How Stephanie O’Dea Makes 6 Figures/Year From Her Online Cooking Empire Working 2 Hours per Day
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Stephanie O’Dea’s incredible entrepreneurial adventure began in 2007 when, after a few glasses of wine, she made a New Year’s resolution to start a recipe blog called A Year of Slow Cooking.
Lots of success followed.
She appeared on TV multiple times, was earning $1k per day, became a best-selling author, got her own Wikipedia page, and essentially built an online empire. Stephanie saw slow, steady, sustainable success by “zigging when others zagged.”
Today she works 2 hours per day on her business, but her multiple income streams are bringing in 6 figures per year.
Keep reading to find out:
- How she came up with the idea for her website
- Why she created it in the first place
- How and why she got on TV
- How much traffic she was getting
- Why her publishing house fired her
- What happened to her website
- Where her income comes from
- Her main marketing strategy
- Her thoughts on SEO
- How she manages her email list
- The resources and tools she uses
- Her main challenge
- Her greatest accomplishment
- Her biggest mistake
- Her advice for other entrepreneurs
- Meet Stephanie O’Dea
- Why She Created Her Website
- How Much Money She’s Making
- Her Website Today
- Stephanie’s Main Marketing Strategy
- The Importance of SEO
- Her Email List
- Stephanie’s Favorite Resources and Tools
- Stephanie’s Biggest Challenge
- Her Greatest Accomplishment
- What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
- Her Main Mistake
- Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Meet Stephanie O’Dea
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my high school sweetheart husband, Adam, and together we have three daughters and a basset hound puppy named Sheldon.
Why She Created Her Website
I started A Year of Slow Cooking because I wanted to find a way to make a legitimate income while staying home with my children.
In 2006, I needed to quit my job running preschool centers for disadvantaged children—one was housed within a homeless shelter—because my own daughter was getting sick.
I thought it was daycare germs and quit. We later discovered that it was Celiac disease, an intolerance to gluten. Now Celiac disease and gluten intolerance and sensitivity are pretty commonplace, but at the time we really didn’t know what was happening.
We live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is terribly expensive, so not working wasn’t an option. I started reading mommy blogs and saw that there were real women writing online and making money from it.
I wasn’t terribly enthralled with the idea of sharing photos of the children online or sharing personal information, so I began researching food and recipe blogs. The only problem is, I don’t really cook, nor do I like to!
After a Christmas party in 2007 where I had a few glasses of wine, I came up with the idea of writing a daily crockpot recipe blog. I decided to turn it into a New Year’s Resolution to force myself to stick to a daily writing routine.
I started a Year of CrockPotting with no money down with a free blogspot URL at crockpot365.blogspot.com.
After my first cookbook came out, we changed the URL to A Year of Slow Cooking because Crock Pot is a registered trademark.
In February of my one-year cooking challenge, I made a perfect crème brûlée in the crockpot. I got super excited about my fantastic invention and feat and emailed The Rachael Ray Show.
I told them that I was awesome and that they should have me on their show so I could show Rachael how to make creme brulee in such an easy way.
I flew out to New York and appeared on the show. After that episode aired, book publishers began emailing me.
Since that initial decision to make a New Year’s Resolution and stick to it, I’ve been on the Rachael Ray Show 4 times, Good Morning America 3 times, appeared in the infomercial for the Ninja Cooking System, and have written 10 books. My first cookbook spent 6 weeks on the New York Times best sellers list.
In 2012, my for-free blogspot blog (it’s still hosted on Blogger, I never made the switch to WordPress because I don’t like to pay for things) was garnering 2 million pageviews a month and was voted the #3 food blog in the world.
I was making $1k a day in banner ads. I even have my own Wikipedia page!
How Much Money She’s Making
Around 2016 I began tiring of writing about crockpot recipes and began feeling really phony baloney online. I didn’t like the way the Internet wanted new and shiny things all the time and started really questioning the value I was providing.
In order to “feed the beast” of the Internet, I needed to keep “inventing” new ways to make pot roast, but I already had dozens of different ways listed on the site and it felt really icky and inauthentic.
Right around that time, the Instant Pot hit the stage and my book publishers and literary agent wanted me to translate all of my recipes into Instant Pot recipes. I didn’t want to.
One of the reasons I love my crockpot slow cookers so much is because I can put the food into it early in the morning when I’m still caffeinated and coherent and go on with my day. When my children were little it actually wasn’t safe to be in the kitchen during their evening witching hours as they were hanging all over me and were cranky.
The technology of the Instant Pot is neat, but it just didn’t fit into the type of lifestyle I was interested in living.
So my publishing house fired me and I hopped around to a few different literary agents.
Her Website Today
The website traffic plummeted and I began writing, coaching, speaking, and teaching about all things Slow Living and began the Slow Living podcast.
A Year of Slow Cooking is still alive and well and garners daily visitors and traffic, but now only makes about $1k a month compared with $1k a day back in the early days.
My recipes and words have been scraped countless times. I am not interested in hiring a team of lawyers to go track down copyright infringements or those who have copied my recipes word-for-word.
Because of this, the way the algorithms work means that there is just the same content pretty much everywhere now and Google isn’t directing people to me the same way anymore.
And that’s okay. I never really wanted to be a recipe writer, I wanted to help moms. I do that now through the podcast, speaking opportunities, and through my coaching.
That said, I’ve developed multiple streams of income and have created a personal brand and online empire that has stemmed directly from that initial New Year’s Resolution. I'm currently earning 6 figures per year.
I have income streams from:
- Banner ads
- Affiliate marketing
- Amazon Merch
- Freelance writing via magazine articles
- Speaking fees
- Selling my own digital downloads
- Selling online courses
- One-on-one and group coaching
- Cookbook sales (mostly through my self-publishing)
I work 2 hours a day on the business. I’m an early riser, so I work from 4 am to 6 am each day. I do this before my family (including the dog!) wakes up. This is the best time for my own body clock and when I’m the most creative.
Stephanie’s Main Marketing Strategy
My number one marketing strategy is ME.
I’ve been online long enough to know that people will straight up steal my recipes and writing. I have Google alerts set up for my name and my URL, and I see my recipes and how-to articles all over the internet, translated into different languages, and my photos, with my captions, even in Amazon Kindle listings!
But who I am and how I interact with readers and listeners can not be copied or reproduced. I am consistent on social media and in my interactions with people in person. Stephanie O’Dea as a person can not be reproduced.
And that feels good because especially with the invention of ChatGPT, anything you really want to research or search for can be found or given to you through AI or through a Google search.
But a friendly hands-on person and coach who can guide you can not be reproduced or copied in the same way.
The Importance of SEO
In the early days of A Year of Slow Cooking, my site rocked with SEO. I purposely misspelled “Crock-Pot” as “crockpot” and interchanged “crockpot” and “slowcooker.” This helped with SEO because taking the time to capitalize and insert spaces isn’t how a normal person searches Google.
My recipes are also completely gluten-free, so if anyone was searching for a “gluten-free crockpot chicken recipe,” my site came up first consistently for many years.
Because of the early success of my site, it garnered lots of attention via earned media.
I was linked to constantly by very large news sites (Huffington Post, Yahoo!, ABC.com, Today, Parenting, Simply Recipes), so my backlinks were strong and validated.
I didn’t have a strategy except to lean into the traditional media sites and links and I was very aware that this gave me good Google juice.
SEO came sort of naturally for me. I realized that if I gave Google what people were looking for, they’d naturally come. I used to chant the motto from the “Field of Dreams” movie in my head: “If you build it, they will come.”
Since I was Googling “family-friendly chicken crockpot recipes” pretty darn regularly, I figured other people were, too.
Her Email List
I have a robust email list. At one point it had 50k people on it, but over time I’ve whittled it down to a very responsive 22k. I have done various free opt-ins over the past 15 years: downloadable PDFs, how-to guides, and free webinars.
I like emailing my list and having a schedule that I stick to, no matter what. I email the crockpot list on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and the Slow Down Society list on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
On Sundays, I send out a Sunday Slow Down newsletter and everybody gets that.
Stephanie’s Favorite Resources and Tools
Since I started so long ago, I really wanted to zig when others zagged.
The 4-Hour Work Week came out in the early days of my time online and it got a lot of traction. I read it and felt defeated because I didn’t do hardly anything that Tim recommended.
I found that really the best way for me to move forward is to not take advice from others online but to look towards “old school” business ideas from Brian Tracy, Napoleon Hill, and Zig Ziglar.
I spent time reading those texts (repeatedly!) and then thought about how to make them work for me and my family.
Pretty much all the advice you can find online on how to make things work for Right! This! Second! Is already outdated.
Ask yourself what you want to learn.
What do you want to teach?
What do you want to be known for?
And then write about that.
The podcasts that I listen to are: Bigger Pockets, Abraham Hicks, Alan Cohen, and Mile High FI.
I’m a huge proponent of the FIRE movement: financial independence retire early, so I spend most of my learning time focused on that.
Stephanie’s Biggest Challenge
My greatest challenge has been pivoting when the internet changes. Algorithms change, the way Google shares or doesn’t share your site will constantly ebb and flow.
But people—their wants, needs, desires, and fears—they will stay pretty much the same throughout the generations.
Her Greatest Accomplishment
That would have to be the fact that I was able to stay home with my children when they were young and make money from my writing.
That was my primary goal and I’m so thankful I was able to achieve it.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I wish I had known that it would all work out. I did a lot on a hope, a wish, and a prayer.
I’m glad I followed my gut and stayed true to my plan. I do wish, however, I had a crystal ball to help alleviate a lot of my initial fears and insecurities.
Her Main Mistake
I’ve trusted snake oil salesmen and fallen for scams. I believe and trust people too quickly and easily.
I gave money to a virtual assistant from another country who said that she had 3 children right around my age and that she would be able to take all the social media tasks that I don’t like off my plate. I paid her via PayPal and then she ghosted me.
I paid for a high-end business coach who “mentored” me for 6 months, but really I had achieved more than she had, so I ended up coaching her and helping her make connections.
I’ve also bought quite a few courses on how to work Instagram, create webinars, run Facebook ads, and send out sales emails. I’ve not needed to purchase any of those items but did so because I fell for the marketing hype.
All of those kinds of how-tos are available for free and are updated often through Facebook’s own tutorials or through email marketing software.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
After you have an initial idea and a rudimentary business plan in place, I’d recommend unsubscribing to all business sites and social media channels.
I like to use the metaphor that gardeners give when planting trees or vines:
The first year it sleeps
The second year it creeps
The third year it leaps
Keep at it, stay consistent, and take teeny tiny baby steps each and every day.
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