From coop to cooking, Lisa Steele has grown Fresh Eggs Daily over the last decade through articles, books and working with sponsors. Lisa’s unique journey is perfect for those bloggers who maybe have a cross niche of recipes with another area of interest to help diversify the blog.
Welcome to the second interview of Full Time Foodies with Fresh Eggs Daily! If you’ve just landed here, don’t forget to read our first story with Alex from It’s Not Complicated Recipes.
This interview with Lisa is FULL of amazing takeaways. We love her diversification of income and the fact after all these years, she still runs Fresh Eggs Daily on her own.
Lisa, take it away!
Let’s Get Started
How did you come up with the idea to start your food blog?
I honestly started Fresh Eggs Daily on a whim. No plan to make any money or turn it into a business initially. None. We had gotten chickens back in 2009 and I was posting photos of them on Facebook on my personal page and finally my friends started saying they would unfriend me if I posted any more baby chick photos! So I pulled the name Fresh Eggs Daily out of the air, set up a “business” page and started posting my photos there instead. Facebook was in its early days and I quickly gained followers.
Since I had chickens as a kid (come from a long line of chicken farmers actually),I started answering questions and offering advice and my following continued to grow. I found myself answering the same questions over and over, so in 2012 I decided to start a blog, write maybe a handful of articles answering those common questions, and use the blog merely as an archive so I could pull the link and share it on Facebook to avoid having to type the same thing out over and over.
After about a year, a fellow blogger casually mentioned that I could earn some money by attracting sponsors. So I reached out to some brands I liked and used, and the first ads started appearing on my blog.
Fast forward 8 years, almost 800 articles, 6 books, dozens of sponsors… and I’m still creating content month after month. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of things to blog about!
In retrospect, the name Fresh Eggs Daily was brilliant because I didn’t lock myself into a tiny niche. I started out with chickens, but we now raise ducks and geese as well and I’m hoping to start raising quail next year, so that name still fits. And I’m moving more towards the culinary world these last few months, and Fresh Eggs Daily is still relevant to that. So I really couldn’t have chosen a better name.
What does your day to day look like?
Since we have the chickens, ducks and geese, I’m usually up at sunrise (anywhere between 6am-8am usually) to feed them and let them out. Then I pour my first cup of coffee and read my email, check the prior days’ ad network income, blog traffic, etc. and answer any DMs on Instagram. I usually post my first Instagram post around 9am.
After that, my routine varies. Some days I have calls with potential sponsors or might be writing a blog post. Other days, I might shoot a YouTube video (I just started a new cooking series!). We might have the film crew coming to shoot my TV show (Welcome to my Farm airs on NBC in Maine and New Hampshire on Sunday mornings and each episode includes a chicken keeping, cooking and gardening segment) or I might have an interview with a magazine or local news or radio show. I’m usually working on a book as well (I’ve written six books in 8 years and am working on my 7th), so depending on what stage that is at, I might be writing the manuscript, editing or working with the photographer on photos.
Of course, I have farm chores, gardening, things like that I fit in here and there, and through the entire day, I’m always snapping photos of EVERYTHING!
All my Instagram posts and stories are spontaneous, using photos I’ve taken throughout the day. I aim for three a day. Then I push some of my Instagram posts to Twitter and Facebook.
I schedule out my Facebook posts -also three a day, all links to seasonal blog posts from my archives – using the Creator and my Pinterest posts via Tailwind usually a month at a time. That’s a great evening task – in front of the TV with a glass of wine or cup of hot tea!
I also tend to edit photos in the evening. After dinner and getting the animals put to bed, I try to take some time off, or save easy, mindless work for then.
I “work” seven days a week, but especially now since my husband is retired from the Navy, I try to schedule days off for day trips or to go to lunch or something. Make “family” time. Otherwise I would literally work from sunup to sundown!
Before 2020, I used to travel quite a bit doing appearances, book signings and media interviews, but of course that all screeched to a halt. Much as travelling is exhausting, I do miss it. I miss meeting fans in person and being able to visit some wonderful cities and towns.
What task gives you the biggest joy with blogging?
I think I like taking and editing photos the most, making Pinterest pins (even though Pinterest is a tiny referral platform for me), making videos… the creative stuff!
I have been going back and revising/updating/optimizing some of my old blog posts and it’s amazing how much I’ve learned about blogging over the years. Not only do I take better photos now, but I understand SEO and keywords better. I compose a much better post these days, so it’s been a nice change from creating new content – to improve some of my old posts that new followers likely have never read. And it’s helpful to add some affiliate links to them, links to other blog posts that are relevant, etc.
Do you celebrate your achievements? How?
I do! My husband and I always go out for a nice dinner to celebrate the big ones like a new book deal or my TV show debuting. But in a smaller way, I’ll treat myself to something nice if I sign a new sponsor or achieve a certain milestone. New muck boots or a Le Creuset skillet. Just something as a gift to myself.
What’s the most difficult aspect of blogging for you?
I think trying to figure out what to write about next. Which direction I really want to go in. Trying to stay relevant and unique. Be creative, not just become a run-of-the-mill blog that no one gets excited about.
Have you come across any challenges or pitfalls? If so, how did you overcome them?
I think my biggest challenge has been the haters. There’s actually a hate group on Facebook devoted to trying to discredit me. For awhile it really bothered me. There were lots of tears and anger. But over the years I’ve really come to pity those who seem to have no ambition in life other than trying to tear someone else down. That’s a sad way to live.
It’s also hard to read the comments and terrible reviews on my books sometimes. But I try to just block them out and ignore them as best as I can and realise that at the root of their hate is envy and jealousy.
How do you stay motivated?
Earning a good income from my blog has been a great motivator. And honestly, part of my motivation comes from knowing how much it bothers the haters to see me succeed. It’s true what they say, “success is the best revenge”. But mostly, hearing from fans and readers who I’ve helped. Who come to me for advice and feel more confident and ultimately raise healthier flocks really makes me happy.
Going Full Time as a Food Blogger
How old is your blog? How old was it when you transitioned to full time?
I wrote my first blog post in February of 2012. At that time, I was living in Virginia, my husband was on his last tour of duty, and we were biding our time until he retired and we moved. I wasn’t working, so technically the blog was full-time from the start, although as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t monetizing it, had no plans of earning any money from it. But in a way, that was helpful, because I built a solid social media following first, so then funneling traffic to my blog was easy.
How did you decide, or what made you take the leap to full time?
After getting my first paying sponsors and writing my first book which was published in 2013, my blog traffic nearly doubled. At that time, I wasn’t checking my analytics, had no idea really, and hadn’t joined an ad network yet, so all my blog income was just based on what my direct sponsors were willing to pay me based really on my social media presence. My first year (2012) I earned $16,000. By 2014, my annual gross income was just over $100,000, and this year I am on track to gross just over half a million dollars.
What does working full time on your blog mean to you?
Full time blogging meant that my husband could retire early from the Navy, it meant we could pick up and move to Maine to our dream home. It means not being in debt, not having to worry about money. It means having the flexibility to work the hours I want, to work from home.
Would you say your blog has grown at a faster rate since going full time?
What really grew my blog was having a book published by a traditional publisher. That led to speaking engagements, lots of media interviews, and the visibility on Amazon alone drives a lot of blog traffic. It also legitimized me and helped to set me apart from the gazillion other “homestead” bloggers.
Do you outsource any aspect of your business? If so, what?
Believe it or not, I don’t even have a VA! I think that bloggers lose their “voice” when they start having someone else writing or commenting or answering questions. I think it’s hard to find someone who can handle those things well enough.
I do have the woman who originally set up my blog help me with tweaks from time to time. I’m not great at coding, so she has done some behind the scenes work for me to polish my blog over the years. With her help, I switched from a Blogspot to my own URL, from http to https, custom templates and other customisations.
Plus, I am super cheap. I set up my blog on Blogger initially. A woman who worked for my husband in IT originally set it up for me and I never moved. I personally post everything, write everything, answer every question. I know it’s a lot but at the end of each year, I assess everything I’m doing. If it’s not something that earns me money or I just love doing, it gets dropped. I focus on those things that bring me joy – or money!
After years of spending almost nothing on my blogging activities, I did hire a publicist two years ago. That was game changing because they got me lots of national media coverage. One of my books ended up being mentioned on The View even which sold hundreds and hundreds of copies in one day.
Earlier this year, I hired a literary agent. I wrote my first six books without an agent. My first two were with a small publisher, but got me exposure and my first book is still my best selling title. Then I moved to a larger publisher, but since I had become such a well-recognized name, I was able to pitch to them directly. It got to the point that I would finish a book and my editor would ask what I wanted to write next!
But I am pivoting a bit and decided it was time to try for one of the big publishers. So with my agent, I put together a 48-page proposal, he pitched to all the larger publishing houses and got me phone calls with four of them. Three ended up making offers and I accepted the best one. So I’m working on a new book which will be out in February 2022 – with one of the largest publishers in the country!
So I’ll continue handling my blog and social media myself, but work with my publicist and agent to further grow my brand through my books and media appearances and features.
What is your biggest traffic referrer?
Google. Even with nearly 700K followers on Facebook, 100K on Instagram, I would say that 80% of my blog traffic comes from Google.
What is your income split between ads, affiliates, sponsorships or other?
- Direct Blog Ads – 10%
- Ad Network (Mediavine) – 5%
- Affiliate Income – 2%
- Sponsored Content – 1%
- Book Royalties – 7%
- Product Sales – 55%
- TV Show Ads – 20%
What are your current:
- Average monthly views: 350-500K
- Average monthly ad network income ($US): $5000.00-$6000.00
- Average monthly RPM: $24
Does your blog fully support you, or do you have other income streams?
My blog ad income alone could support our family, but I do have book royalties, a private label product line that’s sold on Amazon and Chewy.com, income from a TV show I host, freelance writing and appearance fees…diversifying income is not only really important, but keeps me from getting bored.
What change do you think has made the biggest difference to your blog?
Absolutely writing my first book. Also early on, I was invited to P. Allen Smith’s farm in Arkansas to attend a blogger conference and also filmed two segments for his TV show on PBS. Those episodes re-air all the time and he also shares them on social media. He really helped me early on to gain exposure AND validation with the gardening/chicken keeping crowd.
What skills have you mastered to get you to where you are today?
A bit of coding! I got tired of paying someone to change something simple, like font color! So I read some articles and figured out the basics. Blogger is also very easy to use for those who don’t really know coding. But now I can do the basics myself.
How many posts do you aim to publish per month? Do you schedule your work in advance?
I was posting two new posts a week, but with everything else going on, it got to be too much so now I aim for one – each Tuesday morning. I do sometimes schedule posts out if I have time to get ahead, but more often than not, I’m scrambling on Monday night to get the post done!
Lately I’ve been reworking older posts instead of creating new content and republishing some of those which has been working well and requires less of a time/energy investment on my part.
And I have maybe 50 blog posts started and in draft form, so sometimes I’ll choose from one of them, or sometimes a topic will pop into my head randomly, and if it’s unique and seasonally appropriate, I’ll go with that.
Advice, Learning and Looking Toward the Future
What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self about to make the transition?
Concentrate more on optimising posts for an ad network, and sign up AS SOON as you’re eligible (some have minimum page view limits they will accept). My blog has gotten more than 40 MILLION page views since inception…. I cringe to think how much money I was leaving on the table not working with a network. I only started with The Blogging Network back in 2016 maybe? Then switched to BlogHer / She Media and finally to Mediavine maybe a year and a half ago and have been very happy with Mediavine since. But all those years of not earning that passive ad income…sigh.
And secondly, work on building your email list. That and your blog are your two most valuable pieces of real estate. Any other social platform could go away at any time leaving you with nothing that you actually “own” and no way to interact with your followers.
Wandercooks: We’re also with Mediavine, and LOVE their service, their product and their Facebook group. If you meet their minimum monthly session requirements (currently 50k monthly sessions).
Where do you go when you’re looking for blogging advice?
I have never taken any courses, but I do belong to a blogger group on Facebook focusing on Blogger blogs which has been helpful to bounce ideas off other bloggers or ask questions. Since we’re all in different niches, we all bring something different to the table.
What resources have helped the most, and had the biggest impact on your blog?
Really just the daily grind. Day after day creating content, sharing content, reading other’s content. On the job training, so to speak.
Eat Your Words Ebook
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What’s your current focus or area of study for your blogging?
Interesting you should ask me that! For the first 8 years, I’ve been predominantly blogging about raising chickens, with some gardening and egg recipes sprinkled in there for variety. But my focus has almost 100% been on raising backyard chickens.
But I was starting to burn out, starting to lose whatever passion I once had. And then I had an epiphany. I never really was passionate about chickens, I mean we raise them and I’m good at it and I do love them, I love all animals. But that really never has been my passion. My real passion is food. Cooking and baking. So… that leads me to my current goal…
What current goal are you working towards?
Six months ago, as I mentioned earlier, I hired a literary agent. And this summer I secured a cookbook deal with one of the five largest publishing houses in the country! So that cookbook which will come out in February 2022 is my main focus for now. I am working on not only continuing to engage my core chicken keeping audience, but also attract new followers who are more entrenched in the culinary world.
I’ve added recipe links to my blog and am posting more recipes. I haven’t announced publicly about the cookbook yet, but anyone who follows me and is paying attention should be able to figure it out. I am using the hashtags #cooptokitchen and #cookingwitheggs and have also just launched a YouTube video series called “Cooking with Eggs”.
I know that I’m extremely fortunate to have landed a cookbook deal especially with such a prestigious publisher. I know many food bloggers who have been trying for a cookbook deal unsuccessfully. I know that it’s my large (nearly 1 million strong), loyal social media following and success selling chicken-centric books that landed me the deal.
Now the pressure will be on to expand my following beyond the chicken world and attract more mainstream readers who will be interested in a cookbook.
Where do you see yourself and your blog in 5 years’ time?
In five years I hope to have a second cookbook out and also be hosting a national TV show. Those things will both continue to drive readers to my blog, which ultimately will always likely be my main source of income and at some point just become a source of fairly passive income.
Now we have to ask…
What’s your funniest cooking fail?
We were shooting a cooking segment for my TV show. I don’t remember what I was making, but we typically measure and lay out all the ingredients in advance.
- So it all goes smoothly, and,
- So I don’t have to remember the amounts the recipe calls for the ingredients, eggs, sugar, butter, etc.
So I talked through the recipe, adding the ingredients and mixing everything. I got the batter into the pan, ready to go into the oven… all of a sudden a quiet voice from behind the cameras asked, “were you supposed to add eggs to that?” The sound girl way in the back noticed that the eggs were still sitting on the counter in the bowl. I had completely forgotten to add them. So… that meant laying out all the ingredients again, and re-shooting the entire segment.
Which recipe do you cook the most from your blog?
Ooh… I have to say that I probably make Eggs Benedict the most.
But I think my favourite recipe is my Finnish Oven Pancake.
Finally, where can people find and connect with you?
Thank you Lisa for sharing your tips and stories!
Want more interviews?
- Full Time Foodies Interview #1 with Alex from It’s Not Complicated Recipes
- Full Time Foodies Interview #3 with Kristin from Baker Bettie
- Full Time Foodies Interview #4 with Lynn from Fresh April Flours
- Full Time Foodies Resources Page
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!
Eleni15/09/2020 at 1:28 pm
What a great 2nd interview to your series! It’s very encouraging to read your successes Lisa and thank you so much for sharing so much information. It’s really hard to find such honest stories and helpful hints.
Wandercooks15/09/2020 at 1:53 pm
Couldn’t agree more Eleni! So inspiring, and nice to read stories like this – it’s exactly why we wanted to start this series. 😀