We were thrilled to get the chance to interview Nina Joy from @thefoodjoy. Nina is based in New York and loves to take photos, try new restaurants and cook! We loved getting to hear her perspective as an influencer in the ever growing world of Instagram!
How did you get started in blogging?
About 4 years ago, I bought my first “fancy” camera (a Canon Rebel DSRL).
I started taking photos of flowers and landscapes—my favorite place to shoot was the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Meanwhile, I had always loved experimenting in the kitchen and teaching myself how to make new dishes. One summer, about three years ago, I took a week off work (yes, I also work full-time!)
You’re a successful blogger and looks like you travel. Do you have another job/are a student? If so, How do you juggle all of that?
I do have a full-time job as a Senior Data Analyst for NYU Langone Health. Essentially I’m a total data nerd and code in R during the day but when I leave the office, I get to tap into my creative side with my photography and taste delicious food all over the city—and in my own kitchen! It’s definitely a daily struggle to balance my two lives. At times, it can feel like I have two full-time jobs, but what keeps me moving forward is my overwhelming passion for running my blog, The Food Joy. Travel is something that has always been very important to me and am lucky to have a generous vacation allowance at my job, which I certainly take advantage of!
Do you have a system to organize and curate your posts?
Well, I definitely have my own system—I’m not sure it’s organized or a model for others (HA!) but after a photoshoot, I download my photos to my laptop and edit my best shots in Lightroom. I then send the edited photos to my phone and I use iPhone’s “favorite” function in their photo app to keep all my edited photos that I have not yet posted in my Favorite album. When it’s time to post, I scroll through that album to see what I want to post that day. Of course, sometimes I know exactly what I want or need to post, but every now and then I like to post a “throwback” photo that I never had time to post! Also, in an effort to engage more with my followers and show more of myself—literally—I try to post a photo of myself every few posts.
Tell us about your first experience working with a restaurant client. How did you start reaching out to restaurants?
When I felt like I had enough followers to reach out to restaurants (I think I was close to 10K), I would just send an email explaining who I was and the purpose of my blog—which was to review restaurants in NYC. I got a few bites, which was really rewarding and validating! Soon after that, I was invited to my first “influencer event” at a gelato shop. I still remember that event very clearly! There was a voluntary competition to blind-taste test a few of their gelato flavors and I won!
Has that approach changed today? How do you go about finding new clients- or do they find you?
There was a very natural shift that happened immediately following that first influencer event, where restaurants and PR firms were asking me to come in—which still to this day is humbling!
Tell us about your favorite restaurant experience. Where was it? What was the dish and who was the chef?
This might be surprising to some, but my favorite experience was when I was dining with my two best friends and I was not shooting for my blog and the restaurant did not know that I was a food blogger. It was at the upscale Peruvian restaurant in Williamsburg, Llamma Inn. There were two dishes that really struck me—their ceviche and beef stir fry. The ceviche was just unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, it really woke up my palate and I still remember my reaction to the first bite. The beef stir fry dish is probably one of the dishes I crave the most from day to day—it’s beef tenderloin pieces served in a skillet in the most delicious sauce and topped with French fries with a crema drizzled on top. Right when you think you’re too full to keep going, the server comes over and places a cup of white rice in the skillet soaking up all that amazing sauce and you can’t help yourself… you just keep eating beyond your limits! I’ve since been 5-6 times and always order the same two dishes (among others)!
Horror story time. Have you had any disaster shoots?
Sadly, the changes to Instagram’s algorithm has had a deleterious effect on my account. When the change was made to not feature my photos on every one of my follower’s newsfeed, my reach and engagement was immediately cut in half. It would say it took me a full year to wrap my head around it and re-adjust my expectations. It helps that I am not alone and that I have met some really incredible people in this space who are dealing with the same issues.
Instagram has undergone a lot of changes in the last couple of years. New algorithms, advertising, etc. Has this had an impact on your work at all, for better or worse?
I think when people are faced with a challenging situation, it’s how they handle that challenge that can make all the difference. For me, that meant motivating myself to improve my photography skills. I upgraded my Canon Rebel to a Fuji X-Pro2 (which is what I currently shoot with) and switched from editing my photos on my phone to editing exclusively in Lightroom on my computer—both of which were a huge learning curve for me. After I got over that hump, I created my own preset in Lightroom to give my photos a unique and cohesive look, which also saves me a lot of editing time!
What would you say is the best advice or tip to build
your business/ following on Instagram?
First, have a plan! Before I launched my food blog, I spent almost a month preparing for that launch. I had never created a website before, so I spent two weeks of that figuring out how to design a website from scratch! I also came up with my name and made sure it was available on all social media platforms (as a domain name, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest). It’s also important to make sure you have a clear goal—when people come to your page, whether that’s a website and/or an Instagram account, they should know in a few seconds what you do. Are you showing the best desserts in NYC? Are you a home recipe blogger?
Lastly, after I launched my blog, I spent hours on Instagram every day for months building connections with people and trying to entice people to not only follow me, but to care about what I was doing. It is a very time consuming process but it can prove to be worthwhile!
In your opinion, what are the vital skills needed to be a successful blogger?
You need to be self-motivated. Nobody is going to teach you everything you need to know or push you to learn those skills. There are times where I feel exhausted mentally and physically, but I always, eventually find the inner motivation to keep moving forward and make my blog a priority. It is by no means the typical “job”—you are your own boss, photographer, editor, etc. It does help to network and surround yourself with other creative, talented people who can re-spark your creative juices!
Any advice for budding bloggers?
Like anything else, networking is really an integral part of growing and being successful. Surrounding yourself with successful people can have very tangible benefits but also ones that are more unmeasurable, but still impactful. So put yourself out there! Reach out to people doing what you’re doing or doing something similar—it’s good to have some diversity in your network as well!
And lastly, I’ll leave it on an extra corny note—don’t give up J! Trust me I know that it can get tough, especially with the new Instagram algorithm, but if this is your passion then remind yourself of that as often as you can!