Better late than never, I’ve come down off the handmade holiday high and am ready to reflect on 2017 while goal setting for 2018. If you’re curious, you can see previous ‘year in review’ posts for 2016, 2015, and for 2014. I’m sharing my most popular posts, how my social media numbers tracked, how much money I earned, reflection on the goals I set, and sharing plans for 2018!
Don’t forget, if you are a craft blogger, check out my resource post for how to make money, connect with other bloggers, and promote your posts.
If you wrote a year in review post, I’d love to read it! I think it is helpful to get ideas about what to consider, record, etc. Reading reports like this helped me decide that I could earn real money from my blog, and I’m thankful for the few bloggers who are transparent and share details.
Most popular posts (published any year) in 2017:
It definitely follows that people like “numbered” titles, looking at my results. Almost all of these were published pre-2017; Pinterest can take a long time to really start driving traffic to posts! The good news is, I like all these posts and I’m proud of all of them.
1- 4 Free Knit Beanie Hat Sewing Patterns – Tested!
2- Five Tips for Thrift Shopping to Upcycle & Refashion
3- 4 Free Headband Tutorials – Tested
4- Free Baby Pants Sewing Patterns -Tested!
5- The Easiest Way To Transfer Embroidery Patterns: Fabri-solvy
6- First Birthday Party Prep! A Cheap Photo Display
7- 11 Free Foundation Paper Piecing Patterns
8- 50+ Men’s PDF Sewing Patterns
9- Nursing Friendly PDF Sewing Patterns & Alteration Tutorials
10- Free Cat Sewing Pattern – Felt Pocket Kitty!
Most popular posts (published in 2017)
I shared this list as a separate post with each post’s picture and some thoughts on it, if you want to read it in more detail. I really was surprised with #9 (I liked it at the time, but now I’m not as thrilled) and also didn’t expect #10, it must have had slow, steady traffic because I’ve never noticed a big spike in my stats for it!
1- Pocket Kitty
2- Top 10 Best Baby Gifts To Sew
4- Sew On Patches – Sashiko Style
5- How to Store Fabric Scraps on a Budget
6- 20+ Beginner Sewing Projects
8- How To Make A No Sew Bookmark
10- How To Make a Seashell Collecting Bag
11- Last minute addition! I had no idea a post could take off so quickly, but it turns out that this collection of the most popular free sewing patterns from over 50 different designers was a hit! It was published after this post, and definitely in the top 10 most popular after only a day or two, so go check it out here.
Where My Traffic Came From
1- Pinterest! This is true for many craft bloggers, and I am so thankful for how Tailwind boosts my Pinterest numbers, which I posted more about in last year’s look back with clear screenshots showing how I use it (2016).
2- Search engines (overwhelmingly, Google)
3- Facebook – I often share a post to my blog’s page and then share it to relevant groups, boosting traffic. Every once in a while a post picks up a ton of steam and gives me a big jump, sometimes it is just me responding to people’s questions in facebook groups like “anyone know any nursing patterns?” and I have predictive text set up so I type “blognursing” and it spits out https://swoodsonsays.com/nursing-friendly-pdf-sewing-patterns-alteration-tutorials/
4- All Free Sewing- I love submitting here, they send out their own newsletters and send new readers my way frequently.
5- Sew Can She – Caroline is lovely, I enjoy seeing what she sews and also participate regularly in her Saturday blog link up, go check it out.
6- Craft Gossip – Always submit here, they send me new readers as well.
It’s interesting to me that this is the first year that I feel mildly protective over some of my information. I have had a few run-ins this year with other blogs content being similar to mine (or in two cases, blatant content scraping), a few ‘post sharing’ relationships where I don’t think the load was shared evenly, etc. and it all bums me out. I hate to think of someone reading this post and deciding to copy my most popular post, or what I tell you generates me the most money, which isn’t something that had occurred to me before. Obviously it isn’t stopping me from sharing lots, and I hope the good continues to outweigh the bad. I am reminding myself that “a rising tide lifts all ships”.
Looking at profit (income-expenses), I made $2,000 in 2015, $4,200 in 2016, and $10,400 this year in 2017. I have two reactions to those numbers: 1. Wow! I made $10k doing what I love, from home, almost double what I made last year. 2. Wow, I can’t believe I kept going when I was only making $2k back in 2015, and honestly $10k feels like it should be more when I think about how many hours I’ve spent!
The good news is, that a lot of that money is “passive income”! While I like to generate new content, the bulk of my traffic and money comes from older posts. When I really had to step back in q4 (keep reading to see why), my blog earned about the same, even with much less interaction and new material. Yay! I also like to think blogging, social media, etc. are good job skills if I ever should have to go into the “real” job market again (not currently planning on it). I don’t track my hours, and frequently work on things in ten minute blurbs while the kids are wrestling, so I can’t share any metrics there, but I’d guess I work 10-15 hours a week or so.
Freelance income is a tiny, tiny chunk and that was from a decision to focus on creating my own content. I earn enough off ad revenue to justify only writing for my own site, with a few exceptions. In this instance, I wrote a piece for Craft Industry Alliance*, “Using Autoresponders to Build & Engage Your Audience” which was something I wanted to research for my own purposes. I don’t blog about blogging terribly much and thought it might be better suited in the CIA journal!
Patterns is still a tiny chunk. I’ve written, pretty much all the time, how hard it is to focus time on developing patterns when I make quicker, easier money on free tutorials. I’m not giving it up, but I’m not beating myself up over it either. Right now with our current living situation (in an airbnb with no printer) it would be expensive and tricky to draft brand new patterns but I’m hoping this summer I can crank out a few!
For the first time, I thought I’d look at my affiliate income breakdown. I really like how diversifed it is, and am SO GLAD I joined the Etsy affiliate program. I use lots of affiliate links in my newsletters, supply lists, on social media, etc. Picking out the top two: almost 1000 people clicked and bought this embroidery pattern* (earning me over $150) that I stitched here and I sent almost 1000 shoppers to this paper piecing pattern* (earning me over $75). Become an affiliate for Etsy, here*!
I’m surprised how big of a chunk Shareasale is, I use them mainly for Cricut (which I haven’t posted much about) and Craftsy (which I’ve really only done one main post on, but have a few other links sprinkled in other posts). Lots of links but almost 1500 people have checked out this (adorable) quilt pattern* that I sewed in this post. Become an affiliate for Craftsy, here*!
Amazon is pretty reliable and easily my most used program; looking at what earned me the most this year, it was definitely selling my favorite machine, the Brother serger*, followed by Sulky Fabri-Solvy Stabilizer, 12-Pack* (the easiest way to transfer embroidery patterns!), and this random, huge magentic wall board* that I’ve never posted or linked but someone bought after clicking another one of my links (thank you, stranger!).
I don’t spend a ton of time pushing Ebates, but I really do love it and will reference it once in a while if someone is shopping Fabric.com or something like that (if you’re not familiar, see how to use it and earn cash back shopping for sewing stuff, here!).
Last, but not least, I lumped all of the individual pattern designers in one spot. My main earners are Patterns for Pirates* and Peekaboo Patterns*, which is no shock since they are two of the largest, most popular companies as far as I know. This includes money earned from their own direct/specific programs, and doesn’t count all of the designers that I link through Etsy.
A shot of the most popular posts on Instagram, above! I haven’t taken a hard focus on any one social media network, ever. I get frustrated with algorithm changes and start digging around, then give up and create new posts instead. I’m not advocating for that; just explaining why I’m where I’m at!
Follower count – [December 2016 vs December 2017]
Instagram [1454/ 2540]
Twitter [757/ 811]
Pinterest [6668/ 9277]
Newsletter [1796/ 2288]
Pinterest drives the most traffic for me, so I’m most concerned with how my pins are performing (which doesn’t necessarily connect with how many followers I have). I’m glad to see that my influence continues to grow each year.
2017 Goals I Hit
- Be earning $1000 a month by the end of 2017
- Barely squeaked this by! But I made it!
- Have at least 2 new products/patterns for sale in 2017
- Improve SEO
- I did not set up specific goal or target for this, but I have slowly been making changes that I know are good for SEO, and paying more attention to my Yoast SEO plug-in. Looks like I had a 4% bump in what percent of my traffic comes from search engines, comparing q2 to q4, so something is working. I just bought a blogging course to really focus on this in 2018, and hopefully have more dramatic results.
- Set up an auto responder to welcome people to my newsletter when I hit 2k subscribers on Mailchimp and have automation services
- Done! It’s nothing fancy, but links to some of my most popular posts and introduces myself.
- Figure out what I’m doing with Craftsy (have a few random free patterns up, haven’t emailed any of those folks who downloaded them in a while).
- Done! I deleted my 3 free patterns that were still there. I used to email people who downloaded them and ask if they wanted to be on my newsletter, but after further research decided that was illegal, I’m keeping all freebies on my own site.
- Continue my regular re-pinning and promotion of old content (organized quarterly), continue weekly newsletters & at least once a week blog posts, post a minimum of 1 roundup post per month
- These have become habits now; done, done, and done.
2017 Goals I Missed
- I’d like my monthly traffic to be at 90k a month on average by the end of 2017 – I picked this number following that I had a 74% growth rate for this year, which projected out to about 88k by the end of this year ( for anyone wondering, my accountant husband told me to calculate this by figuring: [(this year divided by last year) multiplied by this year]) and I added some on for an extra reach!
- Big nope. I hit 77k in December, which is not even close. Part of this is due to switching over to https – my incoming traffic took a huge hit the day after, percentage wise, and took two months to recover. I know, I know, pageviews “don’t count” or shouldn’t be a goal or what have you, but it still is for me.
- hit 10k on Pinterest
- So close! Again, I know followers “don’t count” on Pinterest any more, but still a goal.
- hit 5k on Instagram
- Not even close! I talked in my q3 profile about participating in an Instagram giveaway that brought a ton of new followers (yay!) and about half way there but q4 really tanked IG for me. I lost a lot of love for it when it stopped being chronological, already, but in q4 I barely posted or interacted due to a lack of internet access. Now even when I post something that I think is cute, a good picture, etc., there are serious crickets. I have much bigger fish to fry, but at some point I need a new strategy to kickstart my audience there.
2017 Goals I Sorta Hit and Missed
- go through all old posts and clean up, add in new relevant links, make sure affiliate links are do not follow, update pinterest pictures
- Working on it! I have taken one pass through all of the posts, adding some fresh links and making sure affiliate links are no follow, but I’m going to do it one more time after my SEO class.
- be more intentional with IG posts, – posting DSLR photos more infrequently vs. regular iphone shots that aren’t as nice
- Ugh, sorta. I tried. I would feel like I hadn’t posted in a while and take a shot I knew I shouldn’t, usually of myself. Since it’s already tanked at least I can be better about this in 2018.
- set up more collaborations – both with other bloggers and sponsored posts with fabric shops
- Yes! I didn’t set a specific number here, but I feel good about it.
- Set up a lead magnet to grow my newsletter by June 2017
- Definitely missed that date; I did set up one specific one in my super popular felt kitty post but nothing for general sign-ups. I can’t stop going back and forth on switching newsletter providers, which has hung up my momentum on this for the entire second half of the year.
[Free sleep mask pattern that says “Go Ask Your Dad”]
I can’t believe I posted twice a week in 2015. So. many. posts. that really didn’t do much for me. A lot of the advice I read back then was treating blogging as social media – people waiting for your email in their inbox, needing to hear from you again. I aim for posting once a week, but if something comes up, I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m focusing on quality over quantity, and also optimizing older posts.
I have only alluded to this in my newsletter, but 2017 has been a hard year for my family. I’m not looking for pity; not a day goes by that I don’t think about how many people are probably dealing with similar issues who don’t have access or ability to move away, protect themselves, etc. Without getting into the gory details, someone close to us who had been struggling with mental health, substance, and aggression issues for a long time, took it to another level and made us feel unsafe. We are certainly not the main target but the stress of dealing with everything, moving out of our house early, living in an extended stay, etc. has taken a toll. The next time you see a headline about the United States’ awful mental health care options or how easy it is to access guns, you can remember this post and humanize it a little, because those policies have directly affected my family.
While I obviously worry more about my family, our well being, etc., I’m including this bit because it really stunk to have so many ideas and plans completely squashed because we were busy packing in a hurry to sell our house earlier than we’d planned, handling house showings in freezing temperatures, and then moving from place to place as we juggled our options. Unfortunately nothing in this scenario has resolved beyond feeling physically safer, as we are still in temporary living for the forseeable future. While we can’t control this person or them contacting us, we feel better in a new state, far away. Hopefully by Q4 2018 I will be settled in a new home and back up to speed, right?
- Finally pick a new newsletter provider and provide full PDF tutorial downloads as a lead magnet, for my top 10 posts (Q1)
- Set up a ‘custom; autoresponder welcome series for the different categories that I blog about (embroidery, quilting, sewing) (Q2)
- Finally decide if I’m going to merge my second blog in with this one (Q1). I also write www.desmoinesoutdoorfun.com but since moving away from Des Moines, have debating 1. selling it (no one has expressed interest yet) 2. Changing it into a travel/parenting/nature blog 3. Merging it into Swoodson Says. Nothing would change for newsletter subscribers – it would be a separate section drawing new traffic, with its own newsletter. But I still have hesitations.
- Network more. I’m attending SNAP in April (eek!) and will be meeting other sewing bloggers face to face for the first time. I am used to being an introvert faking extrovertedness, I interacted with the public constantly in my pre-kids professional life in the nonprofit sector, but that was almost 7 years ago. I am genuinely excited to meet a few online friends but it will be an exercise in determination to introduce myself, shake hands, go out of my way to talk, when I really will want to go upstairs and recharge in silence after the first few hours.
- Stick to a more cohesive plan. This includes setting up and following a weekly “to-do”, a monthly “to-do”, and actually following up on monthly ideas I have, planned out now.
- Continue trying to improve my photography and staging.
- Double my yearly profit to $20k (Q4)
- Hit 10k newsletter subscribers with a 40% open rate (Q4)
- Design 2 new paid patterns
- Complete and share at least 1 video tutorial (Q4)
- Release 4 free patterns, at a minimum
- Set up a ‘resource library’ that is password protected for smaller downloads that aren’t full patterns (Q1)
- Creatively, I want to finish my paper pieced lion quilt! I hate having UFOs floating around, and this one has really been lingering.
Whew! Always a big post. I write these half for me, half for blogger friends/readers, but I always like to hear what you think about them!
Wednesday 28th of March 2018
Thank you for your honest reports! I've looked at your past ones as well, and it gives me some good guidelines about what types of goals I can make as I try to grow my own blog.
Wednesday 14th of February 2018
Thanks for sharing. I'm new to blogging and I appreciate your openess in sharing your numbers and strategies. I need to write down my goals! I hope you have a successful 2018.
Stephanie - Swoodson Says
Saturday 17th of February 2018
I hope you do too! Good luck :D
Wednesday 24th of January 2018
What a great year!!!!! And great goals!!
Tuesday 23rd of January 2018
well what a great blog love hearing how you go about your blog and also your 'life' sorry to hear that because of anothers mental illness you have had to pack up your family and move Im sure that life will now become much less stressful I get great pleasure from reading your blog each time it hits my inbox and I love being able to share some of the information with a couple of my friends, I call it ' weekend reading' we all get pleasure and information from these. take care of yourself and your family I sending good vibes and wishes for 2018 Thanks again Gayle
Stephanie - Swoodson Says
Friday 2nd of February 2018
Hey Gayle! You are SO KIND. Thanks for subscribing and also for taking the time to leave such a sweet comment, it totally made my day. Thank you!! Stephanie
Tuesday 23rd of January 2018
I always appreciate your honesty on these reports! It's also very interesting, though somewhat disheartening to see what a small percentage of the over all income picture is derived from pattern sales. I'm working on having products to sell that are not knitting patterns, but are items that support what I call "crafty lifestyle" so I hope that helps my overall income picture.
I need to work more diligently on getting my blog traffic way up. I hear people say all the time that "numbers don't matter." What a load of hogwash! The numbers do matter! It's the currency of a business, and being mindful of them and getting them where they need to be is so important.
I'm having a hard time deciding what is most important and where do I really put my attention. It's hard when it's ALL important. I did get approved for an Amazon store, so I need to get that going. So much to do and so few hours in the day. I hope you find your home soon. I know how hard it is to be in the rental with all your stuff packed up while your looking. Fingers crossed!
Stephanie - Swoodson Says
Friday 2nd of February 2018
So, you have to take it with a grain of salt though - that isn't where I've focused my energies by far. There are LOTS of professional pattern designers who have a blog and would never ever run ads like I do, who are (presumably) making lots more money on direct pattern sales! I think everyone's audience and direction is different.
I totally get what you mean about feeling like everything is important! My list of "to do" is always a million miles long and ever changing. One thing at a time :) Thanks Patty!!