Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie

Apr 4, 2018

Welcome to episode 011 of The Blogger Genius Podcast. My guest is Courtney Whitmore from the blog, Pizzazzerie.

Courtney is not just a blogger, she's a entertaining and food stylist, and cookbook author. In this episode Courtney and I discuss how to get paid what you deserve as a blogger.

Courtney has been working with brands since she started her blog nine years ago. She has some very helpful advice about how she values her time and charges brands for the work she does. You will be blown away by how fearless she is in her negotiation tactics!


Some of these links may be affiliate.

How to Get Paid What You Deserve as a Blogger

Intro: [00:00:03] Welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by Milo Tree. Here's your host, Jillian Leslie.

Jillian: [00:00:10] Hey, welcome to the show. Today my guest is Courtney Whitmore from the blog, Pizzazzerie. Courtney is not just a blogger. She's also a cookbook author. So welcome to the show, Courtney.

Courtney: [00:00:24] Hi! I'm thrilled to be here. I'm so excited.

Jillian: [00:00:27] So okay, Courtney, you and I started around at the same time. In fact, when we started Catch My Party, which is a site for people to add their party photos, you were one of the first people to add your parties. So I have to say, thank you!

Courtney: [00:00:46] Yes, I remember, and I feel like it's been such a long journey. It'll be eight years of Pizzazzerie next month and so, it's just so exciting to see kind of how we've grown and especially how the entertaining blogger industry has grown. It's been really fun.

Jillian: [00:01:00] Yes. And then we met in person about maybe three years ago at a conference.

Courtney: [00:01:08] Yes.

What it's like meeting your blogger friends in real life

Jillian: [00:01:10] I love when you've known somebody online for so many years, and I knew what you looked like because I've seen your pictures everywhere, and then all of a sudden, I got to actually talk to you. And it was so fun and exciting.

Courtney: [00:01:25] I know. Just feeling, just kind of in this blogging community. It's so crazy because you're like "Hey, girl. Hey, I know you. I'll just talked to you on GMail a minute ago."

Jillian: [00:01:33] Exactly.

Courtney: [00:01:33] So there's really no difference especially when this is kind of what we do full time. These are kind of like your co-workers. In some sense, I say that other bloggers are my co-workers because they get it, and they do what we do, but we work mostly by ourselves and you'll are our co-workers essentially.

Jillian: [00:01:49] Exactly. And there is this feeling of like, we get it, we understand it and it's not, I would say not competitive as much as it is... I don't know. There have been times where I've reached out to you, you've reached out to me to ask questions or we shared. We did an Instagram share together. You use MiloTree on your site. So there's just this, I don't know, this feeling I always find in my life when I explain what I do. People don't quite understand it, but then when I talk to somebody like you, we get it.

Courtney: [00:02:25] Yes. It's like a whole underworld of blogging confusion and sometimes, I'll have to email you and say, "Hey, what does this do or what do I do here because there aren't exactly textbooks of it?" So it's kind of learn as you go, so I'm so thankful that there are other people that do this so that I can ask questions, and we can share information. So it's exciting.

The start of Pizzazzerie

Jillian: [00:02:43] Yes, so now, tell me, how did you start? Because again, we started a while ago. So what inspired you? What is the story behind Pizzazzerie?

Courtney: [00:02:53] Yes. So back in 2009, I was working at the Vanderbilt career center, and I was just not creatively fulfilled. I did not love it. I did not know what I really wanted to do but I knew that was not it.

Courtney: [00:03:08] I did not want to sit in a desk and work for someone else for nine hours a day and then leave and go home and watch Lifetime movies and think "Is this it? Is this what my life was going to be like in the next 50 years of working?

Courtney: [00:03:22] I didn't know a lot of people in Nashville at the time. A lot of my roommates from college have moved away. I was single at the time so I started taking a painting class, and the girls at my painting class, I fell in love with them. They were just so sweet and so fun.

Courtney: [00:03:34] And so I decided to throw my first dinner party. So I was now in a townhouse. It had like a real dining room, so I invited those girls over, and we just had a dinner party, and I had more fun setting up the dinner party. Granted I loved sitting at the dinner party, but for me, creatively, I had more fun setting it up and styling it. And I thought, "Maybe I could do this." But I didn't know if I wanted to be a party planner and so I was thinking "Well then, what else is there?"

Courtney: [00:04:01] So when I was researching ideas to set the table is when I popped up on a few blogs. Hostess with the Mostess was one of them. Thoughtfully Simple is another. There are a few blogs out there, not very many, and I thought "This is so fun."

Courtney: [00:04:13] And they take their pictures of their parties and put them on there. And I thought "Let me see. Let me just see if I could do this." And again, it's just such a little hobby. This is not meant to ever be full time.

Courtney: [00:04:22] But I created the website. Again, it was not great looking eight years ago. It was basic looking, got the job done and I started uploading those photos. They weren't even great. I think I probably took them with my BlackBerry but I just loved that community.

Courtney: [00:04:42] I just hopped in. And Twitter was a big deal then. There was no Instagram. There was no Pinterest. It was Twitter and Facebook. And eventually, I had some people who want to advertise and that was when you would sell banner ads by the month. And then I thought -.

Jillian: [00:04:55] So somebody would come to you and say, "We want to put an ad up on your site."

Courtney: [00:05:02] And I would say, "Pull my little panties up and set on a dollar amount." I'd be like, "That'll be $50 a month." I knew what I was doing. And then so I thought "Well, gosh, if I sell 10 of those, that's the rent or whatever." and I started adding it all up, and I thought maybe I can leave this job.

Courtney: [00:05:19] Of course, my parents, who just had helped me get through college and graduate school, really had no idea what a blog was and just did not want to hear it when I was describing it. There are like Courtney, that's cute but what are you doing?

Courtney: [00:05:31] And so, I started doing some local TV and I had to kind of call in sick at the real job to get to go do that. And then family, it was just too much. And I would eat, sleep and breathe this when I would leave my full time job because I wanted it to work.

How to get your first book deal as a blogger

Courtney: [00:05:45] And so finally about four, five months later that first July, I quit, and it was a leap of faith. But I just kept working on it and through social media, a publisher contacted me and then, it led to book deals. And I just never stopped. I refused.

Courtney: [00:06:02] I guess the fear of going back to a job that I did not love was paired with something that was obviously a creatively fulfilling job. That combo, the fear of going backwards and then, the fact that I did love what I was doing.

Courtney: [00:06:13] That combo just was dynamite, and it kept me from ever just sitting around. And so I never looked back and thankfully, I always wonder, "Gosh, what if no brands want to work with me next year? How am I going to make it?" Thankfully, just cross your fingers, and there's never been a time like that. And the industry has grown so much. I've been very lucky that I have been able to ride this fun wave, and I hope it does not stop. It sounds great.

Jillian: [00:06:37] I have a couple questions. The first one is have you always been creative?

Courtney: [00:06:45] Yes but not necessarily around tablescapes. So I've always been --.

Jillian: [00:06:50] So wait, will you explain what a tablescape is?

Courtney: [00:06:52] Yes, so the gorgeous setting down the table - the place settings, the forks, the knives, the centerpieces, the flowers, that whole bit and party food. So when you would set a gorgeous Christmas tablescape down your dining room table.

Courtney: [00:07:06] So I've always been creative but not around that. So when I was in college or high school, I was not setting up tables. I didn't even have a table. I was, maybe it was painting or it was making necklaces or it was ceramics at summer camp.

Courtney: [00:07:21] So I've always been crafty but it was not until I had dinner table and the ability to do tablescapes. But I grew up watching my mom, essentially like Pinterest in a notebook, so she would cut out stuff out of magazines and create like a big, old three ring binder and she actually had a lot of her tablescapes photographed, and she wanted to have a book called "Franzi's tables."

Courtney: [00:07:40] So I watched her set up tables but I really was not into it. I didn't even walk over and look at it that closely. But for some reason, I suppose it must have been seeping into me.

Jillian: [00:07:50] Yeah, or in your genetics.

Courtney: [00:07:52] Yes. Yes.

The benefits of working with your mom

Jillian: [00:07:56] So this is my next question. You work with your mom?

Courtney: [00:07:59] Yes.

Jillian: [00:08:00] And so what is that about?

Courtney: [00:08:02] Yeah. When she lived in Raleigh, North Carolina where I grew up, but when I was pregnant, she decided to move here and be closer to family and obviously as a natural fit. She was flying in to help me with shoots and book shoots but it just made sense for her to be closer.

Courtney: [00:08:17] She comes over not every day, but days we shoot, so I swear she's a better stylist than I am. I'm better at the business side and the blogging side but she's just very good at pulling together a table. And then, I kind of step in and tweak it and make changes and kind of know what's on trend and all that but she's just really good at it.

Courtney: [00:08:35] If I want to do a DIY napkin rings, she'll go "I'll make one. It's like a prototype," and she'll go make another seven because she just loves that. So it's a good team.

Jillian: [00:08:44] And how is it working with your mom? Has it brought you guys closer?

Courtney: [00:08:49] It's good. Sometimes, she'll design something that I think is horrific and so I have to kind of like let her down gently but the good thing is that I can be myself like if I say, "I don't feel good, you go on get your thing today," as opposed to someone else where you always have to kind of tiptoe and say "Well, I like that shade but let's try another one."

Courtney: [00:09:09] I don't have to do that with her. I could just be a little bit more frank, which is nice and time-saving.

Jillian: [00:09:14] But your books, okay, so you're a cookbook author, and your books are these beautiful desserts and treats. And can you tell us about how that started and how you got into that?

Courtney: [00:09:29] Yes. About two months after I went full time with Pizzazzerie, so this is probably six months after I started the website. I was on Twitter, and I did a give away for a wedding book that just talks about how to throw really pretty southern weddings.

Courtney: [00:09:41] And when I was facilitating the giveaway, so I was trying to figure out how to get the winner her book, the publisher, the editorial assistant who is emailing me asked me if I would ever consider writing a book, to which I'm like, "Yeah." But there is no way. I mean there's no way.

Courtney: [00:09:58] And she said "Well, I'm going to put you in touch with one of my editors," and then in the back of my head, I'm thinking I'm like, "This is nuts." But the editor called me and said, "We talked about a few things." I wanted a party book and they said "No. No. No. We have this these things called Push Up Pops." And I knew what they were. They were kind of a dessert trend at the time.

Jillian: [00:10:14] Can you explain what she said?

Courtney: [00:10:16] Yeah, they're a little bit like this Flintstones ice cream pops with a little container and you push up the bottom.

Jillian: [00:10:22] Yes.

Courtney: [00:10:22] But people were putting other things besides popsicles in them, and so, they were putting like cake in them or drinks. Anything you could put a little container like the parfait type of deal. And so she said, "Would you write like a niche book on these?"

Courtney: [00:10:37] And I'm thinking, "Not exactly what I wanted, but look what this might do for me. So yes, of course I will do that." And so then I started on that book and they had another one called, "Candy Making For Kids" and they did not have an author. It had been signed with a photographer.

Courtney: [00:10:54] And so it was kind of a crazy like I stepped in half way but I said yes to it and did those, did that. And then, I pitched frostings and said I'd love to do a book on frostings. There was not one at the time. I did frostings.

Courtney: [00:11:06] Then I kind of took a break. Had a baby and then, I had still been asking for this party book for years. No, no, no. They tell me no and then, they had a new editor from Simon and Schuster to the publisher that I work with.

Courtney: [00:11:20] And she called me and said that she had pitched one at the editorial team meeting, and they said they'd love to do a party book now. They mentioned my name. She called me and I probably passed out and so that's my signature book. It's the name of my site.

Courtney: [00:11:34] It's what I always wanted, and it came out last fall. But that's kind of how the book's happened. They're kind of love projects. It's totally different than blogging. Blogging, you create and you can have it up within 30 minutes. The book, you create and you see it again a year and a half later. But they're both fun. They're both great.

Jillian: [00:11:50] Wow. And are there similarities because the books are just - I mean, everything you do is beautiful. The books are so beautiful. And I've seen them at the bookstore and I'm like "I know her. I know who she is."

Courtney: [00:12:03] Yes. It's crazy. I don't photograph the books, but I'm thankful for really great photographers. So it's wonderful. It's been great. And I did a book tour with a couple of them, and it's so fun.

Courtney: [00:12:15] And I think brands really like to see that I have products out there. I think that it helps differentiate me.

Courtney: [00:12:20] The blogging community is quite saturated, so you just going to have to find ways to stand out. It's not impossible to start a blog now. But I think the books helped me stand out. And they just show that this is something I'm in for the long haul, that this is creating content whether it's for a book, whether it's for a blog, whether it's for a magazine. I don't care where it really goes. I just love to create it.

Are books money-makers for bloggers?

Jillian: [00:12:43] It's amazing. Now, here's a question. Are books money-makers or is it really to create this reputation, something that you can then say to brands, "Look what I've done." How do you see it?

Courtney: [00:12:56] It would be the latter. They are not a money-maker. And I could sit here and try to tell you it's great, but to be honest with you and I would rather be honest with all bloggers, they're not money-makers unless you are at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for months. And so they're just not. And you do it for the love of the project, and you do it for what it might potentially help you do down the road. I think I'm able to charge more for brands because of the books

Jillian: [00:13:22] Right.

Courtney: [00:13:22] I think that it helps. It differentiates me. It sets me apart. But they're not money makers. You do make money. You don't go under or negative but you just don't make a ton. There's this all those things that go into it.

Courtney: [00:13:36] But the time that the physical book is made, and mine are all hardback so that there's just the prices. You just don't end up with all that much for the time. The publishers are paid and everybody else gets paid and what something is discounted some time.

Courtney: [00:13:50] By the time the dust all settles, you're not walking away with that much. But to me, I find it such a passion project that it's all worth it.

Courtney: [00:13:50] BY the time the dust all settles, you're not walking away with that much. But to me, I find it such a passion project that it's all worth it.

Jillian: [00:13:59] That's so nice. Okay, so let's talk about monetization then. How do you monetize as a blogger?

Courtney: [00:14:11] You don't want all your eggs in one basket. So the number one and when I look at my finances at the end of the year, and I can see where it all came in, I am making most of my money off brand partnerships. So that is where I'm making the bulk of what pays the bills.

Courtney: [00:14:25] The second way I make money is ad revenue. So when people visit my site, that ad revenue, my page, these are not what they used to be. I don't know many bloggers that are having higher paid ads. It all kind of just settle out, and I have a theory on that. But anyway --

Jillian: [00:14:40] What's your theory?

Courtney: [00:14:42] So ad revenue.

Jillian: [00:14:42] Wait, what's your theory?

Why Instagram and Pinterest might be killing your page views

Courtney: [00:14:45] Well, especially from what I do, so Instagram and Pinterest are so huge now. I'll just explain it using Instagram because it's easier. If I want to see a gorgeous table, and I'm scrolling Instagram, and I see Courtney post a pretty table, and I see a picture of it, that gets my wheels turning to design something.

Courtney: [00:15:03] I don't need to go to her blog and see six other angles of it. So I'm basically handing it over on social media. Now, food bloggers still have great page views and my recipes still do well. Why?

Courtney: [00:15:15] Because they see the cookie, and they need to go to the blog to get the recipe or they need to go to the blog to get the DIY but of pure, just tablescapes, you can get enough of what you want without clicking through.

Courtney: [00:15:25] So there's no real incentive but that's okay because my brand partnerships pay me more for a tablescape, so it all settles out in the end. But ad revenue is definitely more of a consistent thing and [00:15:37] brand partnerships [0.2] may not be. You don't know who's going to come down the pipeline but brand partnerships mostly.

Jillian: [00:15:44] I'm sorry. Are you reaching out to clients or are they reaching out to you?

What it's like working with brands as a blogger

Courtney: [00:15:48] They're reaching out to me. I don't have a problem reaching out to brands, but my feelings, monetarily, would be that I might make more if they come to me.

Courtney: [00:15:59] If I go to them, I'm going to have a hard time swallowing the rate at which I'm going to throw at them. I've been lucky that I've had brands come to me, and I've been able to pick and choose brands that I think are a good fit for my audience.

Courtney: [00:16:11] But they come to me and then ad revenue and then, the third would be affiliate and royalties. So those are kind of at the end of the list of the three ways I make money.

Jillian: [00:16:23] Got it. Can you walk through what it's like when a brand reaches out to you and how that process works?

Courtney: [00:16:30] Sure. So it's usually an email and they kind of tell me that they want a partner. It's usually from an ad agency or a PR firm. Not an ad agency, mostly a PR firm. Sometimes, it's directly with the brand. But I would say 80 percent of the time, it's with from one that I've likely worked with before but it's a different contact.

How to know what to charge a brand who wants you to create sponsored content as a blogger

Courtney: [00:16:49] And they email and say, we'd love to set up something for Easter using our product, our potato chips or whatever the brand is. And then I usually go back and say, "Are y'all think i ng recipe development or are you thinking more party setup, because that's kind of the two fields at play?" And so then they say "What are the rates for both?"

Courtney: [00:17:08] And they kind of want to know the options, and I go back, and I quote them. I don't have a media kit because every project is different. I don't like media kits anyway. I just think it's a waste of time because I'll have one brand that wants a table that ends up being so simple.

Courtney: [00:17:23] And I'll have another that wants a table that they want 3 DIYs . And that took me two weeks longer. If I put a rate on a tablescape, I'm hurting myself. So then we go back and forth, and they agree.

Courtney: [00:17:36] Usually, they're wanting a blog post and then, they want me to send that blog post to all social media channels so it would be a post on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Google Plus maybe. Although I swear, I think the Google Plus might be headed downhill. But I still sometimes hop on there.

Courtney: [00:17:51] But anyway so then, I'll create the content. They want to review it. Sometimes, it aches but you just kind of factor it in. Then once they reviewed it, you just hope there's no re-shoot. If there is, I have a re-shoot feet.

Courtney: [00:18:07] It's about following all the guidelines given to me and then, I write up the draft. They can review the verbiage, make sure that I followed the FTC guidelines of disclosing that it's a sponsored post, and all those details, that I've represented their product in the way they want. That also feels right for me. The post goes up.

Courtney: [00:18:27] Sometimes, they want analytics later. Sometimes, they don't. It depends on the partnership but usually, I'm just creating a recipe and then, I'm photographing it or I'm creating a table set up and then, I'm photographing it. That's kind of a start to finish, and I care for those sponsors.

Jillian: [00:18:44] How long would you say a project takes?

Courtney: [00:18:48] If it's a single post and not a year long ambassador program, if it's like a single post, which a lot are, I'd say about a month. Usually, they'll come to me a few weeks before an event like the Oscars. If they want me to do something for that, and then, I'll have to kind of create it in about two to three weeks. They might want to review it that final week, make any changes and then, it'll go up so about a month. They can come to me sooner or with less time but it just depends on if I can pull it off or not.

Jillian: [00:19:16] Got it. Now, in terms of social media, where are you? What works with Pizzazzerie?

How social media follower numbers help you attract brands as a blogger

Courtney: [00:19:25] Yes, social media is so huge, and it always has been. I say that social media follower numbers really help me with brands because I'm even getting some brands reaching out, wanting only posts on social so that's just how important social is, and especially because, like I said, people might only see the content on Instagram, so it doesn't quite behoove the company that only wants a blog post.

Courtney: [00:19:47] Some may say, "We don't even want it on the blog. We want three Instagram." So Instagram is my number one spot that I'm sitting on daily as a user and also interacting. Facebook's there. Their algorithm stresses me out. Instagram is where I'm getting DMs, people asking where those napkins are from or wherever.

Courtney: [00:20:10] Back to ad revenue, I do create some content for some companies, Instagram pages that never sees mine or my blog but like Bath and Body Works, I'll create some, almost like a hired stylist photographer. Sometimes, bloggers can get a little bit of an ad revenue stream that way, like creating content for brands, but it's never coming through the sponsored channel of your own blog.You're just helping them create something.

How to work with brands as a content creator

Courtney: [00:20:10] Back to ad revenue, I do create some content for some companies, Instagram pages that never sees mine or my blog, but like Bath and Body Works, I'll create some, almost like a hired stylist photographer. Sometimes, bloggers can get a little bit of an ad revenue stream that way, like creating content for brands but it's never coming through the sponsored channel of your own blog. You're just helping them create something.

Jillian: [00:20:33] Do you get tagged in those or are you really just behind the scenes?

Courtney: [00:20:37] It depends. Sometimes, we've negotiated that. So I'll take a lower rate if I can get tagged. But typically, the follow throughs are not what I would want. Typically, I just charge enough that I don't care. They don't tag me. At the end of the day, I'm hired as a photographer for that. And I don't care where it goes once I have a rate that I like.

Jillian: [00:21:01] Right. So can you talk about, we don't have to get into specifics, but how you think about your rate because bloggers tend to not know, and my advice is always think about how many hours you think something will take you, figure out what you would want to make per hour, come up with that number and then double it.

Courtney: [00:21:34] Oh, for sure.

How to come up with a rate to charge brands as a blogger

Jillian: [00:21:35] So tell me, what do you think about when you're coming up with the rate?

Courtney: [00:21:40] Yeah. First of all, recall very quickly that you have to take the taxes off that. I talk to my accountant, and there's not an exact number from year to year but I tend to take 30 percent off of that and into my head, that's what I might be able to take home.

Courtney: [00:21:55] And that's a huge difference, so you might say a company came to me for something for $5000, and I go "Oh my gosh. $5,000." And I want to say yes to that. But step back and realize it's not going to be $5,000 that you take away.

Courtney: [00:22:10] So set your standards there and then, recall all the things that you're going to have to go buy especially for a tablescape. I own a lot of things but food and flowers are expensive, and so, I will have to go and get all those things, driving to all those places, come back, create it, style it. Hope it's not raining on a day.

Courtney: [00:22:27] These are things that have happened to me. So all of those things happen and then, I'm photographing, I'm editing and also, just the time and energy. And you don't want to take too many sponsored posts so be careful.

Courtney: [00:22:40] I would rather work less and make more. And now, I'm at a place where if I take like a tablescape from a company. Basically, I think I'm making now what I did a few years ago. It would take me five tablescapes for clients to make what I now charge for one.

Courtney: [00:22:58] Well, that sounds more fun to me. And brands are understanding the value of it, and a lot of this content lives on forever. So it might feel scary when you hit that send button with that rate. and you want to come back and say "yes" and then, you're like they said yes!

How to know how much you're worth as a blogger

Courtney: [00:23:16] And so unless it's a scary number, don't send it. I mean double it, like you're worth it. You kind of can figure out that you're worth it if you go throw an affiliate link onto something and then you see all the people that buy it, you're like "Oh my gosh. They listened to what I had to say."

Courtney: [00:23:32] And then you realize that brand should be paying for that because you're able to get things sold, and that's ultimately the real point. So they want beautiful content. But the point is that they hope that when they see something out on a table, that your followers are going to go buy it and do it. I love to be able to see that on the affiliate side that I actually can get that action by a reader to happen.

Jillian: [00:23:58] I would say, for me, I say this, becoming a mother has made me a better negotiator. And the reason is I just don't have a lot of time. So when somebody will come to me, to Catch My Party, and say "Hey, we want to work with you." I will take my own advice which is I think "What should I be paid for this?"

Jillian: [00:24:22] But I know that I am not counting in all the hours of driving to the store and buying the flowers that die and all of that. And so I know to double it. But then I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach where I think "Oh my God. I can't send this. Oh my God." But then I think, "I'm too busy. I'm too crazy busy."

Jillian: [00:24:42] So what I do is I press "send" and then I think, I'm going to be so busy in five more minutes that I won't ever be able to think about it again. And if they get back to me and say yes, great. And if they don't, I'll probably forget about it. So instead, I don't have the time to be freaking out in my head about the fact that "Oh my God. I can't believe I asked for that." And I will tell you more often than not, the brand comes back and says "yes."

Courtney: [00:25:08] That's true. So before I had my daughter who is 3 now, before I had her, what I would do to myself is think, I worked from home, no kids. So I had time to kill. So if a brand came to me, I felt like I tried to give a rate that they would say yes to because I had time, right?

Courtney: [00:25:24] I don't have anything going on the next week. I could do it. I might as well make at least a thousand dollars. I'll just quote him a thousand. Because I have time to give. Now, I would like to make more but I want to make sure they take it. I want to make sure they say yes to the rate, and I have the time. So that's the game I played. Then, when I had Blakely, I didn't have the time to give.

Why being a parent helps you charge more as a blogger

Courtney: [00:25:42] So if they wanted me to do it, I was going to have to get someone to watch her while I went and did it. So I charge so much so that if they said yes, I wasn't resentful. Well, what's happened is I make a whole lot more now that I have a daughter, that I play - I don't play dirty, but I play like "Here's my rate. Here's what I can pull off."

Courtney: [00:26:04] And I should have be charging that rate back when I had all the free time but instead, I was like, "Wow, I don't have anything else to do. I'll do it for that rate." But now, there's other stuff to do, so I play "I'm going to give you this rate, and we're not going to go back and forth a lot. Here's what I can do." And they do. They take it.

Courtney: [00:26:19] I'm like "What?" And so then, you're like, "Oh, goodness. Now, I have to try to figure out how to get this done with a child." But you know what? Because I charged what I did, I'm no longer resentful.

Courtney: [00:26:30] I'm not at the craft store at 8 o'clock on a Thursday night, being resentful. I'm like "Oh, man. They said 'yes' but look what I'm going to get?" Because now, I'm not resentful. It's the worst thing that can happen when you're like "Gosh, darn it. I said this and then now, my daughter's sick. But I agreed to this for lower than I should have." And nobody's happy then.

Jillian: [00:26:50] Exactly and now, you can send her to college.

Courtney: [00:26:53] Right. And I do think that - You might say I feel if I were a blogger and I was hearing this right now, I would think, "Yeah but what happens if they don't?" And then, you don't make any money that month.

Why you want to focus on ad revenue as a blogger

Courtney: [00:27:03] So that's why I do really - even though social media is really important, and even though some brands are wanting only posts on social, social's not going to give you that monthly ad revenue. And though I don't make a lot on ad revenue, it is consistent now, yet higher in the holiday months because the traffic is higher in the holiday months.

Courtney: [00:27:21] But that is why I think it's important to work on your blog and your page views at least in some capacity because then, you can play the game where you can take a brand project if you want it or say no if it's not a fit, or if they say no to your rate, you can say 'no problem'.

Courtney: [00:27:36] But you can't do that a lot if you have no money coming in in any other way, right? So you want to get those page views up to get that ad revenues so you can get some of your basic mortgage, the electrical bill. That's covered and those things are safe.

Courtney: [00:27:50] It's not totally that way for me but kind of, then I can play the game with brands where I'm going to take the ones I love, and you're going to pay the rate I want or I don't need to do it. That's when you're in a good sweet spot, and it takes a little bit to get there. But know the value of your time. It's so huge.

Jillian: [00:28:09] Absolutely.

Courtney: [00:28:09] Don't do it just because you have the free time.

Why you need to own a blog as an influencer

Jillian: [00:28:10] And I definitely recommend you do blog, that you do own your blog, that you do focus on your blog, because at the end of the day, as we've seen with social media, you're just a sharecropper on social media. So you want to own something.

Courtney: [00:28:26] You don't own your account on Instagram. You don't. They can shut it down. They can end Instagram and move to something else and then, all those followers you spent so long building up, what do you have now?

Courtney: [00:28:38] So grow your email list. That's huge. Grow your blog. Those are important things that you can control. And they can actually give you a passive income which is so huge. So if you have free time, don't quote lower because you have nothing going on.

Courtney: [00:28:55] That free time would be better spent taking a few online courses, listening to podcasts. I would do some online photography food courses, creating your own content that you could then drive traffic to your site rather than creating sponsored stuff for cheaper than you should be paid.

Jillian: [00:29:10] Absolutely. Now, Courtney, how many hours a week do you work given that you have a 4-year old?

How many hours a week do you work as a blogger?

Courtney: [00:29:17] How many hours are in a week? Because that would probably be it. No, I'm embarrassed to say more than I want. I don't start and end because I have a toddler. It starts and ends all the time so I don't work like an eight-hour day.

Courtney: [00:29:30] I work all over the place but it's constant. I don't even know if I can put a number on it. If I'm not physically at the computer or on my phone, my brain's still thinking about it unless I'm literally in front of my daughter. And so some might say "That's just not real healthy," and what I say to that is "At least, I found something that I love, that I can't get out of my head." So all the time, probably nine-hour days if you actually had to put a number to it.

Jillian: [00:29:54] And the one thing that I would say about working with your daughter, because I've seen posts of yours where your daughter will mimic what you do, and she wants to put together tables, and I think that - I have a daughter too - I think that that is such a great thing for our daughters to see.

Courtney: [00:30:13] Yes. Yes. She's not exactly sure what I do, but she knows I set tables. We had a little table made for her, little chairs. Sometimes, I'll have extra fabric scraps or old plates I know we won't use, and I have a big old bin in my prop room and stuff like that, like plastic cutlery. I let her set the table and she doesn't want to "play house". She wants to "play party".

Courtney: [00:30:39] We went to a birthday party recently, and she asked where the hats were, and I'm like "Blakely, hush it." But I think I've loved having her be able to incorporate what I do into her daily routine because she just kind of come along with me because this is what I do.

Courtney: [00:30:55] And I think it's fun. When she was little, she got her little toy, a leapfrog laptop, that she would sit there and pretend to work with me, and that's just the reality. I do stop and focus on Blakely a lot.

Courtney: [00:31:08] She's at a little preschool so that's when I kind of go hardcore work. When she gets home, I'm sort of playing in the prop room and have fun with her. But I think it's important to let them see that we work, and it's not just stuck behind closed doors just to the computer thing.

Jillian: [00:31:21] Exactly.

Courtney: [00:31:21] So it's fun.

Jillian: [00:31:22] So what about your business are you most excited about?

Courtney: [00:31:28] Oh gosh. How it's morphing. And I think so many bloggers are "I won't do video" or "I won't ever write a book" or "I don't do that." To me, a lot of those things do scare me. Writing a book scared me. Doing video scared me. But if you want to stay in this industry, it's like a big wave pool. Get your floaties on, and ride the wave.

Jillian: [00:31:48] I love that.

Courtney: [00:31:48] And so video, I don't totally love being in front of a camera but I just shot two full days of video because that's what the brand wanted. "Okay, I'm on it." I wasn't totally comfortable shooting still photography eight years ago either. But I figured it out.

Courtney: [00:32:02] You figure it out, and you get comfortable with it because that's where you have to go. I'm most excited about maybe another book. I don't know. It's on the table. It would be a love passion project. Maybe a product line. I'm in some talks. We'll see. Those kind of things, so different stuff. I will always love creating content for the blog.

Courtney: [00:32:32] That's the bread and butter. But I think these offshoot things that don't necessarily make you a ton, that's what keeps it interesting. So eight years later, you've got on something that's going to keep it interesting. And I think that definitely helps. So those are the things I'm most excited about.

Jillian: [00:32:46] That's wonderful.

Courtney: [00:32:47] A new social media platform might pop up. Am I ready for another one? I get kind of bored with those. I mean I'll keep on pinning and keep on doing Instagram, but I kind of hope somebody else pops up with a new one.

How MiloTree helps your blog followers grow

Jillian: [00:32:59] That's funny. What are you growing with MiloTree right now on your blog?

Courtney: [00:33:04] I actually think I have it set to two different things. I rotate. I like to rotate and see which one does better. But I think maybe right now is on Pinterest. I'd have to check. I like to switch it and sometimes, I have it on my email newsletter. I also like that.

Jillian: [00:33:19] Got it.

Courtney: [00:33:19] I like the ability to rotate around.

Jillian: [00:33:22] Great. Now, if you've git one piece of advice for a blogger starting out, let's say, who's in our space and wants to do something creative, maybe with parties, crafting, recipe, something like that, what would it be?

What is the Monday morning test?

Courtney: [00:33:37] What I tell people - I called it a Monday morning test. This would apply to any genre, but you could certainly apply it to an entertaining blogger or food blogger.

Courtney: [00:33:46] So if you're listening to this and you kind of want to start a blog, maybe your Instagram is taken off, and you're thinking "Do I launch this to a blog?, then - I call it the Monday morning test, because if what you're doing does not get you up and out of that bed at like 6:00 a.m. on a Monday, then you shouldn't be doing it.

Courtney: [00:34:04] So when I left my job at the career center, and I thought, "Oh my gosh. I love to sleep, and I'm so not a morning person. How on that first Monday am I going to get up and do this?" Well I was up, I was up at like 5:00, ready to go. That's how I knew I was in the right field.

Courtney: [00:34:17] So this especially works if you're a night owl or if you're a morning person, what keeps you up at midnight thinking about it. That's how you know that you're in the right space. So though you might love setting pretty party tables, if you can't get up on that computer and read e-books about blogging and listen to podcasts about blogging and learn about photography, then you shouldn't be doing it.

Courtney: [00:34:36] So all those things have to happen, and you got to be up and go in. Do that Monday morning test. That'll tell you whether or not you can kind of do this crazy job we're in. It's so rewarding. But you've got to be able to kind of get up that Monday morning at 6 am. I mean not every Monday morning.

Courtney: [00:34:52] That's just a metaphor but you know what I mean. You've got to be able to really want it because you'll work harder than you did at that day job. But the work is better. I can stop for a moment if someone calls me. I can go and have lunch with a friend.

Courtney: [00:35:04] But I'll make up the hours later. You have to have enough self-drive. So if you're not driven, don't hop in. Create the parties for your friends and make recipes, but don't make it a business. Only make it a business if you like the business side of things, so learning about plugins, learning about finances and taxes. It's all worth it if you really love what you're doing, but just don't forget about that side of the business.

Jillian: [00:35:27] I love that. Okay. What is the one tool that you could not live without?

Courtney: [00:35:33] Any tool?

Jillian: [00:35:34] Any kind of tool that you use.

Courtney: [00:35:39] Besides the camera, I love the MiloTree plugin. I love anything that helps me grow my social media following!

Jillian: [00:35:47] Thanks for that.

Courtney: [00:35:49] Oh my gosh. Probably my camera. I edit in camera raw. I know I should use Lightroom. I don't understand it. There's me as a blogger needing to go do an e-course. Just because I've been doing this for 8 years does not mean I know everything, so there's an example of something I need to learn on my own.

Courtney: [00:36:06] But I would say that camera lets me take that content, edit it, make it beautiful and without that, I'm stuck. So I would say that Photoshop and Camera Raw are where I edit. Besides that, some great plugins on your site like we talked about. Definitely be on WordPress. That's the platform you should be on. Those are the tools of the trade.

Jillian: [00:36:27] What kind of camera do you have?

Courtney: [00:36:30] I have a Canon Mark D53. I think that's what it's called. I've had it a long time but my favorite lenses, if you're listening and you shoot food photography or table photography, I really love the 51.4, the 100 Macro. The 100 Macro for food, and the one to pick up most often for tables or life, although it's heavy, it's the [00:36:58] 2470. [0.5] You can get in. It is the only [00:37:01] zoom lens [0.3] I use. So that's really my favorite lens that I use.

Jillian: [00:37:08] Awesome. Well, Courtney, how can people reach out to you? How can they find you?

Courtney: [00:37:13] Yes. It's kind of spelled funny.

Jillian: [00:37:18] Will you spell it?

Courtney: [00:37:21] Yeah, P-I-Z-Z-A-Z-Z-E-R-I-E. It's kind of a combination of the word pizzazz and patisserie, pizzazzerie, if you're curious. So the best way to reach out to me, or DM on Instagram.

Courtney: [00:37:32] That's probably where I would see it first so email or Instagram. I'm on all the social channels. Just @pizzazzerie on all of them so Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, all the things, so find me there. I'd love to chat with you if you had a question I didn't get to here, then just come ask away.

Courtney: [00:37:49] Hopefully, I've inspired you if you're interested in blogging or want to know more. It's a fun job and it's so rewarding, and I think it's just so great especially for women entrepreneurs or men, either way.

Courtney: [00:38:00] I convinced my brother. He's a food blogger in upstate New York so I convinced him to be a food blogger after he finished his PhD. I can pretty much convince anybody to be a blogger if you can find me.

Jillian: [00:38:10] I love that. Well, Courtney, thank you so much for being on the show.

Courtney: [00:38:15] Yes, thank you. This was such a pleasure.

Jillian: [00:38:18] If you're trying to grow your social media followers on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest plus trying to grow your email list, definitely check out MiloTree.

Jillian: [00:38:30] It is the smart popup you add to your blog or your site and it asks your visitors to follow you on social media or subscribe to your list. Just a couple of things: It's super easy to add to your site. We offer a WordPress plugin or a simple line of code. It's Google friendly on mobile so you don't have to worry about showing popups on mobile. It's lightning fast. It won't slow your site down, and you can grow multiple platforms at once.

Jillian: [00:39:02] So check it out,

Sign up for MiloTree now and get your first 30 DAYS FREE!