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What I Learned From the 2016 Food Bloggers of Canada Conference

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Welcome to a special feature just for bloggers and freelancers. If you’re new here and want to catch up on my professional blogging journey, I highly encourage you to take a look at my previous income reports here. If you’re looking for help on how to start your blog, or how to increase your web traffic, check out my resources page!

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Hey all!!! I’m changing it up on the blog today to share some of the lessons I learned from last weekend’s Food Bloggers of Canada conference that took place at the Delta Hotel in downtown Toronto, as promised in last week’s income report!

If you’re unfamiliar with the Food Bloggers of Canada, they are a two-person team (oh hey Melissa and Ethan!) that run a yearly conference for food bloggers across Canada, and they organize branded partnerships and campaigns for food bloggers along with offering tons and tons of blogger resources. They are basically a one-stop shop for help of all kinds tailored specifically to Canadian food bloggers. I’m such a huge fan because they have really built a kind and caring community – one that consistently helps me feel less lonely while working behind a screen all day.

But anyways, enough of my lovefest with FBC. 😉

I really wanted to convey the value of attending conferences as a blogger in last week’s income report, but felt like I totally couldn’t fit in everything I wanted to say in just one post. So, I’m back with the Top 10 Things I Learned from the Conference. Read on for some more info about my schedule and the conference itself – maybe I’ll even see you at next year’s conference in Ottawa!

1. Network, network, network!

I knew going in that I would have the chance to network with a variety of brands, but what I didn’t realize was how great it was to have the chance to network with other bloggers. Given the kind of industry this is, it is difficult to make money just blogging, so many of the conference attendees had other awesome professional backgrounds and as a new university graduate, it was great for me to mingle with other people with vast experience in similar fields.

I met several bloggers who owned other businesses, who worked in PR and marketing full-time or worked as freelance writers on the side – so many different skill sets and it was fantastic to get their perspective on industries I’m interested in while being in a more informal, relaxed and friendly setting.

2. Look at yourself as a brand

I attended four different blogger workshops on the second day of the conference, most of which featured hands-on exercises to help bloggers with common industry practices and problem solving. I attended the following workshops:

Heather’s Key Messaging workshop in particular really helped me see myself as an individual that is also a brand representative of my blog. As such, I need to be careful as to what kind of messages about myself that I put out on social media, and I also learned about tailoring a proposal to fit both myself and a brand’s objectives for a campaign. It was such an eye-opening workshop!

3. Know your value

I know I mentioned this in my last income report, but Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic REALLY gave me a new perspective on realizing the value of my blog. She encouraged me to start charging more for sponsored posts, and it has really led to a breakthrough in the way I work because I am now able to do less sponsored work per month but still be able to make decent money on my business and see a good return.

I think what people don’t realize is that I work nearly 10-12 hours a day, five days a week on this blog. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to wake up every day and do something I love, but up until now I have been getting paid less than minimum wage if you were to break down the income I make vs the hours I put into it. So, here’s to making (hopefully) more than minimum wage from now on! 😉

4. Develop effective marketing skills

Dr. Kimberly O’Brien runs her Healthy Life Redesign program online in addition to her naturopathic practice in BC, and I really took a lot out of her Passive Income workshop at the conference. She gave us a couple handouts with some good information on how to develop your own e-course or e-book, what software to use to host it on, what to charge and defining the parameters of your program to fit within your blog.

The most important information I took from this workshop was about marketing. Kim taught us not only how to market and sell products from our blog, but she also had some great resources to help us build our marketing skills in general and they were things that I’ve already started thinking about in relation to my blog, from designing a market research survey to doing a soft launch of a product to looking at affiliate marketing in order to spread the word.

Her workshop also got me thinking about launching an e-course or e-book for newer bloggers who would like to know how to build more web traffic and work with brands, so you may see an exciting project coming from me in the next few months!

5. Never lose sight of what inspires you

The general sessions on the third day of the conference were probably the most inspiring part of the whole weekend. Here are some of the excellent speakers from the Sunday sessions:

I’ve known Joel as the blogger behind Well Preserved for a couple years now, and he and Dana were beyond inspiring in terms of encouraging me to connect with my community and audience outside of my blog. For them, this involved hosting Home Ec events at their neighbourhood bar where people would come and swap preserves or teach people about craft beer and more. It was a great way for people to come together and connect offline and their events have since been re-created by others in different cities across North America. They ALSO recently launched their own cookbook called Batch, so they talked about different ways in which they were able to achieve this, a lot of which focused on helping other people to succeed.

It has been amazing to watch their blog and brand grow, and they are both the kindest, supportive people so I was needless to say very inspired by their talk. They also asked the audience what our “one thing” is, meaning the one thing we were all going to focus on moving forward with our blogs. Since blogging requires a whole bunch of different random, daily tasks and can be frustrating sometimes, this question was uplifting and has really forced me to reflect on my priorities, which has enabled me to achieve more of my goals! It’s amazing what a little inspiration can do!

6. Enjoy the moment

When I was at the conference, I found myself offline a little more than usual and out from behind the lens of a camera for once. I saw so many other bloggers taking tons of pictures and tweeting/’gramming about the conference and I’m so glad that we have the #FBC2016 hashtag to look back on all the excitement of the weekend!

However………

For the majority of the conference, I checked out of social media, and I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I normally would on a weekend out. I also didn’t write too many notes during the general sessions unless I found it absolutely imperative because I wanted to be in the moment experiencing the conference and feeling all the feels.

And you know what?

I think sometimes it’s okay to just remind ourselves to slow down and take life’s moments as they come. You don’t want to miss out on something because you are trying to do too many things at once. For instance, yesterday I took a couple hours off work early to celebrate Halloween with my family and watch Beetlejuice while eating dinner and handing out candy. I would have normally never let myself take any time out of my workday, but for me, stepping back and enjoying life is something I’ve really found myself re-invested in.

7. Invest in yourself

Speaking of investments, invest in yourself and your business! After the conference I’ve really started to look at my blog as a business even more so than before, and I recognize that it is going to need investment to grow. And honestly, that’s why I’m happy that I have started charging more for my work. Not because I want to take the profits and blow it on makeup and fun nights out (although that would be every girly girl’s dream right?!), but because I want to re-invest the money back into my business to grow it so that I can be financially stable in the future and be able to continue to work on this blog full time.

For instance, right now my goal is to make $2000 a month off my blog while I’m living at home rent free. That allows me to take $1000 each month and put it towards paying off my debt, then use the other $1000 for taxes, personal savings, groceries and *gasp* a little bit of fun. Any surplus income, I use towards growing my business.

This month I made almost double my monthly goal, so I invested over $1200 back into my blog by purchasing lights for my videos, as well as a pitching brands e-course that will help me earn more money from sponsored work. I also bought next year’s FBC conference ticket with that money because I see it as an invaluable opportunity to get out there and connect with brands and bloggers face to face, which is hard to do when you sit behind a computer all day!

8. Develop your authentic self

I think this is more important than ever in the blogging world: you really need to learn to be yourself and write about things that are important to you. Don’t try to be someone else. Shayma Sadaat’s storytelling workshop taught us that even if you think your life is boring or you have nothing to add to an already oversaturated blogging market, you’re probably wrong. Everyone has a unique identity and a story to tell, even if it’s in the little, tiny tidbits of everyday life, so stay true to yourself and find yourself along the way through your blogging journey.

Dennis Prescott also discussed storytelling in his photography and food styling, and has really made me think about what my authentic and personal style is and what kinds of stories I want my recipes to tell. I have since really focused on using props to tell familiar stories about the social experiences of food, and I also want to articulate how food is fuel that you can use for everyday healthy living, so I’m trying to keep both things in mind as I continue to build my own authentic sense of self into my blog.

9. Set professional boundaries

Claire Tansey discussed setting boundaries in her everyday working life. Having gone from the food editor of Chatelaine magazine to working as a freelancer and now a new cookbook author, Claire has a flexible schedule and often works from home. She also has a child that she would like to spend time with, so she has modified her schedule so that she unplugs by a certain time in the early evening to focus on her family.

This involves NOT responding to emails after a certain time, and this is something I really resonate with. It would be easy for me to respond to clients or fellow bloggers past 5 or 6pm because oftentimes I am still stuck at my desk wrapping up last minute projects. I also get email notifications on the home screen of my phone for time-sensitive opportunities.

However, I have convinced myself that I will no longer respond to emails on weekends and before/after my office hours. Heck, the fact I have now even set office hours for myself is a great way to hold myself accountable, and still separate my work and personal life. Then the gym is what signals the end of my workday where I physically leave my home and “office” to unwind.

10. Fit self care into your workday

Claire Tansey and Noelle Chorney really went into detail discussing their average work days and I was surprised to learn that they both incorporate fitness into their workday. The way Noelle explained it is that she is a “professional eater” of sorts, so working out is integral to her health and keeping herself going.

I will be the first to tell you that I definitely incorporate meal planning and making into each workday. I make breakfast and lunch while I’m supposed to be doing my day job, and it’s important to me because I feel that I need the energy I get from good food in order to do my job properly. I have no energy to make meals for the next day at night, so I take breaks a couple times during my work day to make myself some good food that I will enjoy.

However, I tend to work out AFTER my long work day. Like, as in, after I’ve put in 10-12 long hours at my home office. Yes, I love what I do so my workday doesn’t feel that long, but it’s still hard to muster up the energy to work out after you’ve been working your brain that long. But fitness is super important to me and my mental health, so no matter how tired I am, I force myself to go at least 5-6 days a week, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.

Well, Claire and Noelle now have me re-thinking that. Not only am I going to take some me-time in terms of my lunch breaks, but I’m also going to stop my work days earlier and go to the gym by 5:30 each day. It will be hard as that means I have to cut my workday down to nine hours instead of 10 or more, but I think I can do it with a little more focus (and energy!)

Okay, so that’s a wrap for all of the excitement of FBC 2016! I absolutely loved every minute of it and feel so grateful to Melissa and Ethan for all of the hard work they continue to do for food bloggers across Canada. I find myself already excited and anticipating next year.

Are you thinking of going? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

14 Comments

  • Reply
    Julia (@imagelicious)
    November 1, 2016 at 12:31

    Another great post! I too didn’t take a lot of notes this weekend and didn’t follow social media as much as last year. Not entirely sure if I liked it more or less but it was definitely different. I am glad I didn’t just so that I got to experience the conference in a different way. I wonder how I’ll be next year – I feel like I’ll be more into social media next year as I won’t be as distracted by a baby…

    • Reply
      Taylor Stinson
      November 3, 2016 at 11:12

      I still can’t believe we never met at the conference Julia! I’m glad to hear you got offline a bit too – it can be so hard as a food blogger when you’re used to being tuned in all the time and it can be refreshing to take a weekend away 🙂

  • Reply
    Cathy
    November 1, 2016 at 13:28

    It’s great to hear your thoughts about the conference and your business goals. Like the session with Claire and Noelle, it’s helpful to hear the practical nitty gritty of how others fit blogging into their lives. I, too, have bought my ticket for FBC2017 and am looking forward to going back!

    • Reply
      Taylor Stinson
      November 3, 2016 at 11:14

      Woo hoo, I’m so excited to meet you there then Cathy! Thanks for your kind words – my favourite part of blogging is probably looking at how others are doing it professionally because it gives me all kinds of inspiration to diversify my income too. It’s become more of a challenge to me recently after attending the conference as opposed to feeling like an impossible achievement. Hopefully we will meet next year in person!

  • Reply
    Natasha
    November 1, 2016 at 13:57

    Love this post. I’ve never been to a blogging conference, and now I have a better idea of what sort of things to expect… and you’ve shared some pretty good insights here. I’m in the position where I’m in a full-time job, but working to transition to full-time blogger.. so my work/blog/life balance is practically non-existent haha. I guess no one said having a business was easy. I’ve actually recently decided to cut back from a rigid 3x a week M-W-F posting to schedule to one that’s more flexible so I can focus more on quality vs. adhering to a schedule that sometimes just doesn’t work. At first I was hesitate to do that, but it’s actually helped a lot so far, and with less pressure I’m more creative and can take my time with the photos, and it’s already started paying off in the form of more traffic! That tip about working out is so important, and I’ve started to prioritize my physical health a lot more in the past year, especially since I am cooking a LOT. And I totally agree re: not underselling yourself. I don’t have much experience in the sponsored work area yet, but I have already declined a few “offers” that would really be selling myself short. I think that if a brand is truly a good fit for you and vice versa, a fair rate can be negotiated.

    • Reply
      Taylor Stinson
      November 3, 2016 at 11:20

      I can’t believe that you were posting 3 times a week with a full time job Natasha!!! Holy crap! It’s funny because when I started blogging as a hobby I was doing more lifestyle content and restaurant reviews and posting 4 days a week when I was also trying to freelance and go to school, and my content definitely suffered because of it. I’m only now doing 3x a week but I do this FULL TIME. Before I thought getting something out there was more important than making it as best as it could be, so I totally feel you there.

      I’m so glad you’re starting to see increased traffic from – your site is definitely one on my radar and I see how you’re constantly improving with time. I’m telling you, if you wanna take your blog to the next level you gotta get yourself out to Ottawa for the conference next year! It’s seriously made such a difference in the way that I work and I’m still implementing tips and tricks and have new ideas on how to monetize now. I know the ticket isn’t cheap but if it’s the one thing you invest in this year for your blog your return will be worth it! I spoke with so many brands and other influential bloggers and if you’re looking to start doing more sponsored work I HIGHLY recommend you start by networking and getting contacts 🙂

  • Reply
    Jaclyn
    November 1, 2016 at 15:44

    Thanks for sharing your experience at the conference! Much like your income posts there were many great take aways for me from this post as well as I grow my blog. Hopefully I will be able to attend the conference next year! It sounds like an amazing experience.

    • Reply
      Taylor Stinson
      November 3, 2016 at 11:22

      Jaclyn, you HAVE to come!!! 🙂 The conference has seriously made such a difference in my work flow. Two weeks later and I’m still working to absorb all the info and inspiration. Plus if you come, we’ll be able to meet face to face 😉

  • Reply
    Ayngelina
    November 1, 2016 at 17:11

    All I did was hold up a mirror to show you just how great you are.
    Your site is amazing and you deserve to be paid what it’s worth.

    • Reply
      Taylor Stinson
      November 3, 2016 at 11:25

      I think we all have those little life changing moments where a simple piece of advice is the one that changes everything, and I’m so grateful that you were so transparent with me Ayngelina. And thank you for the kind words about my site 🙂 You know I won’t stop thanking you right? Hahaha

  • Reply
    Cassie | Crumb Kitchen
    November 2, 2016 at 20:14

    Love this post, Taylor. I find it fascinating that you have ‘office hours’ like what Claire was mentioning…such a good idea to set professional boundaries, especially when you have to self-regulate your schedule rather than having a business do it for you!

    I can’t wait to see what’s in store for your blog over the next little while. 🙂 Oh, and I am DEFINITELY going to get around to making those Shawarma fries of yours!!

    • Reply
      Taylor Stinson
      November 3, 2016 at 12:09

      Thanks so much Cassie, that means so much to me <3 I think millennials and Gen Z will have a problem with boundaries because we have grown up surrounded by technology and the line is completely blurred now between personal and professional. One of the best things I have done for myself in the past few weeks is to leave my phone in another room while I'm eating dinner and for the rest of the evening. I eat dinner at like 9pm so I figure the least I can do for myself is to give myself some me time without a blue light in my face each day between 9 and 11pm 😉

  • Reply
    Ethan
    November 7, 2016 at 14:50

    Awesome recap Taylor and digging all 10 of your takeaways! And thanks for the lovefest and kind words! It was so great to finally meet after almost 2 years of emails. Thrilled to see you got so much from the conference but it’s really no surprise since you always get what you put into it 🙂 See you next year in Ottawa and i’m sure before that too!

    • Reply
      Taylor Stinson
      November 8, 2016 at 10:16

      Thanks so much Ethan!!! It was such a pleasure meeting you and Melissa and I seriously already can’t wait for next year’s conference! You have made it seem so much more possible for me to run this blog as a business and I think I have more than a year’s worth of inspiration to tide me over til Ottawa. Email me the next time you’re in Toronto!

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