4 Lessons from Four Months Of Blogging (+ Income Report)
Hi everyone! April is over and gone, which means I'm now four months into blogging!
This month, my blog traffic and income report post will be a bit different - I'll be talking more about what I learned so far instead of just comparing numbers and goals.
This post contains one affiliate link, marked with an * asterisk in the text. You can find my full disclaimers here.
If you're new to my blog, here's the short run-down of my creative journey:
While I've been working as a self-employed illustrator ever since graduating art school and moving to another country (which kind of forced me into going freelance) for years, I never took the time to look farther ahead. Deadline followed deadline, and my income was completely dependent on the month's art commissioners. My steadier freelance jobs for companies and magazines left me exhausted and with little creative fulfillment since I rarely got to draw motives I actually liked.
2017 Goals for my Creative Business, Blog & Etsy
So at the end of January 2017, I took the plunge and started to use less time on client work, more for my own projects. I revived my half-dormant Etsy shop. My goals:
- Work on (client and personal) projects I enjoy and that reflect my art style.
- Expand my existing selection of stickers and art prints.
- Build a blog that shows behind-the-scenes & tips for creatives and artists.
- Create digital downloads for my Etsy - both to get around the long shipping duration from South Korea to pretty much everywhere and to have a bit of a passive income stream.
- Having fun! Mostly with blog posts that show my different interests, all illustrated.
I've published income reports and my blog stats since then:
- First Month of Blogging! A fresh start.
- Second Month of Blogging: Slow Progress & Freelancing Income
- Third Month of Blogging: Feeling Creative, Motivated, but Taking Baby-Steps
But now for the traffic numbers of April! Spoiler alert: Everything's pretty much exactly like in March.
Which is sad.
'evydraws' Blog Stats in April 2017
One thing that immediately sticks out: There's no general upward trend. Since my blog is still fairly new, SEO and Google search are still not really working for me. I'm, as of now, putting more effort into generating content like drawings, printables and blog posts, than into promoting all of those. So my pageviews jump up and down depending on how many blog posts I publish.
This gets all the more clear (and depressing lol) when you look at the monthly comparison. This blog started at the end of January, grew a lot in February, gathered another couple hundred more pageviews in March, but then stagnated. I'll discuss the reasons I suspect for this below in my '4 Lessons learned in 4 months of blogging' list.
On a positive note: My traffic seems to be really balanced! That can't hurt, right?
Social Media Followers and Growth
On the other hand, my social media accounts are growing steadily. I'm not doing anything crazy, just post a bit more often than before and - of course - slowly get better at taking pictures, so this is encouraging!
I did drop Facebook pretty much, though. I'm just not comfortable with the site, and while my page there has quite a lot of followers, I dislike everything from the algorithm to the copyright issues and ethics...
I've also just noticed that Instagram is much more fun to me if I post A LOT. It takes away the pressure of choosing the 'perfect' image or focus on just one theme and lets me play around more.
Here are my follower numbers from April 1st compared with May 1st.
Twitter: 697 ---- 710 (my Twitter is totally random, with lots of pics from daily life in Korea and my cat, so follow me if you're in for non-serious stuff :D)
Instagram: 2837 ---- 2928
Pinterest: 184 ---- 277 I should manage my Boardbooster account - I've mostly just been pinning manually lately. On my phone. While being lazy. But setting up some new scheduling and looping would actually save me lots of time. You can try Boardbooster here for free!
Facebook: Stagnant at 1964 (see reasons above...)
Youtube: 1440 ---- 1462 Looking forward to long summer days when I've got enough daylight hours to film more!
Creative Business Income Report:
April was such a sloooow but exhausting month. I pretty much got nothing but the absolutely necessary done (so, freelance deadlines were kept, blogging & Etsy suffered), especially during the second and third week.
Luckily, we also had a lot more guests at our cafe (cafe/atelier/studio/living room) and have been renting out the finished house for a couple of nights. Taking care of guests and housework meant less time for my art projects, but hey, financially this was a nice break. We still plan on selling the entire property, just waiting for the Korean elections to be over this month.
Anyway, I had a freelance income from drawing storyboards and providing graphics for an ebook, all in all amounting to about 900$. I'd planned on reducing my freelance work, but having one or two jobs each month with the same companies again and again really makes everything easier and more stable.
As for 'art commissions' (aka illustrations commissioned to be in my typical watercolor style instead of following a company's style guide), April was slow. I had a couple of clients, but for each project, I was still in the sketching-and-discussing phase by the end of the month. This is why being self-employed can be scary haha. Anyway, those projects will wrap up in May and my income will look better then. For April, I only finished up a single 120$ commission.
Etsy Stats & Income:
With just 41$ from Etsy sales, April was slow on this front, too.
The percentage of digital sales (printable stickers, coloring pages...) went up, which is definitely a step in the right direction! I'm still slowly building my printable listings - most digital products-focused shops have hundreds. I'm at 30...
Passive Income / Affiliate Income / Small Fry
Maybe you've noticed that I didn't have any actual income from my blog so far...?
Well, I don't want to put ads or sponsored content on my blog. It just doesn't seem to fit with my writing style, with my post content...
But I've started putting affiliate links into some of my posts - and have added a Resources page with my recommendations for art supplies. I feel comfortable recommending products since I've got over a decade of drawing and thus testing stuff behind me.
In April, I had my first affiliate sale. It's ridiculous how rich I'm getting.
Amazon Associates: 1.20$
Society6 Sales: 3$
That's it for my income! Leaving out the work at the cafe/rental house and my freelance work, this is my total for what I lovingly call "My Creative Business": 165.20$
So much less than last month, when I nearly hit four digits with just the combination of Commissions & Etsy. Though really, the commissions were what made April strong. And as far as I can see, May already has a lot going on there.
Now for the 4 lessons I learned from starting my own Creative Business & Blog:
Lesson 1: Commission Work Will Never Earn Me Enough
Really. I've calculated this over and over again. Even if I work non-stop and have clients that know exactly what they want without long email discussions, I'll never get much beyond that April income per month. There's a reason why I've been doing mostly work-for-hire freelancing for larger companies for the last two years: It's boring, yeah, but the pay per hour and constant workflow are much more reliable.
I'd have to raise my commission prices quite drastically to get to a good hourly pay. That would turn away all those smaller, lovely businesses I so enjoy drawing illustrations for. I'd be right back at paint-by-numbers company design work.
For now, I'll have to accept that commission illustrations are a great way of trying out art styles, creating new pieces for my portfolio and earning a partial amount of my income - and that I'll need passive income streams to make up for the ups and downs, while keeping a few side gigs like my old storyboard job for more stability.
Lesson 2: Quality over Quantity (Duh.)
This goes for both drawings and blog content.
My blog posts take a lot of time. I draw illustrations for every single one of them. Pictures need to be taken and edited. And after that initial work is done, I feel bad if I just add a couple hundred words and throw the post into my blog's abyss. Which leads me to writing looong posts.
So while I'd planned to up my posts-per-month count, I'll keep it at 8 per month for now. Two posts per week are just about what I can manage without cutting corners.
Lesson 3: Traffic and Sales are unpredictable!
Like with lesson 1, but more blog traffic oriented. I can't control what you like! (and wouldn't want to anyway haha). It's so funny to see that what I'd thought would be just a little post on the side got the most views during April! And that my planning/bullet journal posts are more popular than anything else, in general.
Sometimes, there's a sudden dip in my traffic. Then, there's a little flood. I get views from the most random places, both on my blog and my Etsy shop. Then, that traffic doesn't automatically translate into, for example, Etsy sales. That's just how it is.
I CAN'T CONTROL EVERYTHING.
Seriously. Which leads me to:
Lesson 4: Blogs need a niche... and I don't really care.
I know, I know. Niches are important. I know that I'm probably shooting myself in the blogger leg by jumping from sticker making-ofs to traffic reports, from Korean fashion to drawing advice.
But that's me. We all love more than any one single thing. And while of course, it makes sense to have a niche if your blog is primarily a business, I couldn't do that. I started this blog explicitly because I wanted more variety and creativity in my life!
I'll continue working on all my projects, telling myself that my illustrations are what keeps all the posts thematically united while enjoying drawing and creating new posts...
... and I'll be all the happier and positively surprised when new lovely readers come along for the ride!
Business and Blog Goals for May:
- 8 New Blog Posts
- 4 New Motives on Society6
- Finish my 'Historical Fashion' coloring pages series
- Hit 3000 followers on Instagram! <3
- Get organized on Pinterest, take some time to optimize Boardbooster and join Group Boards
- FINISH ALL THOSE COMMISSIONS
That's all! I really enjoy blogging and creating products - the numbers don't really matter. I can balance most of it with freelancing... but maybe in the future, that will change! I'm staying optimistic. :)