Archive for November, 2010
Karina, Godard, Picasso, Davis, Bardot, Brando, Bacall, Hendrix, Harry, Hopper and many, many more.
The concept of passive income really trips people up. I always ask artists whether they have a passive income stream, but I’m continually surprised when they call it laziness, or a form of cheating on their “real” work. Not true. Here’s my definition:
Passive income is anything that can (theoretically) earn money while you sleep. Once you’ve created and/or arranged this revenue source, it continues to pay dividends – without your direct time, attention or effort.
Now for a new example.
Kendi Skeen writes a charmingly candid fashion blog called Kendi Everyday. After moving with her husband to a small Texas town, she started the site as a creative outlet, explaining, “Many people use words to journal, I just use my clothes.”
Recently, Kendi launched the 30 for 30 challenge, where she and her readers vow to wear and remix just 30 items of clothing (including shoes) for 30 days. It’s a way to flex your fashion muscles and appreciate what you’ve already got — much like the six items or less movement, without all the laundry.
Smart cookie that she is, Kendi also created a 30 for 30 Remix Workbook. The $4 downloadable e-book helps readers to navigate their closets with style. It’s a perfect example of passive revenue – and it’s a natural extension of her online conent.
I wanted to know more, and Kendi was kind enough to answer my questions.
1. Why did you decide to write the 30 for 30 Remix Workbook?
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a close friend who asked me what I wanted to do in my life. In jest, I answered, “I want to write a book.” In jest, mind you. With that, she told me to do it, to start small with an e-book, just to see if I could do it. So when we started talking about it I figured that I should start with my upcoming 30 for 30 remix challenge. Since the remix was my brainchild, the possibility of everyone understanding the idea behind it and the process is slim. And who better to write a guide than someone who came up with the idea? So after much pushing from my husband and friend, I penned the 15-page guide.
2. How long did it take you to create it?
The guide took me about a month to create, design, and write. A very long month. I had never done this before and really I hadn’t seen many of these guides on other blogs, so it was kind of a trial-and-error process. I now know many things that I would do better and differently. So I hope to write a few more to post on my blog.
3. How has the response been so far?
It’s been good! Like I said, I’d never done this before so if I sold five, that would have been successful in my mind! There was no real benchmark for the guide; I just wanted to create something to help someone with the ins and outs of their closet.
Passive revenue was not the ultimate goal, but it has been a great perk. I certainly could not work on something for a solid month and send it out in the world for free. I consider myself an artist after all, maybe not with a canvas and paint, but with words and design. And no artist should give their art out for free. I hope people have received the guide and felt the hard work that I put in and that it has helped them in their day-to-day closet matters. If it has helped even one person, then I think it was worth the work.
photos courtesy Molly Watson
I live on the West Coast and love seafood, so you’d think I’d be intimately familiar with mussels. Right? Wrong. For years, those delicious little devils scared the shells out of me. I feared the de-bearding and most of all, serving my guests an unexpected side of toxic encephalopathy (look it up – actually, on second thought, please don’t).
That all changed when I discovered Molly Watson and her lovely blog, The Dinner Files. Molly makes simple, seasonal foods that are easy to replicate. Even the most basic recipes, like a cherry smoothie or chickpea salad, get a unique twist in Molly’s deft hands. She’s also got a subversive sense of humor that gives her writing a delightfully cranky edge.
After earning a PhD in Modern European History, the reality of teaching French history failed to live up to her ideal vision, so Molly channeled her love of all things culinary into a career in food writing. She landed her first gig with Epicurious – in the early days when friends repeatedly asked “epi-what?” – and interned for Citysearch San Francisco. When the economy turned sluggish and 9/11 blindsided the nation, Molly decided to don her apron full time. She completed a professional cooking program and joined Sunset magazine as the staff food writer from 2005 to 2008.
Today, Molly is an independent writer. Her words have been published in The New York Times, Edible San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle, and she contributed an essay, “Scrambled Eggs” to the best-selling anthology, The Bigger the Better the Tighter the Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image, and Other Hazards of Being Female. She also writes a guide to local foods for About.com, works as a recipe developer and teaches food writing through Mediabistro.
Oh, and the mussels? Thanks to Molly, they’re now a (perfectly safe) staple dish in my kitchen.
1. What fuels your work?
Some of my work is fuelled by the fact that I like to get a check on a regular basis. But, I try to make sure that everything I do is informed either by my interest in food or my drive to write. That’s how I make sure that I don’t get too far afield.
Overall, what really fuels my work is craft. I love the craft of writing, I love the craft of cooking, I love the craft of quilting – which is one of my hobbies – and I used to be a historian, and I love the craft of history. That’s the connective thread between all of my work.
2. How do you organize the business side of your career so it doesn’t intrude on your creativity or productivity?
I try to sequester it. I try to set aside a time each week where I deal with those tasks. Now, I don’t always follow through with that plan. I’ve been quite busy this year, so I usually deal with the administrative stuff at night when I’m not as fresh. I also tend it to do it when I have a movie or a podcast on, because I find it’s so boring that being slightly distracted is helpful. I try to turn it into a reward.
3. Is there another artist or creative pro whose business model you admire?
I can’t think of anyone specifically, but there is a type of person. I admire people who manage to turn their creative endeavors into their day jobs. So much of that is luck, but I really admire the people who keep their creative work in the forefront, even when they’re doing other kinds of work. To me, that’s really the goal: to make sure that my creative work comes first.
4. How many revenue streams do you have?
Four: writing for publications, editing, teaching food writing and recipe development. But, my short answer is: too many. I’m doing too many different things right now and I’m stretched a little thin.
5. What is your bread-and-butter income source?
6. Do you have a passive income stream?
It’s something that’s definitely on the horizon for me. I have a lot of ideas and I just need the time to follow through on them.
7. What tools or money-making opportunities do you think creative pros fail to leverage?
I think some people are ashamed to admit how they make money, or they think they’re supposed to earn it purely through their creative work, or they think all the creative people they know or have heard of make their money that way, and it’s just so rarely the case.
It’s important to get a sense how other people make it work – just to get ideas and to feel better about how difficult it is, because it’s really hard. It’s really, really hard to make a living in a creative field, and everyone comes to their own conclusions about how to do it.
8. What has brought the most opportunities and attention to your work?
Going to professional conferences. I find that meeting people in person makes a big difference in terms of the opportunities that will come to you.
Writers, in particular, tend to be such reclusive creatures. Part of what we like about writing is being by ourselves. And I would say that’s one of the fine lines of difference between journalists and writers. Journalists tend to enjoy being out in the world. I think writers really don’t. I know I don’t, not really. I’m a perfectly socialized individual, but I thrive when I have a lot of time to myself.
I think a mistake writers often make is thinking they can do everything over the computer or over the phone. Sometimes it’s good to get out and meet people. Certainly all the opportunities I’ve had in my career have come from people that I’ve actually met in person.
9. What is the best investment you’ve made in your career?
Spending the money to attend food writing conferences.
Is there anything that didn’t live up to your expectations?
Sometimes I question my time in culinary school. On one hand, I feel like I didn’t get that much out of it, because of how culinary school is set up and what I wanted to learn. But, I had a big break when I got a staff job at Sunset magazine. I don’t think I would have gotten that job if I hadn’t gone to cooking school. Even though I had already developed recipes for the magazine as a freelancer, I think having that stamp on my resume made a big difference.
10. Where do you stand on the “selling out?” debate?
To me, it’s about staying true to what you want to do. As long as you feel good about what you’re doing, you’re not really selling out and other people can throw all the rocks they want from their glass houses. I don’t judge people on that kind of thing. I figure everyone has different goals. I don’t know what someone’s goals are – they’re going to be totally different from mine. And even mine change over time.
At the beginning of this year, I made a professional New Years resolution that any work I would take needed to be fulfilling or lucrative. It had to be at least one of those two things. It has made a real difference in the kind of work that I do. I found myself taking work that at one point I might have considered “selling out,” but taking that work has freed up time I used to spend chasing marginally paying magazine articles and allows me to work on more creative projects.
Is there anything else you’ve learned and would like to share?
My biggest lesson is that no one is going to invite you to the party. You have to just show up. You can’t sit around your house waiting for someone to call you up and ask if you’d like to write this book or get this job. Maybe that will happen eventually, and it does happen to some people, but for the most part, you have to go out into the world and show up and do it.
Today, people worry that there are so many food bloggers and all these people who want to do food writing, and I say, “yeah, and most of them aren’t very good and most of them aren’t going to follow through.” I don’t mean that in a nasty way or that most people aren’t any good. I mean there are a lot of people who say they want to be writers or painters or artists, but they don’t do it. They don’t show up. It’s important to realize that it’s unusual to show up and actually do the work. Persistence really is at least half the battle.