Merch News and My T-Shirt Designs

My Newest Design

I recently added a dog breed design that is made for the holidays, with its wreath and Christmas colors. It is a fun watercolor style that highlights fans of the Vizsla dog breed.

The “Faith” tshirt remains live because it made one sale. This is the criteria for designs to have longevity on Amazon Merch. 

Details About Merch

we are limiting the number of t-shirts a content creator can make based on tiers of designs.

The Merch by Amazon team will be hand-selecting content creators who have sold the same amount of t-shirts as the number of the tier they are in. For example – to move up from the 10 tier, a content creator will need to sell at least 10 shirts from those they have created to move up to the 25 tier.

Admission to these tiers are based not only on sales, but the quality of the products being sold by the content creator as well.

Tier levels include:
10
25
100
500
Pro (by invitation)

Learning Curve

I have to confess that Merch haas a big learning curve when it comes to creating on the site. Now that many changes have been made to the system, it is frustrating to have a short timeline to sell designs and then have them removed.

If a design does not sell, it is removed. It cannot be automatically renewed, and there is a limit to the number of designs that can be uploaded each day.

Rules For Merch Designs

Read about the content guidelines, here

These are not unreasonable restrictions, but quite different from other sites like Zazzle or Redbubble, etc.

Comparing Merch with Other Similar Sites

I have worked on Zazzle since 2011, and that site had a similar slow start for me. It produces regular, if not large, pocket money now. I expect that Redbubble and Merch are similar. From others comments some of them have greater success on Redbubble and all who comment on their stores say that each one differs and it is helpful to diversify.

I will report on the comparisons in a more definitive way in about a year. I think that is enough time to observe sales and see the trend.

What are your experiences? Do you like one site better than another for making sales? Which one is best for your designs and style?

Trying To Do The One Thing That Leads To Better Blog Success

Write

That is the one regret for my blogging in the past ten years. I should have developed the habit of writing … more … longer posts… greater frequency.

I am convinced that today’s blogosphere requires a regular writing schedule. And the more we write the better we become. The only caveat is that when we speed up our output, our writing will deteriorate.

So, a balance of well-written articles that are posted with regular frequency is key to growing a blog.

My main advice on posting frequency is to be consistent and keep the quality of your posts as high as possible.Problogger Darren Rowse

See, Darren said it long before I realized, the hard way, how important this is to blogging.

Will It Translate To Dollars?

source: Ilona Erwin
source: Ilona Erwin

I don’t believe it will translate to very much of an increase of income on its own, no.

Growing a business online is a changing proposition, and I don’t claim to be an expert on what creates success in earning an income from a blog.  Just reporting on what I and others are experiencing.

I will say that even very successful bloggers are struggling with blogs alone. It is becoming harder.

Factors in the changes:

  • Google has changed what it demands for good search engine placement and ranking
  • Readers are more sophisticated in what they do and what they desire.
  • Competition has gone through the roof! There is an explosion of blogs in every conceivable subject.

Hard Work Is Key

This has always been true in every endeavor, especially when competition picks up, the way it has on the web.

Observations And Advice Out There

More traffic, more clicks but each click was worth less. Hey Google, I held up my end of the bargain – made my websites better. You screwed up yours. Work harder, work smarter, still make less money.Doug Green

A garden writer I like and who has been thriving in the past with his blogging and writing has revealed some of his present disappointment and struggle with trying to make an online business and living income.

What are some observations?

  • Google adsense income is a small fraction of what it was… sometimes only pennies, literally. I have noticed this in my own sites. but not just Google, other sources of ad income are also smaller and more difficult to earn.
  • It is hard to capture peoples interest and loyalty. a lot of work on social media is a necessity.
  • Peripheral efforts are a must: a newsletter, at the most basic, podcasts, youtube video, e-books. These are all part of the package. Each having its own learning curve and work to produce.

Don’t Get Discouraged

This is meant to give a realistic view, not to discourage anyone.

There are lots of varying factors, including the niche you choose to write within, your ability to catch opportunity and see trends (or fall into them!), and many others.

But if you are going to blog, commit yourself to writing frequently and as well as possible.

I do have to say that I have always put real life first, and that meant blogging had to take a back seat. I also spent lots of time learning things, and not always “producing”.

The lesson there? Do what is best in your own life, and don’t apologize for it or waste time regretting the trade-offs.

There are lots of gains that aren’t quantified by dollars and cents in these blogging efforts of ours.

Keep at it. Keep improving and make your mark on the world- your own way.

Can You Make Money On Hubpages?

My Hubpages Review 2015

The answer to that question is increasingly “no”, but until very recently it had been a “yes”, and I think it might resume the affirmative.  Right now it depends on how the transition is made as Hubpages continues to try to please Google.

For those unaware of what Hubpages is, here is a short summary:

It is a community of online writers using a module based writing platform.

The income of ads and Amazon products are shared between the writer and Hubpages.

A Bit Of Background On Squidoo Turning Into Hubpages

If you have read some of my reports in the past you know that I started out on Squidoo, which was a writing platform with some similarities. While writing there I did quite well, getting some rewards and earning enough income to help support some of my other web writing – selfhosting and domains for my blogs (including this one).

Squidoo was bought out by Hubpages and merged, after which all the articles (christened “lenses”) became “hubs”.

Squidoo struggled with the same issues that are a trouble to Hubpages, now: penalties from Google for poor content, spamminess, and just because they consider them to be “content farms”.

Hubs Get Hit

The fact that Hubpages pay compensation means they have tended to draw some very questionable authors along with the worthwhile, talented, and honest ones. After Google Panda slapdowns (where the traffic was severely impacted), the struggle was on to try to eradicate the source of the problem. This included little to no links to one’s own blogs, or affiliates, and much fewer Amazon modules.

This has resulted in dropping income for many writers on the site (which explains my initial “no”, it is very difficult now to make any money on the site).

Compensation is still paid, but it is much more difficult and greatly reduced at this time (in my own experience).

What Has Changed In Earning Income?

For the things that created income, the ad income is less, the Amazon modules are restricted and discouraged. Also, an arbitrary system of relegating articles to “unfeatured status”, wherein HP tells search engines not to index the hubs, results in  less visitors for that “hub”. Ebay has not figured into my own earnings, or much for most others from what I have read.

One thing that has changed is the clarity by which a person may judge whether their writing is meeting standards on the site. Unfeatured for quality can mean almost anything for having outgoing links, to too many, to unrelated Amazon products, etc. It could also have to do with the writing… it is a mixed bag and changes often.

A portion of my dashboard

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Yes, sometimes. However it is a lot of work keeping up with many changes, and the compensation is steadily dropping. What tends to work?

  • Having a large number of articles still seems to matter. Part of the reason my income dropped is that I took a number of my articles down when they seemed unresponsive to improvements (I couldn’t get them out of unfeatured no matter what I tried).
  • Writing long articles of 700+ words.
  • Writing along a very tight topic focus (unlike Squidoo which seemed to reward ranging widely across the topic and covering everything).
  • Having few or no outgoing links, restricting them to one per  text module.
  • Having very few Amazon products and keeping them to those mentioned in the article.
  • A number of strong pictures/photos, but not too many.

 

Another change is the scoring of articles based more on visitor interaction, and less on raw traffic.

A robot editor now corrects grammar and spelling.

Start Doing This

If earning some revenue from your writing online is a goal, try some of these suggestions.

  • Build up your own sites if you wish to try your hand at making an income writing.
  • Diversify among different streams of income: sites like Hubpages, your own blogs, social media, Amazon, Zazzle.
  • Find your niche
  • Work hard
  • Network

For now, that is my report on the everchanging landscape of creating a business and income online.

So many writers are complaining in the Hubpages forums and many are leaving or threatening to do so. I take that to mean that there is a sitewide drop in income. Mine is about a third of what it was last year, but I don’t know if that is the common experience or not.

The benefits remain for those who simply wish to have experience writing and possibly getting feedback on their efforts. The community there is also a way to keep a touch on the pulse of the web as it impacts this type of writing (mostly informational articles).

This is simply information given to the reader to help you decide for yourself if you think joining and writing for Hubpages is a promising endeavor for your efforts.

Online Income, The One Rule

There is only one rule and this post will outline how that rule worked for me as I’ve been working to turn my blogging hobby into an income.

The only rule about online income:

It constantly changes.

Yes, that is it. Simple, isn’t it? And yet, that is what can make it incredibly challenging.

There may have been a time when millionaires were made overnight, but if they are still looking for their online business to provide income revenues they are working hard and still hustling.

In that sense, it is the same story as with any business. Success depends on hard work, and wild success is engined by people who love the process.

…Like gazillionaire Les Wexnerexample of someone who loved the process, who built his Limited empire less for the money and more for his drive to make his business grow and succeed ( I heard him on an interview given to a PBS show).

That seems to be the factor that almost all wildly successful business people have: they are driven to compete, most of all with themselves.

You may disagree with me… if you think it is something else I would love to read your opinion in the comments.

But Back To My Story

This is about how to make money, but mostly about not worrying if you don’t (yet)

source: Ilona Erwin
source: Ilona Erwin

Right. I was going to sum up my online pathway in generating income and how that looks:

  • At first I wrote entirely as a free service to others. I benefitted the “free” hosting, and in return I didn’t have to pay money for hosting. We weren’t allowed to have competing ads on our sites.
  • Then I discovered AmazonTheir rules have changed since my early days. You will need to make a sale or two to stay in the program. For years I made $0.00 -and was doubtful that anyone could make enough to qualify for the minimum for a payout.
  • Soon after I was able to sign up for Google Adsense. That also made me nothing, and with a higher qualifying payout. At least it kept whatever pennies were earned in an accumulating amount. Eventually, years later I did get that first payment.

Alrighty- the story here is that there is a learning curve to understanding what it means to monetize blogging.

Initially I was handicapped by the idea that it was crass to have ads on a blog. Yet, my html website was given ads that weren’t even my own while at Geocities. My idea translated into:

“I can’t make money with integrity on my own writing, but it is okay for others to reap income from all my hard work”

It was hard work I most willingly gave because I loved having readers enjoy and benefit from what I was offering. I wanted them to see beauty, to be inspired, to learn from me.

I can’t emphasize enough what hard work it was. But it was fun, stimulating, and gave me creative outlet. I also cannot emphasize enough how much I needed that as a stay at home wife with ten kids.

But I was using my life to give the blogs so much time and effort, and at the same time my husband and I were struggling financially.

I needed to improve the blog, and I needed for it to pay for itself. It wasn’t until much much later that I felt it should become a business (or even had the idea that it could)

Keys To Adsense and Amazon

The keys are placement and traffic.

key
source: tawheed manzoor on flickr

Now more than ever, there must be enough eyeballs visiting a page to create income from these two sources. That is traffic.

For you this means that you should not give up if you don’t see results. Keep writing. Keep building your blog

Along with those two keys, which are particularly important for Amazon affiliates, is that you must have enough places where products are included included within the posts and pages of the blog. One on the front page or a few in the sidebar won’t do it, for most of us.

That was always so hard for me because I am primarily a writer. Photos were a challenge, graphics were a challenge, and now including relevant items from Amazon? Yes, it seemed to be one more hurdle to writing a good post.

For years I didn’t even try. And I made so little income I privately thought it might be a scam. But it wasn’t, I just didn’t know how it worked.

So for Adsense there are two main things- having plenty of traffic to the blog and lots of content.

For Amazon, take the time to include links to the products you are advocating anyway. I always like the magazine resource pages that told me where I could get featured items, and that is what Amazon links on a blog can do.

I usually qualify for the minimum payout for Amazon now.

That isn’t something to boast about exactly… it is small potatoes, but at least it is potatoes on the plate.

Amazon Learning Center

lensThat is what I would call my time on Squidoo. Before I participated in that writing community (which is what it was for me), I had no idea how to include products within my writing. Not really incorporate them, or write income producing pages. I just wrote.

Squidoo (It is no more, it was sold and closed) had so many tutorials and tips from many writers. It had traffic. And it shared income.

Google Adsense is very up and down for me. My sites were google slappeddrops in search engine placement due to changes in how google gives results, like their Panda update so many times, that if I depended on that to pay the hosting bills, this story would be over.

Squidoo articles added up in small increments. The more I wrote the more I was making, sometimes it would surprise me which topics and pages could give me support.

Eventually, it paid the way for my other sites, including my garden site, Ilona’s Garden. I was able to buy Premium themes, which was necessary as WordPress had become more and more complex, and my sites were hacked. (Hacking meant I had to keep everything updated, and have reliably secure themes).

There is so much more to these stories that can only hinted at here … but it shows that income switched from Google ads to Squidoo ad-sharing community.

And a side effect of those pages was that my own Amazon affiliate earnings were finally increasing. They sent me traffic, due to their liberal policies on linking and adding your own affiliate products.

Squidoo became Hubpages, and for me, the adjustment is only in format. The income levels are about on par. I have no idea how long that will last.

But that could change at any time.

And that is the point of my story, online success depends on making the changes, and keeping abreast of what works and what doesn’t.

Secondly, but Importantly

Always, for me, everything is servant to the writing. I am one of those people who likes to craft, who wants to provide my readers with something worthwhile. Something that means something to me.

Making money from this is always secondary and I have had issues and difficulties because of that.

Other Things I Won’t Compromise

  • My family comes before the blog
  • I write from my inner muse, not in response to whether it makes money
  • I must be honest as possible.

Sure I make mistakes and sometimes deviate from the path, but those are my guiding principles in what I do, to create the blogs and to build income.

More Changes That Challenge

Blogging today is so different than when I started, although I saw many of these things coming.

What I didn’t foresee is how important the visuals would become. And how it would be a more proprietary environment.

We now need to have our own professional photos. Our own professional looking graphics. Participation on many social platforms ( which means lots of writing that never finds its way to the blog.

This makes a difference in income. Presently I have plough more than I make back into this blogging adventure.

Your Takeaways From My Experience

To sum up

  • Have diverse sources of income for your blogging/writing
  • SEO and traffic building are important
  • Each manner of generating income has its own rules and learning curve. They change.
  • Implicit, but previously unsaid, is the fact that you should concentrate on growing your own blogs and creating your own products.
  • Don’t give up too soon. The one thing it all takes is patience, work, and time. If it changes, change with it.

And it ought to be fun. You ought to enjoy creating and giving, or it just isn’t worthwhile.

Posting For Pennies

laptop ladyIf money were the only reason I write online, in my blogs and communities, then pennies is the payout and I wouldn’t consider it worth the time. But if writing is more than earning a paycheck, then my success has made me wealthy.

It all depends on how we value our time, effort, and results.

I’ve been attempting to build an online business, and part of a business is producing something, while the other part is its ability to provide income.

While I started out writing and creating websites just for the excitement of it (and watching the site statistics!), the reward of feedback in reader commentary became an important part of the reason to write. At that time it was reward enough for me.

As the internet became bigger it became important to put some of my writing into its own hosted domain. That cost money. Thus was born my initial attempts at monetization with much trepidation. In fact, I was so timid about adding Google ads and Amazon associate links that I made almost zero every month. And only a penny or two usually on other months. That went on a long time, long enough that I wondered whether online earnings might be an Urban Legend.

Caution
While taking advice from this post, use it mainly for information purpose only. The “content farm” writing sites have changed so much in recent times that this information is outdated.

I finally earned something

money1
After I did start getting some small results, it just seemed that the boat had passed me by, and I did miss out on the early days when some savvy entrepreneurs were turning their websites into businesses. Today, though, I see that with lots of hard work, it is possible to build your income with writing online.

I’m not successful enough to parlay expertise into training and tutorials, but I can share how some endeavors are working for me.

 

Continue reading “Posting For Pennies”