Every year, I think it’s important to pause and assess a few things about where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going. It’s an opportunity to look over the goals that we, as a community, set and rate ourselves against them. This is also my chance to share some of the ideas I’ve got for the next year with The Everyday Marksman.
The first time I did this was back in April 2021, with a bit of a fireside chat, if you will. I look back and snicker a bit, because that whole direction that I thought I was going to go didn’t work out. I didn’t have the time, patience, nor know-how to make the whole “investigative entertainment” angle work for me.
Also, the whole idea around collecting peoples’ stories never worked out much either. I had a few submissions, but I just never felt like I could do the format justice.
At the start of 2022, Allison and I discussed our goals for the year. I would say that both of us were far more successful there, and I’ll touch more on that in a moment. One of the important bits was balancing fun with seriousness. I want to start here.
A Brief History of The Everyday Marksman
I realize that most people reading and listening to this have probably not been around since the start. For that reason, I want to dive back into history a bit. I started the very first iteration of The Everyday Marksman early in 2014. I was still active duty and engaging with shooting mostly as a hobby. By all accounts, most of the blog was my own shooting logs and lessons learned as I applied things I picked up here and there to each practice session.
The most popular articles, the ones that generated the bulk of my traffic at the time, were a series of technical pieces about selecting components of an AR-15. Those articles stemmed from documents I wrote for friends and coworkers asking my advice on what to buy during the 2013 gun-buying surge. Those article, which I’ve revised countless times at this point, are still among the most popular today.
In 2018, I migrated from the old free WordPress site to my own domain that you’re now accustomed to. I ditched the shooting journals along the way and focused on the technical aspects. With that, I also expanded the scope of my writing to include fitness, survival skills, tactics, and other related things. It wasn’t just about marksmanship anymore, but about the whole picture.
But why do that? All of the advice in the internet content creator world says to focus on a particular niche. If you don’t, then your energy becomes wasted and unfocused.
Did you know that the average lifespan of a blog is 100 days? I’m sure that average has a lot to do with folks deciding one night to start a blog, signing up for a free WordPress site, publishing a few things, and then realizing it’s actually a lot of work.
Stretching beyond that a little bit, I think most solo blogs, especially in the firearms space, don’t last more than 2-4 years. By that point, if the blog has not turned into a full on business with revenue streams, multiple writers, and other trappings, then it starts to fade away. The authors, as good as they may have been, eventually just run out of things to say and money to continue supporting it.
The reason I expanded my scope beyond guns was chiefly out of a desire to not get bored. Along with that was a growing idea that I didn’t want to cater to the hardcore gun enthusiast. Instead, I wanted to become a bridge for introducing normal people to shooting-related topics, provide them a map of the things they could learn, and give them a direction to go learn more.
That had to last more than 100, days, right? Well, it’s been 8 years since I started, and 4 since the replatform, and I think we’re doing okay. A lot of my fellow bloggers haven’t been so lucky, unfortunately.
Startups and Shakedowns
At one point, probably around 2019 or so, I got it in my mind that I wanted to turn The Everyday Marksman into a full on business and become a full-time internet creator. I hatched a plan to optimize my search engine skills, focused on creating a community, and wanted to be able top quit my day job.
Well, reality doesn’t work that way. I found out the hard way that the big ad networks other non-firearms bloggers rely on for steady revenue wouldn’t do business with me despite more than beating their traffic requirements. These companies put firearms in the same category as drugs and pornography, and therefore we aren’t family-friendly enough for their advertisers. In 2022, I did start working with Topple, a gun-friendly ad network that you see now. It doesn’t generate much, but it helps.
The Community? After a few iterations, it’s still going via the Discord server- but I realized that I was probably never going to get enough people to subscribe for a monthly cost. There’s not a whole lot more for me to say privately than I’ve already given away publicly, and it’s not like I’m some underground expert on the topics I write about. I’m in the business of bringing experts to you.
To cap it off, I ended up seeing a lot of success at my day job and the amount of income the site would have to generate in order to replace my job didn’t seem feasible. The Everyday Marksman provides enough supplemental income to pay for itself, match fees, and the occasional item for review- but not much more. Definitely not enough to replace an income.
But it’s not all bad. Even though I was getting pretty frustrated- a few good things did happen because of my efforts.
One day I received an email through the site contact page from an editor at American Rifleman magazine. The message was simple enough, a brief introduction and a request that I call him back. I was actually concerned that I had somehow pissed off the NRA and that the magazine was taking issue with me because of something I wrote or failed to cite.
It turns out they wanted to add me to their writing stable. Just about everything I wrote during 2020 and 2021 were technical reviews of products and without my name attached to it. They were generic “staff” articles, but they did pay and afforded me the opportunity to shoot things I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to otherwise. Email subscribers and community members saw glimpses of some of those products as I would talk about them behind closed doors.
In 2022, I started getting my name attached to more things. In the January 2023 issue, I’ve got my first “feature.” I’ve still got a fair bit of imposter syndrome, as I’ve never considered myself an expert. I mean, I don’t have any national titles to my name, nor do I have extensive historical knowledge of obscure weapons. I’m definitely not a high-speed special operations guy dolling out tactics. I’m just…well…an everyday marksman.
As much time and effort as these pieces required, and therefore took away from my time to do things on the site, I’m thankful for the opportunity. It also gave me space to evaluate where I’m at and what I want to do next.
Creative Content Notes
At this point, I’ve got the main site, the podcast, and a YouTube channel. The channel has been interesting because it’s grown to over 1,000 subscriptions despite my admittedly slacking off on it.
My passion has always been writing, and that’s where the bulk of my effort goes. Video, as it turns out, requires a lot of time to do well. It’s not just the writing, but then also the filming, editing, creating thumbnails, and more. I still want to do it, but I realized that frequently post video content is unrealistic given my situation and priorities. I think video will be more of a supplement to articles where needed.
The podcast, similarly, serves as a supplement to the main site. It’s faster to create and edit, and I can get a bit more narrative with it, but it’s also supplemental.
2022 Goals Report
Over 2022, I also had several goals for myself. Among these were:
- Read a book per month
- Focus on handgun skills
- Dial in nutrition habits
I’m happy to say that I accomplished most of these. Allison and I were happy enough with our nutrition success with meal planning and how it affected our fitness results that what was supposed to be a six-month challenge pretty much ran the entire year and shows no sign of slowing down. On the gym front, I was able to pull off the longest unbroken streak of continuous workout programming without injury that I’ve ever had. Unsurprisingly, supporting a lot of it was a lot of reading about health and fitness topics. I was so pleased with what I was doing here that we ended up investing a significant amount of funds to build a garage gym tailored to my needs.
The only thing that fell to the wayside a bit was my shooting practice, though I still had good results there as well.
Where We’re Going
I wanted to get through that setup so I can talk about a few key themes I’ve noticed throughout the last 8 years and where I think it is going to push me over the next year and beyond.
Quality over Quantity
First, I’ve grown less interested in pursuing traffic and clicks for the sake of it. The one constant message throughout my history of learning to run the creative side of things is that consistency is king. In other words, in order to grow then you must publish new material on a consistent basis. Historically, that puts me under a lot of pressure to push out something every single week. Ideally, that would cover all three formats: written, podcast, and YouTube.
Sometimes I’m able keep up that kind of energy and maintain a level of quality in my content that I’m happy with. Sometimes I cannot. Combined with the ebb and flow of my day job, it usually results in serious burnout by around August or September. If you’ve been around for a few years, you probably recognize that time period is where I’m lest productive on the site.
So, I’m taking that pressure off the table. I will continue to publish as often as practical, in whatever format is most appropriate, but my focus will shift a bit more towards hammering a consistent message and doing it well. That could look like refining older material to make it better and more useful, or spending time deep diving down particular topics.
I Care About the Community
Even when I’m not constantly writing and creating, some of the most enjoyable parts of my day-to-day is hanging out with the folks on the Discord server talking about the various Marksman-related topics. This has been the source of a lot of inspiration, and several members have also started submitting articles for publishing on the site as well.
To be honest, this is what keeps me going. If it was just about publishing new things into the void, I probably would have quit a while ago.
So the question I’m asking myself is, “What can I do to make that better?”
I think the answer comes to doubling down on the core message of the Everyday Marksman.
Focus on the Big Picture
Anyone who runs a gun blog long enough will tell you that it’s the gear articles that get the most traffic by far. People will tolerate rants and detours here and there, but most of the shooting enthusiast community is there to read about guns and gear.
In my opinion, such content is a necessary component to draw people in. Some percentage of that audience will then click on the “About” page and read a little more into what the site is about. Some smaller percentage of that group will actually sign up for the email list and join the community via the link embedded in the emails.
I’m not interested in changing that dynamic. But what I am interested in is further building out the core philosophy of the whole marksman.
In a practical sense, what you’ll see is a revamped about and “get started” page. There will be some new email campaigns and automations, and a heightened emphasis on addressing all aspects of becoming a well-rounded marksman.
A Book, Perhaps?
One last point I think I should mention. For several years, members of the community have been putting pressure on me to collect my thoughts into one or more books. While flattered, I’ve resisted primarily out of my aforementioned imposter syndrome. Along with that is also a healthy bit of skepticism that anyone would be willing to pay for something that I wrote. My experience getting paid for writing with a magazine might have shifted me off that position a bit, and I think it’s worth giving a go.
I actually started the process during 2022, but never committed to a goal. So today I’m here telling you, and everyone else, that this is something I will do in 2023. The topic(s) are yet to be completely determined but, perhaps ironically, I’m probably going to start with collecting my thoughts on gear and marksmanship fundamentals as it’s the place I have the most experience.
If you’re interested, I’ll make periodic updates about progress on that front. Let me know in the comments if you’re interested.
Of course, I have another set of personal goals for myself in 2023. Allison and I have been discussing these quite a bit lately, and I may or may not talk more about them in the future. Most of them are fitness-related. I also have a list of a few firearms projects in mind to work on over this year and beyond, and I”ll write about them in due time.
But for now, I’ve laid out a heading for the site and where we’re going this year. I’m always open to feedback from you, as well.