2018 in Review

This was the year of peanuts, sustainable loops, and growing pains. It was the year I got a therapist on my own (using my own healthcare benefits). It was the year I approached daily routines with reverence and geekery. It was the year I gave up cooking. And it was the year that I solidified some of the greatest friendships I’ve ever had. Probably the best way to illustrate all of the changes that happened is to tell you three stories. 

Near the beginning of the year, my friends took me out to see a punk rock show. I was anxious about it, since I usually get incredibly sad at these events for unknown reasons. But I joined them anyway, hoping that this time would be different. It wasn’t. I sat in the back of the venue, watching from a distance, and my friends occasionally looked over their shoulders from the front row to see if I was still there. I texted them to tell them that I was too sad to enjoy myself, so I went outside to smoke my way through a pack of cigarettes. 

I had a list of things I was supposed to do when I felt like hurting myself. So I called a friend and ate pizza alone across the street. “Contact loved ones”, “Be in a public place”. When the show was over, my friends dropped me off at home. They went out to continue dancing and I slept. This night was important to me because it was one of the first times I consciously made steps to be better than I had been. I remember it because I was hurting so much, but had managed to change my behavior in order to take care of myself. 

The second story is about work.  Along with my 9-5 day job, I would side-hustle all the time. I conducted interviews with my entrepreneurial friends and posted them on my blog. I started a Patreon to give out business advice. I did a little bit of personal assistant work for whoever needed it. I tried to monetize everything that I enjoyed, hoping that I could make a career out of my pastimes. And as a result, I exhausted myself. 

I legitimately forgot how to relax and have fun. Fatigue and depression hit me hard as I realized that I was working myself to the bone and not really getting anything out of it. I met some incredible people and had phenomenal conversations. I built my community to be the best that it could be. But I lost weight that I couldn’t afford to lose, I spent too much money since I was never home, and I never really had time to do the thing I liked most: read for reading’s  sake. 

An idea continued to pop up in my twitter, retweeted by people I respected: do less. I realized that I had been suckered into a weird, unfulfilling loop of trying to cheat my way into a good career by overworking myself. I kept on hearing “the only way to have more free time is to do less” and it stuck with me because I knew it was true. Only recently had I come to terms with the fact that I would need to stop trying to do everything. I toned down my blogging, I let certain projects go, and surprisingly there were no angry mobs pounding on my door, asking for my time. I was able to fade away. 

The last story is about friendship. To be honest, it is a culmination of one hundred stories that happened this year, a montage of my friends being kind to me even when I felt I did not deserve it. But in the interest of brevity, I will try and pick just one. 

In therapy, I often get anxious and sad to the point of nausea. When I am at my worst, my therapist hands me a wastepaper basket and I gag, sob, and spit, wishing I could somehow vomit up whatever is making me feel horrible. One day, after therapy, I returned home feeling a bit like a ghost. My housemates were hanging out in a bedroom, and I entered, puffy-eyed and distraught. Not knowing what to do, and for the most part at the mercy of my emotions, I broke down and told them what I was dealing with, why my heart was hurting, and how I felt. Unsure of what to do, E passed me a wastepaper basket for me to dry heave into as I cried. I took deep breaths and eventually composed myself, and when I looked up and my friends were still there. 

I don’t know where I got this fear, the fear that if I cried in front of my friends they would disappear. Seeing that they were still around, and still my friends, did something profound in my heart. It is hard to describe, but I think that I mostly felt recognized, appreciated, and understood. J shifted in his seat. “Connor, I am super glad you opened up to us just now. But I also have to let you know… my edible just hit and this is fucking crazy.” 

We laughed about this for a really long time. Over and over again I had these experiences, where I would hit my lowest points and my friends, instead of ridiculing me, were kind. 

I ended 2018 much better than when I started. I am still not good at saving money. I am not a better cook. But I am more equipped to handle my depression, and I feel lucky to have such close friends that care about me as much as they do. 

I am so tired. I am twenty-five and my mentors tell me that I still have a whole life ahead of me, which sounds daunting. If 2018 was about repair, I want 2019 to be about rest, anonymity, and solace. Knowing myself, I am not sure if I will ever be able to curb my ambition, my curiosity, and my tendency to bite off more than I can chew. If I cannot change these hard-earned character traits, perhaps I can find quieter ways to apply them. In the same way D’Angelo took a fourteen-year hiatus between albums, I find myself also wanting a dormant period of that same amount of time. 

Right now I am in my bedroom, sitting in my reading chair. The weather is classic Seattle: cloudy and rainy. I spent the morning tidying up my room, cleaning my bedsheets, and slowly drinking my coffee until it went cold. More of this please, I think to myself. I want more of this in 2019. 


You can check out a Google Photo Album of my 2018 highlights here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/sG1sL8fboycccxFt5

Jordan Clark (YouTube Artist)

[Welcome to Beyond The Workweek, an ongoing blog series in which I interview young people doing creative work outside of traditional 9-5. Jordan Clark is an artist that makes her wage through YouTube. She draws out calendars and journal entries, vlogs, and runs an online shop where she sells her art. I managed to borrow some of her time for an interview to ask her what its like to be a professional internet creative.]

CM: Hello hello! How has your Sunday been?

JC: It’s been a bit slow, but I’m enjoying it! Just catching up on things I’ve neglected over the week (like emails as you may have noticed, haha).

CM: Haha e-mails are stressful indeed. I know the struggle. What kind of stuff do you typically find yourself busy with?

JC: It depends on the day, but the main things I work on during the week are my Youtube channel and Etsy shop. And then I also try to keep up with my Instagram and Patreon accounts as well! I feel like I have a million projects going at once so each day changes from the next!

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Jordan at work.

CM: Nice! How would you describe exactly what you do?

JC: I have such a hard time telling people what I do when they ask. I usually just say that I create Youtube videos and run an online shop, since those are my biggest priorities at the moment!

CM: How did this all start?

JC: If you want to go way back, I first started making content on the internet with a blog that I created back in high school. I made a few Youtube videos here and there but didn’t take it that seriously until last year. I had just finished college and was unemployed, living with my parents, with no idea what I wanted to do. I obviously had a ton of free time so I just started making Youtube videos every week, and also decided to open an Etsy shop to sell my art! It was a slow start, but after a few months it took off and I suddenly realized it had turned into my job – I was able to support myself just making videos and selling art on Etsy!

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A screenshot of Jordan’s website.

CM: That’s honestly incredible! What do your fans seem to like the most about the stuff you make?

JC: Thanks! It’s still crazy to me that it has all worked out this way! Most of my Youtube videos are art tutorials, and I feel like people have responded really well to them because I try to promote the idea that anyone can be creative. I’m trying to make art more accessible, and inspire people to try things even if they don’t think they have artistic ability. Another theme throughout my videos is the idea that spending more time creating and less time consuming will make you just generally a happier person. So I think people appreciate when my videos inspire them to go do something, instead of staying on Youtube!

CM: Hahah nice! It’s nice that people can use your stuff as kind of a creative springboard. What’s it like having this as, well, your job? Is this your primary source of income?

JC: Yes, I would say Youtube is my primary source of income! But my Etsy shop has been growing a lot lately, so that helps pay the bills too! I absolutely love that I’m able to do this as a job. Throughout school I never knew what I wanted to after graduation and always hated the idea of getting a “real” job – so being where I’m at now constantly amazes me that I somehow created this job for myself!

CM: Yeah that’s amazing! A lot of what I write about is focused on how people like you have managed to get away from having a “real job”. What do you think is the best way for someone to start doing the kind of thing that you do?

JC: Yes, I’ve loved reading your other interviews with people talking about their creative pursuits, it’s so inspiring! My best advice for someone who dreams of working for themselves (whether that’s Youtube, Etsy, or anything else), is first to create whatever it is you want to see in the world that you aren’t seeing right now. And then to just start where you, with whatever you can do in this moment. Even the smallest step towards your goals puts the energy out into the universe that you are ready and willing to work towards your dreams. Things tend to work out when you set the intention that they will, so then you just have to let everything unfold as it is supposed to!

CM: That’s good advice! Last question (and thanks again for spending an hour with me to get through these). What would you say is your biggest challenge in running this business?

JC: My biggest challenge is definitely figuring out how to balance work and rest. I feel like a lot of people who work for themselves feel this way – that it’s hard to schedule downtime for yourself. I always feel like there’s something else I could be doing, so I’m slowly working towards finding that balance!

CM: Ah yeah, Cheyenne struggles with that as well. The internet is a hungry beast AND it’s hard being your own boss.

JC: Exactly!


You can find more of Jordan’s work through her Instagram @jordan.e.clark or her website http://www.stellaireblog.com/.

MarninSaylor & Their Pastry Pets

Skye Saylor and Thomas Marnin make Pastry Pets, handmade toys borne from an imaginary world and sold at Seattle’s world-famous Pike Place Market. Their dream: A brick and mortar storefront of their own, chock full of a diverse assortment Pastry Pet products.

“Some people just don’t get it,” says Saylor. At face value, the toys are quiet odd without context. They are small plushies in the shapes of pastries. But they’re cats. It all started when Saylor posted a photo of her first Donut Cat creation on Facebook. Comments of “I want one!!” flooded in. Eventually, she teamed up with Marnin to build a booth and try their hands at selling some of their toys at a craft fair in Seattle in September of 2013. Almost a year later, the duo went full time as “MarninSaylor”.

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“The magic of toys is built from the experience attached to it,” says Marnin. “Like, think about how kids won’t hesitate to buy a ‘Frozen’ doll or coloring book. The difference with our toys is that we have to build that experience from scratch.” This experience is their booth at Pike Place Market. Dressed vintage soda-fountain attire, the team stays in character for full retail theater implemented within eight square feet.

I can’t help but ask “Why Pastry Pets?” and Saylor’s response: why not? “We’re selling a piece of a world that we want you to be a part of.” This world, as it turns out, runs deep. Marnin & Saylor gave me a tour of their manufacturing studio in SoDo, and I saw firsthand that they make a LOT of stuff. From tote bags to keychains to limited edition Pizza Cat plushies, their product selection paired with their idea lists and prototypes make for a dizzying collection of toys.

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Though the world is whimsical, painfully cute, and magical, the realities of making and selling Donut Cats can often be brutal. “I think the biggest mistake that creators can make is thinking that success comes easy,” says Marnin. “Every day is a huge challenge, and we have to work very hard to make sure the business doesn’t fail.” Working hard means taking two days off a month and spending the rest of the time manufacturing in their studio in order to make sure they’re stocked for Pike Place Market. In such a fast-paced and bustling environment, many new retailers in the Market can’t keep up with the heavy foot traffic of this Seattle landmark.

But, Marnin & Saylor have high hopes for the future of their business. “We probably have 300 core fans, plus a rotating fanbase of about 1,000,” says Saylor. The customer  feedback on their products is overwhelmingly positive, and there is clearly demand for the company’s story and brand. The team has been eyeing locations for their brick and mortar store, but it is becoming a game of timing and numbers. “Something is going to have to change in the business in the next year,” says Marnin. Exactly what kind of change is still unclear. But until then, MarninSaylor is bringing a surplus of enthusiasm, creativity, and cuteness to the Market.

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Left to right, Thomas Marnin & Skye Saylor.


You can find more Pastry Pets at http://www.marninsaylor.com/

Brittany Allyson (Musician/Filmmaker)

Brittany recently left a gig because it stopped making sense for her. “This is my problem,” she tells me over coffee, “I get involved with projects like these because I just want to help.” After spending a year and a half as a creative consultant for a mentor of hers, she realized she was not getting paid enough for the amount of work she was putting in. As a musician and filmmaker, this was less than ideal. How would she find time to pursue her art when she couldn’t get properly compensated for her time at her day job?

“For [Person Y] I was an event coordinator and production assistant. On the creative side, I wrote scripts, filmed YouTube content, edited YouTube content, and managed our branding,” she says. “But it was clear that I wasn’t going to get paid enough to do this.”

While Brittany was being paid $13/hr for her work of across various fields, she watched Person Y pay others more money for lesser work. This was the tipping point when she realized that something needed to change.

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“Ideally, I’d like to work 3-4 days a week so that I can make enough money to do creative stuff.” This is the common goal I hear among many of my creative peers: what can I do to minimize the time I spend at a day job in order to maximize the time I can spend on my art? While Brittany is looking at barista positions, she hopes to maybe do something that uses the skills she used with Person Y.

“How do I, a person without any marketing background, market myself?” she asks me. Like myself, Brittany finds herself interested in and capable of pretty much anything. It is difficult as a dynamic individual to tell a potential employer this. When faced with the question “What do you do?”, the most honest answer feels like “What don’t I do?” This ambiguity doesn’t gel well with the specialization that many formal jobs demand, so Brittany continues to navigate the informal job market.

I first saw Brittany perform a live set at Tim’s Tavern in Seattle, Washington. She sang through her newest album HERe* as dancers performed in front of her in a shared spotlight. One of the themes of the event was taking up space, and the whole show did just that. With all of the personality and diversity of talent presented, there were no lulls or gaps in the performance or the space.

Talking with Brittany highlighted a common problem I encountered with my other artistic peers: how do you assess your monetary value? As a creative, it always feels kind of strange charging anyone for using your talents, and I’ve noticed that some of us feel bad about asking for too much money. We know how it feels to not have that much, and so we take it upon ourselves to make sure it never feels like we are stealing from our clients.

However, valuing your time means being in touch with the skills you have to offer. For Brittany, she was doing an incredible amount of talented work that I know is not worth the $13/hr she was getting paid. Together, we concluded that if she wanted to get a better gig doing the same kind of all-encompassing personal assistant work, she needed to plan out her terms. This meant outlining what her clients could expect from her, along with set prices and timelines so that she never ended up doing something she didn’t want to do.

As of today, Brittany is preparing for her day job change and her upcoming shows at music festivals Bumbershoot (9/1/18) and Microfest (9/15/18). It’s a lot of work, but after hearing about all the various tasks she managed while working for Person Y, there seems to be no one more equipped than Brittany to take on a wide assortment of challenges.


You can follow Brittany Allyson on her Instagram @brittanyallysonofficial.

Erin Miller (Entrepreneur/Human Cartoon)

[Welcome to Beyond The Workweek, a series of interviews with young folks looking to break free from traditional 9-5. Erin Miller is an entrepreneur, an advertising specialist, and artist who makes her home all across the states. She also happens to be my younger sister, even though she tells everyone that she’s the older sibling. For the most part she works for herself on video and advertising projects, and so I asked her a little bit about how she works and how others can do the same.]

CM: So, you may have been reading my “Beyond The Workweek” posts. What’s your workweek like?

EM: Thankfully my workweek is self defined. I can work whenever I want, as long as I accomplish my goals that I have established the week before with my boss. I only work 20 hours part time for the university. In all my other time I try and pick up freelancing gigs.

CM: Can you tell me more about this? What is your “main gig”?

EM: My side gig right now is working at Syracuse University as a recruiter for entrepreneurship classes through the information technology school aka the iSchool. I’m an alumni of the program and the administrators kept in touch with me so much that they hired me to get people hyped about technology and business.

So part of the time I get people to sign up for classes in the Information Technology, Design and Startups Minor (aka IDS).

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And the other part is getting students from all over campus to participate in iSchool programming, most specifically Immersion Experiences, where students go through an application process to visit technology hubs around the world. Those places include Chicago, Silicon Valley and San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, New York City, and now Dublin, Ireland.

I’ve seen a lot of success through this side gig so it’s kind of becoming my main gig. Also there’s been a lot of traction so the iSchool’s been asking me to do more and more.

Which is totally fine because I’m backing off a little on the gas pedal from Out There because I want to do bigger budget gigs less frequently with my team there.

CM: Nice. So you are a connector by profession.

EM: Correcto. I am paid to connect cool people with cool experiences. It is an honor.

CM: I am thrilled to hear how you are working a job you can do anywhere, on your own hours. What do you think is the best way for people to get jobs like this?

EM: If people want to work from anywhere, they need to shake things up wherever they go. They need to make a lot of noise. They need people to be like, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of them,” in the industry that you’re in / want to be in.

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Losa, Erin, and Johnny – the Out There Productions (OTPros) team. 

 

Once you establish that you have traction on and offline, then people will be asking for you for your energy to grow whatever they’re building. You always have to be building, making progress, and making noise. Then people will know you’re worth it.

CM: How do you build, make progress, and make noise? You specifically, Erin Miller.

EM: For me specifically, I do experiments. I find something I want to do and I do it. I get a lot of press and support for it. Then I complete and exit the project. Then I do another one. Here are examples of my past 2 projects.

  1. I realized I wanted to bring my production company around the country for a year. So I raised $15k and bought a school bus, renovated it to be a production studio, and brought my team along. I didn’t know how long it would work so I set a time limit that it’d be a year. I went on the trip, got on the news like 3 or 4 times, put together a wild portfolio, and landed back in Syracuse. The bus is broken down and I probably won’t go on the road again, but I followed through and did what I said I’d do, and people respect that.
  2. I produced a short film called “No Nuts”. I want to lift up people with stories and talents with my talent: doing business and raising money. So I raised $20k to make a short film with a crew of 40 professionals who were paid the industry standard rate. The film is almost done and we plan on premiering it this summer. We got a shit ton of local press and got a lot of local businesses to contribute to the success.  

Who knows what my next project will be? I don’t. Maybe something in Austin. But I have credibility. I tell people that I look up to what I’m doing. A lot of them say, “Aw that’s cute,” and don’t really care until it’s done. That’s when they say, “Well, shit. You did it.” That’s when you establish value for yourself. When you finish things.

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The OTPros “Cool Bus”. 

CM: That’s really impressive. You seem to be very good at crowdfunding. What do you think are the biggest challenges with raising money for your projects?

EM: I think the biggest challenge with raising money is momentum. You just keep getting checks and people are throwing you cash through crowdfunding platforms but once you stop asking for money, once your platform ends, once you stop getting money for like a week, the high runs out and you sorta fizzle out.

Raising money requires endurance. You gotta stay focused and constantly stoked about your project because even through you pitched it 20 times, the next person you pitch do will have heard your idea a total of 0 times. So you have to be fresh and new EVERY SINGLE TIME you talk to someone because you don’t know if they’ll give you a dollar or a thousand dollars.

CM: Wow. Sounds like a lot of work but in the end totally worth it.

EM: Fuck yeah. Some bigger businesses say that crowdfunding is a loss because they spend so much time and energy running a campaign, but if you’re smol (sp) and growing a crowdfunding campaign will give you positive PR and show you as a resilient team/company.

CM: Very cool.

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On set with the short film “No Nuts”.

EM: People think I’m like the queen of crowdfunding and they’re like “tell me ur secrets” and my only secret is that I’m stronger and smarter than everyone.

CM: A lot of the people I talk to are creators /makers who are trying to turn their side-hustle into their main hustle. Do you think it is possible for everyone to become self-employed?

EM: I don’t think everyone wants to be self employed and idk if they can because they need structure and a boss n stuff.

CM: That’s fair. I think I’m phrasing this question wrong.

EM: I think it’s possible that people who WANT to be self employed can be self employed if they think like a fucking life-hacker and work smart.

Does that answer the question?

CM: We’re getting close to the answers I’m looking for. Basically I am wondering what is the best foot-in-the-door for becoming self-employed?

EM: Best foot in the door is make your first sale. Entrepreneurial ideas are bullshit unless they make money. People can have the dopest ideas ever but if you can’t close a fucking sale then what’s the point. You can’t pay your loans with ideas. No one gives a shit.

It’s just like I said before. Once you follow through, you are legit. So once you make that first sale, you will gain momentum. That is how you get your foot in the door. After your first sale you’ll get high af and you gotta channel that energy into your next sale, and next and next.

Yee.

CM: Nice. Well you’ve given me a lot to work with and I definitely have a clearer picture of how you work. If I’m gonna take your advice, I should write another book.


You can learn more about Erin and her team at https://www.otpros.co/. She is also on Twitter @ErinTheMiller

Marshall Steeves (Cafe Photographer)

[I first met Marshall Steeves while working as a barista in Portland, Oregon. He came through with a camera to take pictures of the cafe, and we got into talking about entrepreneurship and realized we had a lot in common. It’s been years since then, but I’ve watched Marshall continue to take photos of cafe interiors on his instagram @marshallsteeves which sits at 6.5k followers as of today. We sometimes discuss our respective approaches to coffee bloggery, but I also thought it would be interesting to see how he works and what his focuses are. Welcome to yet another post on my series Beyond The Workweek, which examines the kind of projects my peers spend their time on outside of their day jobs.]

CM: Good morning!

MS: Morning!

CM: How’s it going in PDX?

MS: Not bad!  A lot happening here – lots of changes too, which has been fun to observe.  Right now, the weather is overcast but not too cold – definitely a fan. How about Seattle?

CM: We’ve had lots of sun this week but today it feels more classic Seattle. Overcast and rain, a little bit cold.

MS: Ha – sounds about the same then!

CM: Last time we spoke in person (at JoLa) I think you were 18! What’s been going on since then? I remember you were working at Case Study.

MS: It’s been too long!  21 now. After Case Study, I joined a Mid Century Modern furniture shop called The Good Mod.  I ran their front of house, photography, social media channels, maintained the website, and managed incoming inquires, sales, etc.  Was an amazing experience and learned a lot through the process.

After that, I had a small stint at Tea Bar.  The owner (who I knew well) was looking for help to get the new cafe off the ground and I agreed to help.  I was there about 6 months.

Following that, I wanted to pursue my love for tech further and joined Simple, a fintech startup that offers an online checking account.  Was on our front end operations team for about a year, then in May of 2017, moved onto a more technical role and work to troubleshoot bugs / incidents with our engineers and am still in this position!

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CM: Wow! Very cool. I like your combined interest in cafes and tech. How did this start?

MS: I grew up fascinated with technology and design.  I spend a lot of my childhood making tech reviews for YouTube.  It was my way to combine my love for creating along with my love for tech.  I like to say I “grew up with a camera in my hand.” My cafe fascination started with the interiors.  I was blown away (due to my design interest) how beautiful so many of these shops were. From there, I set out to photograph as many as I could, focusing on the space and environment, rather than photos of the coffee itself.  Naturally, I fell in love with the coffee too.

CM: Nice! Can you tell me about your instagram? It seems to be the hub of where a lot of your interests overlap.

MS: Without a doubt, you have that right.

My Instagram started with that journey to capture all these beautiful spaces.  I wanted to hold myself accountable, so I made it public.

At first, it was simply an avenue to posts the photos I took of these places I fell in love with.  Slowly, as my following started to grow, I began to challenge myself and incorporate my love for writing in the captions.  Very much like my personal blog (of which, I write maybe 1-2 sentences of thoughts I have at the end of the day and have not missed a day in I think 4 years now?) I began to do the same with my Instagram captions.  Writing whatever was on my mind, but hoping to provide an uplifting short paragraph that might inspire someone that day.

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Coava Coffee on SE Grand Ave.

It’s been an incredible journey and it’s very much still a work in progress.  99% if the photos I post are only taken with my iPhone, as a way to push me to challenge myself creatively.  

I never market or advertise my Instagram, primarily due to my belief that natural growth is always the most genuine.

CM: I agree! Is there an end goal or big vision for what you’re doing on your instagram?

MS: I think my biggest hope / goal is simply to evolve it to reach a bigger audience.  I want to show the world just how beautiful the details in life can be. Something as simple as a coffee shop interior, but also work to do so through writing.

At the point that I can find a way to collaborate with others and potentially turn it into an income without having to give into advertising products that don’t fit with my aesthetic, I will feel successful.

CM: Nice! A lot of what I do with my blog is investigate how young people (like us) are using tools like social media to create a self-managed stream of income. If I may ask, how do you imagine yourself making this profitable?

MS: Something I’ve been working on trying to accomplish is growing my reach far enough while still keeping a consistent theme whereas the hope is that businesses will see value in paying me to not only photograph their space, but publish it to my own social media channels and give them an avenue to reach new perspective locals / tourists that might not have discovered their business prior.

CM: Very cool. That makes a lot of sense and seems very achievable.

MS: That’s definitely the hope!

CM: You appear to merge creativity, passion, and career together really well. What would be your advice for fellow young people looking to pursue profitable side-hustles?

MS: Such a great question!  It’s something I still personally struggle with, but here are my biggest recommendations:

  • Stick with what you love and are passionate about.  It’s so much easier to do a great job and place your all in it when it doesn’t feel like something you are simply doing for money.
  • Don’t give into what society may tell you is best.  For example, I see so many fellow influencers promote products / services just for the money when they don’t remotely fit into the aesthetic or feed they have established.  Again, don’t commit to anything just for the money. Make sure it agrees with your values.
  • Patience is key.  It can take months, even years to get to a point where you can realistically make money from your hobby / side hustle.  It’s a tough reality, but don’t give up on it. Especially in the instance that it’s a new idea, don’t give into the thought that it will remain a hobby forever.  Keep pushing at it and, when the right time comes, you’ll find that niche whereas an income will start to roll in.
  • Connect with likeminded others that will inspire you to keep pushing for what you love.  Relationships are key.
  • Finally, I live by a mantra known to many: “Less is more.”  Don’t do too many things or try to combine a plethora of interests into one.  For someone like myself that wants to do a bit of everything, it’s difficult to not want to spend my time doing balancing each small interest of mine.  However this quickly leads to burnout and perfection cannot come unless we are focused. Find that which you truly want to commit to, and commit.

CM: Ah such good advice! I know I fall into the trap of trying to do everything but I think I’m somehow making it work and finding my focus.

Last question! What is your favorite cafe or space? You and I have both been to A LOT of coffee shops so I am very curious which one is your top pick. To this day, I don’t think I’ve been to a coffee shop that I love more than Courier Coffee. What about you?

MS: Oh man, you’ve stumped me with this one.  It’s something I get asked all the time and I change my answer each time, ha.

I like each cafe for different reasons, but truly the one that I always recommend that people visit for a good taste of what Portland coffee is truly about are:

  • Coava on SE Grand.  The space is ridiculously gorgeous, full of custom bamboo, concrete, and the pour overs are to die for.
  • Never Coffee.  This small spaces captured my heart as soon as it opened.  It has a NYC vibe with its size, the baristas are incredibly kind and genuine here, the coffee is some of the best in Portland, and the art / murals in the space add a really special character.
  • Good Coffee on SE 12th.  The space is bright, full of light, intimate, and once again: the baristas are consistently some of the nicest in the city.
  • Heart on SW 12th.  The light roast coffee is to die for – and that white brick wall: my favorite corner in the city.

Sorry it’s more than one – I can’t help myself.

CM: Of course! I know that it would be near impossible to pick just one. I haven’t been to Never Coffee yet but it will be my next stop when I’m in PDX.

MS: It’s a must!  Always on the top of my list.

CM: Thanks so much for making time for this interview, man! This is great stuff and I could talk to you for hours about all of this.

MS: Of course man – thanks so much for reaching out and asking to interview – totally honored!


You can find more of Marshall Steeves’s work on his website at http://www.marshallsteeves.com/.

Betty Putnam (Taxidermist)

Betty has known for a long time that she wanted to work with animals, though it wasn’t always clear that she’d end up working with dead ones. “Ever since I was five years old, I wanted to be a vet,” she tells me over coffee. Originally from Bradford Pennsylvania, Betty was surrounded by people who loved to hunt. “I was sort of the odd one out.”

Her career path was extremely focused and her goals were clear. She worked with animals as much as possible through internships and job shadowing. In Washington, she worked on a goat farm and is a current volunteer in the ornithology department of the Burke Museum. “I had always been around taxidermy but had never thought about the process. Like I always saw them at wildlife exhibits and was always intrigued by it.”

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For Betty, getting on Instagram was a turning point. While she was doing active research in her field, she slowly realized that Instagram held valuable information for her journey. There, she saw other women working in taxidermy, and through further research she was able to see all the prep and the schooling that went into it. “There are ladies in Los Angeles and New York doing this kind of thing,” she tells me, referring to city-based taxidermy. “If they can do it, I can totally do it.”

Next, she placed a deposit a year in advance for a taxidermy school she found in Montana. Betty looked at a number of schools within driving distance of Washington, and this particular one met all her criteria. “It worked for my time frame, they taught what I wanted to learn, and I didn’t have to bring anything with me.”

Today, she is fully educated, licensed, and ready to work. During our interview, she pulls out two books, “Tax Savvy for Small Business” and “The Breakthrough Business Management Manual”. She picks up the latter and laughs. “This one is incredible because it’s specifically for taxidermy.” I flip through the book and sure enough it is. From marketing to budgeting to time frames, the author outlines the ins and outs of this incredibly niche industry.

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“It’s definitely a risk doing this in the city. If it fails, I’ll move it somewhere else,” she tells me. Betty finds herself interested in both the craft and the science of taxidermy. She shows me the work of Allis Markham, which reads a little more glamorous than the kind of work she’d be doing. Her clientele would mainly be hunters, and she plans to visit sporting clubs in the Seattle area once she’s established to network and promote her services.

Currently, she is preparing her workshop, a small studio space located behind an interior design storefront. She shows me her logos and tells me that she has a “low-key business plan”. Funding is one of her primary obstacles, but she believes that she can find investors that she has personal relationships with to get roughly $5,000 for initial expenses.

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Betty asks me about other people I’ve interviewed, and I tell her about the other young business folks in my network. The difference between Betty and most of the others I’ve spoken with is that she has really honed in her skill and her niche before marketing. With other entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed a common trend of excellent and tremendous marketing with little to no business plan backing it. I believe there are benefits to both approaches, but Betty definitely sits on an advantage – she provides a clear service with proper legal backing to a specific audience. For her, marketing will be a clear path.

Her advice to other small business owners: stay positive. “One of my mentors told me that if you can’t get your mind right, you’re not going to produce any good work. It’s hard and you will have ‘oh fuck’ days, but the key is to let that day happen and not let it turn into an ‘oh fuck’ week.”