I’ve been independent for just about six months now, and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how things are going.
As most nerds, I can’t really just work on one thing, so I divide my working time into three big categories.
Relay FM is the majority of my income and is what I spend the most time on. Being able to dedicate much more of my time and effort to the network has been huge. For example, our membership program had been on the to-do list for months before I had time to get it built out. It’s been a big success, and it’s really great to see our hosts be able to make more from their shows. Putting together the newsletter for our members is a real joy each month.
The two shows I co-host are firing on all cylinders. On Connected, we’re breaking free of the news cycle more often to discuss other topics, and I think its led to some amazing episodes. My other podcast — Liftoff — has come into its own. Our rhythm of covering space news, hosting interviews and working through explainer episodes is unique, and a lot of fun to work on with Jason.
Behind the scenes, I’ve been more involved in developing new shows, working harder on the business side of things and have been planning some very exciting stuff for later this year you’ll hear about soon.
In terms of raw percentages, this site has seen the biggest increase in time and attention since August. It had been put aside to a degree when we launched Relay, and it’s been to be able to write more than I have in previous months.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve branched out a bit with the new YouTube channel. This is very experimental. I don’t have a ton of video experience, but I’m learning a lot as I go. I’ve got two videos done, and I’m proud of both of them. Feedback has been great, and I have another one in the works now.
I’m not sure what the end game is with the videos quite yet. I’d like to make some income from them eventually, but for now, I’m still exploring.
I’m continuing to do a little bit of freelance. I’m still helping manage The Sweet Setup, and I’m having a good time writing my monthly Apple History column over on iMore.
Out in the real world, I service a handful of clients’ technical needs, but it’s a small business that I’m not really looking to expand.
Life at Home
Adjusting to working at home has been the biggest challenge of the last six months. While I have an office I go to when I need to record, most days I work at home from a desk we set up in our bedroom.
We have three kids, and my wife is currently homeschooling. Figuring out the ins and outs of being at home has been tricky some days. One reason I did this was to have more time with my family during the week, but if I’m just hanging out all day, I can’t pay the bills. While I can shut the door and put headphones in, that’s not always the right answer, either.
I think we’ve gotten better at knowing when I need to step away from work and get involved, but its still a little bit of a work in progress. If something crazy is going on, my wife will ask me to help wrangle the madness, and I’m happy to do so.
If I’m really swamped, I will pack up and head to the office to focus. It’s nice having another place to go when I need a change of scenery.
There is a lot of inherent weirdness in going independent and talking about money on the Internet. To sidestep all that, I will simply say this: things are good. Even with the additional burden of paying for our own insurance, our family’s finances are just as solid as they were when I had a 9–5 job. I’m not making what I was when I had all this stuff and a paycheck, but the graph is moving in the right direction.
The bulk of our income comes from Relay FM, with The Sweet Setup, 512 Pixels and iMore rounding things out.
I need 512 Pixels to be a bigger part of the pie. I’m pouring time into it, but the site doesn’t make enough money to justify the current effort, especially if I count the time spent shooting and editing video for the YouTube channel. That sidebar ad doesn’t pay much, and RSS sponsorships have slowed down, despite the site being more popular than ever. I’m going to keep investing time here because 512 is my first Internet love, but I’m keeping my eye on things.
Oh yeah, then there’s taxes. Woof.
It’s been a wild six months. I’m still working too many evenings and weekends, but it’s manageable. Not having anyone to answer is amazing, and I get to pick and choose what I work on most days. The freedom is worth the risk, and I’m already probably ruined for going back to a jobby job. Barring anything major happening to Relay or any other part of my business, there’s no end in sight.
Time to get back to work.