Interview with an Influencer: Sally O’Neil (@thefitfoodieblog)

Genevieve Maslin

November 14, 2018

Genevieve Maslin

November 14, 2018

This week, we had the pleasure of hearing from travel, health and wellness blogger Sally O'Neil. Formed from a webpage she used to share recipes with her mother in the UK with, Sally has grown her blog The Fit Foodie into a foodie empire. Over the last six years, she has grown an Instagram fanbase of over 90k followers and has a never-ending influx of blog subscribers.

Sally shares her story with us, and how she built her passion for healthy eating and travel into a career. She shares her insight into successful blogging, and what she's learned from the foodie industry. Check it out! 

Can you tell us about yourself and your blog?

My name is Sally O’Neill and I’m a travel, health and wellness blogger over at The Fit Foodie, which has been running for around 6 years. It originally started as an ‘online directory’ to share recipes with my mum back in the UK, after emigrating to Australia 8 years ago.

After a boom in my Instagram audience before the algorithm and the ‘pay to play’ approach swooped in, I left my corporate job, started Fit Mixes (my snack company), and landed a book deal. I now work as a commercial food photographer and stylist, as well as a social media influencer.

What made you get into blogging?

When I started travelling at 24 years old, my cooking skills were non-existent. Mum sent me some recipes so I didn’t end up in hospital with food poisoning, so I began to experiment with them and swap out the hefty ingredients for fresh, Aussie produce.

Over the course of about 8 months, I lost 14 kilos (!) without diets (!!) or extreme exercise (!!!) and I felt great! Fast forward 8 years and that online directory is visited by thousands of people all over the world every month.

Now on the blog you’ll also find a lot more of my personal story, along with all kinds of tips and tricks on how to eat well, live well and work well.

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

It gives me complete freedom to choose whatever I want to do on  a daily basis, and I choose to travel, a lot. I’ve been to NZ a lot, Japan, Paris, Singapore, New York, Melbourne, London, Fiji, Byron and most recently Thailand. As I write this, I’m on a plane back from a trip through the Canadian Rockies.

Not all of that travel was offered to me through blogging, but the freedom I have been granted with my  work allows me to take a trip at least every 6 weeks or so. I find it helps clear my head and keeps me focused on the bigger picture. 

What are your secrets to success and how did you turn your passion into a paying job?

Sadly there are no secrets. If I could spread those around like fairy dust, I would. Its been down to a LOT off hard work, hustle, determination, sleepless nights and some VERY supportive mates who are also entrepreneurs.

I will say that I have really spent a LOT of time networking, making meaningful connections with people in the industry that have served me, and continue to serve me.

If you’re a nice human and can help others out, expect to receive the same from them down the track. Karma is a very real thing!

Biggest misconception about you and your job?

That I float from event to event enjoying canapés and chit-chat, or that I hang around in Sydney drinking a lot of almond lattes by the harbour. That’s probably my fault - I don’t think posting insta stories of  me huddled down in the library every day makes for great content.

What is the biggest tip you would have given yourself when you were starting out? What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?

I probably would have told myself to stick to service based business. Product based stuff doesn’t set my heart on fire, because it’s lead me down the more mundane path of sales and distribution.

Services such as photography, styling and social marketing give me total creative freedom - and also very low overhead costs.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

I’ve received countless hours of advice from my girlfriends who run their own businesses. We chat everyday on Voxer to bounce ideas of one another and keep sane.

The overarching theme we all seem to live by is - 'start now’. Don’t look at the big picture and freak yourself out - it’s the best delaying tactic there is out there. Just start, and chip away at your goals. You will learn and change and morph and  perfect as you go along.

What are two learnings since starting out?

1. My perfectionism is a double-edged sword. It needs to be managed well to give good results in the long-term, otherwise I burn-out, get stressed and essentially shoot myself in the foot. I have to work hard at this thing called ‘balance’ because I am so crazy-passionate about my work; there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

2. You don’t have to be the most talented person to be the most successful person. I learnt photography and styling from YouTube. I don’t have a qualification in marketing. I haven’t attended a social media course. I’m not a trained cook, web developer or journalist. I do however, have an insatiable work ethic, and know that everything I want is within in my power to achieve, if I choose it. You just have to grind.

How do you go about choosing the brands that you work with?

My management agency choose for me, and then I have a call on that. I have so many  brands that contact me, they filter out the ones who fit most appropriately for my brand.

Very rarely do they book any collaboration that doesn’t work well for the brand or my platforms. It’s a partnership - and needs to pull great results for both parties.

Do you have rules when it comes to brand collaborations?

It must be a product or service I genuinely would use and like. I also have to be able to have creative freedom in how I talk about the brand and how I photograph or video it. 

What has been your favourite brand collaboration to date and why?

I think any collaboration that I’ve worked on over the longer-term to really push a consistent message is always a lot more fun and challenging for me.

Highlights have been working with Australian Eggs to produce recipes and social content, then cook them live on national TV.

I also love working with Woolworths Supermarkets to promote their Macro range - something I always keep in my cupboards and get to be creative with ALL the time, so it couldn’t be a more natural fit.

Then of course there’s the travel opportunities, such as my recent trip to review Amatara Wellness Resort in Phuket. I literally pinch myself every day wondering how this is 'work'.

What does the future of influencer marketing look like in your eyes?

I think there will be a new platform soon that gives more freedom than Instagram or Facebook. Algorithms, paid boosting and so on has made it hard for people to grow their following like they once did; still their reach is valuable and will continue to be an awesome marketing platform.

What’s next for you?

When I land in two hours, I have the entire day to finish my manuscript for my second cookbook. I will be cooking, shooting and styling it for the entirety of November.

After that, I’m hoping to fit in some more travel and learn to snowboard (wish me luck!), and continue to work through my part-time nutrition degree at Endeavour College.

I’m hoping in November next year to move out of the city and into the mountains - possibly Queenstown, or maybe further afield. I’m craving to live in nature.

CREDIT: @thefitfoodieblog

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