The Seed: I really started learning to cook when I was 15. I was living in China and I became a vegetarian and my mom was like, “I’m not making two meals at night, so you have to cook for yourself.” They didn’t have a lot of vegetarian convenience meals and if they did it was like $11, so I got a cookbook then and started making meals. I made a different meal each night and started to experiment, especially since the recipe would call for something and we didn’t have the equivalent of that in China, so I would have to make it up.
Figuring It Out: At the start, I had a Zynga page and it was pictures of my dog, pictures of college, but then I started posting about my food adventures and what I was eating in Philadelphia and things changed. Food bloggers started finding my site and they would leave comments. I thought that was really nice, so I would leave comments back on their sites, and then we kind of developed this community. So, I started doing food because I was part of this community now.
Shift in Priorities: Blogging definitely became a bigger priority over school around two years into it, and all of a sudden things started to take off. When the blog just started, I had like three readers, and then the blogging community got bigger and it started to grow. Eventually, my blog had 700 daily readers and I thought that was amazing. Then Pinterest took off, and it was early, so there were only few really high quality food photographers on the platform. I was one of those people providing great content and my photos started to get millions of pins. Going from 700 daily readers to over a million pins over night was crazy.
Self-Taught: I knew nothing about photography and nothing about building and maintaining websites when I started. I had to learn everything. I found myself taking college classes that I didn’t even care about, and having to teach myself photography, web design, web maintenance, and development on the side just to keep up. All of these things I was learning on my own. I would ask at school, "can I take one of these classes?" and my counselor was like, “no it doesn’t fit in your major” and I would get really frustrated. Then I asked, “Could I do a different major?” and she responded, “You could, but if you do, all the classes you’ve been taking over the past few years are completely wasted because they won't count towards your new major.”
The Moment: "Why am I wasting my time doing something that I don’t like, when I’m having to teach myself these things on the side?" I thought to myself, “Why am I going to school for something I’m not even interested in, when I already know what I love, and I’m already getting paid to do what I love. Why would I throw that away?”
Now or Never: I probably made $100 the first year, probably $1000 the second year, and then Pinterest took off, then the third year I made enough to where I needed a W-9, and all of a sudden I was like, “This is a nice income here, I wonder if I had more time to devote to this, could I actually make this into a living?” Nobody knew if the blog bubble was going to burst, but I knew that if I put the blog on hold, it wouldn’t still be there when I came back. I had the popularity now, and if I stopped blogging, people would forget about me, and people would overtake it.
Content on Content: I have so many ideas on so many posts that I do not have enough time in the day. I actually don’t sleep very much, which might be a bad thing but I think I run on extra adrenaline. There’s always ideas in my head. People are like how can bloggers keep coming up with more content? Honestly, I can keep going on and on.
A (Not) Typical Day: I get up naturally (without an alarm clock) around 4 or 5am, and I will start writing posts or answering emails. I feel like I’m most productive in the morning. If I have to write emails to people, I do it then. I also like negotiating contracts in the mornings. I do all that for a few hours. Then I'll do a recipe experiment or a photoshop. The best thing about my job is there is no typical day. You never get bored. If you get tired of doing something, or if I get writer’s block or something, then I’ll just move on to another activity.
Inspiration Is Abundant: I get inspiration from everywhere. A grocery store when I’m standing in line, Pinterest sometimes. I just have little pieces of paper from ideas I have all around the house, which is terrible. When I’m eating I get a lot of ideas. I get a lot of ideas from the grocery store. I try not to read other blogs because I don’t want to have the same ideas as everyone else.
Letting Go: I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that when I started the whole process and when I came more popular, there were people for no reason, and I didn’t even know these people, who start leaving negative comments. There are even hater websites out there, there would be discussions about me on other blogs, and I was a very much a “people person/pleaser” and at first, when I started hearing these things and people left me negative comments, it would hurt, and I would sit there and go, "but they don’t even know me.” After a while they would keep leaving me these comments and I started to realize that my life is still going on. It hasn’t really affected me, and it’s ok. I've definitely developed a much thicker skin, and I’m much more laid back about having to have everybody like me.
Better Late Than Never: I’m a late adopter to everything. It’s kind of funny that I have a blog because I was an early adopter to that somehow. Sometimes I don’t want to do things because its different. For instance, regarding Instagram, I was dragging my toes and thinking, “oh I’m not going to do an Instagram, it’s stupid" [Ed. Note: Katie now has 221k followers on Instagram]. Even Facebook. I didn’t get Facebook until like two years after everybody else.
Do or Do Not, There Is No Try: You don’t want to look back years later with regrets and say, “what would have happened if I followed my dreams?” Not doing something is also a risk. People forget that. If you have the chance to do something you love and you are afraid of it and you think, “oh it’s too scary, I don’t want to do that,” you risk looking back with regret. And that’s at least something, like, if you take the risk, “I don’t regret not trying.”
Finding Inspiration: It definitely comes in waves, there are definitely days, or even weeks sometimes where I have no motivation where I have no ideas for new recipes. I'll sit there and be like, "I want to cook something and I can’t think of anything, but then I'll just go do something else." I have such a stockpile of recipe ideas I’ve written down so that on days where I have no inspiration I'll just pull from one of those. There are definitely weeks where I have no inspiration for new recipe ideas, and then there are weeks where I have 50 at once.
Always Experimenting: I have always been creative, and cooking is my time to experiment. There are no rules, I can do whatever I want. I’m always thinking of tastes and what would go well together. If I’m eating something, running through my mind is a list of everything that I can pair that with. My mind does not turn off.