In 2012, Anja Cass was diagnosed with heart issues, which lead her to get healthy and lose over 50 pounds. Soon, Cooking With Plants blog was born.
Revenue of $4,000/mo
Email list size of 9,000
Founded in 2014
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
Hi, my name is Anja Cass and I’m the founder of Cooking With Plants. In 2012 I was diagnosed with heart issues and my research lead me to a plant-based lifestyle.
As a result, I got healthy and lost over 50 pounds. People started to ask me what I ate, so I recorded a few videos to show my family and friends, but I soon found that other people were watching the videos too! So you can say that I accidentally started this journey and finally turned my passion of cooking into a niche business.
While I didn’t make any money for a couple of years, I managed to build a very supportive and interactive community that not only enjoy the recipes I create, but they also support each other. During the process, I also went through a divorce and took a year off in 2017. But this year I’ve come back super motivated and am looking to build my income from $4,000 per month to a much higher number thanks to a range of products that I will be releasing throughout this year.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
I actually started my Youtube channel before I started my blog. It was all accidental really. While I have an advertising and marketing background and have run a few online websites before, they were never something I was super passionate about. It was a heart health scare that made me look at what I was eating very closely. It changed my whole life and something sparked inside of me.
I knew I had to share what I had learned with others. My passion for cooking drove me to invent healthy plant-based recipe alternatives for the unhealthy food I had been eating. And by being online I could help others from all around the world do the same.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
I have a number of income streams for Cooking With Plants. Currently, I make about $4,000 per month. This comes from a combination of Youtube Adsense, affiliate marketing, and cookbook sales. While Youtube is a great platform to earn money, I find it’s more from things away from Youtube, such as my cookbook sales where you can earn serious money.
It’s important to use many different social media platform to reach different audiences for your business, but also keep in mind that your number one goal should be to build your own email list and not rely on other social media platforms. Having your own email list allows you to stay in contact with your followers and you can contact them at any time and on your terms.
I guess the first thing that I did with my blog was offer a lot for free. I did years of free recipes and building a strong community while I earn money from my other websites. Now that my community is so big and supportive, they are wanting me to sell products to them, rather than me having to hope that they want to buy from me. I’ve made myself an authority figure in my field by being genuine and people can see that. Always be authentic and always be YOU!
Also, never think small. Even when I had 5 followers I always did everything as if I had the biggest blog and Youtube channel on the internet. Know your goal and work hard. Things don’t magically happen – you have to make them happen!
What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?
I initially started by posting regular videos on Youtube. I did about 3 per week for almost two years. I also directed people to my blog from there so they could print the recipes that I had the videos for. I would also comment on other channel’s videos and interact with creators and viewers that way.
I also joined a lot of related Facebook Groups and groups where there were people that would be interested in my blog. I interacted and commented a lot and I also shared my recipes from time to time. Eventually, people got to know me and trusted me. Again, I was building myself up as an authority in my community.
Youtube is still my biggest traffic source to date, but I do also use Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Every time I create a new recipe video, I post it on all forms of social media, I email my database and I make sure that each recipe targets a keyword or search term that is Google friendly and will attract natural rankings for Google searches.
How have you grown the email list?
Oh, my email list… my poor neglected email list. I have almost 10,000 people on my list but last year I hardly did any emails to them because I had gone through a divorce and took a year off for me.
Luckily my followers are extremely supportive and virtually no-one unsubscribed when I started to email again earlier this year.
Every time I create a new recipe, I email them. I also do the occasional promotional email if I have a new cookbook out or a special course etc.
I have a sign-up form on my website and it is in the side column of every page on my website. So every time someone looks at one of my recipes, the sign-up form is there. I also have a series of auto-responders that go out every time someone joins my list. These tell people a bit more about me and why I started the blog, as well as some special recipes and an offer for my cookbooks.
To be honest I haven’t put as much thought or effort into my email marketing as I need to but it is definitely on my to do list this year.
How do you write great content that performs well?
I guess my content is easy… I decide on a recipe and I post it. However, when I choose what I’m going to make I do research hot topics and popular recipes that people are currently searching for in Youtube and in Google.'Provide quality content but don’t become crippled by perfection.'Click To Tweet
I then create something based around that. This ensures that I end up with something that people want and are searching for.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
My biggest challenge was that my ex-husband used to be my videographer, photographer, IT manager and Tech Guy. When we parted ways I found it difficult to manage everything on my own because I never had to worry about any of the technical side of things. Suddenly I had all sorts of issues to deal with and had to find people to help me.
In hindsight, I recommend that you know about all aspects of your business. I would definitely recommend keeping a record of all external websites/passwords and companies that you deal with to keep your business running. For example, domain registration, hosting, merchant account etc
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think it’s very important to have a good network of people to work with. Both online and offline. It can be a lonely world running a blog sometimes because most people that do it work from home, in their isolated bubble. I suggest you join local business groups as well as online communities to keep you motivated and share ideas with. I know we often think we have no time, but even once per month is great. You’ll be amazed at how re-energized you can get by speaking to others about your ideas – and theirs!
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
My advice for new bloggers is to be patient. Work hard and don’t expect things to happen overnight. It takes time to build a blog and to build authority in your niche. Provide quality content but don’t become crippled by perfection. So many people don’t get started just because they are perfectionists… don’t get me wrong, I like to do things perfectly too, but sometimes getting some content out there is far more important than making it 100% perfect. Like the saying goes – just do it!
Where can we go to learn more?