How do you make money?
Sorry if that’s a weird or rude question, but I’ve read about how you travel the world and work on all kinds of projects and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Lots of different things, I mean, while also traveling. I have a lot of different interests that I want to keep chasing. But I don’t get how the things you do actually earn you a paycheck.
Please tell me your secrets!
The short answer is that I make some of my income from the few dozen books I’ve written, some from my podcast, some from speaking gigs, and some from donations, affiliate relationships, and other small but mighty-in-aggregate revenue streams.
The longer answer is that I have a career made up of a strange assemblage of projects that I’ve cobbled together over the course of the past decade-plus. It’s a motley assortment of things I enjoy and which sometimes work together decently well—and even amplify each other, at times.
Author Gretchen McCulloch did a brilliant job describing this sort of career in a multipart essay entitled What is a Weird Internet Career?, in which she defines a “Weird Internet Career” as consisting of jobs that are tricky to explain to your parents, utilize the internet in some way, and generally involve a changing mix of income streams.
In her case, this combination of elements has allowed her to build a career as an internet linguist: a term she coined, but which captures how she spends her time and earns her living.
My Weird Internet Career label would probably be something like “Platform-Agnostic Communicator” or “Maker of Learny-Things,” though truthfully any such label inherently leaves out a lot of specifics.
When people ask, I generally just go with whatever makes the most sense in context: I write books or I produce podcasts or I present talks, rather than trying to explain how they all fit together. But the more complete picture is that I do all kinds of things and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Part of why I’m able to commit myself to all these distinct projects is that I’ve realized, over the years, that I can combine lots of smaller revenue streams into an income that pays for my lifestyle.
Another part of what makes this possible, though, is that I’m careful to spend less than I make, and am very aware of what keeps me happy, fulfilled, and growing as a person. I invest heavily in such things, while spending substantially less on the things that are not as fulfilling and valuable to me, personally.
Ultimately, if you can figure out how to keep your costs low—whatever it is you hope to do with your time—you’ll have more options in terms of what you do for a living. Vital to making this work, however, is understanding what you actually care about.
Many of our goals are inherited from someone else, or derived from the great many marketing messages we’re exposed to over the course of our lives.
Take some time to deep-dive into your sense of what’s important, figure out how you’d like to spend your time—your everyday life, not just your vacations or weekends—and allow that to guide what you do to make money and how you spend the money you make.
It may be that working a more convention job makes the most sense for what you hope to achieve, and it may be that custom-tailoring something would be a more ideal option.
Either way, focus on the core of who you are, first, and work outward from there.
Constructing a career, especially an unusual one, isn’t easy. But it’s far simpler—and the results more resilient—if you build it atop an intentionally laid, you-shaped foundation.