A deep look at 2019

I did a “statistically speaking” article at the end of 2014 and something similar in 2016. I’m not sure why I didn’t do one in the following years but it’s fun to compare this article to years past.

2019 is over in a few hours and the jokes about seeing clearly and seeing 2020 vision are already getting old. A lot has changed in 2019, which is a good thing. Change is good. It almost always means progression. The key word there is “almost.” An article like this is a good way for me to take an honest look at what went well and identify areas that need improvement.

Personal Life

My daughter turned a year old in September 2019. This first full year with her has been great and much more eventful than the first couple months after birth. Newborn babies are completely reliant upon the parents for their survival. In 2019 I got to see my little girl develop a personality, develop motor skills, and continuously learn. It’s fascinating watching a young child figure stuff out. Especially when they tune out their surroundings and intently focus on an object. She’s my snuggle buddy on the couch and I love it.

We moved houses. In May we paid off our house mortgage early and became 100% debt free once again and said we would never be in debt again for the rest of our lives. Literally a couple days later we stumbled upon a house for sale that had a big shop in the back yard. The house was a decade newer, one bedroom and half bath larger, lower exterior maintenance, in a GREAT community, 3x the shop space for my work-from-home business, and in one of the best school districts in the state. So we sold our first home and got a mortgage for the difference in house value. Zero regrets but I have never been more motivated than I am right now to be debt free once again.

I turned 33 in October. I heard someone else say that your 30’s is when life really begins. In your single digit years your life is run by your parents. In your teens your life is run by a school system that literally teaches you nothing about living a successful life and everything about being a good sheep for society. In your 20’s you’re still kinda awkwardly sifting through life trying to figure out who you are and how life will be. In your 30’s you’ve had enough time to gain some life experiences and knowledge to (hopefully) learn from and make the rest of your life easier and more enjoyable. Learning isn’t just for the teens and 20’s though. Learn and grow every day. Life should be great in your 30’s. I feel like that’s where I’m at, and it feels pretty good.

Sandi, our oldest dog, died a week before Christmas. She was about 16 years old. We’re not sure exactly. While my wife, Jamie, was in high school, Sandi wandered up to her house and Jamie, against her mothers instruction, took her in. Sandi was pregnant and looked to be about 1-2 years old at that time. She became my wife’s best buddy for the next 14 years and a great teacher of mine for the 10 years we were together as a family. She was harmless, had a full-of-drama personality, and was incredibly stubborn. She was the perfect little companion to teach me patience before being a dad. I learned so much from Sandi but I’m glad she’s no longer suffering. Three years ago she developed a collapsing trachea and her arthritis got progressively worse. Our medicine cabinet became a dog pharmacy. She had a rough last week of her life and the last day was painful for us to witness. I can’t imagine how it was for her as she wasn’t getting oxygen and was starting to shut down. We made the tough decision to euthanize instead of watching her suffocate over the next day or so. That dog taught me so much about caring for others. Stuff you only never learn experience and not from a textbook or research.

In September-ish I drastically cut back on social media. My wife and I have been against phone use while at the dinner table and while out to eat for quite a long time and eventually realized we can limit it any other time as well. As I’m sure all of you know, phones rule our society. Look around while in public (even when driving!!) and the majority of people are on their phone. Life is more productive and more enjoyable when my phone is on silent and not within an arms reach. While trying to break my phone habit I noticed more free time so with that….

I started reading books in November. That sounds like such a silly sentence to write but it’s true. For as long as I can remember I’ve never enjoyed reading books. I’ve always skimmed through non-fiction books for bits of interesting stuff. For long as I’ve known my wife she’s always been a book reader. She says that there’s something about physically flipping the pages that will prohibit her from ever using a kindle or tablet or any other digital device for reading. I always thought that was silly, due to the amount of books she has, and when asked why I don’t read books my response was “I read the internet.” Which is true. I’m continuously reading while on the computer. Emails, comments, sifting through articles for the high points and keywords when researching, short articles about very specific topics, etc.. I stumbled upon a YouTube video from Brian Tracy about successful people and one of the common habits was reading. I bought Brian’s book No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline and quickly found myself sucked into a nightly routine of reading after my daughter went to bed. I couldn’t put it down. I then read Million Dollar Habits and just finished Rich Dad Poor Dad. Tonight I’m starting Presto! by Penn Jillette. The “why” for that book selection is as follows…

I’m still overweight. For the first 26 or 27 years of my life I maintained a healthy body weight for my height. I’m 5’6” tall and was always around 145 pounds from early high school to right before starting my business. In the two years immediately before this business my only hobby was exercising. I got sucked into strength training and put on 20 pounds of muscle in 2 years while maintaining a lean body fat percentage. I was in the best shape of my life and yo-yo’d that directly into the worst shape of my life when I started this business. I started this business while working a full time job and trying to maintain enough family time to be a good husband. The time for working out was gone and due to my busy lifestyle and the increase in revenue all of the convenient, high calorie, processed food options became my go-to option. From 2014-2016 I lost some of that muscle mass and my weight spiked at 210 pounds. I’ve been hovering just over 200 the past 3 years and my body is starting to feel the extra weight more and more. The good news is I really haven’t gained any weight since the end of 2016. The bad news is I haven’t lost any of it either. I know 100% that the reason for my maintained high body weight is due to food choices. I’ve tried a lot of things and have stuck with none of them. This is by far my greatest hurdle in life right now with nothing and nobody to blame but myself.

“Business” Life

I put “business” in quotations for a reason. The fact that I am able to do multiple things that I love to do and call it a “business” is still strange to me. <— Those two sentences were pulled right from the 2014 article and still remain true.

I started this website and this business with the goal of doing whatever it is I want to do while presenting it in such a way that generates revenue. More directly, in such a way that builds a passive income snowball. That way everything that I publish would contribute to passive income and allow me 100% flexibility with my time and energy and I wouldn’t be reliant upon any one metric, specifically sponsored income. Nothing I know about starting or running a business is difficult to figure out. All the information is out there, free for anyone to learn. I learned this strategy from Pat Flynn of smartpassiveincome.com. If you’re wanting to learn more about making money online I suggest you check out that website and soak up as much as you can.

“Sponsored” is a sprinting event while successful businesses are built on marathon training. We’ve definitely reached a point where sponsored opportunities for the individual will never go away so my “sponsored” concern may not actually be as great as I think it is. But I see so many people get heavily reliant upon doing stuff just because it’s sponsored. At that point you’re not really working for yourself. I’ve done a few sponsored videos and I think a couple sponsored articles (all of which I have been transparent about) so I’m not 100% against it. But I strongly think they should not be the core of revenue, should not be relied upon, and should be leveraged sparingly. This mindset is powerful as it forces focus on MY business, MY brand, and MY products. The more something is attached to “me” or “my” the less chance that it can be taken away.

Ad revenue is a passive income opportunity. Ads on YouTube and websites will continue to contribute so long as the content is evergreen and remains watchable or readable. Both YouTube and website ads are continuously changing though. They are both held hostage to the Terms Of Service of companies that neither one of us run. They can change at any time which can result in potentially major changes to your revenue.


I’ve seen a continuous YouTube growth in both subscribers and views since I uploaded my first video on December 8, 2012. So that should mean a similar growth in revenue, right? No. YouTube revenue on non-publish days has literally been the exact same for me since 2016. Due to the decrease in upload frequency I’ve been experiencing nearly the same monthly YouTube ad revenue for the past 3 years even though the potential for views (total number of published videos) is continuously going up.

There’s two major explanations for stagnant YouTube revenue: the system and me. First, it’s proven that YouTube, and most other social media platforms, promote content that is uploaded more frequently than content that is uploaded occasionally. This is because the more frequent you upload, the more watch time your videos naturally generate, which in turn means the more time your content is responsible for people staying on the YouTube platform so the more likely YouTube is to promote it. There are exceptions to the upload frequency rule though. Mark Rober uploads about once per month and is wildly successful. That’s because his content is some of the best in all metrics. The substance of his content is what is responsible for the high watch time, not his upload frequency.

The second reason for stagnant YouTube revenue is that my videos have gotten stale to the general audience. They aren’t as engaging as they used to be. There’s more competition out there and for videos to perform well, relative to similar size channels in the same niche, so you need to have something special for the average viewer. I still receive positive engagement from the core woodworking audience but there’s not much in my videos for the casual YouTube viewer.

So what’s the strategy for my use of YouTube? In 2019 my strategy has evolved into not having a strategy at all. Keep the default settings active to generate passive income but that’s about it. I’ve never really got interested in trends (fidget spinner, epoxy tables) which always do well for views. I don’t want to put on the all too common fake smile and bubbly personality for every clip to be someone I’m not, which is good for views. And I don’t want to tailor my content to an always changing YouTube algorithm. YouTube is a vehicle for video distribution and keeping the default monetization settings checked makes it worth using for hosting free content.


My website is responsible for the majority of my revenue. I made no changes to the ad placement on my website in 2019 but, unlike YouTube, I did see an overall increase in ad revenue directly proportionate to the increase in website traffic. This is obviously a much greater incentive to focus on website publishing vs YouTube publishing. Of course, I like to make videos for my projects so I don’t see myself not making videos any time soon.

Another noticeable income increase was from website sales via plans, courses, and templates. Once again, website sales was my largest individual income source in 2019. This continues to prove that people will pay for quality products and for convenience. This is definitely the future of online content creation for all of us.

As A Small Business…

In 2019 I experimented with hiring out digital work and in shop work such as recording and editing. None of it worked out in the end. Part of it is me not picking the right person for the job and the other is I’m just too picky and don’t like not having complete control over creative tasks. I see this as both a positive and a negative. On one hand the control allows me to be 100% responsible for the vision and outcome of my business, which I obviously like. On the other hand, finding good team members and delegating more work to the team is something I know I need to embrace and get better at in order to grow my business at a larger rate.

The Future!

I keep a small journal of short term and long term goals. None of which I want to share here. Not because they are anything secret or ground-breaking. I just know from past experiences that the more I share the “I’m going to do this” the less likely “this” actually gets accomplished. As always, I have a path and a vision for what I want to happen and it’s up to me to see how well it plays out.

I wish all of you reading this great prosperity in 2020. If you drink, don’t drive. Be kind to one another. And have a great day/week/year.


  1. Keep up the great work! I’ve been watching your stuff since the beginning and seeing all the progress and changes you’ve made is really inspiring. I’m couple years older than you but I think we got into woodworking at about the same time. Your update is what really inspired me. I work in IT and have two young boys and we all spend too much time with screens in our face. We recently cut cable and I’ve been spending more time with the boys and am looking forward to teaching them about woodworking. Thanks for sharing your life and thoughts it’s really good stuff!

  2. Jay, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It looks as if you are keeping things in balance. I have great respect for your work ethic and your abilities, but mostly for your balance. You are one of the best content creators on Youtube.

  3. Overall you had a great year! Parenting is one of those careers where the child does not come with instructions. It sounds like you’re already enjoying the journey and surprises. As for reading, may I suggest “Things They Didn’t Teach You At Harvard Business School”. Not a recent publication, but some timeless basics. Have another fruitful year!

  4. Congrats on all your success Jay! You really are an inspiration. And nice work paying off the mortgage on that previous house. I discovered FIRE a few years ago and have really embraced the movement, paying off debt, saving, investing. Hopefully one day soon I’ll be able to spend more time doing the things I love (woodworking) and making a real business out of it. In the meantime, I’ll be following you!

  5. Great recap of 2019 and look forward to more from you in 2020. Love not only the woodworking info you provide, but also the insight into the inner workings of YouTube and websites as well as the personal anecdotes of your life. Keep up the great work and best wishes to you and your family as we enter 2020.

  6. I have watched you since the “Pine” days. Have been impressed by what you have accomplished a number of times. Have been happy for you a number of times as well. Even overjoyed when you guys became parents. Excited to see what 2020 has in store for you and your family.

  7. Love the honest and insightful approach to your own world. You’re def spending time thinking through things, and that’s a good challenge to me. Keep the content coming!

  8. Jay, I find you content to be very refreshing and informative. Not gimmicks, just good information. Best wishes in 2020….

  9. WOW! That was a great year end wrap and expression of your life. Thanks for sharing. Keep doing all your “things”. They are interesting and insightful. All the best for 2020.

  10. Jay, you have taught me a lot from watching your videos. With no woodworking experience, I convinced my wife to let me build every cabinet for our new home from bathroom vanities to kitchen cabinets. I learned Sketchup from your videos and used it to design the cabinets. After buying all of my tools (mostly used) and the lumber I managed to build and entire house of cabinets for $4500 which included the cost of tools. I always look forward to your videos because you have inspired me to do something I love.

    Thank you for sharing Pat Flynn’s link and I look forward to learning the same techniques you used to start my own business. Thanks for being an inspiration.

    Happy New year to you and your Family

  11. I accepted your request and now watch all videos and read all articles from this website instead of via YouTube or Facebook. Those two platforms now serve as a visual reminder for when you’ve released new content. It wasn’t easy remembering to come here instead of routinely “clicking” the convenient link but has gotten easier with repetition.

    That being said, doing so will change your statistical numbers. Yes, you will have “lost” one YouTube viewer and have “gained” one website viewer (which I understand yields the better revenue) but in terms of numbers will be a wash. Something to keep in mind next time you analyze the numbers. I only say this as encouragement to not drop the other platforms as there are benefits you may not directly be seeing.

    I appreciate all the hard work you put into this business and always look forward to anything you release. Your content definitely opens my eyes to things I may not have considered, even the videos/articles that don’t pertain to my direct interests. Keep up the good work and I wish you continued success.

  12. Jay you are a young man and have conquered some of the biggest obstacles in life, To be nearly debt free and have a clear understanding of the joy in having a child in your life are great strides in life. I enjoy your content and I have bought product from you for the reasons you stated. I am a 70 year old fan of your business.

  13. This is a great article. I like following you and have an idea that might increase traffic again. Lately everything has been about completing your shop, and believe me I enjoy these as I have my shop I want to complete (32×32). But what got me following you before were either shop builds or other builds, and it seems you have gotten away from those. You are creative and interesting. I want that more. If you give me things I can duplicate (and make money at), I will try them. That is one of the things that keeps me coming back.

    Have a great new years and I look forward to whatever you have to publish.

  14. Congratulations on a successful year, and I hope 2020 is prosperous for you and your family. I am a subscriber to your YouTube channel, and also a customer of your miter saw workstation plans. What appeals to me most about your videos is these are projects that are within the grasp of the average woodworker using material and tools readily available. I contrast this with other YouTube woodworkers I used to watch until their projects became unrealistic for the small shop owner who doesn’t have extravagent corporate sponsorship. My very first cabinet job was building my miter saw workstation, and I doubt I would have been able to do this without your very detailed plans and instructions. I had to modify them for metric measurements and tailor the layout for my small shop, but this was a trivial matter.

  15. Jay,
    As a public school teacher, I disagree with your analysis that “In your teens your life is run by a school system that literally teaches you nothing about living a successful life and everything about being a good sheep.” The words “literally” and “good sheep” are quite strong. You must have personally had a bad experience.

  16. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours. I so look forward to your emails and your work. I have been watching for a few years . Keep it up Jay,and I would be happy to send you some Colorado snow.

  17. Jay I really like your videos and always look forward to the next one. Keep up the good work.
    Hearing about the weight problem it sounds like me. I am 5’6″ and was 180 to210 lbs. most of my life. Tried all the diets and could never stay on them. I am now 72 years old and in better health then I have been in many decades. I went on the KETO lifestyle about 4 years ago. Now I weight 145 and have had no trouble keeping the weight off all that time. Check out Dr. Eric Westman or Dr. Ken Berry. Both are on youtube.

  18. Thanks Jay, I have always looked forward to your videos and eletters. I get great inspiration from you particularly when I saw your “first shop” video, it really put in to perspective how far you have come.
    You are wise beyond your years and a pleasure to watch, Best of everything to you and your young family this year!
    p.s. Thanks to Jamie for supporting your( and our) passions we all appreciate it!

    Happy New Year!!

  19. I am over twice your age and learn something new every day. I’ve always been able to work with wood, but was never a woodworker. I could frame a house, build a chicken coop, make a picnic table, hang a shelf, do the things you need to do to keep mama happy, but I never was a woodworker. My dad was, he built furniture and cabinets and such, but I was never really into it. Then about 5 years ago my sweet wife wanted a new headboard for our ancient old queen bed, something simple, without all the froufrou of the antique thing we had. I started looking through YouTube for ideas and found a couple. In that process I ran across your channel and have been an avid fan ever since. At the budding age of 63 I turned my 2 car detached garage into a real shop, bought a table saw, a miter saw, built work benches, picked up a drill press and a band saw, then a joiner and a planer; built a router table, then added a lift. I’m on my third GALLON of Titebond II after spending a year with pints and quarts. Looking forward to a lathe this summer.

    I’m still no woodworker, but I’ve learned SOO much from you and your site, enough to keep boxes, and tables, and desks, and boxes, and shelves, and cabinets, and did I say boxes?? … rolling out the side door to the shop. THANK YOU!!

    I used to say life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans. But now:

    “Life is what happens to you while you’re learning something new.”

  20. Jay, you are one of my two favorite Youtubers. I think I really started watching you after I read your post in which you described your humble beginnings in woodworking. What a great post that is. Now I never miss a video. I don’t comment much but I want you to know I made your mobile air filtration unit and love it. Also made the rolling sheet goods rack (thank you for linking to the plans online… I found their instructions difficult to follow and couldn’t have made it without your video). I’m so happy that you and your beautiful wife have such a sweet little girl. She’s totally adorable! I wish you all the best in 2020, and thank you so much for all your work!

  21. Happy New Year Bates family. I’m a faithful follower. I don’t near the skills or equipment you do, but I did buy the plans for the nesting chair.
    I wasn’t a web site follower until you posted that it helps if I view the videos here.
    I’ll continue to watch you, even though I have dropped other “Brand name” youtubers.
    I wish you well.

  22. Jay, I have been checking in on your content off and on since you had the apartment shop.
    It has only gotten better with time in my opinion.
    I wish for you happiness and success in the upcoming year.
    Perhaps in ’21 you might be teaching at Weekend with WOOD?
    I’d love to meet you there and buy you an adult beverage.
    Or an age universal one if you wish ;-)

  23. Jay, like most above I have been following you from the start “as close as I can recall” great development across the board. Great to see the “normal” person can put out great content in this crazy Youtube “race”. Keep up the family ties and all-round support. We that watch are always happy.

  24. Jay, A happy and prosperous new year for you and your family. I have enjoyed watching and learning from you keep up the great content.

  25. I remember being 30 something. I’m double that now and I enjoy your content, views on what is important in your business and how you love your family. Thanks for being true to yourself and your viewers. I watch on YouTube and on your website.

  26. Happy New Year Jay, I wish you and your family the best of luck in the next year. I follow your Chanel, so keep up the good work. Congrats on the new house!

  27. Hi Jay,
    You certainly inspire me. I live in rural Thailand and have built a small woodworking shop. Everyone asks me how I learned to make stuff and my reply is “From my master…. Jay Bates”.
    Happy new year to you and your family. Thanks for everything and I hope to keep learning from you for years to come.

  28. Jay, I found you when you had the apartment house shop and followed you ever since. On YouTube, in the beginning, I was The Voice of Reason there. You, my friend, were one of the people who pulled me back from the abyss. Check out my very first YouTube videos and you will see you are there in creations of mine. Even though we have never met and shaken hands I was Happy to see your life being fullfilled .
    I enjoy and learn from your work and will be there for you if called upon.
    Your family has grown with the addition of that little sweetheart in your life and you are a great Dad.
    Remember anyone can be a Father but to be a Dad is better.
    I now have a YouTube channel and Instagram page in part by your doings as I said you will see part of you there.
    Gregg Vandenberg
    Protect Your Digits Creations

  29. I have no idea how Youtube works as an ad revenue source. I may start watching your videos several times just in case you get paid for each “watch”. Of course I won’t actually “watch” after the first time. Happy New Year.

  30. To you, your wife, and that beautiful daughter, Happy New Year.
    I agree fully with your thoughts about school, more now than when I went to school (50 plus years ago). I’ve always been working with wood as a hobby for as long as I can remember but until I retired in 2016, I didn’t have a “wood shop”. I have now a very small and cramped shop and acquired a new table saw and a new band saw, was given an older planer and a small drill press. This year my hope is to get a jointer. You are the primary video source that I watch now and learn from. Keep up the good work.

  31. Always appreciate you positive attitude and messages.
    Best of luck as you go into next year balancing all you do.

  32. Jay to you, Jamie and Tyler Kay, wishing you all a wonderful, happy and safe 2020.
    (One day you’ll have to show the little lady where Victoria, Australia is on a map ????????????????)

  33. You are the first “maker” I started following and I always find your content very informative and you continue to be my favorite.

    Hope you and your family have a great 2020.

  34. Happy New Year Jay.
    I’ve started on your chairs. Using different types of wood so family members have a bit of a unique chair. It also moves out wood Ive had for ages!
    Reading is a good way to quiet the soul. Regretfully staying plugged in does little to fill that need.
    Thank you and best wishes for 2020.

  35. I am now listening to Penn Jillette reading Presto! . His reading of it is informative and funny. I strongly recommend it. I’ll be reading the book after listening so I’ll better understand the program.
    Thanks for all you do and much happiness to your family.

  36. Happy New Year Jay. Your YT channel got me into woodworking and I always look forward to your videos. After reading this blog post, I will be coming to your website more often and disabled uBlock for it. Keep up the great work and looking forward to 2020 content!

  37. You mentioned that you are now reading more books. With all the things you have going on; young daughter, Youtube channel, Facebook, creating content for all of them and a personal life you may want to read “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker.
    Enjoy your channel and have learned a lot. Trying to get back into woodworking now that I am retired and have more time.

  38. Great read, best of luck in 2020. Does clicking ad content on the website generate you income, or only if a purchase is made via that link?

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