Um wow ok I guess I’m doing this, or rather, I guess we’re doing this. I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a reflective post this year, but after reading a few from some of my favorite bloggers, I figured why not? Let’s chat about 2016.
Going into the year, I was blogging about strictly food, with the majority of recipes being 30 minutes or less. I was freelancing for Paleohacks and Green Blender and teaching barre at The Barre Code. All and all, I was happy, and just hoping to continue loving my work, while making a bit more money doing so. While I’d say I successfully did just that (and that’s a good thing!), that’s about all I did. I didn’t really push myself outside of my comfort zone in 2016, I didn’t challenge myself to blog more frequently or to work on any major projects. So, like I said in this post, while I think it’s ok to be content, when you’re running your own business, you HAVE to push yourself outside your comfort zone.
One thing I did do? Spend more time on my photography. I wrote an ebook on Food Photography for Bloggers on a Budget and the responses from those who have bought the book have been nothing short of amazing. Shameless plug: if you’re just starting out and are looking for detailed photography tips, do’s and don’t’s, you should consider purchasing it. OK I’M DONE I SWEAR.
During the year, I picked up another freelance gig developing recipes for Bizzy Coffee, which was another great experience. I attended the Brunchshop hosted by How Sweet Eats (more on that at the end of this post), and I practiced, practiced, practiced my photography. I kept seeing photos and thinking, 'how do they do that?’ I was intrigued by darker photography but unsure how to accomplish it. One thing I learned is that you’re never going to accomplish something if you don’t at least try. So, I tried it, and now I’m hooked! Again, I still feel like I'm constantly learning, but that's why I love it so much--it challenges me in the best ways.
Here’s a photo from November 2015 vs. December 2016:
WHOA. Yes, I did purchase a new camera in February 2016, but the lens is the same.
What’s changed with the blog since the beginning of 2016? Well, a few things actually.
1) I love baking cakes! No seriously, who knew? I certainly didn’t, but I’m grateful for this new-found love. I love making other things too and I try to provide a variety of recipes, so making cakes isn’t exactly something that happens on a weekly basis, but they might be [one of] my favorite thing to make. And, not even just cakes, but I became much more of a baker in 2016. Woohoo! Which means that….
2) My recipes can’t necessarily be made in 30 minutes or less. A rebrand is on my to-do list for this upcoming year, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I think I’m just a regular food blog at this point. For awhile I was workouts+healthy recipes then I was healthy and quick recipes and now I’m some strange mix of healthy and not healthy (sometimes you just mascarpone, ya know?). I’ll come up with a catchier headline than ‘just a regular food blog’, but essentially, that’s what I want to be because I enjoy baking, and most baked recipes take longer than 30 minutes. And heck, now that I know I enjoy baking (except cookies—still working on loving those), I can’t not bake because it makes me happy, despite the fact that it sometimes takes hours just to make a cake (so fun though! no sarcasm).
3) I experimented with dark photography, because why not? I wrote off dark photography for awhile because it looked to difficult, but guys, all you do is make sure less light is shining through the window. WHOA, totally crazy idea, I know. <—only half sarcasm.
4) I acquired my first blog ambassadorship. For those unaware, an ambassadorship is when you work with a brand on a long-term basis. I was grateful to have Dave’s Killer Bread (aka the best bread ever) reach out and ask me to be a part of their program, where I was able to create recipes using their product. It was a great experience and something I’m proud of and hoping to get to do again next year (we’ll see!).
And, because I know you love lists, here’s a list of things 2016 taught me:
1) Set a price and stick to it
Let me quickly get this off my chest: STOP LOWERING YOUR PRICES FOR BRANDS. Just stop it. I did it for far too long, and it’s absolutely pointless. You are worth the amount you have set for yourself, so when a brand tells you they can’t afford it, WALK AWAY. It’s important to set a price and not back down, because sticking behind your price shows the brand that you’re serious and that you’re to be taken as a professional who is good at his or her job. Simply state your rate, and if it’s not within their budget, tell them you understand, and that you hope to work together in the future. Who knows, maybe some brands will even reconsider once they continue to see the quality of your work.
2) Aside from blogging, it’s good to have other income sources
This may just be me, but I think it’s a little scary to just rely on blogging for 100 percent of your income. Why? Because it’s inconsistent, unpredictable and therefore, a bit scary at times. I’m forever grateful to have found regular freelance opportunities so that I’m able to have an amount each month that I know I’ll be making. I’m also still barre-obsessed, and though I don’t teach as often as I did at the beginning of 2016, I’m happy to have that side gig. If blogging ever seems too unpredictable, find other things that are predictable, which will eliminate a bit of stress that can come from blogging.
3) Find your “thing” (or things) and do it well
Everyone has one or two parts of blogging that they enjoy the most, whether it be writing, photography, social media, videography or what have you, and do it well. Practice that thing until you become an expert. It will take hours and days and weeks, but since this is your favorite thing, it shouldn’t really feel like work. Once you’ve practiced, you should be able to pursue other opportunities, like freelance writing/photography/social media (see #2) for extra income and a portfolio-builder!
4) UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA, she said to herself
Oh my gosh, I’m the worst millennial ever! So what did I do? I hired Jess to help with my social, because I’m so bad at keeping up with it all. For now, my main focus is on Instagram and Pinterest, IG because it’s where I’m able to engage best with my followers, and Pinterest because that’s what drives the most traffic to my site. Oh and also because they’re both visual platforms, which I love. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with trying to keep up with social/the many tasks of blogging, consider hiring someone to help you, even if just for a few hours per week.
Wow, did you actually just read all of that? MAJOR APPLAUSE because that was total word vomit. So, back to the Brunchshop topic that I said we’d come back to…. Jessica from How Sweet Eats reached out to me back in October and asked me to help her style the photos for her upcoming cookbook!!!! It’s a dream, really. I’m a huge fan of hers, and styling/photographing a cookbook is a career goal of mine, so to be able to help her style her second cookbook is something I’m absolutely looking forward to doing. In short, making virtual and real life connections is super important, because you never know where they’ll take you.
I feel like I completely left out the “what to expect in 2017” part of this post, but essentially you’ll continue to see plenty of more recipes, some healthy and some not, along with a few photography tutorials (assuming that’s something you want to see?) and maybe a weekly post showcasing my favorite findings from around the web. Who knows! I’m bad at committing to weekly posts other than recipes, but again, if this sounds likes something you’d like to see, let me know because I’d like to add a tiny more variety to the site.
YAY. I’m excited for the year to come and thank you from the bottom of my heart for following along for all these months/years. I would be no where without YOU! Xoxoxo