Cassie from Cook It Real Good shares some great tips on when to take a real break away from your food blog and what actions have made the biggest difference with her growth.
Welcome to the 6th interview of Full Time Foodies with Cassie from Cook It Real Good! If you’ve just landed here, don’t forget to start at our first interview with Alex from It’s Not Complicated Recipes!
There’s some fantastic quotes and take-aways scattered throughout this interview, we can’t wait for you to read them. One of our favourites has got to be this:
“Learning SEO is the biggest gift you can give your blog.”
We couldn’t agree more Cassie! Now, without further ado – over to you!
Let’s Get Started
How did you come up with the idea to start your food blog?
I have always been an avid consumer of food blogs and it was one of those things I always wanted to try. It took me months after buying my first domain name to actually put a post up because I was so scared, and even longer than that to tell anyone I was doing it. But since I’m writing this now you know it ended well!
I started my blog as a health blog, not solely focused on food. But as the months went on I found I was much more interested in talking about food than health. Eventually I rebranded my blog (previously Be Forever Healthier) to Cook It Real Good and I’ve never been happier. I came up with my name as a play on Salt N Peppa’s Push It (Push It Real Good) and it’s so fitting for anyone who knows me. I love puns and 90’s music.
My blog is now solely a food blog, and I share a wide range of recipes for the average cook who wants their meals prepared quickly and easily without huge amounts of ingredients or washing up!
What does your day to day look like?
I’d say no two days are ever alike! Most days you’ll find me recipe testing in the kitchen and making a mess. I’ll shoot recipes at least one or two days a week. The rest of the days are spent on the computer – writing posts, editing photos, creating pins, scheduling social media etc.
What task gives you the biggest joy with blogging?
I’m pretty sure eating is the best part ☺ I love the feeling when you create a delicious recipe you can’t wait to share with everyone.
The other is hearing from people who’ve made my recipes. It’s so special when readers leave a review, send you an email or pop up a post on Instagram or Pinterest to let you know how much they enjoyed your recipe.
Do you celebrate your achievements? How?
Absolutely! I think it’s really important to celebrate your wins and acknowledge how far you’ve come. My ideal celebration would be a special meal out with my husband.
What’s the most difficult aspect of blogging for you?
I think one of the hardest parts I found about blogging full-time at first is being home all day everyday by myself. I’m a social person and I found it very isolating and lonely. The antidote to that of course is to find yourself some blogging friends! I’ve met some wonderful ladies all over the world who I chat to and check in with regularly, and it’s great talking to people who understand and have a shared experience.
Have you come across any challenges or pitfalls? If so, how did you overcome them?
I’d say not making any income for 2 years was pretty challenging! Honestly nothing about blogging has been “easy”. It’s come with its fair share of challenges and sometimes it’s hard to pull yourself up and move forward but remembering your why is always a good place to start.
How do you stay motivated?
I’d be lying if I said I was 100% motivated all day every day. I find motivation in blogging ebbs and flows. If I’m feeling particularly stuck I find it helps to take a break. A REAL break! Step away from the computer, try and relax and do things other than blogging. Blogging can be all-consuming. I’m always thinking about it and talking about it. It’s nice to take a break and I find whenever I do I always come back ready and raring to go.
Going Full Time as a Food Blogger
How old is your blog? How old was it when you transitioned to full time?
I started my blog in January 2017 and I was full time from the beginning. I had just left a job that was making me absolutely miserable, and the blog was my escape from that. I am very fortunate that we were able to survive on just my husband’s salary while I was growing the blog and that he was on board with supporting me from the start because he believed in my dream and me. I don’t take a second of that for granted.
I don’t believe, however, that working full time on the blog is what ultimately propelled me forward to the point I’m at now. I think it’s easy to think a 40-hour work week will equate to so much time to work and therefore so much more output, but it certainly hasn’t been my experience.
I wasted so much time in the beginning working on things that were busy but not important and didn’t ultimately help me grow. Had I only had weekends or nights to work on the blog I would have been much more focused in my efforts. Things like comment threads on Facebook, or even spending hours on Instagram if you’re getting no traffic or growth from it, are time wasters. Things like recipe development, great photos and SEO-friendly recipes are crucial, and those efforts can be your focus if you don’t have 40 hours to dedicate to the blog in a week.
Full time is an amazing goal to work towards and the freedom to work for yourself and set your own hours is always preferable. But please don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the only way you’ll grow your blog. You’ll be able to grow even if you can only dedicate a few hours a week if you focus on the things that will give you the most bang for your buck.
What does working full time on your blog mean to you?
Every day I wake up grateful that I get to work on something that means something to me. I get to schedule my day how I wish and only have to answer to myself. That’s a big incentive.
Do you outsource any aspect of your business? If so, what?
At this stage I only outsource help with the design of my website, although I’d absolutely love to outsource my social media sometime soon! It’s such a huge time suck that I find really taxing on me personally.
What is your biggest traffic referrer?
What is your income split between ads, affiliates, sponsorships or other?
My income is 100% ads right now. I’ve done some brand work in the past but honestly I find it takes away focus from my own blog goals and it rarely feels like it’s serving my readers that much. I feel the same way about affiliates. I see people do it so well and make so much from them but for me it just doesn’t feel like something I can get excited about. I’m currently looking at ways to diversify my income outside of the box as I know it isn’t smart to rely too much on one thing. I’ll let you know what I come up with!
Does your blog fully support you, or do you have other income streams?
The blog fully supports me.
What change do you think has made the biggest difference to your blog?
I rebranded last year and it was the best decision I ever made for my blog. My previous name (Be Forever Healthier) was hard to say and remember, and it was limiting to only do “healthy foods”. Since changing my blog’s name I have only gone from strength to strength.
What skills have you mastered to get you to where you are today?
SEO is a huge part of my blog’s growth and is what I would tell anyone starting out to focus on. I had an SEO audit with Casey Markee in 2018 and it helped my growth substantially. I also invested in Keysearch which completely changed my keyword game. I was previously using Keywords Everywhere and thought if I found a keyword with a decent enough search volume every month I’d be right to rank for it… how wrong I was!
How many posts do you aim to publish per month? Do you schedule your work in advance?
I publish 2 posts every week. I love to have my work scheduled in advance but it isn’t always possible. I usually have a few recipes developed and photographed up my sleeve, but I’m rarely ahead in terms of having the post written and ready to go.
Advice, Learning and Looking Toward the Future
What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self about to make the transition?
Take the time to work out what is actually important. I do this both in my personal and professional life. What matters to me the most? What do I do that’s a time waster? What could I spend time on now to learn to do better that will ultimately propel me forward? It’s such a big help, and something I didn’t do in my younger years.
Where do you go when you’re looking for blogging advice?
I start with my closest blogging friends, but if they don’t know I’d probably ask a question in Food Bloggers Central Facebook group. People are always helpful and supportive.
What resources have helped the most, and had the biggest impact on your blog?
As I mentioned earlier, learning SEO is the biggest gift you can give your blog. Better to know it from the beginning than to be like most of us who sought out help after years and had to go back and update 100’s of posts!
What’s your current focus or area of study for your blogging?
I’m currently learning how to make recipe videos with my husband. He’s keen to be the editor, and we’ve made a few so far. Mistakes have been made, but that’s all part of the learning process and I’m looking forward to getting more videos out in 2021.
Where do you see yourself and your blog in 5 years’ time?
The dream is to still be doing this in 5 years. I’d love to grow the blog so much that I could take a step back from a lot of the day to day admin things and have some full time employees on staff. I think as a small business owner I’d be proud if my little endeavour could generate job opportunities for others. This would also fit well with where my life is heading – we’d love to start a family and I know I won’t have as much time as I have now to do everything!
Now we have to ask…
What’s your funniest cooking fail?
The cooking fail question always takes me back to being 10 and deciding to melt my easter eggs down in the microwave. I put them in a plastic bowl, set the timer for a few minutes and walked away until it finished… anyone who has melted chocolate in the microwave probably knows where I’m going with this! The chocolate burnt and it had the most dreadful smell that didn’t leave our kitchen for days!! I think I can still smell it now…
Which recipe do you cook the most from your blog?
That’s such a hard one because I make things from the blog all the time but I’ll say my Zucchini and Corn Fritters. We’re fritter mad in my house and I make them at least once a week.
Finally, where can people find and connect with you?
Do you accept guest blogs? If so, where can people contact you?
I don’t, but I do have a cooking podcast (The Cook It Real Good Podcast) if you have a topic you think would be interesting to my listeners. Feel free to email me direct – cassie [@] cookitrealgood [dot] com
Wandercooks: Make sure to have a listen to our episode on Cassie’s podcast, where we chat about How to Bring the Flavours of the World to Your Home.
If there’s a question you’d LOVE to know from full time bloggers, feel free to email us with your suggestions. We hope you’ve learnt a thing or two today to help you with your food blogging journey. Make sure to comment below and let us know your favourite take-aways!
Want more interviews?
- Full Time Foodies Interview #1 with Alex from It’s Not Complicated Recipes
- Full Time Foodies Interview #2 with Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily
- Full Time Foodies Interview #3 with Kristin from Baker Bettie
- Full Time Foodies Interview #4 with Lynn from Fresh April Flours
- Full Time Foodies Interview #5 with Elaine from Dishes Delish
- Full Time Foodies Interview #7 with Megan from Mad Creations
- Full Time Foodies Resources Page