The myth of the “side hustle”

The myth of the “side hustle”

Part 2 of my musings on an ongoing, creatively-based, financially-stable life.

So… Here’s the thing.  I hate the term “side hustle”.  I hate the culture of the “side hustle”.  I kind of hate the sharing economy.  I mean, yes, it’s great that anyone and their uncle can derive income from their car/house/free time, but, like, it’s also incredibly shitty.

First of all, what the hell is wrong with us as a culture that we’re like “yeah, I work a regular job, which severely underpays me and offers me no benefits, but isn’t it *neat* that I can put strangers in my spare bedroom/car during my off time to make ends meet?”  But, you know, “side hustles” aren’t just AirBnB or Uber rides.  Side hustles are blogs, TaskRabbit jobs, testing websites, filling out surveys, entering contests, reviewing products, and all manner of other things.  What the heck, Raven Gemini, you say, you’re trashing “side hustles” on a blog that is, essentially, your side hustle.

Maybe it’s semantics.  I don’t think of this blog as a side hustle.  (Full Disclosure: I don’t currently derive any income from this blog.  I have ads and I use affiliate links, but these things have not, at this time, generated sufficient income to pay me out.  Nor do I make blog posts solely with the hope of them generating income.  I write because I like it!) When I think of the term “side hustle”, I think about the things we do that involve invasion of our own privacy, compromise of our comfort, and/or wildly inefficient use of our time.  Some people enjoy doing these things, and feel they are worth the drawbacks, but, with few exceptions, I really do not.

I mean, yes, I *could* spend an hour on Slice The Pie each afternoon and make myself an extra $20 a month.  (I did try to do this once.)  I could do that instead of being on Facebook or watching Match Game ’78 or staring into the existential void.  But, honestly, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy doing those things.  (Even staring into the void.)  Don’t get me wrong, I could definitely use the $20.  The point is, I’m not willing to sacrifice an hour’s worth of joy in my life every afternoon for the sum total of 60 cents.

I guess what I’m getting at is the idea that side hustles are the symptom of a broken economic system, not some magic pill we’ve discovered to save ourselves from the same.  Side hustles are another expectation to be heaped upon millennials, to keep us busy and remind us that our place will always be at the butt-end of the service industry.  Are they a way to make ends meet? Sometimes.  But at what cost?  Free time?  Productivity at your so-called main job?  Sleep?  Sanity?  Privacy?

We’re currently so busy trying to live up to the expectation that we can/should be Jacks of All Trades that we forget that the phrase ends with “Master of None”.  It means that we’d rather glorify being sort-of ok at a million things instead of being really fantastic at one or two.  And I’m guilty of this too.  Just look at everything I do to survive.

So… Raven Gemini, what’s your solution?  I’m sorry to tell you, there is no magic pill.  Mindfulness and self-awareness will go a long way.  Don’t fall for those Penny Hoarder articles that promise you that downloading these 10 phone apps will get you an extra $250 per  year.  They might.  But they usually involve you wading through a million ads or signing up for spam emails that will cost you far more than $250 worth of your time and productivity to delete.

Remember, there is a compromise space between doing the things you love and keeping your bills paid.  We’re creative professionals, which means that we get to be really lucky sometimes.  We get to make art for a living.  And, of course, when all else fails, fall back on a cliche: I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy.  I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.

Getting out of debt and into Vintage Living

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Swerve (A financial journey)

Swerve (A financial journey)

Getting out of debt and into Vintage Living

I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Anchorage, Alaska, writing about starting a journey toward paying off several thousand dollars worth of debt.  Something about this doesn’t seem right (or at least fair).  Well, full disclosure: this hotel room was paid for by the lovely folks who run the Freezing Tassel Burlesque Festival, and I’m in Anchorage to perform.  Which means that the flights (which myself and Monterrey Jacques *did* pay for) are a tax write off.  Score!

For the uninitiated, I’ve been a self-employed, creative-industry entrepreneur (of sorts) since 2013.  My last “for The Man” job was working as the box office manager for an Equity non-profit theatre in Chicago.  I ran the entire operation for $9.50 an hour, spent most of my life in a windowless room, and worked for the most conflict-averse Artistic Director in the world.  I loved the theatre and the work they did, but my job was a nightmare and I was barely making enough money to survive.

So… I did what any sensible 20-something artist with a million interests would do.  When I was told they could no longer retain me full-time, I quit and became a burlesque-performing, class-teaching, photographer/art-model/costuming machine.  I do approximately seven times as much work as I used to, and haven’t made a penny more annually, but at least there are windows?  And I can do nonsense things like spend a week in Alaska in the middle of winter.

The drawback to this is that my financial health is pretty poor, and it’s getting to the point where it’s going to be difficult to make things happen the way I’d like.

My credit score has gotten low. (Like, no one’s going to rent you an apartment low.) I have no savings.  My credit card has been over the limit since at least 2015.  (I’m not joking)  I have numerous back utility bills and a couple of toll violations to pay off.  …And I’m a month behind on my rent.

Basically, everything was all fun and games, until it wasn’t.  I dutifully paid my bills until I kind of couldn’t, and then my anxiety kicked in, and I started not paying anything at all, because I was panicking about paying the cable company $25 when I owed them $600.

I’ve taken baby steps.  I had my internet access disconnected for nine months, which has helped me stabilize everything else to a degree.  But I’m really ready to make some sort of long-term change.  I’m hoping that, by being open and sharing my journey with you, I’ll keep myself accountable to my goals, and also be able to help and support other creatives who are struggling against their own low-income lifestyle.

 

The Stats:

May 2017:

What I’ve got:

  • Savings: $200
  • Checking: $71.38
  • PayPal: $0.00
  • Total: $271.38

What I owe:

  • Rent: $1390 (February/March)
  • Credit Card: $2747.96
  • Gas: $445.38
  • Electricity: $210.39
  • Internet: $91.06
  • Outstanding Toll tickets: $86.00
  • Total: $4970.79

Full Disclosure: I am also currently in school, and accruing student loans, but since that’s kind of the least of my worries right now, I’ll worry about that once I’m closer to graduating.

Credit Score:

  • 582 (ouch.)

 

The Goals:

  • My first goal is to pay $2470.79 of this debt off by the end of 2017.  This takes care of everything that is overdue, and brings my Credit Card back down to it’s $2500 limit.
  • My second goal is to bring my credit score back up to 600 (or more, but let’s not get too eager, shall we?).
  • My third goal is to bring my income level over $14,000 for 2017.  I haven’t earned more than $12,000 since 2011 (when I began working at the non-profit theatre), so this is a big (and difficult) one.

The Process:

I have a very difficult time discerning the process by which I should attempt to achieve my goals.  It’s kind of a weakness of mine.  I experience this for pretty much everything.  I want to do something, but I have no idea how to do it.  So then I just think about it a lot, and never actually get it done.  That said:

  • I aim to increase and diversify the types of passive income-generating sources I use.  I currently use Google Adsense, and have affiliate codes for Amazon and ModCloth, but I haven’t made much use of them.  Part of my plan includes making further use of these sources as well as researching other potential sources of passive-income.
  • I will also post a monthly check-in post here at Revisionist Vintage, including any progress made, income reports, and anything I’ve learned over the course of the month.
  • Lastly, I will continue to stay the course with my current sources of (active) income.  I’ve kept private income reports since 2015 which break down exactly how much money I make and from which sources.  I tend to do a lot of different jobs, so this is can be a wildly variable statistic, but in 2016 I did 45 art modeling sessions and performed 52 times.  I plan on hitting (if not exceeding) those numbers again this year, but those aren’t my only sources of active income.

 

It is very much my hope that this plan will help me to stabilize my lifestyle, which will allow me to spend more time working on fun vintage clothing, burlesque costumes, and photoshoots, and less time staring into the existential void, concerned with paying rent.

 

 

Obligatory Holiday Post

Obligatory Holiday Post

Happy holidays everyone!  I hope that you all are enjoying a pleasant Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/whatever you celebrate.  I’ll do a more in-depth post about this dress when I have time to do a full photoshoot, but I just couldn’t resist showing off a few teasers of my Christmas dress this year!

xmas hair

(JK, this is just my hair from Christmas day.)

xmas dress

The dress is Simplicity 4105, from 1952.  It’s got 10 (vintage) buttons and about half a mile’s worth of bias tape on it, and it was way less terrifying to put together than I anticipated.  I was panic-sewing some of the buttons on in the car on the way to Michigan from Chicago for the holidays, so I screwed up the placement of some of them near the waist, but I’ll fix that in short order.

The look:
Dress: Simplicity 4105

Shoes: Rampage

Turtleneck: H & M

Hat: Vintage

Fun fact:  I was going to make this dress for Christmas last year, but figured I wouldn’t have the time.  Thanks to Columbia College’s fashion design program, I procrastinated making this sucker until the night of the 21st, and it was in one piece (less the buttons and hem) by the morning of the 23rd, when I headed off to Michigan.

Also fun fact:  You might recognize the buttons from the header of this blog.  I got them from Uncle Winnie’s in East Tawas, MI.  They’re deadstock from an old sewing shop.

Last but not least:  I wasn’t just vintage-tastic on Christmas Day, I also masqueraded as Veronica Lake for Christmas Eve mass:

xmas eve pants

The look:
Pants: Vogue 8628

The same turtleneck as above.

Necklace: Who knows!  It was from my mother for my birthday!

Urban Runway

Urban Runway

I’m done!

With my first semester back at school, that is.  I’m sure I owe you a lengthy post or several, including maybe talking about the fun things I got to make this term (all samples, in boring muslin, but fun nonetheless).  But before I do that, I’d like to brag a little.

I got featured in a classmate’s blog!  Susannah Meza is a fashion business major at Columbia, and teamed up with photographer Michael Lake to start a Chicago fashion blog as part of a class project.  It’s called Urban Runway, and it’s pretty awesome.

We shot last week, on my lunch break between Wednesday classes.  I got to go up to the infamous “graffitti room” at the top of The Dwight.  The day was frigid cold, but the space was bright and open with huge windows looking down on the South Loop.  We had to work quickly, but since posing for pictures is pretty much old-hat for me at this point, the shoot itself took no time at all!

The look:

Skirt: Self-drafted.  Similar

Turtleneck: Similar

Cinch Belt: Um?

Mushroom Hat: Vintage. Similiar

Boots: Doc Martins

I grabbed the images we took (all courtesy of Michael Lake), but you should hop over to Urban Runway to check out the nice write-up Susannah gave me!

Welcome to the 21st Century

One of the factors contributing to my delinquency when it comes to updating this blog is that I haven’t had internet access in my apartment since February.  I’m happy to say that the scourge is now over, and Comcast has been reinstated in my life.

Cheers!

This is a surprisingly accurate depiction of what I’m doing RIGHT NOW.

More soon, as I’ve been featured in a classmate’s fashion blog, but I’ve got finals to work on, so I’ll get to that later!

The Surprising Difference Between Fashion and Design

The Surprising Difference Between Fashion and Design

I’m rapidly closing in on the end of my first semester in the Columbia College fashion program.  On a personal level, I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit.  I’ve learned that there are a LOT of reasons why going to college as an adult is way easier than going to college as a teen, and a few reasons why it’s more difficult.  I’ve learned that all the skills I was super unsure about as a self-taught seamstress were usually good instincts.  I’ve learned not to be lazy about my pressing habits.  (It’s so important, guys.  I know that saying that isn’t going to make you believe me, but it is.)

And I’ve learned, from watching the rest of my classmates, that there’s a difference in studying fashion and studying design.

There’s a difference?

Did I stutter?  Logically speaking, if you’re studying in a fashion design program, you can reasonably argue that you’re studying fashion.  And you’re not entirely wrong.  The differences I’ve found really boil down to intent.  In the age of Project Runway, seemingly everyone with an interest in clothes wants to be a fashion designer.  And when you’re 19 and see people becoming celebrities and winning money for designing garments, it’s easy to get sucked into the fantasy that being a designer means Zac Posen accompanying Dita von Teese at the MET gala.

The problem with this, of course, is that you end up in a class full of 19 year olds wearing Gucci and Prada and thousand-dollar coats who don’t understand what a dart does or why it’s important to finish a seam.

Now, this is not a post intending to shit on my classmates.  They’re (mostly) a great group of people, and I’ve very much enjoyed spending my Wednesday afternoons in their company for the last 12ish weeks.  My point is to provide some clarification:

When you study fashion design, you’re studying a trade

University of Southern Lancashire sewing machine shop

(Image from The University of Southern Lancashire)

                When you study design, you are, essentially, going to trade school.  You’re going to the only trade school where people don’t deride you for being too stupid to go to “real college” because fashion is incredibly glamourized.  But, at the end of the day, you are learning a trade, no different than if you were learning to work on cars or build skyscrapers or lay bricks or wire electrical fixtures.  You’re studying the language of patternmaking.  You’re building technical skills.

Part of your study should, of course, also be fashion history and a knowledge about the business, but if you are specifically studying *design*, your focus lies in building technical skill.

  There are other things you can do if you love fashion but don’t want to learn a trade

Tavi Gevinson

(Image from The Style Rookie)

                If you’re someone who really loves the glamour of the fashion world, but you don’t intend to spend your life at an industrial sewing machine or standing behind a bandsaw cutting patterns, there are literally a million other things you can do.  First off, do yourself a favor and get the hell out of the design program.  You’re probably looking for an education in Fashion Business.  The word “business” in the title is scary, but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck being an accountant or something.  Invest in those gen-ed writing and rhetoric classes and start a blog.  Work in merchandising.  Do marketing or PR.  That’s where the glamour really is.  You get to dress well, jet across the planet, and schmooze with people at fancy parties.  I can guarantee most designers and garment workers don’t have the disposable income to do that.

 

Ultimately, at the end of the day, you’re going to study whatever it is you’re set on studying.  I can’t really judge you, both my degrees will be in art, once I’ve finished.  But I think it’s really important to research what it is you’re getting yourself into, so you don’t end up wasting your own time or burning yourself out over something you never really wanted to do in the first place.

I’ve been gone a long, long time

I’ve been gone a long, long time

Surprise!  I’m sure you thought this blog was dead.  Hardly.  We were just getting started!  Maybe that’s the drawback that comes with doing things when you’ve just been put on antidepressants and feel like a superhuman.  You start literally a million things, and then you start to feel like a real human and you wonder how the hell you expected to keep up on everything.  I haven’t really been around for the last year or so, for a variety of reasons… feeling like a tepid bowl of oatmeal, taking on a million too many projects, not having internet in my house anymore.  The usual.  (Lol, who doesn’t have internet in their house?  What is this, 2003?)

I still feel like a tepid bowl of oatmeal.  I’m still spread WAY too thin.  I still have no internet in my house (since FEBRUARY!), but I’m kind of invested in giving this another go.  Call me crazy, but I’m trying to get rid of some of the excuses I’ve been living underneath lately.  And I’ve got all kinds of new adventures cropping up!

For one, I went back to school.  WHAT.  I know.  I’m pairing my useless theatre degree with an equally useless degree in fashion design, as if they were a box of Franzia and a wheel of gorgonzola.  But it’s, you know, applicable to this blog.  Long term goals include finishing this degree and getting into the Masters of Textile Conservancy program at FIT.  Pipe dreams include becoming a couturier, because, why the hell not?  My life currently involves a butt-ton of classes and politely but repeatedly asking if I can live in Columbia’s Fashion Study Collection.

For two, I have mentioned that I’m a burlesque performer, right?  If not, SURPRISE!  I’m a sparkly, underpaid stripper!  And I’m lucky enough to have developed an act that no one’s ever thought of before.  (like, seriously guys, this literally never happens.  Everything’s been done before.  Except this.)  And because I have an act that is actually, I don’t know, *unique*, it gets accepted to every burlesque festival I apply to.  So… I’m going to Anchorage in March.  Freaking ALASKA.

Raven Gemini and Monterrey Jacques at the Ohio Burlesque Festival

(Hint: This is the thing no one’s ever done before.  It involves FLOATING.  In SPACE.  Except Space is a dude.)

So… there are a lot of things in the cards for me right now.  Balancing being a student, being an adult, working in a ridiculous industry, being self-employed, raising money to GET TO ALASKA (because it’s not cheap.  What was I thinking?) and generally trying to change the world one vintage garment at a time.  If you want to go on that journey with me, strap in, because I have a feeling it’s going to be kind of a bumpy ride.

The Fuzzy assistant

The Fuzzy assistant

You should probably know that I don’t accomplish everything I manage to do on my own.  I have an assistant.

Cat overseeing pattern cutting

His name is Cat.  His actual name is Sinatra, but that is too many syllables for a cat, so he’s just Cat.  Sometimes Action Cat.  I adopted him five years ago, when I moved into my studio apartment and realized suddenly that it was too quiet in my life.

Cat observing me procrastinating

Unfortunately, he’s not very helpful.

Cat snoozing on my garment Cat stalking the box of pins

He is a handsome little distraction though, yeah?

One day, I suppose I might tell you the story of how I came to sharing my space with him, but for now, just enjoy him trying his darndest to ruin a costume commission for my friend Gin Fizz.

This post is not about vintage (but it kind of is)

This post is not about vintage (but it kind of is)

This post is not about vintage.  I’m not wearing anything vintage today.  In fact, nothing presently on my body is an item I owned prior to this time last year (which is an incredible rarity, considering how ridiculously impoverished I am).

Non-vintage selfie time!

But my outfit of the day got me thinking about vintage all the same.  See, I’ve been in kind of a rut lately.  My get-up-and-go… got up and went off somewhere else.  (Somewhere warm, we can only hope.)  This happens every few years, no matter how ridiculous, adventurous, or epic my life seems to be.  I start wondering “what am I doing here?”  and am seized by periodic ennui, punctuated by the notion that I am, in fact, living someone else’s life.  (This also might be a convenient time to mention that I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for the last 17 years, so if you’re also given to feeling this way, I love you and support you and you can make it to the other side!)

The worst part of this particular type of rut is that doing the things I love to do doesn’t help.  I’m convinced that the only thing that will ultimately help me is to THROW OUT EVERYTHING I CURRENTLY DO, AND START COMPLETELY OVER FROM SCRATCH.  Which is totally unreasonable, brain, get it together.

What does this have to do with vintage,  you ask?  Well… So I’ve decided to try to combat my ennui in a different way this time.  For the past few days I’ve been getting out of bed, putting on colorful, fresh clothes, doing my makeup, coordinating my jewelry to my outfit, the whole nine.  Normal people probably do this all the time.  I’m not really what I would consider normal.  But you know what?  It’s helping.  Mindfully dressing and styling myself helps give me that tiny extra boost I need to sit down and actually get real work done, instead of languishing in front of the same episode of Super Password I’ve seen 10 times (DICK CLARK.  THE MOUNTIES. HAMBURGERS.)

You know, Donna? I know how you feel.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to me, I guess, but I think back to midcentury ladies like Donna Reed and June Cleaver and I start to think that maybe there was something to doing the vacuuming in heels and pearls that didn’t totally involve “looking pleasing to your husband”.  I’m sure that, at the time, there was a healthy bit of societal pressure to be fancy for the sake of all the menfolk around, but I’d find it hard to believe that mindfully setting one’s hair and applying makeup and carefully selecting one’s outfit didn’t also help boost many a lady through yet another day of mind-numbing housework.

No explanation needed, I think.

What do you think?  Does having a fancy day (even just to wash the dishes) help you?  What else do you do to climb out of a rut?

P.S. Oh god, oh god, I know it’s the end of February.  My post on the Vintage Pledge is coming!  As soon as I decide what, exactly, I intend to pledge this year.  O_o

P.P.S. All the images in this post (except my selfie, duh) came from Google.  If you happen to be the person I stole borrowed them from, I’m so sorry that I’m too dumb to know how to link to you from an image.