Multiple Streams of Income: A Step-by-Step Example

With my Money Bootcamp starting in just a few days I wanted to write to you about one the sharpest tools in an artist’s financial tool kit. This is where we as makers are poised to excel. This is the area of personal finance where we have the ability to innovate like no one else. This is how we can apply our multifaceted brain in ways that that are unhampered by convention:

I can vividly remember having a conversation with someone in grad school who proudly spouted that the MFA was the new MBA, and I laughed — how ridiculous! We artists don’t know anything about business! Well now my perspective on that has changed. If you’ve looked out into the business landscape at all in the last several years you’ll have seen the rise of the soloprenuer. There are tools available to allow us to run our own global-reaching companies from the wifi connection in our studios. We can use those tools to create projects that drip funds into our financial accounts and smooth out the roller coaster income of an artist’s life. What am I talking about? Here are the details of an income stream I recently established:

Operation: NerdStyles!

My husband works in world of video games, something I barely understand, but one thing is clear to me when observing his crew: These people have a lot of inside jokes (which I don’t get), and they only wear t-shirts. So when one day he asked “can we design and sell some video game/inside joke/ dude-focused t-shirts?”, I immediately said “ Let’s do it!” [In reality he came-up with the idea and I shrugged it off for 6 or 9 months because I was too busy, but when suddenly the beauty of it slapped me in the face, I unexpectedly shouted, “Let’s do it!”]

This is how it worked:

We came up with about 10 goofy ideas that I turned into shirt designs.
We decided on a ridiculous company name and bought the URL.
We found a print-on-demand t-shirt fulfillment company, ThePrintful, which provides easy to use ecommerce integration. Using their online tools I uploaded all the designs, and connected them with shirt colors, sizes, and styles. Because they print one at a time, there’s no upfront investment needed.
I found a free Woo Commerce WordPress theme with store front functionality already built in (meaning it’s able to accept a variety of online payments, we chose Simplify Commerce), and had an established relationship with ThePrintful, so all three elements (website, payments, and fulfillment) were easy to connect.
I set-up a MailChimp list and a form where visitors could opt-in for updates.
We went down to San Francisco City Hall and registered our business as a sole proprietorship (married couples can do this jointly, and cities other than San Francisco let you do this online).
I luckily already had a resellers license with the state of California, which was easy to get.
We opened up a business checking account at our bank using our business name. This was a necessary step because, banks won’t allow you to have funds deposited into a personal checking account from a business with a different name.
I connected that same business checking account back to ThePrintful, so it could automatically draw funds when it needed them to fulfill an order.

And presto! It was ready to go.
What we’d created was a perfect loop. A customer would come to our website and place an order. Simplify Commerce would collect payment and deposit it into our business checking account. The order would then go directly to ThePrintful who would charge our business checking account for the production cost, print the order and ship it to the customer… And we wouldn’t have to get involved in any way to actually make it happen. The whole thing is automated.

I don’t want it to sound like it was effortless to set-up. It probably took me two weeks to from start to finish, and most of that is because I barely know how to do anything in WordPress, and setting up even the easiest website feels like I was wandering in the woods blindfolded… The bank account, paper work, business license stuff was annoying and time consuming. And while I was in the middle of it, I have to admit that I kept thinking, ‘is this worth it? Is anyone even going to buy and of these things?’

There was no assurance that this little project was going to bear any fruit, but I wanted to see, not only what would happen, but if I could get all the moving parts to connect and function properly.

The Results:
And I am pleased to report that since NerdStyles has been up and running the last few months we’ve sold hundreds of shirts, and been able to drop all the profits into our daughter’s 529 college savings plan. And this was all with the minimal upfront investment of just buying a URL and basic site hosting. The most surprising thing: One shirt gained traction far and beyond any of the others and been seen on high-level Microsoft executives and video game personalities, and been purchased by people as far away as Canada, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Isreal and New Zealand. Why? A goofy, but sincere message of community. Yes, Xbox gamers and PlayStation gamers can be friends…