I first met Andrew Dobson of the food & travel blog, dobbernationLOVES at a media dinner two years ago. What I love about Andrew is that he’s serious about blogging, in the same way I approach being a blogger – it’s a real business that requires the ability to deliver, meet deadlines and to be professional. I think this is the key to success no matter what sort of career you’re in.
I’ve always believed that you need to put 150% into everything that you do and people can tell when you’re half-assing it. Go above and beyond, always is my motto and I think Andrew and I have clicked because we both share the same vision and work ethic. He’s the first boy to be featured in this column! Please meet Andrew and his beautiful life:
Why did you start your blog, dobbernationLOVES?
I started my blog in 2006 when I took my first extended travel adventure to Europe. The blog platform was the perfect place for me to experiment with my camera and writing skills, fall in love with social media and keep in touch with family and friends as I traveled around the world (which would end up being a 3 year journey visiting over 50 countries).
What’s a typical day for Andrew Dobson like?
When I’m at home in Toronto I wake up at 6 am make myself a cup of espresso and eat a bowl of greek yogurt. If I don’t feed myself before turning on the computer I find I can get so caught up in my work (especially emails) that I forget to eat and its 3pm and I end up fainting at the table.
I spend my mornings answering emails, writing pitches, coordinating reviews and press trips and working with brands to coordinate coverage. I also write for Travel + Escape and Fodor’s so I work on assignment with them. I always try to have a swim before lunch and then afternoons and evenings are typically jam packed with theatre reviews, events, restaurant reviews and hotel stays.
When did you decide it was an appropriate time to quit your full-time job and pursuing blogging as a career? Did you have a plan?
I had a very poorly thought out plan. I had been running my blog for almost two years in Toronto and it had become so successful that I was forced to wake up at 5 am every day (yes weekends too) just to find the time to write and follow up via email with potential stories.
I initially thought I would work doing social media consultancy work: managing twitter and facebook corporate accounts and writing on branded blogs. I thought brand ambassadorship contracts and sponsored posts would be a smaller part of how I earn my living but they are now almost 100% of my income.
What advice do you have for new bloggers trying to build an audience?
There are literally thousands of food bloggers in Toronto alone and these days it can be challenging to find an audience and credibility in your voice with an ocean of people out there writing the same thing.
I can really only talk about my own story here and what I did was promise myself every day to pursue my passion and work long hours at the start to showcase to businesses, brands, tourism boards and PR agencies that I take blogging seriously. It’s not a hobby for me – it is my career. It’s important to create a niche but not pigeon hole yourself into a corner.
I have created a niche in the culinary tourism space where I combine my expertise in Travel (have been to over 60 countries now) and Food (have reviewed over 500 restaurants in Toronto to date) to help solidify myself as an expert. I spent four years studying at University’ of Guelph’s Hotel and Food Administration School and know that a lot of my early work and pitching was a success because I showcased that I had a degree in my area of interest.
It’s important to evolve as your passions do as well. The first three years of my blog documented my backpacking around the world adventure and often featured cheap eats and hostels in destination. When I moved to Toronto I was no longer traveling but still had a penchant for adventure so reviewing restaurants seemed like the most social and exciting venue for me to discover my new city.
You travel lots for your job! What would I find in your carry-on bag?
My carry-on bag has my iPhone, MacBook, Canon SLR, tons of underwear and socks, travel guide for the destination and printed press trip itinerary for review. On long haul flights you’ll find gum, sleeping pills, ear plugs and eyeshades. It’s important I sleep soundly on a flight as when I arrive the tourism board has me on an intense program and I can’t afford to not be alert!
What is the single most important non-negotiable thing for you when designing your lifestyle and career?
Making time for exercise. And it’s sort of shocking for me to write that as I know I’m certainly not know for my physique. I found working in a cubicle in a normal day job frustrating as I was bound by the 9-5. I love my busy schedule as I’m the boss and can make the decision to go to the gym every day in the middle of the work day to get exercise and ensure I’m giving my body a workout before I consume an outrageous number of calories at night. Needless to say this food writer is doing his best to keep fit and have fun.
What do you do to de-stress?
I like to drink a Manhattan or a glass of wine when I’m writing late at night. Swimming is also a great therapy as it is solitary and allows me to pursue my day mentally without the constant distractions of the internet (which I love, but sometimes need a break from). Eating cheese also releases a large amount of serotonin.
Best piece of life advice to share?
Write a list of your wildest dreams every year. The ones that seem unattainable and so wild that you might only believe they can happen on a tv show or a movie. Keep this list handy and look at it every month to see how the small steps you are taking at work and play are helping you attain your goals.
I’m a firm believer in “you only live once,” and three years ago if you had told me I was going to be eating at 15 or so restaurants a week for work and flown across the globe regularly to interview famous chefs from Reykjavik to Cape Town, Dubai to Dublin I’d have told you you were crazy!
Realizing success isn’t easy: it takes a lot of exhausting work and demands you to believe in yourself when even your closest friends and family may not. The happiest people in the world, I think, are those who enjoy the bumps in the road before arriving at their destination.
To learn more about Andrew Dobson visit his blog: www.dobbernationLOVES.com