Year End Review and Goals for 2013

Sunrise during anchor watchIt was another interesting year for Squidoo lensmasters.

The year’s events included the Flickr module fiasco; the front doors (SquidLit, etc) were retired; Kimberly left; Megan left; new magazines started (I cancelled my subscriptions to all magazines); the SquidU forum closed; a new official forum opened; the release of Squidoo Postcards (still don’t get the purpose of them); the ill timed and poorly communicated (but good for the long term) responsive redesign; and tier payments continued to grow (the tier 1 payout for December 2012 was nearly 50% higher than December 2011’s payout!).

How did I do on Squidoo this year? I missed every one of my goals for 2012.

New Lenses – Only 4 new lenses launched this year, including my 100th published lens. I used most of my Squidoo time for maintaining existing lenses, stats analysis, reading forum posts, a few blog posts and repairing lenses after the Flickr fiasco (still plenty of work to do there).

Revenue – My Squidoo payouts grew 18% over last year thanks to a mix of higher tier payouts and increased sales. Revenue growth was trending higher, but several lenses that normally get to tier 1 or 2 had weak lensranks in the last half of the year. In the last two months of 2012, only one of my lenses made tier 1. Other affiliate income from my lenses grew 4.5%.

Blog Activity – Only 9 (including this one) posts made this year.

So my goals for 2013 will be a repeat of 2012’s…but with a strategy for better execution.

1. Have at least 120 published lenses by end of the year.
Four new lenses in one year was inexcusable. New lenses will be a higher priority for my limited Squidoo time in 2013.

2. Grow Squidoo revenue by at least 50 percent over last year.
Relying on old lenses to repeat past lensrank and tier earnings performance isn’t a viable long term strategy. New lenses and sales performance are the key focus areas. I also want to increase other affiliate income by 50% but 25% may be more realistic.

3. Maintain a consistent posting schedule on Lens Harbor.
Two posts a month minimum, not counting lens launches. I’ve done this the last two months and need to continue.

My challenge across these goals will be focusing on a specific task each time I sit down at the computer. I tried that when working on my last lens with good results, now I have to make it a habit.

Have a fun and prosperous 2013!

Image Credit: sky#walker, used under Creative Commons

Rethinking Costume Lens Strategy

Costume lenses are popular on Squidoo…they’re fun to build and it’s rumored that they can make money. There are over 2,300 lenses with the tag “costumes” and probably many more that don’t use that tag. Only 7 of them are mine.

There are two styles of costume lenses:
1. Costume Catalog – A pictorial list of Amazon or affiliate links to costumes and accessories.
2. How To Make Your Own Costume – Step by step instructions and tips to craft a homemade costume.

Many costume lenses are a hybrid of the two styles. They offer a mix of how to info with costumes and accessories featured for sale.

Each style serves a different audience. Some people want to buy a costume and have no interest in making one. They’re looking for a catalog. Other people are do-it-yourself types, like to save money or want something unique. They want to build their own costume and are looking for instructions and tips.

My costume lenses so far are all in the catalog style. The only how to stuff is a few accessory ideas. Most were built to complement an existing non-costume lens. Colonial costumes for a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, caroling costumes for people planning a Christmas caroling party and so on. The others are costume genres I thought were cool.

I had fun searching for good costumes to feature on these lenses, but I didn’t enjoy writing them. It felt like writing a sales pitch vs. providing helpful info to readers. Writing helpful stuff is more fun. My costume lens ideas list is growing but I delay starting any more because I dread writing them.

This Halloween season I stumbled across a couple good how to costume lenses that got me rethinking my costume strategy. They are artvixn‘s Steampunk Costumes Made Easy (a former LOTD) and Nerd Costume Ideas by emmalarkins. Both offer quality tips based on personal experience (with photos to prove it). And they blend in Amazon modules where it makes sense. Now I’m inspired to think of how to build how to costume lenses.

Side note: If you were playing a variation of “Hi, Bob!” called “how to” when you started reading this post…you’d have a good buzz right now.

My wife and I do make costumes so I have experience. And I enjoy writing how to lenses. The challenge is the costume photos. Most costumes we make are for our kids and I don’t publish photos of my family on Squidoo. So I’d be making costume lenses without photos. Not a recipe for success.

How can I make my costume lenses more “how to” without posting photos of my family? A few ideas (please let me know if you have others) are:

  • Use a mannequin for pictures of the costume. I could probably find one on Craigslist. Not sure how readers would like pics of a costumed mannequin.
  • Take photos of the costume laid out on a table. Won’t pack the same punch as on a person but could be useful in small doses.
  • Add more ideas on personalizing store bought costumes. This could be a good starting point and improve the quality of my existing costume lenses.
  • Use Flickr pics of people in similar costumes. Might be tough to find good shots and I don’t like using close up pictures of people. Yeah, they’ve posted it online for all to see and granted CC license, but I don’t know if they really want to be a model on my lens.

Hopefully this will get me back into the costume lens making spirit. Eventually, I’d like to have a good mix of catalog and how to style costume lenses. There are people searching for both.

What are your thoughts on costume lens strategies?

Image Credit: zol87, used under Creative Commons License.