Author Archives: Terry Ednacot

Hometalk builds a DIY home improvement community

What better place than a website to bring together people, projects and professionals? That’s what Miriam Illions thought when she co-foundedHometalk in 2011. When the site went live, she waited for the homeowner–contractor matchups to begin. Then, something interesting happened.

“DIYers flocked to the platform and started sharing their own ideas,” Miriam recalls. Over the course of about 18 months, she notes, “We saw this incredible uptick in people who were interested — not in hiring somebody to do things for them — but in doing it themselves.”

Headshot of Miriam Illions

Hometalk CMO and co-founder Miriam Illions

Miriam and the Hometalk team retooled their marketing strategy and rebuilt Hometalk as a community empowering DIYers to roll up their sleeves and get the job done themselves, while providing a space for industrious bloggers to build out their own brands.

With this new approach, the New York City-based company turned into a full-time, booming business, now staffing 37 employees. The website is monetized through programmatic ads and direct sales offerings that connect brands to DIYers seeking to purchase tools and materials for their projects. 

Today, 10 years after the company’s founding, the Hometalk community garners 30 million monthly pageviews, has 7 million unique monthly visitors and 90,000 new monthly signups. Their app is also quite popular, receiving 3.3 million monthly pageviews and 20,000 new signups a month.  

Building a DIY web community

The Hometalk website serves as the brand’s digital hub, where DIYers can explore 169,000 project tutorials on a wide-sweeping range of topics, including how to build, decorate, upcycle, decorate, clean, repair, organize and more. Projects are also organized by rooms and spaces, from breakfast nooks to bedroom closets, and entryways to basement bars — and even budget-friendly patio ideas for renters.

The search box at the top of Hometalk's website.

Creative DIYers get inspired, starting at the Hometalk homepage.

“We empower people to create by inspiring them with all of the [community’s] amazing ideas, and then giving them the resources and the tools to be able to do it themselves,” Miriam says.

She credits the website’s success with providing multiple ways for community members to connect and communicate. Visitors can post a project, ask or answer a DIY question, or search on DIY projects — and that’s just for starters.The Hometalk TV video channel is a crafty person’s delight, where featured hosts guide viewers through a wide variety of artful projects, including a floating photo frame, a TikTok mirror, a faux chinoiserie vase and more.

The upcycle project page from Hometalk's website

Visitors learn to turn trash into treasure with Hometalk’s upcycling projects.

“A popular destination is our video tutorial section, where you can ask questions of the person who posted and engage in the comments,” Miriam adds. “We also have a forum where, if you're doing a DIY project and you're stuck, or you're looking for inspiration or ideas or solutions, you can post questions and get feedback and help from the community. Their willingness to help each other is amazing.”

Opening the door for other web creators

Hometalk community members create a bio page on the website, with their photo and links back to their own websites, blogs and social media pages. This helps them establish their own brand identity within the community, while inviting readers to click on over to their own websites to learn more about them.

“We offer a number of different places where members can link back to their blogs,” Miriam shares, including their Blogger Traffic Program — an incentive program for bloggers who regularly share high-quality content with the Hometalk community. Top contributors may receive a link back to their own blogs in Hometalk’s daily email, which Miriam says can result in thousands of new pageviews. “Traffic is very valuable as everyone on the web knows,” she says. “So, that's something that we use as an incentive to help our creators build their own audiences and communities.”

Lindsay Eidahl's profile page on Hometalk

Hometalk member Lindsay Eidahl shares DIY ideas for budget-friendly home decor projects.

Creating socially conscious media

While Hometalk’s site traffic numbers speak for themselves, the cofounder has even higher goals for her brand’s impact on the web community.

“This past year, we're seeing a lot more conscious choice and intention when it comes to media consumption,” Miriam notes. “I think as a whole, people are becoming a lot more aware of how they are spending their time on the web, what media are they consuming, and how it makes them feel. We’re becoming more aware of what is toxic and not helping you live your best life that you’re here to live.” Her goal for Hometalk is to provide a positive space for DIYers to meet, share tips, tricks, and ideas and improve their lives, one handcrafted wreath, one unclogged toilet, one refinished thrift store table at a time.

“The more people choose what they consume, the more important it will be for all web creators to make sure that the content that they're putting out there is of tremendous value,” Miriam asserts. “As a whole, that will elevate all of us.”

In her words: Miriam Illions reflects on building an online community in our Web Story. Watch it here

Unsplash helps 20 million creators tell their stories

Mikeal Cho, co-founder and CEO of Unsplash, believes that there’s an image at the heart of every story. Since 2013, Unsplash has allowed more than 200,000 photographers to share their work and build relationships with other creators and organizations. 

Cho refers to Unsplash “an accidental company.” When looking for images online, he found that “great images were often locked up with confusing licenses,” meaning people couldn’t easily use them. So he uploaded 10 photos left over from a photoshoot to Tumblr and allowed anybody to use them for personal or commercial purposes, without attribution or licensing fees. Now, far from simply being a source of free stock photos, the platform has become the foundation for new careers, relationships and stories.

A photo of a laptop and coffee cup on a desk.

An early photo uploaded to Unsplash. Photo by Alejandro Escamilia.

Who did you envision as Unsplash’s users, and how has your audience changed? 

We have everyone from independent bloggers to large publishers, and small businesses to Fortune 500 companies using Unsplash. There are 110 million image downloads a month on Unsplash, and 70% of those are coming from people who haven’t downloaded a photo from a stock photo site before.

What is the relationship and value proposition for Unsplash’s users and content creators? 

Users can download high-quality images for free, quickly, and you don't need to subscribe or create an account.

We weren't sure people would contribute images for others to use for free. The thesis was that if you find useful images for what you’re creating, and you have a couple of images of your own, you will contribute those to the site. We started with our own photos, and our theory turned into a reality. The value was the ability to be a part of something.

If you're sharing photos on Unsplash, you're helping other people make something. You're also sharing your story. High-quality visuals covering lots of different use cases enable you to tell those stories—and stories are the way that we create change.

People ice skating on frozen canals.

Fun on the Frozen Canals of Delft, Photo by Max van den Oetelaar.

What motivates creators to contribute to this amazing gallery of photographs?

The internet is big, but it can also get lonely. Eighty percent of uploaders consider themselves to be amateurs. They’re learning a craft together and Unsplash is their platform for sharing. Because the platform is big, their work can lead to other opportunities.

It’s similar to what happened with blogging; people wondered, "Is it going to kill the book industry if everyone is writing online for free?" There was more publishing, more ideas being spread, and those ideas created downstream opportunities. That's what Unsplash does for someone who contributes images. Somebody sees that image, and now they know you and your work. This can lead to them wanting to connect with you or wanting to hire you. You don't need an agent. You don't need to come with a name. If you have great images, it's going to get noticed.

How else can Unsplash help uploaders succeed online?

It's helping creators build confidence. The only way we make progress is by sharing and being open, so we've developed our product to help encourage creators. People who contribute photos are able to directly message each other and our team. We have also enabled people to send out thank-you messages. We've also seen people end up married after they found an image and wrote to the photographer.

Spaced empty folding chairs at an outdoor event.

Photo by Forest Simon on Unsplash.

Is there anything you want to tell other content creators?

There is a lot of advice about what content to create and when to post. But what you should really care about is making something that resonates with people and that you can sustain for a long period. Instead of what you think might be a huge market opportunity, make sure you are always solving, writing, and creating what is interesting to you. The world will follow.