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Building wealth while doing creative work

You don't have to be a starving artist or a grinding entrepreneur: How to create 7+ streams of income

The Overnight Sensation.

A viral post.

A popular news site picking up your latest announcement.

Your "big break."

The magical day where your work is discovered by millions and money pours in overnight.

Too many artists and entrepreneurs have this fantasy - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, and it could certainly happen. But I urge people not to pin all of their hopes and dreams and success and profitability on this one fantasy - because it excuses you from stacking in the interim. It's like neglecting your savings in case you hit the lottery - of course people win the lottery, but what if it happens later than you think? What if you don't get your flowers when you expect to?

I prefer to build my own safety net - and if the "overnight sensation" (which we all know actually takes about a decade of work) dream happens, great! I can add it to my existing reserves, and I won't have struggled for an entire decade prior.

My preferred method:

The Slow, Passion-Driven Build

This method doesn't involve quitting your job without savings and a plan to go all in.

This method doesn't include grinding away for years and hoping to see some results.

This method is methodical. Experimental. Stable.

It involves using slowly testing what you enjoy and don't enjoy until you've arrived at a number of income streams that you love.

If you slowly built this up into 7 streams of income, carefully testing what's profitable, what's reliable, and what's enjoyable you could, for example, arrive at this model:

  • 2 "stable" or consistent and reliable streams
  • 2 creative or service-based streams
  • 2 passive streams 
  • 1 stream for creative "risk"

For example, a tech entrepreneur could rely on a combination of part-time remote work and client services while developing products in their spare time.

The beauty of the multi-stream model is that it doesn't require you to make half a million dollars in sales. If each stream was worth $1,000/month, you'd already have $7,000 monthly income.

Now what do those streams look like in action? Here's a snapshot of breakdowns that I've toyed with in the past, while still maintaining my semi-retirement. Let's imagine that they're all earning $1,000/month.

  • Part-time remote job - for example, I've taught one-on-classes online for English First.
  • Part-time international job - I've worked as an international teacher in two countries.
  • Lucrative freelance stream - #1 was a skill that I had experience in and wanted to keep growing.
  • Lucrative freelance stream - #2 was a new skill area that I wanted to test and see how I liked it. 
  • Physical products - like my stationery and unconventional planning systems at intentions.
  • Course sales - like my course on How to Take a Sabattical and Travel the World.
  • One-on-services - strategy calls that I offer to help people figure out their own semi-retirement strategy or the best way for them to build a travel-based lifestyle.

Obviously, each stream isn't $1,000 to the dollar. I've already shared that teaching ESL can be (even on the low end) - $50,000 a year with tons of vacation and part-time hours. If you're flexible, it can absolutely rise to six figures, and I know several teachers who've achieved this. I also know several ESL teachers who've expanded their teaching streams from 2 to 4+ because the opportunities are so abundant - they teach remotely, they teach private lessons in group settings, they teach for a school or center that sponsors their visa, and they act in a recruitment capacity.

Given that, just the first two streams can easily be worth $5,000+ per month - and that's assuming you stick to one or two streams! But for simplicity, let's assume they're worth 1k.

I want to pause for a moment to highlight a key detail about each of these streams - I love this work. All of it. Every single thing. I entertained remote jobs that I wasn't crazy about in the past for the sake of stability and guess what? I quickly realized that hated it even more when it was pulling me away from the beautiful places I was in.

When I first started freelancing, my service offerings were a direct continuation of my corporate work - because I knew I could do it. But after a few short projects, I quickly pivoted into something that I wanted to be doing.

Similarly, I've been a teacher for years - in three different countries - from preschool to University, so making education my "reliable" streams wasn't simply a means to an end. It was combining something that I love and I'm good at with something lucrative and stable. Along those lines, I also developed intentions as a labor of love. I personally buy and use every single product that I release - so I was comfortable producing it, because I knew that if no one else was interested, it would still be filling my own need.

I'm not encouraging "hustling" "grinding" "buckling down" or any of that when it comes to building this world. I'm encouraging purpose, passion, joy, sustainability, impact WHILE figuring what's the best way for you to do the ideal type of work for you while also earning a sustainable living. If you were an engineer and you HATED engineering, don't make freelance engineering one of your streams. Instead figure out what related skills you enjoyed and could possibly leverage (for example: technical writing or analysis).

Similarly, if you want to work in Education but don't like working with kids - I'm begging you - DON'T become a kindergarten teacher. Work with adults or teach business English.

This is a marathon - not a sprint. We're not chasing money for the sake of chasing money. We want each stream to be enjoyable. Sustainable.

Now let's focus on the other streams. Let's say that you are a healthcare freelance writer who also does design work (perhaps writing and designing newsletters). And you charge:

  • $500 per article ... that's 2 articles per month. This can be written in one day.
  • $500 per design  ... that's 2 designs per month.  

In that example, all of your client services could be completed in one two-day sprint.

Or you're an entrepreneur who sells courses or services, priced at:

  • $500 per course ....that's 2 courses per month.
  • $100 per hour for one-on-one clients ... that's 10 clients per month.

Just like the teaching numbers, these are way under estimate. I know niche business writers earning $1,000 a day. I know designers charging $1,000, $5,000 and even $10,000 for design services.

These estimates are a baseline. You can 5x it and grow each stream individually by:

  • Becoming a master of your craft and providing premium skills and services
  • Strategically improving your business skills like client acquisition, positioning, and marketing
  • Raising your rates - and not by 10% or 20% but by 2x, 3x, 5x, 10x 

Even just 2xing each stream is worth $14,000 a month. 3xing each stream is $21,000 a month.

Now, combine that with geoarbitrage, moving to somewhere you can live your best life for $2,000/month - and I've shared that I've enjoyed a high quality of living in countries like Portugal, Italy, Greece, Indonesia, Thailand and Mexico for well under this price.

What do I mean by high quality of life?

  • a beautiful living space - environment is so important to me, so I typically splurge on housing.
  • the ability to pay my bills, which I intentionally keep low, effortlessly (e.g. phone, subscriptions)
  • enjoying the local food by eating most of my meals out without sacrificing my health by being forced to eat whatever is cheap.
  • wellness practices like regular massages, facials, acupuncture, manicures and pedicures
  • the ability to enjoy excursions, adventures or extended trips - I do NOT travel the world to sit in the house, eating ramen, and skipping every tour and landmark. quite the opposite - I've played in the monkey forest in Bali with an experienced guide, traveled up and down the coast of Sicily, island-hopped to places like Santorini, Greece, cruised down the Seine in Paris, and enjoyed midnight temple tours in Bangkok. These experiences, for me, are kind of the point - I wouldn't enjoy my travel as much if I had to sleep on the floor, eat McDonalds or bread for every meal, and not be able to even afford the museum fees. 
Those are the experiences that are important to me - you can define where it makes sense for you to save or splurge. But ultimately, geoarbritrage is a powerful way of effectively giving yourself a raise by simply needing less money - without penny-pinching or cutting coupons or skipping coffee.

Using this approach, if you an earning $7,000 per month, and spending $2,000 on living and leisure, you could afford to set aside an additional $1,000/month for an emergency fund or rainy day fund - while still investing long-term at upwards of $4,000/month.

So the formula is:

- Multiple, high-enjoyment, low-pressure income streams

- Mastery

- Geoarbitrage

By combining the slow build of income streams that align with your interests, skills and lifestyle (and scaling up and down as it suits you), with intentional effort on the road to mastery, diligent, consistent investing and geoarbitrage, you get the best of all worlds:

You're making a sustainable amount of income and investing diligently.

You're prioritizing quality of life and wellbeing - not burning yourself out with 40+ hour weeks.

You aren't putting too much pressure on your self, your business or your art - which can quickly drain the enjoyment out of it.

Rather, than forcing and hustling and "making something work" you can make things, test things, experiment, and savor the process, knowing that you're comfortably taken care of. You can take a risk on a new project, dedicate your time to deliberate practice, or work on a long-time pursuit that may not become actualized for a couple of years.

And even if *no one* buys it? You'll be fine.

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