It's now been a year since I started this blog!
While I'd initially planned on just using it as an online art portfolio, I quickly fell in love with Squarespace's beautiful blog layouts and the joy of blogging itself.
While I never hoped to make a substantial income via blogging, I did plan on driving traffic to my Etsy shop and - mostly - have fun, be creative and adventurous! On that front, I am very happy with the result.
As a freelance illustrator, I easily get caught up in just client projects and forget to sketch for myself. This blog kept me on my toes and motivated to draw more "on the side".
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Personal Goals: Creativity, Artist Blog, Sketchbook Inspiration
Unexpected Results: I now have a diary in blog form!
From traveling to delicious food, I've documented my life in 2017 - without always relating it back to just drawing or work.
It's so much fun to now scroll back through all those blog posts and remember what I was up to.
2017 has just breezed by way too fast, but by journaling and documenting it on the blog, it feels just a bit slower and more precious.
TOTALLY unexpected result: I got into bullet journals. Big time.
While I've always been a planner nerd (TM) with an addiction to detailed schedules and an interest in maximizing my own productivity, I've only discovered the Bullet Journal system this year. And it's been such a blast to try out different layouts, habit trackers, or collect creative journal ideas. My background in illustration influences my Bullet Journal spreads - I love adding doodles or my own watercolor stickers. Blogging about my monthly and daily spreads and all the experiments in my journal kept me on track and made it easier to reflect, too.
Having a blog where I could post whatever I wanted, without deadlines or restrictions, motivated me so much.
I like a lot of different things, from traveling to food, beauty to bullet journaling, books and, of course, art. While I probably give you readers whiplash with the constant back and forth, I personally enjoy this mix of blog posts too much to give it up and niche down.
But that leads me to a drawback: My blog isn't a business.
While I've added the odd affiliate links, my focus is always on content and illustrations. My plan for earning passive income online had always focused on Etsy sales (I started selling digital products this year). Commission illustrations would always be my main source of income...
But the big reason why, around July 2017, I (temporarily) stopped pursuing blog income, was external:
South Korea changed its laws towards PayPal. As a foreign resident, I can no longer connect my Paypal account to any bank account in Korea, or even send money to other local Paypal accounts or shop online...
The change in banking rules hit me unexpectedly. Not only do all my Etsy sales go to PayPal, but most of my art commissioners use PayPal, too. Even some of the larger design and illustration companies I worked for at the time preferred Paypal over international bank transfers. All of a sudden, I was left with a pretty much useless account, money that I could neither move nor use, and a crisis: Could I switch to other payment systems? Which of my long-term illustration work would be affected?
In the end, it wasn't too tragic: I used my account for the trip to Thailand (finally a reason for international shopping or rather, booking...) and was able to switch to more Korea based work. It's not ideal, since every online income stream from Youtube to Etsy still relies on Paypal, but I'll have to adapt to that.
It did show me, though, that I couldn't rely on the same tactics as many other bloggers. I'd previously encountered problems when it came to international shipping (a pain for larger formats...) and several affiliate programs. But this made it all the more clear that I couldn't expect that working "via" the internet to be smooth sailing in the future. Diversifying my income sources is a key goal for 2018!
Plans for 2018:
I want to pick back up where I left off mid-year and focus on monetizing.
While PayPal isn't ideal, I can still use it on occasion and you never know if banking restrictions won't change again, right? I've recently started using Adsense and added more affiliate links. At the very least, it could be a nice bonus to use for iHerb orders. :)
Make a zine.
I'm thinking about something along the lines of "Life in Korea" with a mix of my travel sketches, food illustrations, some of my "favorites of the month" - but I'm not sure yet!
I've ironed out all the kinks in my plot and script during NaNoWriMo and can't wait to get back into storytelling. It would also mean larger, intricate illustrations, which would be worth filming for future drawing videos.
(I actually worked as a comic book artist while at art school and in the years following that, only switching to freelance illustration recently because, well, money.)
Get better at art.
I can't emphasize this one enough!
I'd stagnated in my drawing skills for a while, especially in 2016, I feel. Working freelance gave me strict rules what to draw and clients that had hired me wanted a certain style - so, lazy thing that I am, I didn't have enough pressure to actually focus on improving in my free time! During 2017 I got back into drawing for practice - color studies, sketchbooks to fill with themed illustrations, and experiments with art materials. I hope to continue on that road in 2018, with this blog as my motivation and as a way to hold myself accountable.
I fell in love with South Korea and Jeju Island all over again once I got serious about drawing travel sketches! Living here made me forget that I could still be a tourist. I want to treat my daily life like a travel adventure and see my surroundings with new eyes.
RESULTS: One Year of Blogging and Etsy
Blog Pageviews and Income:
I didn't have a single monetization in place for the longest time, using my blog mostly as an experimental art diary and for brain dumps.
The very last month of the year, I finally jumped on the Adsense bandwagon (and earned a spectacular 3.40)- but my main focus is still creative experiments, keeping a digital diary for art and travel experiences, and Etsy as a passive income source over affiliate sales or ads.
January 2017: Barely 400 pageviews during that first week of blogging.
December 2017: 12.6k pageviews! I'd hoped to crack the 10k before the end of the year. :)
While the overall earnings haven't increased that much, they have become a lot more steady. As in, instead of a lucky large sale among random small ones, I now have a consistent stream of sales. Also, I didn't have a single digital listing in February and now, my shop has over 60 printable stickers and coloring pages.
And I reached a total of 100 listings! The wider selection gives me a better idea of which designs are most popular, which direction I should pursue in the future, and where I should change it up.
The printable stickers and stationery are less of a "personal" experience than sending actual letters, but they're great on two other accounts:
- No long international shipping times (Korea, again... with most my clients in the USA)
- Passive Income
With the whole online banking fiasco, I now just see that passive income as a way to balance out the transfer fees and exchange rates of my other online incomes. It certainly helps!
One of the affiliate programs that actually works really well even for non-US bloggers is Ebates. Since the cashback and rewards systems applies to many international shops and brands, it's a platform I actually like using even here in Korea for my online shopping. And it works for Etsy, too - so if you plan on purchasing planner supplies or anything at all on Etsy, I'd recommend signing up via a referral link for a bonus 15$ on top of the usual cashback.
Total number of blog posts: 60!
While the numbers of blog posts written per month always felt pretty small to me, the final result sounds more impressive, doesn't it?
Of course, a lot of those blog posts were experiments.
I've posted on a variety of different subjects, in a variety of styles, and was always curious to try new things! From illustrated monthly favorites to travel guides around Jeju Island, I'm happiest when I can blog freely and without focusing on only a specific niche. (Though it's definitely detrimental if you're trying to develop your blog into a business.)
While I'd love to post more frequently, my freelance work and creating illustrations to actually post about do take up most of my time. The most comfortable posting rhythm for me is 1 or 2 posts per week.
I've recently completed an Instagram 7 Day Challenge. In general, all my social media platforms were steadily (if slowly) growing. I'm at this point wholly focused on just Instagram and Pinterest.
My Instagram slowly grew over the year as I posted a variety of content and got a lot more experimental and "free" with what I'd post. I started with just over 2500 finished the year at 3286 followers.
I don't have any concrete goals for these in 2018. As I learned this year, the online world and algorithms are unpredictable, and I don't think that reaching a certain number will make a big difference in the long run.
As is a running theme on this blog: I want to have fun and be creative!
What are your goals for your blog?
Is it a business? A hobby? Did your goals and vision change once you started posting?
I love reading about other bloggers' journey!