Brand Like A Boss with Jessica Formicola: Mediavine On Air Episode 26

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Content creators, we’re hurtling towards magical Q4, so it’s the perfect time to make sure we’re in a mindset for success. 

On the Teal Talk season 4 premiere, Jenny is joined by Jessica Formicola, a site owner and former psychotherapist, college professor and coach. Jessica is bringing all of her expertise to this episode to ensure we’re blogging like the business owners we are. 

Whether it’s diversifying income streams, putting together business plans or delegating and hiring staff, Jessica is bringing her data-driven, work smarter not harder approach.

Make sure to catch Episode 26 of Mediavine On Air!

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Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the season premiere of Teal Talk.

[IMITATING TRUMPET]

It’s very exciting. This is kind of an anticlimactic. I guess I was a trumpet. I’m not really sure what I was going for there.

But I’m your host, Mediavine’s Jenny Guy. So excited to welcome you to another wonderful season of our show about the business of content creation. Our fourth season, as hard as that might be for all of us to believe, it is the truth. Another thing that is also true and hard to believe, it is already September 14. How? How is it our– how?

Football has started back up. Homecoming is around the corner. I am constantly being encouraged to purchase a shacket. I don’t know if I’m alone in that. All of which begs the very important question, have you broken the pumpkin seal yet?

Say hi in the comments, and tell us the date that it becomes appropriate in your mind to start ordering all of the pumpkin drinks. Tell us hi. OK, in other news– and speaking of the year flying by, I got an email yesterday that informed me that it is only 48 days to Halloween and 73 days to Thanksgiving.

So I guess what I’m saying is happy New Year. Welcome, 2022. I guess, 2022, please be kind. Our standards are very low or whatever. Really anything that you do is fairly passable.

OK, but hold up. Before we fly headlong into a new year, we have Q4 revenue to earn. The best time. There’s still a few weeks remaining for content creators to get their ducks in a row for the top earnings time of the year. And part of that, let’s be real, should include mental preparation.

Enter my awesome guest for our season premiere. It is Jessica Formicola. She’s a Mediavine publisher with her website, Savory Experiments, and she’s here to ensure that we are approaching everything that we do with a business owner mindset. Hello, Jessica. Welcome.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Hi, I’m happy to be here.

JENNY GUY: We’re so glad to have you. I’m going to read your very impressive bio. Jessica is a former psychother– it is. I always am so– she’s the former psychotherapist turned author, business coach, photographer, recipe developer, spokesperson, TV personality, globetrotter, and contributor to parade Better Homes and Gardens, MASHED!, and The Daily Meal, food and travel.

She provides training on how to mentally transition to small business owner using strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy. These reframes will help expand your business and make more money. Yay. OK, so, incredibly impressive bio, guys. Before I jump into questions with Jessica, if you have anything you want to talk to us about, mindset shifts, prepping for Q4, all of that stuff, drop them in the comments and I will ask Jessica. But I’m going to just dive in with my stuff to kick us off.

As the host of this show, as Teal Talk and the Summer of Live, both going for four seasons now, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a lot of really incredible people and read quite a selection of interesting bios. But I have to say, yours is up there as one of the most fascinating. So I like to go beyond the bio and learn more about how you went from a psychotherapist, to website owner, to blogging coach.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Well, I guess it does sound odd when you first think about it. But I worked in marketing and sales for many years, and I went back to school to be a psychotherapist. I always loved helping people and providing help and all the things that came along with that. So I did, and I became the director of a psych unit at a hospital here in Baltimore, and I saw patients and I was doing all the things.

And I also enjoyed cooking. Cooking was my therapy. My husband would know I had a bad day at work if he came home and there a four course meal on the table because that was my way of really just decompressing.

So we’d always have friends over for dinner or drinks or whatever it was, and they’d ask me for the recipes. And I am that person that doesn’t measure anything. It’s a little bit of this– I’m Italian. You know. Tiny bit of that. So it forced me to start writing stuff down, but I also was tired of sending emails.

So one day when I had a patient no-show, I literally googled how to start a blog, and started on Blogger and eventually, obviously, went to WordPress. But that is how I got started. And for probably the first six or seven months I didn’t even have social media. It was literally just a friends and family thing.

I remember the day that a jelly company contacted me to give me free jelly. I was like, oh, my gosh. They want to give me free jelly, I’m big time. So it’s very exciting.

So I continued to do both things for a really long time. And I was developing my business, but I don’t think, personally, I made the switch from hobby blogger to business owner for probably about four or five years into my blogging career. And, I mean, it was a long time ago too. It was when ads were first starting. We were talking about how to do our own ads and waterfall them.

JENNY GUY: Yes.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Remember that term? And just starting to work with brands and sponsors. But it was also therapy for me. My husband and I went through a long issue with fertility treatment. And I couldn’t do a lot of things, so I needed something to take my mind off of it. And blogging was it.

So when I finally was about to have my first child after seven years of fertility treatment, I wasn’t down for the hospital stuff anymore. So I decided to make the jump. And then it was supposed to be a part-time gig, and it has grown because nothing I ever do is small. One of those Type A personalities.

But it is now grown to a six-person company that does way more than just blogging. So we’re really proud of that, and it’s very exciting. And it’s taken me places I never expected to go. So that is that.

JENNY GUY: It’s super exciting. And I love hearing the different phases of it, that it started out being something that was serving you, serving your needs at the time. And sounds like it’s really shifted into something that’s about serving others and serving your audience. And I think that that’s a really key mindset shift. So I would like to hear an overview, because we know how you got into the website, and we know how you built a team, but I want to hear a little more about how brands, like a boss, started and the coaching and everything came into play.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Oh, goodness. So I started accepting contributors to my website about two years ago now. And then it was a way to have more content creation on my site so I could focus more on the business side of it. And I started coaching my contributors– I was a contributor to all these other sites, not just the big sites, but a couple of other blogs– took everything that I didn’t like and everything that I did like and made it into my own contributor program.

And one of the big ones was coaching and mentorship. And I feel like they always offered that, but they didn’t really give it to you. So I went in hardcore. I mean, we were doing Zoom calls.

And a lot of the things that I realized I took for granted or just did naturally, my contributors were having these epiphany moments of, oh. Oh, really? And it was groundbreaking. So I started providing more coaching, they started telling people, and I realized I couldn’t take that many contributors so I started charging for coaching as well.

And it got to the point where I was coaching and my own website was starting to suffer because I was spending so much time on the coaching piece. And it makes sense, I’ve always been a helper at heart. And I realized that a lot of my therapy techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy and reframing, were coming into play with my coaching. I wasn’t providing therapy, but it was the process of reframing things that was really helping people take them to the next level.

And the whole concept of therapy is that you don’t have to have been through something to help somebody with something. So if you had a great loss in your life, it doesn’t mean you can’t provide good therapy for somebody just because you haven’t experienced that same thing. So people were coming to me with different issues, maybe some that I had experienced in my blogging career, and maybe some that I hadn’t and I was still able to help them through whatever it was they were going through. Some of them were just support and encouragement, and others were really breaking it down. Some of them were with branding.

But I was losing time on my site. So what I did was I took my own advice. One of them being, when you’re looking for different ways to monetize your business, solving a problem. Finding a problem that exists and solving it.

And my problem at that time was I don’t have enough time for coaching. I love doing it, but my business wasn’t necessarily a coaching business. So I developed a new course. And it took me a long time, and part of that was just that I was busy providing coaching and trying to keep my own site up, and I wrote a book in the meantime too. But it just launched this last week.

And I basically bottled all of the big questions that I’d go over with my coaching clients into an e-course. It’s really aimed towards the middle sized blogger that’s really struggling to get to the next level. I keep calling it the pu-pu platter because it delves into a bunch of small things and it scratches the surface.

Obviously we all know SEO and stuff. You could go on for days, hours, months. So it really is a stepping stone into a more advanced blogging world, but also how to build yourself as a business, so developing branding, a unique point of view, POV, which a lot of bloggers don’t have, even large bloggers don’t have. How to develop a business plan and goals and make them actionable, how to do basic finances.

It was crazy that people are like, I make half a million dollars a year. I’m like, OK, but what’s your revenue? What’s your take-home? And nobody knew. You’re not paying attention to this? Marketing, outsourcing, scaling, how do you actually scale was really just thinking outside the box. So now I am still providing coaching, but I’ve just launched this e-course that gives those basic most desired topics a good delve into.

JENNY GUY: And that is the Brand Like a Boss system, which we are going to be sharing, guys. We’ll share links for you, do not worry about that. I think that no one watching the program, whether live or on replay– hello, everyone. I see people saying hi from the UK and all over the place. We’re so glad you’re here.

I was going to say that nobody watching– I don’t think anyone aspires to be a hobby blogger. I think that while overall website goals may vary, they definitely do amongst the audience, for some, the hope is to quit the day job, and for others it’s to supplement retirement, college funds. But every person watching is a small business owner. So I think what I would like to hear are what are the mental differences that you identify between a hobby blogging and a business ownership? How do you see content creators most commonly limiting themselves mentally?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: I think that– and we could cue two of those slides. I’m very much a visual person. So I think for bloggers beforehand, they really see the blog as the central part of their business.

So there’s the blog, and then we’ve got the standard ways to make money. We’ve got social media, ads, and ebooks, sponsored posts, and affiliate revenue. And instead, part of what we reframe and help you with– you can go to the next slide– is after. The blog becomes one spoke of your brand. Oh, no. Sorry, that one’s a diff– there we go.

The blog becomes a spoke and your brand becomes the center. And that’s really the biggest shift in thinking, it’s how we can make more money but developing ourselves as a brand. Instead of the blog being the center, the blog is just one way to earn money. And that’s your springboard into doing so many different other things. And these are just a very few couple of things.

But it’s interesting. My own literary agent, I was talking to her, and I was talking about the typical things– I’m looking at Betsy’s comments. Sorry, it’s making me laugh. I have a funny story about that, Betsy.

So she told me once, she goes, you are not thinking big enough. You need to start thinking beyond the typical blogging stuff, and you can do so much more. You can be so much more. You can grow so much more.

And I was, like, you’re right. Why am I imposing my own glass ceiling? And since then, I’ve really started to think outside of the blogger box and develop more ways to earn revenue and solve problems.

And that’s really what I’m looking for and what we talk about a Brand Like a Boss is. How do you be the person that develops that little plastic thing on a Starbucks cup to keep the coffee in when you’re driving? Let’s find a way to solve a problem and develop a brand, not just a blog because I think in our business we understand what blogging is and how hard it is, but a lot of other people don’t. It’s very misunderstood.

So when you go out into the business community and you even use the word blog, it’s not that it’s a dirty word, it’s just a misunderstood word. You need to reframe yourself and your business differently. And you need to have the same pieces that other brands and other businesses do to be taken seriously. You need to have that unique POV with pillars, you need to have a business plan, you need to have an elevator speech, elevator pitch. You need to really have the confidence to know what it is you’re doing and how you’re going to market yourself as a brand. And that is where the reframing comes in. And even some folks, even large bloggers, sometimes are still tripping up on that a little bit. Does that make sense?

JENNY GUY: Yeah, that absolutely does make sense. I think I want to reframe a question, or a point that you brought up, which was that the difference between the blog is not the brand or beyond the blog. However, I think a lot of our listeners would say that their brand is their blog. So can you talk about where you’re seeing that divide or how to elevate that where they currently are with the brand that they’ve built for their website, and then to moving into these other areas?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Certainly, certainly. And I’m not minimizing that at all. Savory Experiments is certainly still my brand. The blog is now a spoke of the brand instead of all of it in its entirety.

I guess it’s hard to define because it’s different for so many people, which is where that coaching comes in. It’s kind of developing what’s right for you. So for me it was developing a course and taking the other things that I love and making them into something more. For me, my brand– and it took me forever to develop a unique point of view. Finally, I’ve realized that I’m the teaching cook. And I have a whole elevator speech behind that. But my pillars– you’re going to laugh– are salt, we talk a lot about salt, seasonings, swaps, and sauces. And those are becoming the brand. And out of that, we’re developing products and books. And the blog has all of these things woven through it in every single post and every single thing that we do, the pillars of our unique point of view.

JENNY GUY: I’m going to stop you just quickly. Can you talk about pillars just quickly, in case anyone hasn’t heard about pillars or what you’re talking about there. Give us a little more information on that.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: So a unique point of view is really hard to come by. We all have a point of view, it’s developing a unique one that can be really challenging. And honestly, for me too, it took me years.

I met a TV producer years, years, years ago, and I was interested in doing TV, I hadn’t started yet. She goes, what’s your unique point of view? I don’t know. I want to be the next Rachael Ray. And she’s like, you can’t be somebody else, you need to be yourself and you need to figure out what your self is. She’s the 30 minute cook, what are you?

And I didn’t have an answer, and I couldn’t figure it out. And so I hired my own PR coach to help me figure it out, and basically, your unique point of view is your roof, and you need pillars and a foundation to set up your unique point of view. So the pillars are four or five tenets that you can really base your whole brand on, that you can run these threads through and develop all of these other things. And everybody’s pillars are different.

So one of the chapters in the e-course is really how to develop those and how to figure yours out. And it’s hard. It is not easy. It’s not something were you’re like, oh, well, that’s it. And a lot of people, again, larger businesses don’t have this written down either yet. So it’s a unique eye opening experience for growth.

JENNY GUY: Yeah, we’re all about growth. That’s one of our very favorite things to talk about. So I’m going to take a quick break — we’ve got, hi, from New York City– or hi, from New York. Hi, from North Carolina, and then Betsy Eves, hello, from DC. She said “wait, what, we don’t want to do hobby for a living”? I think that that’s something that every single blogger, content creator on here or anywhere can relate to.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Mhm. Betsy, at a wedding once, a girl that I respect, I’ve known her for a long time, told me that she thought it was so nice that my husband allowed me to do my hobby and have a nanny. I almost spit my wine on her. It was one of those moments where you weren’t quite sure what you were going to say back because you were so taken aback, but I’ve never forgotten it.

JENNY GUY: Spit your wine is better than throw your wine, which is what I would have said.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Yeah. Yeah, it was interesting. So that always makes me laugh, my cute hobby. Bless her heart.

JENNY GUY: That’s so– that’s just, yeah. And like you said, when you’re looking at going in and being on equal footing with business owners, you think a big part of that is stepping into taking yourself away from, I’m a blogger, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But we all know, everyone here knows that there’s so much hard work and so much time and skills. Content creators are photographers and writers and PR people. And, I mean, there’s zillions. Not to mention the technical aspects. How have you seen this system and thinking of yourself more as a brand as opposed to just a website, how have you seen that change people’s perceptions of what you are and what you’re capable of?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Certainly, certainly. I mean, it’s all about how you approach it, right? Perception is the key, and you could send out a message as much as you want to, and how it’s perceived by one person is going to be completely perceived differently by another person.

So I think part of it is confidence in yourself. And having those basic business minded aspects about it like, having an elevator pitch, knowing what your brand is when somebody asks you what your brand is, knowing how to sell it and not using the buzzwords that– again, they’re not bad words, but they’re misunderstood outside of our community. I mean I keep harping on that, but you have to keep going back to that because it’s true. It is what it is. Instead of being angry about it, play into it and decide what your title is going to be.

And as soon as I started doing that I started seeing a huge difference in how people responded to me, even pitches to brands. And I don’t really use the word influencer much either, I use the word digital marketer or digital content creator is usually what I say. Depending on the crowd, sometimes I’m more of a journalist than anything else because I do a lot of writing, or a small business owner. And when they ask me what that small business is I tell them about all of the different spokes of my business, one of them being a blog.

And that tends to be perceived, because, again, it’s all about their perception, a little bit more in a professional light than just, I’m a blogger. Because it’s not just, I’m a blogger, like you said, we wear so many hats. I actually had somebody ask me the other day if they have a major for this type of work yet in college because there are so many skills from different skill sets that are used. They don’t, but they should.

JENNY GUY: They definitely should, for sure. Kelli Nielsen said, “I’m a nurse and a content creator and sometimes I think content creator is harder!” Well, Kelli, first of all, bless you for the work you do on both fronts. And I think that they’re both very challenging careers. Jessica can you give us your elevator pitch, just as an example here. And what should an elevator pitch be aimed at?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: So you should have several different elevator pitches because you never know the crowd you’re in or what you’re pitching and who you’re pitching to. Sometimes you have two or three sentences, and sometimes you have two or three minutes. So a good elevator pitch should introduce you, should say what you do and the name of your brand. You should try to throw in a few of your accolades if you can, without sounding too conceited, if you will, but how you can solve a problem for whoever it is you’re speaking to and either some sort of call to action or something to personalize it.

And that’s what we talk about too is when you’re developing your unique point of view how are you going to differentiate yourself from all of the other people? I know not all of our content creators are food bloggers, but I read once that there’s an estimated two million food blogs. How am I going to be different from the two million? And for some people it’s what they do, and for some people it could be how they look. But whatever you do, you need to be memorable, whether it’s a picture on your card or Sally Jessy Raphael in her red glasses or Guy Fieri and his crazy hair or it’s your personality. And for some people that’s all they need too, is the personality.

So my basic elevator pitch is hi, I’m Jessica from Savory Experiments. I create recipes, I write articles, I help other small business owners elevate their business. I’ve been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Fox News, ABC News, and Good Morning America most recently, we’re really excited about that.

I’ve heard about your alternative flour brand, and I use your oat flour all the time in my famous chocolate chip cookies. I’d love to talk more about how we can maybe work together and see how Savory Experiments could help your X, Y, and Z brand. Can we set up a Zoom call? Or what’s your favorite type of cookie? A lot of times people with elevator pitches hear a lot of salesy because people are trying to sell themselves, but they never get asked questions themselves.

And that even can be your defining moment to sell yourself, is to ask them a personal question. Do you use this flour? What’s your favorite type of cookie? Do you have kids? What are their favorite types of cookies? Any of those types of things. You should be able to hear the word elevator and just start talking your elevator speech. It should be ingrained in you.

JENNY GUY: I love asking questions to the people that you’re pitching and involving them because even if you put that CTA, if it’s super salesy it feels like another– it’s just like another one, another one, another, one another one in the pile. But if you’re actually asking a question– and I think you can even ask questions that are related to the needs of the brand, related to what are your current goals for this particular flour line, where are you finding yourself struggling, what are your pain points? I feel like I could help.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Mhm, definitely. Or where are you seeing trends going?

JENNY GUY: Yup.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: What kind of challenges do you have? I mean, all of that kind of stuff. It’s great and it’s memorable.

JENNY GUY: All helpful, very memorable, and puts you on an equal footing in terms of the conversation. Oh, I love that, Lynn.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: I do too.

JENNY GUY: Lynn April just told us– this is fantastic. She said, “yes! I always ask people what their desert island dessert is.” What an awesome– that is so memorable.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: That’s a great question.

JENNY GUY: And also, now I’m thinking about it. I don’t even know what mine would be.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: I know, right? Chocolate cake. Chocolate cake with fudge frosting, yeah.

JENNY GUY: I am not a choco– I think I would probably do coconut cream pie or maybe strawberry cream cake. I love both.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Those are both pretty refreshing and you’re on a desert island.

JENNY GUY: You know, I’m thirsty, I’m drinking out of a coconut. Lynn, what a fantastic.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: You have it all figured out.

JENNY GUY: Yeah. OK, I want to talk about the top skill sets to develop as a small business owner. Moving beyond the website, what are the top things that you need to look at? Where are the top places– the top stumbling blocks that you see people hit?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: I think a lot of times it’s their own self. That might be a little bit of a cliche, but it really is. In their own minds, getting past this whole, I’m a blogger thing, and this is what we do, and you don’t have to be just a blogger. So it’s getting past that in your own mind.

And then also figuring out– the biggest things I see in coaching are time management, these all sound really simple, but I think a lot of people can relate. Time management, productivity, basic finances, and the other big one is SEO. And I’m not an SEO guru, but I think that we’ve almost saturated ourselves with reading all the things and watching all the blogs and all the YouTubes, and myself included. I reached out for an SEO audit just the other day. At some point your brain starts to explode.

So in that case, actually being able to dial it back and look at things a little bit more objectively, people tend to think with their emotional mind instead of their logical mind. And I get it, our blogs were born on blood, sweat, and tears. They’re our babies. So there’s emotional peace that’s there, and sometimes that can get in the way of making these other business minded decisions that are data driven. So that’s a big piece of it.

Also goal setting. So people tend to make big goals, right? The biggest one, every time– I send out a questionnaire to all my coaching clients, and the first answer is always I want more traffic. Don’t we all? You could be as big as you could be and you still want more traffic, but how are you going to get that?

And I think that it’s the concept of breaking things down into SMART goals, which I’m sure we’ve all heard before, but we’ve never applied it to our own businesses. So breaking them down into realistic, actionable goals that have timestamps on them, and being able to check off the small achievements, just figuring out what that means. There’s no number attached to get more page views. How are you going to do that? So figuring those bigger problems out and breaking them down into smaller problems, but then also having somebody that holds you accountable. And that’s where I come in, is helping you break them down and then holding you accountable even if it’s just sending you a text message and saying, hey, did you that today?

JENNY GUY: Working on that thing.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Yeah. So those are the biggest stumbling blocks that people come to me with. And time management and productivity are probably the top ones. The personality type that comes into this line of work is very self-motivated, they’re very driven, they’re usually pretty Type A, and kind of OCD, and they see these big goals. And that’s great, and we want you to have them, but how do you get them?

So we’ve got to take a step back and start with a time analysis study of how much time do you actually have? And how much time does it actually take you to do tasks? And then we start talking about scaling and outsourcing, and how businesses hire people when they get bigger because the only way to do more is to have more hours, and you can’t make another one of you so now we’ve got to outsource. Which for me ended up being another, oh, I see a problem now let me solve it with a solution.

So then I developed– I know, I’m a crazy person– I developed the whole virtual assistant services based on that because the other issue people had was that they couldn’t find good VA services. Either they’re charging an arm and a leg or they weren’t able to do A/B testing and really look at the data and have a voice in the process or there wasn’t really– it was like, this is what we do, and there wasn’t an a la carte system.

So from that, I developed a virtual assistant service with my own VA, who has been with me for years, and developed another business off the spoke, off the brand. So that came in too. So those are the biggest things, is scaling, growth, goal setting, time management, and productivity.

JENNY GUY: So just a couple of little small things that we brought up in there. And there is a lot I want to dig in a little bit deeper on. But first, I want to say, Betsy gave us a great suggestion for a question. She said “if you could wave a magic wand, what would your ideal partnership with a content creator look like? That’s what I like to ask brands I’m working with.” She said “asking this kind of question allows me to cater my answer to what the brand actually wants, needs, and what I offer them solves for their problems and wants.” Love that. That’s really, really great.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: That’s excellent, Betsy. I love that question too.

JENNY GUY: Anything that inspires them to start having a conversation with you and telling you more about what they need and want because if you don’t know you can’t be it. You can’t solve it if you have no idea.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: No. It’s like walking into a dark room and expecting to hit the bullseye. Turn on the lights. You can turn on the lights and give yourself an advantage.

JENNY GUY: Yup. Exactly. And ask questions. People generally love to talk. It’s one of their favorite things to do. Sames.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: I think all my years as a therapist and being quiet and listening are now coming out as a content creator because now I just talk a lot.

JENNY GUY: You’re like a camel. You’ve been storing it across the desert of your therapy years and now it’s just– we love it. We’re so glad to benefit from it here. So you mentioned something that I think is super key but really difficult because as you said, we are all very passionate as business owners and about our brands and our websites. And I think that making decisions in a data driven business mindset type way as opposed to going with our gut can be very, very difficult.

I also think that one of the things that I know personally stands in my way can be FOMO, is sitting here going, oh, but I need– but the pretty thing, the shiny thing is over there, and I need– but I don’t know about that shiny thing. So how do you make a mindset shift to data and to not feeling like you are just walking into a dark room and taking a stab?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: That’s a loaded question. But some of that can be just education. For some people, they just don’t even realize they’re doing it. They think that they’re making data driven decisions and content based decisions, and they aren’t.

And that, again, is the therapy technique of challenging in a very nice way, not like a mean way. But challenging to say, OK, well, how is this helping you, because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And that’s what you’re doing. So what can we do differently that you’re comfortable with? And sometimes being a business owner is being outside of your comfort zone and trying something new.

So for whatever the issue is, we usually set up some sort of A/B testing, some way that we can test it. And myself included. And sometimes it doesn’t feel comfortable and sometimes it makes you feel like you might want to vomit a little bit because I’m seeing Rose signed on here. Rose, I’m testing something with my ads right now going into Q4. And it made me feel a little antsy to test that, but the only way I’m going to know is if I test it. And for most things you can go back again, so it’s not a huge, huge risk. But you won’t know unless you try it either.

But also being comfortable with the decisions you make. You — all the testing. You need to be confident with the decisions you make too about a lot of things. And that can be a different barrier for different people.

For some people, it’s the fear of losing revenue. This is the money that they pay their bills with. For other people, it’s the fear of not seeing growth. For some people, it’s more about their clout in whatever industry they’re in, if that makes sense, more about their much larger– I don’t want to say ego, but ego in whatever niche they’re representing. So it can change for different people, and you have to figure it out. It’s a very personal question, probably not the answer you wanted to hear. It’s not very concrete, is it?

JENNY GUY: No, but it’s logical. And what I think I’m hearing from you also is that part one, establish where you’re getting your data from. Establish what your metrics are and what your sources are. What are your trusted sources? And while we all love getting advice in Facebook groups, taking that to the next level and getting the data back behind it. So getting trusted sources.

And then, like you also said, determining what your priority is and then where to take that calculated risk because if you come into a situation saying, I am not comfortable losing even a cent off my RPM, then testing a whole bunch of stuff with your ad placements is probably not going to work for you because you’ll have 12 hours of something not working out in exactly the way you want it, and then you’ll turn it off and you don’t know. You’ve got to be comfortable with that calculated risk. So what are your trusted sources? Where do you find them?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: All over the place. I mean, if we’re talking about Facebook, I’ve got a mastermind group that I’m very into that I trust their opinion. But I think that a lot of people too have FOMO, like you said. There will be a thread that goes up about the newest shiny plugin and everybody’s like, I want it, and you don’t even know much about it.

So I always– and I tell all my clients, it’s Google Analytics. People, I think, are a little bit scared of it. It’s a little bit intimidating until you learn how to use it and navigate it. So they’ve got other insights on their blog whether it’s Jetpack or Monster or all these other ones, but some of those aren’t– I don’t trust those as much, kind of like I don’t trust Pinterest Analytics as much or Facebook Analytics as much. So my trusted resource is really Google Analytics, and then if I’m asking for opinions, it’s generally my mastermind group or my tech team. And I have confidence in them. Is that the answer you were looking for? OK.

JENNY GUY: Yeah. And Google Analytics is a huge resource. It can be overwhelming, but it’s a reliable resource, and it’s a helpful resource. Let’s talk business plans and what should one entail and how do you even begin to approach putting one together and what’s the purpose, and I will ask another question, I’ll ask all of them at once and then you just attack in the order that you like. What is the purpose of putting together a business plan when you’ve already been in business for multiple years?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Oh, my goodness. Every business has a business plan no matter how many years that they have been in business, and they can range for different lengths. I tend to do mine annually. And I do it on January 1. I feel it’s like making New Year’s resolutions, it’s figuring out where to go. But they are so important. They keep you on track.

How many people have written down something on their to-do list or had the intentions of doing something and it just stays there, and the next year you’re like– for me, I mean, totally candidly, it’s email.

JENNY GUY: Yeah?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: For the last two years email marketing has been on my priority list. And I’ve– very candidly– I failed to do that. Not failed, I haven’t done all the things I intended to do because other things came up. But you also have to learn how to prioritize and pivot, otherwise you can run into issues too.

So anyway, everybody should have a business plan. Every business has a business plan. Coke has a business plan. Target has a business plan. They all have projections, and they all have a business plan. The point of this is really establishing not too many, maybe three or four really big goals for yourself for the year, and then breaking them down into smaller actionable goals, and then putting that time stamp on them.

One of the things I look at too with productivity and with time management is developing your calendar. It’s alarming to me how many people don’t have a calendar or an editorial calendar and just fly by the seat of their pants. Or they have one, but they don’t really keep it up.

So it’s encouraging folks to get organized. And we’re going to look at your business plan, we’re going to figure out how long it’s going to take you to do something, whatever it is. We’re going to break it down into actionable steps, and then we’re going to put it in your calendar so you don’t get to your computer in the morning and say, what do I have to do today, and it takes you an hour to even get started to make your to-do list. You sit down and you’ve got that hour back knowing exactly what’s expected of you for the rest of the day and for those goals. And it’s not something that’s every day, but it’s also nice to give yourself a pat on the back when you finish and accomplish small goals.

Again, the one is always, I want more traffic. Well, great. What is that to you? I don’t even know. And what is your goal, and is it realistic, is it reasonable? And now let’s break that down into smaller pieces.

And for my clients what we usually do is we back into it. We look at what your target goal is, what you’re pie in the sky goal is, is it realistic, and then how many page views does that equal per day? Not just per month, not per week, per day because when you look at, I want to increase my page views by 15,000 page views in the next three months, that sounds huge. But if you say, I need 160 more page views per day, that seems reasonable and attainable.

Where can we get those? Let’s look at our data and figure out what platforms are working best for us. And I don’t think Facebook is dead and I don’t think Pinterest is dead either so listening to that too, I think those are areas where we can still see a lot of improvement. But even improving one post on SEO can send you 160 clicks per day. So figuring out where those nuggets are and then making them smaller attainable goals.

JENNY GUY: I know that you mentioned that you’re not an SEO expert, but we always talk about SEO. In fact, our Summer of Live finale was all about SEO with Mike Pearson and our Eric Hochberger. We talk about SEO all the time. There’s no denying it’s an incredibly important topic for content creators. But how do you apply the Brand Like a Boss system to your SEO? How do you approach it more as a business owner?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: So I think you still approach it the same way as you would as a blogger. SEO is one of those funny things too where I just always have done what I always did, but a lot of people weren’t aware. But a tiered system, I always call it the shake and bake– if you’ve seen Talladega Nights– where you use one post to slingshot yourself forward for another post, but also just aiming for where you are instead of where you want to be to get yourself there in a tiered approach. I think in my work, I started working with businesses outside of blogging, which was, again, solving a problem and seeing where there was an opening. And this, anybody could do in your local area, really, having them understand what it was.

Even my publisher has now hired me to be a consultant just to teach them how to do SEO research for books because part of my proposal and also– this is a good tidbit too, brands don’t always see SEO data and neither do– if you’re pitching a book or something like that– neither do publishers. So when I sent in my cookbook pitch that was backed with all of these recipes and their search volume data and geographic locations and all of this demographics, they were floored. And they’ve now changed their entire approach to look at those types of things.

I’m working with a landscaping company right now doing some of the same stuff. So brands actually aren’t approaching SEO as well as bloggers are, and that’s one way you can differentiate yourself when you’re working with a brand. Even when you’re pitching through some of the ad networks, if you’re pitching a topic add in the data that you’ve done the keyword research, and they’re really appreciative that you’ve gone that extra mile instead of just saying, oh, that sounds good.

JENNY GUY: Yeah, you’re giving a bang for their buck. You’re giving them your dues back in research for them. And we actually have a whole blog post on that that’s about how SEO sponsored content, pitching that evergreen aspect of it, that every year this is going to come back, every single year. If you’re talking about an Easter egg cake, every single year you’re going to get this. You’re paying for it now, but it’s going to pay off dividends years and years to come. So really emphasizing that, playing your knowledge–

JESSICA FORMICOLA: An ad that lasts forever.

JENNY GUY: Yes.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: And for that you can charge more, by the way. I don’t think we’re charging our worth on half of these things either. They’re paying a lot less for us with much larger audiences than they are for paid ads on other areas.

JENNY GUY: Very true. And speaking of that, I know that we hadn’t decided to talk about it, but you brought it up. Talk to me about pricing. That’s a constant question. How do you recommend people go about determining their prices?

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Oh, gosh, there’s so much that goes into it. I personally have a set number, but I change it depending on the brand and what I’m doing for them. If I’m making you a sauce recipe, that’s way different than doing beef wellington. And so I don’t really trust Social Bluebook and all of those other things that are out there. But, oh, gosh, I don’t even know how to answer that question, Jenny. To be honest.

I think you still need to go by page views. I think you need to look at engagement and impressions more than followers. On Instagram I’m always baffled by how many people just go by how many followers somebody has instead of looking at the actual engagement and impressions. Me for one, I don’t spend a lot of time there because I don’t have a lot of click throughs. And I’ve got a good amount of followers, but I don’t really have that great of engagement. I know what to do, I just choose not to. So it’s interesting to me.

I also know of other influencers that are really rocking some of these new sites, TikTok and reels on Instagram, and they’re charging $3,000 and $4,000 for a 30-second video, which is a lot more than a lot of us were charging for Hands and Pans videos that were a lot longer and harder to produce several years ago. So there’s definitely opportunity to start charging for other things.

JENNY GUY: For sure. And I also want to add to all of that amazing that you just dropped. I think that asking questions like what you guys have been talking about, figure out what the brand wants, and then how you can deliver that. If you are not as big in terms of following but you can create some beautiful recipes, videos, whatever it is, and that’s what the brand is wanting and there’s a licensing or they just want to be able to link to you on their own social media accounts, you have that to offer. You may not have the audience, but you have the ability to create beautiful photos, recipes, videos, whatever it is, you can do it and you can bring it there, a packing list, work with a destination.

So figure out what it is that that brand is looking for, how you can provide it, and then price yourself accordingly. But yes, of course, following is going to be one of those spokes. And the Bluebook can be one of those sources that you look into, but not the end all be all, I think.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: No, not at all. Everybody is going to be so individual. But I love asking the brand. I think that as influencers sometimes, especially during pandemic, we were so desperate to get work that we kind of, like, I’ll do anything, instead of asking those questions that might have helped us fluff our proposals a little bit better and be able to provide them a better service and get more in return for ourselves.

JENNY GUY: Absolutely. OK, so we are towards the end of our time here, which is hard to believe that it’s flown by. But I’m going to ask Jessica a final question and then give her a moment to think. And we are also going to– before we do that final question, I couldn’t forget this, let us do our special offer. Jessica has a special offer for all of our audience today.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Yeah. The course just launched, so we just finished our beta testing and we have some great feedback from our beta testers. You can read the testimonials. So I’m offering $20 off. It would take it– the whole course at $129.

I wanted to keep it at a very reasonable price point. I wanted people at all places and sizes and things to be able to afford it, and not charge an arm and a leg because they think it’s important information. Not everybody can afford coaching or some of the courses out there that are $2,000. So this makes it attainable for everybody, and it’s more than just a course, we also have a community that’s attached to it and a support network and ongoing training in our Facebook group. So we’re really excited. The code is Mediavine, $20 off the course for the next 30 days.

JENNY GUY: And we will drop that into the comments. You guys, don’t worry. You will have links and you will have the code for your discount. We so appreciate you doing that.

And then this is the final question. I’m going to let you think about it for a second while I make a couple of quick announcements. But as we’ve said, the repeated theme here is that Q4 is coming, and it is a time when the majority of content creators earnings are at their peak. So if you will give us just two or three action items that you think people can be doing now, that business owners can be putting into place now to be ready for the coming weeks. We would appreciate that. I will be right back with you.

OK, everyone. On the next episode of Teal Talk, it is Tuesday, September 28 at 1:00 PM Eastern. We are with Paul Gowder, founder of PowWows.com and we are talking about actionable ways to build an engaged community. Looking forward to learning from him on that. If you have not yet, please go and subscribe to the Mediavine on YouTube. This episode, once edited, all of Jessica’s amazing tips will be edited and put up on our YouTube channel.

And then if you don’t want to miss another episode, make sure to like our Facebook page. And finally, the casting couch is still open, the casting call is still open. Please think about it if you have been sitting here during any one of our episodes and thinking, gosh, you know, I could do that, I have something special that I could offer. Please don’t hesitate to submit it. We will drop the link there in the comments for you to come over, fill out some information, and we will follow back up with you if it’s something that our audience would be interested in. So excited. OK, Jessica, Q4, continue dropping wisdom please.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: I would say scheduling. You should probably have all the thoughts on your posts that are coming out for the holidays already completed, and they should publish 30 to 60 days before that actual holiday. Even if you don’t start promoting them yet on Facebook and Instagram, get them going on Pinterest, and get them going in Google and make sure that they’re on target because something that’s for Christmas that you drop on December 21, isn’t going to have a huge amount of time to really get its mojo going as best as it could. So get that done, get your editorial calendar in check.

I always go back and look at what performed well for me last year and make sure that it is fully optimized for ads, that there are enough tweaks there, and that it still is the best it could be for the SERPs because I think we often forget that that’s fluid, it’s constantly changing and your competitors are constantly changing. So something that was number one last year might not be number one anymore, and you need to go back and tweak it. You also need to give Google enough time to re-index it.

And my last piece would be that you often can’t do it alone. There are not enough hours in the day, so don’t be afraid to outsource. My shameless plug for more services, we still do have those Blog Like a Boss VA services, and the link is there too. Again, very reasonable prices from well-trained VAs. You want to be able to enjoy your holidays and make money, so don’t be afraid to scale, that’s part of being a business owner and part of growth.

JENNY GUY: Love that. And we have shared in the comments, the presentation is in there. You guys can find Jessica at all the different links. Her Brand Like a Boss course is now live on Teachable. Please feel free to go in there and grab it.

Go right now, get into your Google Analytics, get into your search console. Find those posts that have been performing well over the past few holidays and start jumping there. Hit return, break up those paragraphs, go into the comments, find those questions, add the FAQs, lengthen the content, and let’s get ready to have our best queue forever, guys. We have earned it. Jessica, it has been wonderful. Thank you so much for being with us. Everybody else, we’ll see you in a couple of weeks. Bye, everyone.

JESSICA FORMICOLA: Thank you for having me. Buh-bye.

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