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Making finance personal, or how is everyone doing?

I have a couple goals with this post:

  • Learn more about the diverse ways that others in our OGM community are supporting themselves.
  • See who might really be struggling, to help tune my radar for opportunities to help.
  • This is NOT intended as a post about “how OGM can make me money”. It’s about opening up a space to better understand, empathize, and support each other. Maybe that will involve direct OGM activity, but maybe not.

On our Zoom calls I catch tidbits about everyone’s various projects and initiatives. I regularly wonder if OGMers are out in the world getting consulting or per-project fees, or retainers, or have salaried jobs, or hourly freelance rates, or grants, Patreon, blog ad income, book or other product sales, SAAS, retired, or maybe even are just unemployed and suffering.

I’ve only ever had financial success in the corporate grind. I lost a 13-year corporate middle-manager job in summer 2019. It was a job but not an identity, so I had no emotional distress. I was very fortunate to get a severance. After a long and unsuccessful job hunt, I woke up one morning this Spring and asked myself “if you thought you would never be offered another corporate job again, what would you do?”

I have never directly made money with my thinking. It brought me joy, but frankly, always got me in trouble. I would help other company departments facilitate ideation or process improvement. I was helping the company, but not staying in my lane or focusing on my assigned work, so it wasn’t encouraged. So, I formed small lunch learning groups, or taught useful skills to the children of friends. After decades of this, I had “learned” two lessons: 1) I will never stop building and sharing useful tools because it’s who I am, and 2) I won’t ever actually get paid for it, so I’d better find an income using my resume skills instead. Hey, not all lessons you learn are correct. :slight_smile:

So, I finally decided to see if I could make a go on my own. It’s never worked before, but maybe I’m different now. I’m doing freelance graphic design and production art. I build art for retail signs, pinball restoration products, and some logos and websites. I’m now trying to develop some learning products I can maybe sell online.

We cut our expenses way back, but live pretty simply so we don’t feel like we are giving up anything important. A posture of gratitude goes a long way, because c’mon - in the long and challenging history of humanity, we’re lucky, and we know it. My “days until broke” spreadsheet has been awesome. Once a month I divide our Total Cash by our Average Daily Spend for the last 30 days. That gives us a single number - “Days Until Broke”. As long as it stays the same or nudges up each month, we’re good. Every check we get adds days to end. It kinda makes a game of it, and why not?

So, if you feel like sharing, how do you support yourself? I’m sincerely interested in whatever you feel comfortable sharing, with a particular curiosity about the different multi-stream recipes you’ve all found or built. Even more importantly, are you all ok?

– Scott


I made, I think, £8000 in the form of a stipend from Enterpreneur First earlier this year, made no money for a while as I was looking for the next thing after that, and about £2400 per month for 3 months in salary at OBU; i.e., around £15K this year; all this post-tax. That’s not a lot, but it’s still well above the poverty level (i.e., £288/wk average vs £148/wk for a single person living alone). My job as a Research Fellow doesn’t pay as much as previous jobs I had as a postdoc (which, themselves, hardly pay market rate for the services rendered, I’m sure!), but it does allow me much more freedom. Part of my day-job is to seek grants, which is a pretty surefire way to climb the academic ladder — i.e., if any are awarded. There’s clearly an entrepreneurial aspect to that, and at some point it might work well to switch more into entrepreneurship “per se”. That said, one thing I learned at Entrepreneur First is that VC money isn’t likely to fund research, no matter how much they may witter on about “deep tech” and “risk”! However, I’d like to think that I myself have learned (do I need air quotes for this?) a few things about risk in the process.

Given the baseline income I get from OBU, I think the other things that I most need to work on are building the platforms (coalitions, in some cases, more so than teams) for delivering value. I have some excellent colleagues, and some fun/exciting work-in-progress, so I’d say this is reasonably on track. I also need to work (a lot) on managing my mood & other aspects of mental health, because even though my life is objectively “fine”, a lot of social signals seem to tell me that I’m doing it wrong, which can be distressing. In some cases this can be resolved with a reframe, e.g., via Nietzsche:

A married philosopher belongs in a comedy, that’s my principle. And Socrates, the exception, the malicious Socrates, it appears, got married ironically to demonstrate this very principle.

Or, maybe better, Jung (paraphrased):

Significantly, it is Diotima the Priestess — a feminine figure — who taught Socrates that there is a ‘daimon’ by the name of Eros located between ‘lack’ and ‘plenty’ that can hold two opposites together as a whole. — Inna Semetsky, “One, two, three… one: The edusemiotic self”

I had the same questions. It seems amazing how much time people spend in meetings like this. I’ve had to pull back. In February (before the pandemic was a concern) I quit my job at a genetic testing company as a software engineer to work on some bootstrap non-profit business ideas which so far have not gained traction. I had about a years salary saved up from the sale of the startup I was CTO of and by reducing expenses I have stretched it out to two years at about half my previous salary. In October I started contracting half time as Fractional CTO for a small bootstrapped startup making interactive text books. Right now I’m focusing on building a contracting business so I can fun other business ideas and experiments then turn down the contracting when something works. I hope this can be sustainable until I retire. My current prices will soon be on but discounts will be available for business that I am passionate about like OGM projects.

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