… and an interview with Bjork Ostrom, co-founder of Food Blogger Pro
A few years ago I decided I wanted to take blogging and writing more seriously. I wanted to move from it just being a “hobby” to something I could potentially get paid for. I really enjoyed writing about wine, so why not try to get paid for my work? At the same time I realized my actual blog needed some help but there were few (if any) resources for wine bloggers on improving his or her sites, whether it was writing skills or general blog development.
So I turned to food bloggers.
One of the areas I was most curious about was photography, so that’s where I put my energy first.
A friend and fellow wine writer, Meg Maker, suggested the book Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots as a useful resource for photography. I bought it immediately and read it from cover to cover. At the time it was a bit over my head and I had difficulty putting the book into practice. I hardly knew how to use the manual settings on my camera, let alone understand a single thing about Photoshop or food styling. So I put that book away for a while and purchased Tasty Food Photography, by Lindsay Ostrom, author of the popular blog, Pinch of Yum.
I read that book in one single morning and by that afternoon my photography had improved by 1,000%. I saw immediate results! Lindsay explained the very basics of using your camera and practical steps to start improving your photography.
To give you an example, within days of reading the book I re-shot an old recipe for a soup and wine pairing post. Here’s the before and after.
Mind you this was still a couple of years ago (the photo on the right still isn’t a great picture, but it’s certainly a step up from the one on the left). Since then I feel my photography has been improving steadily day by day. Here’s a shot I took of a similar Butternut Squash Soup recipe just a couple months ago.
Or how about this recipe for Prosecco Risotto I recently wrote and photographed for Palate Press…
By Lindsay’s recommendation I eventually invested in a better lens (this exact one!), and that is now my primary lens for any kind of photography (whether wine is the subject, or food, or even my kids!). It’s a great lens.
I still have lots of work to do on my own photography, and by no means do I consider myself a professional photographer, but building that one skill has helped me immensely as a wine writer.
How does this all apply to WINE writers and bloggers?
Just weeks after applying what I learned from that book I was contacted by a publisher of a new magazine coming out called Barbecue America Magazine. He asked if I was interested in becoming the wine writer for the magazine. UM, YES PLEASE!!!
After discussing my first assignment and salary, we hung up the phone. Within two minutes he called me back and asked if the photos on my blog were all my original photos. After confirming that, yes, they were my photos, he said something that would make all of my original investments worth it, “If you do the photos for the article then I’ll pay you another X.”
And let me tell you, X was way more than the price of that lens I purchased as a result of reading Tasty Food Photography.
Not only did working on photography improve my blog and readership, but I also landed a freelance wine writing job out of it. Plus I was not only paid for my articles, but also my photos.
The two-page spread including my photos and article in the premier issue of Barbecue America Magazine
In this world of new media we’re living in, it’s important to wear several hats (though it’s not necessary). Writing great content will always be key, but building skills like photography, and technical skills involved in building a blog, help immensely, especially if you can’t afford to hire people to do the photos for you or work behind the scenes on your website.
Which brings me to Food Blogger Pro
After experiencing first hand success using their book, I finally enrolled in Food Blogger Pro, Pinch of Yum’s sister business.
What is Food Blogger Pro?
Food Blogger Pro is a community where bloggers (though not exclusively food bloggers) can connect with each other and learn how to grow their blogs. Included in this $29/month membership site is over 300+ videos (3-5 minutes each) categorized into various topics and courses.
Why I signed up
I didn’t just blindly sign up for FBP. I had followed their site for a while, and after the success I had from their photography book I put my trust in their membership site. I’ve been a member for two years now and don’t regret a single penny I’ve spent.
Food Blogger Pro is FILLED with useful (and vital) information to start and grow your blog. The site has been around for two and a half years now and they’re constantly adding new content. So for a new subscriber I imagine it can be quite intimidating. Where do you begin?
How to use Food Blogger Pro
My recommendation for someone just getting started with FBP would be start with the #1 thing you want to work on.
Is it photography?
There are several video tutorials exploring everything from using your DSLR camera to using natural lighting, using artificial lighting, composition, props, editing, using Photoshop and Lightroom, and so much more.
Are you new to blogging and wish to understand the basics of WordPress and all the bazillion things that come with it, including; plugins, tools, themes, hosting options, and everything else?
They walk through all of this intimidating information, one step at a time.
Are you wishing to utilize social media better?
There are tutorials to use Instagram for blogging, how to maximize Pinterest, Facebook, etc.
Are you interested in generating income from your blog?
I was. And I know this is a touchy subject in the wine blogger community. So I started by focusing on freelance writing for other publications outside my blog (I still do). But the tutorials on FBP discuss the various ways that they generate income directly from their blog. And they show you how you can do it too.
Would you like to create your own eBook?
They’ve done it, and show you how.
AND SO MUCH MORE!
One of my favorite things about Food Blogger Pro is the community. There is a very active forum with members who share resources and support each other. This is an incredible and super supportive group of people!
The reason I am writing all of this now is because in two weeks Food Blogger Pro is going to be closing its membership doors. As of November 19th Food Blogger Pro will be closed for new member registration, and they will only open twice a year for enrollment. After November 19th you won’t be able to sign up until next spring. So now is the time if you were ever curious about joining.
I normally would have suggested you do what I did, which is start by buying the Tasty Food Photography eBook, and if you liked it then take the leap into Food Blogger Pro.
But with their registration closing on November 19th (less than two weeks away) I encourage you to take the leap now.
The best part is that there is NO contract and ZERO obligations. You can just sign up for one month, and if you find value in it then you can continue month to month. You can cancel at any time! This is new. When I signed up I committed to and paid for a full year. That was a scary thing to commit to when I was making very little money from writing about wine. But that has changed. And I fully believe in the value you get from this community. Try it for one month and see for yourself!
But it’s called FOOD Blogger Pro. What does this have to do with wine?
When I first joined, I was primarily a wine writer (and I still consider myself a wine writer first), but I’ve found so much value in what they offer. It is all useful information, regardless of whether you write about food, wine, video games, or even crafts! Seriously!!!
I am living proof of what their services can do for a wine writer.
Since I received that job at Barbecue America, I have since freelanced (and have been PAID) for several publications (including Bottlenotes, Serious Eats, The Daily Meal, Snooth, local publications like Oregon Wine Press, and more), I continue to write regularly for Palate Press and the Wine4.Me app, and my work has been featured on sites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and consistently on The Daily Meal. I like to think it’s because of my content, but for many it’s the photos that are the draw (the door opener if you will), as well as behind the scenes techniques like effectively using SEO (among others).
And nearly every single thing I write about still has a wine focus.
And as some of you already know, my blog has led to several recipe awards and recognitions, and that led to Sean and I starting up Ember and Vine, our wood-fired catering company. We’ve since had the incredible opportunity to do several cooking demos on AM Northwest, and have now shared our food (and wine pairings) with hundreds of people. We started that as a result of the success we were seeing from THIS blog! Now I don’t attribute all of our success directly to FBP, but there were definitely several things I learned from FBP that gave us the confidence to launch Ember and Vine while continuing to grow Vindulge.
Finally, I trust Lindsay and Bjork
Bjork and Lindsay Ostrom, and me
I had the chance to meet them and spend some quality time with them a few weeks ago at Food Blog University in Cancun. They are the real deal and genuine as can be. They work their asses off and will be the first to tell you that the number one thing to grow your blog is hard work. When asked what separates successful bloggers from the rest, Lindsay responded, “They work like crazy! And they also have a commitment to excellence.” I truly believe this is why they are so successful and how you can be too. They are also incredibly warm and inviting people who genuinely want to help their members to grow and thrive. I truly believe that after meeting them in person and spending a few days learning directly from them.
What does Bjork have to say?
I caught up with Bjork this week to ask him some questions about Food Blogger Pro. Here’s what he had to say.
Mary Cressler: While the name implies food bloggers, you certainly don’t limit your members to that niche. What feedback have you received from bloggers outside the food genre about the benefits of using FBP?
Bjork Ostrom: It sounds crazy, but quite a few FBP members aren’t actually food bloggers. I’d say it lands in the 10-15% range. We’ve even had a few fashion bloggers! That being said, most people are in some way related to the food or drink industry, even if it doesn’t mean posting recipes to their blog. The things that these website owners find most helpful are the courses on WordPress, SEO, and monetizing a blog.
Mary: Why should a wine blogger consider enrolling in Food Blogger Pro?
Bjork: All you can eat free chocolate! Just kidding, but wouldn’t that be awesome? Here’s why: chances are that you’re missing things: missing traffic opportunities, missing out on a chance to connect with other bloggers, or missing out on a tip or trick that could help build your blog. Our goal with FBP is to make sure that people don’t miss out on this important stuff.
Mary: How do you encourage FBP members to interact with each other?
Bjork: The forum is awesome because FBP members are such good people. It’s a place to find support, get questions answered, and connect with other bloggers. It’s also the place where people get to know each other (online) and often times this translates into offline relationships. We’ve met lots of FBP members at conferences and the FBP team was actually built from people that we get to know through the forums!
Mary: The idea of growing a blog (no matter the niche) can be overwhelming. There are so many areas to focus on. What is one first step that you would give a wine blogger who is looking to grow his/her blog but unsure of the first place to start?
Bjork: Start with what you enjoy! If you love trying new wines, focus on that. The hardest part is consistent content creation, so if you can focus in on writing content that you enjoy you’ll be halfway there.
If Food Blogger Pro isn’t for you (yet!)…
… and you are still interested in growing your blog or writing skills, you can still check out some of FBP’s free content, like:
- Their weekly podcast, or
- Their free eBook: The #1 Thing eBook. What 30 top food bloggers are focusing on in the coming year
- Public enrollment for Food Blogger Pro will be closing on November 19th at 11:59PM CST.
- The next public enrollment won’t happen until Spring 2016. Ahhh. That means you’d have to wait at least 5-6 months for your next opportunity.
- Total membership will be capped at 2,000 members (including me! HI!).
- A membership includes full access to the community forum, the training videos, the nutrition label generator, and the progress tracker (coming soon).
*If you sign up for one month using the coupon code 3off you can get $3 off your first month! Sweet.
**BUT, if you sign up for the full year using the coupon code 3LRKVJ4KB
you’ll get 10% off the full year membership (that’s awesome!!!)
I hope you take the leap! It’s worth it.
- For more information on Food Blogger Pro, click here
- And for information on Tasty Food Photography, click here.
*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase a product I recommend, or a membership to Food Blogger Pro based off this post I receive a small commission. I only recommend products and I use, support, and stand behind. And since I’ve been a FBP member for two years now I think it’s safe to say I think it’s an awesome service and recommend it to anyone wishing to grow his or her blog!
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