- 12 Dec
- Nicole Johnson
Blogger Interview: Nicole Hunn of Gluten Free on a Shoestring
Welcome to our Blogger Interview series, where we spend time talking with Mediavine publishers in different niches across the lifestyle spectrum.
We’re digging into what is working for them, what they might like to improve, and what you can do to be successful too!
Everyone say hello to Nicole Hunn of Gluten Free on a Shoestring!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and your everyday life.
I’m a former practicing lawyer (12 years in large Manhattan law firms!). Since 2009, I’ve worked from home developing online recipe content and writing gluten free cookbooks.
I’m married, and I have 3 children, born in 2002, 2004 and 2005. And 3 dogs. And a cat. I’m the “default parent,” so I often end up working 7 days a week to finish my work but still be there for everything my kids need. They all play lots of sports, some seriously, so they need a lot!
But I’m mostly at home, so it’s a good life.
How did you get started blogging?
Along with many others, I was laid off from my part time job as a lawyer in early 2009 (anyone remember the market crash of late September 2008?).
I quickly found that not working at all did not suit me, but I didn’t want to find work as a lawyer if I didn’t have to.
My son has celiac disease and I had already started developing some of my own gluten free recipes since I was so dissatisfied with everything available on the market. It seemed like a low-risk thing to try.
How do you think blogging has changed since you started?
I notice only what everyone does: the bar is much higher for high-quality photos, a fast and content-rich site, social media has exploded, video is becoming a must. But I learned how to take better photos because I was dissatisfied with my own content—not because I felt like it was necessary to survive.
I did start video because it seemed like an imperative, but now that I have some facility with it, I find it fun—possibly even more fun than photography now (which I had also learned that I love).
What’s the best part of the blog world for you?
I’m sure I’m supposed to say the amazing friendships I’ve developed through blogging. But up until rather recently, I really hadn’t made many friends.
I had some bad experiences very, very early on, and just decided to keep to myself for many years.
For me, then, the best part is the puzzles I have to figure out, and the sense of limitless possibility I find that I have. And I feel this tremendous excitement at the prospect of being able to win at the “new” economy so that I can teach my children to do it, too. In their own way, with whatever subject excites them.
There’s so much freedom and self-actualization I believe that can bring.
What’s the worst part of blogging for you?
The sheer volume of untrustworthy information out there mystifies and frustrates me. This is the information age, so we feel like we should be able to learn anything, at any time. But I have wasted so much time and so much money on so-called experts who are always strong, often wrong.
I find that one of the most generous things that any peer can give to another is a trusted resource—paid or not.
Who are your FAVORITE bloggers. Who inspires you? Why do you like them?
I love Mel of Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. She’s one of the few food bloggers I’ve actually been friends with for a while. She has Integrity with a capital “I.” She inspires me to keep creating content I feel proud of—and to maintain my integrity always. (Read Mediavine’s interview with Mel here.)
Stephanie O’Dea of A Year of Slow Cooking has also become a dear friend and mentor. “Can Do” is Steph’s middle name, and she doesn’t take any of my crap. There are others, of course, too.
What are your top 3 posts on your blog?
- My Instant Noodle Cups are a perennial popular post (except during the dog days of summer).
- Cheesecake Bites are also up there.
- Flourless brownies usually top the list, any time of year.
What are your 3 FAVORITE posts on your blog?
Honestly, my favorite posts are the ones that resonate most with readers. I have some favorite photos on my blog, and some things I love eat most or my family loves to eat most. But my blog content is about my readers—not about me or my family.
What tools and resources do you use to manage your blog?
My web designer (Ryan Hunley of Second Street Creative) is always my starting point. I don’t automate my social media, except for Pinterest. I use Tailwind for pinning my new content across all the boards I own and am a group member of, but BoardBooster is the reason that Pinterest has grown.
I also have an assistant who helps with my email, and I work with a marketing team, but that’s mostly for selling cookbooks and (eventually) other premium content.
What is your biggest traffic source?
What strategies have you used to make that your top traffic source?
I hadn’t put much effort into growing my presence on Pinterest until my (pretty large) Facebook page started to fail me. To grow my Pinterest traffic, I use BoardBooster to pin others’ content and keep my own group boards healthy, and I create vertical pins specifically for Pinterest.
Do you have any advice for bloggers on how to grow their traffic?
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!
I started out ignoring everything but creating content (if you build it, they will come), then ignoring everything other than Facebook (when it was flooding my site with traffic, my page was growing by leaps and bounds—and Facebook never ever throttled my page!).
Now, I put effort in equal measure into: creating quality content, optimizing for SEO, growing Pinterest, keeping Facebook healthy, and growing and caring for my email list.
I mostly use Twitter to follow people I think are funny. I mostly use Instagram to see cute dogs. I find that they don’t really convert. And I can’t do everything all at the same time.
Anything else you’d like to add to help other bloggers grow?
If you don’t have a ton of traffic (or even if you do!), don’t just keep doing what you’ve always done. Don’t change everything all at once, but if someone who has grown a large following organically hints at something or offers some advice, be open to it. Ask questions. Be willing to adapt. Don’t let pride stop you from growing.
There’s plenty of traffic for everyone, but you have to go get it—every which way you can. Ignore others’ hard-fought advice at your own peril.
What’s the one thing where if it is on the menu, you are ordering it?
Anything with spicy, smoky chicken and cheese—in a corn base. Taquitos, enchiladas, soft tacos. Don’t forget the guacamole!
Thanks so much for reading, and thanks to Nicole for taking the time to share with us! Make sure to check out her site and say hello!
For more great recipes from a Mediavine foodie, read our interview with Dennis of Ask Chef Dennis.