Time to look back at the year of 2018! While I have no desire to become a blogger who blogs about blogging, I have historically shared income/traffic reports. I stopped doing them quarterly after doing some time/effort evaluation and am thinking I’ll shift to either twice a year or once a year. They take a decent amount of time without any return but I like sharing information with fellow bloggers and it forces me to analyze a little!
If you’re curious, you can see previous ‘year in review’ posts for 2017, 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 2019!
I’m not very competitive and genuinely believe “a rising tide lifts all ships” or however that phrase goes but it did sting to see someone (not a friend!) essentially copy my #1 round-up post and beat me out in the google rankings for a while. The stakes feel higher when I’m making more money! But all you can do is put your best out there and treat others how you want to be treated right? So I’ll keep sharing and celebrating when other people tell me it has helped them grow!
Top sewing & craft tutorials of 2018
Top 10 posts, overall – new posts published in 2018 marked with a *
- Trick for how to transfer embroidery patterns
- Five Tips for Thrift Shopping to Upcycle & Refashion
- 20+ Free Paper Piecing Patterns
- 75+ most popular free PDF sewing patterns
- Free Headband Tutorials – Tested
- Free Baby Pants Sewing Patterns -Tested!
- 50+ Men’s Sewing Patterns
- Top 10 Best Baby Gifts To Sew
- 15+ Free Hand Embroidery Patterns*
- The best modern embroidery kits for beginners*
As usual, the bulk of my overall top posts are from years past. The Pinterest machine takes a long time to start kicking traffic over but once it is established, it tends to stay that way! It’s a good thing to keep in mind if you’re just starting out, for sure.
Top 10 posts, published in 2018
- 15+ Free Hand Embroidery Patterns
- The best modern embroidery kits for beginners
- 50+ Stuffed Bunny Sewing Patterns
- 25+ Christmas hand embroidery patterns
- The easiest flannel infinity scarf pattern
- Free Felt Bunny Pattern – Mini Pocket Critter
- 32+ hand embroidery sampler patterns
- 10 refashioning tips for successful sewing
- 30+ modern Christmas quilt patterns
- How to make unicorn ornaments
Wow! Lots of round-up posts here. I am totally shocked by #5; there is no shortage of posts out there on the topic but I genuinely felt like my method was a little easier to follow and people seem to agree. People talk sometimes about ‘content overload’, in the idea of “how many XYZ tutorials does the internet really need”, which I have also considered and talked about, but at the end of the day I’m glad to hear when beginners tell me that my tutorial helped them. Even if it isn’t the most creative thing in the world.
I often feel a bit embarrassed with how many round-up style posts I do, because they can feel very click-bait-y, but my audience seems to like them and I enjoy making them. Right now I have over 160 (!!) post drafts with different ideas and lists as I come across posts I want to share so it is usually an organic process. I love being able to “organize the internet” and highlight other makers’ work! So I’m going to keep on keeping on with them.
Top 4 clicked Etsy affiliate links
- The most popular link of the year was this unique hand embroidery kit from Hoffelt And Hooper Co – included in my roundup of modern hand embroidery kits.
- Second up was this gorgeous paper pieced butterfly pattern by LillyElla Stitchery – included in my paper piecing pattern roundup.
- Third was a beautiful paper pieced bear pattern from Tartan Kiwi Patterns – paper piecing pattern roundup.
- Last but not least was this pretty floral hand embroidery kit by Ellucy Stitches- included in my roundup of modern hand embroidery kits.
I talk more about how my Etsy affiliate income has boomed, so I thought I’d share some of the top clicked links! Their cookie is long and this isn’t looking at what people actually bought after clicking through, simply that they generated a lot of outgoing traffic.
Top clicked 4 links other than to Etsy
- This free headband tutorial from Do It Yourself Divas; as shared in my 4 free headband tutorials, tested post.
- My most popular quilt post, when I sewed up this fun, scrappy pattern with video tutorial (see my version here).
- This crazy popular free shirt pattern from Love Notions, that was shared in the most popular free patterns from over 75 different designers.
- A sweet stuffed animal freebie, included in my bunny sewing project roundup.
This looks very similar to last year’s, overall, although Google Analytics tells me I’ve boosted my SEO traffic over 50% in 2018. I’m honestly not sure what the WordPress Android App is (anyone know?) but the rest are pretty self explanatory. Caroline at Sew Can She is so generous with her saturday link-up and featuring other bloggers’ tutorials, she’s the best!
I realized I didn’t share actual traffic numbers last year, so here is a comparison of 2017 to 2018. You can see that thing were just a titch higher until October, when Halloween & Christmas stuff really hit. This was the first holiday season that I’ve been more focused on the business side of blogging and also had time/space/energy to act on it. So, for example, in December 2017 I had about 48k pageviews versus December 2018 with 125k. Again, the December revenue isn’t reflected in my financial stats for the year since it will actually pay out in 2019, but it gives you an idea of how things have flourished around here!
Social media stats
Follower count – [December 2016 vs December 2017 vs December 2018]
Instagram [1454/ 2540 / 3956]
Twitter [757/ 811 /912]
Pinterest [6668/ 9277 / 15,121]
Newsletter [1796/ 2288 / 7,563]
Ugh. As I’ve said for the past two years, social media is not my favorite. I’ve put some actual effort into Instagram the second half of the year, engaging with hashtags, putting more thought into staging, and the growth is so slow. I just do not have a strong niche or aesthetic! I’d love to get to 10k so I can ‘swipe up’ on stories – I have 2 ideas to try and improve my game over there but it is low priority to actually put them in action.
Facebook got a pretty big boost, partially because I can now share my posts/videos to several fellow bloggers’ pages and also because I’ve been posting more regularly for most of the year. Happy to have cracked 5k, and posts I just share on my own page without sharing into groups, etc. get decent traction which is a nice change, it used to feel like shouting into an empty closet. I also started a group to try and build community, and it has been going okay! Not booming but not full of crickets either.
My Youtube channel is brand new and I have put virtually no effort into it past uploading videos, which is better than nothing. Nothing has changed with Pinterest but it keeps chugging along, Twitter is Twitter and stays the same despite me retweeting all sorts of cool art/fiber things, I just don’t think my audience is on there. As details above, my newsletter has had great growth since putting pattern pieces behind a subscriber wall, and I feel great about it!
I haven’t tried to figure out where this got shared or why it is sending me so much traffic all of a sudden but it is! Simple, easy, short video.
My most popular video on Facebook was this one, shared over 1500 times.
Here are my most liked instagram photos of the year! No real rhyme or reason, which speaks to my (lack of)strategy there I suppose.
A glance at Pinterest stats. There has been so much buzz about changes and honestly I’m just chugging along, doing what I have been doing, and things keep growing. I still use Tailwind* – it is a scheduling service that also has a ‘tribes’ feature, allowing you to easily repin other members’ content, and am happy with it!
This is more or less the same breakdown as last year! Looking at profit (income-expenses), I made $2,000 in 2015, $4,200 in 2016, $10,400 in 2017, and now $17,500 this year in 2018. In the first half of the year, I was earning around $800 in profit each month and in the second half of the year, that jumped up to closer to $2000 each month. What changed? The effects of a few months prior when I worked on my SEO using this course, my Etsy affiliate income soared, I published more posts, and focused on holiday projects.
Compared to 2017, my Etsy affiliate income has exploded, Amazon has shrunk, Shareasale has shrunk. Shareasale is a mix of Craftsy aka Bluprint, Sulky, Fat Quarter Shop, and Cricut.
I account for things as the money comes into my account, and the two largest parts of my income (affiliate & ad revenue) pay out 2-3 months out from when they’re earned. I’m thrilled to say that Q4’s ad revenue alone (so not reflected in 2018 stats) was $8,492! So, while I didn’t quite double my income received from 2017-2018, it seems likely that I will from 2018 to 2019 unless something goes awry.
It’s funny, because the more I have gotten to know about the craft blogging niche, I know there are plenty of people making six figures each year and it is a full-time job. But on the other hand, that’s not really my goal! I have always wanted this to be a part-time job, monetizing my hobby, that allows my family to travel more. I don’t track how many hours I put into anything but I’m thrilled to be making enough money doing what I love, so we can travel more! Of course I want to keep growing that figure, but at the end of the day, I want to keep pursuing anything that interests me, not “niche down”, not “sell out”, and keep creatively inspiring people to make things with me. This isn’t a criticism of anyone, at all, but I never want to be a blog that seems to operate solely as a business, never exploring anything new or making just to make.
How I did on goals from 2018
- Finally pick a new newsletter provider and provide full PDF tutorial downloads as a lead magnet, for my top 10 posts (Q1)
- Well, I still haven’t switched my newsletter provider. I picked one, read more issues, picked another, read more issues, and have just stuck with Mailchimp. It doesn’t have all the functionality that I want, and I don’t have official lead magnets like I had originally planned but I did set up a resource library that is password protected for newsletter subscribers (password comes when you sign up & confirm and is at the bottom of every newsletter!).
- This has given my newsletter subscription a huge boost, whereas before I might get 5-10 new subscribers a day I now usually have between 20-60. I regularly “cull” the list so my open rate stays high but it’s been a great growth period!
- Set up a ‘custom; autoresponder welcome series for the different categories that I blog about (embroidery, quilting, sewing) (Q2)
- Nope; since I didn’t switch away from Mailchimp and don’t want to pay for multiple lists.
- 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.
- Done! I forgot that I did this last year. I sold parts of Des Moines Outdoor Fun (since we moved away), which was great, and then also started Explore More Clean Less. I’ve been more active on its Instagram than the blog, but it is slowly growing when I have spare time, sharing our travel & homeschool journey.
- 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.
- Done! I’ll be going this year again, if you have any interest in joining me you can buy a ticket here. I connected with two great companies, got creative inspiration & motivation, and met several online sewing friends in real life. It went great!
- 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.
- Ehhh. Sponsored opportunities tend to pop up randomly and then I fit my other ideas around them, as I feel most inspired. This will never be a realistic goal for me when we also homeschool and travel a ton. Things just need to be more flexible!
- Continue trying to improve my photography and staging.
- Not perfect, but slowly trying.
- Double my yearly profit to $20k (Q4)
- Close! No cigar.
- Hit 10k newsletter subscribers with a 40% open rate (Q4)
- Design 2 new paid patterns
- Complete and share at least 1 video tutorial (Q4)
- Yes! I have done several; they’re all the fast, ‘teaser’ style.
- Release 4 free patterns, at a minimum
- Yes, way more than 4, you can always browse my free patterns here.
- 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.
- Hard fail, not sure I even touched it. It got “lost” in the move, and I just recently unearthed it from a tote, and will get back to work!
Goals for 2019
So, if you are a blogger, you know that a lot of these are vanity metrics. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, it matters if they “convert” etc. etc. But I think there is still some value in them, and it makes for easy goals. I of course have more detailed ones that I work on, but here are the high notes!
The things that feel the best aren’t quantifiable or anything I can control – but it needs to be said that I’ll take one happy email showing me what they sewed from my tutorials/patterns over a thousand fans any day!
- Hit 30k profit for the year! That feels scary to write out. That’s about what I was making with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the nonprofit world, so it would be great to hit that!
- Hit 10k on Facebook & Instagram
- Hit 15k on my newsletter
- Release 4 paid patterns.
- Pursue at least 2 new companies to collaborate with
- Record a true Youtube style tutorial that isn’t sped-up and quick
- Learn how to use Procreate on the ipad and at least experiment with the embroidery patterns knocking around in my head
So that’s my year! Feel free to leave any questions. It feels good that this was the first true holiday season that I could ride the holiday wave; I’ll definitely continue to focus more energy on holiday projects even earlier this year. I’m not going to inspire anyone as a get-rich-quick scheme but I am so thrilled to be making a solid part-time income doing what I love, from home. Thank you so much for reading my posts, shopping through my links, sewing my projects, and just generally supporting me!