Today we’d like to introduce you to Eliza Cross.
Eliza, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve loved to write since I was a little girl, but my path to becoming a writer took lots of twists and detours. I grew up in Boulder, in a very creative family. My parents are artists, and I was always making crafts, sewing, painting, writing in my diary, and experimenting in the kitchen.
My interest in food writing was first sparked by our mom Betty Crosslen, who’s a terrific cook. She wrote a food column called The Wooden Spoon for the weekly paper in Boulder, and I loved reading her stories and recipes. Home Ec and English were my favorite subjects in school, but my dad suggested I study business in college. I’m glad I followed his advice because my marketing degree has come in handy at every stage of my career.
For 16 years, I worked for Wiesner Media as an advertising salesperson and later as the publisher for Mountain Living magazine. On the side, I pursued my writing passion as the food writer for Colorado Homes & Lifestyles magazine. In 2002, I left the company to become a mom again, stay home with our baby boy, and write part-time. I thought I was semi-retiring, but it turned out that I was just getting started.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I literally launched my company, Cross Media, right in the crucible of one of my biggest personal crises. In 2003 I was separated from my husband (he sadly passed away in 2016), I was a mom to a one-year-old son and a teenage daughter, and I had credit card bills and a mortgage to pay. Did I mention that I was also unemployed?
Once I understood the reality of our situation, I downsized to a smaller fixer-upper house and lived frugally to pay off debt. I’ll be honest; I cried a lot that year. My income was erratic, my personal life was a wreck, things kept breaking at our house, and I felt the weight of many responsibilities. It was a challenging time that also strengthened my faith and trust in God, and now I can look back and see the positive things that happened. My motivation to work from home and earn money was huge. I began offering marketing and communications services for a small group of clients. I also wrote my first book, the “Food Lovers’ Guide to Colorado.”
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Cross Media – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I’m very invested in my clients’ businesses and care deeply about their success. I’m currently working with a ski resort, a golf community, a home builder, a commercial real estate company and a residential real estate company. We collaborate and strategize to drive more revenues, expand their markets, and hone their brands. I also help them strengthen their online presence and messaging.
My magazine publishing background taught me a simple lesson: Always write for the reader. For example, the “About” page on a website is usually one of the most-clicked pages—but think of all the boring bios you’ve ever skimmed. Credentials are important, but it might be entertaining to add a little humor to your company description or a quirky detail that shows your personality. Or perhaps you can share an interesting anecdote or a quote about what you stand for.
If your website is super-slick and polished, maybe it needs the contrast of an old photo showing your company’s humble roots (back when you had the really big sideburns) and your first office space over the beauty salon where the air always smelled faintly of hair permanent solution. People love reading stories. What’s your company’s history? What makes your business approach unique? What problem do you solve better than anyone else?
Make your promotions and website appealing to your readers, and they’ll spend more time learning about you.
You’re also a cookbook author and blogger. How do those roles fit with your business?
I read some great advice years ago about developing multiple income streams if you’re self-employed. These are the related projects I do in addition to running my company:
• Author of 15 books, most about food and cooking
• Blogger, The YOLO Blog and founder of the January Money Diet
• Professional speaker
• Occasional projects like book coaching, photo food styling and magazine writing
I love cookbooks and read them like novels. When I’m developing recipes for the cookbooks I write, I try to make the recipes special, simple and approachable for home cooks. I especially enjoy going deep and exploring all the things you can do with one ingredient like berries, pumpkin or quinoa. I’ve written three cookbooks about perennially-popular bacon, and “101 Things To Do With Bacon” (Gibbs Smith, Publisher) has sold over 60,000 copies.
The YOLO Blog is where I connect with readers and explore different topics about living well, cooking good food and saving money. I also love meeting readers in person and speaking about topics like simplifying at home and work, managing your money, cooking, writing, and getting published.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be self-employed?
These are my suggestions, most of which I’ve learned the hard way:
• Save as much money as you can before quitting a steady job. Practice living frugally now.
• If you can, begin your new business as a side hustle while you’re still gainfully employed. Build a client base and start generating income.
• If your dream is dependent on your partner picking up all the financial slack, that might put too much pressure on the relationship.
• Get a good CPA to help you structure your business and set up accounting and tax reporting systems.
• Figure out health insurance.
• Diversify and find several related ways to bring in income.
• Explore how you work best. I do deeper brain work in the morning and administrative tasks in the afternoon.
• Focus on getting meaningful tasks done. Each morning I start a “Deliverables” list and write down what I accomplish. It’s too easy to do stuff that feels like work but doesn’t actually produce anything. If I didn’t do this, I would watch TV news blooper videos all day.
What are you most proud of as a business owner?
One of my most rewarding projects is the January Money Diet, an annual challenge through my blog. I started it back in 2006 when I overspent during the holidays and decided to write about my attempt to get back on track with a no-spending month.
Now in its 15th year, thousands of people from all over the world join each January and take a 31-day break from nonessential spending—often with extraordinary results. One 2020 participant wrote, “I saved about 50% of my net income and paid off my yearly student loan repayment plan in full,” and another wrote, “After being a smoker for 43 years I decided ten days ago enough is enough and haven’t picked up a cigarette yet. Huge savings for sure.” It’s thrilling and gratifying to see people take control of their money and do important things.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My clients all have robust goals for the coming year, and I’m excited to work together to help them be successful. I plan to continue expanding the January Money Diet so that more people can participate. I have several cookbook ideas that I’m developing, and a novel I keep coming back to. I’m currently roughing out a book about money that’s partly a practical guide to taking control of your finances and partly a memoir about my own mistakes.
- Website: https://elizacross.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Povy Kendal Atchison