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.
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.
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!