Why The Tattoo?

I got a tattoo of a deer today.

Though I do think deer are lovely creatures, it’s not especially about deer in particular. Or at all, really.

I had the idea to sell my Art Outlines illustrations almost two full years ago, and with the support and encouragement of my fellow entrepreneurs, I even built a fully functional website, created a video, and got strangers from all over the web to sign up for the email list.

But then it came time to actually list something for sale. And what did I do?

I shied away from it. I let doubt creep in. I turned my back on the project, thinking it wasn’t good enough. I worked on other things.

Over a year later, deep into my 10-month travel adventure around the world writing The Eat Team, I was getting really itchy feet (and a shockingly tiny bank account). I have a massive drive (compulsion?) to create, and because you can’t take an entire print studio full of hundreds-year-old lead and machinery and boxes full of paper, I couldn’t work on Ye Olde Gangster.

So, even though I felt totally unprepared and scared and embarrassed, I just decided I’d put a few of the illustrations up for sale on Etsy. I was terrified, and I didn’t have a lot of hope, but I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And the answer was.. nobody would buy my illustrations and I’d be in the exact same place I was now. Well, that’s not so scary I thought–either I’m in the same place I am now, or perhaps maybe just maybe someone will send me some money for something I enjoyed doing.

Nothing happened for a few months. So, my “worst case scenario” was true for a few months. But of course, I wasn’t really thinking about it much and hadn’t expected anything to happen anyways.

Then, out of the blue, on July 4th, 2012, a stranger from New Zealand sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer as I prepared an American Independence Day feast for my new Australian friends in Melbourne.

“WHAT?!?!?!?” I shouted, I danced, I shoved the email in front of my friends faces. It wasn’t the money that lit my fire.. obviously $2 isn’t gonna stretch very far.. it was the cold, hard, undeniable real truth that I had a viable product. A worthy idea.

It made my heart soar.

So, why the tattoo?

I guess there’s several facets to that answer.

- Commitment to the long haul. It’s always been my dream to support myself with my creativity, and this was a moment I’ll never forget. I know there is no quick fix, no secret to making my dreams come true–it’s hard work and trust and taking risks and getting up every single day and starting all over again. It’s blood sweat and tears and I’m in it, forever. This is a commitment to myself to never give up on my creativity, to never stop growing and learning and making.
- That if I can pull this off, anyone can.

- Reminder that what I do is good enough. For a long time, I was embarrassed that my style of drawing was so childish and simplistic. At some point I decided to embrace that and run with it. It’s amazing how much love and support you get when you say “fuck it” and embrace the differences that make you you.

- Reminder to keep it simple. My whole idea with Art Outlines is to make extremely simple, elegant drawings. To eliminate what’s not necessary, and do only what’s necessary. Focus. Minimalism. Contrast.

- Reminder that imperfection is perfection. That you’ll never feel ready, you’ll never feel finished, but to say YES anyways. To figure things out as I go. Something I learned on my big adventure was that nothing is ever perfect.. but if you can embrace those imperfections, it makes it perfect. That was one of the overarching themes Hannah and I encountered every single day on our crazy trip. If we tried to make things perfect, we wouldn’t have done a single thing. If I had known that I was going to get this deer tattooed on my body forever when I drew it, I would have spent hours trying to perfect it. I love that it has tiny flaws and things I’d probably have changed if I had known.

If you look real close, there’s a little dimple on my deer’s bum–that wasn’t part of the original drawing. That was a speck created by the xerox machine that my tattoo artist thought was part of the image. When we realized it was permanent, she asked if I wanted her to try and pick it out. I considered it, then remembered.. imperfection is perfection. I love that it’s just another layer. Humans are all imperfect, and instead of getting mad or embarrassed by “hiccups”, we can just run with it and love it anyways.

That I’m not the only one involved–the stranger in New Zealand and my amazing tattoo artist had huge parts in it. To remember that PEOPLE are what make the world go round, and we’re all family in some way. To trust others and not try to control everything. I went in thinking I’d get the deer facing me. Alice told me that would be upside down to the rest of the world. And so I worked with her instead of trying to control it, and accepted her expertise since I was a tattoo n00b, and rolled with it, even though it’s not what I first imagined. Give and take.

Life is imperfect, and if we want to LIVE we have to remember and accept and love anyways.

Overhauling the Publishing Industry


To anybody who likes books & having the freedom of creative expression:

Today the The 4-Hour Chef is out.  It’s a followup to a book that undeniably changed my life.

Maybe even more important than the incredible content inside it, author Tim Ferriss is currently fighting a battle against the traditional publishing industry.  The 4-Hour Chef is banned from 1000+ bookstores (including all Barnes & Nobles) because it’s the next big bet by Amazon Publishing.

The success of this book threatens the stability of the traditional publishing industry.  It could also pave the way for bigger and badder things.  As I’m getting ready to publish my first book, I’ve seen first hand how outdated traditional publishing methods are and how their restrictive nature of it all doesn’t do much to benefit the author or the readers.

A victory for the 4-Hour-Chef could mean getting more books and information into the right hands, and more creative flexibility for authors.  It’s a win-win scenario (except for the big publishing corporations.)

If The 4-Hour Chef “wins” in any capacity, authors will feel freedom to experiment. If this book “fails” because the old guard makes of an example of it, their message wins: don’t mess with the system that keeps us fat and happy, or we’ll punish you.

Our world is changing.  We’re noticing the unhappy effects of our “dog-eat-dog world” of the last decades, and seeing that “sharing is caring” goes a lot further.  We’re working on updating health care, we’re working on updating our views on race, gender, gay marriage, the environment, and more.

To me, this is just one more small step for man.  Let’s make it happen.

 

Passive Income Update

My best-selling set.

In May, I wrote about my goal to ”create a new stream of passive income by September 30, 2012, that generates at least $50 per month on average and endures for a minimum of 10 years in a way that delivers strong value for many others around the world.”

Since the “deadline” date has passed, I thought I’d share an update on how I did.

The plan was to monetize Art Outlines by selling my illustrations as downloadable vectors for other designers to use.

My plan was to group sets of drawings together into full-sets, each of which would be one page in the upcoming Art Outlines book.  For example, I created a full set of banners, vegetables, stars, christmas illustrations, and so on.  I drew a page per week and listed each page on my etsy shop for $12.95. And then…

…I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And then, on July 4th, American Independence Day, something magical happened. I made my first sale. A stranger sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer while I slept.  Fucking magical.

So was it a success?

I’m pretty damn stoked (and surprised) to be able to say yes, both monetarily and otherwise.  After the initial $2, I ended up meeting my monetary goal of $50 passive income per month after September 30th.

I didn’t exceed it by much, but something interesting happened: I ended up starting a new form of active income as a by-product.

By listing my pre-made Art Outlines illustrations on etsy, people started getting in touch about creating custom illustrations in the same style.  I was getting fresh eyes on my work and exposure via the etsy platform from people searching for quirky illustrations.

As well as making a fair bit more money than the passive stream, I also really enjoyed actively creating illustrations for customers with a set brief.  It’s a fun puzzle for me to solve when a client tells me what elements they would like to include, and then I get to figure out a way to make it happen, using my judgment and creativity to fill in gaps.

I liked having the balance of creating pages at will for the book based on my own wants, and creating something more structred for my active clients.

I really loved making custom illustrations for new clients.

Here’s my Art Outlines monetary earnings breakdown since I started my goal:

JUNE: 30.00 active

JULY: 14.95 passive + 175.00 active

AUGUST: 38.85 passive + 90.00 active

SEPTEMBER: 37.95 passive

OCTOBER: 64.75 passive + 180.00 active

Passive Total: 169.45

Active Total: 475.00

Total Total (passive + active): 644.45

Reflections

I’m really, really excited about my progress on this so far.  Art Outlines is pretty much my ideal form of supporting myself: I can work from anywhere, any time; I get paid to use my creativity and make art I want to make anyways, I’m providing value for others while providing value for myself, and it’s completely passive because I created an automatic download page which customers are emailed after purchase for my completely digital product.

I guess all there is left to do is.. keep going.  Based on the fact that people are actually ordering and paying for what I’m making is a clear indicator that I’m heading in the right direction.  All I need to do is persist if I want to increase the volume of orders.

A couple folks commented on my initial goal blogpost that a goal of $50/month was too easy.  I thought about changing it to a higher goal, but decided to stick with my initial instinct.  I didn’t want to set the bar higher because I was (and still am) in the midst of constant travel.  During the entire time I’ve been working towards this goal, Art Outlines has been a side project.  I couldn’t give it my full attention, as my full attention has been dedicated to my main goal of traveling and working on The Eat Team.  I reckon if Art Outlines was my main focus, I could have upped the ante a bit.  I’m proud that I was able to meet my goal while exploring and journeying through Australia, New Zealand, and the west coast of the U.S.

I’m looking forward to seeing this project through to completion and earning enough money through passive income to fully sustain my life monetarily.  I’m still creating one new set per week, so the finished Art Outlines book should be finished in the next year.

One of the biggest parts of creating passive income streams according to Steve Pavlina is mastering the mindset and really thinking about what you’ll do with your time once you fully sustain yourself with passive income.  I think I’ve also been successfully acting upon my answer to that: I’ve been traveling, cooking for friends and family, creating, dancing, and making the most of what I earn.  I’m looking forward to fulfilling the remainder of that list in the months and years to come.  I’m in it for the long haul and won’t quit till I get there.

Tools

‘A ship in port is safe, but this is not what ships are built for.  - Grace Hopper

There is nothing inherently good or bad about a hammer.

It is useless if it’s left in the drawer–paintings left to collect dust in boxes, Ikea dressers disassembled in their original packaging, a calendar lying unhung halfway through it’s calendar year.

It is only a tool, and it is useful only when it is being used.  It can be used in so many ways, but there’s only a few things it was made to do: drive home nails, take out nails, smash things.  Of course, you could also carry it around and use it to knock on people’s doors with, as a back-scratcher, to play catch with.

But those last few aren’t ideal.  They’d get the job done in each of those last few scenarios, but in an extremely inefficient way.

There’s a few ideas here I’ve been mulling over that seem to apply to all tools:

1. Tools are made to be used.  

A pot was made to be cooked in.

Paintbrushes were made to paint with.

Running shoes were made to run in.

Tools are only useful when used.  Don’t let them sit and gather dust.

2. Tools are made to be used in a specific way.

You could use a speaker as a chair, or you could sit on a chair.

You could use a butter knife to cut a watermelon, or you could use it to spread butter.

You could use your desk as a space to write a book, or as a dumping ground for wrinkled clothing.

Each option would work, but which one is a pleasure and which one causes frustration?  Impatience?  Using a tool for its intended use makes things simpler and more efficient.

3. Tools are neither inherently good or bad.  

You could use a hammer to hang some shelves… or you could use it as a murder weapon.

You could use your iphone to share photos of your creations… or you could use it to waste time refreshing your facebook feed.

You could use your legs to propel yourself in a swimming pool… or you could kick your neighbor.

You could use your brain to empower you, or you could use it to produce degrading thoughts about yourself.

You could use your hands to create a sculpture, or you could use them to pick at imperfections.

4. Tools are everywhere

Almost everything is a tool.  That is to say, there is a way to use it.  From literal tools like a wrench, to everyday items like combs, to every part of your body and your mind.. these things are here to enhance your experience of life, if you use them, and you use them for good and not evil.

The value lies in the usage.  The user decides how to use the tool.  Therefore, the value is created by the user.  The decision, the power is in how you choose to use the tool.

Use the tools at hand to enhance your life and the lives around you.


How I Won Tim Ferriss’ Competition And A Ticket Around The World

Last year Tim Ferriss posted an article on his wildly popular blog titled My Unusual $20,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World).  I read the article and thought, “Hey, that’s cool.  I should enter.”  I glanced at the due date for applications and, noticing that I still had a whole month to participate, told myself maybe I’d do it later, like thousands of others.

A couple days later, a friend of mine reposted it in our 4HWW Berlin group and I noticed that I had read the application date wrong–rather than thirty-two days until the fundraiser and competition was complete, there was actually TWO days.  I thought, “shit, it’s now or never, isn’t it?” I noticed that there were hundreds of comments supporting the idea or contributing to the conversation about it, but there was a relatively low number of people entering the competition part of it to win that roundtrip ticket anywhere in the world.

That surprised me.  Still, I didn’t feel I had a reasonable shot at winning because several of the people who had actually entered seemed to have quite a large following, compared to me but also by most standards.

But then I remembered what Ferriss wrote in his very own book–”Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre.  The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals.”

I remembered the story of how he offered a class of students a free trip around the world in return for writing to 3 seemingly-impossible-to-reach people and getting a reply from one, and not a single student even tried to complete the challenge because “all of them overestimated the competition, no one even showed up.”  And I thought.. well, I’m probably not going to win, but I’m going to give it all I can.  I can still “show up”.  If I don’t enter, I can’t win.

To enter the competition, all you had to do was leave a comment telling how you promoted his charity drive.  I looked at my situation, and assessed it.  For spreading the word about his charity goal, most entrants had tweeted, facebooked, and emailed their followers and contacts.  In terms of social media, I had a modest twitter following, a strong but small email list, and a fair number of facebook friends.  So if I was going to go the “traditional” route, it looked like my chances were slim.

I sat down with a blank piece of paper and thought, “how can I go the extra mile?  how can I leverage my strengths and what I DO have to set me apart?”  I focused on my strengths and what resources I had at my disposal.

“Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre.”

One of my favorite parts about Tim’s ideology is that you can create win-win situations.  It just takes a bit of planning and creativity. The gist of what he writes about is that you can make money through your business, help others and provide immense value to them with your work, have plenty of time to do whatever you want by creating passive income streams, and even enjoy the work you do.  He asserts that life doesn’t have to be trudging through a dull job you dislike just because its “normal” and it pays the bills.  And I know its true because I’ve had a taste of it myself, both with successes in my own company and vicariously through many of the friends I’ve made from our 4HWW Berlin group.

So on my blank sheet of paper, I took stock of my resources and racked my brain to formulate a win-win scenario.  I wanted to tie everything together–to incorporate my greeting card company (which is even based on the 4HWW model), benefit my customers and potentially bring in new ones, harness my best skill (creativity), advance the charity drive, and create a positive feedback loop to “pay it forward”.   I came up with an idea, and before I could second-guess myself, I took immediate action right then and there with the mantra “I’m going to give it all I can.  If I don’t enter, I can’t win” on repeat in my head.

The idea was this–I released a brand new design for sale in my store dedicated to the charity drive, and created a storewide sale in which the customer received 50% off and I gave 50% to the Room to Read Charity in Tim’s drive.

After several hours of this inspiration-fueled burst, I felt satisfied that I gave it my best.  I had no idea if it would be enough, but at the very least I could be proud of myself that I did all I could.  The rest was in the hands of Tim and his crew–they would choose the top 5 commenters who would proceed to the next round in the competition.

The deadline for the charity drive passed and amazingly (but unsurprisingly) his readers and followers exceeded the $20k donation goal, meaning Tim would also donate his own $20k.

Two weeks passed, and finally there was a new post about the great victory for the charity, as well as the names of the 5 top commenters who would move on to the next round of the competition.

My name was among them (and my jaw was on the floor).

The next stage of the competition, which was to decide the winner of the roundtrip ticket, would be decided by a pure and simple vote.  I still didn’t think I stood a serious chance, especially up against a guy with 50,000 youtube followers and a woman with an incredibly heart-wrenching story among the lot.  But I stuffed my worries and reminded myself what mindset got me into the competition in the first place–it was one where dreaming was allowed and I went for it anyways with a “why not?” attitude.

My strategy was simple.. to ask everyone I know to vote for me.

I wrote and messaged and called as many people as I could personally, one by one, telling them how grateful I’d be if they could vote and spread the word in any way.  I included a message they could copy-and-paste as their statuses, so that if they wanted to, they could repost it or edit it.  I asked my friends to help me brainstorm and get involved.  I talked about it to everyone I encountered and asked them to go home and have their moms and dads and grandparents and cousin’s dogs vote and spread the word.  I asked everyone in my 4HWW group.  I even made a joke youtube video.  I exhausted my brain and my body and then let go–I waited to hear the results for several weeks, without trying to think or worry about the outcome (especially because I was traveling at the time).

Almost four weeks from the original post went by and I heard nothing.  One day I woke up early to go on a run–I was in Geneva in a hostel on a trip with my brother.  I checked my email and saw nothing of interest, then loaded up Ferriss’s website to see if there was any news.  I saw that the results had been posted, and since I hadn’t received an email I didn’t think I had won.

But my name was there again.  And it was at the top.  I won.

I shook my brother.. “I won.  I.. won.  I won.”

He thought I was joking.  I repeated it a couple more times and shoved the computer towards him.  I felt a huge rush of adrenaline rush through my body, jumped up, shaking, excited.  After a while I remember I was going on a run, so I headed out the door and along Geneva’s picturesque Rhône riverside in the morning sunshine.  The rush of adrenaline lasted the entire run and I felt a huge wave of appreciation and gratitude.

The secret to winning didn’t have a lot to do with me–I could only vote for myself once.  It was my friends, family, and contacts who made it happen and for that I’m extremely thankful.

I used the ticket I won to do just what I said–travel around the world and write a creative cookbook called The Eat Team.  For the past 5 months, I’ve traveled Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and today I’m writing to you from Auckland, New Zealand.

It’s that time of year again, and Tim is currently hosting another charity and win-a-roundtrip-ticket contest at this very moment.  Could this one be your ticket around the world?  Go enter now.

I Made $2, Hell Yes

Sold!

I mentioned in the previous post that I am working on building a passive income stream with Art Outlines, my vector illustrations website.

This week I made my first passive sale!  Two dollars might not ordinarily make me jump up and down like a hyperactive 7-year-old, but this time was special.  It wasn’t about the money (I guess $2 isn’t gonna get me far, especially traveling in Australia).  No, it was proof that I have a viable product, that I’m heading in the right direction, and that if I keep going, I could very well reach my goal.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve also had three requests from “strangers” for custom illustrations in the Art Outlines style, which leaves me feeling even more excited about carrying on.

And is it just a coincidence that my first sale came on Independence Day?

Woohoo!

 

Photography Recap of 2011

Year in Review Melissa Rachel Black

As human beings, we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period of time, but we drastically underestimate what we can accomplish in a year or two.  - The Minimalists

It has been an incredible year of intense change, rapid growth, love, loss, gratitude and contentment.  Here are the most kick-ass, memorable parts paired with some of my favorite shots from 2011.

Landed my “dream job.”  I worked 9-5 as a graphic designer and letterpress printmaker in Dusseldorf, Germany, making fancy-ass wedding invitations.

Melissa Rachel Black

Landed my “dream job” as a letterpress printer & graphic designer.

Quit my dream job. I realized it was someone else’s dream, and what I really wanted was to sustain myself through my own creativity, my own decisions, and on my own time.  To have time to live and experiment and give back and do crazy things.

Moved to Berlin.  Fell truly, madly, and deeply in love with a city.  Met amazing people, danced till sunrise, ate enough falafel to last a lifetime.  I recommend you move there like Maneesh says, or at least visit it.

Berlin by Melissa Rachel BlackMoved to Berlin. (You should too.)

Berlin by Melissa Rachel Black

Sparked the creation of a group of 4-Hour-Workweek entrepreneurs which still meets weekly and has grown to over 150 people.  Found some of my closest friends, mentors, and inspiration within it.  One of the most life-changing and amazing things I’ve ever experienced.

Sparked the creation of a 4HWW Entrepreneur's group.  With Maneesh, Rachman & Tim Ferriss.Sparked the creation of a 4HWW Entrepreneur’s group. With Maneesh, Rachman & Tim Ferriss.

Started my first business.  Out of my love for jokes, letterpress printing (and the desire to be my own boss) grew Ye Olde Gangster, the world’s first collection of gangster-rap birthday cards & love notes.  Got featured in some awesome places, was selected to sell at Neurotitan’s brick-and-mortar, and teamed up with the Hipstery, the raddest company ever.  Got two menterns to teach and learn from and keep things running while I start the next adventure.

Ye Olde Gangster by Melissa Rachel Black
Started my first biz, Ye Olde Gangster, handmade gangster-rap greeting cards.

Launched Art Outlines, a collection of handmade outline illustrations I draw for folks to use in wedding invitations, website design, books, etc.

Art Outlines by Melissa Rachel Black

Launched Art Outlines.

Broke up with my boyfriend.  Stung like hell for a while, then turned out to be a blessing.  My new freedom allowed me to refocus my energy, meet loads of new people in a new city, and clarify my priorities.  We subtracted the parts that weren’t working but kept the parts that always rocked, meaning our friendship was able to regain its full strength and we each had space for fresh opportunities.  He’s still one of my favorite people.

Won a trip anywhere in the world from my favorite author, Tim Ferriss. I ignored the voice in my head that said I wasn’t good enough or big enough to win a competition of this magnitude, and with a little (no, A LOT) of help from you my friends, managed to win!  You guys rocked my world and I won’t waste this opportunity: I am using this ticket to share something awesome with you.

Spoke at an international Etsy conference with my favorite Etsy blogger, Danielle Maveal on small business, passion, and making it happen.

Learned German.  It’s nowhere near native level, but I moved to Germany without knowing a single word, and by the time I left a year later, I could read and write and communicate just about any idea (as long as the listener was patient).  I keep up now by reading my great friend Sebastian Michel’s blog, Mr. Minimalist.

Traveled.  With my brother for the first time–had stinky cheese with our friends in France and a picnic in Switzerland.  Harvested honey at my friend’s parents farm in Germany.  Couchsurfed with vegan anarchists in Czech Republic.  Climbed the Swiss Alps in the pouring rain (scared shitless, literally thought I was going to die) with new friend.  Traveled all over California and stayed with old friends from college in Oakland, Santa Cruz, & San Francisco.

 Got to try life on the farm with my friend's family in Raakow, Germany.

Got to try life on the farm with my friend’s family in Raakow, Germany.

Learned Capoeira.  Sucked at it, but enjoyed getting sweaty, meeting new people, and trying something new for a few months.  Started an exercise routine that sticks.

Launched The E.A.T. Team, a project where I’ll use the ticket I won from Tim Ferriss to  travel across Asia, Australia, New Zealand and USA in 2012 to interview artists and chefs for an inspiring cookbook I’ll co-create with one of my best friends.

Met some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.  This is the most meaningful part of the list for me.  I’ve learned and changed a lot over the last few years, 2011 especially, and meeting people who embraced these new ideas that I loved fueled my fire and I am incredibly grateful for that.  It’s not often you “click” in a deep, fundamental essence of being like I do with my friend Sebastian Michel of Mr. Minimalist.  I got to live and work and play with Adam Fletcher, Maneesh Sethi, Rachman Blake, Mars Dorian, Marcel Phillippe, Fab & Vivien, and a few awe-inspiring people here and there who don’t live on the internet ;)  I also met some of my favorite authors and entrepreneurs, including Leo Babauta, The Minimalists, Tim Ferriss, Charlie Hoehn, Corbett Barr, Camila Prada, Nicola Rowlands and more.  The cliche of surrounding myself with like-minded people turned out to be an extremely worthwhile one to pursue–it’s like having a big non-cliquey family who cheers each other on.

The big life changes don’t happen over night. Give yourself some time. Put in a lot of effort and keep at it. You’ll be surprised with what can happen in a year. The Minimalists

The biggest lesson I want to carry into 2012 is living without expectations of myself or of others.  I feel like every single second, no matter who you are, there are enough blessings in your field of vision to last a lifetime.  Knowing that you are, have, and do enough in this moment, you’re set for life.  Happy New Years and here’s to an epic 2012!

Help Wanted: A Mentern

One of the new holiday cards in my shop.

One of the new holiday cards in my shop.

As things have expanded, I’m looking to hire a Mentern (Mentee & Intern) in the San Francisco bay area or Los Angeles for my growing gangster-rap greeting card business while I travel to Asia and Australia to write a book on food and art.  Basically I am looking for someone like me a few years ago: a creative, smart, motivated individual who doesn’t want to settle for anything less than the most awesome life they can imagine.  For me, that meant quitting my dismal 9-5 life that society promotes and carving out my own place in the world, to be able to pursue a passionate existence.  I’d like to offer my knowledge and expertise to someone interested in pursuing their dreams in return for help running my online shop and as an assistant organizing my projects.  Not only will you learn tricks of the trade “on the job” from managing the shop & tasks below for an average of 5 hours per week, I will chat with you weekly for an hour & provide 1-on-1 coaching to help you reach (or figure out) your dreams and start making money with your own business or at your dream job.  I want this to be a mutually beneficial partnership, where we both grow & succeed.

What you will work on:

  • Fulfill orders
  • Correspond with customers
  • Create content for the mailing list
  • Research physical stores to stock cards in
  • Update the facebook fan page (jokes, sales, etc) & website
  • Browse Etsy for cool items, think of creative themes & create Treasuries around them
  • Read & contact art/design/gadget blogs, magazines, & newspapers for features
  • Research & contact chefs & artists to interview for the aforementioned book
  • Copy write & create etsy listings
  • Update Flickr
  • Write blog content
  • Update website
  • Maintain flexible: I will have different and varied projects for you.
Location:
  • Your home, or wherever you are.  I know you don’t need a watchdog.  Best case scenario, you’ll live in SF, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, or Los Angeles, as I intend to work in print studios in those areas and it would make giving you the prints easy.  Also, if it interested you (hopefully), you could come with me to the studio and see how I work.
Required skills:
  • Reliable, timely, and excited to use your own creativity.  I will give you tasks, but for much of it, I want you to get to exercise your unique skills & innovation.
  • Desire to make a positive impact in your life & the lives of those around you.
  • 100% honest, all the time.  I will be with you, and you will be with me even when it gets awkward.  That’s the only way we can make progress and learn from eachother.  As they say, the truth will set you free ;)
  • People person (good on the phone, in writing, and not scared to say what you mean)
  • Bonus points but not necessary: knowledge of Etsy, graphic design, wordpress, photography, printmaking/letterpress, blogging, SEO, facebook fan pages, twitter, art world, html etc.

This is an ideal Menternship for you if you are interested in most of the following, as I kick ass at and can help you with:

  • Defining & pursuing your ideal life
  • Supporting yourself through art, design, creativity
  • Graphic design, fine art, illustration, bookmaking, printmaking, photography
  • Running an etsy shop for yourself
  • Living and working on your own terms (avoiding the 9-5 to create your own path & enjoy life, or finding & landing your dream job)
  • Starting, running, or building your own business
  • Making money from a passion
  • Learning about entrepreneurship, freelancing, marketing, and advertising
  • Building a network of supportive people
  • Learning about printmaking, letterpress, paper
  • Traveling while still making money from your business
  • The “4 hour workweek” lifestyle introduced by Tim Ferriss
  • Minimalism, a “less is more” lifestyle (have less things, but more experiences)
  • Reaching your full potential/living as your best self

If this sounds like you:

  1. Please check out my creative endeavors here, my earlier blogposts, and my about page  to see if you’d like to work with me.
  2. Email me without hesitation at melissa@yeoldegangster.com a paragraph or two telling me about yourself and why we would be a good working match.  Attach a resume just so I know what you’ve been up to, but know that I’m choosing based on business compatibility and how much I think we can benefit one another, not what brands you’ve worked with.
I’ll be in the Bay Area to pick a Mentern until early December.

Thanks & looking forward to hearing from you,
Melissa

Berlin 4-Hour-Workweek Recap for 6/3: Forums & Blogging

Abuela by Melissa Rachel Black

What would grandma say when you're not sure how to proceed with your business? Just keep trying till something works.

Perhaps the most successful 4HWW meeting yet, we’ve adopted a new format.  Rachman leads the discussions, and asks if anyone has any specific questions or needs help on a particular area in their muse.  I think it’s a great format because its structured like a 1-on-1 conversation which gives individual people real feedback, and the material is useful for the group as well, and everyone is free to jump in to the conversation.  We talked about:

- Hiring SEO experts on Odesk to write affiliate/adsense articles

- Using Feedback Army for real live humans to test the usability of your site and give you feedback, for a small fee.

- Using Appsumo to get daily web coupons (“groupon for web applications”)

- A/B testing with Optimizely is free and highly-recommended by Fabian Dittrich

- You can buy facebook likes for your business or website to increase “credibility”

- Using forums on your blog to increase interaction and productivity, in two ways: 1. Posting on existing forums to bring traffic to your site, or 2. Finding a niche where there isn’t already a forum and bringing it to life by building a forum  on your site.  Increase interaction while at the same time increasing content on your site.  PHPbb is free to build a bulletin board/forum.

- Using Balsamiq for idea prototyping to create digital sketch mockups of a product.

- One of our new visitors, Erik Frank, told us about his site where you can rent great apartments in Berlin for vacation or short stays at berlincribs.com

- Using kickstarter to fund creative projects–a really unique, community-building way of raising money for doing what you love.

- Putting things in terms of dollar signs is a great strategy because it gives customers a good perspective.  For example, a customer who wanted to quit drinking asked Rachman why his site Make Habits cost so much to join, and he told her that she’d save the $39 in a week or two of not drinking, as that’s only 5 or 6 drinks at a bar.

- Sebastian Mikaelson (who is bringing minimalism to Germany at Mr. Minimalist) increased efficiency of his blog by making an elite area and newsletter.

- Using Google Keywords to help think of words to include in your blog’s articles to boost your blog’s appearance in search engines.

- Sebastian also recommends Copyblogger.  He says it provides great content to help new bloggers.

- Mixergy has tons of inspirational videos of successful entrepreneurs.

- Lynda has training/how-to videos on EVERYTHING.  You have to pay, but its a great service according to several folks in the group.

- We all committed to a weekly goal.  Mine was to contact 20 people for my etsy shop.

Looking forward to next week!

Berlin 4-Hour-Workweek Recap for 5/27: Marketing, Networking & Credibility

4-Hour Workweek afterparty. (Ok, not really)

We had even more new people at the meeting than last time! Here’s a quick recap of what we discussed:

- Networking: Rachman reccommends asking people for feedback on your business, and spreading your ideas far and wide. He sets aside 30 minutes every day to email people.

- Using a 110% guarantee on your product. Its more than just risk-free for your customer, and it works.

- How to increase credibility: getting publicity in newspapers, magazines, and blogs – Fabian Dittrich joined us for the first time and he shared his awesome project Fab & Vivien Around the World: they will quit their 9 to 5 jobs and travel the world to increase awareness about social causes and raise money for local projects.

- Chris Williams visited us from the US and shared his experience building his successful business, Heat Spring Learning Institute, which provides education on clean energy training.

- How to make money before your product is ready, and how to prepare for product creation: Teach a class on what you know and charge for it–you will get great feedback from the participants, make money, and gain experience.

- Marketing tips for PPC and in general: Ask a question. For example, if you’re selling a “How to Dance” product, write “Do You Like Dancing?” in your ad

- Using Evernote to streamline & organize notetaking.

So excited to work with you! See you Friday :)