December 2017 | Sofia Simeonidou
I know Vicky, the Amsterdam Foodie, from Instagram. I know Vicky from her honest restaurant reviews, no extras, no tweaks. I didn't know Vicky was first and foremost a writer. I didn't know she had a book published a few years ago. I didn't know she rarely compromises. I didn't know Vicky.
Who are you?
I’m a foodie, I’m a feminist, I’m a writer, I’m an immigrant, I’m a cook.
How do you earn a living?
I write. I’m game to write about anything, but I mostly split my time between food writing and corporate writing.
How did you start?
I guess I’ve always written things down. I moved to Amsterdam in 2006 and at that time there were no bloggers writing restaurant reviews. I was just posting about it on Myspace page. Then at some point, my brother decided to buy me my own URL for Christmas and I just went from there. So that’s how it started. Amsterdam Foodie was more of a coincidence than a brand.
How was the food scene in Amsterdam back in 2006 when you started with Amsterdam Foodie?
It was very different from what it is now. There were French, Italian, some Dutch restaurants, and that was it. I interviewed many chefs over the years. I think they all started to travel around the world a bit more and then they brought back new culinary traditions to Amsterdam. And in general, people broadened their horizons a lot. The transformation is amazing. I wonder if it also had to do with the credit crisis and the Millennials who were more interested in experiences rather than cars and houses. Eating in a restaurant is something that people are prepared to spend money on now. Maybe more so than before.
Where you an employee before going freelancer? Why did you make the change?
To be honest I kind of always wanted to. When I moved here I worked for a communications’ agency for 4.5 years. Then I got a job at Ahold and I stayed with the company for 3 years. So I’d worked for a big company and a small agency, and I wanted to try freelancing to decide what I liked best. Unsurprisingly to myself, I like to work for myself best. I’m very independent and I don’t like having people telling me what to do. But I was already doing freelance work on the side before all this. I had quite a good network. I was relatively confident that I could pull it off. And I also got a major client to start with. I could then find other freelance clients on top of that. That made it easier, to have a big client to get me started.
What were the challenges with your blog growing?
Honestly to make money from a blog you have to do sponsored content. But people aren't prepared to pay that much anyway, and then you also run into big ethical dilemmas. The main point of restaurant reviews is to be objective. My blog is a restaurant review site, that’s the whole point, to be independent. If you have sponsored content you lose the objectivity, and you compromise the nature of the blog. And I’m competing with so many bloggers who are writing the same thing. It’s moved a long way from the original reason I started blogging, but being the Amsterdam Foodie has become such a big part of my identity. People I’ve never met know me because of Amsterdam Foodie. I need to figure out how I want to continue in the future.
Freelancing is kind of an emotional rollercoaster that you have to be prepared to ride. You’ll have months where you don't make anything and it’s terrifying. But then you have this great job coming in and it’s so exciting. And there’s so much flexibility in the way you work.
What time do you normally wake-up in the morning?
Usually between 7 and 8 am.
These days, perhaps content is all about video and Instagram photos. But even if everyone else is on YouTube, they’re welcome to it. I’m first and foremost a writer and I’ll always be a writer.
What’s good content? Is it content that drives traffic to your site? Or are we past that?
It’s a tricky one. When I started I knew nothing about SEO or online marketing. I just wrote. I had much more of a metaphorical angle or journalistic headline, more personal posts. I think my writing was better because I didn't care about how many people were reading me. But now it’s become such a big industry and everybody is looking to be on the first page on google. Even if you don't want to be part of it you end up doing it because otherwise, nobody reads you. So why bother writing then? I feel my writing got worse in a way because I had to pay more attention to SEO. At the same time, making the posts less personal maybe made the content more useful. These days, perhaps content is all about video and Instagram photos. But even if everyone else is on YouTube, they’re welcome to it. I’m first and foremost a writer and I’ll always be a writer.
What was your experience publishing your first book?
I had this idea ages ago when I was still working for an agency. I used to make lunches at my work, also for my colleagues, and it was actually one of my colleagues who suggested I should write a book about making lunch at the office. I was working full time and it took some months, if not years, to put everything down on paper. I had to look for a publisher because back in the day self-publishing wasn't really a thing. It was difficult to find someone to publish a cookbook in English. So I ended up going down the crowdfunding route. I reached the financing target and found a publisher, but I ended up doing everything myself: finding my own editor, designer, and photographer, and funding my own book launch. I tried to get back the rights to the book but it wasn’t that simple. Then in 2017, the publisher was winding down so I got the opportunity to claim rights back. I decided to give it one more shot and so I’m my own publisher now. Such a tough project. I created my own web-shop, I got the book on Amazon and Bol.com, I created an ebook as well. It is a huge amount of work.
And so I think I know the advice you’d give to anyone looking to publish a book?
Publish it yourself. Unless your publisher is going to work hard to make it a bestseller. And most publishers will only offer you a 10% royalty. But in any case, you don’t get into book publishing for the money.
Any advice to whoever is in the blogging business?
If someone is thinking of starting a blog, don’t bother if you want to make money from it. But of course, it really depends on the subject matter of the blog. For freelance writing, if you’re good at what you do you’ll get clients because people will talk about you and word of mouth is the best form of marketing. But in my case it’s a very niche industry – I’d hesitate to speak for another industry.
Despite what I just said about book writing being such a tough business, I’m thinking about writing another book. It won’t be a cookbook though. It’ll be short essays: vignettes into the world of being a foodie in the Netherlands.