Kylie from Midwest Foodie has grown her blog to support her full time, taking the leap in the middle of 2020. Utilising Pinterest and building a work flow that emphasises balance, Kylie shares her journey to full time blogging and everything she’s learnt along the way.
Welcome to the 10th interview of Full Time Foodies with Kylie from Midwest Foodie! 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 Kylie!
Let’s Get Started
How did you come up with the idea to start your food blog?
I actually started my blog as Tattooed Foodie! I wanted something that was a little different and unique that described me. As time went on I eventually wanted something that was more food related and made it easier to immediately know what my blog was about. My partner, Luke and I were on a road trip one day, brainstorming blog names and he came up with Midwest Foodie. I thought it was perfect and it’s been Midwest Foodie ever since!
What does your day to day look like?
None of my family are morning people. So we typically sleep in until 8.30-9am or so. Then we have a simple breakfast and my partner and daughter head off to school (which is in our home) around 10am! We never planned on being a homeschool family, but due to the significant changes in 2020, here we are!
Some mornings I’ll hop on a Zoom call for a Pinterest consult with another blogger, otherwise I get right down to business, checking emails and responding to blog comments. Then I usually move onto writing blog posts or editing photos. Fun fact about me: I listen to true crime podcasts alllll day (whenever I’m not writing). I can’t get enough of them – my favorites are Murder in the Rain and My Favourite Murder.
Back to work though… I’ve got a daily task list that stays the same each week and helps me stay on track with my work. I am not one of those people who can batch write 5 blog posts, or shoot 5 recipes in one day. I have a short attention span and batching just does not work for me. I never do more than one thing for an hour. I usually break for lunch about 1pm when our daughter is done with school and then either head back to the computer to finish up admin work or get started on testing and/or shooting a new recipe.
I try to be done working around 3-4pm or so, but of course I love my job so much that I’m often brainstorming recipe ideas or returning the occasional email throughout the evening too. I sometimes pull out my computer after my daughter goes to sleep to catch up on things as well. I am trying to get better at maintaining a clear work-life balance and shutting off the work portion in the evening, but it’s so hard especially when we are stuck at home so much. This part of my day is still a work in progress.
What task gives you the biggest joy with blogging?
I LOVE cooking. Listening to my favourite podcast or watching Netflix while I whirl around making a mess in the kitchen is my favourite part of blogging. There is something so rewarding about creating a delicious meal that my family loves. Food is my love language and my friends and family will tell you that sharing my kitchen creations with them is how I show my love.
Cooking is followed closely by shooting and editing photos. I love styling the shoot (minimally, as is my style) and then making the magic happen in Lightroom. Again, there’s something so rewarding about creating a mouth-watering image to pair with my favourite recipes.
Do you celebrate your achievements? How?
Probably not as much as I should! I’m kind of a “what’s next” person! As I reach the goals I’ve set I’m constantly looking for new things to achieve. I’m always striving to do more and be better than I was yesterday.
I do try to take in each milestone as it comes but I am very goal oriented and love to look to the next chapter of things. I’m a total busy body and have a really hard time sitting still. I probably should take some more time to really celebrate the small wins!
What’s the most difficult aspect of blogging for you?
Social media – Instagram specifically. I hate small talk and social media feels like virtual small talk to me. I will say though, that I have met a ton of amazing bloggers and “internet friends” through Instagram and Facebook that I’ve cultivated meaningful relationships with, but I’m really terrible at just regularly engaging with my audience.
I don’t always have witty responses or clever things to say, so more often than not, I just ignore social media altogether except for posting here and there. I am working on getting better with this and engaging with my audience more. As a serious introvert this is definitely something I need to overcome. Or probably just outsource! 😉
Also, I get such little traffic from Instagram and I do so few sponsored posts that I often wonder if it’s even worth my time at all.
Have you come across any challenges or pitfalls? If so, how did you overcome them?
It’s definitely been challenging to find balance in working from home and raising our daughter. I think it will be easier when we feel comfortable sending her to school in the coming years so I have some solid hours of work time during the day. Although I will say that my partner is a really incredible father, homeschool teacher, and just a stellar life partner in general. And he does SO much around the house that I am able to at least get a few hours of mostly uninterrupted work in each day. I don’t know what we’d do if he was working full time!
Finding a balance is definitely an everyday struggle and not something I’d say I’ve overcome at this point. Honestly though, the last year has just been so strange in general that it’s hard to feel balance in a lot of aspects of my life right now.
How do you stay motivated?
Like I said, I’m a busy body and I’m obsessed with all things food, so most of the time I have no problem staying motivated and am excited to do whatever the task at hand may be.
BUT, I definitely have my days where I am NOT motivated at all. And on those days, I lean into it. I stay in bed longer. I take a walk with my family in the morning instead of jumping into work right away. I sit on the deck and read a book. The best part of being self employed is the flexibility that it allows and I take full advantage of that!
There are days where I don’t do any blogging or cooking. And that’s okay. Because then the next day I wake up and I’m ready to go again.
As I mentioned, 2020 has really thrown a lot of things off and has been difficult for me mentally. I try to take notice of when I’m feeling off, give myself some grace and remind myself that just surviving the day is enough right now. I won’t be thriving every single day and that’s okay. I stay motivated by working hard when I’m feeling it and relaxing when I need it.
Going Full Time as a Food Blogger
How old is your blog? How old was it when you transitioned to full time?
Just over 3 years old. I started my blog in June of 2017. Before that I had another blog for about a year or so on Blogger, but I posted very infrequently because we had a newborn baby. Once my daughter was about a year old, I started this blog because I finally had the time and energy to devote to it.
I made the jump to full time just before my blog turned three years old!
How did you decide, or what made you take the leap to full time?
My initial goal was to go full time at the end of 2019. I joined Mediavine in January 2019 and really hoped that I’d be making enough by 4th quarter to quit my job. I was getting close, but not quite there when 2019 came to a close. As we moved into the first quarter of 2020 I continued to make a decent income from my blog but it was because of everything that happened in 2020 that really ended up helping me pull the trigger on going full time!
For the last 4 years I’d been working as an Administrative Assistant in the Emergency Department at a hospital. In hindsight, as a hypochondriac with generalized anxiety disorder, this was a poor choice of work for me! After 4 years I was having weekly panic attacks and was basically just in a constant state of fight or flight. When the pandemic hit, I was allowed to work from home starting in March, but in May the possibility arose that I may need to work on site in a different role than my hired position. I had a massive panic attack when I found out that I might have to work on campus in the hospital during everything in May last year. It was awful and the next day I handed in my resignation and went full time!
And just to add more stress to taking the plunge of leaving my full time job, I decided it was a good idea to switch from Mediavine to AdThrive in the middle of May, right before I quit my job! 😉 It was a great decision for my blog and I wish I would have switched earlier. But that was a very stressful month for our family. I’m planning to write a post all about the switch and my experiences with each – keep your eyes peeled for that!
We were already planning for my partner to leave his job in May of this year, which he was basically forced to do early when the restaurant he worked at closed in March. And we were planning that I would leave my job around the end of 2020 as well. So we basically just fast forwarded our timeline a bit. Honestly, while 2020 has been so incredibly devastating for our country and the entire world, it was the one thing that finally pushed my blog traffic higher and eliminated the need to work my full time job. It also gave me the clarity to see what I really wanted to be doing in life.
What does working full time on your blog mean to you?
It means THE WORLD to me. It is literally the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I am so happy that I am fortunate enough to do this full time. It took a lot of hard work to get here but I am so thankful that I put in the time because being your own boss is truly one of the best feelings in the world.
Would you say your blog has grown at a faster rate since going full time?
It’s really hard to measure blog growth during the last year. I think that most food blogs have seen exponential growth now that everyone is home and cooking more than ever. My pageviews are definitely the highest they’ve ever been right now and are gradually getting higher, but with everything that’s happening it’s hard to say if there is solid traffic that is here to stay or if it will drop off if/when things start to go back to somewhat “normal”.
Do you outsource any aspect of your business? If so, what?
I really don’t. I have my partner help me with some social media things from time to time and also with making videos. But now that he is homeschooling our daughter, there isn’t much extra time left in his day to help me. Coming from a restaurant background, he does often help me bounce around ideas for new recipes. I have thought about hiring a VA for Instagram because as much as I love meeting people and interacting with other bloggers, it’s also a big time suck for me and not something that I always enjoy.
What is your biggest traffic referrer?
Pinterest is my #1 traffic driver and has been pretty much since I started using it in 2018. Pinterest has brought in about 60% of my traffic for the last two years. Followed by Google which brings around 25%. I share in detail my traffic stats in my Monthly Income Reports as well.
What is your income split between ads, affiliates, sponsorships or other?
Ads: about 80-90%
Freelance (Pinterest Consults): about 10%
Sponsored Posts (when I occasionally do them): about 10%
Affiliate Income: less than 1%
If you’re happy to share, what are your current:
Average monthly views: 712,000
Average monthly income ($US): $16,000
Average monthly RPM: $22.50
Does your blog fully support you, or do you have other income streams?
The blog is our main source of income. I also make a very small amount from Amazon Associates (an affiliate) and also do sponsored posts once in a while. I started off doing Pinterest consults with other food bloggers which diversified my income stream a bit. I’ve now diversified more by launching my Pinterest e-book which is more passive to replace the one on one Pinterest consults. However, for the time being I am really loving the interaction with other bloggers as we’ve been isolating now for so long.
What change do you think has made the biggest difference to your blog?
This is such a tough question. I don’t feel like there is one thing that I’ve done. It feels like there have been a ton of tiny little things that I do consistently.
I think my most recent mindset shift has been realising that I don’t need to be so rigid about getting three posts out a week. As long as I’m posting consistently, I’m realising that promoting my older content that is already doing well can also be quite effective in driving traffic.
I think a few investments that I made that helped my blog were a mini audit with Casey Markee, the Pinning Perfect course back in 2018, and hiring NerdPress for site security and maintenance. None of those things were cheap, but they were literally worth every penny!
What skills have you mastered to get you to where you are today?
That’s a tough one for me to answer, too. I definitely haven’t mastered the art of talking myself up! 🙂 I honestly feel like there is so much more that I have left to learn. And with every aspect of blogging changing so frequently, there will never be a shortage of new things to learn!
I do think I’ve finally nailed down my photography style and am getting better at using Lightroom to edit my photos. I also feel like I’m learning how to be more in touch with creating recipes that my readers are looking for. I feel like I do a pretty good job at being organised and self motivated which is something I was definitely concerned about when quitting my full time job.
How many posts do you aim to publish per month? Do you schedule your work in advance?
I post 2-3 times a week. I do not schedule anything in advance. I usually write a post the day before or the day that I post it. I do have my recipes tested and shot about 4-8 weeks out so in that aspect I’m always working ahead. But the editing and writing of the blog post I save for just before posting.
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’m not sure if there is any advice I would give myself. Since I just made the transition 5 months ago, it’s all still feeling quite fresh. I made the transition out of necessity but also at a time when I felt confident that it could support our family.
I think everyone will have a different level of comfort when it comes to blogging full time. But things that made me more comfortable were having all our debt except our house paid off and having 6-8 months of living expenses in the bank.
Where do you go when you’re looking for blogging advice?
I usually scour the AdThrive Facebook group if I’ve got a question about something blogging related. Or reach out to some of the blogger friends I’ve made if I think it might be something they could help with. That is one of the best parts of blogging – the community. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of other bloggers. It truly is a community unlike any other.
If you offer advice to food bloggers as a coach or mentor, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you?
The best way to get in touch with me is through email – kylie [@] midwestfoodieblog [dot] com.
What resources have helped the most, and had the biggest impact on your blog?
- Casey Markee with Mediawyse – I pretty much watch/listen to every webinar/podcast he is on. Casey also did a mini audit on my blog back in January 2019 which was extremely helpful.
- Pinning Perfect – The course that really launched my Pinterest traffic back in 2018.
- Simple Pin Media and Food Blogger Pro – Two podcasts that I listen to regularly for up to date information or just motivation.
- Agathon – My web hosting provider. They are always super responsive and willing to answer any questions I might have.
- NerdPress – For site speed, security and all things tech related. They are the best of the best!
What’s your current focus or area of study for your blogging?
I’m having my site redesigned by Purr in 2021 so I am trying to nail down features that I find most helpful on blogs that I visit and figure out what style I want for my blog.
What current goal are you working towards?
My partner and I are working towards being 100% debt free. All we have left to pay off is our house but that’s a goal that’s likely going to take a couple years to achieve. Other than that, hitting 1 million pageviews and $20,000 revenue in one month are the goals I’m hoping to achieve by the end of the year.
Where do you see yourself and your blog in 5 years’ time?
This is such a good question and one that’s been on my mind lately!
Honestly, where I’m at right now has been my goal for the last few years so I’m currently trying to figure out what my next goals are. I don’t have the vision of having a huge team or studio. I don’t want to make the most money I can. I just want to make enough money to provide a nice life for myself and my family and then have enough time after work to actually spend time with my family.
I can see myself expanding my business slightly over the coming years by hiring a couple people to help with various tasks but I’m not trying to be the biggest food blogger or make the most money. I’m happy to keep things simple and low stress.
If there is anything I’ve learned from 2020, it’s that slowing down and enjoying life is the point of life – not working to get ahead. There will always be more money to make but there will not always be more time with family and friends.
Now we have to ask…
What’s your funniest cooking fail?
I made 1000 mini desserts for a friend’s wedding many years ago. One of the desserts was brownie cupcakes and I could NOT figure out why they weren’t coming out right. They kept coming out just in little puddles. 250 brownie bites later I realised that I was using powdered sugar instead of flour! Needless to say, I am not a baker and there are not many baking recipes on my blog for that very reason!
Which recipe do you cook the most from your blog?
Probably my Beer Pizza Dough or my One Pot Mac and Cheese. Both are super simple and easy to customise depending on what you’ve got in the fridge. Honestly, I make a TON of my own recipes pretty frequently. The recipes on my blog are tried and true family favourites and ones that we love so much we keep making them again and again.
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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