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Don't worry, smoothie lovers. There's a doodle below for you, even if today's post has nothing to do with the smoothie revolt.
It's only been 30 days of this website being live (so weird!), and about 60 days of drawing doodles on the internet total. So... why not share a little bit of what's happened in that time, because I'm kind of amazed! Also, I want to answer the top two questions people ask:
1) Is my stealth business really just making doodles? No.
2) Why not make your doodles into a business? Well...
Part of why I don't want to change these doodles into a business is that, in order to make it into a business, I'd have to do almost nothing but hustle and draw and sell books and swag, and that would take the joy out of it. I spend no more than an hour a day on these (most days, anyway), and that's enough. I know from experience that, on my best day, I've got about 4 hours of creative work in me. So to make this into a business, I'd need to hire a bunch of other creative types to write and draw, and that would mean I'd need to build a robust revenue pipeline to support those people.
The second part is about that robust revenue pipeline: generating revenue is all about generating eyeballs. In some businesses, the eyeballs are enough – you can shove display ads in front of people and call it a day. You just need a LOT of display ads – the CPMs (cost per thousand views) for display ads are in the $10 range, which means that, as the publisher, I'd need a thousand people to make $10. Actually, I'd made less, because the networks take a pretty big cut. I'd probably make $7.
Other ways of making money are making people pay for subscriptions (nah), getting people to click on links (just finished a job where that was the goal and pretty happy to take a break), or selling other stuff, like the Oatmeal does (I do have a book for sale if you're desperate to spend money. It was a massive hit at my kid's elementary school).
I've had a little over a thousand pageviews in my first 30 days, which is amazing for a brand-new site, but it's still about $12 in potential earnings from display ads:
The vast majority of that traffic is from people coming from either Facebook or LinkedIn, which makes sense, since those are the places where I have the most connections / followers / whatever you want to call them (outside of Quora... we'll get to that below).
Almost all of that traffic is organic and referrals – I did a short ad campaign for $6 on Facebook, which is that spike you see at the end of the month. I did that because I was curious about whether people who didn't get this forwarded to them by people who know me would show up and be subscribers. The answer was, emphatically, no. One person signed up, and (s)he cancelled three days later. Sigh.
In fact, all the social networks have been a bust for gaining traffic for the site so far, despite going viral on two sites in my first 30 days. The first thing that went viral was Snail vs. Snail on a Rocket on Reddit, which got 1.5k upvotes and was the top post for a day or two in the webcomics subreddit:
A few other posts have gotten dozens of upvotes on Reddit, and I also had the top one in ComicBookCollabs for a bit, but it didn't have super-impressive numbers because that's a small subreddit.
The next one that went viral was on Imgur, where I made the front page with Eat Fire, Ted:
That particular post actually did well almost everywhere. People really seem to gravitate to the idea of blowing up zoom meetings, as pretty much any time I mention Zoom, people get engaged.
The post popular things I posted on LinkedIn were this taco:
...and this thing about being kind to others and chasing happiness:
However, early in my month of posting, LinkedIn announced a bunch of changes that basically prioritized video content over everything else, and I saw my reach on the platform plummet overnight, from a couple thousand on a good day to a couple hundred people. I know how I could get back on the good side of that algo: I could make a video of me drawing, probably talking through what I want to say in these posts, and that would likely do well. But this isn't a business, and making a video is exponentially more work than I plan on doing given all the other things on my plate.
Finally, there's Facebook, where being a special flower was my most popular post so far, but mainly because people were worried about me (I'm good, btw):
All those posts together combined to reach about a half a million people, which is insane.
By comparison, I've had 3.2 million lifetime views of my stuff on Quora, which turns out to be total crap for what I'm doing now. I have been semi-famous on Quora – I was a 'top writer' for 3 years running, and they pushed my writing into dozens of magazines and other publications. But these doodles? Definitely too lowbrow for my thousands of followers there – I get more likes and views on that network telling people to stay in their current job that they hate than I have gotten from all of my doodles there combined. Boo-urns, Quora.
I've barely started on Instagram, although that's clearly a place I need to push a bit harder.
Anyway, going back to that picture at the top: all those views, and basically no one comes to the site from them.
That is partially my fault. Most people who write or draw on the internet give a partial post on social networks and then force you through some marketing funnel to finish it. Because almost all of my drawings are single-panel, there's not much opportunity for me there.
It's also how social media sites are designed. They are called 'walled gardens' for a reason. They are designed to keep people in. Breaking out from them to a website is next to impossible (this is true for almost every content publisher I know). It's actually not that difficult to do well in any one social network – I've been helping companies do it for a decade, and the basic formula hasn't changed. You just post every single day, and live with the ebbs and flows of the algorithm on any given network by posting to multiple networks.
Actually, what I should be doing is posting different type of content to each network. My LinkedIn and Facebook audiences respond more to posts about love; the subreddits I care about like absurdity, and Imgur... well, those folks are just weird sometimes. I have no idea what makes the people there tick.
You post semi-personalized content to each network, every day, and know that something should take off once every 30 days or so or you're doing something wrong. Look at your content, see what worked, and then do more in that vein, knowing that very, very few of those people will crossover into being actual fans of your stuff.
This is why media companies are obsessed with 'owning' their audience, which is a fancy way of saying, "I have an email list and people who come back to read our stuff regularly." It's also why companies love Google and Bing – their business is sending people to your website (for money) rather than keeping inside a prison / walled garden / whatever you want to call it. Google hasn't been a real source of traffic here yet, though, because Google works based on how many other sites are linking to you, and I've done zero work there.
Other sources of traffic, like Flipboard (yeah, they still exist) haven't done much yet. I've actually gotten more traffic from Yahoo than I have from Flipboard.
This is why I ask people to subscribe: it's my only real way of getting around algorithms that are not inclined to show you my writing and drawings when I'm trying to push you here from those other networks. It's a little bit ego, sure. But it's also just making sure that I'm not screaming into a void.
30 days in, I'm somewhere north of a half-million people seeing my work, with a steady group of subscribers who read daily and are pretty awesome with their encouragement (thank you!!). I think that's pretty amazing, given that I'm barely trained in any form of drawing (I didn't complete my art minor at college, and have barely doodled in the past 20 years).
So what did happen after 30 days of posting to this website?
I got a bunch of new clients at Hopara. It had nothing to do with the website, except that I had to explain why I spend time on drawing rather than on, say, them.
I got a lot better, technically, at drawing quickly. Because everything gets better with daily practice.
I think I got better at writing and creating funny punchlines, although that is probably in the eye of the beholder.
And I got more subscribers than I thought I would. I'm keeping that number private for right now. I don't really have a good reason for keeping it private, other than it feels to me like I'd be trying to sell something if I talked about how many there are, and I'm not into selling things here. I recognize that's a stupid reason, though, and maybe I'll post numbers in a later post.
Finally, I got quite a few of you who REALLY want to know what happens next to the smoothies. So here goes:
Thanks for reading today!
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