Janine Bolon 00:00
What you have to create the world wants, otherwise, you freaking wouldn’t be here.
Nick Armstrong 00:04
I’m Nick Armstrong from Fort Collins Comic Con, and this is the Fort Collins Comic Con podcast. Each episode we get to talk with a creator in our community. Today we get to talk to Janine Bolon, who is the Financial First Responder. Now that doesn’t sound very geeky or pop culture-y, but trust me, Janine has geekery in her blood. It’s so amazing to get to talk to her. If you’re a creator of any stripe, you want to hear what she has to say. So let’s get Janine to introduce herself. Janine?
Janine Bolon 00:36
I’m Janine Bolon, also known as a Financial First Responder. I was also a writer back in the days before I helped people with money. I’m a single mother with two children living at home now. At the time I wrote, I had four small children under the age of 11 that I homeschooled.
Janine Bolon 00:56
So, if you’re struggling right now because your kids are at home and you have all this creativity that needs expression since much of your life is being honed into your home, I can help you with your money. I have a lot of free tips and techniques I use. I can also help with your writing potential & creativity and how to carve out space in a very busy household. Thank you so much, Nick, for having me on the podcast today.
Nick Armstrong 01:24
I’m so excited not just because you’re a financial first responder. So, is that like you give CPR to credit cards?
Janine Bolon 01:32
I give CPR to people who have trouble breathing due to their debt. So there you go.
Nick Armstrong 01:38
That’s excellent. So, when it comes to creating a lot of the things that we see in terms of funding a book or getting yourself into the ability to pay for production for certain things, like whether it’s printing a comic book, or commissioning an artist for your novel or whatever else it is, we have two main categories, which is either bootstrap it from a different source, or Patreon, or, you know, some sort of crowdfunder Kickstarter type thing. Is there a third path that you’re aware of?
Janine Bolon 02:16
Yes, the third path is to finance it yourself. Not through bootstrapping, but by your own income levels. It’s to overcome that under earning. You need to get rid of that starving artist mentality and work it much more like Michelangelo. One of the things that he was very good at was getting people to support his work. He would give them first dibs of his best stuff.
Janine Bolon 02:45
So, it’s it goes above and beyond angel investors, it goes above and beyond sponsorships and Patreon, which takes quite a bit of time and effort and takes away from your creativity. So, I highly recommend this to artists: really work on your craft to where you are making things that you’re proud of. And then once you have 10 to 12 pieces, whether that’s a sketch or a digitized piece of art or music, then start going around to people saying, you know, I want to make this an album, but I am going to need assistance. And that’s where you could go to Patreon. But I highly recommend that you work on relationships before that point to get private investors.
Janine Bolon 03:27
The word Patreon was originally meant for patrons, where they got your best quality work first. And then the rest of the people got what they paid for. So, before we use Patreon, I want people to realize the third option is one that’s not even being discussed, which is you approach individuals that you know are very interested in your work. And that’s your fan base.
Nick Armstrong 03:52
So, doing the work ahead of time to grow your fan base is really important. What do you do now if you’re just starting from scratch?
Janine Bolon 03:58
If you’re starting from scratch, and this is your first gig, I highly recommend that you get on MailChimp. Create what writers call an author platform, whatever it is that you consider your art. And you start collecting email addresses after you’ve been given permission by those people to get their email. Then, present your work to them every two weeks on that newsletter, whether it’s a screenshot or you’re just showing people how you’re you’re creating your stuff.
Janine Bolon 04:31
Whatever it is, if you ask somebody for their email you want to say, “Hey, I’m going to send one to you every two weeks, and I’m going to send it to you directly, because I want you to see how I’m doing with my process. And I want your feedback or your thumbs-up,” is some sort of interaction. Building that kind of fan base puts you in a position where you don’t have to bootstrap. As you are building your product, your service, your art, your fans are come along with you, and they support you en masse as you go.
Nick Armstrong 05:05
Are there any tips for figuring out how to grab that initial base of audience members outside of your friends and family. Like, “Hey, Mom, can you subscribe to my MailChimp, please?”
Janine Bolon 05:15
We all start with mom. Okay, just to start off, we all have Mama, you know, and there’s no shame, honey. If you’re raised by your mom, or if you’re raised by your dad, whatever, grandma … you know, they’re your biggest fan. If you’re not asking them first, what are you doing? You want mom to be involved in all that so mom can celebrate with you? Right? Okay, so we’re gonna go move past mom.
Janine Bolon 05:40
All right, what do you do, to answer your question? I know that you have people that you subscribe to on YouTube. I’m not talking about the people that have two million hits every time they release a video, I’m talking about your friends that you have online, that maybe you’ve never met in person. Let them know what you’re doing. Let them see how you’re growing, because they’re going to give you added tips, If you run into that brick wall where you don’t know what to put on the week’s email, somebody may say something crazy. Like, “Why don’t you just shoot a really quick video with your phone about how you’re creating? Or one on how you sketch?”
Janine Bolon 06:18
See, a lot of artists take it for granted, because so many of their friends are artists, and they feel their art sucks. Well, it doesn’t. The thing is, I’m somebody who can barely draw, you know, stick figures. I hire people like you. If you show me your process, and I see what it is, maybe your learning how to build something, it’s incredibly fascinating to me on how do you do what you do. The way you create your art is totally unique. You don’t have to be anything better or different.
Janine Bolon 06:50
And stop comparing yourself to your friend who can draw three dimensional war and battle scenes coming out of the paper, and you just look at that in awe. And all you can draw are little lines and robots. Remember, your lines and robots are how they end up doing scenes for movies. “The Matrix” was put together from pencil sketches of an artist that inspired them to build the insanity of that world. So, don’t discount your work. You never know who you’re inspiring.
Janine Bolon 07:25
What I usually say to people is get out of that starving artists mentality and start posting your crap. Literally, stuff you think is crap will cause somebody else to go, “Wow, I wish I could do that. Could you teach me?” And you go, “Okay, I can teach you. Do you mind throwing me a few dollars on PayPal so I can produce my art?” Your fans will say yes.
Nick Armstrong 07:57
I think that it gets down to the core question a lot of creators struggle with. How do I ask my friends for money? You know, in a non sleazy way? Because I think that’s the most uncomfortable thing that so many creators have to deal with on a regular basis. How do I how do I ask these people who know me as the guy that grew up with them in high school or the guy that was the total slacker in college? How do I ask them for money with a straight face and not feel completely skeezy about it?
Janine Bolon 08:31
Okay, you need to get over yourself. That’s what you need to do get over that. I don’t know what that is or where that came from. Why are you comparing yourself to a sleazy salesman, you’re not sleazy. The stuff you’re doing is inspiring writers, the stuff that you’re doing is inspiring comic book creators. The stuff you’re doing is inspiring some 12-year-old to design a costume in a way she’s never tried before.
Janine Bolon 09:01
So, get over yourself. Okay? That’s just ego. You know, your ego is trying to beat you down and and say you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy enough. We talk a lot about the ego as being something where somebody has too much bravado, like ego being too much. Well, this is the ego being too much and driving you down.
Janine Bolon 09:26
So, realize that’s the dark side of the ego. It drives you down and says you can’t do it, you’re not good enough, and that other stuff. Who are you listening to? Who is that in your head? I can guarantee you it’s not me. I can guarantee you it’s not Nick. We’re trying to get you out of that so that you can present yourself.
Janine Bolon 09:48
Back to your original question about how do you go about asking for money? The thing is this: if somebody comes up to you and says, “Wow, that is really cool. Will you teach me?” The answer is yes, but you have to be able to make a living. You ask them how much are you willing to pay me to teach you this thing? That way they set the price.
Janine Bolon 10:08
If they say, “Well, I don’t have much money,” you go, “Neither do I. How much money can you pay me to teach you this thing?” They’ll respond with an offer of more money than you expected. I once told somebody, “Yeah, I’ll be glad to teach it to you. How much are you willing to give me for it?” They said, “That’s worth $5,000 to my company.”
Janine Bolon 10:29
I about dropped the coffee cup I had in my hand when he told me. I said, “No problem. When can I come to your office?” He said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll fly you out. Let me get in touch with my travel agency, and we’ll get a hold of you.” So, that’s where that kind of question can lead you. I just want to open everybody up to the idea that there are people out there who want what you have between your ears. So, stop selling yourself short, please?
Nick Armstrong 10:57
How do you get those recurring subscribers? And how do you get them to continue paying or even increase the amounts that they’re already paying?
Janine Bolon 11:04
Well, that’s where your platform is, your creators platform is so important. You need to be collecting those email addresses and continually give them what we call your raw material for free. You know, you’re creating that type of thing where somebody says, “Wow, that’s really good. I wish I had that.” That’s when you can refer them to your Etsy account or other platform.
Janine Bolon 11:27
If they never buy from you, it’s it’s no big deal. You weren’t being a sleazy salesman, they just chose not to buy at the price point that you had. The thing is, do not discount your work. I see this over and over again. You are not Walmart, you are not the Dollar Store. You’re providing customized, handcrafted, personalized attention to every piece of art you design. So, don’t discount it.
Janine Bolon 11:56
Don’t train your people to get used to discounts from you. The way you undercut your own prices is on that next new project. “I’m creating a new project Do you want in? For the next three months, I’m going to be doing XYZ. For nine dollars a month, you can be a part of that.”
Janine Bolon 12:20
They get used to more of a subscription-based program. They’re paying so much a month to watch you create something. Believe me, there are people that do this. Why? Because they like you. They like your style. They like your personality, they like the way you construct things. If they’re just looking for a general teacher, they’ll go onto YouTube and look it up. But they want you specifically, because there’s something about your quirky little personality that they love. So, feed them and allow them to feed you.
Nick Armstrong 12:54
When it comes to getting a bigger patron, or somebody who is commissioning something, how do you identify the warning signs. We always hear horror stories about Leonardo da Vinci and the Prince of Venice. da Vinci was completely irritated with him and absolutely hated doing work for him. But he was beholden to the money, and so he had to keep busting out his stuff. How do you identify bad commissions or bad patrons?
Janine Bolon 13:27
The ones that are people that you would not affiliate with if they weren’t paying you? So, this is the rule of creators everywhere. If you don’t like somebody, do not do business with them. Period.
Nick Armstrong 13:43
How simple that is. If you wouldn’t hang out with them, don’t.
Janine Bolon 13:46
Don’t do business with them. Don’t take their money. Oh, my God. I apologize for being so short with you on that.
Janine Bolon 13:55
Okay. This is the thing. If you don’t like them, why are you taking their money? Well, it’s because you’re a starving artist. Knock that crap off. That’s what’s getting people in trouble. Whe have we ever just worked for the money? When we were starving. When we were hungry.
Janine Bolon 14:14
It’s a very different place. I’ve been there. I know what that’s like. I have since accomplished more in my life. I do not ever work for the money. I work because of the joy of what I’m doing. Now, do I have certain things that I have to do to keep the money coming in that maybe aren’t my happy place? Of course, we all have that. But, for the most part I’m bouncing out of bed every morning thrilled with where I’m going, thrilled with where I went ahead.
Janine Bolon 14:42
So, I always say to people to stop the starving artist. Stop chasing the money. Realize you have no idea who is watching you build your art. I have had many patrons, and I use that word in the older terminology. I’ve had many people that came to me later offering me thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.
Janine Bolon 15:07
I actually just got a contract for $50,000 to write a person’s story, because they had been watching me for 22 years. And they decided they were ready to write their story. And they are hiring me to help them write their story.
Janine Bolon 15:24
So, you never know who is watching you. And I don’t mean that in the creepy way, I mean that in every possible positive way. So, just be on your best behavior when you’re in public. Don’t be splashing your latest party photos everywhere on Facebook. Realize that your social media is very much your marketing platform.
Janine Bolon 15:47
So if you want to splash pictures about crazy stuff that you’re doing, I highly recommend that you keep that on your own phone. You don’t know who is watching you who may wish to invest in the quality art that you’ve been sitting in your basement working on for the last 10 years? Or, is that just me that works in the basement?
Nick Armstrong 16:10
Well, I love so much of what you’re telling us, because it all comes back to framing, and not just framing in terms of the ego gymnastics that you have to do in order to get yourself out of your own head and understand that you’re not just doodling, you’re not just you know, tinkering with words, you’re not just tweeting. You are working on things that inspire new ideas and new creations and inspire the next generation of creators. And framing it that in that way makes it a lot easier to ask for money, makes it a lot easier to motivate yourself to work on that next big project. It also adds a lot of pressure. So, how do you balance out the pressure of needing to create in order to generate income, versus those days when you just want to just sit and binge watch your favorite Netflix show?
Janine Bolon 17:05
Ah, well, that’s where the discipline comes in. And discipline has a bad tone in America. Whereas I was raised in Japan. To say that I am a manga and anime fan is the understatement the universe.
Janine Bolon 17:20
What I’ve learned is that, in most arts, there is a discipline, whether you’re a martial artist or whether you are a creative artist, there is a discipline to that art. And everybody knows that. If you sit down and you keep pushing through, you eventually hit that sweet spot where you lose track of time. That’s my favorite place to be. And that’s where I usually am actually. I have alarms everywhere that go off so that I can make it to a podcast or other event, because I am so into my art of writing.
Janine Bolon 17:55
What I recommend for others is there are four hours a week that you need to be working on your art not be actually creating it. I have an article that I’ll open up to your listeners that’s called “Who’s the Boss,” and it talks about your calendar. And what you do is you have blocks of time where you are to be creating. You have blocks of time when you’re working on the business instead of creating. And then you have blocks of time labeled out where you’re going to sit and binge watch the next six hours on Netflix.
Janine Bolon 18:32
The reason you create this sort of disciplined calendar is so that you get what all of us want who are creators. That is, I want the freedom to run my own life my way. Thank you very much. And I want to make a healthy living at it, too.
Janine Bolon 18:48
So, that’s the goal, right? We want the freedom of our own life. And we want the security of the income. And the only way to keep that going is to create that tripod. Money, creation, and the third point on that tripod is discipline.
Janine Bolon 19:06
And that’s where the calendar comes in that you created. See, nobody else has told you to do this. Who’s the boss? Your calendars, the boss. You sit there and you create that calendar of creation, so that you can work on your business sometimes. And then other times, you’re creating in your business. That’s the only way I know to do it.
Nick Armstrong 19:25
It’s so tricky to land all of these things at once. So, if you could tell somebody who is either just getting started or is at the downward point of the slope. Maybe not rock bottom, because they’re still creating but they’re just struggling? What would be the focus on this one thing, and you can turn it around.
Janine Bolon 19:51
The one thing you can focus on to turn it around is what makes you happy. Now, I have had people shout this when I’m up on onstage, you know, giving my presentations. I’ve had them shout, “Oh, yeah, you’re one of those happy cult people, I can’t stand you people, I hate you people.” And this was at Comic Cons where I don’t have to be up there. I’m not even being paid, people. I’m just up there trying to help you, right? And they’re angry.
Janine Bolon 20:17
I’m say, “Look, if you’re not in a place where you’re happy, no matter what you do, you are not going to be able to create the abundance that you want around you. One of the things that I learned right off the bat was doing what really brought me tremendous joy, which was writing.
Janine Bolon 20:35
I’m a single mom, like I said, with four kids. I would get up at 3:30am. And I would write until my first kid woke up, grabbed me, and said, “Mom, can you make me breakfast?” Sometimes, I could write for three hours. Sometimes it meant I could only write for two.
Janine Bolon 20:53
But the biggest thing is this: you’ve got to be creating as much as you can, you have to set up a discipline for it. And as soon as you start worrying about money, that’s when you’re going to stop the flow, I want you to sit there and create and focus on all the money that is coming to you.
Janine Bolon 21:14
I have a free online course called “The 10 Steps to Abundance” where we talk about using the 60-40 principle, so that any money that comes to you from your side hack is split up in a very simple, practical way. As the money comes in, you’re focusing on what money is coming in and what money is not coming in. You need to work on an art form that’s brings in the money.
Janine Bolon 21:39
Even though you’re so sick of doing this one particular art form, you want to just, you know, spit. But it’s bringing the income in, right? That’s why your calendar is so important. You set aside time to do those crazy projects that don’t pay well. But the projects that are doing well, you keep doing. The projects that you go crazy on your creativity are over on the other side.
Janine Bolon 22:03
To bring it back around, What is the one thing to focus on? What makes you happy. Make sure that you’re spending time doing that. The second thing, and I’m sorry, but there’s two. The second thing is the money that is coming into your life. Make sure your divvying it up correctly, so you keep yourself out of debt, or you’re paying off your debt.
Janine Bolon 22:23
If you say, “Janine, I had three part-time jobs, I lost all three part-time jobs,” that’s when I look at you and say, “Then, it’s time for you to refocus and realign. Because the universe is telling you there’s another way to make money doing what you’re happy with.” So, until you know what makes you super happy and what you enjoy doing you can’t even begin to open up to the idea of how to make money doing it.
Nick Armstrong 22:49
That’s a super-powerful answer. I don’t even mind that there were two points instead of one.
Janine Bolon 22:56
I tried. I tried to cater but you know, I’m a typical artist, I break the rules.
Nick Armstrong 23:01
Got to do it. You mentioned that you’re a huge anime and manga fan. So tell me what is something that you wish everybody in America knew that we just don’t.
Janine Bolon 23:13
I think it is the peace and joy that a bowl of rice brings to someone who is so thrilled to be in your presence. It’s the the focus on the tea ceremonies that I witnessed when I was young in Japan and how we would be served just a bowl of rice. We’d sit there eating a bowl of rice around the table with our friends and thoroughly enjoy the smell of the rice
Janine Bolon 23:44
When I got to America … I don’t know what they do to the rice here to make it more transportable. It’s not the same as the rice I used to get in Japan. And so each time I go back to Japan, it’s just being able to enjoy that very simple food in in a culture that appreciates the basics of life.
Nick Armstrong 24:04
Let’s talk about your fandoms for a minute. What’s your favorite anime?
Janine Bolon 24:07
Well, I’m afraid this one was an action one. It’s called “Kamen Rider” depending upon whether you’re in northern or southern Japan. I grew up with that when I was four or five. And I like that one because I taught myself Japanese by listening to the show. Of course, the villain always dies three times and the monster always comes backthree times.
Janine Bolon 24:31
But as far as the anime, forgive me for being stereotypical. I learned of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli when I was over there. When their films finally made it to Pixar, where you had John Lasseter supporting Hayao Miyazaki, that’s when I really got excited. Finally, something that I had known about for a long time made it to the U.S. So, “My Neighbor Totoro” was really weird when I heard it in English because I had heard it originally in Japanese.
Nick Armstrong 25:03
What’s your favorite book that you’re reading right now?
Janine Bolon 25:05
My favorite book I’m reading right now is “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins.
Nick Armstrong 25:12
Topical, just the straight and narrow.
Janine Bolon 25:17
Oh, I will get people back where I think they need to be financially speaking. I get into a lot of trouble because I talk about the things that are taboo in America. And that is you don’t talk about money. For folks like us, that’s horrific. Because we’re artists, and we’re creatives
Janine Bolon 25:37
We better be talking about money, we better be talking about how we’re making it, what’s working, what isn’t working, and also what works for us. Because a system that might work for me may not work for you. Therefore, we both need to be sharing these ideas, so that a third person can be inspired to go do what works for them.
Janine Bolon 25:55
That’s why I’m so grateful, Nick, that you gave me an opportunity to share my ideas. To find more of my work you can go to my website, which is www.the8gates, and the number eight is just the number. So, the8gates.com. When you’re there, that’ll take you to the landing page. Please sign up for my “10 Steps to Abundance” program.
Janine Bolon 26:21
I do not do a lot of upselling on that. The most that you’ll get charged is I’ll let you know about the free Q&A you can get once you complete the course. You can sign up for my Q&A sessions, which are my open office hours. Yes, I used to be a professor at a college, so I still do that.
Janine Bolon 26:38
I have open office hours online for nine dollars a month. You can ask me any question you want. And I’ll be glad to help any artist, any creative, after you go through the “The 10 Steps to Abundance” course. Sign up for my open office hours so we can get you making money instead of hanging out in the basement. You know, starving on your Dinty More and your five-pound bag of potatoes, or was that just me?
Nick Armstrong 27:06
Shelves and shelves of ramen.
Janine Bolon 27:10
I stick with potatoes. Hey, for the starving artists out there, I stick with potatoes because they have the right vitamins and nutrients that ramen does not. So, if you want to stay alive, you need potatoes, guys
Nick Armstrong 27:21
You heard it here first. If you’re a starving artist, potatoes, not ramen
Janine Bolon 27:25
Don’t. ramen will kill, you man..
Nick Armstrong 27:31
Adds at least a year of your starving artistdom.
Janine Bolon 27:33
Exactly. Yeah, but we do want to get you out of that. So, take my “10 Steps to Abundance” class. Then, the most upselling you’re going to hear from me on that is getting you into my open office hours. So you can ask me questions, so that we can hold you accountable and keep you moving forward in a way that’s beneficial for the world. Because what you have to create the world wants, otherwise, you freaking wouldn’t be here. Not that I’m passionate about this or anything.
Nick Armstrong 28:02
Janine, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you today. Thanks so much for sharing all of your awesome information. And I hope that you, the listener, are going to connect with her because it’s a crazy time right now and everybody can use the support. Ask for help as much as you need to. It’s a good time to be creating.