My Story

When I was a teenager, I used to argue with my mom about hav­ing a fall-back plan. “Mak­ing a plan for when you fail,” I would say, “is plan­ning to fail. To be suc­cess­ful, you can’t allow fail­ure to be a pos­si­bil­ity.” I kept that men­tal­ity for a long time.

For nearly the past decade, I’ve scraped by on as lit­tle work as pos­si­ble, rely­ing on a min­i­mal­ist lifestyle, to focus as much as I could on art and writ­ing. Twice I had to sell all of my books for food to eat. I sold my new Xbox 360 to pay the rent. I’ve been a recluse, stayed home and worked as much as possible.

After I accom­plished some big goals (pub­lish­ing a book and sell­ing out an exhi­bi­tion), I real­ized I needed to re-prioritize my life choices. While they were sat­is­fy­ing, and I learned a lot in the process, I worked way too hard and the pay­out wasn’t huge.

I shouldn’t have to sac­ri­fice excit­ing, ful­fill­ing life expe­ri­ences for my artis­tic pur­suits. Instead, with proper atten­tion, plan­ning, pro­mo­tion and net­work­ing, I should be able to make a com­fort­able liv­ing with what­ever it is I really want to be doing – to find an occu­pa­tion that “com­pletes me” and is a nat­ural exten­sion of my dream lifestyle.

And as I develop mine, I’m also going to help and encour­age you to find your own: I hope that together we can become com­pletely free and finan­cially inde­pen­dent to do what we love.

Self-employed is not cre­atively independent

I’m already pretty spoiled: since set­ting up my edit­ing com­pany, and more recently offer­ing book design and mar­ket­ing ser­vices, I’ve had more than enough work. I can even shut down my web­sites when­ever I need to focus on my own projects. I wake up late every morn­ing and go to bed around 4am.

But pre­vi­ously I was focus­ing too much of my time and energy on pet projects that weren’t going to make any money. So I only worked just enough to pay the bills.

My new strat­egy is to focus on pro­vid­ing value to oth­ers, cre­ate a sus­tain­able stream of income that is more than I need so that I can fun­nel it into new ven­tures; I’ve also come to real­ize that mak­ing money is not anti­thet­i­cal to cre­ative pro­duc­tion — instead mon­e­tary reward is often the obvi­ous out­come of mak­ing some­thing that lots of peo­ple like or need.

Being self-employed is great, and it gives me the free­dom to change coun­tries when­ever I want to. But ide­ally, I want my own work to be appre­ci­ated, shared, val­ued and bought. I want to be retired, earn­ing a pas­sive income, so that I can spend all my time writ­ing and paint­ing, giv­ing back to the world, and shar­ing my time, knowl­edge and resources with­out hav­ing to worry about a paycheck.

What’s the problem?

Unfor­tu­nately the indie lifestyle, when you’re just pro­mot­ing your­self all the time to sell you own things, is an extremely self-centered lifestyle. It is also exactly oppo­site to the basic advice of suc­cess­ful blog­gers and entrepreneurs:

“Find out what peo­ple want or need, and give it to them.”

(Authors and artists mainly try to tap into some per­sonal, autonomous expres­sion of cre­ativ­ity to fuel their works, then they try to sell it).

For all the advice going around about how easy it is to be a writer or artist, nobody is dis­cussing this one enor­mous limitation.

Are you try­ing to cre­ate “Art for Art’s Sake”, with­out think­ing about a pos­si­ble mar­ket? Or are you focus­ing on build­ing a prof­itable product?

Find­ing a bal­ance between these two extremes, so that you can do what you love and still make a profit, is the pur­pose of this blog.

Some pic­tures of my life…

Where I am now

In my younger years, I lived in Argentina, Malta, Italy and Spain. I stud­ied fine art in Italy, worked with Amnesty Inter­na­tional in East­ern Europe, and finally moved to Tai­wan to focus on my art and writing.

Dur­ing the past 10 years, apart from spo­radic Eng­lish teach­ing work, I’ve sup­ported myself by start­ing small busi­nesses or sell­ing ser­vices online. I’ve also been a relent­lessly self-promoting artist and author, grad­u­ate stu­dent, writ­ing coach, graphic designer and small busi­ness enthu­si­ast. Right now I’m fin­ish­ing my PhD in Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture in Tai­wan, devel­op­ing plat­forms and ser­vices to help indie authors and artists be more successful.

I now and have some small but encour­ag­ing suc­cesses under me:

1. I’ve had my paint­ings exhib­ited in some major inter­na­tional art shows and been inter­viewed by journalists.

2. My first (non-fiction his­tor­i­cal research) book got excel­lent reviews, wide expo­sure, and I sold the rights to a major publisher.

3. I sup­port myself through online free­lance ser­vices, which gives me a lot of free­dom.

(So far in 2013 we’ve lived in Mex­ico, Poland, Greece, Turkey, Italy and China!)

I feel I’ve got a pretty good han­dle on things like how to write, pub­lish and pro­mote a book, how to build a loyal plat­form and how to exhibit and sell your artwork.

And I’ve also learned how to set up a prof­itable free­lance home busi­ness so that I can focus more of my time and energy on writ­ing and painting.

As some­one with a great deal of expe­ri­ence in inde­pen­dent, inter­na­tional liv­ing, I thought I should share what I’ve learned. Espe­cially, as a self-representing indie author and artist, as well as book designer and pro­fes­sional proof­reader, I can offer spe­cific, prac­ti­cal advice on how to write, edit, for­mat, design, pub­lish and pro­mote a book, as well as tips on draw­ing, paint­ing, get­ting your art in gal­leries and find­ing peo­ple to buy it.

My main con­cern on this blog, is help­ing over­come the chal­lenges fac­ing indie authors, artists and entre­pre­neurs with cre­ative solu­tions that aren’t obvi­ous and in most cases have never really been con­sid­ered. I don’t recy­cle con­tent, and I rarely post sto­ries from other blog­gers, so the lessons you learn here will be home-grown dis­cov­er­ies that I’ve struck upon after per­son­ally fac­ing a wall in my indie busi­nesses and search­ing for an effec­tive answer.

If you get stuck on some­thing spe­cific, please let me know by email so I can help.

I’m devel­op­ing a few books and some amaz­ing resources, early access will be lim­ited, so you may want to sign up.


Where I’ve Been

I love to travel and have lived abroad for over 10 years; part of the lure of being cre­atively and finan­cially inde­pen­dent (or self-employed) is that you can truly live any­where. Although I’m not cur­rently liv­ing out of my back­pack, I con­tinue to explore new ter­ri­to­ries. Here’s a map of some of the places I’ve already been.

whereivbeen My Story

Where I’m Headed

I feel like I’ve spent years prac­tic­ing. I’m pretty good at writ­ing and paint­ing now and have some small but mod­er­ate suc­cesses under me. I know my best work is still ahead of me, and I have some HUGE plans. In 2014 I’m going to boost my pas­sive income to $1000+/month, mainly by pub­lish­ing at least 5 books. I’m also going to fin­ish my PHD, triple my blog traf­fic, develop some amaz­ing pub­lish­ing and mar­ket­ing tools, and make a lot of new friends by attend­ing inter­na­tional con­fer­ences and meetups.

In order to achieve these goals, I need to get bet­ter at every­thing I’m doing, learn how to build up my brand and rep­u­ta­tion (or “plat­form”) as a writer and painter, pro­duce more (and more quickly), get bet­ter results with less work, nav­i­gate and net­work the pub­lish­ing and fine art indus­tries, and con­stantly improve my skills so I can put out excel­lent qual­ity work. As I go along, I’ll update this site with tips, tricks, and details of what works and what doesn’t, new oppor­tu­ni­ties for pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing, and any­thing else that may be use­ful to other indie authors, artists or cre­ative inde­pen­dents. Stay in the loop with free updates and get free access to some amaz­ing material!


About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
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