Laura Wright; Niagara region; @thefirstmess
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I’m a plant-based cookbook author and full-time food blogger at The First Mess. I develop beautiful, wholesome, delicious, all-vegan recipes. Then I photograph and write about them. Sometimes I develop recipes and write for other outlets as well.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I attended the University of Toronto and graduated with a bachelor of arts. After taking a year off, I went to George Brown College and graduated from their Nutritional Culinary Management program.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
Serving at a restaurant! This was my paying gig while I was in school as well.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
The biggest break I got with my blogger-turned author situation was when a big food magazine gave me one of their best food blogger awards. The level of exposure that the nomination and award offered opened my blog up to lots of new and engaged traffic, which eventually increased my readership/subscriber base, and that lead to my book deal, sponsorship opportunities, better ad revenue, et cetera.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I don’t think I’ve ever actually felt that way! I believe in patting yourself on the back for good work and enjoying the moment, but I personally avoid complacency with my work at all costs. I find it slows down my creativity and drive to do more with the platform I have. The world of food blogging and online content creation in general is always shifting, and the avenues of monetary gain have their ups and downs as time goes on. I feel like I’m always learning something with online publishing and being a food influencer of sorts, so I never want to suggest that I have it all figured out or that I could keep doing what I’m doing forever because I’ve nailed some kind of formula.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
I’ve said yes to a lot things that should have been easy nos, like creating a bunch of content in exchange for exposure from brands and food media outlets. I understand that you have to do a few freebies when you start out as a blogger to get some eyes on your work, but I went on with it for far too long. I was venting to my partner about how much work I had to do, and then suddenly realized that none of this work was actually paying any real money. I had undercut the value of my time and the integrity of my work because I was more interested in being a people pleaser.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
I get a lot of messages from people asking how I “made it” with my career, and I always tell them that if you truly love what you’re doing, prosperity will follow. I honestly think people are disappointed by that offering too because maybe they’re looking for connections or something more concrete. It’s increasingly harder to get your content noticed online. People can tell if you’re doing something halfway, and will move along to the next one. Simple as that.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Work smarter, not harder. If your success depends on you and you alone, I recommend working smart and hard.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
Not at all. Food bloggers in general are about 90 percent women I’d say, and they’re a genuinely supportive bunch from my experience.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
Yes! I went full-time with blogging and my cookbook about a year and a half ago. But right before that, I was also serving at a farm-to-table restaurant part time and doing freelance photography for extra cash.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
Oh they’re all so bad, but that we’re lazy and have a sense of entitlement takes the cake. With my friends and peers, it’s common to have discussions about finding work in general, but also finding work that you have some conviction about. The way the economy/entry level positions have shook out over the years, so many people my age are overqualified and working themselves to the bone. The overarching idea/goal becomes: “If I’m going to be working this hard, it better be for something that I care about.” From here, some people may decide to go to a part-time job while they try to figure out another more meaningful and also possibly less conventional career move on the side. I get that this looks like laziness or entitlement on the surface, but the circumstances and stakes are so different.