*Warning* I am human. I speak what is on my mind. I blurt out a lot of words that may not be appropriate for some younger ears. Please excuse my language as I share.
Let’s be real… ideas are easy to come by but for those of us who dream big, reality requires more work than the mind can hold.
Almost a decade ago I started toying with the idea of a food blog. My photos sucked, my recipes were non existent and my cooking wasn’t even mastered. The idea of being a professional blogger lived in the range of “blue skies” but the reality was daunting and dismissed. I even feared starting an additional Instagram account because people were going to get involved in what I was doing. I was just interested in taking pictures with a mediocre phone camera.
Over the years I was more drawn to the concept. I believe that idea was partnered with my growth in cooking techniques and my odd desire to over invest in cameras… (that I had no idea how to use). Yet – I still wasn’t fully committed. I didn’t write recipes. I just made what I wanted to make and ate what I wanted to eat with unapologetic reasoning. On top of that I couldn’t even fathom writing anything down. Then…I started reminding myself of how to build a website (which was what I went to college to study) and I tapped out. I hadn’t wrapped my head around the amount of work vs. the pay off. Plus – I didn’t have any patience.
Developing any kind of idea into a “business” does take a little bit of thought and time. I know there are people out there saying it was “simple” and took them “little to no effort” (that’s complete bulls**t)…but not all are blessed equally. In my opinion, you have to know what you’re willing to invest in, not just financially but emotionally and mentally. And I will refer to the term “perfectionist” a lot in this post. I thought I needed to use that term to my advantage but realized there is a balance.
In 2020 I was tired of talking about my plan with literally not intention of putting a shovel in the dirt and making it happen. S***, being home 24/7 in a pandemic should have given me the biggest push to get it done! Silly me…didn’t use that time wisely in the sense of reaching my all time goals. It wasn’t until I watched a very important person in my life (actually a few important people in my life) map out their dreams and cut back on a social life to accomplish the end all be all focus. I look up to dreamers and doers. There is something riveting about seeing your vision and bringing it to life yourself. And the journey and growth started when I did a full blown photo shoot with my first recipe… that I remembered to write down.
The term “ripping off the bandaid” seemed necessary when going through a frustrations and fears in my personal life. I had to be my own cheerleader to stop dreaming and start doing. I also knew that people doubted me solely for the fact that I talked about it without doing crap! I think the people who were in and out of my life at the time questioned if I had it in me…so I did it. I made marinara sauce and I took a few photos. Ok…so I redid the photoshoot 4 months later to the date but I started and that was the biggest hurdle. So here is how I will proceed… DO NOT DOUBT YOURSELF! YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE ANYTHING! YOU JUST NEED TO START!
So, fast forward months later with some progress. After the life struggles in 2020 and getting myself going, I write to share what it’s really been like. I commit to writing segments about the process throughout my journey so we can stick together watch things happen…
10 Things I wish someone would have told me before starting a blog…
If anyone knows me…I want to get things done and I want to get them done immediately. When I have my mind set on a goal, I am relentless on completing the task in the timeframe I envision. It has been a challenge in this scenario because there has been a lot more involved than I imagined. It has taught me to manage my time in a few different ways.
It is GREAT to have a timeline and a plan. It is also ok if you don’t stick to that plan because something else presents itself and you reevaluate the plan. Just have a plan and be ok with it not going perfectly.
I had a calendar. Let me repeat…. I HAD a calendar. I was supposed to launch a blog on November 1, 2020. It is now months into 2021…and I am not mad. I set goals and plans and I adjusted them because this is MY business and I am learning as I go. Now, in no way, shape or form am I saying prolong this journey. I am saying…understand that great ideas don’t flourish overnight. Write out a plan, be ok with changing it and give yourself the cushion to know that if its postponed due to doing it better, than so be it!
This takes time if you are interested in researching a few avenues. And grant yourself time! Learn! Write out your ideas…where you want to go with it and what’s important to get done now vs. later. Prioritizing is ideal.
If you care…here were my priorities:
- Creating some content
- Finding a good website theme and then host (this was months of research, please don’t overthink it to start…)
- Finding a name and a logo
- Writing out my concept so people understood
- Learning the legality of blogging…copywriting, trademarking, etc. – (yes, I read countless legal articles, I could practically be in law school…)
- Having the right cameras, programs and setups for what I wanted my process to look and feel like, with little to no money
These were a few first thoughts…boy, did I learn….
OK…so I can admit now that I knew I would spend money but didn’t expect to spend what I did. My budget took a $600 jump to and $1500 budget (during start up) because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I still don’t think that’s an unreasonable amount for what I wanted to accomplish in the beginning. You have to know what you want to spend and research the crap out of options on the marked. If you take time to research and ask questions, you can find the middle ground.
No one is spending their life savings on hosting a website if we are putting an idea pen to paper. I could be wrong but I’m talking about a food blog not building a mass empire overnight.
I also built out a budget sheet so I knew what I was spending and when I needed to renew it, if I chose too. This was cool to see how fast I wanted to burn through some paychecks. Another rule of thumb. If you think you want a product, plugin or resource that’ll cost some money…sleep on it. And then sleep on it again. If you still cannot see moving forward without it and have been finding budgetary ways to make it work…MAKE IT WORK. Splurge when you know it’ll help you sleep at night. But remember…what were your initial priorities? Think through this all (unfortunately for me… it happens late at night.)
I hope in my next article of what I learned after some time (basically, whenever I feel like writing the 2.0 version of this) I’ll be able to provide a checklist of what you should buy vs. what you can find cheaper. I keep telling myself, invest now and then cut back at renewal. I also have a belief that if I want it done the way I envisioned it, spend the money now. Don’t get too cheap but also be realistic. A lot of plugins will talk about paying more for all your visitors. Even though we all want two million views on day one, let’s not get ahead of ourselves…I’ll be lucky with a solid seven! You can also upgrade as you grow.
I’m going to spend a little of time here. That quote resonates in all my darkest nightmares because a leader once shared this quote with me and I still don’t want to believe it. In fact, I want to believe that comparison pushes you to fight to be better…but sometimes you’re not fighting the right battles. Sometimes your brain thinks aggressively negative thoughts towards someone who may have advantages that you don’t know well enough to call advantages. Comparison has become the bar in which I have to achieve to deem myself “successful”. This is irrational thinking.
Today I say, success is simply starting. Success is starting and doing a lot more than most. How many great ideas are floating around and no one is doing a damn thing about it? Success is starting and trusting that you have the confidence to make it a “thing”. I struggle with the fear of this not being a “thing” or a really crappy “thing” but the truth is… at least I started.
I said it before, I am the jack of all trades and the master of absolutely none. I can cook…but I am not a chef. I can put words on paper…but I am not a writer. I learn digital media and marketing as I go…but I am not an professional web designer. If I had a dollar for every conversation I had with a friend or loved one before launching sideoveggies.com about my fears and “what ifs”, I wouldn’t even need to have a blog. I’d be independently rich. Self doubt is a virus that beats down the inner confidence that got me to even right this article.
Confession time: There are a few recipes here that I recreated multiple times. Not ‘recreated’ in the sense of tested it more than once (that happens often). I am talking about listing ingredients, cooking, photographing, editing, writing and then going to bed and waking up and saying “it wasn’t good enough”. More often than not I would be developing and scrolling through the still unpublished recipe index of mine and finding myself disappointed in something I created months ago. So disappointed I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I made it again. And still to this day I keep saying “I wish”…but got better at saying “**** it! Let’s just keep moving…”. You can only lose so much sleep over chicken fajitas (4 times for the photo shoot and I still want to do it again…).
There are some amazing bloggers out there. I am so envious and so inspired but uber jealous, if I’m being honest. I also have read each and every story, and they have all assured me that they did not all start yesterday. This took years of practice and like I said before…they started! My point being…there will always be those who are better, but there will always be those who never even tried. Just go…and go hard. Go until you get better and better and then eventually someone will be saying they wish they were you!
This goes hand-in-hand with comparing yourself to others. It’s really important to write a list of what needs to be a priority and what you want to have one your page to start. I wanted a few things…
– About Me page
I simply wanted to just post food stuff and not get crazy in the beginning. I knew that that also came with some responsibility. I wanted to understand what protecting your work meant. I wanted to know what the copyright mark meant at the bottom of my page and if it was enough for me. Only you can determine what you want to put time into and what is important to you.
As I stated earlier, I wrote out a calendar. The closer I got to launch dates (all dozen that I had) I realized there were other things that I wanted to learn and do first. Some days, more than others, I wanted to just launch it and be done. Then I realized that that’s not how I work. It’s not procrastination necessarily, it’s being super hard on myself. If you want to do things right, take the time to learn. You may learn and realize this is not something you care about at the time. But allow yourself the time to learn what you think is important to you before going live.
One last thought. I really worried about the copyrighting and plagiarism thing. I worried in both directions. I wanted to make sure I was prepared if someone took my content, but also if I, myself, accidentally infringed on a law.. When I shared my stress to my friends about this process, they were the ones who told me … “If I am staying up worrying, then this is where I need to focus.” So I have researched and learned the copyrighting process and laws (who knew I there was so much to learn about legality?). I also researched my own writing to make sure I wasn’t taking content from others. Put yourself at ease when necessary.
I am a dreamer before a doer. I think about where things could go before they’ve even been given the green light. I like to think potential and plan for the possibilities. Even though I encourage those to stay in the optimistic mindset, it’s best to think strategically in this realm. I won’t even go as far as thinking realistically because the sky is the limit…but before you see the sky have to open your eyes to the street in front of you.
I talk a lot about my friends and family who have been nothing but supportive. I think a lot of my friends see big dreams and goals for me but I find myself experiencing self limitation. There is a balance to this as well. My website idea was to start with recipes, pictures and words. Everyone else is mapping out my podcasts, videos and webinars. I can’t say I’m not thankful for great encouragement, but my mind is teaching itself to just start. I am teaching myself to tackle what’s manageable and what I want to focus on before I am defeated. I tell myself that I will never limit my abilities as I learn new things everyday, but learning something is an accomplishment. Small accomplishments can add to bigger achievements.
There is a reason all these topics blend together. I talk about knowing before growing and preparing before pursuing. I still think there is something to be said about getting feedback from people who are experts in specific areas. If I want to slowly get better at things, then I need to find the master. I am always looking for someone more competent than me to teach me what they’re good at and what I’m lacking.
Now, I will say, you know bad opinions when you hear them. Learning that is also key. But know what you’re looking to do (prioritizing) and then find the person who can assist you. You don’t necessarily need to seek out someone who knows it all. Start with getting feedback or focus on just one topic you want to learn at a time. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you’re just beginning.
My biggest piece as I am learning and growing is …find your support. You may have a best friend who has no idea what you’re getting into but you know they’ll always support you. They may not ever know the perfect answer but they know you perfectly and will help you keep moving. Never lose that person. That’s the advice you will need from day one. Appoint that person to hold you accountable but also allow you space to breath when you need a break. Trust me, that’s a diamond of a friend when you have that. I am lucky enough to have a few which is why I am writing this today.
I went into this with full intention of limiting my funds to the minimal amount and creating everything myself. I definitely underestimated the time management and financial pieces. I continue to tell myself till this day “it’ll be more rewarding in the future when I can say I did it on my own…” but that dialog was the product of a few cocktails, multiple website resets and full weekends of sitting and reading every “how-to” article on the web…while taking notes. Truly sexy weekends trying to become a tech nerd…
Yes, there is something fulfilling about knowing what you’re doing without leaning on someone. I felt very reliant on experts in the beginning. I also felt instant defeat as I was an art major in media design and I couldn’t even figure out how to format a picture on one page to start. In fact, I contemplated tossing my laptop across the room before cozying up for yet another sleepless night filled with anxiety. I just wanted to do it myself. I didn’t want to pay labor and fees to a friend to show me how to do the basics. If I told you how much it could have cost me…you would have thought I was buying a store front…when in fact I’m posting some damn recipes for viewing purposes.
I do think there are some great resources out there if you want to invest in having someone walk you through the steps of a start up. Only you can decide what’s best. I may have moments here soon where I will be reaching out to those area experts for guidance on the next steps.
I still stand by the fact that you should do as much as you can yourself. That is IF you don’t have unlimited funds and no time on your hands to devote to your passion. This is when self worth and mindset development come into play. The benefit of slowing down and really learning each step by myself allowed me to feel less dependent on others. You have to believe in yourself. I needed to feel calm, organized, focused and driven to accomplish step one. I bought all the tools but I didn’t know how to start using them.
I’ll refer back to #6 – get advice and ask a friend. I was click and purchase happy when I started buying the foundation and then when I got advice I realized that I bought some really complicated methods. I also did not prioritize my needs. Start step by step. The slower it took me to process, the more I absorbed. The less I called people for help the more I knew I was heading down the right path.
Before I can do anything in this world, I have to organize something. Before I go bed, my closet, bathroom and/or kitchen need to be in order. Before I sat down to write this article (each night), I cleaned my foyer and living room and did the dishes. Those are just weird, personal nuances but they really refocus my mind. A big part of putting yourself into a project is finding order before chaos. And that looks different for a lot of people. For me it looked like this…
I always want to feel like I am making progress somewhere. Somedays require a lot more effort than others. Also, when I am doing something that I know is helpful or making a dent, I have a routine and I feel like I can’t stop. Then there are other days I am looking for process and order before I give up and call it quits for the day.
I also get super overwhelmed if I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know where to begin. When I jumped into this project I wanted to tackle it all. I became side tracked so many times I just wanted to give up because I was all over the place. I talk a lot in this article about writing priorities but you have to set timelines and focus on one at a time. (I’m even struggling writing this because I have six other windows open as working on other projects.)
I finally started deadlining little things so I could cross off one thing at a time and gave myself a week or two to do so. It’s also easy to forget the tasks that are less exciting and put them off because they don’t interest you. Think of these like doing your homework because you can watch TV ur hang with you friends. They have to get done but they’re not fun. I would just keep cooking and photographing the recipes because it’s where I was most confident. I skipped the writing and cleaning up the plugins on my site because that took a lot more focus, yet, it was important.
I mapped everything out in spreadsheets. Even if people don’t think that is necessary, it was for me. I know there are fancy apps and products out there that can do this for me, but I felt like I wanted my own method of organization to start. It allowed my brain to process tasks in familiar programs.
I wrote out recipes, what I wanted to publish right away or later on and what had been completed already. I wrote out my budget and what needed to be renewed along with the dates. I wrote out ideas for the upcoming projects and things I was working on at the moment. I even wrote out my to-do list and the deadlines all within the same file so I so I could navigate with one click. For me, this was simple to maintain and helped me understand my process in my own terms.
If you’ve never been an organized person, I highly suggest embarking on this journey in a new fashion. Challenge yourself to categorize, plan and clean up your process. I’m sure down the road there will be other methods to make my life easier but this is how I chose to start. You have to stay organized if you don’t want things to get too complicated or slip through the cracks. Organization looks different for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, my way might be too manual but it gives me structure.
Now back to the sappy, uplifting portion of this advice. If there is anyone who struggles with unique insecurities and perfectionism, it’s me. I cannot tell you how to get over this, but I can tell you that you have to keep working.
I am happy that I don’t settle sometimes. If I have a vision, I have to keep pushing it until it’s 80-90% similar to what I envisioned (if not 100%). That’s a great flaw, some would say, but it’s crippling when you don’t focus on other important things. You need to accentuate your personality and appreciate yourself.
I know going into this industry there will be trolls. There are people who find great joy in bashing the work of others. I can pretend it’s not hurtful, but I also realize I have confidence in my work. My ability to create new things is much greater than someone’s rude, unnecessary opinion that they chose to take time out of their day to share. I want to evolve this site into whatever it is I envision in a week, a month, a year…or for the rest of my life. Not everything will be approved by others, but it will be approved by me.
I do appreciate the support from all my friends and family who push me to never give up. They believe that as I build my brand, people wont just buy into the content but instead will gravitate towards the person and purpose behind it. It seems counterproductive considering I’ve been solely focused on content. I believe that there is a lot of personality and heart that comes with sideofveggies.com.
It all starts with trying and then doing. Whatever you start, at least you started. Whatever you’re passionate about, share it with the world. I can tie this back with #9, because sharing can really be difficult sometimes. Talking about my personal life or sharing recipes about memories with my family are sacred. Being vulnerable is the hardest part of this process for me.
I’ll admit, I don’t cook authentically. I cook creatively. I’m not perfect. I just strive for perfection which is not a literal thing, just internal. Learn to be proud of what you’ve created while sharing your story with others.
I don’t believe building a food blog should be easy. I wanted this to just be something for fun, but it has become so much more. It’s a challenge that I chose to embrace for growth and to help others feel a connection to my story. If one person walks away from my page feeling motivated, driven, heard, supported or inspired…I accomplished more than I anticipated. Yes, someday I want the best photos and recipes and stories and all the in betweens, but for now I’ll celebrate the little victories.
Welcome to my journey as a food blogger. Here’s to growing, making mistakes and meeting you along the way!
by Michelle J. Cerutti