See how I did with flipping a hobby site into a money maker this year – including what it took, how much it cost, and what I learned from the process.
Enjoying this series?
It’s all about how I’m turning a hobby site into a money-making blog.
Make a Plan
I see so many new site owners waste 2 years and $2,000 before they make a real plan for their money-making site.
They buy all manner of cheap courses that are mainly fluff. Or, they get sucked into a high $$$ course that is still mainly fluff and full of bad advice – like using Bluehost and premium plugins – all of which that non-techie course guru gets an affiliate commission on.
New site owners also don’t do research into their niche and see what else is out there that they’ll be competing with.
And many don’t even know what they really want to write about.
Since I’m not new to site ownership, at least I avoided the above expensive pitfalls!!
But, I ran straight into other unexpected costs right up front.
Upfront Business Costs
The very first thing I had to do was spend money.
That’s true of every business.
Unfortunately, most new site owners don’t get that fact.
But I’m not a new site owner!
I fully understand the value of investing in my success right up front and reaping the rewards for it later.
But that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t try to save as much money as I could, especially right up front.
Well, it didn’t work out that way, as you’ll see.
I specifically purchased my new house in late 2018 because it had the perfect layout for my living space and for all of my hobbies.
That included an oversized 2-car garage in the basement, along with a finished room on the other side.
More than half of the garage would be devoted to my woodworking.
And the finished room would become my art room.
So, I could make all of the messy cuts in the garage and do the assembly in the art room, if I wanted to.
Remodeling the Garage
Being in the basement, 3 of the garage walls are concrete blocks.
Fortunately, the remaining wall was on the side I would be using for my workshop, and it was an interior wall that was sheetrocked – in pieces, not whole sheets.
It was a mess with a poor mud job between the sheets and dirt and marks all over.
The slab floor was in even worse shape.
READ: Turning a Garage Into A Money Making Woodworking Shop for pix of just how bad the garage was when I first started.
To go on the cheap, and because it was the dead of winter and too cold for any type of remodeling project, I hung a tarp on the wall as a backdrop, and tried to leave the floor out of any pictures.
But it just wasn’t going to work.
I had to wait a month or so for the weather to warm up enough to get the floor professionally cleaned and painted.
And then warm enough for me to completely redo the mud and paint on that sheetrocked wall.
So, that put me behind in both time and money right at the start.
The Need for a Pro Camera
I knew that taking great pictures and making super videos would be one of the keys to my success.
I first started with my phone to see if that would work, including wasting a week or so trying different apps to improve the quality.
It just was not going to work.
So, I researched the best camera for my needs and decided the Canon M50 with a Rode boom mic would be perfect.
And it was!!!!!!
But, figuring out how to use it was such a time suck!!!!!!
Knowing nothing about photography, it took me nearly a month of trial and error and Googling to even begin to understand how to make quality shots and videos. (And I’m still learning!)
I was not without woodworking tools when I started this venture.
But they were big, old, and a pain to work with.
I wanted lighter, cordless power tools. And I chose the brand based on sponsorship opportunities, plus what would be most appealing to my target audience, as much as how well they performed.
I also needed bigger, and different hand tools than what I already had so I could create the bigger artwork pieces I had in mind.
Tools cost money!
And like most new DIY woodworkers, I over bought on some things.
READ: That’s specifically why I made this post on Starter Tools for DIY Woodworkers.
And I hope it helps others who are just getting going with woodworking understand exactly what they need – and what they don’t need – and what to look out for.
First Quarter Costs
I blew my entire yearly budget for this project in the first 3 months.
Between the garage remodel, the camera, and the tools, it had become a very expensive undertaking.
By January alone, I had spent $1k on the big ticket tools and shop supplies like lumber for the first projects.
Get details: The Planning Behind a Money Making Site Launch for those costs.
And then the garage remodel and new camera was another $1k.
Get details: Invest for Blog Success at Startup for those costs.
Was it worth it?
There is no business, which has a physical location, that doesn’t have similar startup costs.
Setting up a woodshop is not cheap.
But, having a great looking place, and a great way to show that to folks through photos and videos, and a way to do the work at hand is what it takes to lay the right foundation for this niche.
Off to the Races
In the months that I had to wait to do the remodeling and buy the tools and such, I took the time to make a content plan for what I would post.
READ: How I Develop an Editorial Calendar for a New Blog for details.
Boy, was it ever ambitious!
But it was, and still is, a good plan.
Everything Takes Longer Than Planned
THE biggest lesson I’ve learned from this endeavor is that every aspect of it takes way longer than I had allocated for it.
I have been doing things a certain way with BlogAid for so long that I had completely forgotten how long it takes to create a whole new, branded look for everything.
That includes the way I do graphics/photos to the way the videos are shot.
One super surprising outcome was how folks reacted to the shop clothes I wore in the first few videos and pix. And that became part of my branding.
READ: How to Make Your Brand Instantly Recognizable for details.
Back when I was carving, I did series posts to take folks through it step-by-step.
OMG!!!!! These things take WAY longer than those carving posts.
My DIY clients didn’t tell me that it takes 20 hours to make each post!!!!!!!!
That seriously slowed down my editorial calendar plans.
Getting Into a Groove
But I did finally find my way of doing things with this type of posting, which is RADICALLY different from the way I do posts on BlogAid.
READ: Finding Your Production Groove with a New Site for more.
And, planning out the posts before I even started the build became absolutely necessary.
READ: The Art of Storyboard and Photojournalism in Blogging for more.
Plus,I had to get my expectations for what I could do inline with the reality of running a side gig and how long it really takes to produce the content for it.
I chose to keep to my plan because I knew it would lay the proper, solid foundation for the future of this site as a money maker.
SEO and Video SEO
One thing I’m super proud of is that I brought a LOT of SEO and video experience to this project.
See: my DIY SEO course for details.
Both SEO and videos are a long game for traffic and I began laying the foundation for them right at the start.
Nearly every post has a video – on purpose.
That gives me double the chance to rank at the top of Google search.
Google loves to promote YouTube videos.
And if I can get the post that video is embedded into at the top of search, all the better.
On top of that, each post has a load of images that are optimized for Google Images, as is the content around them. That includes the posts with videos.
And my chances of showing up in YouTube search is also high because I’m doing the kind of SEO on them that works well on YouTube.
I’m already showing up in related videos, so I know it’s working.
I’m also super grateful that I’ve had so much on-camera and video scripting and editing time with BlogAid.
I even had a comment on one of my YouTube videos where the viewer couldn’t believe my video activity was so new because they were so professionally produced.
Not being new at this gives me a leg up on YouTube with the Heartwood Art channel.
Google Search Console Performance Report
Yes, these are small numbers compared to BlogAid. But the important thing to me is the growth from doing the proper SEO foundation.
You can clearly see where I started blogging again in March.
And then how things took off when I started consistently producing new content in June.
I firmly believe that doing more than 2 posts a month would have significantly improved the metric for this first year. And that’s a huge goal for me in 2020.
Social Media and Pinterest
I’m having a ball on Instagram with Heartwood Art!!!
I could never figure out how to use it well for BlogAid. But it’s perfectly natural for my woodworking projects. I have activity that is easy to show in a picture.
Even though Instagram doesn’t send me tons of traffic, it has other benefits that make it worth my time. I’m making so many good connections in the woodworking community, and that includes folks that live near me and worldwide. Plus, I’m having FUN!
The Heartwood Art Facebook page is being super slow to catch on. In fact, I think most of my followers there are folks reading this series on BlogAid and a few friends.
But, I’ve been really enjoying a few Facebook woodworking groups and have had occasion to share my posts there, mainly to answer questions, which is always good. And those shares are sending me Facebook traffic.
And there’s Heartwood Art on Pinterest.
I’ve heard it takes a while to catch on – but it is catching.
Out of the blue I had one Pin surge to 64k impressions for one day. And that brought 334 folks to my site that day.
Here are my top pins:
The one about turning a garage into a money-making woodshop was what went viral for a day.
But I also had a surge around Christmas. See those details next.
Visits to my site didn’t really start jumping until two things happened:
- One Pinterest pin going viral for a day
- Getting known in woodworking Facebook groups
Here are the full GA stats for the year.
Notice that spike in September?
That was from a pin getting 64k impressions on a single day.
My visitor count averaged 30-40 sessions a day prior to that.
So, between the Facebook groups and Pinterest, my daily traffic average is up to about 80 sessions a day from social. The rest of the 110 sessions a day is Google and YouTube.
And Christmas day had a big spike due to me sharing some tool and how-to posts again everywhere too.
The surge on Pinterest for those other top pins had a lot to do with it.
That makes me happy as I know these posts and videos and pins will be good year over year as well and should garner a LOT more traffic next year for me.
Now that I had my blogging grove going, I was super itchy to get my theme revamped and switched over to Gutenberg. That’s mainly because Gute and its Reusable Blocks were the key to the way I planned to monetize the site.
The new theme cost $500, as I wanted a specific layout, plus specific tweaks for speed. I ended up with something that would normally cost $1500 in design – and that savings is all due to Gutenberg.
And I poured every complex and snazzy layout I learned from that rebuild directly into my Gutenberg Ninja course too!
The Reusable Blocks are one of the most powerful features in Gute and I used them extensively for monetizing the site.
Because Google loves eating schema markup like candy, and is now looking for schema markup on videos, I purchased the Video SEO plugin from Yoast and put it on Heartwood Art.
That was near the end of October and it is already having a positive effect on my analytics.
See for yourself on my YouTube Analytics:
I think it’s still too early to see the long-term impact it will have, and I look forward to reporting those numbers in 2020.
This year I also purchased two courses for the following:
- Affiliate marketing
I have yet to finish the Pinterest course. And that has everything in the world to do with why I didn’t see a faster uptick in traffic for this blogging niche. Pinterest is the fastest way to traffic. SEO takes longer.
But, I did finish the affiliate marketing course and I was able to get Heartwood Art monetized with Amazon links just prior to Thanksgiving, which means it was in time for all of the holiday sales.
My Shop Tools page represents a LOT of work and time!!
I decided to take all of my own images, as I want to also include links to Home Depot and not just Amazon.
Home Depot is making a HUGE push to compete now, and encouraging online ordering and then easy pickup at the store or same/next day shipping, and all with no membership fee.
Then creating all of the Reusable Blocks for each post took a lot of time as well.
I had no idea I used so many different combos of tools on each project!!!
But, the fact is, I now have the foundation to make everything WAY easier going forward, and for that I am super grateful.
Patting Myself on the Back
I am SO proud of this post with Starter Tools for DIY Woodworkers
It represents the culmination of everything I have done this year in this project.
It shows off:
- The garage remodel, including that nice wall behind me and great lighting
- The tools that I have a lot more experience with now, and the brands I want to promote and be aligned with for more visibility
- The super choices I made for my workbench build to suit all of my needs
- Why taking my own tool pictures really paid off
- Months of trial and error, and research with the camera for both stills and videos
- Years of being on stage and being so comfortable delivering a 20 minute monologue with no notes because I know what I’m talking about and rehearsed the order
- Years of skill and experimentation with video editing and production
- Branding everywhere
- A strong sense of knowing my target audience and delivering what they want to hear
- Creating a well-researched editorial calendar
- SEO everywhere – on the post and the video and the still images
- Understanding of what will work well on Pinterest
- Affiliate marketing that will garner sales
- How to create an evergreen post that will be good for years to come
All of that can be seen in that one video and post!!!
This year I spent about $3k, which includes all of the items noted above. The nice thing about that is it’s all a tax write off because this is a business site.
I also spent about 3 months of time in research and learning.
I didn’t start posting until around March and didn’t start posting regularly until around June.
I didn’t post as much as I wanted to, but having 18 posts for the year is actually very good considering how long they take to produce and how late I started.
I’m also getting well established on YouTube and Google Search as well as Google Images. And then doing very well with Instagram.
While I had a viral spurt with Pinterest, I feel like this is my weakest area by far, especially since I think it will lead to the most traffic in the short-term.
I still think SEO will be my long-term highest traffic, but it will be at least another year before that fully snowballs. And that is why I had to focus on establishing it first.
My theme is now top notch and on Gutenberg and set to meet my future needs with affiliate marketing and maybe even ads down the road.
In short, I met all of my goals for the year on this project except for two.
- I didn’t get a piece of art built.
- I got my site monetized too late to make money. I didn’t get those direct money posts out far enough in advance to hit on Pinterest or Google. They did hit on Facebook, though.
Beyond that, I’m set to make money with the site now – and that was the ultimate goal.
But more than anything – I learned a LOT!
And ALL of that has poured back into BlogAid so I can help my DIY, foodie, and affiliate marketing clients even more. I’m in their world now and I understand what it takes to make this work and for the site to make real money.
I have big plans for Heartwood Art in 2020.
But we’ll save that for another post.