Hosting printables can seem a bit intimidating. Free printables are a great way to grow your blog community…but it can also be an expensive mistake if you aren’t sure how to host them. Today we’re going to look at the printables process after the creation process: what it takes to actually getting your printable into reader’s hands. P.S. Need some help on the design process? Check out our Pinterest board filled with ideas for a good starting point.
You’ll learn three things:
- What file hosting options are available,
- The pros and cons of each hosting option
- And how to make them work for your blog.
- …Bonus: how NOT to make the two massive mistakes I made.
Hosting Printables Options
Hosting Printables Option 1: printable files directly on your blog. (Don’t)
Yes, you can just upload your printable to your blog and share the url. The problem with this I learned the hard way.
When I first created my free printable travel maps for I Heart Family Travels, I remember being excited watching my pageviews go up and up and up as it got more and more popular on Pinterest. The maps have over 100k pins (1, 2) as of this writing and have been downloaded by people in every country but 8…in the world. The world. (*happy dance*)
That excitement waned, however, when I peaked at the dashboard of my hosting account and saw my bandwidth reaching red. It was the first week in the new billing cycle, so the excitement “waning” is the understatement of the year. It sank like the rock your toddler just dumped in your freshly brewed cuppa tea.
Bandwidth is the amount of data people can request from your server. Every time someone loads your website or downloads a file…like a free printable, your bandwidth usage goes up. It’s a bit like a data plan on a cell phone. This example from my dashboard (cPanel) was taken on the second day of this month (years after my first mistake). Green is good…despite using almost a Gigabyte of bandwidth in ONE day. Red is further to the right….passed blue.
When your freebie starts gaining attention and goes viral your server will reach its bandwidth limits really quickly (head towards the red), meaning your hosting provider will either suspend the site or charge you for overages. You don’t want to see red a week into the start of a new billing cycle…unless you have a good reason. “Honey, our food budget went to hosting this month. Don’t worry, I was making some people happy with a free printable.” <- See how that doesn’t work as a good reason? Blogging isn’t suppose to equal debt, it’s suppose to get you the other direction.
Which brings us to option 2:
Hosting Printables Option 2: printable files on free all purpose file hosting
Lots of bloggers go with free hosting for their printables like Google Drive and Dropbox. This was my next move with my maps after I saw my hosting bill for that month.
Why: Google has no bandwidth limits and Dropbox has a 20GB limit per day. With the right file compression, you won’t need to worry about blowing bandwidth limits. Free file hosting was great for a while until I realized I had a very big problem.
So what was the problem with bandwidth you didn’t have to pay for? It cost me…a lot. 23,606 to be exact. Not financially, but in terms of relationships with my readers.
The problem with free file servers for hosting printables
Let me ask you a question: Why would you want to offer a free printable to your readers? Simple, right? Answer: Because it brings in readers. It’s (almost) free marketing…and it works. However, it’s not just enough to bring them to your blog. If all they do is come, grab a download and leave…what’s the benefit to you?
- Ad revenue. A few drops in the ole’ Adsense earnings bucket? That is hardly worth the time involved with creating and promoting it.
- Brand awareness. Can you name the blog you got your last printable from? Chances are if you could they have a massive following of hundreds of thousands of readers…and they didn’t get that way through freebies alone. They built their brand through building relationships with their readers through great content, social media and email newsletters.
The problem with Google Drive and Dropbox is that the people who download files can do so anonymously. Google Drive and Dropbox don’t allow for you to connect with readers, they don’t allow for the follow up. I realized after about 20,000 downloads (I was smart enough to hook the links up to event trackers in my analytics account when the maps started getting attention) I screwed up…big time. I screwed up 23,606 times until I fixed my mistake.
Using Faire.li for hosting printables and digital freebies
Hosting your printables on Faire.li makes it easy to connect with your readers. When people download your printable, you’ll be able to see their contact information on your Faire.li dashboard and export it to use with your email service provider. We also promote all the freebies to Faire.li visitors of Faire.li, our fans on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram and our newsletter subscribers. So it is a good way to get exposure to new readers who might not have visited your blog yet. Register for an account to get started or send me an email with any questions.
Have more questions about hosting printables?
As a side note: join fellow printable designers over at the Facebook group Pixels and Swoon, where you can ask your questions on topics like this one.
Takeaways on hosting printables – the TL;DR
- Host printable files on your own server (if you have one) can result in bandwidth overages or server lockout.
- Using a free file hosting site for hosting printables complicate connecting with your community.
- Using a designated printables hosting service is the best solution.
- No matter which option you choose, collect emails to connect with your community.
Make sure you are using the printable to grow your business and not just giving your hard work away for free.