[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).
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.