"Mommy Blogger" monetizes recipes with printable Meal Plans
By Warren Volkmann, Editor
HP Developers Portal
Stephanie O’Dea is the “Mommy Blogger Next Door” – a successful, stay-at-home food blogger in San Francisco who used printables to turn her popular recipes and meal plans into money.
When Stephanie launched her blogging career in 2008, she made the shrewd decision to get into the recipe niche. On New Year’s Eve she resolved to use her slow cooker every single day for a year and write about it online as The Crock Pot Lady.
Seven years and four books later, she is thrilled with her success. Her first cookbook, Make it Fast, Cook It Slow, spent six weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list. She appeared on the Rachael Ray Show and Good Morning America – three times! (George Stephanopoulos called her a “slow cooking expert,” so it must be true.) She was featured in an infomercial for the Ninja Cooking System. In 2012, her website, “A Year of Slow Cooking,” was named the No. 3 most influential food blog in the United States.
Online Stephanie has:
- 4 million impressions a month on her websites
- 40,000 email subscribers and RSS feeds
- 47,000 Facebook fans
- 7,300+ Twitter followers
- 47,000 Pinterest followers
Fame and fortune?
So Stephanie has all the fame she ever hoped for. But how about the fortune that is supposed to come with it? Does all that notice and notoriety pay the big-city bills in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the nation?
“I have been able to more than replace my work income, but it requires constant effort. Making money from blogs and books is still a lot of work, and it doesn’t pay as well as it used to.”
The big online food advertisers, like Coke and Nestle, have cut online ad rates in half since she started blogging.
Making bank on books?
What about all those bestselling books? Is she making beaucoup bucks from book sales?
“Making money from books is like riding a rollercoaster. When a new book comes out, thousands of copies sell every week, and my bank account is happy. But after a few months, my income starts to drop off and eventually becomes a trickle. To make a living on books, I have to always be working on the next cookbook. Advances from my publisher help to pay the bills between book releases.”
Profit in printables
Over the years, Stephanie has learned that the real challenge to running successful blogs and websites is turning precious time and energy into cold hard cash. She is always looking for ways to diversify her income streams.
When HP offered to help her create printable meal plans that she could sell on her website, Stephanie was intrigued. She wouldn’t have to create any new recipes – the menu plans would use her existing content. However, she wondered whether her fans would pay for printed meal plans when they could get the recipes for free on the site. There was only one way to find out, so she worked with HP graphic designers to create a set of 14 “Weekly Meal Plans.” She gave each a list of ingredients on the back.
She organized each meal plan around a theme, including:
- 5 Ingredients or Less
- Light and Healthy
- Take Out Fake Out
She priced each meal plan to sell for $2.50, with all 14 sold as a discount bundle – $25 for all 14 (a savings of $10).
PayPal would handle the e-commerce. When a meal plan was ordered, the buyer would receive an email receipt with a link to download the meal plan. The buyer would print the meal plan on their own printer with their own ink and paper. Stephanie would have no printing costs, no handling headaches, and no shipping charges. It sounded like the perfect business, but would visitors to her sites buy recipes that were already available for free on the website?
“My audience is very tight with their money,” she worried.
Stephanie automated the e-commerce and order fulfillment herself, using services that she already had: a PayPal Business Account and Easy Digital Downloads (a plug-in for blogs built with WordPress). There was no coding, no special set-up by HP, and the menu plans are standard PDF files, printable on any brand of printer.
Here is how Stephanie set up to fill orders and collect payments without having to doing a thing – nothing to print, no stamps to lick, no trips to the bank to deposit checks that might bounce.
- Upload PDFs to Easy Digital Downloads
Stephanie uploaded the 14 Weekly Meal Plan PDFs to her Easy Digital Downloads account, which handles the all-electronic order fulfillment. (No printing. No manila envelopes. No paper cuts. No stamps.)
- Create a landing page
Stephanie’s website designer created a landing page on her site, tucking the Meal Plans under the “Slow Cooking” tab in the top menu. Visitors to the page click Purchase buttons to add meal plans to their virtual shopping cart. When they click Checkout, a second page opens that collects the buyer’s name and email address. Clicking Purchase again on that second page launches PayPal.
The buyer does not need to have a PayPal account. PayPal takes money from the buyer’s credit card or PayPal account. (No bounced checks.) PayPal emails a Purchase Receipt that has links to each meal plan. (To discourage pot roast piracy, the links are good for only 24 hours.) Clicking a link in the receipt downloads the meal plan from Easy Digital Downloads.
- Print or view on tablet or cell phone
The buyer then owns a copy of the meal plan PDF, which they can print as many times as they want. They can also view it on their tablet or cell phone when shopping for ingredients.
But would they buy?
When everything was ready, Stephanie announced the Meal Plans in her newsletter, sent out links on some tweets, then sat back to see what would happen. Would her fans pay for printable recipes that they could find in her best-selling cookbooks or get free on her website?
“I made $1,000 in the first month!” she said, amazed. “We launched the meal plans in September for back-to-school. In the last four months of the year, I made $4,500. So far this year I have made $2,000. That’s not gobs of money, but I didn’t do any advertising, besides announcing the new products on my social media channels. Most people found them by clicking around on the website.”
Menu bundle rocks
The real surprise was that the bundle of all 14 meal plans for $24.95 outsold the individual meal plans 6-to-1. Best of all, when a bundle sells, she keeps almost all of the money. There is no cut for the publisher, the book seller, or the shipper. (She is the publisher and the seller, and there is nothing to ship.)
Needless to say, Stephanie will be advocating for printables in her new ebook series: The Mommy Blogger Next Door (inspired by the bestselling “Millionaire Next Door” – which she aspires to be).
“Bloggers have this mindset that they can’t charge for things that are already free online. But printables are a pretty package that makes it easier for the buyer. Fans of my recipes can purchase the printables quickly and easily and have the PDF file on their phone when they shop for ingredients.”
Printables – a new source of income
Printables gave Stephanie what almost every blogger needs, a new way to package and sell existing content. The printable meal plans took recipes that she already had and turn them into a new stream of modest but steady income.
“Of all the different ways I have monetized my blog, printables were the easiest and the most no-brainer. You don’t have to worry about the whims of ad agencies, and you aren’t in competition with someone else. If you have an audience and have built up trust, they are ready to buy.”
For the Mommy Blogger Next Door, printables are a fresh, new ingredient in her recipe for success.
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