Writing for and about artists is something I am called to do as part of my art career, along with writing novels. I look forward to many years here at Artist Cafe Utica. Last year, I attempted another website. It failed completely. Nobody but my fiance, my parents, and about three or four family members and friends even knew it was there, never mind read any of the articles. I didn’t know this, because the hosting site I’m on was allowing bots to interfere with the daily stats. To me, it looked like I had grown to having 40-60 readers per day, which was high, but within reason for a niche as tiny as mine. It was not until the site made updates that eliminated the bots that I realized almost nobody had ever read my site.
When I realized I’d been writing only for people who would have read the same things from me in emails or on my personal status, I was crushed. I prayed about it, and was guided to start again, with a better website and improved ways of reaching people. It’s still a bit disheartening to think about working an entire year on something that went nowhere.
As disappointing as that first try was, I gained a lot of valuable insight that might help others starting a web page or YouTube channel for their art career or as a side hustle to earn money. Here are five things to keep in mind as you build your channel or site.
“I make $5,000 a month just writing about my dog,” type claims are sensationalized to gain readers or YouTube viewers.
That person may indeed write about his dog in every post. He may write about the dog every day. And at the time of writing, he may have had several months where he earned thousands of dollars. But if you read through the blog, you will find articles about dog care, dog health, getting along with other dog owners, dogs and travel, and several other topics that can involve dogs. Most of these topics require extensive research, networking, and editing to produce quality content. He didn’t just jot down a few thoughts about his dog every day and watch his bank account blossom.
Anyone who tells you, “I made money because I had a blog with ten thousand followers the first year” is also leaving off a few details, like that they spent several years before that building up a fan base or clientele that could easily be pointed to their blog. They didn’t go from doing nothing but bagging groceries or filing invoices to a site with thousands of followers and buckets of money pouring out of ads in a few months.
This blogger/site owner/YouTuber is also not mentioning how long it took him to get to the point where ads and affiliate marketing generated thousands every month. That page could have been ten years old by the time he saw income like that. He is also likely not mentioning other services or products he creates and offers through his site.
It takes at least a year for a blog to make any real money.
This means a year of work, not a year of spending five minutes posting your opinion on scented candles or toaster pastries and then watching YouTube and drinking coffee for the next eight hours. If you want to run your own website, you have to treat it like you treat your paintings, novels, albums, concerts, or any other major art project.
Plan to have a side job that pays the bills, or at least the bulk of your bills, for around two years. This may not be what you want to hear, but neither is “We’re shutting off your electricity tomorrow.” No matter how good you are, or how popular your site, it is very unlikely that you will generate enough money to live on right away.
Successful bloggers/vloggers offer books, consulting, speaking, writing, courses, or other services or products for sale. Include your art work, and anything you do related to your art work.
Most bloggers/website owners also use their blog as an online store or virtual office to present and offer services related to the content they post. A teacher/novelist might write personal reflections on education on her blog page, and offer packages of teaching materials, novels about teachers, and workshops for other teachers on other areas of the site.
I mistakenly declared myself retired from freelance writing when I began my first website. Only after being reminded that web sites need to add services in some blogging groups I joined, did it dawn on me that what I really needed to do was offer freelance writing packages through the web site/blog as part of my art practice, in addition to my novels.
Those promoting a music career might want to promote their live shows, albums, and any other art projects they do all on one site. If you teach an instrument, write music reviews, or lead music workshops, add that too.
Internet challenges are a lot more difficult than they look.
Performing a money making challenge for the camera or for a future article may be a great way to earn some cash, and generate some publicity for your art work or second career. It just isn’t necessarily going to happen as quickly as you see on camera.
My first website had a “What Really Happens When…” series in which I did various social experiments that other artists might want to try to raise or save money. They either fell completely flat or raised only a tiny portion of the expected income. I’ll still try them again, but they aren’t likely to pay my bills for the month.
When you see YouTubers and website owners/bloggers doing things like making $1,000 in a week through random side hustles, the content is, like the wild money claims, exaggerated for effect. YouTuber “Living Bobby,” best known for his “turn $100 into $1,000” challenges, was “exposed” for faking portions of his videos and lying about how fast he made his money. I wasn’t shocked. It was obvious this guy already set a network of people in place to help him ahead of time, and had done a lot of the work off camera and pre-challenge.
Comparing a small niche website or YouTube channel to a well-known YouTuber is like comparing the tourism dollars brought in by your five favorite cities combined to the income of your favorite neighborhood cafe.
It may be tempting to look at the most successful YouTubers or famous bands’ social media and think you should have numbers at those levels, but look at it in terms of the size of their target audience versus yours.
Famous YouTuber David Dobrik had 14.4 million subscribers as of the time of the writing of this article. That sounds like an amazing number, and it is. Dobrik is one of the most successful YouTubers out there. But remember that Dobrik markets his work to everyone in the United States between the ages of 18 and 34. Now that he has forty-something comic Jason Nash as a regular feature, he may even be going for the next age bracket. There are around 76.2 million people aged 18-34 in the United States, meaning Dobrik is followed by about 19% of his target audience. If you add the 35-44 year olds he targets with the addition of the “vlog squad” member who is in their statistical age group, his target audience jumps to 117.5 million and his percentage drops to 13%. And this is an internet sensation who just won a Kids’ Choice Award last year.
Having 10% of your target population follow you is doing very well, and if your marketing budget only allows you to target “people in upstate New York who like folk rock music” or “people in Utica, New York who are interested in taking acting classes,” your target population is going to be a tiny number compared to what you see presented as “success” online.
My target audience is about 2,500. I got there by doubling the statistical percentage of professional artists in the population to allow for those who only list their day jobs on their work forms, adding up the population statistics for the Utica area, and rounding up to the nearest 500. This means Artist Cafe Utica will reach its ultimate goal when it has 250 followers. So my numbers will never reach Dobrik’s. But there is a You Tuber inspired series in the works. I’ll do a special giveaway…like David Dobrik…when I reach 250 followers.
Look for the “Try to Live Like a You Tube Vlogger” series, challenges, experiments, and other content offered to generate ideas and discussion among Utica area artists in the coming weeks.
*This is not a sponsored post. All observations, thoughts, and research are my own.