Mason from Kinda Healthy Recipes built a huge following on Instagram before pulling back to focus on SEO. Here’s his story from ground zero to full time food blog income in 6 months.
Welcome to the 11th interview of Full Time Foodies with Mason from Kinda Healthy Recipes! If you’ve just landed here, don’t forget to start at our first interview with Alex from It’s Not Complicated Recipes!
Full Time Foodies is a series which shares stories from full time food bloggers around the world with helpful resources, recommendations and advice.
Now, without further ado – over to you Mason!
Let’s Get Started
How did you come up with the idea to start your food blog?
Like many others, I had a tough time choosing what I wanted to do with my life. My first two years of college were a struggle, to say the least. The only thing I was “passionate” about were the usual suspects – fitness and sports. I spent a ton of time reading fitness and nutrition blogs, and that ultimately led me to a degree in nutrition. After college, I decided against an internship to be a registered dietitian and got into personal training instead. I started my blog shortly after.
The blog was a side project for the first years, serving primarily as a writing portfolio for larger fitness publications. Over time, I wrote less about fitness and performance nutrition and more about food and recipes. And for the past three years I’ve published almost exclusively recipe and food content. Thanks to some of the early domain authority I built from writing, I stuck with the ultra-creative masonfit.com and have attempted a slight rebrand of the site as Kinda Healthy Recipes. We’ll see how it sticks!
What does your day to day look like?
My goal is to publish 3 – 4 new pieces of content each week. I do my best to batch all the recipe testing, cooking, and photography to 1 – 2 days per week. The rest of my week is dedicated to the actual process of editing photos, writing blog posts, promoting blog posts, and researching new recipe and blog post ideas.
Up until recently, I’d say I spent more time on the promotion side of things than content creation. I spent a few hours per day on Instagram, responding to every comment and DM for the first two years or so. This allowed me to gain a strong following on Instagram and other platforms, but it was a bit unsustainable. As the time I spent investing in SEO began to pay off, I’ve been able to spend less time on social media. Yay.
What task gives you the biggest joy with blogging?
Publishing a new blog post, hands down. I like to view each piece of content as an asset. Once they’re live, it’s fun to see them take off (or sometimes flop).
Do you celebrate your achievements? How?
Not well enough. The goal post always moves. If I could tell myself from 2017 how things were going now, I’m sure I’d be much happier than I am now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy. I’m just very ambitious, for better or worse.
What’s the most difficult aspect of blogging for you?
Writing blog posts, without a doubt. Recipe testing, photography, and creating graphics for the blog are all really enjoyable. But putting all of them into WordPress never seems to get any easier. After all the SEO research, writing, and tinkering, a single blog post can take anywhere from 3 – 4 hours. That’s not counting all the other time spent developing recipes and creating content that goes in the post.
Have you come across any challenges or pitfalls? If so, how did you overcome them?
I’m a workaholic, and there’s always something that can be worked on with a blog. I’ve had to make serious efforts to limit my working time and enjoy life more. Spending time reflecting on progress the blog’s made seems to help with this. Knowing the to-do list will take care of itself over time allows me to relax.
How do you stay motivated?
It’s not a forever solution, but I’ve found a lot of motivation in putting myself in not-so-comfortable positions. For instance, my blog was making essentially nothing when I decided to leave my full-time job to work on it full time. I had a 6-month runway and no real plan other than creating as much content as possible. More recently, I brought my wife on full-time.
While it’s not for everyone, putting your back against the wall can be very motivating. And if you have more dependents or a lower risk tolerance, you can always lower the stakes or break things down to single project risks.
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 late 2014 and worked on it as a side project until late 2017.
How did you decide, or what made you take the leap to full time?
Like many personal trainers, I eventually found myself in a personal training sales manager at a gym. And from there, a regional management position for a chain of gyms. While I loved the people I worked with, the job was the worst. I’d come across enough blogger success stories and podcast interviews I knew the potential was huge.
I did some calculations to figure out how much I’d need to make each month to get by and took the leap a few weeks later. I didn’t have a fully fleshed out plan, but I remember feeling confident I’d make something work. I also remember having peace of mind that I could go back to personal training, which I ended up doing a bit on the side to turn my 6-month runway into a 12-month runway.
What does working full time on your blog mean to you?
I can’t think of anything that would make me happier than what I do every day. It scratches every creative and entrepreneurial itch, and I couldn’t imagine working on anything else.
Would you say your blog has grown at a faster rate since going full time?
Considering the blog was basically at ground zero when I went full time, most definitely. Though I didn’t expect it to grow as fast as it has. Traffic is up more than 1,000% since I went full time.
Do you outsource any aspect of your business? If so, what?
One of the primary reasons my previous job was the worst was managing others. I’m a terrible manager. So, I’ve intentionally kept my operation as small as possible. That’s meant becoming a jack of all trades and keeping everything in house. I’m sure that limits growth in certain areas, but that’s okay with me at this point.
What is your biggest traffic referrer?
It’s a pretty close race between organic traffic from Google and Pinterest. Most months Pinterest takes the cake, though.
What is your income split between ads, affiliates, sponsorships or other?
We make about 70-75 percent from ads, 10-15 percent from memberships or Patreon, and the rest from affiliates. Sponsored content has always been a bigger headache than it’s worth, so we steer clear unless a no brainer comes along.
If you’re happy to share, what are your current:
Average monthly views: 750,000
Average monthly income ($US): $20,000
Average monthly RPM: $20
Does your blog fully support you, or do you have other income streams?
My wife and I have both worked on the blog full-time since June of 2020.
What change do you think has made the biggest difference to your blog?
Focusing on SEO, hands down. I’ve made a mental shift over the past year from creating content for social to content for organic search. Algorithms change all the time but knowing that more traffic comes without us doing any promotion is what it’s all about.
What skills have you mastered to get you to where you are today?
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve mastered anything. Like I mentioned above, I’ve been a jack of all trades when it comes to my blog. I’m pretty decent at cooking, food photography (maybe a little below decent), creating graphics, SEO research, social media, and a few other important skills. If I had to choose one skill that I’ve come the closest to mastering, it would be my focus. It’s challenging to sit down and do the work, but I’ve gotten quite good at it.
How many posts do you aim to publish per month? Do you schedule your work in advance?
If I publish 20 posts in a month, it’s a great month. Some months, however, have other projects that pop up. Like the cookbooks we make for our Patreon supporters, for example. In those months, we aim to get at least 12 posts up. We know the long term value of blog posts outweighs the value of nearly every other project we’ve come up with.
Advice, Learning and Looking Toward the Future
What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self about to make the transition?
I listen to Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” commencement speech every few months and really resonate with his bit about Stephen King’s advice to stop and enjoy the ride. I’ve done a decent job at enjoying things, but I could’ve done better. If I could tell my younger self how things work out, maybe I’d relax a bit more.
Where do you go when you’re looking for blogging advice?
I’ve been a Mediavine publisher since the beginning and usually look to them or the Mediavine Facebook group for advice. Their co-founder, Amber Bracegirdle, has a great podcast as well. Beyond that, Ahrefs is my preferred SEO research tool, and they produce great content around the topic.
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’m no expert, but I’d be happy to answer any questions. Shoot me an email at mason [@] masonfit [dot] com
What resources have helped the most, and had the biggest impact on your blog?
I’ve not taken any courses or read any specific books on blogging. The Theory of Content podcast I mentioned above and learning how to use Ahrefs are probably two of the best uses of time I can think of. And the TL;DR of the ToC podcast will be to create more, better content.
What’s your current focus or area of study for your blogging?
Food photography is an ongoing struggle. I lack the eye for food styling but have gotten by so far. (I even used an iPhone for photography up until mid-2019!) But I know levelling up in this area will pay dividends.
That, and the recipe development itself. Cooking is a lifelong journey.
What current goal are you working towards?
We’re aiming to consistently earn $20,000+ from advertising only in 2021.
Where do you see yourself and your blog in 5 years’ time?
I hope to turn my blog into more of a resource centre than just recipes. Since my background and credentials are in the fitness and training space, I’d like to build out more meal plans and guides.
Now we have to ask…
What’s your funniest cooking fail?
I can’t think of one specific fail, but I remember several instances serving test batches to friends and family that we quickly determined were failed versions. My wife is also one of the pickiest eaters I’ve ever met, and she’s never held back on her recipe reviews.
Which recipe do you cook the most from your blog?
We have a serious case of recency bias so this changes all the time. Currently, we’re hooked on shredded Mexican chicken thighs or pulled BBQ chicken thighs. We do a lot of bulk protein prep so we can get creative during the week with things like nachos, pizzas, salads, and veggie bowls.
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!
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