Podcast: Lisa Congdon talks about the real work of an art career

04 Nov 2011

All images by Lisa Congdon, except the artist photo, which is by Leslie Sophia Lindell Photography. Used with permission.

In this podcast, Lisa Congdon and I talk about the actual day-to-day process of having a full-time creative career. Lisa works as an artist and illustrator based on San Francisco. I started reading her blog back when she was working full-time as a project manager at a nonprofit. And slowly, she made the transition to focusing on her art.

I read and listen to a lot of stories of fellow creatives who've made that same leap. And these stories are always inspiring to hear, but I'm also always hungry for more details on what happens once you're a full-time artist.

Lisa has evolved a number of very practical and wise processes for managing the day-to-day challenges of being in business as an artist. How do you, for example, cultivate inspiration every day? How do you keep expanding your base of income, so you stay sustainable? How do you manage all the non-creative parts of a creative career?

I think you'll enjoy hearing about how Lisa does all this.


Find Lisa online:

• See more of her beautiful work over at her website and blog.

• If you want to say howdy, visit Lisa on Twitter or Facebook.


More good reading on the day-to-day of a creative career:

• Kim Werker digs deeper into that mythical idea that "the money will follow" if you do what you love.

• Megan Auman raises an interesting point: many businesses will eventually hit either a production ceiling, or a marketing ceiling.

• …Speaking of Megan, you may enjoy this podcast from the free archives. In it, we discussed the "pro-am" community over at Etsy.


Thanks, Katie -
My plan is to blend crafty with business content. For example, the upcoming episode of the show will be about the growing culture of subversive embroidery, cross-stitch and needlepoint. I'm finding it harder to get excited, honestly, about shows that just survey different crafts like I used to make five years ago. I'm always looking for fresh angles on crafts. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Even in the case of the Jeff Rudell and Lisa Congdon episodes, what they had to say applies to the ongoing care and feeding of creativity as much as it does to business. I hope to always inject these kinds of notes into the business-related shows.

Those are great suggestions, Linda - thank you! I'll start looking for guests who exemplify these ideas. If you have anyone in mind, just holler!

Hi, Corinna -

Yes, selling them through the iTunes store would be ideal, but sadly, iTunes does not support the sale of audio podcasts. I did try earlier to use a distribution service that lists them in iTunes, but as it turns out, any audio file over 10 minutes in length is considered an "album" by iTunes and therefore is automatically priced at $9.95. Sigh.

However, with iAmplify, you can click one button and automatically sync your purchased podcast with your iTunes account. That option appears right after your purchase, when you land on your iAmplify Library page. If you opt to subscribe to the show, then all future shows will appear on this Library page, and you can re-sync with iTunes anytime you like by re-clicking that button.

I hear you that not having a PayPal option, when we're all so used to using PayPal, seems like an inconvenience. I wish iAmplify offered PayPal payments, but they don't plan to anytime soon. I got into this whole discussion in more depth in response to Katherine's comment, so you may want to check that out for more details. As I said there, I may go ahead and offer PayPal purchases through my own website, but I don't have the technical capability to also offer iTunes syncing.

Thanks for your input. I hope this information is helpful!

Hi, Katherine -

Thanks for your feedback. Believe me, it's not my intention to make the show hard to purchase! But I will say this: I'm in pretty uncharted territory here, and have weighed a whole lot of options before settling on iAmplify.com as my distribution service.

Ideally, I'd sell through the iTunes store, but there are a number of barriers to getting material like this podcast listed in there for sale. I could (and still may) list shows in my own online store as well as on iAmplify, but there are some key downsides to that as well. Yes, people could pay by PayPal through my online store, but the only technical option I have for delivering the show is to give you a download link. You'd then be faced with syncing your purchased podcast through iTunes, or finding a way to play it on your computer. For Mac users, this wouldn't be that challenging, but for PC users, and those who aren't as computer-savvy, I think it would constitute a notable hurdle. iAmplify allows you to download, stream, or sync your podcast with your iTunes account, and these are powerful features that, in my opinion, had to outweigh the payment option issues.

I wish iAmplify accepted PayPal payments, too, but it doesn't appear they intend to anytime soon. If I may respectfully point this out, the first time you used PayPal, you had to enter personal and credit card information. Any website, in order to make a financial transaction with you, will have to collect this information the first time. After that, all you need do is log in, and future purchases will be very smooth. In fact, if you purchase a subscription, the shows will appear in your iAmplify library automatically without you having to enter any future data.

I don't know if you've followed the long conversation on my blog that led up to my decision to charge for this podcast, but I'll just offer this: I deeply appreciate each and every person who chooses to support CraftyPod 2.0. I completely understand that we're in an early moment where paying for content seems much more difficult than getting it for free. In future years, I'm sure we'll all find it easier and easier to buy and sell content like this podcast. I know we're all looking forward to that day!

Thank you so much for supporting the show, Katie!

Any chance these will/are available in the itunes store? I was made it halfway through the checkout process, but having to create a new account and use a credit card (vs paypal) sent me away. Content looks very interesting, though. Thanks!

Every time I listen to one of your podcasts, it is like refuelling some part of my creativity. The thing that struck me with what Lisa had to say was how she gives herself time to dream. I have the most ludicrous, insane, completely unachievable goals but I really want to get there! I love that she didn't hit her stride so to speak until her 30s. This whole podcast was like a refuelling station for my belief in myself! Thank you both so much! xo

That makes me so happy to hear, Kathryn. Thank you so much. Keep pursuing your goals, and don't give up! They often seem impossible, but if they also inspire and excite you, then you're headed in the right direction.

Hi Diane,
I'm so glad to see that you've revived Craftypod. I've always loved it. I have to admit though, I haven't purchased the first two, because I'm not interested in the business-related podcasts. I hope you'll do some crafty ones, too. I'll be first to jump on board then. Good luck!
xx Katie.

Another great podcast! I really like these business oriented podcasts... would be great to hear more about jumpstarting the business for beginners or taking it to the next level for those sort of in between. Marketing is always a useful topic for everyone too!

I was right there about to buy it then saw I had to enter in my personal and credit card information! Don't make it hard for people to purchase your stuff. I'm interested but not 5mins of data entry interested. One word -- PayPal.

I'm so glad to see you are charging now! You are worth it! Even if it was a fiddly little road of details to get there! Listening now, so excited to have some more crafty pod!! xo

Thank you so much for your support, Kathryn!

Diane, just wanted to pipe in here - iAmplify syncs with my iTunes just fine, there was a little glitch, but they were quite responsive. So guys, take a plunge and 5 minutes and do this!

I, for one, don't mind the business side discussions, some of it is transferable to other business ventures - but you won my heart with the craft history ones - like the one you did about Aleene? And macrame? Decoupage? I grew up in the 70's, too. You introduced me to Jennifer at CraftSanity, which I also love, and she's also trying some alternative income streams with her magazine, which is way cool.

Oh, Deb - you made my day! Thank you so much, and I'm glad the iAmplify team handled your question promptly - that's part of what I pay them for!

I wanted to point this out, for anyone who feels like it's a hassle to create an account or fill out forms in order to get the show: any time you make your first purchase from any website, you'll be charged with creating an account and giving them information related to your method of payment. Even PayPal, the first time you used it, asked for this info. It's just that, on subsequent purchases, all you have to do is log in, so it feels much easier.

I promise, the same is true for iAmplify. When you buy future shows, you'll just need to log in and the process will be very quick. With a monthly subscription, it's even quicker.

...And a note on those early "history of craft" shows: I liked making them, too. But ultimately, I haven't been able to quite find an evergreen way into that format - once you tell a craft's history, what more is there to say? And with the historical approach, you can't really cover the same craft twice, so you quickly start running out of subject matter. So far, the most life in these shows has seemed to come from discussion, but I'm always thinking about creative ways I can wrap some of the older format in. Many thanks for the input!

I so appreciate this, Joy! And I'm glad the purchase was easy for you. I loved getting to talk with Lisa - she's one talented, smart, grounded lady.

Ok, I know I said the other episode was life changing, this one was too... Totally shifted my mentality on how to look at my art (gives me goosebumps just thinking about it). Thanks a million times!

PS. The 2 minutes it takes to enter the credit card information, is totally worth it. iAmplify synced perfectly with my itunes account and gave me the new episode when you released it.

One word, y'all: life-changing (ok, that's two words, but if you hyphenate it becomes one right?). Go subscribe!

I'm finally catching up with the cool kids and subscribing to your podcasts! This looks like a great one to start with.

I really enjoyed this podcast. I don't think artsits/creatives/dreamers can ever hear too often about the nitty gritty of running a creative career. Especially among all the stories and myths we tell ourselves. I particularly liked what Lisa had to say about making sure to take time to enjoy the advantages of her freelance life and not feel guilty about it. It not only allows her to enjoy her days, but seems like a really healthy way to sustain her career choices in the long-term. Like you, I never get tired of hearing people's stories and paths. I'm sure I'll listen to it a couple more times like I always do to really let the ideas and lessons sink in. Thanks so much for another great interview!

Lisa, if you're reading, I've enjoyed your art for ages and am glad to be reminded of it again!

Thank you so much, Elizabeth! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. Lisa is an amazing example of blending practical business concerns with a creative mindset.