Breaking 1000 Hours – Growing my YouTube Channel

I hit a milestone yesterday. Over the past year, people viewed my videos more than 1,000 hours – a new record for me!

YouTube Watch Hours

YouTube Watch Statistics
YouTube Watch Statistics

Traffic has increased! It’s not enough yet to regain my Partner status, but it’s an improvement.

The watch time is 61,798 minutes, or 1,030 hours – much greater than the 790 I started with when I began working toward regaining my Partner status.

YouTube Subscriber Count

YouTube Subscriber Growth

I’m now at 984 subscribers, just 16 short of what’s required to regain Partner status. I have no doubt I will get there. I’ve gained 99 subscribers since I started this effort.

There was a notice on my account – and others, no doubt – about how YouTube was removing spam accounts around December 13-14, and that I might see a decrease in my subscriber count. The good news is that I didn’t see any decrease. I’m glad – that means the people who subscribe to my account are real people!

What’s Next?

More content, more engagement – keep on doing what I’ve been doing.

First Physical Print Sale

The Marquette, MB grain elevator

I’m very proud to say that I made a physical print sale!

I was approached by someone who was interested in a canvas wrap of the grain elevator that used to be in Marquette, Manitoba. That elevator was demolished in September 2013, so it’s not possible to photography it any more!

This is not my first print sale, of course. I have photos for sale at Fine Art America/ and on Redbubble, and I’ve sold a fair number of prints that way. However, I never know who actually bought the print. For instance, someone bought a mug with this photo on it recently and the only indication I had was a flurry of emails from Redbubble.

I sent my client some thumbnails, and she selected the above photo for printing. I had it printed on a 16×20″ canvas wrap and hand-delivered it. It was a real pleasure to be able to deliver a physical print and talk with the new owner!

The print

I wish I had thought to take a better picture of the picture.. but this will have to do. I like how it turned out.

See my Redbubble gallery or my Pixels gallery.

Growing my YouTube Channel – Three Month Update

Here’s my three month update on the progress toward growing my YouTube channel. As I mentioned in my one month update, I have two metrics I pay attention to: watch hours and subscriber count.

YouTube Watch Hours

YouTube watch hours over the past year

You can easily see where I started making the effort to increase the watch time on my YouTube channel. It has made a significant jump – not enough, yet, but a significant increase.

Note the watch time is now 56,136 minutes, which is 935.6 hours – well short of the 4,000 hours required, but a big improvement over the 790 I started with.

YouTube Subscriber Count

YouTube Subscriber Growth

I currently have 954 subscribers, inching toward that magic 1000 subscribers required for Partner status. I’ll get there, eventually, but the watch hours are more important.

What’s Next?

Keep posting, keep engaging… I believe these are helpful but I need to make a quantum leap in terms of watch time to reach the 4,000 hours. I’m not sure how to make that jump but I have a few ideas. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Growing My YouTube Channel – One Month Update

YouTube Channel - One Month Update

You may recall that I lost my YouTube Partner status early in 2018, due to a insufficient watch hours and not enough subscribers. Last month I said I was going to get it back, by growing my YouTube channel. This is a one month update.

I have two metrics to watch while I grow my channel: watch hours; and subscriber count.

YouTube Watch Hours

YouTube View Growth, August 2018
YouTube View Growth, August 2018

It’s difficult to tell from a 365 day graph, but what we are concerned about is the area under the graph. That’s the view time, which as of today was 48,977 minutes over the past 365 days. That’s 816 watch hours, compared to 790 from this time last month. That’s a 3.3% growth over the month. It’s a small growth, but it’s a visible and measurable start.

At a steady 3.3% month-over-month growth rate, I will reach the required 4,000 watch hours in 51 months. That’s way too long!

On to subscribers…

YouTube Subscriber Count

YouTube Subscriber Growth, August 2018
YouTube Subscriber Growth, August 2018

Today I have 912 subscribers, a gain of 27 over the month, or a growth of 3%. At this rate, I will hit the required 1,000 subscribers in 4 months. I mentioned in my previous post that I wasn’t very concerned about my subscriber count, and the numbers show that I am on the right track.

What’s Next?

Make more videos, longer videos, keep posting and sharing! Feel free to visit my channel –

It’s a grind… but I’ll get there. Hopefully sooner than 51 months! 😉

Regaining YouTube Partner Program Status

Rejoining the YouTube Partner Program?
Rejoining the YouTube Partner Program?

My YouTube channel used to be part of the YouTube Partner Program. I monetized my videos with ads and every month, I’d get a few dollars added to my AdSense balance.

That all changed with YouTube’s announcement on January 16, 2018. They drastically increased the eligibility requirements such that you needed 4,000 watch hours over the past 12 months, and required 1,000 subscribers to your channel.

I didn’t meet that, so I was dropped.

Well, “suspended” might be a better word. YouTube’s blog post says that when channels that were earning under the Program meet the new criteria, they will be “automatically re-evaluated” and presumably reinstated, provided they aren’t spammers.

I’m not going to speculate why these changes were made. I’m not an expert in the online ad field and YouTube’s explanations seem reasonable enough.

The Pain

It didn’t hurt me a lot, since as I said, I was only earning a few bucks a month. However, I’m a fan of passive income, and I’m reasonably close to meeting the requirements, so I’ve decided to make a push to get to 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours.

Where I’m At

As of today, I have 885 subscribers and 790 watch hours in the past 12 months.

I’m reasonably close for subscribers, but I have work to do on the watch hours.

What’s the plan to get back into the YouTube Partner Program?

Growth Opportunities

I’m going to concentrate on the watch hours, and assume the subscriber count will take care of itself. If I quintuple my watch hours, it stands to reason that I’ll gain at least some subscribers in order to meet that target.

I see three main opportunities for growth in watch hours:

  • More content
  • Better SEO
  • Better retention / follow-on videos

More Content

It stands to reason that if you upload more content, you’re going to get more watch hours.

I don’t just plan to upload any old content, though. I’ve had a look at my analytics to see where my watch hours are now. People seem to like a couple of types of my videos:

  • Model train layout videos
  • “How To” videos (this video in particular is popular)

I intend to focus on uploading both kinds of videos more regularly in the next few months. I have a lot of model train video now that I am editing and preparing to upload, and I am interested to see how well it will be received. It will be long – 30 minutes per video – so it may fly or it may bomb. 🙂

I am looking for ideas for “how to” videos. I did one image editing video that got some views, and I plan to do some more.

YouTube Live

I think there is a lot of opportunity in YouTube Live. It’s easy to do – just start it up on your phone – and there’s no editing or other effort afterward. I’ve done a few sessions so far and they’ve been pretty well received. I’m going to keep doing those.

I haven’t done any desktop YouTube Live sessions yet. I’m not sure how well those will work but it might be worth a try.

Better SEO

I honestly haven’t paid much attention to search engine optimization (SEO) on YouTube. That has to change. People can’t view my videos if they don’t find them, and YouTube is basically a big search engine for video.

On occasion, I’ve added tags to my videos when I upload them, but I haven’t had any kind of system. This is in sharp contrast to my blog posts, which are always tagged and “SEO checked” using the Yoast plugin.

I am going to review all of my videos for a few things:

  • Thumbnail photo
  • Title
  • Description text (minimum 200 words)
  • Tags

I like this Brainshark post about YouTube SEO best practices, even though it’s a little old. SEO ages well.

Better Retention

YouTube allows you to put “end cards” on your video to encourage viewers to take an action, such as to watch another video, subscribe, or go to a URL. I’ve added end cards to many of my videos. So far, the analytics say that about 3% of them get clicked on. If I can get that up a percent or two, it’ll help!

I’m going to ensure all my videos have end cards, and for my most popular videos, I’m definitely going to put a subscribe button at the end!

Actions to Take

Here are the actions I plan to take in the next month to work toward rejoining the YouTube Partner Program:

  • Upload more model train videos
  • Upload more content in general
  • Review existing content for SEO
  • Review existing content for end cards

Your Turn

What’s your experience with the YouTube Partner Program? Did you get dropped after the January update? How do you do search optimization on YouTube? Leave a comment!

End of 2017 Progress Report

It’s 2018 – happy new year! – and I’m a little late with my end of 2017 progress report. Mea culpa. I’m here to report on how I did with my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> Good income, slacked off at the end.

The numbers are as of January 1, 2018.

Goal Review

I had five goals for 2017 for my photography side hustle:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. Write and publish two eBooks
  5. Get paid for one magazine article or photo


I exceeded my gross income target! My gross income for 2017 was $1,498.30 which was almost 25% over my target. That was great.

My net income was $1,063.14, which was 51% over my target. Awesome!

I have nothing to complain about with those two numbers.

Here’s the breakdown of my income:

2017 Income Sources
2017 Income Sources

You can see that half my income came from image sales (which includes stock), about a quarter came from advertising on my web sites, and about a quarter came from work-for-hire. Print and product sales were minimal.

Image sales came from stock photography (Shutterstock, Adobe, iStock, and Bigstock) as well as a few private sales to companies and individuals. I earned $544.11 from stock photography, which was very nice indeed after all the work I put into editing, keywording and submitting those photos.

Photo sales are from Redbubble and Fine Art America and have been declining for several years. People just aren’t buying prints like they used to.

Advertising is from AdSense. The timing worked out that I received three payments over the year. It all depends on when I exceed the $100 threshold for payouts.

I expect the ad income to decline in 2018 for two reasons:

  • I removed AdSense from my main blog, and
  • Google is dropping my YouTube channel from their Partner Program since I don’t get enough views.

Work-for-hire income came from photographing two marathons – the Manitoba Marathon and the WFPS Half Marathon.

Product sales were minimal again, with one payment from Gumroad for my video, some affiliate income for the excellent Backyard Silver book, and a couple of Kindle sales of my eBook.

Stock Income

My target is $50/month – but I haven’t reached that yet. In 2017 I averaged about $32/month, so I’m getting there… but to be honest, I have been slacking off on submitting to stock. I have a lot “in the queue” but I have to get back into it. The good thing is that it is passive income at this point and I’m still earning money from my library of stock images.


I did not publish any eBooks this year. I have one in progress but I haven’t completed it yet. That’s a major goal for 2018.


I didn’t submit to any magazines, so obviously I didn’t get paid. Another major goal for 2018.


2017 was a good year. Let’s make 2018 even better.


Crowdfire Review

Crowdfire is an app that you can use to increase your social marketing reach. It connects with your social networks and gives you tasks to do to increase your engagement and gain followers. In this review I’ll discuss how I use it and what I’ve gained from using it.

I am reviewing this app because I use it, like it and want to recommend it. I have received no compensation of any form to write this review.

How It Works

After downloading the app, you connect your various social networks to the app so it can view your followers and post on your behalf. Currently it supports:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Etsy
  • Shopify
  • YouTube
  • WordPress
  • and more

Once you connect the networks, it’s time to get to work!

The Nag

Every day the app prompts you to do a set of “prescriptions” to extend your reach. It starts with a “report card” to show the follows, unfollows, and other activities that have happened on your various social networks in the last day.

Crowdfire Report Card
Crowdfire Report Card

The current set of prescriptions include:

  • Share your own posts
  • Share suggested posts
  • Share images
  • Follow people tweeting about your keyword
  • Like Instagram photos

Crowdfire suggests posts and videos from your feed. It usually suggests the most recent posts but sometimes it goes deep into the archives.

Share your own posts
Share your own posts

You can tell Crowdfire to stop suggesting any particular post for 10 days, or never prompt you again. You tend to have to do that after a while to avoid sharing the same posts over and over again.

I find the prompts for sharing others’ posts particularly valuable. You want to keep your Twitter feed from being “me, me me!” and share a lot of posts. Crowdfire’s suggestions are based on the keywords you give it, so you’ll want to pay particular attention to that.

Share others' posts in Crowdfire
Share others’ posts in Crowdfire

You can skip any of these prescriptions – note the Skip button at top right of each screen. If you keep skipping them day after day, Crowdfire will ask if you want to suspend that prescription for a while.

When to Share

Crowdfire gives you a lot of choices on when to share content – yours or anyone else’s.

When to share
When to share

I usually “post at best time” but sometimes I will post it immediately, if I haven’t posted anything recently. One thing I have noticed is that if you schedule several posts to “post at best time”, they clump together and are posted together. I would prefer that Crowdfire spread them out a bit.

Connect Your Content

In my opinion, the best feature of Crowdfire is how it watches your content feeds and immediately prompts you to share what you’ve produced. I’ve set it to watch my YouTube channel and my blog feeds, and as soon as I publish something, it’s prompting me to share it on social media.

Crowdfire share prompt
Crowdfire share prompt

Crowdfire makes it super easy to share them, too.

It has a post already written and all you have to do is click Share. You can always edit the post to put it in your own words if you wish.

The Good

  • I love that Crowdfire prompts me to share my posts immediately after I write a post.
  • I like the prompting to share others’ content.
  • I like that it prewrites my posts.

The Bad

  • I wish I could get it to prompt me to share only a couple of times a week instead of daily.
  • I wish I could permanently disable some prescriptions. I don’t ever want to share others’ images so I keep postponing that.
  • The prewritten posts are a little “cute” and I usually trim off everything except the post name. I don’t find them to be very professional.


Crowdfire shows you a number of posts to share, but it is limited. If you keep scrolling down, you’ll find this:

Crowdfire Plus prompt
Crowdfire Plus prompt

I tried to find out what the Crowdfire Plus pricing was (via Twitter), and they sent me to this link, which shows the pricing when you click the Login prompt at top right.

The basic (free) subscription allows you to link one account per social network (1 Twitter, 1 Instagram, etc.) and it limits some features, as I explained above.

The Plus version (currently $4.99/month) doubles the number of accounts per social network and removes the limits. The Premium and VIP levels increase the number of accounts/network and removes the Crowdfire branding that the Free and Plus versions have.


Crowdfire is a very useful application for anyone who is serious about posting regularly on social networks to advance their business. I recommend it to anyone who frequently posts on a variety of social networks.

Get Crowdfire


Semi Mid 2017 Progress Report

Here’s my somewhat mid-year progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle.

TL;DR> Doing pretty well!

The numbers are as of July 31, 2017.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2017:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. Write and publish two eBooks
  5. Get paid for one magazine article or photo

Here we go.

Gross Income

The gross income I’ve received is $1058.48. If you look at that as 7/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m definitely well above target!

I had several streams of income in the first seven months of 2017, including stock photography, the Manitoba Marathon, several image sales and ad sales through Google AdSense.

  • Stock photography sales were strong, with two payments from Shutterstock, my first from Adobe and my first from iStock / Getty. In total it was almost $400.
  • I was asked to help photograph the Manitoba Marathon and that netted a decent income for 7 hours of work. I enjoy the experience and one of the best parts is that you don’t have to do any processing at all – just hand in the SD card and you’re done!
  • I sold several images, both privately and through RedBubble.
  • I cleared the $100 threshold twice for Google AdSense. I may or may not receive one more payment before the end of 2017.



Stock Photography Income

As I mentioned, I received payments from Shutterstock, Adobe and iStock. I’m averaging about $35/month in microstock royalties, so I am getting closer to that $50/month target.

Beyond the “big three” of Shutterstock, Adobe and iStock, I have had some sales on Bigstock and 123rf with Dreamstime and Canstock going very quiet.

I submitted a lot of images in July (expanding my library by about 15%) and I’ll be taking and submitting a lot of travel images in August to expand my portfolio further.

I purchased and read Alexandre Rotenberg’s excellent Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography eBook (affiliate link) and plan to apply its lessons going forward. I will write a review of it shortly but I recommend it highly.


Net Income

My net income is very strong this year, and is already over my goal of $700 for the year. I’ve kept my expenses low by signing up for my web site hosting for 2 years last year, and so my only real expenses are the monthly Adobe Creative Cloud payments, domain name renewals and the eBook I mentioned above.



Write and Publish Two eBooks

I haven’t done anything on this yet. I need to get on it!



Get Paid for One Magazine Photo or Article

I have to submit those before I get paid! So… another thing for the “to do” list.




I am having mixed success this year to date. Income and expenses are good but I want to diversify my income streams more with more eBooks and get into magazines. The work never ends!

Steps For The Rest of The Year

  • Start writing eBooks
  • Investigate which magazine(s) to submit to, and make inquiries as to what they are looking for

My 2017 Goals

My goals for 2017 for my photography side hustle are:

  • Gross income of $1,200
  • Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  • Net income of $700
  • Write and publish two eBooks
  • Get paid for one magazine article or photo

You can compare these against my 2015 and 2016 goals here. My income and stock photography goals are the same as 2016.

Last year I published one eBook, Diesels on Prince Edward Island – which did well and had good feedback – and this year I’d like to publish two more. I enjoyed the process very much. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

I’ve had several articles published – and I’m working on another for an online magazine – but these are freebies. I’d like to get paid for this, so I have to work toward submitting articles and photos to the few magazines in my niche that pay for them.

Those are my goals – let’s get them done!

How to Get Instagram Followers Ethically

Instagram logoInstagram is a hot platform for sharing photos and for social networking. With more than 500 million active Instagram users as of June 2016 (source), you will want to have a presence there. But how do you get Instagram followers?

This post will describe several ways to get Instagram followers – ethically. The following methods will be discussed:

  • Gaining Followers Organically
  • Follow back
  • Engaging People

Ethics and Instagram Followers

First, a quick note about ethics and Instagram followers. There are many, many sites on the Internet that promise to get you thousands of Instagram followers easily. I recommend that you to avoid those, as you may get thousands of “followers” but they will either be fake accounts or people who are not engaged with your images and message.

I encourage you to get followers who are truly interested in what you have to show and say. This does take more time and effort than the “get followers quick” sites, but you will have followers that actually read your content, rather than dummy accounts with nobody behind them.

Gaining Followers Organically

If you are active on Instagram, posting images regularly, you will accumulate more followers organically. By “organically” I mean people will find you through friends, through hashtags, or through Instagram hubs. If they like what you’re posting, and like your profile, they’ll follow you to get your content.

This is very helpful but it will take a long time to accumulate a large number of followers.


You can gain followers by liking and commenting on your friends’ posts. Other people will see your comments and go view your profile and perhaps start following you as well. I don’t see this as a huge growth strategy, but you’ll be checking your friends’ posts out anyway, so it may help.


You should always hashtag your posts. You do this by entering one or more words prefixed with a “#”. Some examples of hashtags are #canada, #trains or #love.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post. This might seem excessive but a lot of people search for posts by hashtag, so it is in your best interest to tag your posts with appropriate hashtags.

I usually tag my posts with the location (e.g. #winnipeg, #northdakota), a few tags related to the subject matter (#train, #night, #sunset) and then some tags related to Instagram hubs. Here’s a great post on how to use hashtags properly, and’s ultimate guide to using hashtags.

Instagram Hubs

Instagram hubs (or “feature accounts”) are accounts that feature others’ work. You tag your posts with a hashtag specific to that hub, and the people who run the hub will periodically review tagged posts and feature a photo on their hub.

For example, Pocket_Rail is a hub followed by almost 10,000 accounts that follows the hashtag #pocket_rail. If you tag your post with that, you might get featured and get your photo in front of them.

Pocket_Rail has featured several of my photos (thank you!), including this one of an NB Southern excursion train.

Photo credit @stevetraingeek •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• @pocket_family presents •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• From @pocket_rail #pocket_rail . Thank you friend for sharing your photo and tagging our @pocket_pride . •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Chosen by . We’re your family in your pocket Cc: Pocket_Family_Owners . @kristina_nicolina & @willysands . Cc: Pocket_Pride_Admin . @chefjane . . Follow your features on Twitter #Pocket_Family And Like us on FaceBook . #huntgram #trains #train #rails #railroad #railway #traintracks #transport #daily_crossing #kings_transports #train_nerds #trb_express #railways_of_our_world #railmarkable #splendid_transport #trains_worldwide #loves_vehicles #ptk_vehicles #total_vehicles #world_bestvehicles .

A photo posted by Railroad Culture (@pocket_rail) on

You can see that they prominently feature a link back to your profile and you should gain a few followers – and bragging rights! – from being featured.

Note that on Instagram, tagging a hub implicitly gives them permission to repost, so if you’re not comfortable with that, don’t tag them.

Here’s a list of 101 Instagram hubs to hashtag to get featured.

Follow Back

It is common for Instagram users to follow those who follow them. You get a notification that so-and-so has started following you, so you check out their profile, and if it interests you, you follow back.

Simple enough, right? Just start following people and they’ll follow back?

It’s not so simple. You have to find the right people to follow, and you have to offer a compelling profile that will make them want to follow you.

Who to Follow

There are a couple of ways to find the right people to follow, to increase the chances that they will follow you back. The key is to find people who are either posting in your niche or following those who post in your niche.

Suppose you write a lot about cats. Siamese cats, in particular. How do you find people on Instagram who like Siamese cats?

Start a search and start typing in Siamese. You’ll see some suggestions pop up immediately.

Siamese Cat Search

The first four results are three accounts and a hashtag. Let’s pick the hashtag #siamesecat. You’ll see a list of top posts with that hashtag, and below that, the most recent posts including that hashtag.

Open each post in a separate browser window and see who liked and/or commented on the posts.

SO. CUTE. (from @siamesecorner)

You can see that 861 people liked this. In the Instagram app, you can poke the like counter and it will show you every user that liked the post, with a convenient “Follow” button right beside them.

Instagram post followers
Instagram post followers

I do not recommend that you follow every one of them.

Have a look at each profile and see if what they post is A) interesting to you, and B) related to what you post.

You want to follow people who would be interested in your content. For my @stevetraingeek account, I look for people who have a train in their profile picture first, then look for people who post photos of trains.


Engaging on Instagram
Don’t get frozen out!

The third way to ethically gain followers on Instagram is to engage people. Actively participate on Instagram by liking posts, and especially by commenting on photos.

Be sure you are not just spamming photos by leaving generic comments. I see a lot of accounts try to gain followers by commenting with “nice photo” or “wowzers” or similar comments on photos that are not at all related to what they post. It’s clear they are trying to get you to check their profile out.

This won’t be a problem if you follow people who post content related to what you like and post. You’ll be authentic when you comment and naturally engaged.

Be sure to show your appreciation for the post, ask a question, whatever seems natural to you. Don’t add “follow me” or “view my profile” at the end – that’s spammy. People will check you out if they want to.

Wrap Up

That’s three main methods for how to get Instagram followers ethically:

  • Gaining Followers Organically
  • Follow back
  • Engaging People

Get out there and expand your Instagram audience!

Further Reading