eBook Feedback

eBook Feedback
eBook Feedback

Recently I asked for feedback on my first eBook, Diesels on Prince Edward Island. I used SurveyMonkey to write the survey and collect the responses, and I’d like to share the eBook feedback responses here. At the bottom of this post, I’ll share the link to the survey results so you can look at them in detail if you wish.

As an aside, I really like SurveyMonkey and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to gather feedback or issue a survey. It’s super easy to use and its free version is enough for my current needs.

I took the list of emails that Gumroad collected from everyone who bought the book, and pasted that into SurveyMonkey for the survey invitation emails. I received 15 responses, which is a 58% response rate. Great!

I asked seven questions. I didn’t want to ask too many, to respect everyone’s time, but I did have a few things I wanted to cover.

1. How’d you like the book?

  • It was great! – 8 / 53.33%
  • I liked it – 6 / 40%
  • It wasn’t as good as I had hoped – 1 / 6.67%

Good feedback. I’m glad most people either really liked it or liked it.

2. How was the purchase/download experience from Gumroad?

  • Quick and easy – 14 / 93.33%
  • It was OK – 1 / 6.67%
  • Annoying / troublesome – 0

Well, that was great! I’m glad Gumroad worked well for everyone.

3. On a scale of 1 to 5, please rate the book on a few attributes

  • Photo quality – 4.21/5
  • Photo uniqueness/interest – 4.50/5
  • Text quality/readability – 4.57/5

The photo uniqueness/interest really stood out for me as 9/15 rated it a “5”. I’m glad they liked the photo selection and I was glad to get some great photographers to send me their photos.

4. How was the length of the book?

  • Too short – would have preferred more photos and more detail – 8 / 53.33%
  • Just right – 7 / 46.67%
  • Too long – needed some editing – 0

Good feedback here, too. Half of the readers felt it was a bit short. One of the comments here was helpful:

Perhaps just a bit more detail on the various branches

Good to know for the next book!

5. How was the value of the book for the cost of it?

  • Great value – you should have charged more! – 5 / 33.33%
  • Good value for its length – 8 / 53.33%
  • A fair price – 2 / 13.33%
  • A little overpriced – 0
  • A ripoff – 0

Looks like the price point is where I want it to be. I want people to believe they received good value for their money and the survey says the price was right.

6. How did you like it as an eBook?

  • I like the eBook / PDF format – 10 / 66.67%
  • It didn’t matter to me – 1 / 6.67%
  • I prefer a printed book – 4 / 26.67%

The full question was actually “How did you like it as an eBook versus a print book, considering that eBooks are cheaper to buy but possibly harder to read?”

I’m glad two-thirds liked the eBook format. One of the responders commented with a note that really reflects my own opinion on railway books:

the lower cost of eBooks, IMO, is a real advantage. I do not need any more hard cover books, BUT I am always interested in more information.

Sing it!

It is interesting that a full quarter prefer a printed book. I may consider offering the next book on Blurb or another print-on-demand service.

7. What should be the topic of my next eBook?

  • The New Brunswick East Coast Railway – 4 / 30.77%
  • The New Brunswick Southern Railway – 3 / 23.08%
  • New Brunswick shortline railways – 5 / 38.46%
  • Manitoba shortline railways – 3 / 23.08%
  • Manitoba grain elevators – 3 / 23.08%

I allowed multiple responses here so the percentages don’t add up to 100%. There was a wide spread here, which was unfortunate for me as I wanted a clearer direction! I am writing an article for Branchline magazine about the New Brunswick East Coast Railway right now, so I was planning on turning that into an eBook at some point. The feedback seems to indicate that I should write a book about all of New Brunswick’s short lines rather than one on each railway.

Someone suggested in the comments that they’d like information on VIA Rail operations in Winnipeg. I think that might be more appropriate for a blog post series, but it’s a great idea!

A few of the commenters were really enthusiastic about shortline railways. Good to know!


The response to my eBook was generally very positive, both in this survey and in messages and emails to me. I’m glad people liked it and it encourages me to write more eBooks.

The link to the SurveyMonkey analysis is here.

Thanks to everyone who did the survey!

Feel free to check out the eBook.


June Progress Report

Here’s my June progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle. I skipped the May report as there wasn’t a lot to say.

TL;DR> Falling behind.

The numbers are as of June 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $426.31. If you look at that as 5/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m below target.

I really only had one source of income for the period covered by this report, but it was a good one – I released my eBook!

I had some strong sales of the book, mostly at a discounted price. I’ll write another post about the eBook process but I’ll sum up by saying that I was pleased by the response. I’m encouraged and ready to start on another one.

I’ll talk about stock photography below, but suffice it to say that I should see a payout in a couple of months at the current rate.



Stock Photography Income

April was pretty flat but May was strong with USD $17.51 in sales, my best month ever. Shutterstock was the strong agency, responsible for more than half of that. For most of the month I was selling at least one image a day through them!

I’m still way behind on submitting stock photos.


Net Income

My net income is growing positive, so it’s looking pretty good!



Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs yet but I’m not going to call it a failure yet.

Score: POOR

Write and Publish eBook

This one is done and done. You can buy it here!

I was very pleased by the response. I didn’t do a lot of lead-up advertising but when I released it, I had several people very excited and eager to purchase it and also to share the link to their friends. Sales were strong through Gumroad and I only had one return. Who returns an eBook? (shrug)

Related to writing, I had a second article published in a Canadian rail magazine! My photo was on the cover of the magazine again and I think it looked great. I haven’t started on a third one but I have the topic in hand.




I feel that I am falling behind  – I am failing at a couple, fair for one, on track for one, and one goal has been achieved. I’m starting to get concerned. I think next month will turn the tide for the better… I have a good feeling.

Steps For The Rest of April

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

April Progress Report

April Progress Report
April Progress Report

Here’s my April progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> Staying the course.

The numbers are as of April 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $337.17. If you look at that as 3/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m on target.

Two things brought my income right on target.

One, I received an AdSense payment! AdSense is not a large income earner for me by any means. My AdSense income has been pretty small and it takes several months before I get a payment. If you look at my 2015 income, AdSense represented less than 30% of my side hustle income.  It is currently about the same percentage for this year, but I expect that to drop because I’ll probably only receive one more ~$100 payment before the end of 2016. Good thing it’s in US dollars!

My second slug of income for March was an image sale that came from Instagram! I was very surprised to get any income from that route. One of my Instagram followers liked my photos and contacted me to ask if any were for sale. We messaged back and forth and we agreed on a price for 5 digital images. Once the payment went through, I sent her the full size, edited images and she printed them and framed them, and sent me a nice photo of her photo wall. I’m glad she and her husband (who both work for a railway) like them.

I have some stock photography money in the pipeline, but until I add a lot more photos to generate greater income, I won’t be seeing any payouts for many months.

I have a Gumroad video sale in the pipeline that should be paid out in April. It’s been a long time since I sold a copy of my Chaleur train video, so it was nice to see a sale this month. True passive income!

This was a good month for income.



Stock Photography Income

My stock income stayed pretty flat – I accumulated USD $9.73 in March 2016. I’m a little disappointed.

I’m still way behind on submitting stock photos.


Net Income

My net income is barely negative as of the end of March, so it’s looking pretty good!



Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs yet but I’m not going to call it a failure yet.

Score: FAIR

Write and Publish eBook

I’ve finished my first eBook. I’ve had a few people look at it and they like it. I am just waiting for one or two more images from a friend, and then I will click “publish”. I’ll be starting the marketing process in a week or so.

I had my first article published in a Canadian rail magazine! I’m very excited and happy with its reception. The second article is finished and submitted; I don’t know when it will be published. I have the topic for the third one but I haven’t started writing and I don’t expect to start for a few more weeks. I hope to take that article research and expand it into a second eBook.

Hopefully by next month’s report, I’ll have income to report from my eBook!




So far, staying the course – failing at 1, fair for 1, and on track for 3 of my goals. I’m not too concerned yet but I need to work a bit harder, especially on the stock photography.

Steps For The Rest of April

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Publish the first eBook
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

Stock Photography Review Times

Review times
Review time!

One of the steps of your stock photography workflow may require a lot of patience from you. I’m talking about the wait after you submit photos to the stock photo agency. The review times can vary widely!


Why Review?

To recap, when you submit the photos, they are reviewed by a person or people before they are made public. The agencies do this for a variety of good reasons:

  1. to ensure the photos are of sufficient quality (sharpness, composition, etc.);
  2. to ensure the photos do not infringe on anyone’s rights;
  3. to ensure you have supplied the appropriate model or property releases where applicable; and
  4. to ensure the photos are suitable for selling as stock.

You can see why this takes manual intervention. With today’s technology, no machine can run all of these checks.

The problem is that these reviews can take a lot of time.


My Review Times

The following are my experiences with review times at six stock agencies.

  • 123rf: well over 7 days
  • BigStockPhoto: about 1 day
  • CanStockPhoto: within a day
  • Dreamstime: about 7 days
  • iStock: well over 7 days
  • ShutterStock: within a day



I have a few observations about this:

  • The review time seems to have nothing to do with how “picky” an agency is.
  • Your images go into a queue, so you may have several batches in the queue that will get reviewed in a “first come, first served” order. Don’t expect them to be reviewed in one batch unless you submitted them that way.
  • Some times of the day seem to get even faster response from the faster agencies.


What Can You Do?

Well, nothing.

You may get preferential treatment if your images are marked as exclusive for that agency. I don’t know – I am not exclusive with any agency.

Just keep taking photos and submitting them… they will get reviewed eventually. The agencies get thousands and thousands of images daily so it does take time for them to review them, and since they don’t get paid until the image goes live and is purchased, they have a good incentive to review as quickly as they can.

Good luck!


7 Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List

Need a Mailing List?
Need a Mailing List?

Most Internet entrepreneurs know that having a mailing list is very important to your business. You can use social networks to reach out to potential customers, but you need a mailing list to maximize your reach.

Seven Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List

  1. Email doesn’t come and go.
  2. It’s yours, forever.
  3. List members are more committed.
  4. It’s easy to automate.
  5. It converts well.
  6. It drives traffic to your site(s).
  7. Email is everywhere.

Email Doesn’t Come and Go

Today social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and WhatsApp are popular. But do you remember Myspace? Friendster? Digg? What’s next?

Building your marketing solely on a social network is dangerous, because today’s hot network may become tomorrow’s Myspace. Also, someone else makes the rules, so what works today on Facebook might not work tomorrow. It’s happened already – Facebook used to show all your posts to people who “liked” your page, but now only a small fraction of your posts ever get seen, unless you pay to boost your posts.

In contrast, email has been around for as long as the Internet has, and it isn’t owned by any one company. Which means…


Your Email List is Yours

Your email list is yours – not Facebook’s, not LinkedIn’s – yours. So you can send to it when you like, you can change email providers, and your list can come with you. Nobody can change the rules and take that away from you.

Of course, you need to use your mailing list responsibly. People have given you their trust by signing up for your list, so you must respect that and treat them well, or they’re going to unsubscribe.

But since they’ve signed up…


List Members are More Committed

By opting into your mailing list (probably through double opt-in), your list members have made a commitment to you and your business. People protect their email addresses and give them out a lot less frequently than they click “like” on a Facebook page. Naturally, your mailing list is filled with people who want to be on that list and want to hear from you.


Email Is Easy to Automate

There are several services – free or paid – to automate your mailouts. I use MailChimp; there’s also AWeber and Constant Contact among others. Right now I use the free version of MailChimp but as my list grows, I will switch to a paid version.

All of these services maintain your list of emails, but it’s your list and you can download the list and transfer it to a different service if you like. You can schedule emails to send whenever you like, so a good practice is to queue up some emails so you always have some “in the pipe”… especially for times when you go on vacation or are otherwise engaged.

With paid services, you can automate “drip campaigns” to send sequences of email messages to new subscribers or for sales campaigns. You set up a series of emails, determine the interval between emails, and the service does the rest. In many cases you can even put some decision making into the sequence; imagine asking a question in one of your emails with two links, and having the sequence change depending on which link they click.

You can also “segment” your list so you can send emails to only a particular portion of the list. In my list I have a segment that has signed up for weekly photography emails, so I can send most emails to the whole list but only send the “photo blasts” to the segment.


Email Converts Well

Compared to paid advertising, email converts well.

A “conversion” is an action taken – in general it means the user clicks on a link.

Email conversion rates in “house” mailing lists (that people signed up for) tend to have open rates (person opens the email) around 20-30% with conversion rates from 2-5%, whereas online ads tend to have conversion rates more in the 1-1.5% range (source 1, source 2).

A lot depends on the quality and size of the mailing list. You can basically buy a large mailing list by spending money on ads to get people to join your list, but you won’t get users who are as engaged as those who joined because they believed your list would provide value to them.

My list currently has an open rate of about 50% with a click rate around 35%, but it’s a small list. I expect both of those to drop as the list increases in size.


Email Drives Traffic To Your Site

Through your drip campaigns and other automated emails, you can toss links in to various pages on your sites. For example, my “photo blast” emails often include links to blog posts that tell more about the particular images I am sharing. People do click on them, so that’s more visitors to your sites and potentially more sales.


Email is Everywhere

With the advent of smartphones, you can get email everywhere, any time and it’s easy to engage with it on the spot. If you’re like me at all, you can’t stand that little envelope icon with the number on it – you have to click it!


Go Get Started

It’s time to get started. Go sign up with MailChimp, AWeber or Constant Contact. Start collecting emails with the forms included with your membership, then start helping your members!

March Progress Report

March Progress Report
March Progress Report

Here’s my March progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> So far, so good.

The numbers are as of March 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $185.82. If you look at that as 2/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m pretty close.

I finally received my payment from 500px for selling an image there (this one) after filling out my W8 form. If you’re a Canadian you’ll find that you have to fill one of these out for pretty much any kind of online income now. They declare that you’re not a US citizen and therefore generally not subject to withholding tax.

I also received the last of my calendar sales from Lulu. That’s done until the fall!

Finally, a friend asked me to help him with his web site, so I am hosting it on the same hosting platform (Pair Networks – affiliate link) as my own sites and charging him a low rate. We all benefit!

I have some stock photography money in the pipeline, nowhere near the minimum payouts yet; I sold some images in early March that will be on next month’s payout; and there are a few other pending things that will hopefully land soon.

So, doing well this month.



Stock Photography Income

My stock income improved – I accumulated USD $10.53 in February 2016. It started out very strong and continued to do pretty well through the month. I’m satisfied with that progress.

I’m still behind on submitting stock photos. I have been trickling some through but not at the rate that I would like. I need to work on that.


Net Income

My net income is still negative but I hope to hit positive numbers by the end of this month or maybe April.


Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs yet but I’m not going to call it a failure yet.


Write and Publish eBook

I’ve done a lot of work on my first eBook. I still have a bit of fact checking to do and select some photos and then I can click “publish”. I’m considering this one to be a trial run so I am not putting a lot of income hopes on it… it’s more to learn the ropes and gain some experience.

I was a bit distracted this month because I was writing an article for a Canadian rail magazine. I’ve already submitted one that I hope will come out this month and the second one (just submitted a couple of days ago) will hopefully come out later this year. I’m not getting paid for either one but I think it will be good exposure and look good on my resume / web site.

Since I haven’t actually published the eBook yet, I’ll call this:



So far, improving – failing at 1, fair for 1, and on track for 3 of my goals. I’m not too concerned yet but I need to work a bit harder.

Steps For March

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Finish the first eBook
  • Poll followers for eBook topics
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

My Stock Photography Workflow

My stock photography workflow
My stock photography workflow

Since I started getting into stock photography in late November, I’ve developed a stock photography workflow (a set of steps) to cover processing, uploading and submitting stock photography to the various microstock companies. I’d like to share that process with you, and maybe help you on your own stock photography journey.

I’ll start by saying that my workflow is definitely inspired by “Get Started in Stock” (affiliate link), a great guide to all things stock photography. I’ve taken the recommendations from that and adapted them to my own preference.

Why a Workflow?

You need to have a system for your stock photography. You want the process to be as quick as you can make it, so you can increase the volume of quality photos that you submit to the agencies to have the best income for the time you spend. If it takes you forever to prepare images for stock, you won’t submit very many, and therefore you won’t make much money. Not good.



Here’s my setup. I use Adobe Lightroom for my photo editing and organizing. You can use other software for organizing – heck, you can just use Windows folders – but Lightroom is hard to beat for searching and cataloguing your images.

I use Lightroom collections extensively for my stock photography. For each stock site, I have a collection set with five collections:

  1. To Submit
  2. Submitted
  3. Accepted
  4. Rejected
  5. Sales

(Lightroom doesn’t actually list them like that – it lists them alphabetically)

I also have three collections under my main Stock Photos collection set:

  1. Potential Stock Photos (set as my Lightroom target collection)
  2. In Preparation for Stock
  3. Stock Sales

It looks like this in Lightroom:

My stock photo Lightroom collections
My stock photo Lightroom collections

You’ll notice that I have the Stock Sales collection synced with Lightroom Mobile so I have that with me always.


My Stock Photography Workflow

Here’s my workflow. Refer to the collections above as appropriate.

  1. I search through either existing photos or photos from a recent shoot. If anything catches my eye as a possibility for stock, I press B / click in the circle in the top right of the thumbnail / right-click and select Add to Target Collection, then move on. If there are several similar photos, I add them all.
  2. Later, I review everything in Potential Stock Photos. I open each image and give them a second look. If I change my mind, I remove them from the collection. If I still like them for stock, I drag them up to In Preparation for Stock and remove them from Potential Stock Photos.
  3. For each photo, I go into design mode and do whatever edits I like. I don’t usually apply presets. If there are several images that were taken in similar conditions, I’ll edit one then copy/paste the edits onto the rest.
  4. I always will go into Spot Removal mode and check Visualize Spots at the bottom to look for dust spots, and clean them up. Logo removal happens here too.
  5. Back in Library mode, I add keywords, title and caption. I might copy/paste keywords from some of my other stock photos if appropriate and make edits.
  6. Once I have a set of prepared stock photos, I drag the group of them to the To Submit collection under each stock site. In a few cases I may not want to submit to all the sites, so I only drag to the ones I want to submit to.
  7. I right-click on the group, and select my export preset “Full Size JPEG” to build a set of full size JPG images in a certain directory on my computer.
  8. I then remove the photos from the In Preparation for Stock collection.
  9. I run FileZilla and open each stock site’s FTP site in a separate tab so they are all open at once. I’ve configured them so they start at the same directory that the full size JPEGs are in, so I don’t have to fiddle with that each time.
  10. For each site, I drag the images from the source side over to the target side to start the transfer. I do them all at once and walk away while the transfers go through.
  11. Once they’re done, I’ll give them a bit of time and then go to each stock site and see if they are in their Pending folders. I have all the stock sites saved as bookmarks so I can open them all at once.
  12. I’ll submit the pending photos, and once that’s done, I move the images from the To Submit collection to the Submitted collection for that stock site.
  13. Later, when the stock sites review the images, they’ll get moved to either the Accepted or Rejected collections and removed from the Submitted collection.
  14. When images sell, I add them to the Sales collection for that site and also to the master Stock Sales collection, so I have a master list of all of my sales.

I also have a spreadsheet to track statistics on acceptance ratios and sales per month.. something I’ll share another time. It’s not really part of the workflow.



I like this workflow because I always know where my photos are in the workflow and the submission process. I also know if I’ve submitted a photo before, so I don’t stumble across a photo in my library and try processing it for stock again.

One benefit of using these collections is that I can look at what collections a photo is in and see how “good for stock” it is. To whit:


4/5 agencies liked the Eiffel Tower image at top left.


This lock bridge photo was accepted by 3, rejected by two (one for copyright), and is still in the submitted stage for two others, plus it has sold at one agency. You can click on any of those to jump to that collection to find out more.



I hope this description of my stock photography workflow has been interesting. Maybe it’ll give you some ideas for your own workflow! Please feel free to provide comments, suggestions, or to share your own workflow.


February Progress Report

Here’s my February progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle. Numbers are as of February 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

February progress report
February progress report

The gross income I’ve received is $40.15. If you look at that as 1/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m falling short.

There’s money in the pipeline, of course, and some of it is imminent and some is “whenever”. Part of the problem with passive income like stock photography, videos, and so forth is that there is a minimum amount that you have to earn before you can request a payout. All of my (minimal) stock photography income so far is below that threshold, and there are funds stuck in Gumroad because they are below their threshold. I understand the reason for the thresholds – there is overhead to the company in issuing a payout – but it’s a bit frustrating. Since I count income only when I receive it, those funds are not counted in my gross income and it makes my gross income look worse than it really is.

All that being said, I’m still falling short of my goal.

I haven’t had any success in selling prints recently. I need to look at my portfolio and spruce it up.



Stock Photography Income

Stock photo - Large field of bright yellow sunflowers
Stock photo – Large field of bright yellow sunflowers

I accumulated USD $7.43 (CAD $10.37 at present) in stock income in January 2016. I’m very satisfied with that progress.

December’s stock income was a mere USD $1.45.

This is only February 3 and it is already a strong month, so I am pretty optimistic.

I am falling behind on submitting stock photos, so I need to work on that. I’ve shot and submitted a number of Valentines’ Day images, so I am hoping for some sales from those. My first batch of “shot for stock” images is starting to sell, which gives me hope that I’m doing the right thing.



Net Income

If I’m not hitting the gross income targets, I’m not hitting net income targets either! Currently my net income is negative because I invested in my web site hosting costs by pre-paying pair.com for 24 months for a 24% discount.



Work For Hire Gigs

I hope to shoot the Manitoba Marathon again this year, so that could be one of the two I want. I’m tempted to reach out to the Running Room and other groups to see if any opportunities are available. I’ve been scanning Kijiji and I found a few possibilities but nothing has borne fruit yet. We’ll call this…



Write and Publish eBook

I’ve done nothing on this, other than some thought on what I’d like to write about. I believe the next step is to assemble a list of possible topics and poll my mailing list / Traingeek Images followers to see what they would A) like to read and B) like to pay for.




So far, not great – failing at 3 and on track for 2 of my goals. I’m not too concerned yet but I need to work a bit harder.


Steps For February

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos – Easter is coming up!
  • Assemble list of potential eBook topics
  • Poll followers for eBook topics
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

Measuring Success or Just Keeping Score?

Measuring success?
Measuring success?

How do you measure success in your side hustle? Are you really measuring success or just keeping score?

There are so many measurements available for a photography business, or any online business for that matter. Page views, post likes, number of followers; the list goes on and on. You can spend all day looking at these statistics, but are they really helping your business?


Keeping Score

Keeping score
Keeping score

I think tracking the number of followers, page likes, and so forth that you have is just keeping score. It doesn’t matter except in a very general way.

For example, I currently have 393 page likes on my Facebook page Traingeek Images. What does that really mean? How does that help me?

In a very general sense it means that potentially 393 people could see a post I make there. The reality is that less than 50% of those people will normally see a post I make, and only a handful will actually click “like” on it. Facebook’s filtering algorithms try to present the most interesting content, and unless it gets engagement early, hardly anyone sees them. It’s only when a post goes viral, or least gets engagement, that it gets seen by more people… like this one.

At best Facebook page likes are a general sense of how many people you could reach.

The same goes for Instagram. I currently have 1,874 followers (a thousand more than last month!). How does that help me?

It means more photo likes – I average 150-200 per photo now – but that doesn’t really help my business. It might help my ego, but it doesn’t put cash in my pocket.


How Do You Define Success?

Before we talk about measuring success, we first have to define it. Success means different things to different people. A quick Google search gives three definitions:

  1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
  2. The attainment of popularity or profit.
  3. A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

The common theme here is the attainment of a goal. You have to know where you want to go before you can measure whether you’re getting there.

I listed my goals at the bottom of my last post. You’ll see that page likes or follower counts are not in that list.

If you’re interested in doing sponsored posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, then follower counts will be important to you, because you’ll need a minimum number of followers before you’ll attract advertisers.

Like many people, I believe goals should be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Use those SMART attributes to define your goals.


Measuring Success

Once you’ve defined your goals, you can measure your progress against them.

Let’s take my first goal, gross income of $1,200 for the year. To date I’ve received about $40, with another $80 or so pending, so I have to step it up if I’m going to achieve my goal. NEEDS WORK.

The second goal: stock photography income of $50/month. This month I’ve made USD $6.58 or about CAD $9.20, so I’m on my way. Given that I started stock in late November, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress here. ON TARGET.

You get the idea.

I do track numbers like Facebook page likes, web page views, and Instagram followers for my own interest. They are great for exposure but don’t lead directly to income, so they’re not part of my goals and they aren’t measures of success for me.

I’ll report on my progress toward my goals later this spring.


2015 Summary

2015 summary
2015 Summary

Here’s a summary of my photography side hustle for 2015.

I think it was a good year. I didn’t achieve all of my goals, but I had some good successes and I’m building a good foundation for success in 2016 and beyond.

Let’s dig into some details.

Starting Goals

My main goals for 2015 were:

  • Achieve a gross income of $1,000
  • Get into stock photography
  • Start doing photography jobs (weddings, portraits, events, whatever)

How’d I Do?

I did not achieve my gross income goal. You’ll see below that my gross income was $778.98. It was an ambitious goal, as my 2014 gross income was $427.52, so I did achieve a significant increase but not as much as I’d hoped.

I did get into stock photography, with some small success to date, so we’ll call that a win.

I did one photography job – I was one of the several photographers at the Manitoba Marathon and earned a decent income for my 6 hours of work. Another win.



I had a gross income of $778.98, which includes some American income converted to Canadian at the exchange rate at the time. I record income on a cash basis, meaning I only count it as income when I receive it.

Here’s where the income came from:

I stopped running AdSense on my main blog (Confessions of a Train Geek) in May and that certainly affected the income from that. I decided that I’d rather solicit ads from companies and people I believe in rather than run random ads on my main blog. I’m still using AdSense on several niche sites. I probably will stop those once I get my next payout but I haven’t 100% decided on that yet. It’s not a lot of income.



In 2015 I had expenses of $412.03, broken down as follows:

  • Web site expenses: 54% (hosting with Pair.com, name renewals, acquisition of this site’s name)
  • Photography expenses: 5% (Lightroom presets)
  • Advertising: 10% (Facebook ads for products)
  • Training: 2% (eBook for stock photography)
  • Software: 30% (monthly Adobe Creative Cloud payments)

My expenses were up in 2015 due to the Creative Cloud subscription (a good value, in my opinion) as well as the Facebook ads. I’ll be writing about my ad experience soon.

At the end of 2015 I paid my web hosting fees 24 months in advance to obtain a 24% discount. It didn’t get paid until 2016 so it doesn’t appear in my 2015 expenses. I believe this is a good investment to bring my expenses down.


Net Income

My net income was $366.95, which is 47% of the gross income (good) and more than twice my 2014 net income (great). I’m happy with that but I want to improve it for 2016.


Goals for 2016

Here are my 2016 goals:

  • Gross income of $1,200
  • Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  • Net income of $700
  • 2 paid work for hire gigs
  • Write and publish one eBook

Let’s get started!