We’ve written here before–many times, in fact–about the importance of marketing your business via social media. Clearly, more of you are doing this. So, how’s it going?

As social media platform user numbers grow, it admittedly can get harder to get eyes on your page. Let’s talk specifically about Facebook. As of March 2017, they had 1.28 billion active daily users on average. These numbers along make it feel like everyone’s playing in someone else’s sandbox. On top of that, it seems we’re always griping about how Facebook is constantly changing their news feed algorithms in ways that make our likes and views drop. Now we can add to that the scales weighing more toward advertising as opposed to organic views.

You couldn’t be faulted for wanting to throw up your hands and giving up. Don’t. Instead be smarter and be more strategic.

Here’s what you need to know to form that strategy. Let’s start with content, since the media you can include has expanded. According to Sprout Social, these are the options:

  • Status: The simplest form of communication can sometimes be the most powerful. With new features like larger text for shorter messages and the option to put your text on a colored background, you can get your essential message out in a more vibrant and eye-catching way.
  • Images: Posts with images drive 2.3 times more engagement, so being visual helps. But don’t rely on images to do all the work–put effort into high-quality photos and awe your audience. If your product is considered “boring,” use beautiful images to highlight your brand’s creative side. Inspire users with virtual reality features or 360-degree content.
  • Videos: Video is in high demand and 43% of users would like to see even more from marketers. However, only 15% of Facebook videosare watched with sound. Video should be accessible, easy to digest and always have captions. Create videos that catch a user’s attention and provides something worthwhile.
  • Links: Links are perfect for sharing industry news and your own blog content. Find your most engaged content and continue to share it on Facebook. It’s not easy doing so organically, but it shouldn’t stop you from posting your best content.
  • Facebook Live: Live content drives three times more engagementon Facebook. With in-the-moment content growing in popularity, see how your brand can give sneak peeks into industry or office events, product launches and other behind the scenes content. Go Live, wow your audience and engage.
  • Facebook Stories: New to 2017, Facebook Stories are in-the-moment content clips. This was based off Instagram Stories, which ultimately were from Snapchat Stories–seeing a trend here? Brands have tested their efforts on Snapchat for a few years now. But with the newest release, you can attempt this style of content with one of your biggest networks.

You’re chefs, so the best way for you to share on Facebook is through visuals of your food. That means really good images. Dark, drab, out-of-focus photos are going to turn potential clients off. If they don’t look mouth watering, don’t post them. Period. So, get better at photography, even if it’s phone photography. And don’t be afraid to take short videos and post them. Or, post live video. You can do this. It’s fun!

So, let’s get into some strategic tips:

  1. Put together a basic approach with goals and how to meet them. What are you trying to accomplish on Facebook? Getting more business? Raising your professional profile? Networking? Any and all are valid–just have those goals in mind as you post.
  2. Understand your demographics. Click on “Insights” on your Facebook business page and study the numbers. That includes page view, likes, reach, and post engagements. Click on People to learn about how the numbers break down. You’ll learn what’s popular and what’s been a dud, if you’re growing your audience, and where they come from.
  3. Bring in more views through tagging. Did you just put on a great catering event? Did you take fab photos of the food and the space? Post them and tag your client if he or she’s on Facebook. Their friends will likely get that post in their news feed. That may get you some extra attention–and possibly inquiries about your services.
  4. Post just enough–and at the right time. You don’t want to spam people with your self-promoting photos but you don’t want to be forgotten. Look at those Insights on your page to learn when your posts get the most attention and schedule posts for that time and day.
  5. Experiment with content and form. Instead of posting a bunch of photos together in a static collage, try using the slideshow tool. Those same photos have movement and attract more eyes.
  6. Consider ads if your goal is to drive business. Start small and see how it goes with results. But remember, ads only spread content–so you have to be sure you are creating great content.

Finally, as we always say, social media is not so much about promoting as it is about engagement. Share your friends’ and clients’ great news and achievements. Post comments. Invite comments. Ask questions. Join groups, including our own APPCA group for members, to network and increase your visibility. And, if you’re on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, cross post. Instagram, for instance (owned by Facebook), has tools that facilitate posting simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter.

How’s your Facebook experience going? Any tips or tricks you can share with your colleagues here?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

AIClass2016-2

Our Candy Wallace has been on a commencement speech roll. Earlier this spring she delivered a virtual graduation address to the students of the Escoffier Online International Academy. Then on June 17 she was the keynote speaker at the Art Institute of California in San Diego’s commencement.

It’s no surprise that the founder and executive director of APPCA would be asked to give graduating students–and not specifically the culinary students–just entering their new chosen profession words of wisdom and advice. After all, Candy has been a leader in the culinary industry for decades. She’s seen it all and done it all–and created a career path that has drawn hundreds upon hundreds of people looking for a way to better control and direct their lives and find success and happiness.

So, what did she tell these graduates, whose degrees ranged from fashion, web design, photography, and advertising to media arts and animation and culinary arts?

She told them that the first thing they needed to do was make a plan. “Not having a plan is like throwing yourself off a cliff and trying to knit a parachute on the way down,” she said. “That’s not so good. You need a roadmap to avoid the pitfalls of cliff jumping.”

You start, Candy said, by defining where you want to go–in 10 years or next year. This plan is where you create a place for your dream to live.

Then, she noted, you have to figure out how to get there. “Know that you don’t know it all yet.” And she advised them to search out resources for learning more. And throughout, to stay humble and stay determined.

Find a mentor, she advised, someone who can help you, push you, encourage you, and be honest with you while you’re learning and growing.

Here some other sage nuggets of advice she gave these graduates:

  • Commit to learning something new every day.
  • Know that you can’t learn everything on the clock so you need to do it on your own time as well.
  • Make mistakes. It can be frustrating and embarrassing but admit to them and learn from them. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
  • Be patient with yourself and stay realistic.
  • Keep your eyes open for opportunities and see challenges as opportunities in disguise.
  • Be kind to the people you encounter along the way and give credit to those who help you.
  • Learn about the world, especially through travel. Be adventurous and curious–and share your own culture.
  • Participate in your community.
  • Nurture the friendships you make over the years. Keep loved ones close to you.
  • Honor your parents. They started you on this journey and have been your biggest cheerleaders.

And, finally, she told the graduates, “Stop along the way to enjoy your life. Press the party button!”

You can listen to the full eight-minute speech here:

What were the best words of advice you received when you launched your career? What do you wish someone had told you?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

 

Carol Borchardt is one of APPCA’s greatest success stories. She’s an in-demand personal chef, who dug deep and expanded her talents to include writing and food photography. In fact, she’s helped us with gorgeous photos for our Facebook page and upcoming new and improved website. Carol understands the value of smart marketing through photography and social media. And she’s melded both to launch the delightful food blog, From a Chef’s Kitchen. I asked her to tell the story of how she got into blogging and how she’s turned it a strategic way to promote her business and even add new revenues.

Carol Borchardt

We eat with our eyes first and everyone loves to look at beautiful images of mouthwatering food. I have always been fascinated with food photography and all that goes into producing those beautiful images. However, it wasn’t too long ago, whenever I attempted to photograph something, the result was nothing short of awful.

As part of reaching out and getting to know people in my local food community to promote my personal chef business, I got to know one of the food columnists at our local daily newspaper. She asked me to help with a project, loved the recipes I submitted for it and subsequently asked me to do a biweekly food column containing a recipe and write-up for the newspaper. I had never done food writing before but thought it was pretty cool to be a personal chef and newspaper columnist. I would get paid and the newspaper would allow me to mention my personal chef business at the end of every column so I figured…why not.

As part of the arrangement, the newspaper was going to send a photographer out for each column. However, with my cooking schedule and where I live, scheduling cooking, styling and photographing the dish was nearly impossible. After two complicated sessions, I decided to take the photo myself. The photo was not very good, however it passed and the newspaper was happy to let me take all photos after that.

Suddenly, I was a food photographer too, which was pretty interesting because my knowledge of photography in general was quite limited.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Because of my new sideline gig as a biweekly columnist for the local newspaper, I wanted to learn more about food writing. I came across Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write For Food. Her book is a great resource for anyone interested in writing a cookbook, doing freelance food writing and, of course, food blogging, which is how I became intrigued with it. It intrigued me because I love to create new recipes and being able to share them with the world seemed so rewarding. However, my personal chef business kept me extremely busy so I wasn’t able to delve into the process.

Then, two years ago, I was sidelined from my personal chef business due to an injury. I tripped and fell in a client’s kitchen, fracturing my right kneecap. I couldn’t work or drive for six weeks. It was during this time I realized that someday my personal chef career could end for any number of reasons. Having already experienced severe office job burnout prior to becoming a personal chef, I knew there was no way I could ever go back to work in an office. I felt I needed to have something to fall back on that I was passionate about.

Oven Roasted Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Butter

Oven Roasted Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Butter

That’s when my “real” food blog was born. I say “real,” because I had a small blog section on my business website, but it got very little traffic. I knew absolutely nothing about how to promote it; I didn’t even have a Facebook account until a few months before my accident. My food photography had progressed to a point where FoodGawker.com and Tastespotting.com were accepting some of my photographs so I received traffic there. Because their editors carefully curate those sites, having photos accepted was very encouraging to me.

Warm Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad (8)

This salad took me four afternoons / four attempts to photograph it in a way I was happy with it. FoodGawker put in on their Instagram feed last Monday (117,000 followers!) and I nearly cried.

So, with tons of time on my hands during my recovery period, I decided if I were ever going to delve into food blogging, it was the time to do it.

Because a food blog is nothing without great photography, I first immersed myself into learning everything I possibly could to improve my photography through reading books, watching online video workshops and by studying great food photography.

I then researched how to start a food blog and looked at hundreds of food blogs.

I knew nothing about social media but knew I had to learn it in a hurry because it’s one of the main ways to promote a food blog. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, StumbleUpon, and Google+ were all mysteries to me so I had to start figuring them out.

 I knew nothing about WordPress (a popular blogging platform), website design or search engine optimization (SEO). For my personal chef business website, I had always let pros at APPCA do it. This, however, I was determined to learn from the ground up, and it wasn’t long before I learned what the “white screen of death” was.

Grilled Citrus Chili Shrimp with Mango Pineapple Salsa

I also knew nothing about how to make money with a food blog—I just knew people did it because they published their income and traffic reports.

But, as with all journeys, they begin with the first step. My original food blog concept, which was based around my love for cookbooks, seemed to confuse everyone. Most people thought all I did was rework cookbook recipes. (Branding experts advise having a clear, definable focus.) The concept worked for Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame, but it wasn’t going so well for me. Three graphic designers couldn’t come up with the right logo for me so I worked until midnight many nights trying to design one myself on professional software I knew nothing about.

After hitting numerous roadblocks, I decided to rebrand last summer and change my name to what it is now—From A Chef’s Kitchen. I knew I was doing the right thing when one of the first people I told about the change said, “Now THAT tells me who you are!” I tried a graphic designer one more time and my logo came together quickly and painlessly.

Fast forward to today and I’m having a ball. I absolutely love the process of recipe development, styling the dish and nailing a mouthwatering shot. I love being able to share my recipes and passion for food with the world. It’s very gratifying receiving comments from readers who made a recipe and it’s become their new family favorite.

Through social media and particularly Pinterest, my traffic is growing nicely. Many of my posts are written from my viewpoint as a personal chef. I’m also using my food blog to help promote APPCA and personal chefs in general with my monthly “Menus” posting.

I don’t plan on giving up my personal chef business any time soon, but ways I’m turning my blog into a secondary business is through:

  • Ad revenue
  • Affiliate marketing (commissions are earned by helping to sell other people’s products)
  • Recipe development / sponsored posts for companies. So far, I’ve worked with Calphalon, Weight Watchers and Australis Barrmundi for compensation. However, companies such as Oxo and NordicWare send products for review and I’ve also been able to add some free cookbooks to my collection.

Many food bloggers develop a product to sell such as a self-published cookbook, other food-related book or meal plans. I would like to do that someday. I hope to start doing freelance food photography work and am looking into becoming a certified food stylist.

Cuban Chicken Black Bean and Quinoa Bowls

Cuban Chicken Black Bean and Quinoa Bowls

I’m still a little shy about putting myself out there with my recipes and photography but I’m growing more and more confident about it each day.

If you enjoy photography, writing and recipe development, I highly encourage you to look into food blogging. As a mentor of mine in the food blogosphere said, “Start, and then learn.” That’s what I did!

Have you been wanting to start a blog? What’s been holding you back? If you have one, please add your link in the comment section below and describe what you’re doing.

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Among the many marketing tools you have available to incorporate into your personal chef marketing strategy is video–specifically YouTube. Food videos are huge. According to a 2014 story in BloombergBusiness, subscriptions to the 300 most-viewed food channels on YouTube more than tripled in 2013 over the previous year and views of videos on those channels jumped 59 percent, according to an analysis by Google.

And, let’s face it, the appetite, as it were for food videos, has only continued to grow. And it’s not just YouTube. If you’re on Facebook you can’t help but be blasted with food videos on your feed. As The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2015, “Indeed, if there’s a killer content category in these still early days of Facebook’s video platform, it’s food videos, say publishers and content creators.”

For APPCA member chef Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas, it took a conversation with another local personal chef who had been a graphic designer and is a wealth of information about “technie stuff” to inspire her. “Try as I might, it is so hard to keep up with all the stuff and understand it and how to use it,” Blankenship said. “But because of her suggestions, I got myself motivated to try and do some of what we discussed. She has only been in business two years so I know this is the type of thing that is helping her business. Things like creating an Instagram account (in the name of my business) and using it; updating my Facebook page as often as possible; doing a blog on my website; updating my keywords on my website; creating a Twitter account and using it; getting reviews on Yelp; doing a video, uploading it to YouTube (creating the YouTube account in the name of my PC business), and then imbedding that link in my website, etc.”

Blankenship has been doing cooking demos at the Dallas flagship Williams-Sonoma and got a friend of hers to video of one of the demos, which is now posted on YouTube.

Now she’s working on how to do with at home that looks professional. She paid 99 cents for an app called CP Pro to help edit videos. Her goal is to create seasonal pieces on YouTube to link to her website.

There are a few ways you can go with video. One is to be in it yourself, chatting to your audience as you demonstrate how to make a dish. Here’s a great example of this from APPCA member Nicole Gaffney, who has created a fab YouTube channel called Coley Cooks:

Gaffney is engaging and enthusiastic about her subject. This video, less than a minute, is part of her quick tips series. She does others at around two minutes to demonstrate recipes.

“I guess the best piece of advice would be to just go for it!” she said. “Just make videos and put them up there and see what happens – that’s pretty much been my strategy. That, and don’t make them too long. No one has the attention span to sit through a 10-minute cooking video. And try to make them as entertaining as possible, because again, people have short attention spans.”

How long? “I think a minute or two is best,” Gaffney said.

Then there’s the question of a script and basic logistics.

“I usually just wing it but sometimes I write it out before recording,” Gaffney explained. “I record everything myself with a tripod, but it’s rather challenging, so if you can have someone else do it, I recommend going that route.”

Another technique is something that’s become pretty huge on Facebook–those videos of recipes that seem to create themselves, using display and titles to explain how the recipes come together. Tastemade, a video network, has perfected this style.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Tastemade edits videos specifically with Facebook’s unique qualities in mind. “For example,” it noted, “since Facebook videos autoplay without sound, Tastemade uses graphics to identify and walk people through recipes. They also shoot food at specific angles, taking into consideration how clips will look on mobile devices, where the majority of Facebook users peruse their news feeds. And they try and grab people’s attention early, knowing that Facebook videos play automatically.”

White on Rice Couple has also got this down beautifully–which makes sense since they’ve been known for years in the food industry for their sumptuous food photography.

So, what do you need in terms of equipment and tools? According to Entrepreneur, you need to have good lighting, a good camera, and good sound. They suggest spending some money on a Lavalier microphone, for instance. Then run the recording through a good noise-removal filter. A softbox lighting kit–or even some desk lamps–placed strategically will create depth and visual interest. Your camera can be whatever  you have on your smart phone, tablet, or laptop, or, if you’re really serious, a digital single-lens reflex camera, like a Nikon or Canon.

I would add one more thing for those videos in which you’re not in the frames or narrating–good background music that enhances but doesn’t distract from the atmosphere you’re trying to create.

Entrepreneur also suggests editing with jump cuts, which is a technique that pulls together dozens or more little clips. This is a perfect style for food videos focused on recipes, since there are natural breaks between steps.

Speaking of which, you may need some video software to help you through the editing process. Instagram, Vine, and Twitter have apps that let you edit and upload footage. And you can, of course, upload video to Facebook. But if you want to do something more sophisticated, Social Media Examiner suggests tools like Adobe After Effects, an industry-leading tool that helps you create motion graphics that costs around $30 per month or free tools like PowToonand Camtasia to create video footage. You should also check out this article on Filmora for their top 10 on video editors.

Are you creating YouTube videos to promote your business? If so, please share the links to your videos and tell us how you’ve been creating them.

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

We regularly feature member chefs in this blog and when we do, we like to have photos of both them and their magnificent food. But you’d be surprised at how many people don’t have what we consider to be one of the most essential marketing tools for a food business. It made us think that it was time to remind our members that to grow their business there are certain basics they need to invest in–whether it requires time, money, or both. They won’t guarantee that you get new clients, but not having them certainly puts you at a disadvantage.

We asked members via Facebook what their most essential marketing tools were and we got three answers: car magnet, word of mouth, and a great website. We can’t speak to the effectiveness of a car magnet but certainly a good website is a must. As for word of mouth, well, there’s nothing better. But word of mouth is a result of good marketing and great delivery; it’s not something you can generate on your own.

So, here are the five marketing tools we think are essential for personal chefs to employ–and these are just the minimum.

A good photo of yourself and a variety of beautiful photos of your food. If a reporter or blogger gets in touch and wants to do a piece on you, unless they can send over their own photographer you have to have photos available that they can publish. If you’re teaching a cooking class or doing a demo at a store, they’ll want photos for promoting the event. The food photos have to be sharp, well lit, and well composed.

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

 

Chef Carol Borchardt's Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

Chef Carol Borchardt’s Cornish Game Hen with Clementine Glaze

You must have a photo or two of yourself that is also sharp and well lit and shows you off as a professional and who you are. And the photos must be large enough/have high enough resolution so they don’t look fuzzy when enlarged. Need a primer on shooting good photos? We have you covered in this guest post by APPCA member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food.

eprewitt

 

IMG_0891

Shelbie Wassel

Business cards. Attractive, professional-looking business cards must be on you at all times when you’re out and about. Keep them in your wallet, keep them in the pocket of your chef jacket, keep a bunch in your car. Just keep them with you. They must include your name, your business’ name, contact information (including your website URL and Facebook page URL), what you do, and the region you serve. Don’t be shy about using both sides of the card.

A Facebook page. Let us rephrase this, an active Facebook page. We’re all about social media, but we recognize that time can be an issue. If you can, use Twitter, use Instagram, use LinkedIn. But above all, use Facebook and post regularly (at least a couple of times a week) because it’s both a more intimate and expansive way to let potential clients see what you’re doing and learn more about you. It’s an opportunity to reach out to others and show off your talents, brag about your work, and learn how you can help others. Join a group and network. And what do you need for a good Facebook page? See above. Good photos.

Brown Bag

Your chef’s coat. We’ve written about this before. Your chef’s coat tells the world who you are. Wear it into a market and people will ask what you do. Wear it on public transportation and it’ll generate conversation. In short, it’s a no brainer to wear it in public when appropriate–and, of course, keep the pocket filled with business cards to hand out to fellow customers or the butcher or fish monger or farmer.

Angela Rose

Natalie Lewis

A good website. Yes, we finally got there. But what does “good” mean? According to APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, it’s “Ease of use, key word driven on search engines, no ads, not mucking it up…all info transparent and straightforward….pricing, etc right on there…this may be an East Coast thing, but people don’t want the back and forth…we tend to move quickly and if info is vague, we move on to the next….”

For Carol Borchardt, it means thinking about who the customer is going to be.

“The customer/client of a personal chef is most likely going to be affluent, sophisticated, well-traveled and educated. I cringe every time I see typos on a PC website in addition to incorrect capitalization/lower case usage,” she says. “A website in late 2015-2016 needs to look clean, modern and flow well. Even the colors and fonts have to say 2016! Many of our clients probably have their own business websites, so they know what works, what doesn’t work and what looks good. Music is nice when you’re serving a dinner for two, however, music on a website can be a dead giveaway and startling if someone is doing a little web surfing to find a personal chef while at work. Websites also need to be “mobile-friendly,” as the vast majority of people no longer sit down at a computer to search for something–they do it on their phone or tablet. Google now penalizes sites that are not mobile-friendly. My site is not “mobile-friendly” at this point and I’m not worried about it because I stay busy. If a new PC can not afford to have a website professionally built, there are simple platforms such as WordPress or SquareSpace to put together a nice-looking website.”

A Thought for Food

We actually have even more basic requirements–because, surprisingly, they are often missing. They include your name, where you are located geographically, what services you provide, a simple way to contact you, and the mention that you are an APPCA member and inclusion of the logo (to give you credibility). You are asking people to invite you into their home. They must know who you are and have confidence that you are legit.

These five marketing tools are the building blocks for getting attention and getting hired. Do a great job and at that point, you gain good word of mouth from clients. And get featured in media. And asked to do cooking classes or demos. And all the other things that make up your own aspirations. It’s all about being the quintessential professional who takes pride in his/her skills and accomplishments.

What are your essential marketing tools? How are you promoting yourself and your business?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

As we all know, there’s no way to prepare 100 percent for surprises in our businesses or personal lives, but giving some thought to “what if” certainly doesn’t hurt. Things happen. It could be an injury to you or serious family illness. You just never know what may suddenly pull you away from your work.

Chef Carol Borchardt, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

Chef Carol Borchardt

For Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, it was getting her foot hooked in the strap of one of her grocery bags that sent her flying to the floor and fracturing her right knee. At the home of a woman who was the recipient of a gift certificate. While Carol didn’t need surgery, she had to stay off her feet for six weeks, using either crutches or a “saddle stool” her hairstylist loaned her. She clearly couldn’t even drive.

How did she handle her client load? “I notified my clients by telephone,” she says. “I didn’t feel e-mail or texting was appropriate. I generally have about 15 to 16 clients and called one or two per day, depending upon when I was scheduled to cook for them. They were all GREAT. Fortunately, this happened at the end of May 2014 so many were taking vacations anyway. The doctor told me I’d be out for six weeks, so most only missed one cook date as most of my clients are monthly.”

To keep on schedule, Carol went back to work while still in a brace, with the help of a friend, but got back to her routine pretty quickly after that. And while on enforced rest, she stayed productive, studying food photography and launching her blog, A Cookbook Obsession.

Jim Huff with APPCA executive director Candy Wallace

Jim Huff with APPCA executive director Candy Wallace

Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist has had these health surprises happen twice in his career. The first was after emergency surgery in Arizona at the end of a vacation. His wife called all his clients to explain the situation, which turned from one week off to three weeks away. He was able to return in the fourth week with the help of an assistant. “All my clients were happy to wait for me and ate whatever was stored in their freezers, ate out, and cooked some,” he says.

The second time was also for surgery, but this time, Jim had time to plan.

“I approached each client and asked what they would prefer: Me to cook extra and fill their freezers or arrange for another chef to cover,” he explains. “Coincidentally, two clients were traveling for much of the planned time off and two preferred me to fill the freezer and one just cooked or ate out for the duration.  All were very happy to have me back to good health. That time my wife was working with me as she was between jobs, so my return to work was smooth.”

Jim has filled in for other chefs on occasion. In these situations, the chefs communicated with their clients regarding menus, payments, and other issues. “This worked well, since the chefs I worked for kept control and I accepted a reduced rate from them as I wasn’t doing the menu planning, etc., and I was helping them in a time of need.”

ChefKathy Kathy Dederich

Kathy Dederich of Chef, Please is dealing with this issue now. In early July, her husband Dan suffered a  traumatic brain injury at work. After being airlifted to a nearby hospital for surgery, he is now recovering in a rehab facility four hours from their home. She expects to be there at least another couple of weeks and then Dan will move to a more intensive rehab facility where family members are not allowed to reside–meaning Kathy will return home to work.

“As luck would have it, I received more calls/emails from new/prospective clients than what I had gotten in the last six months,” she says. “Fortunately, two families have indicated they will wait until I am ready to come back to work. They have both expressed their concern for both Dan and me and send their best…mind you, I have yet to meet them.

“My regular clients have been extremely supportive as well,” Kathy adds. “They call on a regular basis to see how we both are. We sort of have an understanding that as soon as I can, I will be back to cook for them. My plan is to ask for a list of their favorites that they’d like me to make my first week back.”

For those potential new clients who had immediate needs for various functions, Kathy referred them to a friend of hers who is a full-time chef at a senior facility. She says there aren’t many legitimate personal chefs in her region so she didn’t have many referral options.

For Kathy, not working has been the right decision for her. But she encourages others to review both their finances and legal documents. “We had these completed when we were still in Illinois, but wanted to make sure we were compliant with the state of Arkansas,” Kathy says. “We finally did this in early spring. It has been a God-send because everything is in place.”

eprewitt

If you’re lucky enough to plan for enforced time off because you’re pregnant, you can consult with clients to figure out the best approach. That’s how Elizabeth Prewitt of Silver Plum Personal Chef has been handling her future. With a due date of August 23, she scheduled clients through the 12th with the understanding that the last couple of dates might have to be unexpectedly cancelled if he showed up early (he didn’t and as of now, they’re still waiting).

Beth started telling clients in person about three to four months ago. She hired an assistant toward the end of her work period, but it was clear that the assistant was to help her. She wasn’t a Beth clone.

“So as the due date got closer, and I realized that I was simply going to have to take time off with no replacement/contingency plan for my clients, I let them all know, again, in person,” Beth explains. “My plan is to take two to three months off, and start scheduling again when I’m ready. (I have yet to secure child care, which will probably dictate exactly when I can start working again—my next huge stressor!)  Since I’ve never done this ‘having a kid’ thing before, I didn’t want to make any promises I couldn’t keep, so I haven’t given anyone a firm return date. As most of my clients are families with young kids, and I primarily communicate with the ladies of the households, they have all been very understanding with this. This doesn’t mean I’m not worried about client retention, though. The longer I’m away from them, the more likely they are to find other solutions that work just fine for them.”

So, what are the takeaways from these chefs’ experiences?

“Kathy Dederich said it when she told us, “I encourage others to do a review of their finances as well as legal documents,” says Candy Wallace, the APPCA‘s founder and executive director. “Knowing where you are can save a lot of time and angst in a crisis.

“Jim Huff and Carol Borchardt turned to family and friends for physical assistance in their abbreviated operation of businesses, and ALL of the chefs did the smart thing in contacting their clients immediately and including them in the decision-making process of keeping their businesses viable during their recuperation processes as well as allowing the clients to take part in the planning process of their return to operations,” Candy observes.

“Carol was able to use much of the enforced time off to learn a new craft, food styling and food photography, which has become an enriching part of her culinary business plan,” adds Candy. “And Beth Prewitt is settling into a new home and getting ready to be a new mom. I think you could say they used ‘down time’ to forward the action for their futures.”

But Candy does emphasize the importance of getting to know and befriend colleagues to get learn one another’s specialties and levels of experience so you can refer business back and forth to each other–and back each other up in case of emergencies like the ones above. And she relates a story that hits close to home.

“Many years ago I was out training two new members in San Diego when I arrived at home to find all of my neighbors standing on my front lawn. When I got out of the van I was told that my husband Dennis had had a heart attack and had been taken to a local hospital. I took off immediately for the hospital and did not return home until around 3 a.m. when the cardiologist told me Dennis was going to live and sent me home. I arrived and found all the lights on in the house and the doors open. I thought, great, Denny is in the hospital, and now it looks as if we have been robbed…I walked in and found a group of local personal chefs I had worked with over the years waiting for me. They had cleaned our house, filled the fridge and freezer with heart-healthy meals, and had gone through my file info and contacted all of my clients to let them know I would not be available for the next three months while I helped Den recuperate, and that they would be providing service on their regular schedule.

“There was nothing I could say. I sat down on the couch and burst into tears. That night the APPCA was officially created to support the chefs we trained through the original Personal Chef Institute. The association was created so that all members could experience the genuine support and respect for one another we experienced as a result of Denny’s heart attack. Talk about a silver lining.

“Please make an effort to get to know your local colleagues. Offer to go along with one another on occasion as an unpaid guest chef so you can know one another’s skill level and get to know one another on a personal as well as a professional level. Refer appropriate business leads back and forth to one another. I say it often, and I’ll say it here again, ‘We are all in this together as personal chefs, and it simply makes sense to take care of one another and take care of the personal chef career path so that we all win at the career and life path we have chosen.'”

What plans have you made for your business in case of a health or other emergency?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

Fresh From Your Kitchen’s Leslie Guria has a plan–and that’s to launch a food blog to complement her personal chef business. “I’m going to start with a few topics… recipes, farmers markets, cookware reviews, organization, then ultimately focus on the areas that bring in the most traffic,” she explains.

Like many aspiring bloggers, this APPCA member is interested in developing a passive stream of income and Leslie’s studying food photography and monetizing to make that happen. Unlike many who have these dreams, she has a background in small business marketing, so she’s confident that she can make a go of it.

Food blogs can serve a number of purposes for personal chefs. They can help promote your business. They can promote you as an expert and even a brand. They can allow you to go off into areas of interest that feed your soul even if they aren’t directly related to what you do day to day. And, if you’re very smart, very talented, a workhorse, and lucky, they can create a new revenue stream.

But you’re up against a lot of competition. It’s impossible to know just how many food blogs are out there, but there are millions and the numbers keep growing. The trick is to find your niche. Is it recipes, cocktails, vegetarianism, special diets, produce, regional food, restaurant reviewing, your grandma’s traditional Italian cooking?

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For APPCA member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food her blog is named for her passion, A Cookbook Obsession. Carol has put more research and effort into the care and maintenance of her blog than most. She began with having it attached to her business website, but didn’t see a lot of traffic coming in–mostly, she deduced, because another blogger had already established his blog with the same name as her business using .net instead of .com. He already had sewn up the “athoughtforfood” social media handles, too. (Lesson #1, if you can, purchase as many suffixes for your beloved business name as you can afford.)

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

So, after suffering a knee injury last year that put her out of commission for several months, she spent her time studying food photography. She also realized that her business was taking a physical toll on her and that she might have to give it up someday. At that point Carol decided that, “it would be nice to have something food-related to fall back on or already have in the works if that time ever comes, and A Cookbook Obsession was officially born.”

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Oven-Roasted Artichokes

Carol has collected about 1,200 cookbooks over the years and uses these and new ones coming in as the source of inspiration for blogging. “It’s where I share recipes from my cookbooks that inspire me along with my original recipes. Because of copyright laws, you can not reprint or republish recipes as printed, so I always state ‘inspired by’ or ‘adapted from’ and write the recipe as I made it. My plan is to become more of a ‘cookbook resource’ for readers. I’ve added doing cookbook reviews through Blogging for Books, which is great because I can now get free cookbooks in exchange for the review.”

It’s no coincidence that these talents have helped her writing a biweekly food feature, Dinner for Two, for the local Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. Now in its fourth year, she’s written more than 100 pieces for the paper.

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Chef Natalie Lewis launched Natalie’s Daily Crave on her business website about five years ago. “I started it simply because I want to share all of my food experiences with other people. I want everyone to be as excited as I am about the food I’m tasting and the recipes I create or find! Food is way more fun when it’s enjoyed with others. I would describe Natalie’s Daily Crave as a blog for the home cook with recipes that are approachable and straight forward. It’s geared towards people who enjoy cooking and I like to provide recipes you can keep in your back pocket for those special days when you want to make something just a little different than the norm.”

Red Wine Braised Oxtails

Red Wine Braised Oxtails

For Natalie, blogging takes a lot of time because she does it all herself–both recipe development and taking photos. A friend who is a professional photographer has helped her with tips along the way, but it can sometimes take hundreds of photos to get just that right shot–and that’s after figuring out staging and making the dish look appetizing.

“That fork resting on the side of the table? The perfectly folded napkin tucked under the plate? All of that is carefully thought out to achieve a desired look,” she notes. “I admire food photographers who do it for a living and I’ve learned so much about the effort it takes. Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the actual writing and posting yet. Let’s just say it’s definitely a labor of love!”

Carrot and Avocado Salad

Carrot and Avocado Salad

Some bloggers post daily, some post weekly or twice a week. Natalie tries to post monthly or at least around holidays, knowing that she’s developed enough of a history for people to find recipes when looking for something specific. For her, it’s a way for her to express herself and have a platform. “Making others happy and getting them excited about food is exactly what fuels my passion. I also think it’s a great way for clients and potential clients to see what I’m up to on a personal level.”

Given Carol’s intention of monetization, her approach is much more driven. Like Natalie, she’s immersed in cooking dishes, photographing them, uploading and editing photos and writing the post–she estimates it can take four to six hours. And she does this twice a week.

The killer is the promotion.

“This is one thing that totally took me by surprise,” she says. “The amount of time to promote a food blog is staggering. First, you need to make sure Google can find your post and recipe so a little knowledge about SEO is helpful. I use a WordPress plug-in that keeps me on track for that. I then send out an e-mail to my subscriber list, pin it to Pinterest, Yummly, StumbleUpon, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus, and photo sharing sites such as FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Tasteologie, Dishfolio, Healthy Aperture, Finding Vegan, and, if I’m using some type of hot pepper, Jalapeno Mania. I don’t do Twitter yet because it’s already difficult to keep up with social media.”

She also posts to Pinterest group boards–which, in turn, requires you to pin others’ content to your various boards. And she has her own Facebook pages, as well as participates in several Facebook groups and sharing groups.

Monetizing is also something Carol’s working on.

“I recently began placing ads on my site through a few ad networks. But, there too, you have to have some traffic to speak of and they have to like what they see.  Most bloggers start with Google or Amazon. I won’t be retiring on the income anytime soon, but ads are one of the first steps in monetizing a blog. You can also add ‘affiliate links.’ This is where a person or company has a product to sell and you place a link to purchase that product on your blog. If someone buys the product through your site, you get a commission. I have two affiliate links on my website: MasterCook recipe management software and the Tasty Food Photography book mentioned earlier.”

Down the road? Perhaps writing sponsored posts for brands or selling her own e-book or e-cookbook.

So, what tips do Natalie and Carol have for aspiring food bloggers?

1. Have good photography.

2. Join food blogger Facebook groups to ask questions and get support.

3. Do your research to decided which blogging platform to use, whether Blogger (Google-owned), WordPress, SquareSpace, or something else–including just adding it to your website. Will you do it yourself or hire a website developer? In either case, you need to have an idea of a look you want and how you want to organize your content.

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And, says Natalie, “My number one tip is to just be yourself and don’t worry about anyone else. It’s not easy to put yourself out there in front of the world, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you cook, there is always someone who won’t like what you have to say. Be true to yourself and do your own thing!”

Do you have a food blog? Why did you launch it and how have you promoted it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

Websites are your business’ virtual office, the place where potential and current clients, media, and–let’s face it–your competition stop by to evaluate what you do and how well you do it. Your site is likely the first impression you make, especially if visitors come to you via Personal Chef Search or a search engine. And yet I’m constantly surprised at how little attention many people pay to theirs. You may spend a small fortune on design or almost nothing at all, but some of the most critical mistakes I find have nothing to do with budget. They have to do common sense and basic marketing principles. In other words, you’re not paying attention.

Because we want you to succeed and use all the tools available to you to do this, well, I’m going to be blunt about the top 10 website mistakes you’re making. And, if you’re rolling your eyes because you don’t think this applies to you, check your website to be sure. Congrats if you’ve escaped this cudgel, but in all likelihood you have at least one or two issues you need to resolve–and, most are so simple you’re going to be embarrassed. The good news is that they’re easy fixes. (I’m not going to get into complex navigation issues here, but ask your friends and family to test your site to identify if getting around your site is also an issue.)

1. You don’t identify yourself by name. You’re asking people to invite you into your home but nowhere on your site do you do more than call yourself Chef John or Chef Kim. That just won’t fly. Tell people who you are.

2. You don’t identify the geographic area you serve. Are you based in Seattle? Philadelphia? Dallas? Who is going to get in touch with you if they don’t know where you are? And don’t rely on your phone number’s area code to give it away. You may have moved but kept your old number on your cell phone. Or your region’s phone numbers have been repeatedly divided into new area codes that people aren’t necessarily familiar with.

3. Your “Contact Me” page only contains a form for potential clients to complete, not actual contact information. Don’t make people work to get in touch with you. Be as accessible as possible.

4. You don’t include enough photos of your food. If you are offering sample menus or recipes, you must have photos to accompany them. Food is a visual medium and potential clients want to see what your food looks like.

Vietnamese Beef Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles and Cucumber Relish

Beautifully styled and lit photo of Vietnamese Beef Lettuce Wraps by Carol Borchardt, who has developed a passion for food photography

5. Your photos are lousy. If you’re creating a virtual billboard that represents your talent, show it at its best. Photos that are poorly lit or out of focus are the worst culprits. Photos that are too small are also problematic. Either learn how to take quality photos or hire someone who can style and shoot you and your food to their advantage.

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Compelling photo of Elizabeth Prewitt and her dishes

6. You have included a blog on your website, but haven’t updated it in months, perhaps years. You may have had the best of intentions but are too busy to keep up with writing a blog. If that’s the case, the call is easy. Remove that page from your website. Don’t give the impression that you don’t follow through.

7. You don’t identify yourself as an APPCA member. Potential clients and media are looking for evidence that you provide a legitimate service and that you are trained and expert in what you do. Using the APPCA logo and noting your affiliation in your “About Me” (or the equivalent) page goes a long way in proving that.

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8. You have clickable logos on your website for various social media platforms, but they aren’t actually linked to  social media accounts. If you are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or other social media platforms (and you should be), insert the links to make the most of those logos to get people to where you can interact with them. If you’re not engaged in social media, remove those logos.

Facebook

 

Twitter logo

9. You haven’t updated your website after making changes in your life or your business. I recently wrote about a member and, based on what she wrote on her website, noted where she was based. She sent me a note saying she no longer lived there. I had to change what I wrote to reflect her actual home base. She had to go back to her website and update the old information. I wonder how many people might have contacted her if the information had been current.

10. You don’t brag about your accomplishments. Have you won an award? Been featured in a newspaper article? Been a guest on a local radio show? Asked to cater a major event? Add a “News” page that allows you to tell website visitors what you’ve been up to. And be sure to keep it up to date.

These 10 mistakes don’t just apply to your website. Pull out your business card. What information have you included? Remember, you can use both sides of the card. It should contain your full name, the name of your business, the communities you serve, any specialization you have, and the services you offer. And, of course, it should have your contact information (phone, email), your website URL, and your social media platforms (including your personalized Facebook business page URL).

Your email signature should be just as robust. Include your full name, your business name, your phone numbers, your web URL, your social media account names/URLs. Have a business logo? Include that, too.

The takeaway is that with every point of contact you need to be memorable (in a good way), be easy to find, be irresistible. Your website is a reflection of you and what you can provide. If you create a situation in which people leave your site scratching their heads because they can’t figure out what exactly you do, who you are, or how to reach you–well, why even have a website? You can do better.

What mistakes do you find on websites that you wish people would address?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

 

Aim High for 2015 With a Living Business Plan

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , January 5, 2015

Motivational speak Zig Ziglar is often quoted as saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Operating a business without a business plan as your road map is a form of aiming at nothing–and is a guaranteed scenario for disaster.

The opportunity to redirect, redefine, and refresh your business plan at the start of each new year is an important process that can set you in the direction you choose to pursue with self-set attainable markers to chart your progress. Establishing it when you launched your business isn’t enough. Your business plan is a living document that must be regularly updated to reflect where you are and where you want to go. Making an appointment with yourself to review and bring it up to date is a date with your destiny that clarifies your plans and goals.

And they don’t have to be strictly business goals, although things do tend to circle back to the business. What you include in your plan can help you determine if the business is meeting your needs–all your needs. Is it both sustaining you financially and supporting you spiritually so you can spend the time you want with family, friends, and your community? Are you learning new skills that help your business grow or help you blossom as a person? Are you shedding things that are no longer important to you? Have your priorities changed over the course of a year? Remember, this career path as a personal chef is designed to promote your own expertise and your specific business and lifestyle requirements.

Assuming you’ve addressed the basics–committing to writing your strengths, skills, and time; a realistic initial sales forecast; and your business model/s for generating revenues–you can review other critical business issues over time, such as changing markets and revised sales forecasts. Here’s where you include potential new revenue streams like catering events or teaching classes. It’s where you evaluate your current client base and determine if it’s still viable or needs revisiting. It shows you where you need to spend time marketing and identify the best approaches for doing so.

Yet another issue to revisit in your business plan is how well set you are for dealing with new, unexpected responsibilities. Perhaps you’re going to be a new parent. Perhaps your parents need your help as a caregiver. Perhaps you’re getting married or divorced or are buying a new home. Does your business plan reflect the changes that are inevitably taking place in your life?

Revising and updating your business plan is a great way to dedicate time to thinking about what you want to achieve in the coming year and what you want your life to be truly is filled with. Putting your goals and dreams down in a document gives it a solidity and reference point that just mulling it over in the middle of the night lacks. And be sure to set several goals instead of one singular grand goal. You don’t just want to increase revenues by 10 percent. Perhaps you also want to include learning a new skill like public speaking or writing a blog or improving your food photography. Perhaps it’s something as basic as developing a half dozen new sauces and a killer chicken stock. With several goals, you can celebrate your accomplishments throughout the year. (Because you are going to return to your business plan throughout the year to check on your progress, right?)

Taking the time to update your living business plan enables you to deal with evolving circumstances. And that gives you power. It allows you to deal with change effectively and immediately, without panic or anxiety. It allows you to bite off small chunks of accomplishments while working toward the greater goals of the year. It gives you something to strive for and to measure achievements by. It’s a New Year’s gift you give yourself both in serenity and helping you attain your ambitions.

And, remember, if you find yourself stuck in creating or updating your business plan, get in touch! That’s what we’re here for!

Have you begun to assess and update your business plan? If not, what’s holding you back? What are some of the new goals you’re identifying for 2015?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

 

 

Dom Petrov Ossetra and Hackleback (r)1

With the New Year upon us this week, we’re facing the inevitable feast of resolutions. Well, we don’t want to be left out of the fun. And we’re always keen on trying to help our members thrive in business and life. So, we’ve come up with strategies that we believe will help with both. And, if you’ve got any to suggest, please include them in the comments section below!

So, in the spirit of stepping right up to the future, generating new business, keeping current business, and just all around embracing life, we hope you will:

1. Jump start your business marketing in innovative ways that attract the people you want to work with. Dive into social media and really engage people with a mix of what you’re doing, useful information about food/diet, and showcasing what you admire in others (generosity is a winning character trait on social media that attracts others). Join professional or volunteer organizations that will help you network beyond your usual circle. Contact us about guest blogging in this space or to ask Caron Golden to write a feature post about you. Let us know your area of expertise so we can call on you as a resource. (And then promote the heck out of the published piece!) It all helps you get your name out into the wider world!

2. Refresh your website and be sure to include the most important information about yourself, specifically your name, service geographies, and contact info (you’d be surprised at how many people seem to keep this a secret). Keep your site up to date and informative. Brag on yourself! And, be sure to get someone else to give new copy a once over to catch typos and grammatical mistakes. Make it as professional as you can.

Chef Carol Borchardt, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

Chef Carol Borchardt, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

3. Improve your food photography. The difference between a mediocre photo and a mouthwatering one is often as simple as lighting and focus. Don’t display muddy shots of brown food. Make every dish glow. That’s what you’re selling! Take a photography class. Buy a food photography book like Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin and study it. Read our past posts by member/photographer Carol Borchardt and learn from them. Study photos you admire and learn how to style from them.

4. Focus on learning a couple of new cooking techniques or a new cuisine to reignite your passion for cooking and so you can introduce new recipes into your client repertoire.

5. Conduct regular client assessments with longtime clients–perhaps every six months. It’s good to have ongoing conversations about where they are in their health, diet, and preferences. It’s also an opportunity for you to introduce new dishes to them and encourage them to give you referrals.

6. Set aside a budget to go out to eat at new restaurants, ethnic restaurants, anything that gets you out of your rut so you experience new tastes and new approaches to food and cooking. It’s research and it’s fun.

7. Get out and ask questions. What do people need in your community that you can provide? Does a community college need cooking teachers? Does a cooking school need someone who is able to teach kids or elders or people with specific dietary issues in which you have expertise? Does a local business need a regular caterer? Does a dietician with special needs clients need a chef to refer them to?

All editions of The Professional Chef

8. Identify gaps or deficiencies in how you run your business and find ways to improve them so that you’re more efficient and can earn more money. We have plenty of materials and software that address the business of being a personal chef. I can help and if you need other tools, we can direct you to them. Or come to San Diego and take a Personal Chef Seminar to recalibrate your business. Or take a class to learn a new skill set (in accounting, marketing, public speaking) at your local community college.

 

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9. Add a new related revenue stream to your business. This can range from teaching cooking classes and doing food demos at events to providing small markets with take0ut foods or catering meetings for businesses.

10. Set aside time once a month to get out of the kitchen and away from your business and do something fun. We all need to clear our heads and just enjoy life. We chose this industry so we could earn a living doing what we love on our terms. Set your priorities so you can lead a balanced life and be with those who are important to you.

January is traditionally a time for activating a new approach to life. We may not need to diet or exercise more, but who couldn’t  improve on what we already do well or simply learn something new that will enhance our business or life?

With the economy improving, 2015 is bound to be a terrific year! What can you do for yourself and your family to fulfill that promise?

Dennis and I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

What are you planning on doing to make 2015 a banner year?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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