So it can be dispiriting, and when there's no money coming in, it's hard to sit back and wait a few months for a lens to grow up.
There's also the quality vs. quantity issue - should you pour all your efforts into a set number a week? Dedicate time to a single lens? How many lenses should you make per month? Per year?
I started in October 2008, with five lenses, then sat back to see what would happen. After getting a surprise payment while overseas, from one lens reaching tier 1, I came back home with renewed interest and started making more.
|This graph comes courtesy of the SquidUtils advanced dashboard, which allows you to sort your lenses by creation date.|
On average I made around 7 lenses a month. In the last year, it has ranged from 0 to 19.
See those huge peaks around Oct-Nov in 2009 and 2010? That's right after my university exams finished and my summer holidays began! The first peak is when I suddenly reached Giant (I officially became a Giant at the end of December/beginning of Jan 2010)
So how do my earnings from Squidoo correlate to the number of lenses? Below you can see my payouts for each month over my years on Squidoo.
|My Squidoo payments (minus charity donations) over time|
NB: Payout is two months later, but this is tracked against the month that I earnt it, not that I received it
There are two peaks for the Christmas season in 2009 and 2010, and the fact that it didn't drop off again for 2011 is something I'm very happy about, and it's partly because once I started selling regularly in November and December, I managed to keep that up - and because I managed to double the number of Tier 1 lenses I have, on average. And that was simply by making a few more, better, lenses, which stayed up on their own. (It's also partly apparently a site-wide thing, that a lot of people are seeing - but I don't have the data for that.)
The latter half of the year is also when all those lenses I made at the end of 2009 started to mature - without me having to do much with them.
Do more lenses make more money?
Yes. It's not a perfect correlation, and your payout will vary a lot from month to month, but the more lenses you have, the more they'll cancel each other out (a lens that makes more sales, suddenly, will confound the effect of a lens dropping out of Tier 1, for example).
You'll also pick up more random and targetted sales, be able to funnel more traffic into specific lenses through other lenses and have them provide solid backlinks to each other (if you have niches of lenses; this may boost the 'main' lens into a higher pay tier), and finally... you'll just get better at it overall.
How long before a lens repays my time and effort?
How long is a piece of string? Some lenses will never really earn enough to be 'worth' it, trickling in a couple of dollars over three years. Others may pay you dozens of dollars in the first couple of months. You won't know until afterwards.
Equally, some lenses may earn steadily, others be incredibly erratic! Seasonal lenses are the worst of the lot for this, of course, but any lens can jump or drop. And I do mean any. Current earnings are only a general guideline to future performance.
How many lenses before I see steady income?
Based on my experiences (and I sold nothing in the first year, and didn't even try to, really, so this is solely based on lensrank. A friend I referred did far, far better than me sales-wise, with about ten lenses, largely due to the niche they were in and the fact that they had a lot more traffic across those few lenses than I did at that point)
1-5 lenses will give you $0-10 a month
5-20 lenses generally averages out to $15, and is less variable
>50 lenses = $50 on average
So how many lenses should I make per month?
As many as you want. My 'output' reflects my interest and motivation, my level of burnout, and the amount of free time I actually have. If I haven't made a lens for a couple of weeks, I start to feel unproductive, but that just means I'm fresher, have more ideas, and will probably make a few in a row.
If you need a schedule, aim for two a week, going higher if you want to, and dropping to one if you are struggling. If you don't need a schedule, just make them when you feel like it, keep going, and it will even out in the end!
Why do the payouts keep dropping again?
There are several reasons that payouts flux, and are higher when I am more actively making lenses.
- Seasonality; some lenses just do better overall at certain times of year, like Christmas - which is also when I have free time to be creating lenses
- Lenses doing well encourages me onto Squidoo, so I'm more likely to make more, or split up very successful ones.
- Simply the fact that I'm active and making a lot of lenses means I'm more likely to have fresh lenses overall, and am probably doing other things to drive traffic. This means I have more of my lenses in paying tiers. These days I'm generally a lot more active on existing lenses - I used to wander off for up to a month at a time, now I always have enough to look at or do, that I rarely do that.
- I just didn't have enough steady earners to cancel out the natural shifts in lensrank and sales. In 2011, I've watched lenses moving up and down, and not cared, because they've always been replaced by others. A year ago, each 'lost' lens would have meant a loss overall.
In the last half a year or so, I have been steadily active, better at making lenses, better at making lenses that sell, and simply have more lenses to counter variations in lensrank (including seasonal lenses from the year before) and be more likely to pick up sales. I've also made a higher number of lenses that jump up into the higher tiers and tweaked a few very old ones successfully (plus some that vanish into the depths, of course!).