I remember setting Skinny Bitch on the lawn chair beside me three summers ago and proclaiming, “I mean that was really good but I’d still never be a vegetarian.”
Fast-forward a few weeks to a life-changing trip to Israel with life-changing people and low and behold, little miss “I’d never be a vegetarian” wasn’t just an herbivore, but was now a plant based food blogger with a focus on eating intuitively, travel, and lifestyle inspiration. Funny how things change.
My transition into a plant-based diet was a sudden one. I grew up eating meat and dairy like everyone else. I drank Diet Coke and snacked on cottage cheese and Wheat Thins. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes was my answer when my mom asked what I wanted for dinner. I didn’t know what chia seeds were till halfway through college.
I wasn’t always into nutrition, but I was always into food. Growing up, people would look at me strangely when I followed bites of chocolate with a weirdly long and heartfelt “mmmmm.” Eating was always and still is a very emotional experience for me. I simply love food.
The passion I felt for promoting long-term health and the reversal of chronic disease by eating plants consumed me that year after Israel. I watched Forks Over Knives, read vegan food blogs before bed, and dug deep into the research of Dr. Neil Barnard and Dr. Colin Campbell. I was so beyond fascinated with the things I could do in the kitchen with fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, and tofu. All I wanted to do was cook, eat, and photograph good, wholesome food. And of course tell everyone about it!
So I started a food blog.
Hummusapien didn’t grow into a full-time job overnight. I wish I could say there was a single post that went viral, but there wasn’t. It started off really small. I posted recipes I made for the kids I babysat like “Beans and Rice and Everything Nice.” I took the worst pictures and made the recipe titles different colors (I’m cringing). I wasn’t doing it to make money or to impress anyone or to prove a point—I was just personifying my passion for food.
The natural entrepreneur in me realized one day that I was spending far too much time on the blog to not at least entertain the idea of turning in into a source of income. Being in graduate school with a full time internship and two part time jobs didn’t leave a ton of time for anything unpaid that wasn’t my social life. I’ve always been really ambitious and I knew I had a good thing going.
So I saved up for a nice camera and that year the blog started to gain more of a following. I taught myself how to take pictures that would do well on Pinterest. I dove headfirst into any and all aspects of social media. I posted consistently three times a week. I spent 90% of my “free time” on that space.
The blog just turned six this August. I didn’t make a dime the first couple years. I never imagined that my hobby would turn into a career but it was by far one of the best things that ever happened to me besides opening Alchemy. People other than my friends and family started reading. Writers from Huffington Post started asking me for nutrition quotes. Brands began reaching out to me for product promotions (unpaid, of course). I felt like I was dreaming.
I believe in working hard and knowing your worth. In the beginning, I did tons of work for free, including writing blog copy for SELF magazine’s nutrition blogger, promoting brands, you name it. I quickly realized I had a bigger audience than I thought and knew it didn’t make sense to invest so much time and energy without compensation.
Food bloggers are notoriously underpaid and undervalued. We’re frowned upon by certain brands for not promoting them free of charge in exchange for complimentary product. “Oh, we prefer to work with bloggers who want to promote us ‘organically.’” Oh, really? So I should spend the little time I have endorsing your product free of charge while you reap the benefits of hundreds of thousands of people seeing it and potentially purchasing it? No thanks. I’d rather pick up hours at my serving job.
I’ve received partnership pitches from companies ranging from Raising Cane’s (did you not see the whole vegan part?) to Pez Candy (did you not see I’m a dietitian?). Some brands still act shocked when I explain my earth-shattering fee for service model. Most prominent brands, however, know the value of working with food bloggers who are immersed in ever-changing food trends, in constant conversation with like-minded consumers, and highly engaged in all aspects of social media.
I’ve learned that social media is everything. I’ve learned that being real and honest and open with your readers will take you very far. I’ve learned that I write my favorite content when I’m not trying. I’ve learned that I can’t do it all. I’ve learned that there are people who can manage parts of my business better than I can. I’ve learned to hire those people.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that fiercely loving every part of your challenging, amazing, frustrating, tear-jerking, blissful job(s) makes working most of your waking hours not just bearable, but incredible.