I am a freelance hack - been one for many decades - written a couple of books and now earn most of my money as a cameraman and radio journalist.
over the past three years I have been running this website
Keep Turning Left
it is about my insane quest to film all of Britain's Rivers and estuaries. I do it part time between proper jobs as a journalist. It has taken me three years to do about a quarter of the UK. The sailing has been wonderful, the film-making has been great fun and immensely satisfying and people seem to like my work.
The website has had 1200 subscribers - but it keeps a rolling 600 subscribers - who pay $4.99 for three months access. People drop in and out - as I would.
Busier for the Northern hemisphere people in the northern winter - then as the weather closes in on the southern hemisphere the number of antipodes starts to climb. It is literally a global audience - but restricted to small boat sailors who enjoy exploring creeks, estuaries, who like history and a degree of political incorrectness in their journalism.
There are now over 150 films up on the website ranging from wildlife, history, rants at mobos, boiling tin cans etc etc. I have 70 properly made films, scores of video logs on the practicalities of running a boat and a section called scuttlebutt that is pure whimsy.
So far ... so good
But hosting is getting really expensive - currently £55 a month - although I have just moved the smaller films to Blip TV - which is cheap and fast.
I did have a donate button on the website for those who wanted to watch the small versions of the films for free
total income from there $2
so now killed the donate button - too humliating
the small films do have insert ads in them - currently earning about 22 cents a day- but for me the main function of the adverts is to encourage people to subscribe and escape the adverts - so the more annoying they are the better.
I really did not want to go down the DVD route .... but one of the KTL subscribers offered to create a set of master disks - which he did really well. Another KTL sailor made a lovely disk insert for me.
I got a local repro house to copy them up -
So a four disk set costs me about £5 to make, pack and post.
I started with a four disk set at £30/$50 - they sold really well for a month and then stopped dead.
It was apparently all about the corrrect price point
the price was too high - forget the fact that there was six hours of carefully crafted films on the disks.
- so I halved the price and now they shift pretty regularly.
In retropsect I should have done two double disk sets at £15/$25 each rather than a four disk set. So that is what I shall do in future.
but I am a hack and no marketeer - so I certainly messed up on the pricing
As I sit at my desk I have a box of padded bags - pre-packed and stamped - when I receive an email asking for a set I write the address on the envelope and stick it in the post - no money changes hands. I just ask people to pay once they are happy with the films
90 per cent cough up - the remaining 10 per cent either forgot, lost their jobs, died or are too busy/mean to pay. But that is fine.
A KTL sailor in Illinois now copies and dispatches the NTSC versions for America and Canada - he gets 50 per cent of whatever they bring in. He will never get rich and neither will I.
the website does bring in a tiny amount of money from the adverts - although Amazon does pretty well for me - around £100 a month. If people enter Amazon via my website then I get a percentage of whatever they spend. KTL sailors seem generally keen to help the project along.
My hourly rate while editing films and managing the website.... hate to think....but it is stupidly small.
- but the website income and DVD sales cover the costs of running the slug and the travelling to and from the boat plus a small amount left over to contribute to my time in making the films.
I am at least earning something while waiting for the next job to come in and it does mean that my sailing is now tax exempt as I have a properly audited income from the sailing.
I also now write a column for Small Craft Advisor - I have been a hack for thirty years and it is the worst paid writing I have ever done - but wonderfully therapeutic and I get some lovely responses and even a few hand written letters from American small boat sailors.
So, you can earn some money writing, blogging. filming, html coding, packing jiffy bags etc etc - but not much. Needless to say as soon as some proper work comes in then I dump KTL and go off to earn some money with the camera so real work contiunues to subsidise the sailing.
I now have a new found respect for brokers, chandlers and marina operators who have to deal with sailors as customers.
Ninety eight percent of the KTL subscribers and DVD buyers are utterly charming and send me great emails, lovely feedback and pictures of their boats. I now look forward to opening my inbox in the morning.
However, there are a small number of people who are quite difficult to deal with - I beleive you Aussies have some wonderful words to describe these people.
They seem to think that $4.99 buys them lifetime computer support. One bloke accused me of designing my website so that it would break his computer and held me responsible for crashing his hard disk.
If they can't get into the website for some reason they send me abusive emails. I help them all I can but after about ten emails of support I offer them a refund or suggest that they ask one of their grandchildren to help them make the website work.
Keep Turning Left