My Experience With Pinterest

I choose to spend most of my social networking time on Facebook and Instagram, less so on Twitter, and practically never on Pinterest.

However, I do “pin” on Pinterest. I do this with the hope that it will drive some traffic to my sites.

Pinterest is a very visual site, so I post photos of trains and grain elevators, hoping that people will click through to visit my site and maybe stay there a while.

How’s that working out?

Let’s look at the two main sites I’m pinning for – traingeek.ca and grainelevators.ca.

Traingeek.ca

Google is the source of 2/3 of the traffic for traingeek.ca, which isn’t a surprise to me. I’ve established the site as a good authority on Canadian trains and I get a lot of random visitors searching for information on railways in Canada.

That Pinterest traffic, though – 0.3%! I’m surprised at how low it is.

Grainelevators.ca

For Grain Elevators of Canada, Pinterest brought 0.4% of all traffic to my site.

Insignificant.

Conclusions

Currently Pinterest brings a relatively insignificant amount of traffic to my sites.

Based on that, I don’t think it is worth investing my time in trying to grow it. Even if I spent the time to double the referral traffic from Pinterest, it still wouldn’t be significant. My time is better spent improving SEO.

I think the topics that my sites cover (grain elevators and trains) isn’t really well suited for Pinterest. Do-it-yourself sites, recipe sites, home decor sites – those are a better match for Pinterest.

Building on Rented Land

Would you build a house on land you don’t own?

It can be done – it’s called a ground lease – but it’s generally not a good idea. You pay rent, you probably have restrictions on what you can build on the land, and at worst you could lose your building when your lease expires.

So why do people build their online businesses on social networks?

There are several reasons why, but I’m going to encourage you to have your own web site as your “home base” and use social networks only to drive traffic to your own web site.

First, the reasons why people start with social networking.

It’s Free!

The simplest reason why people build their online businesses on social networks is because it’s “free”. On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and other networks, you can create an account, even a business account, at no cost.

That’s seductive. You can get your business going at almost zero cost, setting up a Facebook page with your contact information and circulating it amongst friends and family, and then wait for the traffic to roll on.

Oddly enough, it doesn’t show up. Why?

My Customers Are There!

People host their businesses on social networks because their customers are on the same social networks.

Social networks like Facebook want you to pay for advertising. Their algorithms don’t encourage people to visit your page. Many people have noticed that they have thousands of people who “liked” their page, but each post only gets seen by a very small percentage of those people.

You can pay for advertising to boost posts or to run ads to drive people to your page – and these can be effective – but it costs money. The worst part is that you have to keep paying, because it doesn’t have a lasting effect.

There’s no free lunch.

Algorithms Can Change

Social networks can change their algorithms at any time, without warning. This can completely change how well your page is seen by prospective clients.

Facebook changes its algorithms frequently. It used to be that pages did well in searches, but those days are gone. People have moved to groups, which seem to do well at the moment, but those could be de-emphasized by Facebook at any time.

Instagram is emphasizing stories over posts these days. People have taken to including their posts in their stories in an attempt to get them seen, but I imagine the click through rate is pretty poor.

Basically, if it isn’t in your potential customers’ feeds, it won’t be seen, no matter how good your content is.

Bye Bye

Social networks can shut you down at any time, for any reason. This has happened on YouTube many times, on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It can happen with little or no notice.

They own the site and they set the rules.

So what can you do?

Build an Email List

You should consider building an email list. That way, you control when you reach out to your subscribers and you don’t have to limit what you write. See 7 Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List if you still need convincing.

Your subscribers may not read your email, but at least you have a shot at getting it in front of them. It’s still up to you to create compelling, useful content that people want to read.

There are plenty of email providers out there. I’ve used MailChimp for years but there are many others, including ConvertKit and AWeber.

Host Your Own Site

You should host your own web site. At a minimum, you should have your contact information and a few pages showing your valuable work and why people should engage with you. It doesn’t have to be complicated – a simple WordPress site won’t cost you much to set up and will establish a home base that you own.

I’ve used Pair.com since 2001 to host my web sites. They are rock solid and dependable. They aren’t the absolute cheapest, but like many things in life, you get what you pay for. If you choose to use them, use my referral code pairref-XPua3w79 to get 20% off your first bill.

Other host companies include GoDaddy, BlueHost and many others. I have no experience with anyone else besides Pair.

You’ll need to register your own domain name. I use Sibername (affiliate link) for most of my domain names, and they are friendly and inexpensive. There are many others in this space as well.

Get Started

Start building on your own ground. You won’t be sorry.

Any questions? Leave a comment!

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/pixels.com 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 – https://www.youtube.com/user/TrainGeek/

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

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!

August Progress Report

White Lighthouse at Cape Spear Newfoundland
White Lighthouse at Cape Spear Newfoundland

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

TL;DR> Definitely falling behind.

The numbers are as of August 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 $543.38. If you look at that as 7/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m definitely below target.

I did have income from several sources, which was good…

  1. I sold several images for use in railway training manuals. I was contacted out of the blue for a couple of images, and after some conversation I found a few more photos in my catalogue that they could also use. I’m never quite certain what to charge for images like this. In the past I have been contacted for images and apparently quoted too much, because they disappeared without buying; here I may have priced them too low.
  2. Big news, I received my first stock photo payment! Shutterstock sales were strong and I received USD $39.14 as my first income from stock photography.
  3. I sold another eBook and that put me over the threshold to get another payment from Gumroad.
  4. Redbubble changed their payment terms to eliminate the minimum payment amount, so I received the $1.46 that was sitting in my account. Big money!

Score: FALLING BEHIND

Stock Photography Income

June was my best month ever (USD $23.29), mostly due to Shutterstock, and July was good too at USD $17.91, although Shutterstock really slumped. As I said above, Shutterstock paid me!

iStock income is improving as they review more images.

I submitted a lot more stock photos in this period so I hope that translates into higher income in the months ahead. I was on vacation in July and that resulted in some good stock photos that were accepted.

Score: GETTING BETTER

Net Income

My net income is continuing to increase. I’m not sure if it will hit my goal of $700 for the year yet.

Score: ON TRACK

Work For Hire Gigs

No luck on the work for hire gigs. I applied for a gig last month and received no reply at all, which was disappointing. I’ll keep at it.

Score: FAILING

Write and Publish eBook

I’m working hard on my third article to be published. I do think this could be turned into another book, especially since a friend wants to co-write it with me!

Score: ACHIEVED

Summary

I feel that I am definitely falling behind  – I am failing at a couple, fair for one, on track for one, and one goal has been achieved.

Steps For The Rest of August

  • Update portfolio – I keep saying this, and I need to get on it!
  • Submit more stock photos
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively

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.

 

Income

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.

 

Expenses

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!

 

Focus or Diversify?

Hoya Circular Polarizer - Steve Boyko

If you are pursuing photography as a side hustle, by definition you have a regular job that occupies most of our time, so you have a limited amount of time to devote to your photography business. The question becomes: should you spread our efforts across multiple aspects of your business, or concentrate on one aspect at a time? Should you focus or diversify?

Define Yourself

First you need to take a step back and define what you are going to do in our photography business. Are you going to be:

  • a wedding photographer
  • a portrait photographer
  • a fine art photographer
  • an event photographer
  • or some combination of the above?

Even if you decide you are going to be a wedding photographer, chances are you will also do portraits and maybe dabble in stock photography or fine art photography.

Note that this could be different from how you portray yourself publicly. I would advise being open about what type of photographer you are, but you may consider yourself an event photographer while publicly niching down to, say, a sports photographer.

Diversify

Diversification is key to success in many areas. In investing, for example, diversification is a key concept. Don’t hold one asset, or one asset class (such as stocks); diversify across multiple asset classes, diversify across multiple countries… spread the risk and spread the opportunity.

It pays to diversify in your photography business, too. Maybe you’re a wedding photographer. What do you do in the off season where bookings are less frequent? Diversifying into portrait photography can help smooth the load. The same goes for event photographers – maybe you shoot football. You need some income even when it’s not football season.

Having some fine art and/or stock photography can provide a steady income throughout the year. Diversification can pay off.

However, there’s something to be said for focusing on one thing at a time. Warren Toda argues that “when a photographer tries to be a jack of all trades, they may actually harm their business.”

Focus

The book The ONE Thing talks about focusing on the one most important thing that will move you toward achieving your goals.

There’s a lot to be said for a laser-like focus, concentrating all of your effort on mastering one aspect of photography, or driving one area of your business to great heights.

For one thing, you can get to know your target audience / customers really well. By focusing on, say, wedding photography, you can attend the wedding-related shows and skip the art or Christmas shows, saving money and getting in front of the exact customers you really want. Plus you can network with the right group of people. Getting chummy with sports photographers might be fun, and rewarding in its own way, but they may not be able to help you grow your wedding photography business.

Also you can get the right gear. If you dabble in all sorts of photography, you’re going to end up spending a lot more money than if you focus on one or two areas. You won’t need that expensive 600mm lens you bought for bird photography if you’re doing weddings. Those studio strobes won’t help your sports photography. Your photography side hustle has a limited budget and you need to spend it wisely.

What To DO?

I recommend you focus on the aspect of photography that you really want to excel at, and give it 80-90% of your time, effort and money. Spend the resources to get really good at it and develop it into a successful side hustle.

At the same time, take that 10-20% of your effort and diversify. Do some photography that you want to experiment in. Play. Learn. Network. You never know what you’ll discover that will help your primary focus.