Have you ever wondered if there’s some secret sauce to online success? Well, there is. It’s a simple secret, really. It’s this: be authentic and provide value. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Joanie Simon, an amazing food writer, photographer, educator and dear friend. And she shared with me how her challenges have impacted her career – and brought her success.
Pixie-haired food photographer, educator, and more
Joanie Simon is more than just a leading food photographer and educator. She’s been featured on The Food Network, has a popular YouTube Channel, and recently launched a wildly successful new Instagram account, @thebiteshot, focusing on food photography education. She’s already accumulated more than 12 and a half thousand followers – a number that’s steadily growing.
But beyond the success, Joanie is a gifted, quality human being and woman who loves to inspire others to do what they’re creatively equipped to do. But in order to really get a feel for who Joanie is and how authenticity rocketed her to success, first we need to take a look at where she started.
How authenticity, forgiveness, and acceptance transformed Joanie’s career
Back in 2014, Joanie worked for a technology company as a successful and effective general manager. With her caring, empathetic personality, she was the company’s go-to gal for handling far too many sales calls and angry customer emails.
But one day, while driving to yet another sales call (this time in a small mountain town four hours from her home), all of that stress came crashing down on her.
She realized, that despite being a provider for her family of four, she needed to quit her job. Why? Because it was smothering her, and managing the stress with alcohol had passed the point of problematic.
Quitting a job is hard enough, but what about when your boss is also your father? Thankfully, Joanie is surrounded by supportive, loving, and accepting people who helped her through the transition and healing processes.
And that’s when the magic was able to begin.
Forging ahead, intuition, and building a brand
After a much-needed (and medically prescribed) month off, Joanie began to wonder what was next. Since she’d been a food blogger off and on since 2008, she had an inkling it would involve food.
Then, she heard a story about a chicken that gave her an inspired realization. She thought, “This is the brand – this is what it’s all about. It’s about food, it’s about people, it’s about love. It’s this chicken.”
With a new-found sense of her brand, a unique chicken tattoo on her shoulder, and her passion restored, Joanie quickly became the food photographer she was meant to be. And, as she opened up about her life, her struggles, and her path, she found her niche.
And before long, people began asking her how she made her magic happen. That’s when she began her work as a food photography educator.
While most business people worry that giving away their secrets could cost them, Joanie takes the opposite approach. Her philosophy is:
“I can give away all my secrets. Guess what? I’m going to inspire other people to do what they’re creatively equipped to do.”
Her openness, willingness to answer any and every question thrown at her, and her authenticity has led her into success – and her audience adores her for it. But really, can you blame them? Joanie is an amazing, adorable, authentic, and quality human being who easily and readily connects with the people around her.
And that’s her secret sauce to success.
Want to Connect with Joanie Simon?
- Check out her website at: JoanieSimon.com
- Follow Joanie’s The Bite Shot (@thebiteshop) on Instagram – 12.5k followers and growing!
- Read about the Sober Chicken
- Join more than 10,000 food fans! Subscribe to Joanie’s YouTube Channel.
More watershed moments in business and brand building
Business and brand-building require more than just tips and tricks. Find success by learning from those who have gone before, aligned their priorities, leveraged problems into solutions, and fearlessly faced the challenges that have moved them forward to where they are today.
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JM: Welcome to Season 1, Episode 1 of the Catalyst Conversations Podcast. I’m Jennifer Maggiore and I’m super excited to bring to you a season of just the most wonderful people. I have been so blessed over the course of my career to connect with people who are not only technically proficient, talented, and gifted at what they do, but they’re just really quality human beings. I’m excited because so much of what we will be talking about are the tips and tricks, and the pitfalls that they have had to learn to overcome in business on their way to building a successful company, on their way to building a leading personal brand. But also, we really have the opportunity to talk about those catalysts in their lives—its watershed moments, as I call them—that really lead them to figuring out what their priorities are, leveraging the problems, the adversity, and the challenges that they are experiencing in their lives to really move them forward into where they are today.
Joanie Simon Description:
Today, without further ado, my first interview is with Joanie Simon of joaniesimon.com. She really, I think, is in the enviable position of having a really kind of crack to the code for creating her own very successful food blog. She started of interviewing, in podcast format, restaurateurs and moved on to doing her own YouTube video where she’s been very successful. She’s appeared on the Food Network and now she’s launched The Bite Shot.
The Bite Shot is an educational format where she is showing other burgeoning photographers all of her tips and tricks, the equipment that she’s using. But really she’s such a dynamic person and we spend a lot of time really talking about how she got there, not just from that technical perspective—although that was incredibly important to her success—but also overcoming things like impostor syndrome. For any of you who have ever questioned their own self-worth or feeling like somebody’s going to find you out that really you are not what people think that you are, this is going to be a really interesting conversation for you to listen to, especially from somebody who has been so successful and certainly I related to. I think it’s a conversation that we don’t have enough.
We also talk about the importance of forgiveness—forgiving yourself and others. Joanie has worked through alcohol abuse and that was something that really hit home for me as somebody who has family members who have struggled with alcohol abuse and substance abuse. Really, I think, authenticity and how that has been so incredibly important to her brand, really connecting with her audience, I hope you enjoy this first podcast episode, I absolutely loved recording it. I think Joanie is just a dynamic human being, enjoy.
JM: How are you?
JS: I’m great. How are you, Jenn?
JM: Good. I’m super excited to talk with you. This is exciting. This is season 1, episode 1.
JS: The beginning.
JM: I know. It’s you! I’m so excited. Your website is at joaniesimon.com and its Sober Chicken. You are a foodie goddess—all things foodie.
JM: You’ve moved into photography education. Talk to us a little bit about what you do.
JS: Yeah. Any given day is a little different. But for the most part, what I do these days and how it’s all evolved is that I spend a lot of time in my kitchen and in my photography studio, going between the two and creating droolworthy images for the internet, for marketing campaigns, for a variety of food brands out there. Everybody from Traina Foods who produce a ton of sun-dried tomatoes, and ketchup—
JM: That stuff is good.
JS: I know. All sorts of products.
JM: I went and bought it for our recipe that you had featured.
JM: Yeah, it’s really good.
JS: I’ve got a great list of clients who I do regular work for. I also do restaurant photography. But really more or less a lot of what I do is just capturing food in some sort of digital format for online distribution. That all sounds really fancy but I’m just taking pictures of what I’m eating.
JM: Just taking pictures.
JS: Then that is then turned into an online education platform which I’ve called The Bite Shot but it’s where I share just how I do what I do. I’ve always shared my content and my process through social media and through my website. I had a lot of people saying, “How do you do this? Can you show me?” So instead of one-to-one consultation, which I do as well, I thought, “Let’s share this with a larger audience.”
JM: Did that make you nervous? Because I know a lot of people, especially when it comes to digital media, because everybody wants it, everybody wants to know the magic and the secret sauce, and people tend to be very fearful of sharing that information, did that cross your mind at any point or were you really like gung ho about teaching and sharing all of your—I mean, you really do share everything you do.
JS: I share everything.
JM: On Instagram, it’s @thebiteshot, and the cupcake picture where you talked about all of the different details, planning the colors, planning the texture, everything that goes into it, you’ve got posts that talk about the equipment that you’re using, did that ever affect, infer you, or you were nervous about showing behind the scenes?
JS: Fortunately, so much of my personal story, my personal history, and experience has I think broken down those personal walls in my life that I’ve realized that there’s nothing new under the sun, there’s nothing unique in the sense about the tools that I’m using or the processes that I’m using compared to any other photographer. But the one thing that you cannot replicate, I could show you right now exactly how I took that cupcake picture, but you would not recreate it simply because you have a different vantage point, you have a different creative skillset, there’s no other Joanie Simon in the world. That definitely, anytime, that fear of, “Oh, my gosh, I’m giving away all my secrets,” I continually go back to, “I can give away all my secrets. Guess what? I’m going to inspire other people to do what they’re creatively equipped to do.”
JM: Their way.
JM: I love that. That leads me into another question. I myself have suffered from impostor syndrome. I know that that’s not the case for everybody but I know that it is also the case for quite a few of the people that I work with when I’m coaching women on developing their personal brands. Is that something that was ever a concern for you? Did you ever experience that second-guessing that comes along with starting your own brand?
JS: I mean, last night? It comes and goes. Oh, my gosh. I mean, yeah, it definitely does. Especially, I think in today’s economy and world, so many of us are self-taught in what we do—whether that’s marketing, or digital media, or social media—there’s so much of that that you just never learned in college because those degrees didn’t exist when we went to school.
JM: You’re dating us.
JS: I know right. Let’s go back to the question.
JM: Impostor syndrome, I look at your brand, you go to Joanie’s website and it’s so professional and it’s so beautifully done. You just think, “Oh, my gosh. First of all, this person looks like she’s been doing this for years and years,” you must have started when you were like 8, that you’ve been doing this for such a long time, but it’s so pulled together, it’s so professional.
JS: Thank you.
JM: I have been self-employed this year now, 13 years, and I still have those moments. I think if you’re doing it right, you’re always stepping outside of your comfort zone, you’re always trying something new. There’s that little bit of fake it till you make it, you got to try something new, you’re going to see what’s going to happen with it. But so many of the women that I worked with have that impostor syndrome where they feel like they are not really worthy of the following that they have, or that they’re not really qualified, or they need one more credential, or one more training, or take one more class, when in reality, everything that has brought you to where you are today makes you qualified to lead your audience.
JM: I always think it’s so interesting how women, we just tend to short sell ourselves in that way.
JS: You bet. I think, you know too, in the world of photography, it’s a very technical industry—and actually I don’t know any hard members so this is me sort of stabbing in the dark—but a lot of the leaders and a lot of the educators—not necessarily in the wedding photography industry but in the general photography industry—it’s male-driven. It’s very technically driven, it’s about gear, and it’s about understanding the science of it. For me, I approach it from a very female perspective, from a creativity perspective, from feelings perspective.
Understanding that there’s no way to know everything. I’ve got a good friend who is an incredibly accomplished professional photographer, he works pretty impressive, he gets flown all around the world, does amazing commercial campaigns, shoots celebrities, and even he, still knows that he doesn’t know everything. I think that I always have to remind myself, “Okay, I’m not here to know everything. What I’m here to do is to share what I love to do with people, bring them into my world, and encourage them that if they have that inkling to start a photography business, or if they really want to take what they’re shooting, and do better at it, it’s completely within their means to do so,” and it really, all the answers lie within them. Hopefully that I’m there as a catalyst, somebody to spur them on, to encourage them, to give them some tips. But like any sort of creative pursuit, I can’t do it for them. I’m there more as the conduit who’s got some good experience.
JM: The catalyst, I love it.
JS: The catalyst, exactly.
JM: Thank you for that fabulous segue. Let’s just move right in. Really, The Catalyst Conversations—for anyone who is listening to season 1, episode 1 for the first time—I really want to share those defining moments of the people that I’m talking with. I would love to hear what that is for you.
Catalysts, the branding company, when I’m working with my clients on developing their personal brands, I truly feel—I also come from a very feelings perspective—it’s hard if I think sometimes for women to deal with all the pressures of self-image, especially we’re putting ourselves out in the digital world, we don’t control the social environment, we don’t control what happens. We can control the message, we can control the look, the sound, and the feel of the brand that we put out there, but I think that it requires a lot of work personally and really recognizing how our personal lives impact our personal brands. We have to get through a lot of those hang-ups to feel like we can share those lessons that we’ve learned and to lead our audiences.
I think, the best personal brands are those that are women who have gone through their own catalyst, they’ve gone through their own adversity, they’ve dealt with their own challenges, they have had to learn some big lessons in order to teach them.
What is your catalyst? What is that story behind your brand? Your brand is Sober Chicken, which I love, it’s awesome.
JS: Yeah. It’s kind of like the hidden behind the scenes, if you’re on the inside track you know about it, but it’s not necessarily in your face and over.
JM: The first thing that you see.
JS: Exactly. That’s intentional.
JM: Yeah. Talk about Sober Chicken and the catalyst, that defining moment behind the brand, and then I would love to talk to you a little bit about why it’s maybe kind of an understatement in the brand to umbrella that as Joanie Simon. Tell us a little bit about that story.
JS: Yeah. Let’s see. Timeline wise, it was 2014 and I was working, I was a general manager of a technology company, very focused on the sales side of things, and still doing my own personal sales too, it was a small business. I go out on sales calls and whatnot. I had a sales call that took me to Pinetop, Arizona, which if you know Arizona geography, that’s about four hours from Phoenix. It’s up in the mountains. So I hopped in the car and drove for four hours. That drive, there’s so much of just—
JM: Was that for work?
JS: That was for work.
JM: For a work meeting?
JS: Yup. I was going to go do a sales pitch for this restaurant up in Pinetop, and some driving through the mountains, and just kind of in this nostalgic place, I think there’s nothing happens on accident, I think these things all happen for a reason.
JM: There is a lot of nothing between Phoenix and Pinetop.
JS: There’s a lot of nothing and—
JM: Lots of time to reflect.
JS: There was no radio, there’s no music, I’m literally in a silent car by myself, and just thinking about life, and being frustrated. I go to this sales meeting, and then I come out of it, and I look at my phone. I’ve just got nothing but angry customer service emails, and just pissed off people, and I’m like, I just literally, in that moment, broke. This wasn’t an isolated incident, this was—
JS: Yeah. This is straw that breaks the camel’s back because, in reality, I had started about four weeks prior to that going to therapy because my husband had had an intervention with me that kind of hit home and said, “Honey, you’ve got a problem. You’ve got an alcohol addiction and you need to nip this in the bud.” The way he intervened was absolutely beautiful. It had been a conversation that had been ongoing for 10 years. But for some reason, at that moment, in that time period, when I was so broken about where I was at life, and all these beautiful dreams I’d had for myself, and as go-getter, fortunately, I had started going to therapy about four weeks prior to this trip to Pinetop.
But then I’m in Pinetop and it just kind of all came crashing down and I’m like, “I need to quit my job. I am the sole breadwinner for our family of four, this is my family’s business, I’m the general manager, there is so much responsibility here, but this is not who I am. This is not making me happy, this is not going to get me to where I want.” I literally, instead of doing more work in Pinetop which I should have done—I call those “should haves” we’d love to tell ourselves—I just hopped back in the car, drove four hours straight back to Phoenix, balling half the majority of the way back home, and went straight into my dad’s office because it was my dad’s company, he’s the president, and went in—
JM: No pressure.
JS: I know. Not only am I scared to quit my job but I’m also scared to let down my dad—this man who I love so incredibly—but I went in and I just said, “Dad, I can’t do this anymore. I need to quit this job. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I need to get out. I know that in order to heal myself, and this alcoholism that I’m dealing with, and all of these issues with self-acceptance, in order to get through all of these, I need to quit this job.” And he said the most perfect thing he could have said, he just said, “I love you.”
JM: You have good men in your life.
JS: I have amazing men in my life. Dad, I am truly thankful for it.
JM: They were all pulling for you.
JS: I know. He just was like, “We’ll figure it out. It’s great,” but he didn’t—
JM: It’s great.
JS: Exactly. He’s so positive. I know that was stressful for him. There’s a lot more to that story, but thankfully, it all worked out, I was able to transition out within 30 days, we got a replacement—again, when the time is right and the things are supposed to happen, it’s not hard.
JM: That’s funny, I don’t think you give yourself enough credit when you say that it’s not hard, because I think it was probably super difficult. I think sometimes in life we reach those moments where we are at that breaking point. But there are a lot of people who still just continue on, they continue to trudge through it. I think it’s so courageous that you went and made that decision. You knew that it was the right decision for you, your family, your husband. You’ve got two beautiful boys which I think you only had one of them at that point.
JS: I actually, I’m trying to think, I had both.
JM: Did you?
JM: Oh, my gosh, but he would have been a baby.
JS: Yeah. Calvin was itty-bitty, he’s less than a year old.
JM: That’s a lot of pressure to be the breadwinner. You have a second baby at home. Everyone is depending upon you and you made that change.
Let’s talk a little bit about the transition, the aftermath. You got out of there within your 30 days, how did you decide what you wanted to do next?
JS: At that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I knew I needed to be creative and I had this sort of this inkling that it involved food. I have been a food blogger off and on since 2008 since blogs were first a thing, I had a Zynga account, and some of those oldy-moldies. I’ve always had the love of sharing just what I’m going through and what I’m doing. I thought, “I’m just going to give myself a whole month to do absolutely nothing,” which I’ve never done in my entire life. I was 32 years old at that point and had never taken a full month of doing nothing outside of summer as an elementary school kid. Literally force myself, my therapist came up with the idea of “May Play”. My last day was April 30 so starting May 1st–May 30th, I was not allowed to do any sort of work, I was not allowed to figure out any sort of game plan, I was just meant to chill.
JM: Did that feel good or were you itching to do something?
JS: It was awful.
JS: It was so awful.
JM: It sounds so great to take a month off but I think, realistically, I would be going crazy.
JS: I was like, “Yeah, I just need to get going.” But it was a real discipline and I think a very healthy one. We just refinanced our house so that we could renovate—but we didn’t end up renovating our house—but we saved our lives instead, so that was good. Then at the end of May though I had some clarity that I really needed to change up my blog to be very centered around my personal brand and sharing my personal story.
In the course of my therapy process, there was a story about a chicken which was just really eye opening to me, realizing that in life, everybody’s got their things that they get wound up about, you talk about people’s house, like you’ve got your house and your neighbor’s house and maybe your neighbors got this chicken, it’s flapping all around like their hot mess situation.
JM: Some of my neighbors have more than one chicken flapping around.
JS: Exactly. Whether they’re real chickens or proverbial chickens, the idea of somebody’s gotten issues that they’re going through, it is not my responsibility to go save them and to go then take that chicken crap and let it happen in my yard, that I can be supportive, that I can be loving, that I can help people, but at the end of the day, I’m really only responsible for my yard, I am not out there to save everybody’s flapping chicken.
JM: Right. I love that.
JS: So when somebody at work is freaking out, instead of adopting that stress on myself and taking it on—which is why it was leading me to drink all those years—instead saying, “You know what? I don’t need to be the savior of the world, that is definitely not my job. I’m going to take care of me, I’m going to support you as much as I can. But if you’re going flap and you’re going to freak out, that’s not on me.”
JM: That’s huge.
JS: That was so freeing for me as somebody who’s always taking care of everybody and wants it all to be so perfect and happy.
JM: Yes, definitely.
JS: That story was really huge then in my recovery process and the chicken, the Sober Chicken, so I went and gotten a big old tattoo of a chicken on my arm.
JM: Of course, right of passage.
JS: Of course, then I started buying, I have all sorts of chicken stuff, and then I thought, “This is the brand, this is what’s it’s all about, it’s about food, it’s about people, it’s about love. It’s this chicken.”
If you see my logo today, it’s very much infused with all of those things and my personality. It continues though to serve me well even though my business has transformed incredibly in the last two years since I started that, actually it’s going on three years next month. My business has evolved a lot in that time but those same values, the same ideas, the same foundation is still there and is attributed to the story that I went through and it informs every decision I make today.
JM: I love that, it’s fabulous. I was lucky enough to be in your life at that time and be present to you making those changes. The support you got was unbelievable, it was amazing. I think a lot of people were maybe surprised. People who are not close to you didn’t know what you’re going through, didn’t know that you’re making changes professionally, but I was amazed at the messages, it was incredible to lodge. Not many people have the same issues, the same problems of wanting to rescue all the flapping chickens and people who are dealing with substance abuse, alcohol addiction, those issues, and how much you opening up about that publicly made such a difference for them.
JS: Oh, my gosh. All the people out there who personally sober with all variety of addictions, family members, or everybody in some way shaper form is touched by addiction in their lives, I believe it, especially based on the stories I hear. So to be able to have this story that then I felt led to share, I don’t think that’s for everybody to share those things in their lives, but for me, I really felt compelled to do that, and I felt that that was part of my purpose here, the human being on earth is to share this incredible story of love, self-acceptance, forgiveness, letting the past be in the past, and not letting the demons win. To be able to be that person, I’m very honored to get to do that. I continue to find ways to continue to share that message and it shares itself because that post—they had original post that I put up on my blog—July 4th in 2015 when I finally came clean with everybody, I wrote a big 1600 word blog post all about it, and the ins and outs, and I didn’t hold back. I talked about DUIs and I talked about all these things that people who knew me—
JM: Had no idea.
JS: No idea. Even my closest friends were like, “No, Joanie’s got her whole life together,” this sort of earth-shattering thing really I think just helps people, hopefully, be kinder to themselves. That’s what I really hope for.
JM: It really makes you a leader. It really does.
JS: Thank you.
JM: To open up about those struggles and those challenges, you’re right, there are so many people who—and rightfully so—keep it private, it’s what’s great for them in their lives and maybe their professions. But I think, to know that you’re not alone in it, addiction and alcoholism is so isolating, it’s so isolating. I’ve dealt with that in my nuclear family and it’s isolating for everyone. It’s a coping mechanism in and of itself for whatever’s happening and there’s a lot of hiding, and a lot of lying, and a lot of secretism. I think for someone to step forward and say, “Yeah, this is happening, and you’re right, everyone is affected by it in some way,” how freeing, how amazing.
JS: Yeah, absolutely. Then that sort of added level of transparency, I think, is what has helped propel my business forward that now that that’s out, my camera setting is a less no big deal, the things that I’m doing, it’s no big deal to share things because that big deep-dark secret that I hid for people for a long, long time is no longer a secret, the transparency is no longer an issue.
JM: I think it is one of those things that really does propel you forward because now you’ve got this genuine connection, you’re willing to put it all out there, your audience knows whatever it is, “I’m an open book, whatever you’re going to ask, I’m going to answer,” so the camera settings, yeah, that is maybe not such a big deal that you know that you are that person.
The other thing that I love about you on a side note, in terms of you making a connection, I love that you answer people who send you messages. Because you had shared with me, there is a message, I don’t remember verbatim when it was, but there’s something along the lines of how they have reached out to other people and they don’t get answers like they got from you, wasn’t it like, “Oh, I’ve sent you a couple of messages and you always answer me?”
JS: Yeah, totally. Because I don’t know, this is maybe old fashion, this is maybe just the way I was raised, I don’t know what it is, but genuinely when anybody reaches out to me in any way shaper form—and I know at a certain point probably my platform is to continue to expand, that we will get harder, and harder to do that, but there’s a human being on the other side of that message that has a family, that people love them, that is worthy of time, that is worthy of attention, and so I go back to treat people the way you want to be treated and I care very much about the people who have become a part of my community and who have questions for me. Certainly, I have to drop boundaries and not give away the farm.
JM: You’ve been so good at it though, you even shared with me, you’ve got this amazing thriving community within a private Facebook group, you have found some terrific people who help you to moderate the community. You are still finding ways as your community grows and expands to make sure that everybody gets what they need.
JM: It’s awesome.
JS: I think again, a part of my recovery process is realizing I don’t have to do it on my own, I couldn’t have done that all on my own, it was valuable friends like yourself, my husband, and my family, granted I had to do the work but people are so excited to help. When you have got a cause and you are giving value, you’ll be surprised at how open people are to helping you and all you have to do is ask. That’s always been a hard thing for me but I’m learning, it’s actually really helpful.
JM: It’s just ask.
JS: Just ask, just ask.
JM: Perfect, you have been amazing at developing your personal brand and really integrating yourself, your life lessons, and everything that you do. What tips would you have to share with the women who want to develop a personal brand? That could be somebody who is either working in corporate job right now, which you can relate to, that really wants to break out and do something else, share their passion, and their purpose, it could be somebody who already has a personal brand but they realized that it hasn’t really reached its pinnacle, they haven’t gotten there entirely yet, what are some of the tips that you would share with them to develop their personal brands?
JS: I think so many of the things that have helped me is understanding the idea that—and we hear this all the time I think in this sort of arena—done is better than perfect, and don’t beat yourself up, and it’s okay if it sucks at first, especially if you’ve got—
JM: It will suck at first.
JS: It will suck at first.
JM: It will. It’s going to suck at many levels.
JS: I mean you’re setting a high bar for yourself here in the first episode of a podcast but—
JM: It’s my guest.
JS: But you know it’s you just have to start somewhere and especially with such a personal brand that is such a hard thing to do to put yourself out there. But if you have been given some sort of talent, some sort of ability, some sort of story that is going to help people, why would you hold that back from them?
JM: I think also, some really good advise that I got recently was if you have the idea to do it, if you have the dream to do something, it doesn’t just come from nowhere, I really believe in intuition, inner guidance, and whatever you may choose to call that for you personally, but I think if you are inspired to take some action and to share, there’s a reason for it, and you’re kind of obligated to follow that, I believe.
JS: Absolutely, I didn’t set out taking pictures of who to create a food photography business and education platform, that was not where it was just something, I just had this inkling that that’s what I was supposed to do, I didn’t know why. A lot of people were like, “No, you have to have a business plan,” I just think that with personal brands—and this is just my own personal perspective—is that I think it is really hard to have a solid business plan until you’ve really dug in like a good two years to not only get to know yourself. I feel like, if you’ve done it two years, and then you still are not sure what you’re doing, then maybe it’s time to revisit.
JM: You need to revisit some structure.
JS: But you’ve really got to throw some spaghetti at the wall, you’ve really got to be fearless, and don’t think about it. That is what I think stops people the most, especially in personal brands, is they start thinking too much and they start talking themselves out of things. I just try to move as quickly as humanly possible, both because that’s just the way that I operate. But I feel like that’s a certain part of my success is that I move so quickly that I don’t have time to talk myself out of things, I just get this idea and I literally need to do it right now, it’s my YouTube videos, my entire YouTube Channel. I go back and I look at stuff, I’m like, “Oh, God. That could have been better,” but you know what? It doesn’t matter—
JM: Because you did it.
JS: Because I did it.
JM: You got it done.
JS: I got it done. I can make more content, it informs how I move forward. But the second I start thinking about a video, I mean I’ve got at least four videos that I have filmed and I have, and I haven’t published because I started thinking about them. I’m like, “But maybe that’s content that would really help somebody and I’m holding back on it because I’m insecure about it,” you know what I mean?
JM: That’s interesting. I’m curious to hear your take on this, I think that’s part probably human condition, it’s so hard, I think especially with a personal brand because a lot of my clients do overthink and they get caught up in what their audience wants them to be at being that versus being themselves and making that genuine connection. It’s tough because you do have to look at yourself through the lens of your audience and there is some image management that has to come along with that like, “Does this makes sense with the brand, story, and the image that you want to present?” I think that a little bit of that is a struggle for anyone, for men and women, but I feel like especially for women. I don’t know if that is part of our tendency in society to feel like we need to look a certain way, or view a certain weight, or have good skin, or have good hair, not everybody is the total package like Joanie Simon, but do you think that that is more of a unique issue for women? Do you think that that is men and women?
JS: I think it’s a big issue for women. I think it definitely holds people back, I think that you start getting caught up in just a general appearance, and things like that. That can definitely hold you back because I think about to the way that our society has moved in terms of the way we take in content, and we take in entertainment, and some of the most successful YouTube Channels, for example, would to have zero chance on traditional television, because they just don’t look like the way people look like on TV, that they don’t fit that mold that whatever that—
JM: Why do you think that is? Do you think that audiences are more accepting of real life in the social media?
JS: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s just the way that the pendulum has swung in terms of the current generation that’s consuming online media, but I know that I can wear makeup in a video and it’s fine and I cannot wear a makeup in a video and it’s fine. Either way, as somebody who has been very concerned about physical appearance overtime, it is a really wonderful thing to recognize that my audience doesn’t really care and that they’re more concerned about the content that I’m delivering to them, the value, and the connection that they feel through that content. There’s a certain authenticity factor, I’m saying, “Do you go about setting up an online brand and deciding, ‘Do I wear makeup or do I not wear makeup?’”
JM: Of course, you wear makeup.
JS: But what I would say is that if that makeup is becoming a hurdle to you making this video, make the damn video, don’t worry about your lipstick.
JM: Yes. And of course, I joke.
JS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
JM: Because I think that is like the pressure in society is you must do it. It’s interesting because I think that the reality, what we’re finding, I do think the pendulum has swung right and it’s something that I think every human being thinks about their appearance when they’re putting themselves out there, especially it’s different—I’ll pick my voice apart listening to this podcast later.
Podcasting is one thing but I think then you get into photography, and you get into videography, and some of my clients have just picked themselves apart over their headshots for heaven’s sake and really had such a hard time with them and it’s looking for photoshopping and it’s one thing if you photoshop a blemish, it’s another thing to say like we’re going to change the structure of your face because we want to look 20 pounds thinner—which I may have been guilty of asking in the past myself—but those issues do come up and it’s interesting because I feel like television was one form of media, there were lots of shows, and it was available, but it was one form of media, and it had kind of trained us to look for flawlessness. You look at social media and its multiple platforms available on the internet. We have now all of these content that’s bombarding us, but interestingly, I have this theory that unique is as valued as beautiful in social media.
JM: Because there’s so much of it that you can be absolutely gorgeous, and gorgeous does well on social media.
JM: But I also think that being unique and standing out isn’t always about being flawless or perfect, it really is about being authentic and different and that different can play just as well as conventional commercial beauty that’s on those platforms.
JM: I think it’s interesting that you bring up how on YouTube it’s not necessarily always about being super commercial looking.
JS: But what I would say is that if you’re creating a personal brand, that person that you are presenting is—I would hope it’s authentically you—because you need that to be consistent across all the platforms that no matter if they find you, and in email list, from your email service, or you’re getting that from Facebook, or you’re getting that from Instagram Stories, or however they are consuming your content, if they suddenly go over to YouTube and watch a video after seeing you talk on Instagram Stories and it’s a different person, to me that’s like game over. This person is not real, this is some sort of put on. I think that was part of the challenge of my previous YouTube platform which is a cooking based—I have these ideas that we need to do a cooking show and things like that. But it never really felt like it was genuinely me and it always felt just a little bit plastic.
JM: That’s what’s your audience want, they want you, and they want to know that you are just like I hang out with you and I end up like laughing my ass off. Everytime I see you, I have so much fun—apart from you have friends, and you get together, and sometimes you have an off day or a bad day—but I know the majority of the time, I will get together with you, we’re going to have a very good time, it’s a very consistent experience. I think it’s the same thing in our personal brand, people are looking for that consistent experience whatever your personality is, whoever you are. I think that is such an important tip, such an important idea that you bring up so that has to be the same wherever somebody runs into you, whether it is they got your email, or they go to your YouTube Channel, or they visit your website, or they go look at your Facebook, it’s the same.
JS: They read your blog, because I remember when I first started out writing recipes on my blog at that time, and still is, there are certain number of really successful food bloggers out there who have just this really quirky way that is very authentically them but their writing is very quirky, and it’s very fun, and it’s very exclamation marky, so I was trying to be that because I was like, “Clearly, it’s working for them,” but that’s because that’s who they are, that’s not who I am. Realizing that you’re going to have a lot more success in the long run if you just stay true to yourself, but sometimes, figuring out who yourself is takes a while as well.
JM: It’s funny, one of the exercises that we like to do with clients is to write how you speak which actually is harder than you would imagine. For me, for so many years and my other day job, I have a social media company and so I’ve been involved in copywriting and proofing for years, and years, and years, and you get really trained into like AP style, and this is dramatically correct, and hanging participles, but I think writing the way that you speak—kind of thinking through how you would say it somebody conversationally—is such a valuable experience because you really get more of that flavor of who you are in your writing.
JM: It’s always fun to do that, I don’t know why, it seems like it should come in second nature but it doesn’t
JS: It doesn’t. Interesting.
JM: But it’s a fun exercise, yeah you should try it if you haven’t done that.
JS: That would be fun to do. Yeah.
JM: Thank you so much, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us, and to talk about those defining moments, and of course all of those tips. You can learn more from Joanie at joaniesimon.com and you can also visit her Instagram account @thebiteshot. Those pictures are just amazing.
JS: Thank you.
JM: It’s one of those profiles that I make sure I always go check it out, that I don’t miss a post, it’s that good. It really is that amazing. There is just so much crap out there on Instagram, and people posting, and creating stories, and just kind of keeping the content pumping, but Joanie is, every picture looks like a masterpiece, it’s just this obvious, I think, as somebody who creates content, you look at that and it’s obvious, I mean it’s blood, sweat, and tears, and you’re picking the best image, and it’s beautiful. Don’t miss that, definitely go, visit that on Instagram, anything else anyone should check out?
JS: No, those are the conduits to all the rest of the entertainment.
JM: Perfect, joaniesimon.com.
JS: Thank you.
JM: Thank you.