Cue the drumroll because... I can now officially say I am a full-time food blogger and photographer! I can't even believe I am saying these words but, after almost two years of doing this blog & food photography gig as a side-hustle, I have FINALLY decided to take the plunge and pour my heart into ShortGirlTallOrder full-time.
My story before blogging
If you have been following me since Day 1 then you know I never expected this to become my career. In fact, until February 2018 I had never picked up a DSLR or published a blog post.
I started this blog in February 2018 as a creative place to share my recipes and cooking adventures as a vegetarian with a newfound egg intolerance. At the time, I was actually pretty happy with the direction of my technical recruiting career. However, deep down I knew something was missing.
I didn't know what it was, but I knew it was something to do with food. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you food is my love language. I love cooking for people, hosting my friends over for dinner, and getting people excited about plant-based food.
Never did I believe that it was possible to turn this love into a CAREER. I mean...I'm not going to lie, I sure hoped that was possible in some way or form. But, I didn't really believe I could do it.
From Technical Recruiter to Food Blogger- Say What?!
Yes, it may seem like two totally different career paths, but honestly, I truly think I have a lot of my technical recruiting experience to thank for being able to turn ShortGirlTallOrder LLC (YESSSS LLC!) into a business.
Back in 2012, I graduated from college with a degree in Marketing ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, no one was really hiring entry-level marketing new grads.
I had a few entry-level jobs that honestly left me discouraged and downright defeated. In college, I had excelled and here I was doing jobs that didn't tap into my potential.
After some serious networking and hard work in those entry-level jobs, I found my way into a recruiting role I finally enjoyed AND was good at. Talking to real people all day, finding them their dream job, flying across the country for events, and being an integral part of a companies success has been an exhilarating and fulfilling experience.
Recruiting work is exciting, fast-paced, and fulfilling (I mean hello, I was finding people THEIR dream jobs!). I was promoted multiple times in several companies and the path ahead was VERY clear. I worked with some of the smartest people I've ever met and have made lifelong friends along the way.
I learned a lot about myself during this time. How to negotiate an offer, how to talk to virtually anyone about anything, how to have empathy for people just trying to figure it out, and how to collaborate and work with others in a stressful environment. Most importantly, I learned that when I am passionate about something, I give it my all and don't take failure as an option.
So... why give that up?
Great question- one that 99% of the people in my life have been asking me (including my dog!)
If I'm being honest with you all, I am the type of person that gives her ALL when she's invested in something. Until today, my priorities have been split.
Do I want to invest time into my relatively stable recruiting career and grow to the next level?
OR Do I want to spend my time learning everything I can about blogging & photography and take a huge risk?
This leads me to November 2019, when I truly hit a big wall of burnout. I was working every day at my recruiting job and almost every night and weekend on my blog. Between my job, my blog, spending time with my boyfriend, seeing my friends, trying to fit in exercise, and visiting my family on the East Coast- I was at my limit and, frankly, I wasn't enjoying ANYTHING anymore.
So, I made a decision at that moment that something had to give. When I sat down to think about the person I wanted to be in 10 years and the life I wanted to have, I no longer saw myself climbing the corporate ladder.
Instead, the dream life I wanted looked like working for myself, having immense flexibility with my time, and most importantly, working doing the thing I love most: cooking & photographing food.
I made up my mind that I would push through everything a little longer until February 2020 when I would take the leap to pursue blogging full time. This meant I would have to spend EVERY weekend revamping old blog posts, learning all about keyword research and SEO, and set up partnerships with my favorite brands all while working full-time.
It meant, in order to avoid burnout, I had to say no to more social events than I like to. Honestly, it meant I had to sacrifice in other areas of my life to get here. I don't say any of this to discourage you, but simply to tell you what this point in my life was like for me. I will admit, this decision wasn't made lightly and I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support of my boyfriend Jacob and my incredibly supportive parents.
But I did it! And I am here. So let's dive deeper into the steps I took to get to this point!
My Food blogging & food photography journey
In my first year of blogging, I pretty much exclusively focused on learning food photography. The day I decided I wanted to start a blog I went out and bought my Canon EOS Rebel SL2, signed up for Wordpress, and bought my domain name.
One month later, I changed my name on Instagram to ShortGirlTallOrder with a whopping 200 followers (all of whom were people who knew me), made my profile public, and posted my very first picture!
Fast forward a few more months and I was contacted by a brand to develop a vegan recipe for their blog. With only 1500 followers at the time and a blog readership of about 100 people a month, I was SHOCKED. I got paid just enough to cover the cost of groceries, but I was SO happy!
This was the pivotal moment when I truly saw the potential of turning SGTO into a business and decided to invest in myself and start taking this more seriously.
So I took Foodtography school & bought a real camera lens- my Canon EF 50mm f/1.4. These two decisions were a game-changer for me (just see the before and afters below for proof!) Finally, someone was teaching me some solid compositional techniques and I learned how to shoot in manual. I knew that with a small audience I had to level up and show my skills in another way- through my photography.
From this point onwards, my freelance work steadily grew. It was exciting, incredibly hard, and SO MUCH FUN!
Fast forward to November 2019 when I made the decision to pursue this all full time. While freelance work is amazing, I knew I needed to start investing time to grow and monetize my blog to make going full-time a reality.
Since then, so much has changed. While I am still focusing on working with clients for freelance work and food photography, I now spend the majority of my time figuring out how to grow my blog.
It has been A LOT of work. It has meant that most weekends I don't leave my house other than to go to the grocery store. Yet, I can solidly say I've never felt more excited about something before in my life!
The resources I used to grow my food blog
Investing in Pinterest & Pinning Perfect
The very first thing I did was invest in Pinning Perfect upon the recommendation of several peers including my friend Cassidy at CozyPeachKitchen! My boyfriend gifted me this course for Hanukkah/Christmas in December 2019 and since then the traffic coming to my blog from Pinterest has increased by 500%. Yes, 500%!! I still have a lot to learn, but I love that this course has advice and tips coming directly from Pinterest itself.
Did I mention that it's updated once a year?! Plus, it includes template graphics to help you get started! That's the real reason I didn't hesitate to invest in this course. I know it will stay up to date over the years and help me grow my business even when Pinterest inevitably changes. Oh, and another crucial tool I use is Tailwind to schedule all of my pins! Without this tool, I might go insane as a one-woman team manually pinning every day :).
Now I'll just drop a shameless plug to follow me on Pinterest!
Get active in Facebook groups
The second thing I did was get active on Facebook in blogger groups AND in relevant plant-based recipe groups.
Joining Food Blogger Central and the Simple Pin Strategy Group gave me a ton of FREE resources and advice on where to focus my time from my peers. It's how I learned what plugins are best for bloggers, what courses are worth investing in, and it gave me a community of people to rely on that are going through the same challenges.
I also joined several plant-based facebook groups full of individuals asking for advice and recipes. At the end of the day, these are the people I am creating my content for, so having this resource is invaluable. Learning their struggles, the types of recipes they are looking for, and the questions they have helps me set the direction of my own blog content. Seriously, it is what gave me the idea for the e-book I am now working on (stay tuned)!
Switch to Bigscoots hosting
The third thing I did was switch my hosting platform to Bigscoots in January 2020. I had been using Siteground before, but my site speed wasn't amazing and I was sick of being on a shared hosting site.
If you don't know that much about hosting, essentially a shared hosting means you are sharing resources with other people and, therefore, your site speed is dependent on how much of those shared resources other sites are using. This was totally fine when I only had 100 people a month visiting my blog, but given that my traffic has increased, this just wasn't cutting it anymore.
Through the blogging groups I had joined, I learned about Bigscoots and so far have been LOVING it!
I started off with 1 month in January and then signed up for their yearly hosting plan. Bigscoots customer service is pretty much unmatched (every email gets answered in legit minutes), using their staging site is SO easy, and I love that my hosting is no longer shared. This has led to a pretty HUGE jump in site speed as well! And, as we know, good site speed is crucial to rank on Google.
P.S- I still think Siteground is a great option for beginner bloggers, but for me, it was no longer the best option once my blog grew.
Investing in SEO (a work in progress)
The fourth thing I did that I am still implementing is learning SEO. Until November 2019 I can solidly say I had never keyword researched a recipe before. I just thought of an idea, turned it into a recipe, and posted the recipe online. While this was fun, any Pinterest traffic or Google traffic I was getting from these recipes was pure luck.
Then, I signed up for Hashtag Jeff and went through all the lessons in 1 month. The other tool I purchased was Keysearch. There are a lot of bloggers out there that use SEMrush, but for $100 a month, I couldn't justify the cost. Keysearch is only $17 a month and, along with Google Search console, it is the main tool I use for all my keyword research and SEO.
SEO really comes down to two things. One, creating content people are actually searching for. Two, making your content informative, answering any FAQ, and making content that real people actually want to read.
Invest in Smart plug-ins for your blog
After all this, I invested in some crucial plugins for my blog. The first two are Tasty Pins & Tasty Recipes which help to format my Pinterest descriptions & titles for Pinterest and recipe cards for search engines.
Was this all a huge investment? You betcha! But, I decided it was time to invest in myself and build this dream of mine to the best of my ability.
So what's next?
Do I know where all my income will come in 2020? NOPE!
Is my blog perfect and where I want it to be yet? I wish!
Am I nervous about what the future holds? HELL YES.
I'd be lying if letting go of my comfortable job and steady income doesn't scare me or give me anxiety from time to time, but I know chasing my dream is worth it.
While I know the hustle is far from over, I'm also incredibly excited to be bringing more balance into my life.
This means more time for date nights with my boyfriend, more walks with my adorable pup Bailey and more time to spend hanging with my girlfriends and visiting family.
My goals have always been to work for myself while building a life that is exciting, sustainable, and fulfilling. To share plant-based recipes with you all while never sacrificing quality. To stay true to my values and create recipes that are seasonal, sustainable, and NEVER boring.
What you can expect from ShortGirlTallOrder in 2020:
I've officially claimed that 2020 will be my YEAR. Yes, I am sending these words into the universe and manifesting all the good things I can imagine.
These past two years I've been posting 1 recipe every other week with several big breaks between each new recipe. Well, I can solidly say that things are going to get more consistent now! I started moving to 2 recipes a week in January 2020 and starting in March 2020 I will be moving to 3 new blog posts a week!
While most of this will be plant-based recipes, it turns out you're also interested in learning more about how to live a plant-based life! Expect some more generalized how to posts, some plant-based lifestyle posts, and maybe even a post or two about how to improve your food photography and become an entrepreneur along the way.
Also, I'm incredibly excited to continue to partner with brands for freelance food photography & product photography as well as expand into restaurant photography!
At the end of the day, more than anything I feel so grateful to be on this journey.
I'm grateful to every single one of you for taking the time to read this post and making ShortGirlTallOrder a small part of your life.
I'm grateful to all the amazing brands I get to partner with this year and who took a chance on me in my first 2 years of blogging.
I'm grateful for my family who has been incredibly supportive and never forgets to tell me how proud they are of me (even if they're a little scared for me too!).
I'm grateful for my amazing boyfriend Jacob who is my biggest support system, website fixer, and overall my best friend.
I'm grateful to my AMAZING girlfriends for pushing me to start this food blog in the first place.
I'm even grateful to all the people who think I'm a little crazy for quitting my job, who has ever doubted me, questioned my worth, or told me I just wasn't what they were looking for. Life is full of failures, and I know there will be more epic failures to come. But, I believe in SGTO with all my heart and I am ready to turn those nay-sayers into SGTO's biggest fans!
Thank you so much for being here, making my recipes, and, if you got this far, for reading this post. It feels scary to bring something so personal to this space and I truly appreciate all your support.
I can't wait for what the future brings and to go on this journey together. Here's to continuing to make plant-based cooking exciting in 2020 and beyond!