New Year, Who Dis?

AKA: Wait, Shawn still has a newsletter?!?

The 2022 Creator Experiment: A Postmortem

You may recall I started 2022 with the idea that I was “all in” on being a creator. Whatever “being a creator” means. And I think I did a decent job of following through. I used several outlets for my creativity, and tried to give each solid effort.

Along with the creative outlets, I also started a Patreon page. That was (and is) pretty challenging, because coming up with worthwhile perks is oddly difficult. Anyway, let’s look at each thing and I’ll spill the beans on money, etc.

YouTube (the main one)

I started 2022 with a channel that was not monetized, but already had quite a few subscribers. Those subscribers were largely from the time when I made videos at Linux Journal, so they weren’t exactly “active” subscribers. So while I had more than the required 1,000 subs, I was no where near close to the 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year to qualify. I started with the Linux Essentials course/playlist. I wanted to have a complete “product”, and it seemed like an ideal way to start. Plus, when I was a trainer at CBT Nuggets, my Linux Essentials training was always the most watched of all my stuff.

I started 2022 with around 1,600 subscribers and ended 2022 with around 6,500. I did get eventually get enough watch hours, and May was my first “monetized” month:

To make sense of the graph, basically the first column is “total revenue” each month. The ad revenue portion is the second column, and is based on ads, of course. The “Premium” revenue is income from YouTube Premium subscribers who watch my stuff, but don’t see ads. And the “transaction revenue” includes things like SuperChats, SuperStickers, and SuperThanks. That’s why August was so high — there was a certain person who was incredibly generous with SuperThanks that month. (The “super” stuff is basically a way to give creators tips)

So in total, I earned $1,166.64 from YouTube. And that’s “my cut” of the income, it doesn’t include the percentage YouTube takes. That’s a significant amount of money for sure, but it’s also clear I’m not ready to become the next Mr. Beast. :)

Other Video Stuff

The thing about successful YouTube channels, is that a narrow niche is generally the only way they grow enough to start earning income. But my creative juices dry up if I make Linux training all the time. So I decided to create a second YouTube channel, where there are no rules. I allow myself to post anything I feel like posting, regardless of the “metrics”.

Unsurprisingly, my secondary YouTube channel did not grow much. It went from zero to just over 100 subscribers, which isn’t nothing — but it will likely be YEARS before that channel will qualify for monetization, if it ever does. I’m OK with that though. It’s more just a place I can experiment, goof off, or just shout into the void.

I also post videos on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. Most of those have monetization thresholds, and I’m no where near meeting the minimum. I even increased the number of videos on those platforms during the 90 Days of Mayhem, which was a self-challenge to create a video every day the last 90 days of 2022. It was pretty awesome.

Total revenue from other video stuff: $0.00

My Big Round World

I got Covid the end of May, and was sick through half of June. During that time, I wasn’t able to draw very many comics. And while I started the year waking up every morning at 4:50AM, after I recovered from Covid, I was unable to get up that early. It’s January of the next year now, and I’m still far more tired than I was before getting sick. Perhaps someday I’ll get back to normal — but I’m beginning to think 10 hours of sleep in order to function might BE my new normal. It kind stinks.

Anyway, not getting up early eliminated my comic drawing time, so I haven’t been able to get back into the habit. Plus, in October, I had to switch to Linux on the desktop (due to oddities with my Windows install), and while Wacom tablets are fully supported under Linux, my particular model had a weird glitch that made drawing almost impossible. Thankfully, a friend of mine recently sent me a Wacom One, which works flawlessly. I’m hoping that means I can start drawing regularly again.

I never really intended on my comic being a source of income, but I did get some “merch” to sell. If I’m being honest, I had the merch created because I wanted it to exist. The Spot Plushies I have now, I sell at cost, because it was really expensive to have them created. That said, I have no regrets. :)

Total revenue from merch sales: Yeah… saying “zero” would be a huge exaggeration. I haven’t come remotely close to breaking even. Still: no regrets.

My Blog

Of all my online creative outlets, my blog has been around the longest. I haven’t been consistent with it over the years, but the current iteration has been going since 2005ish. And I’ve never monetized it in any way. It’s been more of an online journal, or place for me to be silly, etc.

This year I decided to start reading my blog posts, and posting the audio files like a sort of “podcast” of sorts. I did this because I would eventually like to have both a consistent podcast, and also because I’d like to narrate my own audiobooks. You know, when I eventually write books. I really enjoy both writing and recording the blog posts, but I fell off the blogging wagon when the 90 Days of Mayhem started.

Total revenue from my blog: Exactly as much as I set out to get. None.

Reviews & Affiliate Marketing

I had plans to review lots of things. I actually really enjoy reviewing stuff, and I did quite a bit of it when I worked at Linux Journal. But thanks to the financial pinch we were in this year, and my lack of popularity, it was hard to procure relevant stuff.

Oddly, the opportunity to review the Netgate 4100 router reminded me just how much I love to review technology products. And them providing me a unit was a bit of a fluke, and more than a little bit due to my time at Linux Journal. After such a great product, reviewing other stuff sort of lost its charm. Plus, I struggle with affiliate links, although I’m trying to get past that. They really don’t cost people anything, and can provide serious revenue if I take it seriously. We’ll see what the future holds.

The few affiliate sales I garnered over the year never added up to enough for a payout, so the total revenue this year from reviews is: One Netgate 4100, which I got to keep for doing the review. (It’s currently running at the farm!)

The Nerdlings Stuff Shack

I had high hopes for this revenue stream, and honestly, still think it could be great. But this year had a few really rough setbacks. Some of them are moral struggles on my part. (go figure… self sabotage much Shawn? lol).

I had a few things available to buy early in the year from my KoFi store. But it wasn’t until around August that I took the “merch” idea seriously, and created a storefront with Shopify. I found a deal where I could get a full Shopify account at $1/month, for the first 3 months. Thereafter it would be $29/month. I figured if I couldn’t get things going enough to cover the $29/mo, I’d cancel before the end of the 3 months.

One of my biggest struggles with the storefront was coming up with stuff to sell. Most of my “merch” ideas were based on my comic, but the latter half of the year it was really difficult to create anything. I started a puzzle, for instance, but was never able to finish the drawing due to frustrations with my Wacom tablet. Still, I managed to sell some plushies, stickers, and a few mugs. The nice thing about online storefronts is that you can do print-on-demand stuff, and all the production/shipping stuff is handled behind the scenes. Unfortunately, that means products are really expensive, and the profit from each item is painfully low.

For example, a Nerdlings Mug is between $13-$17 dollars right now, plus like $5-6 dollars shipping. (more for international, but that’s a longer story) At that pricepoint, when a person spends $20-25 on a mug, it ends up making about $3-4 in profit. I don’t have a problem with each mug only making $3-4 in profit, but I DO have a problem with someone spending $25 on a mug, assuming they’re supporting me in a more-than-three-dollar-amount.

Donna (my wife) and I plan to work during 2023 to be able to create some products locally, so that we can offer a fair price, and actually have the profits go toward income for us and/or for people we eventually hire to do the manufacturing. Again, locally. So anyway, that’s why the store isn’t chock full of products. I don’t want people to spend a lot of money unless I know that money is going to real people, and not a faceless corporation. I know, it’s silly — but I have to be true to myself. :)

It’s hard to come up with an actual amount of profit, because the bulk of sales were plushies, and they’re priced to break even. But still, if you don’t count how much I paid for the plushies, I ended up with:

Shopify: $44.49
Etsy: $79.75

International Stuff Shackery

What’s with the Etsy total you ask? Well, here’s the thing. Not only was Shopify expensive, and not sustainable at $29/mo — they also could not handle international shipping for me. I mean, they could, but only if I handled all the tax stuff myself.

See, when you ship internationally, not only is it expensive, but there is VAT (value added tax) to consider. Every country has different VAT rules, different rates, and different entities you must submit the collected tax to. I’m struggling to figure out local sales tax for sales in Michigan, so when you add international stuff to the mix… it was just a nightmare.

Thankfully, my friend Jim Wright talked to me on the phone for quite some time, and explained how he handles all of his sales. It turns out Etsy not only handles VAT, but they also handle local sales tax. INCLUDING submitting the collected sales tax and VAT to the appropriate taxing entities. It’s literally automatic for sellers. Etsy has a different method of charging for their services than Shopify (per item instead of monthly) — but it’s an absolute no-brainer for me. Etsy means I can sell internationally and not end up in jail. I like that. A lot!

Lastly, Patreon

I had a really difficult time starting a Patreon page. And to date, I still have a really difficult time promoting it to folks. This is all tied to self-worth, not valuing myself, etc. But still, it’s real, and pretending it isn’t would be a lie. But after a lot of people encouraged me to do so, I did open a Patreon account in September. And immediately got a handful of supporters. Some are quite large supporters, even.

Per capita, Patreon is the absolute most money-in-the-creator’s-pocket form of support. Yes, Patreon takes a percentage, but compared to ad revenue shares, etc., Patreon is very significant. I want to make my Patreon offerings worthwhile for people, and one of my goals for 2023 is to make it consistently better. A few patrons have come and gone, but I currently have 16 supporters, which provide $140/mo.

Total Patreon revenue from 2022: $668.43 (I’m humbled, y’all)

Total, and Next Steps

All total, it looks like I made: $1,959.31

That’s actual money, and a significant amount of it. No, I can’t quit my job or anything, but since I had a ton of fun this year, I think the experiment was a huge success. I have no intention of quitting, and hope to build on what I’ve learned in 2022 as I move into 2023.

If you’ve read this far, you’re already a part of why I enjoyed the past year so much. Thank you. I hope to make more things that you find valuable, and together, let’s make the world a better place. :)

Remember to learn everything, do what you love, and most importantly: Be Kind.

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