Year two of my experiment in creating sustainable income as an independent creator.
I'm currently so optimistic and confident about how much better it's going to look next year that I have no shame about how bad it might look this year. Also continually surprised at my unwavering commitment to something that appears to bear only a small material result. One might question when it makes sense to stop versus persist, but it's so obvious to me that the things which excite me and absorb my curiosity should be where I spend my time, that I usually make compromises that a rational person wouldn't make… I still believe my vision is possible and realistic, but it will take time based on the parameters I've chosen.
The most significant effort I made this year was in producing Strolling, and it was quite a trip.
My original concept involved an intense two-week editing ceremony per episode, resulting in a short version, long version, intro, outro, music produced for each episode, subtitles, guest playlist, and publishing to every platform. I was rather proud of the result and intended to continue for a while, as it was creatively fulfilling, but participating in the moos.garden residency changed things as I needed to record many guests in a short period, so I switched to publishing snippets with as little editing as possible. I'm also quite happy with this change and got lots of positive feedback (people like the tiny bites and enjoy them like little pieces of candy every now and then).
I learned to avoid a strict interview structure when possible, have more back and forth, film video from the waist up, and maybe care a little more about video quality than I'd like. Membership-wise I think I made a gross miscalibration in optimizing for 'people on the Internet' as a potential and somewhat generic audience: I learned that some common patterns for transacting (which I was trying to model) may not apply here, as the majority of members are people who know me somehow and want to support what I'm doing, not really in exchange for any 'exclusive content'—it's possible that I need to eventually optimize what I offer for a different kind of value exchange, where what supporters receive is not necessarily a material thing.
Freelancing a bit
I had a brief stint with getting paid as a freelancer again, curious to see how far I could pursue that: although it's validating to get paid for what comes naturally to me, I ultimately returned to what we want and felt unwilling to trade my time for money as there is no urgency for me to do so. It was also clear that I'm less fitting in organizations needing a specialist, and more cohesive when I can approach things holistically and fill various gaps based on that perspective (which comes from years of trying to 'make the whole widget'); this can result in me offering things that were never asked for, and that nobody else knew was needed. Also interesting to note that I might be hired based on the relationship, that people like having me around, or that I enjoy the company of people I work with. I plan to continued some freelancing as long as it doesn't get in the way of my projects, but I could also not, and I'm even willing to get into debt for some time if it gives me a clearer focus on what I'm passionate about.
A big shift last year was leaving the iOS App Store after going fully web, which freed up lots of mental and computer space to focus on other projects—I feel lighter, less stressed, and more excited to do my projects now that I've simplified my life in this way. Another shift was detaching from online life, which resulted in closing the Café, merging Ephemerata into my mailing list, and not doing online events; I think these projects were trying to accomplish a larger goal (of bringing people together), which I plan to continue working on via my podcast and other ways. That in mind, here is what the delta looks like:
|public garden pages||~40||155||168|
I called this 'bad' in the beginning because even though the numbers are basically higher, it doesn't represent a noticeable growth in sustainable income—still feels like the amount coming in per year would be better per month. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to continuing, and again, I'm super optimistic about my plans for the following year.
Do follower and visitor counts matter? I was asking myself as I fetched the numbers this year. I'm significantly more detached about them than before, as I feel focused on my process and can stay underwater there for a while, but part of me wants to publish them to give a sense of how traffic and vanity correlates to financial sustainability. Unsure if the message is clear, but I'm reflecting on this.
This was a year of dense learning despite being far less active in the majority of my projects. Next year, I hope to spend time maintaining and improving prior work, as well as launching new ideas; I'm specifically excited about a recent surge of thoughts around how to bring everything I do under a single hub.
Thanks to Ahsen, Andy, Boris, Brian, Charles, David, Deta, Feathers, Filippo, Heddi, Hibai, Holger, Mark Segger, Michael, Mustafa, my dad, Myke, Noel, Omar, Orazio, Paul, Stephen, and Vision for your financial contributions to my work in 2022.
I'm trying to integrate more of my musical side online as time goes on, and so will leave you with my top three musical moments from this year:
1—with myself, creating the Strolling theme music…
2—with Kaixi Yang, jamming after our podcast recording…
3—with my capoeira group, singing some of my favourite songs on earth (written by Paulo César Pinheiro)…