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Musings: Blogging, Business + Rebranding

While trying to find a good freelance work/life balance (is that possible with freelance work?) the energy to do business with my blog just isn’t there. Because I felt that’s what my blog was there for, it’s been neglected.

But wait. A business was never what I intended my blog to be.

I started this blog back in 2012 as a hobby. I’m a natural born creative who loves to write, photograph and cook, so having a space for those things collectively was a total dream. I’d heard about making money through blogging, but I’m not business savvy in the least so it didn’t interest me. Also, as they say — don’t turn your hobby into money, because then it becomes a job and no longer a creative escape.

Of course, I had a hard time saying “No” in 2015 when a few opportunities fell into my lap. Before I knew it, I had ads on my site and I was working with a few low key brands. Awesome. But It was at that point when my focus shifted and turning my blog into a business became a goal — especially since later in the year I’d be moving to the US, the land of opportunity for food bloggers. (Depending on who you are and who you ask.)

I had no idea how disappointed I was going to be. Taking full advantage of the opportunity to work on my blog full time once I’d moved, I completely drained myself. I overthought, over-planned and got completely lost between who I am as a blogger and who I thought I had to be in order to maintain the business aspect of it.

That last part? Yeah. To hell with that. Seriously.

This had been on my mind for the greater part of last week and I was completely torn on what to do. My gut was telling me to scrap the idea that food blogs are only worthy if they’re making money. I’m making money with freelance work, anyway. I don’t need the blog as a source of income! But there was that other pesky part of me — the part that has been brainwashed by the nagging blogging groups and their sad motivational attempts with “28 things you’re messing up with your blog that keep you from being a success” — that has been looming over me like a dark cloud. Success? I want success. But for me, thriving on creativity is success; creating beautiful content that will make people hungry, healthy and happy is success.

And on Monday night, while laying in bed and scrolling through Facebook posts, I found an article (and amazing comment on the article) that flipped a switch in me. 

It was about Saveur’s food blog awards and the sour grapes that inevitably come with being competitive in the food blogging world. You can read it here if you’re interested. It’s a fantastic read and I highly encourage you to take a gander.

In a nutshell, what resonated with me most was when Michelle said that one of the things she dislikes most about blogging is that as bloggers, we’re all at the mercy of larger entities that can seemingly make or break us.

#RealTalk.

What struck me even MORE though (and when I say struck I mean lit a huge blazing fire under my ass to stop giving a funk about things that truly don’t matter), was a comment by Ashlae from Oh, Ladycakes:

WORD, lady. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone still gives a shit about the Saveur awards. While I was guilty of drinking the kool-aid the first two times I was nominated, I quickly realized – while I was sitting in a courtyard at the Bellagio being talked at (by the companies who sponsored the awards) for a good three hours (and being urged to post on allllll my social channels 18323x a day) – that the awards are just a clever way for Saveur to gain access to our audiences, and then use that to reel in sponsors for their own monetary gain. Which is, admittedly, brilliant on their behalf – but tacky as fuck.

The sipping of the Kool-Aid (guilty); the smoke and mirrors of working with big brands; the gloomy pressure of having to share things on social media every minute of every hour every single day.

I don’t want that. I don’t want any of it.

This article by Michelle, in addition to the raw and honest comment by Ashlae, were obviously very timely for me. I’ve been contemplating a rebrand for a while; one that would hurt my traffic but represent me and my love for food in a more suitable way.

At the beginning of 2016 I was full of high hopes; I reached for the stars, landed on the sun and got burned.

A thorough breakdown on my thoughts and feels:

I’d have to be a sellout to succeed.

Cool your jets — I’m not calling people who blog for money sellouts.

When turning your blog into a business, it’s imperative that you stick to your guns and work with companies that are a good fit for your brand. If you’re an avid shopper at big box stores and buy big brand products, those things are a good fit for you. However, if you’re like me and opt to shop local and support the small guy, they’re not a good fit. Unfortunately it’s rare that small independent companies can afford to shell out enough cash for a sponsored post. Sponsored posts don’t come cheap — they’re a lot of work and they’re a food blogger’s bread and butter. It’s how they put all of that pretty food on the table.

The biggest eye opener for me was when I was approached by a big brand name to write a “How-To” post on hosting a food bar party with a bunch of their products. I had nothing against this particular *big brand* so I was pretty into it until I read further into the proposal. What really chapped my ass was the part where I would have to purchase said products from a certain *big box store* — one that I loathe. I mean, I never shop at this store. I hate it. It’s unethical and I refuse to support it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I’d have to take photos INSIDE the store to document the “shopping experience” and chat about how I love shopping at this place. (I mean, what the actual shit? People do this and are okay with it?) So basically, I’d have to place my morals and beliefs on the shelf so that I could rake in some Benjamins. For someone who digs shopping at this store, it was a great opportunity with a hefty payout. For me, it seemed downright ridiculous.

But was *I* being ridiculous? Pretentious, even?

I sat in quiet contemplation for a good hour. On the balcony. With a vodka soda or three.

These were my thoughts as I sipped away:

  • Is this how most sponsored posts go? Is this how it really is?
  • Would I be stupid to turn this down?
  • Doing this would make me feel yucky.
  • But it’s a lot of money.
  • It would probably set my foot on the right path.
  • No, no. It would be the WRONG path. Supporting a company I don’t believe in would definitely be the wrong path.
  • Is it possible that blogging for business just isn’t currently on par with my beliefs and vision?

I can now say that you LITERALLY cannot pay me to shop at *big box store*. I turned the opportunity down and, for days, wondered if I was completely daft.

Despite the fact that there wasn’t an ounce of me that doubted my decision, it sure made me think. It made me think, overthink, explore and get completely freaking lost in my purpose.

Then I took things a step further and removed all ads.

Back in the day, when I was first approved to put ads on my site, I thought I was legit. Having ads on your site seemed like the first step into money making madness but, for me personally, they just don’t bring in enough income to justify the real estate they take up (not to mention they interfere with a blog’s aesthetics and, depending on the type of ad, can make your site run slow or crash thus creating a bum experience for your readership).

Because so many bloggers have ads on their site (and hey, if it’s worth it for you that’s amazing — you keep doing you!) I always felt it was necessary; I thought that a blog without ads wouldn’t be taken seriously.

I’ve since learned that that’s complete and utter bullshit.

Fear of change and consequence. 

It’s no secret that I’m pescetarian now; I have been since the beginning of 2016. Despite the fact that I’ve been running a pesco-vegetarian focused blog for over eight months now, I still have meat dishes on my blog (and an awkward explanation of why on my Start Here! page which will be rewritten soon) because some of them are really popular. One of them still brings in my highest daily views and it is old AF.

But the truth is I hate looking at them. I hate seeing them on my site. I don’t eat these things.

(But… the traffic.)

Well, what about the traffic? At the end of the day, who cares. My blog should be a reflection of who I am, not a pile of attempts to keep traffic high. I’m confident in my upcoming content anyway. SERIOUSLY IT WILL BE SO GOOD.

Plus, my most viewed recipe is a hangover sandwich for crying out loud. Get that bunk outta here. I’ve got better.

And then there’s that whole censoring yourself thing.

I have a blog voice that I’m comfortable with and one that is contrived; you’re currently reading the former.

All year, I’ve been afraid to speak. Like, really speak. I’ve had to watch what I say in case brands be lurkin’. Sure, it’s important to be professional — and I’ve never planned on using super foul words (is shit even a bad word anymore? Let’s go with no) — but when I have to cover up my playfully caustic wit, borderline inappropriate one-liners and the odd use of the word shit in my own space for fear that a brand might see me, consider me and then opt out because they can’t lighten up… [insert peace sign here] bye.

I have a personality; I’m exuberant, unswerving, funny and loving with a sparkling dash of misanthropy.

So Basically, I’m just gonna be.

There seems to be this lingering pressure as a food blogger that you have to earn an income from it eventually, and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong. This pressure inevitably sucks the joy out of something you once loved and that, my friends, is the most tragic part.

I can’t deal with that.

Killing Thyme is my baby. Killing Thyme is where I’ve grown as an amateur cook, as a writer and especially as a photographer. My personal progress has been remarkable and you can’t define my worth with a dollar sign.

I want to love this space again. I want it to be an escape, not something I feel the need to escape from.

And I can’t even begin to tell you how free I feel right now.

“You have no idea how high I can fly.” – Michael Scott, Dunder Mifflin

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Happiness, Hotness, and Health-Trolling

Sugar

*Happiness, Hotness, and Health-Trolling was written by Susan Knowles. See the Contributors page for more.

There are three things food can do. Obviously, it sates our hunger, providing micro and macronutrients that allow our bodies to function well. Food also has an emotional/mental component; we turn to it in joy and in pain. In all of life’s big moments, there food is, helping us to celebrate, to heal, and to comfort us in our hours of need. Of course, there is a third thing food can do. When we consume more calories than we need, our body stores that energy as fat. This wasn’t really a problem up until about 100 years ago. But, for as long as I can remember, it’s been a problem for me.

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Where to Start: Home Brewed Cider

*This article was written by Jared Kovacs, www.thehesitantchef.com

In my last post I wanted to inspire as many people to start home brewing as I possibly could. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It’s fun
  2. It’s SATISFYING (nothing like drinking one of your own handcrafted drinks) and
  3. You inevitably gain a new appreciation for beer, cider, and wine.

Sure, it can be frustrating from time to time – especially when a brew doesn’t turn out – but this hobby is as much about learning as it is about enjoying a beverage. I’m often asked by people who are looking to start, “What brew should I start with and what equipment do I need to brew it?” Let’s jump in and I’ll attempt to answer without being long-winded.

What Brew Should I start with?

Good question! I’m glad you asked. Honestly, this isn’t as easy to answer because it ultimately depends on your personal preferences. You should be asking yourself “What do I like to drink?” and allow that question to guide you. My brewing interests are broad, so I knew that beer, hard ciders, and mead (my first batch isn’t even done yet) were something I wanted try. However, in the beginning, all I wanted to make was beer because that’s what I saw every other home brewer doing. And, if I’m honest, my pretentious ways wanted to jump on the sophisticated craft beer bandwagon as quickly as possible. I jumped in with both feet and failed miserably. The ratio of successful brews to unsuccessful ones was something like 3:1 – pretty disheartening and expensive for a newbie! Which is why when I’m asked the question, “Where should I start?” I immediately answer: cider.

Right around the time I was miserably failing at home brewing I had some friends who’d begun to make cider and informed me on how easy it was. By the sound of it, it was exactly what I needed to do in order to get some confidence back. I was right, it turned out great – and after a few batches of cider, I had the courage to try making beer again. Now, this may sound like some sort of male-ego-bravado-stroking kind of thing, but it isn’t. Gaining confidence as a brewer is essential. Trust me – having some successful home-brews under your belt is good for your young home brewing soul. Apart from giving you confidence, brewing cider offers a lot of benefits to new brewers. First, it teaches you proper brewing techniques like cleaning and sanitizing. The majority of my early mistakes came down to me being lazy in this area. Of course you can learn proper cleaning and sanitization habits starting with beer but for whatever reason I found it easier to learn with ciders. Second, brewing cider is easy, cheap, and tasty. The ingredient list can literally be 2 ingredients, apple juice and yeast. Oh and that can cost you as little as $25.00 for a 5 gallon batch. Worth it? Yeah, I think so! Third, brewing cider allows you to collect all the essential equipment you need to move onto more difficult brews.

What Equipment Do I Need?  

The nice thing about brewing cider is that you only need the essentials to do it. No giant brew pots, mash tuns, or wort chillers. Here’s a list of what I consider to be the crucial pieces. The nice thing about these is that they are all 100% transferable to other beverages you might be interested in brewing.

  • Carboys and Airlocks. No matter what you are brewing, you need a container to ferment your liquid in. Traditionally home brewers have used 5 gallon glass carboys, but many have begun switching to plastic carboys and pails. This is good news for those of you who are starting out. kijiji.ca and craigslist.com is full of people looking to sell off their old carboys for cheap. I personally use glass carboys and like them. Except for that one time that a full batch of 6 month oak aged apple wine slipped out of my hands and shattered all over my basement floor. Lesson learned – dry your damn hands before trying to transport heavy ass wine! Come on, Jared! Sigh. I bought all of mine for $15.00 a piece.
  • Auto Siphon and Large Funnel. These are worth their weight in gold. It’s a good thing too, because they’re super light. Getting large amounts of liquid to and from vessels can be difficult, but these make it so easy! They are the best. I use them, and you’ll be glad to have them. You can expect to spend $10.00-$20.00 each. Oh, and don’t forget the tubing. 
  • Bottles, Bottling Bucket, Bottling Wand. Once your cider is finished fermenting, your going to need a way to store it. You’ll need 40-50 bottles for a 5 gallon batch. Again, look on Kijiji or craigslist to see if anyone is selling flip top bottles. They’re reusable, cheap, and can usually acquire them for a $1.00 a piece. If you are looking to buy new, you’ll be looking at $2.50-$3.50 a bottle. Bottling buckets and bottling wand are going to cost you about $30.00.  
  • Cleaning Equipment. Last and most certainly not least, you need to be able to clean all of your equipment. This is for sure the most important step in all of the brewing process. Without proper cleaning and sanitation you’ll end up with nasty tasting liquids. Do not cheap out in this area, buy the best of the best! You’ll be happy you did. You’ll need high quality cleaner and no rinse sanitizer, bottle rinser, bottle brush and carboy brush. Put them to good use. You’ll spend about $60.00-$70.00 to get what you need.

So there you have it. If you want a basic yet simple recipe to try, I recommend my Raspberry Cider I made last year. I loved it and I think you might as well! Have fun Brewing everyone!

Cheers!

Jared Kovacs Circle

Jared Kovacs is the owner + content producer at www.thehesitantchef.com

For more, check out the Contributors Page.

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A Guide to Mastering Your Food Blog Voice

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I’ve always been under the impression that the most important aspect of a food blog is the photos. Anything that is aesthetically pleasing is going to draw people in and keep them coming back for more. This is why #FoodPorn has become a thing. We, as hungry humans, find great pleasure in close-ups of stretchy cheese and oozing chocolate.

But there is definitely more to a food blog than the sexy photos.

No, really.

This is why I wanted to (attempt) to create A Guide to Mastering Your Food Blog Voice.

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So You Want to Start Homebrewing, Eh?

photo-1455641064490-74f5f8dbf598*This article was written by Jared Kovacs of thehesitantchef.com

When I started homebrewing I was wide-eyed and mystified. I knew nothing about it but the prospect of making my own beer intrigued me. 

I began the hobby, like so many of us do, because of my friends. I knew that I liked beer, so learning how to brew my own was sort of a no-brainer. My friends invited me over during one of their brew sessions and showed me how easy it was. I had a great time and I was instantly hooked. I immediately went out and bought all of the essential equipment I needed to get started. I learned so many important lessons that day, but the most important was this: Beer, whether you are picking up supplies from your local brew shop, or simply enjoying a cold one, is meant to be experienced with friends and family. Beer is community. This is attested by every beer commercial you have ever seen and, if you disagree, I suggest that you may have a problem. Drinking alone is NOT what the psychologist ordered. For real.

Enjoying alcoholic drinks has always been a culinary activity for me and therefore I have lived my drinking life by one rule: If it does not taste good, do not drink it. I grew up in a fairly conservative home where drinking was taboo. I didn’t even start drinking until I was in chef school and I had to pair wine with dishes. The two have always coincided for me–food and drink, drink and food. Since that first brew session, I have recognized the deep connection between food and beer. Of course, this connection is not new; it has been there since humans first discovered fermentation. Yet, for me, it is a discovery that I have enjoyed exploring for myself. I have made bread using yeast and leftover grains from the brewing process, and I have also experimented with making my own BBQ sauce when batches of beer don’t turn out. Hell, I even made ice-cream using fresh hopps for flavour (it received mixed reviews). There really is an endless connection between food and beer that is waiting to be discovered. All you need to do is start.

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