I want to talk about DIY + craft blog monetization, but first I think it will help if I give you a short background about my experience so far -

Before I started Whimseybox, I was focusing full-time on building Dismount Creative. My original plan was to teach a lot of classes around Houston for things like girl’s nights, showers and other parties. Kind of like those wine + painting classes, except with jewelry and other DIYs.  In fact, I started blogging to help get the word out about that business. I thought if I shared the kind of projects I like to make it would help people see what I’m about and then hopefully they’d want to join me. Did it work? Well, yes and no! I found lots of people who were interested in my DIYs which was*awesome* but I quickly realized that these people were all over the country (and world), not just in Houston. And at the same time, Joe and I knew that we didn’t expect to stay in Houston long-term so I started to re-evaluate how much time + energy I wanted to put toward building a local business. So I started pouring more energy into my blogging and looking for ways to turn it into a business that I could build and grow from anywhere. I did some sponsored posts, collaborated with companies on some larger projects and hosted DIY events at larger trade shows and conferences. I also started running some ads in my sidebar. (These are still up today, though I haven’t even logged in to any of the accounts that serve them up in over a year. I actually kind of forgot until now!) Along the way, I got frustrated. I often joked that my ad revenue was enough to support a dog, but not a person. (At the time, I didn’t have a dog so I didn’t even know what I was talking about – #radishdirago is expensive!) Ad revenue was meh, and sponsored posts and promotions were okay but I really needed something more. When I thought about where I thought I could really do something interesting and valuable, I kept coming back to one thing – projects + supplies. Since I started blogging the bulk of the (non-spam) emails I got from the blog were requests for help finding and buying the right supplies to make one of my projects. So I created the Whimseybox monthly subscription to make it easy for people to get the supplies + start making. It was a great first step, but now we’ve got something even bigger – more on that in a minute….

One of the things that’s been bothering me for a few years (among other things) is that there isn’t a good way for DIY/craft blogs to direct readers to the supplies we use in our projects, and as a result there’s no good way to earn revenue when our content inspires someone to make a purchase. Instead I felt like I was basically asking my readers to write down what they need, drive to their local big box craft store and wind up stuck in line (frustrated and exhausted) at 7:30pm on a weeknight. And then I compared that to my experience reading fashion blogs – see cute shirt, follow link, purchase, done. And in many cases, thanks to programs like rewardStyle, the blogger earned a commission on the sale. As a reader, that commission didn’t cost me anything and I was glad to be helping support some of my favorite sites. It just seemed like the fashion blogging world had it figured out. I actually tried to do more fashion blogging so I could use some of these tools. But, while I do love clothes, I do not love taking pictures of myself so that never really worked out.

So back at Whimseybox, this is a problem we’ve been working on solving because our mission is NOT to put a monthly Whimseybox in every mailbox, it’s to help power creativity. We’ve always know that out of all of the people interested in DIY/craft, only a fraction are going to be interested in it exactly once/month. The monthly subscription box was always just the first step. Because for every project that we design, thousands more amazing and creative DIYs are posted online. We want to help people make any of them, not just ours! That’s why last summer we launched the Whimseybox Shop, where you can purchase thousands of individual supplies and products. And i’ts still growing and changing – we’re adding hundreds of new items each week and making tweaks to improve the user experience and navigation almost daily.

After we launched the shop, we got to work building technology to help us better match up DIY projects with the supplies you need to make them. We’ve been using them internally for a while on our site (click on almost any project on our homepage and you’ll see a supply list underneath it) and on our blog. I’ve even used it here on Dismount Creative such as when I posted this faux jeweled sweatshirt DIY (which I happen to be wearing right now!). We call this technology Whimseybox Influencer, and now we’re opening up it up bloggers and publishers who want to use it to share the supplies they use in their projects and posts. It’s totally free to join, and when someone follows a link to make a purchase the blogger will earn an affiliate commission on that sale. We think this will be a great new revenue stream for DIY and craft bloggers and also provide valuable analytics as well. If you’re interested, check out our manifesto and drop your email address here. (And yeah, I had a total Jerry Maguire experience when I wrote that – “it’s not a memo, it’s a mission statement!”) I’d love to hear what you think!

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PS -I was super-inspired to write about this today because I was listening to this podcast by Michael Hyatt called ‘How to Monetize Your Platform’ and the way he talked really resonated with me. I know that I’d like the bloggers I follow to be able to continue blogging and sharing their creativity online, and I’d love to see even more opportunities for people to do creative work and get paid for it. That is our dream for Influencer. As Michael says, “Art and money aren’t enemies. In fact, in most cases the art isn’t possible without the money.”

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Part 1 is here if you’re interested - Craft Stores Are A Bummer – Why Michaels Should Look Like Sephora

I’m not sure what you do in the shower, but I like to dream about what my ideal craft store would look like. Try it, it’s fun! Anyway, this week I was wondering why Michaels/JoAnn/Hobby Lobby don’t have awesome, inspiring window displays. If I were them, I’d be throwing money at the visual merchandising geniuses at Anthropologie to get them to come work for me immediately. I mean, Anthro sells clothing and home goods but man are their window displays creative and inspiring! Let’s compare  -

Which one of these is the ‘creative center’?

1

Which store is ‘where creativity happens’?

3

Where would you go to ‘experience the creativity‘?

2

You want people to experience the creativity? First you have to have to show some.

Amazing, isn’t it? It made me think, Anthro must spend a ton on art + craft supplies every year! (Email me, we’ll hook you up with great deals! Imagine that – Anthropologie windows sponsored by Whimseybox!) I’ll leave you with this awesome video of how a holiday window display was made at Anthro this year -

Anthropologie: The Making of Our Holiday Windows from Anthropologie on Vimeo.

Image Sources – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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I spend a lot of time thinking about where the craft industry is going and why I have an irrational amount of frustration, maybe even anger, at what it’s like today. Sometime in high school or college I realized that my love for crafting became uncool. While I didn’t really care either way, I still could never really understand why making things wasn’t cool… except perhaps when I set foot in a craft store. They might be convenient, they might have 40% off coupons all the freaking time, but big box craft stores are sure as hell not cool. Actually, I don’t even find them inspiring. (An epic feat of disappointment!) For me, the word that comes to mind when I think of craft stores is that they’re a bummer. So much opportunity, so many cool products, beautiful colors and materials all askew inside a box of fluorescent light, yellowed shelves and dingy linoleum. Don’t even get me started on the sample projects and sad free project idea flyers. Or trying to find someone to help when you have a question. Or the godforsaken ever-present lines.

Will craft stores ever be cool? Does it even matter? Maybe, maybe not. But they absolutely need to be inspiring. Why doesn’t  Micheals look like Sephora? (I’m calling out Michaels here because they are the largest, but it could just as easily be Joann or Hobby Lobby. They’re all the same in this respect.) Michaels Stores and Sephora, for the record, are similarly sized – both have in the neighborhood of 4 billion (with a B!) in sales. But Sephora’s owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH – they understand presentation-  while Michaels is (for now) owned by some private equity funds.

Wouldn’t it be great if walking into a craft store felt like walking into a Sephora? When I walk into Sephora I feel a little cooler and more stylish than I actually am. Wouldn’t it be great if when you were shopping for craft supplies you felt a little more creative than you normally feel? A little more inspired?

There’s such a chasm between the experience of DIY/craft online (beautiful + inspiring blogs and images on Pinterest) and the experience when you set foot into a big box craft store. Why is this? It’s one of the things we’re working hard to change at Whimseybox. While we don’t have physical stores (yet???) we want to make the experience of buying supplies online easy, inspiring and beautiful. We want you to be bursting with ideas, we want to help answer any questions you have and we want to make sure you don’t have to stand in line! We’re really rethinking the entire experience around craft supplies.

Next Up: The State of DIY and Craft Blog Affiliate Programs and Monetization

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We’ve started a weekly web show at Whimseybox where Ali and I highlight 5 of our favorite DIY projects from the week, talk about what’s going on at the Whimseybox offices and then chat about other silly stuff. Each episode is 5 – 10 minutes long and we hope it inspires you to get crafty, or at least have a good laugh along with us. Here are the first three episodes – let us know what you think!

Episode 1

Show Notes: http://blog.whimseybox.com/diy5-episode-1

Episode 2

Show Notes : http://blog.whimseybox.com/diy5-episode-2

Episode 3

Show Notes: http://blog.whimseybox.com/diy5-episode-3

Things I’ve Learned So Far:

  • Even a cheap mic is better than no mic. We’re shooting on a DSLR with a >$100 shotgun mic that I picked up at our local camera store. This happened after we shot and never released #DIY5 Episode 0 because the sound was terrrrrrrrrible.
  • We need some kind of mirror/monitor so I can see when my hair gets all messed up because no one around here is ever going to bother to mention it! (Or maybe I should just get a freaking haircut. It’s been a year!)
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  • Pause before talking! It makes the editing way easier.
  • Speaking of editing, we’re using iMovie. Good enough is good enough, at least for now!
  • I look like a chubby contestant in Toddlers + Tiaras in a tissue paper dress. Oh well!
  • A good script goes a loooong way. Even though we know what we want to say, it’s easy to freeze up on camera. I whipped up a DIY teleprompter by placing my laptop right beneath the camera lens and putting our script up on it (in like 100pt font so it’s big enough to read) and then keeping a wireless mouse in my hand off camera to scroll. Even when we’re reading directly from the monitor you can’t really tell. (Right?)

That’s pretty much it so far. We’re having fun with it, and at the very least I know my parents are fans :)

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Washi Mania

by Alicia on February 4, 2014

… is still going strong around these parts. We just got in limited quantities of a few super cute sets at Whimseybox. Three of the sets I can’t show you yet because we’re giving our Pro members first dibs at them, but here are the two others – one we’re calling the Chub Collection because it’s super thick and the other is the Glitter Collection which everyone went wild for when we posted it on Instagram earlier this week. (I hardly ever Instagram, but follow Whimseybox because we post daily there.)

…..

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