How this blogger helps her readers build their confidence through her content
Updated: Nov 10, 2022
Meet our Creator of the month: Callan Wenner from The Cozy Plum
Her blog was born from building out her hobby, and Callan Wenner has taken that hobbyist pursuit and turned it into a business all her own.
Her recipes encompass everything from savory to the sweetest sweets, and her pictures make us want to dig right into every dish. There's one thing for sure, Callan knows her way around the kitchen, and she's on a mission to ensure that her audience can confidently feel the same.
See how she's used her happy place in the kitchen to grow a business and how she can help other new bloggers push past the complex parts to do the same.
What prompted you to start The Cozy Plum?
It was actually my husband. It's so funny this is the first question because we were talking about this last week regarding how far I've come and how it all began. My husband, boyfriend at the time, and I had just moved in together, and he mentioned that I needed a hobby and asked what I did for fun in my free time. And I was like, "What do you mean? I cook and bake. I'm always in the kitchen." He didn't initially think of that as my hobby because it wasn't like reading a book or playing video games. From there, he started to suggest that I do something more with my cooking and start taking photos of what I was making and sharing them on Instagram. That's what prompted me to start baking more and getting more creative.
How did you come up with the name "The Cozy Plum"?
I wrote a giant list of words I wanted my business to embody. I started going through and dwindling down the words to what I did and didn't like and what sounded good together. I ended up on The Cozy Plum because I wanted everything I made to feel like a warm hug. Stone Fruit is my favorite fruit which led me to plum. It embodies femininity as well. I wanted to create powerful, stick-to-your-bones kind of content.
How long have you been blogging?
Like many newer bloggers, I started my website in the early spring of 2020 when the pandemic hit. I made it a place to host recipes I like and enjoy, but I didn't really start taking it seriously until about a year later, in the spring of 2021. That's when I began to figure out what I needed to be doing and what the blogosphere looked like.
Did you begin with a blog right away or did you start solely on a social platform?
I created it all simultaneously since I was researching what I needed to do to start a blog, and I knew I needed a name, a host, and all of those elements. I did launch my Instagram a little before my site, but it was all within about a month of each other.
What was the appeal of creating a blog versus having an Instagram solely?
I didn't know this upfront, but it's now the biggest reason I have my website, but I don't own Instagram or any other social platform. If Instagram goes away, I will lose everything there. I wanted something completely mine to dive into and monetize from that end. I wanted to continue to make money for as long as I have the website on there. Instagram and other social media are just a fun bonus and community builders.
Is food blogging your full-time job? How do you maximize your income as a blogger?
This is now my full-time job, and I had gone down to part-time at my corporate job last spring. I officially made the call to go full-time and dive in and go full throttle as a blogger because of the amount of time and work that has to go into both.
I just got approved for Mediavine and now have ads on my website. So, I am officially making ads from the food blogging side. On the business end, the primary way I made my income was by photographing content for other food bloggers. That is pretty much what has been sustaining my business until now.
You do have beautiful photos. Is that the most important element when it comes to food blogging?
You eat with your eyes first. People always comment on my posts, saying, "I made this recipe, but it doesn't look as good as yours." And it's important to remember that it's my job to make these recipes look super enticing. If I were just cooking this for myself, it wouldn't always look like this.
What was your biggest challenge as a new food blogger, and what did you do to overcome it?
There's just so much you don't know. I initially thought, "Oh, I'm going to start a food blog and post these recipes, and it will just show up on the first page on Google, and everyone will make these and love them."
I just had no idea. It is the total opposite of that thought process, so it's just realizing what goes into blogging and having a plan. I wish I had known earlier what it was actually like to be a food blogger. It took me about a year to get to where I was ready to re-evaluate and make a defined plan for writing the content and the recipes. I had a lot of food knowledge regarding cooking and techniques. Still, I forgot other people might not always know that same knowledge. For example, if I write a recipe and say to "saute the vegetables," people might then ask questions like, "Saute the vegetables in what?" or "How much oil do we use?" Those are just those little nuances that I've needed to make sure to include in each post.
It's interesting you bring that up because readability is different for everyone. Not everything is as intuitive as it may sound.
Exactly. My goal is to make it so that anyone can create any of my recipes, even if they have never baked before. I want to ensure that I have provided every detail they may need to complete it. Of course, I may miss things, but that's what I am always trying to think of when creating my content.
How do you structure your content and editorial calendar?
I do everything a month in advance. Right now, I'm testing Thanksgiving recipes. I always try to stay one month in advance because of the time it takes to get everything completed and written up. I focus on that month and what holidays are happening in the upcoming months. I typically try to create 2-3 recipes, if there are any, surrounding a holiday or holidays. I also focus on what people are searching for and target my content to what recipes people look up in that specific month.
** Editor's note: This interview was conducted the first week of October 2022 **
Do you use SEO keyword finders?
Yes, exactly. I primarily use KeySearch as my keyword research tool, in addition to some plug-ins and Google.
Do you stick to certain trends when it comes to planning your content & your recipe testing?
I wouldn't say I jump on board with all of the trends happening at that time - like the butter board trend right now that is going nuts. In terms of seasonality, I totally work with those. I complete my keyword research first. I didn't do that before. If it were up to me, I would say, "I want this flavor and this flavor and this flavor, and let's put it all together." But, that thought process is different from what people are searching for. Now, I take what people search for, which is often pretty basic. For example, maybe it's a classic apple pie. Then, I ask myself how I could make that recipe more exciting. I also look at what else people are searching for to see if there's anything there to help me make the recipe more unique. From there, I will write out the recipe based on the flavors, textures, and how I want it to look and feel.
After that, I do my first test. It often takes anywhere from 2-5 attempts per recipe, depending on the difficulty and how it's playing out. Once I feel good about it, I shoot the content and write up the post.
What would you say is one of the most important parts of being a successful food blogger?
Definitely persistence and consistency. Blogging is totally a long game. A lot of food bloggers start and stop within a few months. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and I tell myself that every single day. You have to love what you do, and you also have to know that you're not writing content specifically for yourself. I'm here to serve my audience. I'm not too fond of cupcakes, but my audience likes cupcakes, so I'm going to make the cupcakes. It is running a very, very full-time business and takes over your life. You have to love it, buckle down, and take it one step at a time.
Your food photography is beautiful. Did you already have a strong understanding of photography before starting your blog, or did you pick up those skills as you went?
I have definitely worked at it. I have always had a creative side, but when I first started, I started taking photos using my phone, as many do. I had no idea about composition, pattern, flow, texture, layering, etc. I decided I wanted to get a professional camera. So. I got a DSLR, thinking, "Oh, this will make everything look so much better." No. I did not know how to use it, but I got through the basics. I signed up for a course, did the first two modules, and then fell off because I had so many other things to do. So, I really dove into analyzing other people's photos and comparing what I liked and didn't. I continually built off of that. It wasn't until the last 6 months that I really tapped into my style and aesthetic. Now I feel really good about it. I want to take more advanced classes in the future, but my focus has been on reaching my goal of monetizing my blog.
Outside of your blog, what social platforms are your favorite to use?
I primarily use Instagram. I am on TikTok as well, but I post very sporadically there. I use TikTok more for personal enjoyment, so it's hard for me to want to be there in a business capacity. Though, I think eventually I will. Instagram is where I've built my community. I have made such strong connections with other food bloggers that have become my friends. We have quarterly calls to talk about our businesses and bounce ideas off each other. It's as much of an avenue for my blog to build and for people to see my recipes as it is a resource for a business owner to have a support system.
How did you get started on Foodtalk? What made you want to join?
I heard about Footalk while listening to a food blogging podcast. The person being interviewed said that Foodtalk is a great way to get your recipes out there. I started adding my stuff and receiving the direct traffic features. The features have been really big for me. It's helped attract a different type of audience than my normal reach found from my social networking or organic searches.
What keeps you coming back to Foodtalk?
It really is the fact that I am reaching a different audience. A large portion of my audience is in the 50-65 age range, and that group isn't always on Instagram. I want to reach as many people as possible in as many avenues as possible. It's also easy to add things and get my recipes there.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as a new food blogger, what would it be?
Two things. The first is to research before diving into this, thinking you can do it all willy-nilly. It is a lot; knowing what goes into it and having a plan is important.
I would say the second thing is getting a thicker skin. People can annihilate you in the comments of things. Sometimes, you're just really surprised by what people will say, and you need to figure out how to respond appropriately. So, get a thicker skin because your stuff is in the public eye, and people can say or do whatever they want. You just sort of have to roll with those punches and keep going.
Connect with Callan on her Foodtalk profile, Instagram, and blog.
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