Joel is co-founder (along with his partner, Dana) of WellPreserved.ca. He has been writing at WellPreserved for 8 years. Through WellPreserved Joel has spoken at many events (including TEDxToronto), thrown more than 40 pop-up events (and a full festival focused on preserving food) and is writing his first cookbook with Appetite (an imprint of Randomhouse) which will be released in May, 2016. When WellPreserved started Joel published an article every day for 1,500 consecutive days…
Please tell us something about yourself. Is blogging your profession or just a hobby?
I have a full-time job but this isn’t a hobby, although it started as one. We didn’t plan on it being a business and are just starting to turn the corner on the mission to make it one. We blogged because we loved it not because we thought it would launch a business. In many ways this makes transforming it into a business more difficult (we’re figuring out a lot of things very late in the process) but it also means that we were able to test our motivation and know that we want this wo work.
When did you get an idea to launch your own blog and how important is it for you be online?
The blog launched while I was sleeping. Our family had left our house after a busy Christmas season where I had cooked (joyously) for the best part of 3 days. I was sleeping in when Dana decided to spontaneously start the blog. While we love projects and are spontaneous in general we rarely jump into a project with little thought. When I woke up she announced that we had a blog and it just grew from there..
The blog is important but it’s not everything. I think of it as a hub that connects different communities online and offline. It’s an archive that I go back to to cook from and a place for people to learn new recipes and preserving techniques but it’s also the part our online presence that we often think that we have to work on improving and don’t carve the time for.
Did you have someone help you make the website or did you do it by yourself?
We made it ourself with a wordpress theme and customized it. Blogging will teach and challenge you to learn many things; being technically curious is an asset.
The right domain name is important. How long did it take you to come up with the domain name for your blog?
Again the name was chosen on impulse as I slept. Keep in mind that this was 2007 and there was a lot less competition for names and it was easy to secure a name. We would later find out that there were two cookbooks with the name “WellPreserved” in them and that still sometimes causes confusion but it was too late by the point we discovered that. It hasn’t been a large issue and I would recommend picking something unique, memorable but not to overthink it.
What kind of Theme do you use on your blog and what are the “must have” plugins for a blog?
We use a theme called NEWS. I think there are two ‘musts’ for themes: that they are responsive (for mobile, tablets and other screens) and that they offer a good selection of widget placement. It’s nice to be able to place things in the header or footer of a site but having controls such as ‘after post’ is a great feature that lets you draw attention to the things you want people to notice. Unfortunately too few themes make it easy to know what the options for widget placement is before purchasing them.
As far as plugins, askimet reduces spam to almost none. This is a big feature for me. I play with different ones but always cautiously – some can slow your site to a crawl (plugins like W3 Total Cache can help with that.
What CMS (Content Management System) do you use on your blog? How hard is it to navigate within your CMS (making a new post, inserting images, moderating comments, etc.)?
How much time do you spend blogging?
It goes through peaks and valleys. For the first 4+ years I wrote daily. Writing our cookbook has taken a toll on time and I’m just starting to repost after taking a few months hiatus. A ‘normal’ week of blogging would be about 2 hours of writing but there’s another 20+ hours of social media, cooking, research, events, and more that have just become part of our lifestyle that are just as important.
How do you promote your blog? Do you use social media channels to attract more visitors to your blog?
We’re very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our newsletter has been on hiatus but is coming back soon and is something I wish I had started sooner; it’s a great marketing tool.
Is there a way to monetize (make money) through a blog?
I’m sure there are but the definition of ‘through the blog’ skies that answer. Old ways such as advertising and sponsored posts can provide some income but significant traffic is needed to produce notable income. Affiliate programs are another way of potentially monetizing.
Indirect income such as selling your own products, courses, events or electronic material (such as eBooks or subscription video) provide the most promising ways for blogs with moderate traffic to produce significant income, in my opinion.
Would you encourage other people to make their own blogs?
Make sure you love it. If you don’t it won’t be worth it.
Make sure your goals are realistic. There are people who make a living from blogging – they are a small minority. You can be part of that minority but it takes work, patience and even a bit of luck. There are many people convinced they are going to get rich quick – while that may happen to you the odds are less likely that it will. Share with others, find people you can learn with and reach out to those who are on a path you want to follow.
Please give us some advice for new bloggers and for people who are still not sure if they need a blog of their own?
Being uncertain is natural – either jump in RIGHT NOW or decide to walk away for a while and revisit it later. Write for a few weeks or a few months before telling people about it – if you decide that it’s not for you, you can walk away. If you decide it is for you you can launch with an archive of content for people to start discovering you with!
Photos ©: Well Preserved