ad to the right, I receive a small commission. I tested out the site on your behalf and I came away impressed with the quality of information about building traffic, using essential web tools, photo editing, generating income, and how to create an e-book. Food Blogger Pro is inexpensive ($29 per month) and offers more than 300 videos and a robust forum on dozens of subjects. Some of it is a little technical and requires a learning curve, but you will get out of it what you put in. In fact, FBP is so popular that membership is limited to joining a few times a year.
For this post, I interviewed Bjork about his thinking process, the couple’s work ethic, their inspirations, and how food blogging makes them money:
Q.The first thing to say is congratulations on making your food blog into a lucrative business. Very few people get there.
Q. When I was researching for this post, one of the things that struck me is how hard you work. I heard you say in an interview that you both work through the night regularly.
A. Yes. Both of us just recently switched into doing this full-time. Before there were occasional late nights or just finding time in the margins, and we worked weekends.
Lindsay was a 4th grade teacher until June. Before, she got up at 5 a.m. and wrote a post before school, three times a week, until 7:30 a.m. When she came home around 3 p.m., she tried new recipes. She did photography on weekends for two to three recipes.
We had to really hustle in the beginning to get to this point when where can go full-time. Now we have to figure out how to play the long-term game, otherwise we’ll burn out. That’s what kills it for so many people.
Q. Now you can kick back a little bit?
A. With the new schedule, Lindsay could take a whole week to create a new e-book because she had scheduled out her posts. She wouldn’t have been able to do that before.
Q. Is it hard to get the bandwidth to try out a new business idea when the schedule is already full?
A. I like the idea of 1 percent infinity, the idea that you’re not writing an e-book this month, you’re just dedicating 1 percent of your day to improving. You can’t do much each day for 15 minutes, but you can do a lot in a year. It’s about goals and how to start them today. You’re not going to hit a home run or even a single but you’re gong to hit the ball every day and get somewhere and win in the long run. The hard thing is starting.
Q. Why did you become so transparent about how you’re making money?
A. I read a blog post about starting a food blog, where the author said it was impossible to create an income from it. At the same time I was reading Crush It about how the author was doing a daily TV wine show at his dad’s liquor store and built into something significant. His point was that you can create an income from anything online, even if your passion is worms. Eventually there will be someone in the fishing industry who will sponsor your worm blog.
Q. What did you read to figure out how to run your business?
A. There are a handful of sharp Internet marketers I follow closely. One has a blog that does similar income reports, called Nichesiteduel. Pat Flynn does a good job of building a business while being super transparent, as well as being relatable. He said you don’t need to have a really hard sell, just create things that are as helpful as possible while offering people the opportunity to go from freemium to premium. In our case, our newsletter is free but our 300 video tutorials are a premium level.
Q. What have you read that has influenced you?
A. Seth Godin’s books. We’re doing permission marketing, a Seth Godin term. I’ve also read Gary Vanderchuck, Dan Miller’s 48 days, The Smart Passive Income blog, and Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art and Do the Work.
Q. Here’s the thing, though. Just because you tell people how you do it doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to do it.
A. Right. In a sense we’re giving away our secrets. The hard thing is doing it, doing it for a long time, or while attempting to improve every day.
Q. What is the one thing you’re improving today?
A. Consistently sticking with projects. Continuing to do it when it has an element of monotony to it.
Q. You are an affiliate and you also created an affiliate program for your own products. Why has affiliate marketing worked so well for you?
A. It allows me to reach millions of people without upfront costs, because I pay the affiliates from my profits. The opposite is an AdSense campaign, where you could spend $1000 up front and get zero sales. You can potentially reach a huge market using the audience that someone else has created. The difficult thing is that it has to be a good product.
Q. What is the secret to driving traffic through Pinterest? It can’t be as simple as taking gorgeous photos?
A. If we knew the secret we’d have 10 million readers! It’s the combination of good food photography, good recipes and luck, repeated. Influential pinners will pick up a recipe and then their followers create a waterfall effect.
Q. What percentage of your time do you spend analyzing your numbers? What have you learned from doing so?
A. I check once a day for both sites. There isn’t much research we do in terms of popular posts. Analytics are incredible for mining data, but we’re not super-excited about picking it apart. We do A B testing for a sales pitch, like we did for our book, Tasty Food Photography. We split the traffic to a page where 50 percent sees each page and then we see which page resulted in more sales. We increased the conversion rate over 100 percent by choosing the page that performed best. For people who have a product, it’s a smart thing to do because you don’t have to get more traffic to make more money, you just have to improve the conversion rate.
Q. How do you take a long-term approach to blogging?
A. You take the long-term mentality and lean into what you love about it, make sure you enjoy it even if there’s no tangible reward.
Q. What would you say to someone who’s making a little money and wants to make more?
A. Take time to acknowledge that you’ve created an online income and how incredible it is. Then think about the reality that anything online is a matter of scaling. You can scale by getting more traffic or by getting more from the traffic you already have.
So, food bloggers, I’ve dug around on Food Blogger Pro and I’m amazed by the quality and quantity of great advice. I hope you’ll check out what they have to offer.
(Disclosure: This post contains Amazon and FoodBlogger Pro affiliate links.)