First Creative Dollar Interview: Accidental FIRE

The writing of Accidental FIRE first caught my eye because of their fantastic Turnip FIRE series (somewhat like the magazine The Onion, only poking fun at frugality and money issues).

I deeply appreciate a warped sense of humor when I come across it. In addition, the more serious reflections and corresponding maps/graphics on Dave’s site are well worth checking out and pondering over. Accidental FIRE portrays a mix of humor and wisdom well worth your time.

In addition, they continually support this blog with likes, shares, and comments. I deeply appreciate this as a new blogger testing the waters with different writing projects.

It’s great to feature Dave today for the First Creative Dollar Interview Series. (The other component of “First Creative Dollar” often involves historical people who are long-gone.)

As you read below, I hope you enjoy hearing a small snippet about the way creativity and money have intersected in Dave's life.

Take it Away Accidental Fire!

Please give us a little background along with where we can track you down on the web.

I’m a personal finance blogger, avid outdoor sports junkie, geographer, and former college teacher. I reached financial independence and semi-retired in my mid-40's through hard work, smart living, and investing. I write about the links between discipline, fitness, habits, and mindset and how they all affect your finances at I also believe personal finance needs more laughter, and do my best to fill that void.

Can you share the story of the first time you made money with a creative endeavor? Do you mind sharing how much you made?

My first penny made from a creative endeavor was ironically accidental as well.  I created a sticker design for my new snowboard and went on to get a few made for myself.  I knew that others could buy any creation on Zazzle, but never thought anyone would do so. Then a few months later I randomly logged into Zazzle and to my astonishment I saw that 5 or 6 folks had bought my design and I had about $4 or so in my account.  I was floored! But Zazzle doesn’t pay out until you achieve a balance of $50, so I thought about designing a few more things but never got around to it. It wasn’t until years later in 2016 that I deliberately started adding designs to make money, and the money started immediately coming in.

What happened internally when you realized you could make money from your creativity? Were you inspired? Were you concerned about what it would do to the originality of your ideas?

When I realized I could make money designing I felt stoked, and that opportunity was knocking at my door!  I spent most of my career in a pretty technical field. But I have two sides to my personality, a science-minded side and a strong creative side.  I had never made money from my creative side even though I’m a longtime guitar player and have played in a few bands.  I joke that I’m marginally talented on guitar, and I’m super jealous of your musical talent by the way.

When the money kept coming in I was more than inspired and I started creating designs like mad.  Now I make $500 - $1,000 per month. Sometimes I still can’t believe it.

I’m not too concerned about what making money does to my design ideas.  After all, I’m only selling designs on coffee mugs and t-shirts. I’m not presenting art in New York galleries.  I do some designs because I know they’ll sell, and I still do plenty that are mostly my vision and style and I don’t care if those sell.  Sort of like a rock band who makes a sugary hook-laden song that they know will be a good single to pay the bills, then creates an artistic long-play album that might not connect with fans.  Each has a purpose. I also do custom logos for businesses and that has been very rewarding as well.

Did you ever decide to pursue the creative activity full-time? Why or why not?

I have not pursued my design business full time but I do spend a lot of time doing it.  The main reason is that I’m still working part time at my W2 job to keep my healthcare plan and because I still like aspects of my industry and am not ready to fully separate.  I could definitely see doing my design business full time at some point in the future though.

Do you have any advice for people making money or wanting to earn money with their passion?

My best advice for people who want to earn money from their creative endeavor is to keep showing up and putting in the work.  I’m a huge fan of Stephen Pressfield’s book “The War of Art” and I posted about it recently.  My design business has been on a steady upward trajectory because I keep at it and have established a steady routine, which includes pressing through the hard times when sales are down and I feel like I’m out of ideas.  If you believe in yourself and put in the work, you’re bound to succeed.

Michelle Again:

I hope you enjoyed learning about Accidental FIRE as much as I did in this short interview. I would love to hear some of that music and more of Dave's thoughts on creativity! 

If you are excited about graphic design or just getting started, hopefully the story of this “accidental” start can give you some confidence to put your work out there. You never know. It could lead to some fun or maybe even a little extra income here and there. When it’s something you enjoy doing anyway, it’s worth a try.

What do you think of his short story? Have you ever made a tiny amount (such as $4) but been motivated by the experience?



3 Replies to “First Creative Dollar Interview: Accidental FIRE”

  1. Great interview!

    I have been waffling on trying a small business on Etsy with the wooden signs that I make, but in the world of Amazon Prime, I never think people will actually pay for shipping (or wait more than two days lol). BUT, I should probably just give it a try and see what happens!

    Also – I very much agree that the personal finance space needs more humour 🙂 your efforts are much appreciated!

    1. I have heard a lot about Etsy too but not made the leap to try it. I guess when you make something yourself or design something yourself, it takes a mental leap to understand that other people may be willing to pay for it or buy it. I usually assume if I can do it other people will do it. A lot of times they can, but it is worth money to them to save time and pay someone else to do it. This is a concept I continually struggle with. I see it hold my husband back a lot too because he struggles to charge what he is worth on side projects. He assumes everyone can do carpentry work because he finds it easy. I just want to look at him and be like… “No! Wake up! They can’t! You provide something of value.”

  2. i think i’ve mentioned i’ve never made a dime from creativity. i may have received a free pitcher of beer for my group years ago when i got on stage and recited the ballad of yukon pete from memory. john valby is an hilarious dirty bird.

    dave rocks and i can see the point clearly about just showing up consistently and churning it out for the love of doing so.

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