This post is over 6,000 words! If you are a multi-tasker save yourself some time by downloading the Voice Aloud Reader.
Now you can listen to the robot voice, I have lovingly nicknamed Jonathan, and he will read you this post while you do dishes. Yes I know I could make this into a video or podcast but I’m not there yet, so make friends with Jonathan. Or you could just read, up to you!
Note: Weirdly placed commas are to get robot Jonathan to pause while reading. It’s important to me that busy working folks have a chance to learn new skills and hear about new opportunities, even if time for reading is limited.
So I am not going to lie and tell you building a website has been a quick or lucrative process so far, but I will tell you I am having fun and I am hopeful for my future. Starting a blog was not a corona time freak out for me. I have had plans to run a website for over 2 years now, and before that I was searching for a job maintaining a company’s online presence. Alas I never got hired for my dream job, but hooray I am building my dream job!
The 1st Step: Get a Good Phone with a Good Camera
I made the decision and bought a good phone (with an awesome camera) about 2 years ago. I had had a crappy “budget phone” for years because I had cracked the screen of my last good phone. I was holding out to buy an incredible phone because the quality of my photos on my budget phone was just depressing, I think it was a k10 or something like that.
As much as I wanted great photos for my blog, I also wanted great photos of my children! So the camera was important, but my new phone would need enough “juice” for me to edit videos.
The Samsung Galaxy S10e has been a solid friend throughout growing my blog and business. I wouldn’t go so far to say a great phone is a necessity when starting but it is super helpful. You would need to purchase a phone that works with your own phone service provider. If you were planning to run a website as your full time job, I would recommend a phone upgrade at some point. Especially if you might be chasing children at the park while writing for your blog.
My 2nd Step: Build Up My Social Media
So I had my fancy new phone now, did I immediately start a blog? No! I could have but that would have been a lot to take on in that season of my life. My 3rd and last kiddo was still a little baby, and the littles require a lot of attention. I wanted to spend all the time I could with her and my other family members because they grow so fast. I used this time to build up my social media channels and to learn all I could about driving traffic to a website. I know, you are thinking how riveting!
Learning more about social media marketing was a good use of my time though, and I got to take a ton of cute photos of my baby. When I wanted to be social I’d post photos, chat with followers, and get to know people. During less energetic times I would watch videos and read about SEO and how to get free traffic to my blog (which I hadn’t built yet).
Step 3: Build My Website
About a year into growing my social media following a friend mentioned that her organization was hiring for an online marketing professional. I was so excited to apply for the position. My degree is in computers but I have been working in manufacturing for several years. Unfortunately I didn’t have a portfolio because years ago my school laptop died and most of my portfolio work was lost. Don’t forget to back-up your files people!
I spent an entire weekend “panic building” the bones of my wordpress site. I didn’t end up getting the job, but it was just the fire I needed to get the whole thing started. The company ended up hiring a professional with more experience but they let me down gently. I was told I had been a front-runner for the position, and I had gotten a 2nd interview.
When they turned me down they told me they had never had someone build a website that quickly for a portfolio piece before. That was a huge morale booster! In the end the job would have had a lot of local travel and would have taken more hours away from my family. I was able to see the good side of walking away without the job and with a working website!
I chose to make my site on wordpress.com after looking around, and creating a profile and blog on wix that I never wrote in. I took the easier path and did not choose a “self-hosted” website because that looked more complicated. I may kick myself later when my price goes up but page loading speed was an important factor to me. Plus I already had to learn how to create my wordpress site and I didn’t want to have to learn extra skills such as web security at the same time.
I started with a free wordpress site and moved to premium once I was ready to connect my google analytics. Analytics is important for getting ad contracts later on. I still have the premium account which is more limiting than some other plans and I can’t install plug-ins, but it cost me less than $100 for my 1st year. I upgraded to the premium around tax return time last year so I will have some money around to put into it in case there is a cost increase.
If you do choose to go the route I did, sign up here and we will both earn credits. What we can do with those credits I have no idea! I would hope if I earn any credits they could go to the cost of the website but I haven’t figured out how the credit system works yet.
I will tell you that the annual renewal price for my premium plan, plus my domain fee is $114 without tax. I cannot guarantee you this yearly price, you will have to read the fine print of your agreement when you upgrade from your free site. I did want to give you an idea of what I am paying out of pocket though.
Also it took a lot of time past that 1st weekend to organize and present everything the way I wanted it to show. I’ve spent so much time looking at how posts look on a computer versus a phone. I just don’t want everyone to feel like they can make a website in one weekend and be done. Websites require changes and improvements and every time I walked away from a finished task, I added a few things onto my to-do list for the next time I was working.
Step 4: Deciding How I Want to Make Money
This part is tricky because running a blog doesn’t automatically make you money. Yes you can run ads on a website but unless you have a certain amount of traffic you won’t qualify for the ad services. I was interested in how I could start making money now while I built up enough traffic to qualify to run ads on my website.
You might think it’s strange to consider how I would make money before I had an established readership but I think of it as strategy. For one what you write about brings in different audiences. Knowing what I like to write about and how I wanted to earn money allowed me to set-up my site in a way that makes sense for my readers and the companies I want to work with.
Also I am a big believer in learning everything you can about anything you want to be successful at. If you are going to run a business, and earn an income you better learn some things about managing your time wisely, making good business decisions, and improving life skills.
I am no expert but these people are! If you are looking for ways to learn more about business these are some resources that I enjoyed. You can get through an amazing amount of audiobooks while working and doing household chores. I know from experience!
The first 2 books I listed have my personal recommendation and the 3rd I am going to read (or listen to) next.
Anyway all of these authors also talk on youtube, PODCASTS, and you can probably borrow these books from your public library so make a note to check them out. Save them on a pinterest board or something. See what I did there *big smile*.
Anyway back to all the ways I am making money, or plan on making money online.
I was already an Avon Rep and the owner of an Avon website when I started the CraftingGlow site. I knew I wanted to include my Avon website in my money making portfolio. I have made money from my Avon site before but not often, but it’s still a site that is already set up so why wouldn’t I talk about my Avon business?
Yes there is a lot of competition in this space where everyone is selling the same products. Yes I write content and then people go buy Avon from their friends but people also search specific Avon products and some of them end up on my website. I consider this free advertising, or at least as free as it gets.
It costs me nothing extra to have my Avon website. If someone does decide to purchase their Avon through my store I get between 20 to 25% commission, although if customers spend enough to earn free shipping it does pull that commission rate down to somewhere between 15 to 20% commission.
I still consider that a win and I don’t have to deliver the order personally. I do enjoy delivering some orders in person but gas money is expensive, time is limited, we are social distancing these days, and bringing my kids along on deliveries is not what I call relaxing!
Now knowing I wanted to include Avon in my portfolio I had to read my contract. Avon is pretty flexible about letting representatives sell other products but they are concerned with brand confusion. This led me to create separate social media accounts @AvonOvation to promote my Avon, and I also organized my blog so that my Avon posts show in a separate section on my website.
Why would I hold onto Avon if it’s not making me much money? Well if you haven’t checked on Avon lately, they are moving into the luxury market while still providing economy products to those who can’t afford more.
Thank you Avon for providing both those expensive luxury products and more affordable choices into one shopping space. This means I can provide luxury products to those who want them (and make more in commission) but I am still able to provide good products to those customers with a tight budget. I consider this a win – win!
Does it pay to write extra content when everything is already listed on Avon’s webpage? Well I think it does. I know better than Avon what shiny things will catch my customer’s eye. Plus I try my best to be entertaining while showcasing new items, sorry I am new at this and still learning!
I wanted to add Amazon affiliate to my money making portfolio because many people I know personally already have Amazon prime. We don’t have many shopping options around here, and our mall has become pretty sad over the years. Knowing this I figured that this was a prime opportunity to make money from my content. Yes I am over here giggling at my own jokes like a nerd.
Anyway the way the Amazon affiliate program works is that when someone clicks one of my Amazon links it places a “cookie” for the next 24 hours. If you buy anything from Amazon within that 24 hours I would earn up to a 3% commission (if my cookie was the last you clicked on). No I can’t see who buys what, I’m not a spy jeez!
Yes there are a lot of if’s, and yes it’s not a high commission rate but I loved the fact that I might be able to make some extra money. The best part was I could make the extra money without having to ask anyone to purchase anything they weren’t already going to buy. Will I show fun products and showcase great deals in my posts, absolutely! Do you need to purchase the specific items I showed you for me to make a commission, no!
To me this just seems like free money. I get to write about products I love, window shop for things on my wish list, and hopefully reap the benefits of pulling in some extra money for something I have fun doing.
That being said Amazon is known for changing the rules of this program swiftly and if you are unable to make the changes quickly they will suspend your account. Also the terms of service state they can discontinue the program at any time. This means it’s important to add other forms of income because the affiliate program is not guaranteed.
Are you wondering why I would choose to be an Amazon affiliate if my future isn’t guaranteed? Well I chose to participate in the program because it provides me even more motivation to write blog posts for my website now. More blog posts equals more web traffic, hopefully.
Then if you grow your website to the point where you are getting regular traffic, you can also get paid for ads on your site. I also didn’t mention that if you create a successful website you can sell it for a good chunk of change. I don’t feel like this is the future of my CraftingGlow site because this one is my baby, but I have considered creating other websites and selling them in the future. Only time will tell, I am learning as I go and taking one baby step at a time.
Now to qualify for the Amazon affiliate program you must either have a significant social media following, or you must have a website. Honestly I like social media and I still think building a website was easier than growing a social media following that looked impressive! Yes I know I can “buy” followers, I get messages in my inboxes every week and I just scroll on past.
That brings me to the next leg of my income portfolio, are you wondering how many legs my business is going to have?! Hey I am trying to grow an EVERGREEN business over here and if I set these resources up, there are there when I need them. Mercari was certainly the most successful part of my business this year. It paid for my annual website fees and more!
Mercari is a selling app similar to ebay but it is so much easier to buy and sell here. If you sell on Mercari you commit to sending out the purchased product within 3 days. As a shopper on the platform I appreciate this so much because it’s not fun to have an unexpected wait time on something you already paid for. As a seller I try to ship the product within 24 hours because it makes people happy!
What makes Mercari better than ebay? It is free to list as many products as you want! They have a sophisticated selling algorithm with push notifications, social proof, and visual cues to how much interest a product is getting.
In other words Mercari puts the products for sale in front of the people most likely to buy them. They provide enough social information to drive customers to buy products, or to encourage sellers to offer more competitive pricing.
You can set up your sales so you aren’t paying for shipping out of pocket. This is important because you can start selling without a lot of out of pocket costs, except for shipping envelopes, packing tape, printer supplies, and whatever it is you are selling.
Plus Mercari tells you what their fees are up front, and then takes it out automatically when your product sells. It’s so nice that they don’t bill you with any surprise fees at the end if the month like other selling platforms.
Now you are wondering why would I add Mercari to my portfolio of mainly passive income? The reason being is I have 3 kids and 2 households of things that are too good to throw away but we don’t necessarily want to store it anymore. This is the problem you have when several generations of your family is good at collecting things but not great at de-cluttering.
Well I decided to make that problem work for me and I have put over $100 back into my pocket while making more space in our home. While that isn’t a ton of money, every little bit helps and I am loving the excitement that comes from providing customers a great deal or an item they couldn’t find anywhere else.
Are you considering selling your unwanted stuff on Mercari? I’ll be writing a new post about how we sell on Mercari soon (later this month if I can keep to my own schedule!)
The other piece of getting started on Mercari is that we have built up our 5 star reviews to where we could potentially start selling higher priced items. Billy and I both have a selling profile, his is more geared towards guys and my store has a lot of girl stuff and cosmetics.
So while this business still trades time for dollars, it’s another source of support while we grow other monetary channels. Also Billy just bought a 3D printer, from his Mercari profits, so we will have actual products, that we manufacture, to sell on Mercari. We also plan to sell his designs on other platforms in the future, once he has some designs he is impressed with.
Design (Finally, Getting to the Long-Term Goals)
I am not a great artist but I have so much fun making designs and cartoons. I probably could have had a good career at a marketing firm if I lived in a different location or had more of a portfolio, but I don’t and I didn’t.
While I was consuming hours and hours of podcasts and youtube videos figuring out how to make money online I learned that you could create designs for print on demand products! Holy cow does this ever speak to my heart, I’m pretty sure this is my dream job! Do you mean I can create designs and upload them, and then anyone can purchase a product with my design on it WHENEVER THEY WANT, and I don’t have to ship or store anything?! I don’t even have to process the payment or do any customer service. What?!!!!
Now you set your own commission with POD products and I started with low commissions to price my items competitively so they would sell faster. As I build up my reviews and my brand reputation over time I can add premium products to my portfolio and charge more for those.
I plan to always offer economy products as well as some premium ones though. This is the way I like to shop. I save money on this purchase, but then spend more on this amazing product over here. I want to make a solid income and I want others to do the same. I also want to offer some less expensive products because it makes me sad when price excludes people from doing a little shopping. Would it hurt some fancy brands to offer a lip gloss or something small that us mere mortals might be able to afford?
I’m a smart shopper that also loves a luxury product here and there. I predict this is where the market is heading anyway. No business owner wants to lose their shirt every time the market tanks so to offer both price points is an amazing sales tactic that will create happy customers in a flourishing market or a depressed economy. Again I am not an expert, and you get to make your own decisions on how you design your business.
Amazon Merch vs Zazzle & Why I Plan to Design for Both
OK so I have been in sales for long enough to know that 2 things are very important. They are location, and having that special something that is hard to find anywhere else. Well Amazon merch is the location but the something special is a little more elusive. I am not a fine artist and my skills are not such that I can whip up a masterpiece and have people want to instantly buy it.
Zazzle is a print on demand company that allows customers to personalize products with my design on it. Say my design of a tree is nice and all but it’s not so great that you would purchase it on the spot, but on zazzle you can add Cindy Lou’s name to a shirt and now you just have to buy it for her 3rd birthday!
I love Zazzle already and I have only made $2.60 on the platform. I will say there is a pretty heavy learning curve with figuring out how to get your products in your store, and you could easily spend many hours setting up your store/stores and creating products for them.
Did I scare you off yet? Yes you will have to put in the hours of work up front and figure out how to help Zazzle market your products. You won’t have to spend a penny other than what hardware you chose to create your designs on and if you choose to purchase software. I use free open-source software at the moment. I use GIMP and Inkscape, your welcome!
On Zazzle there are no set-up fees, no cost to create a store, no product inventory to worry about. All you need to worry about is copyright and trademark infringement, creating high-quality designs that print like they are supposed to, and correctly labeling your products so that they can get found with a search engine like google.
The other amazing thing about Zazzle is that anyone can get a free account and open a store quickly. If you follow the rules and don’t copy anyone else’s designs you shouldn’t have any trouble creating a business that grows with you as you become a better artist.
They don’t have a limit to the amount of products you can design either. If you have a lot of time in a season you could make a lot of products pretty fast. Don’t forget your branding and store image make a difference. Definitely make time to develop nice products and spend time making your store inviting as well. I watch Elka & Jenn Clark on youtube to help me figure out how to do stuff on zazzle. Have you pinned this page to save it yet?! If you look close I shared an image of one of my zazzle collections earlier in the post, my store is still ugly because I haven’t figured that out yet! #WorkingOnIt
While I was figuring out how to make a store and upload a product we purchased a Surface Pro 6 to make drawing and designing a little easier. I had been obsessing over them for awhile and when our corona stimulus money came in, Billy suggested that we buy it instead of me waiting for some magical moment. This is the exact one we purchased, I checked with him lol.
My Surface Pro does help with the drawing part of designing but when I am rendering colorful designs my fancy laptop that we bought while I was still in school (with tax return money) is still my hero. That was a Dell that he made custom and it was not cheap. I’m praying it lasts for the rest of my life and it would be great if my Surface Pro would last that long too!
Remember how I said that location is a big part of business? Well if I am already creating designs for another platform it just makes sense to have another place to post them. I don’t want to spend all my time posting products for sale everywhere. Although I really love the personalization part of Zazzle, Amazon is still winning when it comes to location.
If you want to sell products you have to get those products in front of shoppers, and a recent article on Big Commerce says that Amazon has 95 million Prime members in the US. That’s a lot of people that might see my designs.
Amazon Merch works as a tier system and you start out only being able to submit 10 products. I submitted almost exactly the same design (a few were resized) for each of my 10 products because that was the only design I had ready at the moment. I have sold 4 hoodies and bought 1 myself.
I don’t know how many times products need to sell before I can move to the next tier. What I do know is that I could pull down designs that aren’t selling and upload new ones to see if they sell better. As I get more sales I will move to the next tier and be able to submit more designs. As the amount of designs in my store grows, hopefully my sales and revenue will increase!
Becoming an Author
So now that you think I am totally insane for trying to learn and do all of this, I want to mention that my long-term goal is to become an author. Most likely in the craft and children’s literature space. To be an author you must write, market, and illustrate or hire an illustrator. To achieve my goal I was going to have to learn all of these skills anyway or find a monetary support to help me reach my goal.
I am not the only person in my family who wants to become an author either. My autistic brother also wants to become a published author. He has been writing sequels to Disney movies as long as I can remember. Now we can’t use any Disney content because that is trademark and copyright infringement, but we can develop some of our own characters and I know he will come up with all kinds of fun stories to fit our own cartoons.
Now it’s coming full circle and you are seeing that I am not trying to do all of these jobs 100% of the time. I am leveraging things I am already doing and monetizing my hobbies in hopes that it grows into something bigger. I haven’t made many sales but I think it’s working and here is why!
People and businesses will reach out to hire you or to work with you to help generate business, and I call this being scouted. So the 1st few times I was “scouted”, it was to write reviews for free products which is pretty common. The next time it was for a fashion company on Instagram who was trying to sell t-shirts at high fashion prices, no thank you.
The 3rd time I was asked to be a Brand Rep for a baby clothing company which I did accept. Shipping times were too long that most people just shop somewhere else. These baby clothes are a hard sale because kids grow so fast that long shipping times are an issue. They still have such a good marketing plan going on Insta, where their brand reps are also their customers.
I don’t feel like this is going to be my million dollar product though. Because of this I don’t spend much time marketing them but I completed the agreement by tagging them in some cute baby pictures featuring their clothes on Instagram. I did more by writing a post talking about our experience because I am thankful to this company for the confidence I gained.
Though I am thankful for the opportunity the limitations of this deal were pretty steep and we were about out of the size range for the clothes anyway. Did I mention that I couldn’t pin any of the outfits from the website on pinterest? They have some kind of photo block so I couldn’t even advertise with pictures unless I purchased the outfit. No you shouldn’t screenshot pictures from the website without permission because this is copyright infringement.
Since I didn’t buy into the program and I had gotten my clothes at a 50% discount I didn’t feel like I lost out on the experience. Plus it was a great excuse to take pictures of my cutie-ootie and I learned a ton!
I now had experience looking at affiliate dashboards. Seeing how simple the setup was and how easy it was to understand the charts, I now had the confidence I needed to reach for the next level. I reached 1,000 visitors to my website around the same time and this propelled me to apply to the Amazon affiliate program that you read about at the top of this article.
So back to being scouted. I am still receiving offers to work with new and smaller brands all the time. So far none of them have looked like a sweet enough deal for me to take on at the moment. As I am also in the 3 month trial period for Amazon Affiliate to see if I qualify for the program, I have decided to concentrate on that at the moment.
I figure if I can qualify for Amazon and grow my site significantly in the next 2 months, I ought to be able to pull in some better affiliate deals than the ones I can get now. If I don’t qualify for Amazon affiliate I can just reapply in the future when my site is more established. I love that this lessens the pressure but lets be honest, I’d love to start making more money right now.
Where is All of This Going?
If nothing goes to plan the one thing I have learned is that owning a website is owning a billboard, a store, a business card, a vlog, an art gallery, or any number of things. I feel like it is the perfect space for me to put whatever creative project I am working on at the moment, and I am always chasing some new artistic skill or designing my next project.
Having a website also gives me a place to fan girl over different entertainment and to gush about all the different craft supplies I love. I would literally be spending time creating this type of content anyway. The difference is I polish the material a little more and share it with the world instead of only friends and family. I might make a little money with my content and I might not, but I am having fun and it encourages me to be crafty again.
Sometimes we get so caught up in making a living, raising kids, and trying to be a responsible adult. We forget what it was we loved doing just because it makes our soul sing. I have decided to do what makes my soul happy and that is to create and share and also to promote other creators.
Since my blog is all about overcoming obstacles, creating beautiful things, and having fun, I have no doubt this could be a great space for any number of brands who want to advertise on my site.
Even if the CraftingGlow website doesn’t go in the direction I intended, I still think it will continue to have purpose. If nothing else my super-power is chatting about fun products and craft supplies so I really doubt I will run out of things to talk about!
I am also hopeful that I can encourage people to put more fun back into their life. It makes me so sad to see great artists who just quit creating because there is no space to showcase their work, and the practical minded people who keep the world running have no time to appreciate it. I strive to be both practical and to create a space where I can enjoy beautiful things and share them with people who will appreciate them.
Not all posts will be the wordy information overload of this post but I wanted to put a little bit of hope back into the hard-working people that still don’t manage to earn enough. I will continue to update you on if any of my ventures are profitable or not. So far I’ve made less than $300 on all of this but I just started 2 of these programs this month and I’ve had the others for less than a year.
Since I am doing a little bit of everything, trying to create a business that is “recession proof”, holding down a day job, and putting money back into the business, don’t look for amazing profits any time soon. Plus I have kids and family responsibilities out the wazoo, so patience is something I preach to myself often.
Be assured in the knowledge that I am an expert money-saver and keeping my costs at bargain basement prices. Except for tech but we take care of our computers and make sure they last a long time.
Yes, I know if I had more money I could grow my business faster but if I had more money would I need to build a business from scratch? I don’t think so!
Plus school debt is ridiculous and I quit buying things on credit unless it is an absolute emergency. I will bootstrap my business to mostly pay for itself, while I grow to the point where it’s profitable. I will keep you up to date on where the profits are coming from and if they are significant.
So if anyone uses my ideas and runs past me? Well congratulations on your success and feel free to tell all your millions of followers what a money-saving genius I am lol.
Seriously though, I know a lot of you reading this have the skills to build a business and a legacy, not to mention covering monthly bills, sky-rocketing child-care costs, and insurance premiums that will make you scream in terror.
I am pretty much a one-woman show at this point with the technical part of my business, although Billy has helped me learn a few things really quickly, such as shipping, and he will be my go-to for information on the best electronics.
I do write all the stories for the blog at this point, with some quotes from my kids and they are also a great design inspiration! In the future though I am hoping to recruit family and friends to share stories on my site.
So if you want to write a feature for my blog about crafts, family, or your business, let me know. I plan on writing monthly features on other fun businesses but I’d be glad to feature others more often, especially if it saves me time on writing a whole article.
I’m sure I will come up with a standard list of questions to ask creators and businesses at some point but for now I am leaving things unstructured. Finding the path is part of the fun!
Thanks for reading with me today! That was a lot of information to take in in all one post so thanks for sticking with me. Don’t forget to pin this post to career, design, or author boards so you can find these resources later!
So do you have any plans to start an online business? Are you thinking about expanding what you offer to increase your sales? What is the thing you find most frustrating about marketing? Leave your answers in the comments and let’s start a friendly conversation.
Best wishes on your business ventures!