Lynn from Fresh April Flours knows how to run a food blog with some amazing work and life balance to spend more time with her family and only publishing one recipe a week. This Full Time Foodies interview is all about looking at the bigger picture and knowing when it’s time to go full time with food blogging.
Lynn shares some great resources that have helped grow her blog over the years. We also loved this comment, “Take a deep breath and trust the process. I did a lot of panicking in March 2020 when the world got insane and felt a bit of “oh my goodness, what did I do????” My BFF told me “if it was a good decision for your family at the time, it’s still a good decision for your family.”
Great advice BFF!
Now, without further ado – Lynn, take it away!
Let’s Get Started
How did you come up with the idea to start your food blog?
My husband and I are 3 years apart (I’m older). We met in college, and I stayed around our college town after graduation to be near him and my friends. Since I was working full time and he was in school, I needed a hobby to occupy my evenings, so I took up cake decorating classes. That led to owning a home business baking and decorating custom cakes and cupcakes from 2010 to 2014. When I got tired of that and wanted to stop, I started my blog as a place to share my recipes.
The name was supposed to be “April Flours,” but I searched for it too many times and it “became unavailable,” so I added “Fresh” and I think it sounds weird, now, without it!
What does your day to day look like?
I wake up when I’m done sleeping (unless it’s a gym day– then I have a 4:54am alarm!), which is actually still on the early end, usually around 6:15am. I try to get my entire cup of coffee in before our kids are up, and then I hit the ground running with them at 7am sharp! My husband owns a gym, so he gets the morning to work, run errands, do his own workout, and sometimes hang out with us.
I work from 12-4pm, and every day is different. But I bake once or sometimes twice a week, and spend the other days editing photos, writing blog posts, planning recipes, optimizing old posts, taking courses, watching videos about blogging, and I participate in a bi-weekly blogging mastermind group which is one of my favorite things to do.
My clock stops at 4pm and I’m back with the kids and/or the whole family until the next day!
As an aside, I do also have a premium sprinkle line (I’ll get to that!) and I work as a pre/postnatal fitness trainer at my husband’s gym, so I fill in tasks related to those parts of my job as needed.
My days are never really the same, and I don’t restrict myself to a rigid schedule. I do make a rough outline for the week on Sunday mornings simply so I can cross things off my list and have some plans, but I’m pretty sure I’ve yet to have a week go exactly as planned since I started doing this full time.
What task gives you the biggest joy with blogging?
Oh man… This one is tough! I think the actual task that makes me smile the most is handing off a sample to a neighbour or friend and seeing their face or hearing their reaction. I love baking but I love sharing it even more.
Do you celebrate your achievements? How?
I do! And usually with a trip to Starbucks.
What’s the most difficult aspect of blogging for you?
I think what I find the most challenging is having a vision for a photoshoot and having that vision completely obliterated by styling that didn’t work out or just going back through photos and not being totally blown away by my own work. As they say, we are our worst critics, but sometimes it’s hard to come away from a shoot with less-than-perfect photos.
Have you come across any challenges or pitfalls? If so, how did you overcome them?
I think in general, it’s just been really challenging to spend this first year full time blogging with the drastic changes in revenue. I quit my job in October, so right on the cusp of Q4. I out-earned my full time job right away, but when Q1 rolled around, that was certainly something difficult to come to terms with. I think looking at the bigger picture (so, the year itself) has helped me immensely. It’s a very different feeling to think “this is all I’m making this month” vs “eh, this is just my side job, better months are to come.”
I also had two kids since I started my blog (in 2016 and then 2018). They have absolutely challenged me to completely revamp my groove!
How do you stay motivated?
My husband is my biggest motivator. He’s built his business from the ground up, and he is the epitome of the hardest worker I know. Plus, we are a fully self-employed household. That’s been a humbling experience and keeps me going, knowing this is all we’ve got!
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 April 2014. I quit my full time job in October 2019, so 5 and ½ years in.
How did you decide, or what made you take the leap to full time?
After I had my second child (May 2018) it just got a lot harder to maintain my job, the blog, and be a present parent. I was spending my evenings after the kids were in bed and my Saturday and Sunday mornings/afternoons baking, photographing, editing, etc. Add in the sprinkle business I started in June 2019 and it was TOO MUCH!
In July 2019, we just had a conversation about what it might look like to do the blog full time. We talked to our financial advisor, shopped for some medical insurance, crunched some numbers, and realised we’d be spending about the same amount of money on self-employed life as we were two-full-time-working-parents life.
What does working full time on your blog mean to you?
It means treating my blog as a job and not just a hobby. It means that when I spend a few hours tweaking little formatting things or going through every post to update links or making new pins for Pinterest, I know it’s helping my blog grow and it isn’t just this annoying task I need to tackle in the moment. Before going full time, I definitely let these things stress me out, since I was doing bits and pieces whenever I could. Now I can sit down and dedicate time to whatever task it is I need to do, and it feels less clunky and more productive.
Would you say your blog has grown at a faster rate since going full time?
I can definitely say my blog has grown a bunch since going full time. I’ve focused a lot on being a present blogger (as in implementing newsletters and inviting readers to respond to emails) and being consistent with posting. Those things alone seem to have helped me grow a larger readership. I’m so excited to see where I’ll go in years to come!
Do you outsource any aspect of your business? If so, what?
I have one employee, my virtual assistant Lauren. She has been working with me since August 2017, and she is such an amazing asset to my business. She helps me with social media (Facebook and Instagram) and my weekly newsletters. I looked for a VA, open to anyone anywhere, but found Lauren locally through a mutual friend. We live just a few minutes from each other, which is pretty cool!
What is your biggest traffic referrer?
I get the majority of my traffic organically. Aside from when I first started blogging and Pinterest was my main source of traffic, Google has been my biggest referrer since 2016. I took an SEO course in August 2019 and I am so glad I did. I knew ZERO about SEO when I started the course, and now I’m implementing so many practices regularly that have helped my content be seen and be better.
I took Stupid Simple SEO with Mike Pearson, and I am happy to talk with anyone who has questions about his course.
What is your income split between ads, affiliates, sponsorships or other?
It used to be about 80% ads and 20% sponsored, but I have moved away from sponsored work. I now do about 90% ads and 10% affiliate.
- Average monthly views: 175-200k, but in November and December, I see closer to 300-400k
- Average monthly income ($US): I quit my job when I was averaging about $2300/month, and it’s increased significantly since then.
- Average monthly RPM: $23ish, but in December, I see close to $40!
Does your blog fully support you, or do you have other income streams?
My blog is not the only income in our house. My husband owns a gym, so he has a steady salary from that.
I also started a premium sprinkle line (Fresh April Sprinkles) in June 2019 that brings in revenue. I don’t include that in my blog revenue and keep it separate, but in a year of business, we did about a month’s worth of ad revenue in sales. I expect this holiday season to be even better than last year. You can find my sprinkles here!
I do have a cookbook which is available on Amazon and also in my sprinkle store.
What change do you think has made the biggest difference to your blog?
Honestly, I think just shifting my mindset and treating the blog like a business rather than “a hobby that makes me money” has changed a lot of things. Obviously, just shifting the mind doesn’t make more money, but it makes tasks easier and worth more and you can see the value in the work you put in.
What skills have you mastered to get you to where you are today?
Most definitely implementing SEO has gotten me to many new places, but another thing that’s been a game changer for me is learning how to shoot in artificial light. I shot in natural light for over 6 years and just this summer learned how to shoot in artificial.
I took Joanie Simon’s Artificial Academy and I only wish I had taken it sooner. I have worked for years to really up my food photography game, and while I’m not perfect, having the flexibility of artificial light has made planning so much easier. I used to plan my weeks around sunny (but not too sunny!) days, and unexpected rain storms or darker days would throw a complete wrench in my plan. I can now photograph anywhere, any time, and it is so liberating. I owe a lot of thanks to Joanie!
How many posts do you aim to publish per month? Do you schedule your work in advance?
I publish 1 new recipe a week. And that’s all I’ve ever done. There are a couple exceptions, like in September when I do pumpkin week (and publish 5 pumpkin recipes!) or in December when I do a 12 Days of Christmas Cookies (in 2018 after my second child I did 12 Days of Dips). When I quit my job, I considered upping my frequency, but I’m happy I stuck with this schedule.
I aim for 3 new recipes and 1 republish a month. When I republish, I revisit the recipe, update it if needed, take new photos, and revise the content to be more SEO friendly. Two of my favorite republishes have been my funfetti cupcakes and my lemon poppy seed biscotti, both recipes that I made early on in my blogging career and I felt could use some updating. Since updating them, both have gotten new attention and readers are happy with the improved results!
I do plan my content out loosely by quarter. I also have an ongoing list of republishes that I cross off as I get to them, and I kind of fill those ones in as I go, since the content is already there and only needs refreshing. It’s obviously quicker than starting a recipe/post from scratch, but I don’t like to rely on repubs too heavily, as fresh content is what I aim to do the most of.
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 a deep breath and trust the process. I did a lot of panicking in March 2020 when the world got insane and felt a bit of “oh my goodness, what did I do????” My BFF told me “if it was a good decision for your family at the time, it’s still a good decision for your family.” If you’ve put thought into your decision, there was a reason for it. Trust your gut, don’t burn any bridges on your way out of your former job, and take the plunge.
Where do you go when you’re looking for blogging advice?
I have a few trusted blogger friends I go to for advice, but the Mediavine community has probably been my biggest source of guidance. There are so many knowledgeable and supportive folks in there!
If you offer advice to food bloggers as a coach or mentor, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you?
I don’t on a formal level, but am always happy to chat with bloggers! Anyone can email me at lynn [@] freshaprilflours [dot] com.
What resources have helped the most, and had the biggest impact on your blog?
Mediavine’s podcast “The Theory of Content” has been a great resource, as have their Facebook lives. They have a lot of good FREE content for anyone looking to earn the best they possibly can.
And, as mentioned before, the SEO course and the artificial light course were both game changers for me.
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What’s your current focus or area of study for your blogging?
I think I’m more in maintenance mode at the moment. I recently converted my site to Gutenberg and am slowly working my way through block style formatting. I’m also adding metric measurements to all of my recipes, which is taking some time, but I know in the long run it will be helpful for my readers and anyone who winds up on my blog.
What current goal are you working towards?
I had an income goal for 2020 to make as much as or more than I took home from my full time job, and I am on track to make that happen. I would love to hit 500K views for December, so we’ll see how that goes (I dream of 1 mil eventually, but… Baby steps!).
Where do you see yourself and your blog in 5 years’ time?
I don’t have any clue! And that’s super liberating and exciting.
Now we have to ask…
What’s your funniest cooking fail?
Ohhh, yikes. Homemade Nutella, hands down. You can read all about it (with photos!) in this post.
Which recipe do you cook the most from your blog?
I make homemade whipped cream, uhh, more often than I probably should. We always have homemade taco seasoning on hand. This make ahead breakfast casserole graces our table quite often. My basic chocolate cake is a request from my kids for their birthdays every year. And I’ve made these blueberry lemon pie bars more times than I can count!
Finally, where can people find and connect with you?
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!