Kristin from Baker Bettie set out with a goal to make learning to bake easier for people. With a love of retro and baking, she grew her food blog to full time over 6 years. For some fantastic food blogging advice, this Full Time Foodies interview is not one to miss!
Welcome to the third interview of Full Time Foodies with Kristin from Baker Bettie! If you’ve just landed here, don’t forget to read our first story with Alex from It’s Not Complicated Recipes or our second interview with Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily.
Kristin shares so many amazing takeaways, but the key us was her encouragement to give yourself time to develop skills… after all, “You can’t be good at something you’ve never done before. Give yourself permission to grow through it.” So true!
Kristin, take it away!
Let’s Get Started
How did you come up with the idea to start your food blog?
My blog started out as a way to give myself a reason to bake frequently again. I had just shut down my online cookie business because I was getting more orders than I could handle by myself and I realised that production was not where my passion lied with baking. I loved baking science and developing recipes. High volume production just wasn’t for me.
So I decided to start writing about baking science and sharing my original recipes online. When I first started learning to bake it was really frustrating. Recipes always assumed you understood a lot of techniques already. So I wanted to make learning to bake easier for other people. I wanted to break it all down and make it approachable.
My name is actually Kristin, not Bettie. But I have an affinity for retro things and I loved the sound of “Baker Bettie.” She is my alter ego for the blog and over the years she has become a part of me. I am Bettie and Kristin; we are one and the same. But “Baker Bettie” brings a bit of nostalgia for the desserts and baked goods that you remember growing up with. I want learning to bake to feel comforting and approachable. I think a warm retro feel helps with this. People remember their grandma mixing cookie dough in her Pyrex bowl and they feel a bit more relaxed when they see me doing the same.
What does your day to day look like?
I’m sure everyone in this profession will say this, but it is different every day. There are so many varied tasks to this job that you really have to be flexible.
I try to batch my work so that I have certain days in the kitchen and other days filming / photographing, and then computer days.
On a given week I try to make my schedule look like this:
- Monday: Administrative work, plan for the upcoming week, catch up on emails and comments on social and the blog, bookkeeping, etc…
- Tuesday: Shopping and recipe testing. I am currently writing a book so I am testing for both the book and my website.
- Wednesday: Filming for the YouTube channel and photography for blog posts, more recipe testing if needed.
- Thursdays: Computer day, editing images, editing video, writing blog posts, recipe writing, etc…
- Fridays: Completely dedicated to book writing
Also, like most in this profession, my work does tend to bleed into the weekends. I do try my best to take it easier on Saturday and Sunday, but there are always emails, comments, and loose ends that need tying.
What task gives you the biggest joy with blogging?
Teaching in general. I don’t love the process of filming or photography in order to get my content out. But they are the mediums which allow me to teach about baking. I love breaking down the baking science and skills in a simple way. And when my audience tells me that it helped them understand, it makes me so excited.
I also really enjoy recipe development. I am always formulating recipes in my brain and getting to put that on paper and then into a physical baked good is so amazing. It is such a joy to create something that I get to share with so many people.
Do you celebrate your achievements? How?
To be honest, I have a bit of a difficult time with this. There’s always more I want to accomplish so I struggle to take a step back and recognise what I’ve done. But I’m working on it.
The first thing I usually do to celebrate is to thank my followers. They are the reason I am able to do this job and I am so thankful to them for supporting me. I have also started saving things I really want to buy for when I hit a milestone. For instance, when I signed my book deal I purchased a set of Vintage Pink Gooseberry Pyrex bowls that I have wanted for years. They now sit on display on my filming set and it’s a reminder everyday of what I’ve accomplished.
What’s the most difficult aspect of blogging for you?
Not expecting too much of myself. There are so many opportunities and things to do in this profession. Between all the social media channels, sponsored opportunities, and ways you can create content, it is so easy to get caught up in trying to do too much.
I also struggle with realistically thinking about how long tasks take. For instance, on recipe testing days I might think “I only have two recipes to test today! I can add a few more things to my list.” But testing a recipe also involves grocery shopping, prepping ingredients, cleaning up dishes, making notes about the test, retesting, etc… So I try to break down my tasks into small parts when I’m planning my day to try to see it more realistically.
Have you come across any challenges or pitfalls? If so, how did you overcome them?
For the first few years I really struggled to find my voice and feel authentic. I had this image of what blogging was and how everyone else was doing it and it was hard for me to see outside of that.
I finally started really asking myself why I was doing certain things and if they were serving my goals for my business. For instance, I used to be obsessed with keeping my Instagram feed looking beautiful and curated. Why? Because that’s what everyone would say you needed to do to be successful and have a lot of followers. It really stressed me out, because photography is not my passion and I just don’t want to spend a lot of my limited time focusing on taking images.
But one day I finally sat down and really thought about it. Was this really serving the goals of my business? I do not want to get work as a food photographer, so focusing on highly stylized images is not necessary for me. I also don’t have any desire to do a lot of sponsored work. So having a very large Instagram following that is only following me because my feed looks nice isn’t authentic for me. I started sharing whatever I wanted to share and focusing much more on baking science and techniques. It made my audience more engaged and the process so much less stressful for me.
That realisation was a huge lightbulb moment for me in my business for much more beyond Instagram. Now every decision I make for my business I consider what my goals are and if the decision is supporting those goals. It has also really quieted the comparison game about what others are doing.
How do you stay motivated?
By focusing on what I am truly passionate about in this business and not taking on work that feels inauthentic. I figured out early on that if I decided to take on a project that didn’t feel authentic it was a real struggle to get through. Saying no is okay. And it is also okay to not do everything that every other blogger is doing.
I also push myself to realise that I’m going to be bad at something when I first start doing it, but that I will get better the more I do it. I had a hard time motivating myself to start making videos even though I really wanted to. And I realised it was because I had no idea how to do it. But I finally gave myself permission to make bad videos as long as I was making them. They would get better and I’d learn along the way. It was okay if they were bad at first. And let me tell you, they were BAD! But I did get better and I still get better and learn a little more each time. You can’t be good at something you’ve never done before. Give yourself permission to grow through it.
Going Full Time as a Food Blogger
How old is your blog? How old was it when you transitioned to full time?
My blog is coming up on the 9 year mark. I started it in October of 2011 and I went full time in January of 2018. So it was a little over 6 years old when I switched to full time.
How did you decide, or what made you take the leap to full time?
I had been wanting to go full time for years. But I had a very demanding full time private chef job that paid very well and it was scary to leave that income behind. My blog was already really profitable, but not so much that it felt super secure to leave my job. It was also hard to get that income up with the limited time I had to work on it.
At the end of 2017, my mental health wasn’t doing well because of my private chef job. I was working 80+ hrs a week, barely ever getting a day off, and traveling so much for the job. During a very rare vacation with my husband, my boss was still demanding of my time and I was having a hard time shutting work off, even while in another country. So my husband gave me the supportive push I needed to quit. He knew the job wasn’t good for me mentally and he believed my blog could absolutely keep growing if I had the time to work on it.
I feel lucky that we were a two income family and we didn’t have to fully rely on my business income. And my husband was very supportive in assuring me we would figure it out. I am so grateful we made the decision.
What does working full time on your blog mean to you?
Going full time with my blog gives me the flexibility to grow my business in ways I never dreamed possible. Because ad revenue is so passive, I can take the time to explore other ideas I have like teaching workshops, and starting a vintage kitchenware shop, and creating e-courses. Things I always dreamed about, but never felt like I could because of time constraints. Being a business owner means I get to define what that business looks like.
It also gives me more freedom to support causes that I want to support. I’ve been able to do a few livestream workshops this year as fundraisers for different organisations. These events take quite a bit of planning and time to put on. But I can take time away from the blog to do these things, because it will continue generating income either way. That flexibility is incredible.
Would you say your blog has grown at a faster rate since going full time?
Absolutely, no question. Focusing full time on the blog and other areas of my business made it grow exponentially faster. My quality of work is better and the amount of content I can create is so much larger.
Do you outsource any aspect of your business? If so, what?
I have an assistant that works 3 days a week with me. She is a jack of all trades and I feel so lucky to have her. We were actually private chefs together, so I knew we worked well together and I knew she was a hard worker.
She handles most of my social media scheduling, helps with blog questions (she’s a pastry chef so she knows her stuff!), recipe testing, video shoots, and video editing. Basically, anything I throw at her she is willing to learn. She is worth her weight in gold and my business has grown so much by having the help.
I also find that having an employee really helps with motivation. If someone is depending on you in order to do their work, you get really motivated to do your own work!
What is your biggest traffic referrer?
Google makes up about 67% of my traffic.
What is your income split between ads, affiliates, sponsorships or other?
- Website Ad Income (Mediavine): 80%
- YouTube Ad Income: 7%
- E-Course Sales: 11.5%
- Affiliate Income: 1%
- Sponsored: 0.5% (I do not enjoy doing sponsored work, so I do it very sparingly with only 1-2 brands that are a perfect fit for me.)
In 2019, 7% of my income was from in person workshops. I had to rework my business plan this year due to Covid.
If you’re happy to share, what are your current:
- Average monthly views: 753,000
- Average monthly income ($US): $14,600
- Average monthly RPM: $19
I only share this as a perspective of what is possible. It is dangerous for bloggers to compare themselves. There are many people with much higher or much lower RPM’s than me. There are so many factors.
Every individual site will function differently with ads. It doesn’t mean your site is better or worse. Just different.
Does your blog fully support you, or do you have other income streams?
Yes, my blog supports me fully. My YouTube channel also brings in quite a bit of income and I do have e-courses that bring in a bit of income. Before covid, I taught workshops in Chicago and that was a decent chunk of income too.
What change do you think has made the biggest difference to your blog?
Owning my voice and ignoring what I thought I was “supposed to be doing.” Really tuning into what felt natural and what I have to offer that is different from everyone else.
This literally took me years to settle into. There is a lot of noise in the blogging community about what works for everyone else, or what you are supposed to do. It’s so easy to get distracted from your own goals and focus. Learning to tune into your unique perspective and business goals for the future is key.
What skills have you mastered to get you to where you are today?
Blogging requires SO MANY skills. Seriously, bloggers have to be such a jack of all trades.
Writing a recipe that includes everything the reader needs to know has been an ever evolving skill. I learned that I can’t assume the reader knows anything about baking and I have learned to look at recipe writing from a beginners perspective.
I also heard chatter about SEO when I first started blogging. I feel so lucky that I learned about this so early on in my career. I pieced together things from articles I read online and YouTube videos and learned how to think about what my article is offering people. I struggled with writing a lot in the first year, because I thought I needed to be witty and unique. But once I understood how SEO worked, it allowed me to write from my more natural style of being more informational.
I learned manual settings for photography early on. My mom was a professional photographer so she helped me with this. But most recently I took The Bite Shot flash photography class from Joanie Simon. This was one of the most valuable skills I have learned recently as it gives me endless flexibility on when and where I take pictures.
And I think shooting and editing video has probably been the hardest thing I’ve learned. I didn’t take a class or anything. I basically learned by trial and error. And I slowly added more and more skills as I went along. If I was editing and I wanted to be able to do something that I didn’t know how to do, I would watch a tutorial. It was painful in the beginning. It took a long time to feel comfortable with it. But the more I did it, the easier it got. Again, you can’t be a master at something you’ve never done. But you can master it if you keep trying and learning.
How many posts do you aim to publish per month? Do you schedule your work in advance?
I have a bit of an unconventional approach to posting. I do not have a set schedule or a certain number of posts I try to post in a week. I think of my site more as a resource site and focus more on creating content that is filling the gaps in what people are looking for.
I tend to post content in a series surrounding a topic. So I might spend a month creating a content series that all gets released around the same time. Then I don’t post anything again for another month while I work on the next thing.
For instance, last year I created a sourdough series that walked through the whole process of creating a starter, maintaining it, how to bake with it, how to manage the sourdough discard, etc… I worked on it for about a month and then I released it all spaced out a few days in between. Now, my readers can utilize this content as a whole to understand this topic.
I do still post singular recipes here and there. But I find that this works better for me. My brain doesn’t jump around from topic to topic easily.
Advice, Learning and Looking Toward the Future
What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self about to make the transition?
No matter how much you accomplish, how much traffic you get, how much money you make, you will always want more if you don’t allow yourself to recognise what you’ve done. Take time to give yourself credit. And really think about what you want your business to look like.
Sure, growing so large that you need a huge staff sounds exciting. But is that what you want? Do you want to manage a lot of people? It’s okay if you do, but ask yourself these questions. Are the things you are chasing really serving your long term goals?
Also, really think about diversifying. Not only your income streams, but your skills. Blogging can be a bit of a scary business as there are a lot of things that are outside of your control. But there are so many things you can master that not only help with your blogging business, but would be valuable if you ever needed to find a different job or create a different revenue stream.
Where do you go when you’re looking for blogging advice?
I have a group of about 4 really close blogging friends that I chat with. We all text very frequently. We all have had very different journeys and goals for our businesses so it is great to hear different perspectives. This job is weird and it is hard for people who have never done it to understand how it works. It’s really helpful to find people within the community that you connect well with.
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 offer any formal coaching or anything. But I’m always happy to offer words of encouragement or answer questions! I can be contacted at bakerbettie [@] gmail [dot] com
What resources have helped the most, and had the biggest impact on your blog?
I really love the BizChicks Podcast. It isn’t focused on blogging specifically, more on general business ownership as a woman. But it has so many different perspectives that are so valuable.
Most recently, I took The Bite Shot Flash Photography course, as I mentioned. This has taken all of the stress out of food photography for me. I wish I would have learned flash years ago! Highly recommend!
I’m currently taking Two Loves Studio’s Composition Essentials Class and Lightroom Magic class. I honestly had never invested in any online classes until this year. But I’m so glad I did. I’m shooting the pictures for my cookbook and I wanted to get more confidence in photography and styling. Rachel is an incredible teacher and really breaks everything down in a scientific way, which I really appreciate.
I’m also in several blogging Facebook groups that are helpful with staying current about what is happening in the industry. The Mediavine Publishers Group and the Transparency in Blogging group are the ones I follow the most!
What’s your current focus or area of study for your blogging?
Getting a more streamlined photography process. I’m doing this with the two classes I mentioned earlier. Photography is the least enjoyable and most frustrating part of blogging for me. So I finally invested in learning more so that it takes less energy out of me to do it.
What current goal are you working towards?
Honestly, just finishing my book. It is kind of hard to have too many other goals outside of that right now! Most of my energy is focused on it.
Long term, I am working towards getting a physical space to host classes in.
Where do you see yourself and your blog in 5 years’ time?
In 5 years, I see my blog as one part of a larger business model. I have plans for owning a storefront that is where I teach my classes and is a physical location for my currently online vintage kitchen shop.
I will continue using the blog to add making techniques and tutorials and a resource for those who want to learn to bake. I don’t see what I’m doing on the actual blog as changing much by then. I’ll continue creating Youtube videos and posts, but I think it will actually be a bit more in the background of my business.
Now we have to ask…
What’s your funniest cooking fail?
Well, there have been MANY of them over the years. But I once dumped an entire ramekin of salt into my cookie dough thinking it was sugar. Was quite a surprise when I took a bite! I wondered why they looked so funny when they came out of the oven. HAHA!
Which recipe do you cook the most from your blog?
Finally, where can people find and connect with you?
Thank you Kristin for sharing your tips and insight!
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!