Monthly Income + Furoku Update

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I’m in a bit of a quandary.

In putting together the monthly income report, I scrutinized the number and a self-conscious part of me thought it might be better not to announce what may seem like a piddling sum, though this sum represents so much goodness to me.

The goal, if you recall, is to see if I can generate an income of at least $20,000 a year doing what I love. It doesn’t seem like an improbable financial goal, does it? I mean, if I became a Dick’s Drive-In employee (purportedly Bill Gates’ favorite fast food establishment here in Seattle), I could earn that amount working part-time. With paid insurance to boot. I would, I hope, be earning the shift manager wage of $16/hr as opposed to the base wage of $11/hr because I did go to graduate school — it’s the least that degree can do for me since all it’s done to date was increase my debt. Then again, that debt and getting out of it was a tremendous lesson. Anyway, it’s sobering to realize that I could make more money flipping burgers approximately 20 hours a week; so far, pouring my heart and soul into writing, painting, sewing and taking photos a minimum of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week is generating $491.57 per month, at least for May. That brings us up to $1,356.01 from March. So in the image below, the tree=$20,000, the sapling=$1356.01, and the seedling=$491.57.

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Many of those hours are spent creating a book that won’t see the light of day until next spring. I’m also diligently promoting a book that’s been on the market for less than two months and though Little Kunoichi is doing pretty well from what I can tell — I have no access to exact sales information until August — I still have to earn back enough royalties to cover the advance payment of $5,000 first. Who knows how high my books may soar? (or plummet, but we won’t focus on that)

A few folks have commented on how there seems to be an all or nothing mentality with these targets instead of letting things grow organically. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to explain it well, but I’m all for organic growth and would love nothing more than a slow and steady upward trend in skills, opportunities and financial solvency. It’s the best way to grow and patience is a virtue and in many ways I’ve been on the tortoise path; yet I also know myself and am perfectly capable of languishing without any forward momentum, just mulling, mulling, mulling.

I do well with specificity and deadlines and structure. I started this blog with a self-imposed deadline of posting every weekday — I wasn’t going to punish myself for missed days, but the clearcut schedule was great for me and I had plenty of time back then. For the first two years, I created a post every weekday with very few exceptions. At a certain point, book projects picked up steam, so I scaled back to three days a week, which I didn’t like at first, but after a brief adjustment period, I started to enjoy the consistency and achievability of the new pace. When M proposed the deadline and dollar amount to see if I can make a go at this new, rather vague career in making things, I was game. I like measurable, tangible progress. And I was intensely curious to find out if I could actually make an income on my own terms. In my arrogance I thought, “How hard can it be?” Three years seemed like a long time, and though I knew that the book process would take a while, it seemed doable.

It’s turned out to be much harder than I expected, especially when I can’t pull all-nighters or work myself to the bones anymore with my persnickety health situation. I won’t bore you with the details, but I have clearly overestimated myself. I thought I could finish and promote one book, complete the second book, start some sort of “creative” business, and handily meet my goal. Hmmmmmm. All those business podcasts make it sound so easy.

M has been watching me flounder as I try to juggle the blog, the books, the Furoku membership, and general home and childcare duties. “Flummoxed” is a good word to describe my mental state. “Let’s forget the goal,” he says, “we’ll make it work somehow, and you’ll eventually get there”. But now I have this weird attachment to the idea of hitting the $20,000, if only to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m also partly abashed that I made such a dramatic declaration of stopping the blog, etc. etc. if I don’t meet these objectives by the end of the year. Those stipulations weren’t mine per se, but still, I agreed to them. When I look at how events have unfolded in the last three years, I’m convinced that I’m on the right course, but my rickety, uncertain ride is painfully slow. Quandary. Or maybe there is no quandary since I don’t know what will happen by the end of the year, and no matter what happens, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve had these incredible life-changing opportunities. Ugh, I’m going in circles.

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And oh, the Furoku membership. This, too, has been a quandary. I’m not entirely sure what the Furoku is. I know that I’m still lacking direction and though I carve out time each month to think long and hard about how I can best add value to this small but mighty group that is propping me up with their support, I feel a little lost and out of my element. I was so excited and scared (in a good, stretching-my-limits kind of way) about the whole venture. I made plans, sketched out ideas, talked to a developer (hi Steph!), consulted the stars of the sewing world, got a business license, even! I was bubbling with enthusiasm until I received direct criticism via email for the first time. I remember M asking me a long time ago, “What are you going to do when people criticize you?” When you put your words and images out there for public consumption in any way, criticism is inevitable, particularly when money gets involved. And it’s finally happened. As I suspected, I was completely unprepared. In the three-plus years I’ve been blogging, I’ve had only supportive and encouraging feedback, which has made me even more thin-skinned, like a Japanese paper balloon. The criticism immediately deflated me, and I began strategizing on how to shut everything down, cancel the second book (which is intensely personal), disappear somehow — Should I change my name? I wondered. That’s silly, naturally, especially since so many people have offered up kind words about both the blog and membership, so I’ve tried my best to move beyond the temptation to hide away…but I would be lying to say I wasn’t affected. I have heard repeatedly that feedback is a reflection of the person giving the feedback, and not the recipient. I agree with this, but it still doesn’t lessen the impact.

I’m going to continue the Furoku. I’m glad I started it, and I’m grateful that members have stuck with me as I keep experimenting (there have been discounts to great online shops, original illustration downloads, an exclusive interview with the fabulous Miss Matatabi, sewing patterns, and more). In lieu of monthly sign-ups, I’m going to put up a button on the sidebar where it will live, but for anyone interested in signing up, please know that this is still in its fledgling stages. Not only do the fees help me run this blog, enable me to work on book #2, but they also give me that gentle mental cushion that allows me to explore and exercise my creative brain in a way that is difficult to do when I’m panicked about having zero income. And the best part is assembling a special digital gift each month, which I still love doing. Hence, my $400 to $500-ish a month income may not sound like a lot, but it’s amazing how huge the psychological benefit is on multiple levels. And even though it’s incremental, my monthly income is increasing.

I sense that I’m not inspiring a lot of confidence in what I’m doing with these rambling posts, but one of the things I promised myself was to be honest about the entire process. Sure, I could gloss over the financial aspects, I could pretend that I know what I’m doing, but really, I’m just making it all up as I go. And if that doesn’t fly with you, I can live with that. And hey, if it comes down to it, I don’t look so bad in orange (the burger joint’s uniform color — Orange is the New Black, right?), and I bet I’d be a rockstar deep fryer operator.

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P.S. Furoku #4 will be going out soon!

 

28 thoughts on “Monthly Income + Furoku Update

  1. I agree with M. Just chug along and see what happens–K would miss you at home if you were away shaking french fries. My first job paid $400/mo and I was the only director of a daycare center! Just work on one big project (rather than 4 at once) for two months (with sensible work hours) and see which generates the most buzz. You still have not tried prints,note cards, etc. Any of your illustrations would be cute calendars. And you know how I feel about your fabric collection!! The dresses that I made from Spoonflower fabric sold VERY quickly. See how bossy I am? Sorry.

    1. I’ve been thinking along the lines of focus too, Greta! I do feel scattered, although I think I’m naturally scattered and I’ve always loved doing multiple things at once. You’re not bossy at all, and I love to get your input. That’s so exciting that the Spoonflower fabric dresses sold well – that gives me hope!! Thank you!

  2. i am enjoying reading about your journey here with art, business and money. I get the crtisism thing, it is all ‘this is what I’m going to do’ till you get the real thing. I’m still dealing with received criticism from the first day of March. As a huge believer in goals I will say be kind to yourself. Before I had my children I had an arts based business that I called my bad boyfriend. Such a jerk but I kept going back.
    You’re doing a great job!

    1. Ha! Love the bad boyfriend metaphor! It IS easy to feel like a scorned lover when all this effort sometimes seems for naught. As for criticism…it’s a tough one. I know it’s something I need to learn how to cope with but it still takes me by complete surprise and hollows me out. Thank you so much for the encouragement and I’m so appreciative that you take the time to read my lengthy posts, Brooke! Did I see somewhere that you have five children that you homeschool??? Hats off to you!

  3. When the criticism comes it means you have to keep going!!! I don’t know if you watch Netflix but there is currently a show about world class chefs. They all have in common to have hit bottom when nobody believed in what they were doing, they doubted themselves but kept on going. It does not mean you will be successful but if you don’t commit to it you will never find out!!

    1. Thank you Delphine! Someone told me, “it’s a sign that you’re becoming legit when people start criticizing — indifference is far worse than criticism”. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s a helpful way to view it, I think. I haven’t had a whole lot of extra time to watch anything these days, but I’ll have to check out that show! I love a good fall-down-and-get-back-up theme! 🙂

  4. Hi Sanae,
    I also appreciate your honesty and transparency with the process. Hang in there! I rarely comment but read every post. One thought: I haven’t signed up for the furoku but could see being interested in it some months. Would you consider posting a description of the contents after the members have received and charging more (say $20?) for one-time purchasers? I bet you’d get some additional sales and your members would still have a big discount. (Or selling certain popular items from the furoku to non-members?).

    In any case, keep doing what you’re doing!

    1. First of all, thank you so much for reading every post, Kris!! That makes me happier than I can put into words. In terms of offering the Furoku at a higher price point for select months, that’s such an interesting idea! I’m already astounded that people are paying $10/month for the current Furoku and I don’t know if I could justify charging double (I’m so not business-savvy, obviously). I may, however, include a “donate” type of option that’s not part of the subscription, but a one-time thing for which I send a special digital gift. And eventually, I do plan on having a shop once book #2 is wrapped up. I love the suggestions, and I will continue analyzing, evaluating and experimenting! 🙂

  5. Oh for the good old days of the Renaissance when your Patron would support you and you could just create, create, create without a worry or care. You might have to please the king or the Pope but hey what is a little imprisonment or excommunication if you displeased them? Okay that was very “tongue in cheek”, but this is my take on your Furoku: I wish I could write you a check for $20,000 and at the end of the year be the owner of your original artwork, but I can’t afford to do that. But I can afford your Furoku Fee and get a small sample of your work. It is well worth it to me to help support you as an artist and crafts woman. There are art shows were you can purchase a print or giclee if you can’t afford the original and this is what my Furoku membership is to me. And even if I never got anything in return I would feel it is worthwhile because I feel your work is worth my support. Criticism is always difficult because your creations are like your children , you create them, love them, nurture them and are hurt when there is critism. But there are always critics and you will find your way to best deal with them. I just want to come along for the ride with you as you create.

    1. Haha! I would have been a natural fit in the renaissance period, Karen! I’m sure I would have found a way to deal with imprisonment and excommunication by whiling away my time filling parchment after parchment with circuitous, ink-stained thoughts :-). And I couldn’t ask for a kinder, more fortifying companion on this ride! It makes me want to be better, work harder, produce higher quality. THANK YOU.

  6. Did you only get one critical email? That is not bad. Maybe you are thin skinned, but if the emails mean so much to you, try to find five encouraging messages to respond to. Sometimes the criticism that you partly agree with and can see the point of hurt the most, but if this is the case, maybe you still should not dwell on it too much. I kind of agree that you could do a better job of selling the Furoku. Like saying, “This is my great new idea and don’t miss out on any of the fun!” in your messages to subscribe, rather than something like, “You know, what would really help me out is …” Sure the honesty and humble approach is more comfortable, but you are also confirming your worries. Voicing your own criticisms, you know? It is great that things are happening and your monthly is growing.

    As for getting a job as a burger chef, well I wouldn’t rule it out, but perhaps you are not serious. It sounds like you are choosing something that you would particularly feel unhappy with as a kind of “only other option”, something with a uniform too, so everyone can see your station in life. It may be only 20 hours, but it would be on your feet sweating next to a deep fryer and a grill. Would this be good for you? If that is a way to motivate yourself, go ahead. You can take yourself out for fries with gravy, and have a bit of a think.

    1. Fries with gravy…mmmmm. I was being facetious about the burger joint (the hope is that I won’t have to go that route, but M seems convinced that the economy is blowing up and who knows? I might be asking “would you like fries with that?” before I know it).

      I agree that criticism hurts most when there’s a grain of truth in it. I’ve done a lot of analysis on the situation, of course, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there WERE some lessons to be learned from the negative feedback, mostly that email is a very ineffective way to communicate. I like the idea of focusing on multiple positive responses to reduce the impact of the criticism – brilliant!

      And yes, I could use some help in the sales + marketing department. 🙂 I am who I am, though, and I figure the Furoku will become a self selecting group of people with a high tolerance for uncertainty…or so I hope.

  7. Even if you make it no further, you’ve done more than 99.9% of people who want to ‘do something creative someday’. That includes me, who has been a wannabe creative type for 2 decades now. I’ve probably met hundreds of people in my life who would really like to write a book, but only met a couple who have actually done so.

    You’re also a creative person who makes an amount of money that you can refer to as ‘an income’ without people laughing at you. That alone is pretty rare.

    The money doesn’t matter yet… it’s all about validation. Strangers who have no incentive to make you feel good are paying you for your creation. I wrote an app once and I’ve done some creative writing… added together it all earned about the same amount of money that I can earn in a week of my work with dull relational databases. But the fact that I made something out of nothing, using my own mind and will, and got paid for it is enormous. I can understand how you feel.

    With negative comments… my app, like all gamey apps, was in front of teenagers. As such, I got some pretty nasty reviews. But I look at it like, either a negative review raises a point and you can use that to make yourself better, or it is just an insult and says more about the reviewer than it does about you. My point is that a negative review can only have a negative effect if you can’t take a step back and look at what the review is REALLY saying.

    The problem with creating is that the first thing you learn is self awareness. Everyone believes the process is easy. Then once you begin work you realize how hard it is – that you need to climb a mountain just to be as good as you thought you were. At least that was true in my case. A lot of people never climb that mountain, but it looks like you’re past that now. It would be tragic to raise the white flag at this point…. keep it up.

    1. So much wisdom to ponder here, Paul! First, I had to ask my husband what “relational databases” were, and he was duly impressed (he’s a web designer/developer). 🙂

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and considered comment. I mentally shouted “YES!!” when I read the part about creating and self awareness — I couldn’t agree with you more. I do feel like there’s this yawning chasm between where I am and where I want to be, and almost every time, I’m the one getting in the way, making everything harder.

      And ditto on the negative feedback assessment. I did take away some valuable information from the exchange with the person criticizing me. But I’m human and a chronic people pleaser, so it devastated me that I would upset and incite someone so much.

      Oh Paul, I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been telling my husband that it’s not about the money…yet, but I also see his viewpoint that we do, indeed, live in an expensive city and need to consider retirement, our daughter’s school fund (should she choose to go to college), and basic living costs. I veer toward “unicorns and skittles” as he likes to call it. 🙂

      I’m continuously amazed at the generosity and uplifting support I’ve experienced through this blog and my many attempts at harnessing what I think are my strengths to establish a so-called creative career. Money is definitely not the best indicator of a fulfilling and meaningful way to live. At the same time, it’s difficult to buy groceries with supportive blog comments alone, no matter how awesome they are. I’m trying to strike a personally acceptable middle ground between the pipe dreams and an existence rooted solely in paying bills and meeting other people’s expectations.

      And nope, still not ready to ready to raise the white flag. THANK YOU!!

  8. HI! 🙂

    “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” That’s a quote I think about a lot when I’m learning a new skill or trying to get better at one I already practice regularly. I think you are doing great, and I love your honesty, transparency, & voice on top of the artwork. It’d be really interesting to see what those stars of the sewing world started at – how much money were they making those first few months as they started to solidify the direction of their business? They started somewhere. I would hate to see you leave the blog without you feeling like you gave it a good / long enough chance to monetize.

    And P.S. I love the owl.

    1. I love that quote, Steph! I also like the very similar, “Don’t compare people’s outsides with your insides”. I contemplate the idea of comparison a lot…

      I imagine everyone’s beginnings were humble, and because we don’t see the enormous work that goes into any sort of outward success we perceive, it’s easy to assume it happened in a linear, almost effortless way.

      Glad you like the owl! One of my favorite animals to paint — I should do a whole series! 🙂

  9. Oh Sanae, these posts just make me like you more <3 Which is not to say I wouldn't like you without them – I would – I do! But they are honest and heartfelt and real. And they are you. Do them for as long as you feel you want to – if they stop working for you, don't do them. But while they do (if they do) keep doing them! It's your blog, it's your developing career, it's your heart in this.
    I'm so glad M has lifted the deadline – Yaaay M, we love you too! And K as well, of course.
    I love what you are doing and it's exciting to see it unfold and grow from seed to seedling.

    We're in the stands, cheering!

    xx

    1. Thanks so much for your sweet words, Jenny! As you might imagine, I’m terrible at lying, and sometimes I wish I would stop sharing every thought that passes through my brain. It can be a problem, which makes me appreciate your comment all the more! 🙂 xoxo

    1. I’m so happy that you’re enjoying the Furoku emails! I do put a lot of work into them, and I only try to send out what I feel strongly would be interesting or beneficial, but like I’ve said and experienced, they’re not all winners. Thank you so much, Denise!

  10. Hiya!

    You’re not going in circles… you’re think-sketching.

    I’ve no idea what the criticism you got was, but I’ve no idea how anyone could think you’re not offering what you say you’re going to when you’re the most honest and clear presenter of yourself ever. (Ooooh, or maybe the best spy and frauster ever – in which case leave a dead drop complimenting your Masters of Deception at the spy academy from me). But I think probably the former, in which case, where on earth was the mis-selling? That dude can close the tab and move on. There’s lots more internet where (s) he may feel more at home.

    If you have only one critic, it’s like that’s the Universe realising you’re going to get suspicious this is too good to be true. Besides, she/she makes the rest of your adoring fans look even nicer 🙂

    Love the illustrations! As ever. Especially your progress trees. Small and flexible saplings have a lot going for them.

    Change you name? Gasp. I like your name.

    If you do work on something else as well as this main creative heart of your work, I bet you have a load of work options since you last looked. Get the burger flipping out of your head. There must be something that feeds you better. (I saw myself going towards that pun like a slow car crash and am now embracing it). I don’t do as much of the news work I first started out on these days because it doesn’t fit with my kids and travelling husband and the country where we are at the moment, so I’m doing some related work that’s frankly a bit dull, but is flexible for hours and still involves writing and I’m still learning. And it’s oddly meditative. My work note books have so many sketches for clothes in the margins around my planners and lists and work notes that I see it looks a bit like the inside of my head and know it’s ok. The separation is a breather. Then I run back into sewing and other types of work, when I can do it, and it’s reinvogorated. Fabric store, book store, library, art education, schools, tutoring, kids’ club, editing, proofing, or a few shifts a nice indie coffee shop at the very least should replace burger flipping in your head.

    It’s all good. Keep going. JGx

  11. Janome Gnome! My favorite part of the comments is when I get to know the person behind the comments better. I’m intrigued about the news work you used to do and what sort of writing you’re doing now. I can see how having the separation could be a relief. With all that I’m currently doing, I’m dipping my toe into entrepreneurship, essentially, and it does feel like I eat, sleep, breathe with all of my projects at the forefront all.the.time. Coincidentally, I did get offered a job at a fabric store when I was randomly shopping for book #2 supplies recently, but the hours they needed didn’t work with my schedule. I seriously considered it though!

    I love the term “think-sketching”. Meandering, mostly pointless journal writing/drawing — it’s what I do best! 🙂 And no worries, it was just a momentary lapse in judgment to consider changing my name. Due to my inability to decide on a blog name, I defaulted to using my own name, which was something I always questioned, but the husband tells me it’s good “branding” whatever that means. And yes, one critic doesn’t spell the end of the world, but man, it was eye-opening to see how hard it hit me.

    Thank you for the energizing words! Onward and upward!

  12. Hi Sanae, I think 500 you made in a month sound pretty great. As somebody mentioned before, you passed to the next level of actually making money from doing what you love and that in itself is much more than majority of people can say. I don’t know if you will reach your goal of 20000, I hope you will, but keep in mind that in any other starter small scale private business revenue of 20000 in first year would be quite high. You have quite a few projects going on, so thats good since all of them are making some money.
    And furoku is a great idea and clearly plenty people are buying membership, But I guess not enough to reach your goal? I can only comment from my perspective as a non member. I love your drawing style and I would happily buy a product with it, good quality fabric with your print for example. but I simply can not justify spending 120 a year on digital content. There are so many causes to support and with 2 children, 5 chickens, 2 cats and huge mortgage on the house I am in no position to be art patron. I hope there will be a product I can buy, because I would love some lovely fabric!
    On a side note, I have a friend that works in a job she hates, but makes lots of money. Every time she is fed up she declares she will quit and if nothing else will get a job as a hairdresser. Now, no offence to all the hairdressers out there ( we all know how we women value your work), but my friend has masters degree and about 10 years experience in her field. It is unlikely it will ever come to that. Same goes for you I guess- you had a corporate career, why even think about flipping burgers?
    I think its great to follow your dreams and do what you love and I applaud you. Just give it time to grow and decide exactly where you want to grow to.

    1. Thank you for your comment Jelena — so many important points! I’m so grateful that people are willing to pay for digital content and I do believe that as I shape this amorphous hodgepodge of multiple projects into something that makes a little more sense and is focused, I’ll see growth on various levels, not just financially.

      And oops, I didn’t realize people might assume that I was serious about the burger flipping (though I, too, mean no offense toward burger flippers and Dick’s employees DO seem like a happy bunch) — I guess I was trying to point out that a job that may not require quite as much emotional investment could yield more monetary rewards…but you know, I think it’s all good 🙂

  13. I don’t have much to add to the wonderful comments above. I only want to say that the entire point is the journey, not the result. Which of course you know or you wouldn’t be doing what you do and making the choices you do. Your blog, your art, are bright spots for me on the internet, and in the blogs I follow, I can see how every single one changes over time. It’s inevitable, and probably necessary. So someone isn’t going to like it. And dealing with those people and whatever they have to say, is a growth opportunity, worth thanking the universe for. Because after you reset, you are stronger than you were before. Age taught me that, because I finally figured I should stop fighting the “growth opportunities” and look at what I should learn from them. Ha ha fun, right? Not always. 🙂

    1. 🙂 I’ve always been extra sensitive to criticism and this makes me an expert people pleaser, but you’re right, Annelieke, “growth opportunities” abound! So many great, encouraging comments…wonderful!

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