How to Build Your Creative Side Business


How to Build Your Creative Side Business

Guest post by Monika Kanokova, freelance community strategist and author.

Eight things a solopreneur can do to build a stable creative business with multiple income streams.

It was the last day of February. Simultaneously, it was the third month of my existence as a freelancer, and the first month that went by without sending out a single invoice. A horrifying experience. I kept wondering, “Is this what freelancing feels like? Is freelancing really such a roller coaster everyone warned me about?” Of course, I didn’t spend the month with my hands neatly folded in my lap. I was out and about networking and I even applied for some gigs on various online platforms. I was doing exactly what I was told to do, but it didn’t seem to be working for me.

Now, what do you do in such a situation? Do you start looking for a full-time job? Do you ask at the local café if they needed additional waiting staff? Ridiculous! There had to be other options! We live in the age of the internet and I clearly wasn’t ready to start cold calling strangers to convince them to become my clients. 

It was time to investigate different, better options. I wanted to know what possibilities creatives, such as myself, had that could help stabilize a freelance business. I swore to myself I wouldn’t experience another month without a single incoming cent. Today, almost one year later, I can say that I have not. This is what I have learned and what you can do to make your creativity pay your bills, with or without getting new client requests every single day:  

Reconsider how much you charge your clients. As a creative entrepreneur, only half of your time are billable hours. You cannot just work “in” your business, but you must also work “on” your business. As an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to plan for the future, go to industry events, do all of your admin, and even clean your own work space.

If you find people you love working with, chances are high that they share your sympathy. Think of ways to help them out regularly. Think of how many hours you’d like to spend working with them and offer them a lower, retainer rate and a contingent of hours you can work on their projects each month. You’ll get a regular paycheck and they’ll work with someone they trust. 

Whether your main focus is service or product-oriented, try to think of different ways to apply your skills. If you are a service-oriented business, think of products you could create and scale. Whether it’s books, online tutorials, or podcasts, try to think of something you could make and scale. There might even be third party services, such as CreateSpace, EyeEm, Audible, Creative Market, etc., that can help you handle all the logistics, giving you more time to focus on what you enjoy the most. On the other hand, if your main focus is to create and sell products, think of services you could offer. Find ways to generate royalties or teach people techniques and skills. People can learn about anything online, so it’s better to see your name attached to the skills you have mastered.

Use at least 10% (!) of your time for personal projects. Create something that you want people to associate with your name. Whenever you talk about your work, you mostly talk about what you’ve done in the past. Having a side project enables you to talk about what you want to do next and what you want people to know you for. Side projects are also a great way to shift your focus, attract new types of clients, or land new kinds of assignments.

Be resourceful with the creative work you produce. If your client doesn’t like all options you suggest to them, think about who else could make use of your creations. If you have created something others might find useful, find a platform to sell your work as stock. When working on my second book, I interviewed Maaike Boot, a surface pattern designer who explained to me that whenever she works with a client, she presents three options to them. However, to get to these three options, she probably created ten options, so the other nine options the client doesn’t pay for are usually good enough for her to upload to her online portfolio on Shutterstock, a portfolio that she simultaneously monetizes. Smart chick, don’t you think?

Whenever you produce new work, let people know. Practice to share your process and not just your final outcome. Use social media to regularly remind people of your existence and share your personal style with the people curious enough to follow your journey. Don’t be hesitant to show off what you’re capable of because even though there are copycats out there, if you have a unique style, you’ll always be at least three steps ahead of everyone else. More and more clients prefer to work with people who have an online influence and a specific demographic that follows them. Should your following grow significantly, you can even monetize your social influence. 

Whatever it is you produce, there are probably more use cases your work is suitable for. Think about authors. They don’t just write books. They tell stories. But of course, not everyone reads. Unfortunately. However, just because not everyone consumes ideas and thoughts in one way doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for other ways to reach those you think will appreciate your creations. People who enjoy your stories might enjoy to listen to them or want to dive into what you have to say in another language. Joanna Penn, another creative mind I interviewed for #MCFSB, explained that she creates podcasts, audio books, and tutorials, and she doesn’t stop there. She also gives talks at events and conferences that are based on the content from her books. In other words, it’s not the coffee mug that has your print on it that gets people excited; it’s the print that’s on the coffee mug. It’s your style that delights people you should build upon.

Building up a side income with royalties is not a quick win. Whenever you decide to license your work, you’ll only receive a small percentage of the retail price. The good news is that good content can be sold multiple times. While at the beginning it might pay for drinks, eventually it might pay for a dinner, and at some point, even become a main source of your income. If you focus, you can scale your income gradually. There are many logistics companies who are happy to take a lot of work off your shoulders. Look for strong partners who can do the parts you don’t enjoy as much. They might take a cut from your earnings, but it’s very likely it will pay off in the long run. 

Building scalable income streams is not something you can do overnight. However, the sooner you start, the faster you’ll be comfortable when no one calls to book your services. You’ll also feel far more relaxed the next time you go on a vacation without bringing your laptop along. It’s only January! Make this year a different one. Be a bit more strategic about what you do with your time. Should you be on the lookout for more inspiration, check out my little side project that I’ve been working on the past couple of months. Remember, it’s about working smarter, not harder.

Take an exclusive look at Monika's upcoming book, My Creative (Side) Business.

Monika Kanokova is a freelance community strategist and the author of This Year Will Be Different: The Insightful Guide to Becoming a Freelancer. Her heart belongs to good design and delicious filter coffee. If yours does too, follow her discoveries on @kathmo or visit to learn more about her approach to community and product strategy.


How to Manifest Your Own Success


How to Manifest Your Own Success

Guest post by Monika Kanokova, freelance community strategist and author.

This is the final chapter from the upcoming book My Creative (Side) Business, a guide for freelancers who think outside the box. The guide was written for creative freelancers to help them build multiple income streams with their creative output and while this might be the most sentimental chapter of all, it’s the one that affects all of us.

Consider how you want to feel “now” when planning your long term goals.

Let’s think for a second here. How would you like to feel when you wake up in the morning? How do you wish to be spending your days? Who would you like to be spending your days with? 

Often, when we think about our life goals, we think about our definition of success. Nevertheless, it’s a definition that’s hardly ever coined by our deepest personal desires. What is regarded as “successful” has been defined by what our friends, family, and society we are part of consider as such. 

It’s easy to be able to say, “I work for Google.” People know and respect the company. There’s no need for justifications because once you work for a well-known company, you’re immediately regarded as someone who has made it. If you, instead, decide to walk your own path, you will most likely have to defend your decision many times, especially when things don’t go smoothly from the start or are rough every now and then. (Which is normal, but no one ever posts about it on Instagram or Facebook.)

Because of social media, we are constantly exposed to the successes of other people who are often younger than us on top of everything else. It’s not easy to say I’m a photographer, an illustrator, or some sort of other digital creative who’s making it every day, but is still far away from having made it. And even if other people consider you as successful and someone who’s made it, chances are high that deep down, you still feel like you’re making it every single day, which you probably are! 

It might come as a surprise to you that people with 200K+ followers are hustling every day and trying to make it too. There’s no difference between someone you think has made it and someone who feels like they’re trying to make it.

In school, university, and the jobs we’ve gotten afterwards, we’ve always been challenged with a goal we were working towards, and we’ve been comparing ourselves to the people we were surrounded by. However, once you are self-employed and you reach the point where you can support yourself with your creative work, you might ask yourself, “What’s next?” 

Given our society aspires to be bigger, better, and richer, you might wonder what’s next that you should be working towards. You might ask whether you should expand your business and build an actual company. But do you really want to be spending your days managing and motivating other people or do you want to be creating? How do you want to be spending your days? How do you want to feel every day? And where does what you think you want come from? Is it really what you want or is it what you believe you want? 

It might be that you still have a job and picked up this book as your first step to learn more about what it takes to not get a monthly paycheck from your employer. In that case, your desire to become independent is what you might have defined as your goal. But again, are you aware of what it takes to be self-employed, and is it what you truly want because you want to spend more time with your family or you want to travel the world?

Recently, being a freelancer has been hyped in the media, so it seems like a thing that is “to be desired.” Again, how do you want to feel and how do you want to be spending your days? As a creative freelancer, you will only be spending about half of your time creating and the rest of your time doing a lot of things entire teams do and split the responsibilities. There’s no project manager to prepare a detailed brief for you; no one else to deal with the nitty gritty stuff. Is this what you want? 

It’s important to think about the questions I’ve opened in this chapter and write down your conclusions. You can’t and shouldn’t compare yourself to other people. Take the time and sit down to reflect on what you want your process to look like. Then, think about how you want to be challenging yourself. Reflect on what steps you can take to free up your time to be able to focus on exploring what else the world has in store for you that fits who you are.

Let’s go back to the question of what success means to you; is it being recognized by people, or being able to make enough money with drawing, designing, or writing so that you can spend time with your family? Once you start comparing yourself to others, you only compare yourself to the impressions available to you because you don’t know what sacrifices these people made to get to where they are. You haven’t seen them sitting behind their computer at 2am. You’ve probably only seen a picture of a drink at the pool or how they walk their dog at the beach. 

Write down what success means to you and go back to that piece of paper whenever you face a decision you’re unsure about. I believe that once you write down how your successful self wants to be spending days, it’s much easier to feel happy about your life without comparing yourself to others. 

That piece of paper, however, will also make it easier to say “no” to great offers that don’t bring you closer to how you want to feel. And once you know who you want to be spending your days with, it will be easier to know what to focus your energy on in order to reach just that.  

Again, how do you want to be spending your days? You’ll probably be the happiest if you define success by how you feel every day and not by what everyone else tells you is to be considered successful. 

Read more tips from Monika on building your own creative side business

Monika Kanokova is a freelance community strategist and the author of This Year Will Be Different: The Insightful Guide to Becoming a Freelancer. Her heart belongs to good design and delicious filter coffee. If yours does too, follow her discoveries on @kathmo or visit to learn more about her approach to community and product strategy.


The Other Side of Fear


The Other Side of Fear


My friend, fulfillment coach, and Passion Program graduate, Jenna Starkey, shares her thoughts on fear. How to navigate it, when to confront it, and what the other side feels like. 



FEAR: ˈfir/noun: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.


Oh do I have some things to write about fear.

Fear is the monger, the gremlin, the fibber, the thief.  

Fear is so many things that I wish to say to its face. I recently had a pretty wild experience speaking with an Intuitive Energy Healer friend who told me about a dark past life, a very dark and troubling past life. One involving my deepest, shimmering fears in paralyzing detail. Suffice to say, I wasn't exactly willing myself to believe it.

She told me I would experience grief similar to a heartbreak that brought me to my knees a few years ago as a result of that energy. The worst emotional pain I've ever felt? Dear God, no thank you. I won't go into too much detail about the story or the visions, all you need to know is that "impending doom" is what I started calling the anticipation of these painful feelings.

I've always been the type of person who trusts very easily. I like to think I see the good in everyone and believe that everyone (as Brené Brown reasoned with) is "doing the best that they can, given the tools that they have." And in essence, I really, really do believe this is true. 

So, when this woman I trusted (and who had been right about so many good things in my life) handed my fears to me on a silver platter that idle Tuesday, I felt totally betrayed and scared. I didn't want to lean in, regardless of how much I respected her. Her dark words penetrated my sunny perspective anyway, making the fear come alive in me in a way I've never felt before. 

When I told my friends, they all huffed and said something to the tune of: "You don't believe her, do you?" But, something within me shuttered as I tossed and turned that night. What if there was some truth to the things she was saying? What if buried beneath the dark, outlandish story was a lesson I needed to learn? I knew in my heart, of course, it could all be complete bull shit. But no matter which way I sliced it, the fear stayed strong within me. And I thought to myself, wow, sometimes in life we're blindsided when these things take shape.

Here are the options I came up with to deal with the fear and confusion:

  1. Ignore. Abort. Avoid. 
  2. Listen + Pretend like nothing happened.
  3. Marinate. Question.

"Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power & the fear of freedom shrinks & vanishes. You are free." - Jim Morrison

I decided to take on the challenge and look fear square in the eye. Option 3. 

My life coach told me the above quote last year, and it stuck with me. It surfaced in this moment, and I analyzed it. Played it like a fiddle in my mind. Thought to myself, "If I exposed myself to this deep fear, wouldn't it swallow me whole?"

The almost comical (and very Enneagram 7) debate in my mind continued as such: 

  • If I surrendered to the fear and thoughts of impending doom, would I risk losing my ability to be happy and the abundance of good into my life? 
  • Is the law of attraction real? If I continue to think about these fears, will I embody the fear itself? Mustn't I will myself back into light?

I told my friend Laila about the feelings of impending doom, and she said something that changed the nature of my fears in an instant. 

"Feelings of impending doom? ... Well, what are you going to paint?"

Laila's simple response was my wake up call. The fearful emotion had amplified into a movie; an illusion with music in my mind. It became so visceral because I was making something I didn't understand dangerous without reason. I realized painting could help me get at the essence of what my mind was interpreting.

The idea of painting turned my emotion into instant childlike curiosity. Who the hell said the story had to swallow me like a monster engulfed in flames? 

Fears are going to creep up on us in all textures and colors in small and big ways for the rest of our lives, whether they make practical sense or none at all. This strange experience taught me something crucial, however: We can always make it to the other side of our fear if we allow ourselves to face it and walk through to a fresh perspective.

"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." - Dr. Wayne Dyer

I realize how illusive it seems to decide to "feel fear" and "shift perspective." But never forget, fear is an evolutionary gift (not a trap) meant to sharpen our senses and energize us during times of great stress. 

Here's what helped me (thanks to lessons from friends and the Coaches Training Institute):

1. Get the story line out of your head: Paint or write (stream of consciousness) all the ideas and images that come to mind as transmitted by the fear. Keep writing, keep painting. Notice what comes out is rich with insight and typically not as impossible to understand as you think it will be. 

2. Listen to your body: Notice where the fear lives inside you. Do you feel it in your chest, your whole body, deep in your brain? This is usually a sign of what's manifesting. If your brain hurts, it's typically your mind that is working hard on a story. If in your body, perhaps it's a physical anticipation or resistance (punch pillows, dunk yourself in the ocean). In your chest? Your heart needs to process the emotion fully and let it pass once it has been expressed (  

3. Understand the nature of the critical voice in your head: The critical voice in our head takes many names: inner critic/ego/sabateur/monkey mind/asshole. I call mine the gremlin. I've learned that the gremlin has one job and one job only - to convince us that its manipulative whispers are in our best interest; that the monster is "protecting" us from ourselves. As long as we are aware the voices are coming from our gremlin, we are free. The second we give significance to the negative story line loop, we've lost our footing. Don't lose your footing and merge with the gremlin! You are not the gremlin.

4. Empower your inner wisdom: Instead of giving significance to the gremlin voice in your head, empower your inner wise self. How to know the difference? Your wise self is not nagging you incessantly, but rather grandmotherly/fatherly knowing. Your wise self can see the big picture, trust the process, and lead with love. An easy way to determine what your wise self would say is to ask: What would you in 20 years from now tell you to do in this moment? 

By the time I got through the darkness, I didn't particularly care if the details of my Intuitive Healer's visions were true. I cared that the process helped me own a gift I had been suppressing. I felt a sense of reverence in staring my demons straight in the eye. I felt transformed. 

If fear comes to us to deepen our learning and help us grow, why the hell not take advantage of the opportunity to do so? There is always a way out of the trap we put ourselves in, and always something incredible to learn if we let the light in when we crack open. 


100 Hours, spend time with your passions


100 Hours, spend time with your passions

Toady, I'm sharing something just in time for the new year, and a new start! Molly Sonsteng + Dev Aujla have created a letterpress card that supports you, your passions, and passion projects. It's an incredible visual tool to see the time that you are dedicating to your passion. It's wonderful to use on your own, or gift to a friend.


About 100 Hours Project, from the founders.

The 100 Hours Project is a simple offline way to keep yourself accountable doing 100 hours of something you love. Whether it takes you a year, or 30 days to complete your 100 hours, you are destined to feel good doing more of what you love.

When we began this project, we had ideas of creating a website where you paid 100 dollars and for every hour completed, you got a dollar back. It got complicated fast. We soon realized we don’t need more confusion, more debt, more usernames or passwords. It can be much simpler.

A simple letterpress card, a service that sends a gentle reminder in the mail, and something beautiful to stick to your fridge and check off with a pen.

Learn more here.

Many cheers,
Molly and Dev