This week on the podcast, I’m chatting with Cindy Chou about her unconventional career journey from mechanical engineer to chef to dietitian and how she's in the process of building an online business that fuses together these different skill sets.
Cindy shares her experience getting started with YouTube, food blogging, and how she has combined her passion for cooking and oncology nutrition to create an online business that is uniquely suited for her.
She brings a unique perspective as a newer dietitian in the early stages of business building, and her story highlights the importance of taking action to gain clarity rather than waiting for clarity to arrive.
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More About Cindy Chou
Cindy Chou “Cindy ZOh” (she/her) is a dietitian and chef with a food blog featuring Taiwanese and East Asian recipes. She creates cooking videos at The Sound of Cooking and is also the founder of Cancer Nutrition in a Bowl, where she helps East Asian foodies and cancer thrivers feel energized and confident eating the foods they love.
Connect with Cindy
- Websites: thesoundofcooking.com (food blog), cancernutritioninabowl.com (oncology nutrition, cooking resources/course)
- YouTube: The Sound of Cooking and Cancer Nutrition in a Bowl
- Instagram: @thesoundofcooking
- Facebook: Sound of Cooking
- Twitter: @soundofcooking
- LinkedIn: Cindy Chou
Cindy's Free Guide
Check out Cindy's free guide on 3 Cancer Fighting Nutrients using East Asian foods
SEO Made Simple course waitlist
Erica Julson: Today, I'm chatting with one of my former interns, Cindy Chou, about her unique journey from mechanical engineer to chef and then to RD and how she's in the process of building an online business that fuses together, these different skillsets. This episode may be a bit of a departure from what you're used to on the show, because Cindy is still at the beginning of her unconventional career journey.
She's also part of the crop of newer dietitians who have had their internship experiences impacted by COVID. So there's so much to relate to for any newer dietitians who are listening. But I really think there's so much value in speaking to people while they're still in the early stages of business building when all of the emotions and the decisions that they're making are still fresh.
Of course, it's fun to hear the success stories of people who've been at this for years, but looking at the stats from my podcast, one of my most popular episodes is episode 39 titled the slow build to entrepreneurship. Where I talked with dietitian, Jen Hernandez about her journey of slowly and steadily building a business on the side so that she could eventually transition out of working in renal. So I think that this episode will be similarly inspiring. You can hear Cindy's experiences getting started with YouTube blogging and how she envisions bringing these things together with her passion for oncology nutrition.
To create an online business that is uniquely suited for her. Cindy story highlights the important to taking action, to get clarity, rather than waiting for clarity to miraculously arrive before you start doing anything. Because spoiler alert that moment of sudden clarity we'll not just fall into your lap.
She also has a lot of experience, video production and YouTube strategy, which is something I haven't talked about much on this podcast. So I can't wait to dive into that during the episode too. So without further delay, let's get into our conversation with Cindy.
Erica Julson: Hi, Cindy, welcome to the podcast. I'm really excited to have you on for everyone. Listening. Cindy is a former intern and we have it connected in a couple years, I think now, so I'm excited to catch back up with her and I think you will all love her unconventional story and background. So thank you for being here.
Cindy Chou: Thank you. I'm so excited to be here and it's always great to catch up. I fangirled around you for so long and it's, it's so cool to now be on your podcast.
Erica Julson: Yeah, totally. And you were like such an amazing intern and you helped me so much, so thank you as well for all of your hard work.
And I just know. Having seen, like how you work, that whatever you're putting your attention and intention into moving forward is gonna be successful. So I'm excited to talk about that today. Uh, so yeah, let's maybe just start out, like, can you tell us more about your overall like life background? cause I know dietetics was not your first career. So what else do you have experience in and then what led you to becoming a dietitian?
Cindy Chou: Yeah, uh, it's definitely been a really long path for me. Um, as I'm sure a lot of people also experience, but my first career was actually as a mechanical engineer. I went into that, knowing that I had to support my mom and I financially.
So out of all the careers that I knew about at the time, which wasn't many, that was one that I knew. At least after graduating, you get a decent starting salary. So I pursued that and I worked on unmanned helicopters and hybrid and electric vehicles for five to six years. But what's interesting is cooking has always sort of been something that I gravitated towards even as I was little, always come up with recipes and things like that.
And through undergrad, the first two years, I worked as a cashier and line cook full time at a Hawaiian restaurant. And so even being an engineer that was always in the back of my mind and it wasn't until 2010 that I finally decided to pack everything up, move across the country and pursue something that was just.
What I thought was completely selfish is just what I wanted to do. I couldn't imagine not giving it a go. So I went to culinary school, at the culinary Institute of America in Hyde park, New York, and pursued becoming a professional cook and chef just like my dad. Uh, he, he used to be a chef at his restaurants back in the day, when I was little.
So it was something I really wanted to explore. And I learned a lot through doing all kinds of different things in New York, as a cook, anything from like food styling, recipe development, working out as a production assistance behind like video productions and things like that. And then private chefing, and then teaching cooking classes at this place that.
I worked at called Haven's kitchen. And that's when I, I think really got into the groove of figuring out what I wanted to do in terms of like teaching and cooking. I didn't know what a RD was back then. And while I was working at Haven's kitchen and RD actually came in to teach a class and that's how I was introduced to the entire profession.
I was immediately intrigued and I asked her all these questions and it was pretty much that night that I decided, oh, I think I need to pursue this because it really combines like the science and culinary side of things. So I just kind of just dived in without truly understanding what it would actually take to become an RD.
Erica Julson: yeah. Right. Big surprise. Once you're in here, you're like, oh man, this is a lot of work.
Cindy Chou: yeah. You think it would be like another four year degree, but it takes so much more than that. And, yeah, once I started, I just in way it was like, okay, I'm already on this path. I have to finish. Then I moved back to California because that's where my family is and my husband's family.
And, I finished my dietetics studies here and then applied to Cal poly slows dietetic internship, which led me to you , even before I applied to my internships, I think I. I don't remember if I stumbled upon your Facebook group first, or if it was your podcast, but, you were my first introduction into like all the possibilities of online business that RDS can do.
And I just, I binged all your podcast episodes at the time. and just kind of just, you know, learn from all the things that you post in your Facebook group and got really into the idea of like, oh, what I can do outside of the more traditional roles, like clinical and things like that.
Erica Julson: Yeah. And I don't normally like work with that many interns, uh, over the last few years just cuz I was doing a lot of different things and I.
At that time, I hadn't outsourced anything and had very little capacity to like take on new things. But I, there was just something about that. You sent me an email, I believe. And I just had like a really good feeling about it. I don't even remember what the email said that I was just like, oh, I feel like, you know, she would be a really big asset, to helping out.
And I felt like our interests aligned, uh, in terms of what you were trying to learn too. So I don't know. It worked out very well, so I'm glad you emailed me. Cindy helped a lot when I was kind of like revamping some of my SEO course as well. And with this podcast, even, uh, helping me book guests and come up with questions for people and it was very helpful.
But yeah, so just to talk back through that, so you had an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and then how long did, how long is the process to be, to go through culinary school?
Cindy Chou: It's like. Close to a two year program, but I actually only did one year. So I went into it did the first year, and then you're supposed to leave and do an externship for a little while and then go back.
So I left for my externship and that's when I realized, like I staged for all these fine dining restaurants. And I just realized that wasn't the path that I wanted to go in. And that's what the, the degree kind of prepared you for. So I decided not to go back, and just try to find opportunities on my own with what I've already learned. Um, and that's sort of what I did.
Erica Julson: And then when you say that you met the RD that came in, to teach a class and you were talking with them, like, what was your, what was like, hope that it inspired? Like what, what career were you envisioning? Um, in terms of like, Marrying culinary and then nutrition.
Cindy Chou: I wasn't really sure. I just, I think I was in a place where, you know, cooking in the food industry can be, it's pretty hard labor and you're working long hours. You're standing all day. I just kind of knew that, okay, I'm not gonna be able to do this forever. And I wanna build something that would be more sustainable, for later on.
And I was kind of missing some parts of my old life. Like maybe it was the tech and science behind things, but I didn't know exactly what, uh, this RD she was, I think, consulting for like Nike or something. So she did a lot of cool things as well. And I just thought, oh, That means I can do different things and I don't have to be always working in a kitchen long hours. So I thought I'll pursue that, but going into it, not knowing exactly what I would do.
Erica Julson: And then I guess let's flash forward. What did you do? So you finished your internship and then where did your career go from there?
Cindy Chou: So the timing was interesting because my internship in the middle of it was when the pandemic happened and, my whole, all my plans just kind of went out the door.
I had initially thought, oh, maybe I'll go into clinical or outpatient for a little bit. I, my, uh, big goal was to work with oncology patients. And so I thought that's where it would lead me. But then, yeah, the pandemic happened sort of like. Two thirds of the way through and everything was, we're just stuck at home.
Everything was online and I had already started a food block a while back at my YouTube channel. And I thought I should just go all in on this. It kind of gave me the space and time to think about what I really wanted, which was great because I thinking back now, I think I thought, oh, I'll try out clinical or outpatient, because that was what I thought you should do to get more experience.
But I really didn't enjoy it as much, being an introvert and just, you know, I didn't miss sitting at the desk all day long in the office setting like that. So yeah, it gave me the chance to sort of pursue online business a hundred percent.
Erica Julson: I think a lot of people listening are gonna relate and we're pro I think a lot of people who are newer RDS or current interns even, or students, probably were in similar situations.
uh, so I can only imagine, and even like outside of the dietetics realm, what are we like a couple years out from the pandemic now? It feels like there's a lot of, entrepreneurial stories coming out from that time period, when people were at home and they're like, wait, what am I doing with my life?
Like, should I try something online? So, yeah. It's exciting. So yeah, let's dive into that. Like what, what kind of, um, entrepreneurial ventures are you into right now? Like how are you currently making your living as an RD? I guess?
Cindy Chou: I'm doing a lot of different things. Sort of still in the beginning of sta beginning stages of like building things up. And I feel like I got a little distracted and tried a little bit of everything I could think of,
Erica Julson: which please let's talk about that because I swear this happens to, so this happened to me, this happens to everyone. So I'm, I'm glad that you're here kind of in the earlier stages. So we can really dive into that because it's way more common than anyone thinks. So yeah. Let's, let's keep going. So you're, you're dabbling in a lot, like what are you dabbling in?
Cindy Chou: Yeah, so I, okay. So I started with a YouTube channel, like way back making came up with my husbands to make animations for kids to introduce like fruits and vegetables, because I thought, oh, we can combat all the advertising.
That's geared towards children and instead promote fruits and vegetables. And that sort of led into, you know, it wasn't really sustainable in, in terms of like constantly creating content. And I really wanted to be a bigger part of the video creation aspect. So I got into creating cooking videos, because I had some background in being a production assistant and helping other chefs doing their like web series and things like that in New York.
So I thought, oh, I can translate my skills and try out cooking videos. And I sort of transitioned my YouTube channel to all cooking. And I was really, I don't inspired by movies that highlight the sounds of cooking. So a lot of my cooking videos are very, I guess they fit an introvert personality where I don't show up on camera much.
That's how I started. And it's really about the visuals and the sounds of cooking. And then after that I was like, oh wait, I should learn about blocking after because I'm making cooking videos anyways. And I wanna be able to share recipes. So I started a blog, to go along with my videos. And that's when I learned about you, I found you and I got really into SEO.
So I took a lot of time to dive into that And then after becoming an RD, I was like, I wanna start building the foundations of what my future goals are, which is working in oncology. But I thought I can utilize my strengths, which is in teaching, cooking and creating videos. So I'm now also working on a cancer, nutrition and cooking course.
So it's, it's been a lot of like little things that take a lot of backend work and learning. So I definitely shifted my focus a lot. And now I'm sort of in the end deep into implementing, like just focusing on two things and sticking with it for the next two years.
Erica Julson: Yeah. That's a really good lesson though, because some people might be like, oh man, I tried so many things and you know, I feel like I wasn't focused or something, but that's how you get the focus.
A lot of times is by doing , you know, and trying the different things cuz in your head, you could, you could think like, oh, I'm gonna love this, but maybe you do it and you don't or whatever. So I feel like there is still value in there's value in doing, even if it feels scattered in the beginning, because it it's really rare.
I found that people come out of the gate, laser focused and knowing exactly what they wanna do in exactly the way they wanna do it and exactly who they wanna serve. That, that almost never happens. People kind of like, you know, maneuver their way there in over like a few year period usually. So this is really helpful, I think for people to hear about your journey.
So thank you for being so open and sharing. Yeah. So I, do you wanna name drop some of like the names of your project? So if people wanna find them, they can.
Cindy Chou: Uh, sure. so I've recently revamped my blog to match my YouTube channel. It's, thesoundofcooking.com and my YouTube channel is at the sound of cooking.
And then I started cancer nutrition in a bowl. Currently I just have a website and, uh, I plan on building up my course content and working on that. Great. So that's where you can find me.
Erica Julson: And then what are you like? Obviously these things are probably not really bringing in much revenue right now. I would imagine if they're still in the beginning stages.
So, what else do you have going on in your life? Like, are you working a job? Are you doing freelance stuff? Like what other, what, or, or are you like not working and just focusing all in on these projects? Like what, what's your current situation?
Cindy Chou: I've been taking on some freelance work. Like it's on and off currently I'm focusing like a hundred percent and just sort of using savings to hold me over.
I'm lucky that my husband's really supportive and his job helps a lot but, um, on and off I've been doing, some private chef work and then I've recently been doing a lot more speaking engagements online, I think with learning how to do like live video and cooking demos online really well has really helped with, taking on speaking at conferences virtually and teaching, cooking demos. Uh, so that's where I've been focusing in terms of like income generating.
Erica Julson: Great. Well, that sounds exciting. And like right in your wheelhouse, uh, in terms of the virtual cooking demos and stuff, and I don't think I've ever had anyone on the podcast talking about that. So, um, hopefully we can dive into a little more about how you, you, how you do video and all that.
I think people would find that really interesting. So yeah, like moving forward as you try to build these brands, what does your typical week look like? Like what are you focused on and, you know, content creation, promotion, like that type of stuff.
Cindy Chou: Uh, so I, I'm trying to batch my work more, because I do kind of feel scattered a lot. I feel like when you have so much freedom with your time and you're home alone working on something, you always get distracted with something that. You think you need to do right away, but really doesn't move the needle forward. So even just this year, I feel like I've gotten a lot better at that. I have goals that I set and cast that I set through.
Like I have Trello boards and Asana. And so throughout the week I set certain days where I'm working on email marketing. So building out my email marketing funnel for cancer nutrition in a bowl, and then I'll set like two to three days straight of like recipe testing and developing recipes. And then I'll plan time, in blocks of days to photograph and create cooking videos and the video stuff I use for both the sound of cooking.
And I plan on also using it, for cancer, nutrition, and a bowl. And then. I'll plan, like speaking engagements or podcasts and things like that meetings. I try to keep them all on like either Tuesdays or Wednesdays and, yeah, and then sort of Fridays. And if I happen to work during the weekend, it's catching up on things that I had on my list, but I didn't get to
Erica Julson: totally. So I hear you saying time blocking is a big one batching, which I totally agree. And also kind of like automating or like working ahead kind of sounds like, um, in terms of working on an email marketing funnel, what's your, what can you walk us through? Like, what's your thought process behind that? What, what is in your email marketing funnel and why are you taking the time to focus on that right now?
Cindy Chou: I am, so I'm not too big on social media, just because it. Kind of draining for me personally. Um, so I made the decision that I would put a lot of emphasis on growing my email list for both brands. So I've been doing a lot of work on that. And so I think first was, is creating like a freebie or lead magnet and then writing out like nurture and welcome sequences that come with when someone downloads that freebie.
And I'm at the stage now where I'm planning out my content to promote these two lead magnets so that I can grow my email list. Yes. And the, yeah, the thought behind that is that I can use that for, um, marketing my course and things like that later on.
Erica Julson: Yeah. So the key things that I'm pulling out from that are that, okay, you kind of like, know what your end goal is, which a lot of people struggle with that in the beginning.
I just recorded a podcast. It hasn't come out yet, but I recorded a podcast about some of the biggest, reasons why people struggle to make money online in the beginning. And a lot of times they don't really know what their goal is like, are they trying to get ad revenue? Are they trying to sell a course?
Like there's like a lack of clarity. There. Um, so I think the fact that you have a course that you're trying to sell, then you can work backwards from that, you know, the end goal. So then I, what I really liked that you just said is that you're trying to plan your content to be like in alignment with that.
um, and that's another thing that people I see people struggle with. So sometimes the blog post or the YouTube videos or the, whatever that they're putting out, isn't quite like in alignment with something that they offer. So they're not maybe attracting people that would even wanna buy their product so, I think that's gonna be such a huge payoff.
Um, if you create content that will attract people who would then might be interested in purchasing a course about cancer and nutrition. So, how are you figuring out what content to make that would be an alignment with your course? Like, is there a process there.
Cindy Chou: Um, I've definitely, it's taken me a long time to get to this place. I’ve also struggled with not knowing where my end goal is. And I have invested in like online business coaching and things like that. So I'm planning my content around, um, what I've learned from two main business coaches, Laura Shefield and Amy Porterfield. So, I've learned a lot from them and then planning my content around just like answering questions that your target audience or communities have in like changing their mindset and also addressing like the whys and the whats of your topic. And just starting from there.
Erica Julson: Great. So let's see, you're, you're making videos mostly. So are, is your goal to get people and obviously recipes and stuff too. But are, is your goal to get people to your brand via YouTube? Is that the yeah, acquisition strategy? Because YouTube is like a foreign land to me.
I, I know it's super powerful. For people listening, we don't talk a ton about, about YouTube on this podcast, but Google also owns YouTube and it's almost like a, a video search engine. And it's great if you're good at video, because then you can people go to YouTube, to the YouTube search bar and search on YouTube for videos, but they also look for things in Google and because Google owns YouTube, they do like to rank YouTube videos, pretty highly in the search results.
So you have like a double whammy there if you do it right? Like you could be found natively in YouTube, but also on Google. If people are searching for it. So. I'm just, is there, like, are you following in a YouTube SEO or are you going more of like, you know, the trying to address and meet your customers needs route first?
Cindy Chou: I think I'm really into YouTube. I think both as a, as a user and creator. Um, I think it plays on my strengths of like teaching rather than writing. And I love creating video, so I've learned a lot through like free videos on YouTube um, and then I've, I've taken a YouTube course a while ago. So I have like, sort of the foundations.
So I do a little bit of keyword research. Um, I use two buddy, but a lot of it is just when you're starting out. I think it's about just creating videos, that answer, you know, your target audience's most pressing questions. And, um, I think my focus to start is just to start to create more consistent content yeah,
Erica Julson: yeah. Build a brand and like become known for solving X, Y, Z type of problem. Totally. can you tell us a little bit more about what to buddy is? Cause I don't think we've talked about that at all on this podcast.
Cindy Chou: So sort of similar to, like, if you were to compare it to SEO for blogging, like a key search or Sam rush, it's another tool that, gets connected to your YouTube account and then you can use it to search, do keyword research, but it's YouTube specific and the tool tells you like what the competition is and search volume is.
And when it's connected to your account, it also kind of gives you a general analysis of what your chances are to rank for the specific keyword. And then you can use it to sort of plan out your YouTube video, title and description. So pretty similar to blogging, um, in terms of SEO and incorporating a keyword, uh, is just in video form.
Erica Julson: That's super cool. I, and yeah, just to have that data is everything. I, I it's so much. Easier to come up with a content calendar and feel confident about your plan when you're like, okay, like I know that this many people actually look for this every month. That's not, I'm not just making this up. off the top of my head with, you know, no idea of how many potential, um, eyeballs might get on it.
So, yeah. Have you actually published anything yet with that strategy to see results or you're just sort of like in the planning stages right now?
Cindy Chou: I have published one of my videos on the sound of cooking. It was a video on like stir fried morning glory, also known as water spinach. I searched the keyword through key search for the blog post, but also use two buddy to compare.
So that video is SEO optimized for both the blog and YouTube. And it worked out pretty well so far. So I plan on using similar process for all my other videos.
Erica Julson: That's really excellent. And for people who might wanna get into video, is it hard? Like, did you have to buy a really expensive camera? Like what are, what kind of equipment might you need, if you wanna do like a cooking demo type of video?
Cindy Chou: I think it's definitely possible to use your phone. So iPhone works really well. I didn't start with that just because I had an old, like refurbished cannon DSLR. And so that's what I started with, but, uh, there are definitely a lot of people on YouTube that use their iPhones. the quality is decent and I think the things you want to focus more on is just having decent audio.
So buying a affordable mic. But at least the audio's good. And then your video quality doesn't have to be like super professional. It's more about. Your content and what you talk about and how valuable it is to the person you're speaking to.
Erica Julson: Like not, maybe not winging it, like you actually planned out, you know, kind of like you would write a blog post, but you planned out like what you're gonna say probably in your video.
Because I've seen again, this is not like really my area of expertise, but I've seen, uh, like the YouTube chapters in the search where they bring up the video and it has like, timestamps about like what you're talking about at each point. So I imagine if you like build in the proper structure into the video, that would probably be helpful for user experience and maybe ranking to.
But yeah, I hear that all the time about the audio thing like that, the audio is actually one of the most important factors. Like even if your video looks good, if your audio is like super far away in echoy, people will just leave . Yeah. So is there a certain microphone. Because, I mean, I'm using one, that's like USB plugged into my computer for my podcast, but I imagine that would not work very well if I need my hands for like chopping. So is there a certain type of microphone that you use it or recommend?
Cindy Chou: Uh, I use a road mic go too. Um, it's it's wireless. And so it works really well with cooking and I bought like a, a lav lava layer to connect to it. But you don't need it. The lav, that's just an extra to kind of even make the audio even better, but that's a great place to start. It's a great mic, it's not too expensive. And I think it's a, it's a great investment if you want to go into video.
Erica Julson: Cool. And Laier for people who don't know is like just the thing that you kind of like used to clip on your shirt or something, right? Yeah.
Cindy Chou: Yeah. it looks like a miniature mic
Erica Julson: yeah. Uh, and then lighting is there. Your lighting is really good right now, whatever you're on. while we're talking right now, , I'm like in a dungeon and you're just like beautifully brightly lit .
Cindy Chou: Thank you. Well, I have some lighting now, but all my cooking videos on the sound of cooking are just natural light. I have my sort of section where I shoot videos is kind of close to a window with like white curtain kind of thing going on. But lighting wise, I think there's some affordable options, but starting with natural light, if you can is great.
Erica Julson: And then, um, what about editing? Is there any fancy editing tools?
Cindy Chou: There are quite a few. I started with, Adobe premier pro Just because I was already familiar with Adobe software. And I learned how to edit videos through that.
It is a little bit more work intensive. I recently started using D scripts, um, not for cooking videos, but for videos that I plan on like more educational nutrition education type of videos, where I'll be talking to camera, D script has been amazing with just editing and you can take out your filler words when you talk. Um, I also use it to convert like my usual horizontal video to vertical videos for reels, use it to add captions. It makes things really.
Erica Julson: I've been using that too for my podcast. I've actually started outsourcing, so I'm not really actually doing the editing, but I have the program. But I don't do a lot of videos.
So I haven't really even capitalized on all the capabilities. It sounds like that you could be using it for, but yeah. Uh, for anyone listening who ha isn't familiar, it's, uh, basically like an editing tool where you can simultaneously edit your video, the associated audio and the associated transcript, all in one go.
So whatever method, you know, works best for your brain, I guess like for my podcast, one of the most tedious things that, or editing used to be very tedious for me in the past, cuz you, I would have to like, listen back to what I said to like edit it, but in D script you can just, it transcribes it. Even if you're recording straight into it, it will transcribe it in real time.
Like as you're speaking into it, and then you have the whole transcript and then yeah, like you said, you can literally just say, oh, delete all filler words. And it will like auto delete all of your ums from the audio and the transcript. Sometimes I, I don't rely on that every time though, because sometimes I have found it to be a little choppy, but you can at least use it to like skip through the transcript and find all the ums and manually delete the ones you want to.
So yeah. It's I love, I love that tool too. Yeah. I have to look into the video, um, capabilities though, cuz that's cool. I didn't know that you could switch, horizontal to vertical. I don't do any reels. I'm still behind. Um but
Cindy Chou: yeah, definitely use the script. Yeah. I mean, essentially you can edit your videos just by editing, like a word document. that's what it feels like.
Erica Julson: Yeah. And for people who learn by reading or are quick at editing that saves so much time. Yeah, let's see. Where is I going with that? Okay. So we talked about, we talked about editing equipment. We talked about filming equipment, audio equipment. Yeah, I mean, is there any, like with your experience with doing video at this point, anything you think that would be helpful for a beginner if they haven't gotten into video yet like helpful tips for getting started? I guess.
Cindy Chou: Yeah. I think just one just getting started. I think getting past that fear, which took me a year over a year, I had thought about making videos for the longest time. I mean, that fear just holds you back, but you have to just, even if you're just recording a video and you don't post it, I think the act of doing, doing it will really help you build confidence.
And I think starting out, you don't have to do anything fancy. Don't compare yourself to others, pick a topic. That's a common question that your audience asks and then write out a bullet point list as your script. And you can just start by recording your first video. If you're doing a cooking video, then you can just try out different angles, but just have fun. I think to start it's, it's really hard to learn it by just only watching others do it. You really have to just do it yourself.
Erica Julson: I couldn't agree more. Just, I mean, obviously I don't do a lot of video, but with podcasting, if it was the same way with blogging, it's the same way. What you make in the first year, you're gonna look back and be like, oh my gosh, I thought that was so good at the time.
And you just come so far just by doing you just like incrementally improve. And I recently interviewed somebody, we talked about this kind of, where don't waste all of the time, like trying to get everything perfect. like, you get so much more value and like real world data from getting content out there, even if it's like 80% perfect.
You know, it's, at least it's done and then you, you put it out there and you see kind of like what's performing well, what's sticking, like what's, what's working for you. And so that you can double down on that stuff instead of potentially, you know, it's like the question of whether you could put out 20 pretty good videos and then get feedback.
From the real world versus two, like quote unquote perfect videos. But like, it's not like enough information, you know, maybe one does well and one bombs. And then where are you? You don't really know anything. Whereas if you have 20 pieces of data, maybe there's more patterns and stuff in there that you can lean into and, and learn from.
Cindy Chou: Yeah, definitely. And your first few videos, or even 10, maybe there, aren't going to be that many people that will watch it. So I think sometimes what I get in my own way and thinking, oh, it has to be perfect. I, you know, I pay attention to all these little details that most people won't even notice. And, I feel like I've definitely learned a lot just about posting and then every new video I try to improve on one little.
Erica Julson: What do you feel? Have you gotten comments? I've heard that the comments in YouTube are like brutal. I haven't like looked, but just from my peers, they're like, oh, people are like ruthless .
Cindy Chou: Yeah. I'm not there yet in terms of reach, which, but that is a part that I'm sort of dreading. I have heard a lot of like, things about that as well. but I feel like I know that going into it, so it'll do it. It'll be okay.
Erica Julson: Yeah. And it's kind of unavoidable. I mean, I guess on a blog you can like turn off comments, but people will still find you, like, I used to freelance write for Healthline and people would like hunt down my personal social profiles to like send me messages about something I wrote on Healthline.
So like , you know? Yeah. Wow. People will find you if they want to. Uh, so yeah, just don't I don't stress about that, but I just think it's funny. I just heard some. That people are just like off the rails on YouTube and also TikTok. I've heard that's a little like wild west right now as well. Yeah. Speaking of that, are you, uh, do you have any plans to kind of like repurpose any of your video on TikTok or does YouTube not really translate that? Well, TikTok,
Cindy Chou: I do plan on like using my long form video and then cutting down like reels or vertical videos and repurposing those two Instagram and TikTok
Erica Julson: nice. Well, okay. So now just kind of going back to the bigger picture view, now that you've done culinary school and you also become a dietitian, like in retrospect, do you think this is a good combination? Like, are you excited about how you can pair up your formal training?
Cindy Chou: Yeah, I'm really excited about, finally being at the place where I can combine everything and, pursue all the dreams that I thought I wanted to pursue. Uh, I think it's a great combination. You definitely don't need to go to culinary school to be able to con combine like cooking with nutrition.
Um, I think if I were to do it over again, I might not have invested in culinary school. I would have just either worked as a cook or learned cooking by doing and practicing. it's a great combination, I think in terms of if you're really into like nutrition, education and reaching groups, an audience online. Yeah. It's fun.
Erica Julson: I know. I was gonna ask you, like how much do you think. It just it's like, I don't know. I feel like I struggled with imposter syndrome starting out. Cause I sort of feel the same way. Like I was interested in cooking initially and that led me to thinking about how I can make a career out of food and nutrition.
And I started a food blog as well, and that was, it was sort of like doing okay in the beginning, this was like 2011. So, so, so early. And there was so much potential. A lot of the big brands were just getting started. But I felt like, oh no, no, like I need formal and some sort of formal degree to like be able to do this.
So then I, I basically took what four years off to go become an R D and sometimes I'm like, dang it. What if I hadn't done that? What if I just lived with my parents and food blogged for like two years? Like probably would've gone somewhere. Uh, just cuz it was such like good timing at that time. So yeah.
I don't know. I, I do think there's, there's there's value in um, Thinking for a moment of whether, whether you really need the formal expertise, because if I just wanted to food blog, did I really need to be an RD? Probably not. Um, you know, and if you just wanna be an RD, do you really need to go to culinary school? Like maybe not, you know, like, I, I don't think you always need like a buttload of formal degrees, to get where you're trying to go.
Cindy Chou: yeah. I feel like I think that a lot too. And part of why I pursued all these different degrees or going to school for everything is the imposter syndrome. Like feeling like I just, I need that validation to feel like I'm an expert , but really, if you already have the skills, and you understand a little bit more than the general audience, you're already an expert in that area.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Yeah. But you know, again, it's just a good lesson you learn from doing and then you can share your experience for other people. So yeah, I guess let's see now that you're working on hardcore growing your channels with intention, what's something that you've done recently that you think was a really good tactic or strategy that, you're excited about.
Cindy Chou: I think nicheing down. Like I knew that I had to niche down, but it, I don't know why it was painful and just making that decision, and going for it. I think it's helped just making that decision has helped me focus more. In terms of planning out the type of contents I wanna create and the type of audience I wanna build. And so I think that's made the biggest impact at this point of where I am right now.
Erica Julson: That's really good insight. I, yeah, again, that's another one I hear all the time. Like people are like really afraid to narrow it down. Which I, I understand. I even struggle with that still today. But from personal experience and from watching, like, like at this point, I think there's over 600 people have enrolled in my blogging course, SA made simple.
And so I see, you know, People at all stages and where they're getting stuck. And that it's way more common for people to try to go too broad in the beginning, than too specific. you almost can't go too specific and like, it would be difficult to go too specific, honestly. And, uh, you will pick up a lot more traction and obviously I'm speaking from a blogging perspective, but I imagine it's probably similar on YouTube as well.
Uh, if you can send the right signals, like cuz like EV all of this stuff is run by algorithms, essentially, like deciding what to surface in the search results. And if you have a lot of content created with a lot of engagement around a specific topic or entity, I guess you could call it, , then that sends a signal.
Like this person is an authority on this. Whereas if you're trying to cover like 20 different topics and you only have one video on each of the 20 different topics, it's like, who are you like, who like, even the algorithm will struggle to, to figure out when to show you, in those search results. Yeah, that's a really good insight.
And I always tell people like nothing's permanent, you know, you can niche down and hate it and niche into something else, but it's better to try that than to not ever really get clarity on who you're speaking to.
Cindy Chou: Yeah. When I first heard you say that that was what actually helped me decide to niche is you saying that you can always change your mind? Right. I think just picking one and going down that path is what's important.
Erica Julson: Yeah. And you learn so much too, like anything that you, even, if you totally change gears, what you learned while building up the content or trying to build up an audience in that niche, all those skills are easily and quickly transferable over to whatever other niche you decide, to pursue in future.
So that there's not a lot lost. Even if you change gears, I think. uh, and then I guess, conversely, so we talked about something really good that you've done recently. Is there anything that you maybe wish you didn't do starting out? ?
Cindy Chou: Um, it's hard to say. I mean, I think, like I mentioned before now, in hindsight, I feel like I should have, or could have just focused on one thing at a time.
And I know you talk about that a lot too. I just have issues with executing it , it's really hard, especially if you're multi passionate. But like you said, like I first start, I first started thinking about the possibilities of food blogging back in like 2013 or so. And if, sometimes I think if only I just pursued that and did that for at least like two, three years to start.
Right. So I think for now I think. If I were to do it all over again, I would pick one thing at a time and at least dedicate like a full year to that one thing to really learn how to grow on the specific platform and grow that specific business before deciding to try something else.
Erica Julson: Yes. And I love that you attached a timeframe to that and like a realistic timeframe cause that's so common.
People try something for like 30 days and they're like, ah, it's not giving me instant results. Like, let's try the next thing for 30 days. And then a whole year goes by and nothing's picked up traction where you had just stuck with one thing probably would see traction after a solid year of intentional focused action.
Yeah. So do you have any like resources? I know you talked about a couple, you know, coaching programs that you went through that you found helpful, any other. Resources that you would recommend for somebody who's trying to start something online, maybe, grow their audience with YouTube even.
Cindy Chou: Uh, yeah, I think, well, your course SEO made simple, made a huge difference in terms of learning all the details behind SEO and growing a Bo blog, which ties into cooking videos with YouTube as well.
And, in terms of learning video, I did start with food blogger pro, and their program is pretty affordable and they have a course on creating cooking videos. That's really helpful to get started with learning the basics. And then I think just watching YouTube videos, like if he wants to get into YouTube, You definitely should watch YouTube and learn by watching other people's content.
What does, well, what resonates with people? You learn the different types of style of video. And there's tons of YouTubers that teach how do YouTube as well. So I've, I've learned a lot through that.
Erica Julson: Do you have any like specific people in that you follow?
Cindy Chou: Uh, yeah. I follow Roberto Blake. He, um, creates a lot of videos that are, that give you like concrete examples of how to get started, from beginner to like, even if you have like 10,000 subscribers, but from zero to even higher, I love, I learned a lot from his content. And then also, think media, I learned a lot from. And there's Vanessa LA they're
Erica Julson: so you have to look up all these people yeah. Thank you. That's super helpful. I'm always, I I'm always li like, well, I don't watch to of YouTube, but I listen to a lot of podcasts and I know I could easily like listen to videos in the same way that I listen to podcasts.
So I'll, I'm gonna check those people out. Yeah. So I guess I'd love to kind of wrap things up with where do you see yourself looks like you're a longer term vision for your career? Like where do you see yourself in one year, five years and 10 years? Let's say,
Cindy Chou: I think this next year, I'm definitely going to truly focus on building, um, my cancer nutrition course.
And then on the side, I'll continue to work on the sound of cooking, blog posts and videos, but my focus will be on growing my course contents. And then I think in the next five years, I think just continuing to grow the two incomes, I would love it if I can grow the blog to apply to media vine.
That's one of my ultimate goals for my food blog. Right. And then in terms of YouTube, I think is just being able to monetize that. So growing the YouTube channel monetizing and just exploring different income streams later on.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I love, hopefully, you know, I can have you back and maybe I can't believe I just had my first repeat guess and it's already been two years since I interviewed her last.
So it's like time flies. But yeah, I'd love to have you back. Cuz I don't, it's really popular when I do that when it's like talk to someone and then you talk to them again a few years later and you're like, wow, you've come so far. Like great job. So I really like that. And another one of my most popular episodes is talking with another person who's in the beginning stages of just kind of growing their business on the side of a full-time job.
And so I think these really resonate with people. So I really appreciate your time and coming on here and sharing with like where you're at now and like what what's going through your head and like what your thought process is. Cuz I just know so many other people listening are in that exact same spot and I, I think they'll get a lot out of, hearing even how you're working through your goals, moving forward.
So yeah, I mean, I feel like I already asked you some of your top pieces of advice, but I don't know, I wrote this down as a question, um, and sent it over to you. So maybe you came up with some really nice ones. So can you give us your top three pieces of advice for RDS who are thinking about starting an online presence today?
Cindy Chou: Yeah, so I think. Takes some time to really think through what you enjoy doing. I think I did a lot of reflection on like skills and things I naturally gravitate towards, or that come naturally to me. So for example, for me, that was cooking and coming up with recipes and teaching. I think those things all have, I think affected me positively and all the careers that I've been through.
So thinking about what comes naturally to you, because you really wanna be able to enjoy what you do when building an online business. And then I think the next step is picking one platform. Based on like what you enjoy. So if you feel like you enjoy writing more, then a blog is a great way to go. Or if you enjoy watching videos or teaching, then video, I think is a great platform to pursue.
You can always learn the technical stuff through courses and things like that, but just think about like the foundational skill set and what you enjoy and just pick one and go for it.
Erica Julson: Yes. Yes. And that's not to say that you can't do more than one in the future. it's another place. This is just like the nicheing down thing where people are like, but wait, I can't pick just one content like platform, but yeah, for real, you you'll be much better served if you pick one and then after you pick up some traction and you get systems, I think that's the biggest part is like just getting your bearings, like it takes time to figure out.
The most optimized way to make content on any given platform. Eventually you'll get to a place probably where it's pretty fast and easy. Maybe you can hire some help and then you can start thinking about adding onto that. But I agree. That's, that's a really good piece of advice for people starting out for sure. So that was that two. Was there one more? Let's say we had,
Cindy Chou: oh, um, I guess the third one would be to step into the fear yes. So I've learned the whole hard way that, you know, overanalyzing everything won't really help you move forward. You really? I had to really just do something. Take the step, even though I was scared and just do it and learn from it, be okay with it not going as planned, because that's how you'll grow and really move the needle forward.
Erica Julson: Yeah. And it, I mean, it can be, it's scary because going this unconventional route, trying to build something online is pretty foreign to a lot of people. Like it's not something that a lot of people do. I mean, in my dietetic sphere, I, I do know a good number of people at this point who have online businesses, but like in my real life, pretty much, no one
So , uh, yeah, you, it can sometimes be like, I'm pretty sure no one in my real life, like even has any idea what I do. I'm always joking about that. They're always like, oh, your husband's a realtor, like, oh, great. Like, you're just like at home, like, actually, you know, I make just a switch money. So yeah, , it's funny, but it is a real viable career with, and there's a strategy to get there.
So, um, kudos to you for. Having the courage to go for it. And then I even think there's, a lot to be applauded in your, I don't know what the right word is like, you didn't give up. Um, it seems like there was a lot of moments over the last few years, like, especially with the pandemic, freaking throwing a wrench and everything where it could have been really easy to be like, ah, I don't know if this is the right time or whatever, but, yeah. Kudos to you for taking small actions over time. Cuz in the end that's what really adds up. I think.
Cindy Chou: Thank you.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Yeah. So if someone is listening and they wanna connect with you and follow along with what you're doing, um, where should they go? Like what's the best platform to connect?
Cindy Chou: You can find me on YouTube. I'm the, channel's called the sound of cooking and I'm also that on Instagram and uh, you can sign up for my email list if you want. I have a. Free guide that I created on like cancer fighting nutrients. And once you join the email list, you'll find out when I do like live cooking demos and things like that.
So if you're an RD or RD to B, you can see how I, I do those, then it'll be exciting to have other RDS watch. So you can find that at cancernutritioninabowl.com/guide,
Erica Julson: great. And then that the cancer nutrition and a bowl brand could also be something like maybe somebody in their personal life knows somebody with cancer, potentially a good resource to forward to that person as well.
Great. Well thank you again for being here today. It was great catching up and, hearing about everything. You're working on and all your future goals. Um, and seriously, I, I'm probably gonna reach out to you in like two years and have you back on . So this is your two year accountability goal.
Cindy Chou: yeah, I definitely need that. So thank you. And I really appreciate, you know, being on your podcast. It's so cool to it kind, it feels like that's where I started in terms of online business is finding you and your podcast and then now to be on your podcast is amazing feeling.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Well again, thank you for your time and I appreciate it as well.
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Cindy and pulled out at least a few helpful nuggets that can move you forward in your own entrepreneurial journey. And if you are interested in learning more about my signature course, SEO made simple, which teaches you how to blog in a way that will bring you lots and lots of traffic to your website, which you can then leverage to create a profitable business. You can add your name to my waitlist at seowaitlist.com. Once you're on the list, you will get invited to enroll in the course every few months or so, as long as you stay on my email list. So that is the best way to learn more. And i look forward to connecting with you in next week's episode.