First Creative Dollar Interview: Pennywell Creative

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

Hello. I'm Lauren. My main website is getting a revamp. Therefore, it's best to check out my community link and my Instagram account right now. 

Can you share the story of the first time you made money related to your current creative endeavor? Do you mind sharing how much you made?

I have such a broad definition of creativity. To me, it’s not just art class. It’s also the spiritual practice of creating a life that’s aligned with my higher calling. I really believe that I was put on this Earth to help repair the disconnect between creativity and money. I have been working towards that full-time since I left my oil & gas job in October of 2019.

My current creative endeavor is my writing and my community: Connection by Pennywell. I launched my community in July of 2020 with no mailing list or anything. I literally didn’t think anyone would show up! To my delight, my very first month I had three members paying $75/mo. Even though it’s far less than I’ve ever made in my adult life, I’ve never been more proud of anything.

The first workbook I “self-published” (i.e. showed up at a printer with a file and said: Can you print this?) I sold for $25/book and they cost me $11/book to print since it was such a small batch from a local printer. Again, not much money but HUGELY validating. This was only 2 months after quitting my full-time job and I had authors who’d been writing much longer ask me how I’d gotten a book published. When I explained to them that I‘d just typed it in Word, then designed it in Canva and took it to a print shop (not a book publisher, I’m talking just a basic local print shop) they were all totally amazed! I realized then that my engineering brain might be useful for taking creative tasks that seemed overwhelming and breaking them down into steps to help other creatives achieve their goals. 

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

I feel like the opposite happened to me. I had this idea for something I could do to make money and then I realized I was creative. I know that sounds wild! I’ve always been creative. I believe we all are, but I’d lost touch with that somewhere along the way. Chase Jarvis helped remind me of that. I was listening to his podcast one day and he said that “creativity was the new literacy” and something just clicked. He and Brene Brown have had a huge impact on the way I think about the role of creativity in my life and in the world. 

I got divorced when my boys were very young. That’s when I could see clearly my spreadsheet skills are what helped me keep my home and leave my bad marriage. Before then I had only used my budgeting/spreadsheet skills to help the companies I worked for. 

What if I could use these same skills to help creative people make money? I believe the world has great big problems and we need creative minds to solve them. I know there are so many people who have the desire to follow their creative calling but they just don’t know how to pay for it. I know there are creative spirits trapped in corporate jobs that are eating their souls. I want to bring those people together because no one should have to do this work alone. I know my engineering/planning skills can make sure we are all actually profitable. 

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

This is my full-time job now! When I left my last job, I knew I was going to make this work because I just had to. I am an extremely intuitive person. I know the work I am doing is what I was put on this planet to do. I am so thankful I had the courage to leave my job and the skills to plan for this financially.

I have my community, one-on-one coaching clients, and build cute spreadsheets for new businesses in their colors/style. I still do some oil & gas/acquisitions & divestitures work on the side but THAT’S my side hustle while creativity is my full-time job. I think the mental distinction is important. It helps me keep firm boundaries and stay clear on where exactly I’m going. 

Are there times when you feel pulled between traditional success and creative ideas that won’t leave you alone?

No. I think it’s because I’ve already had the traditional success and it wasn’t enough. I wouldn’t have had this same answer 10 years ago. I‘ve had the corner office. I’ve flown on private jets. I’ve set in the suites (and I’m not going to lie) I loved it. I learned so much in all of my oil and gas jobs. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. It’s not that my dreams became smaller, they actually became much bigger!

I still want to have a life abundant enough to move freely about the world, but I want to do it working for myself. I want to do it in a way that lifts other people up and brings them with me. I’ve said from the beginning I see my community like a spiral staircase. It doesn’t matter where you get on, we’re all going up this thing together!

I hate the starving artist narrative. I think it’s a fear tactic to keep children afraid of going into the arts. It’s also there to trick brave creatives that do actually pursue an artistic life into playing and thinking small. It’s actually total BS. As we see more traditional financial structures fall apart and jobs we used to find “safe” disappear, you will find more and more people are waking up to their creative potential and willing to take chances they would never have considered even a year ago.

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

Start with your expenses! You need to know how much you need to live first. Look at what it will cost to pay your bills and your business expenses and YOURSELF! Break that into a unit you can understand.

It doesn’t have to be an hourly rate. If you know how much you need to make in a month and you know how many days you can REALISTICALLY work on your creativity a month, think about how much you really need to make a day. If thinking about it on a weekly basis makes more sense to you, do that! For example, if you know you need to make $500 a week to pay all of your salary and expenses, how much of what you sell do you need to sell to make that? Can you do that? Start there...then charge twice that:-)

Next, think about a way you could turn your art into a passive revenue stream, something that you can sell that will not take any of your time. Could you turn your photos into downloadable prints or turn your paintings into wallpaper or create a place for people to pay to download your short films? Separating your money from your time is the first step to creating real wealth. I LOVE helping people come up with ideas for new revenue streams. It’s my hobby and I have to literally stop myself from telling strangers how they could turn their idea into a revenue stream, ha!

What role has art and music played in your life?  Can you tell us some favorite bands?

Music is my therapy. I have had an iTunes account since the original iPod came out when I was in college. I would hate to know how much money I have spent on music over the years! 

I love the Amelie soundtrack because that’s one of my favorite movies and my boys loved it (all instrumental) when they were really young. It reminds me of those early single mom days and how I made it and how far I've come!

Now that they’re older and I am happily remarried, we still listen to a lot of soundtracks and they love big theme songs: Jurassic Park, Avengers Theme, Spiderman, The Into the Spiderverse Soundtrack, StarWars, etc.

Home by Marc Broussard will always sound like Louisiana to me.

When I workout (moving is a crucial part of my creative process!!) I listen to happy dance music like Galantis, Lady Gaga, Cheat Codes, Jess Glenn, any upbeat remix. I am an optimist at heart. 

My favorite feeling in the WORLD is hearing my new favorite song for the very first time. It gives me CHILLS just thinking about it. That there are songs not even written yet and will be my new favorites one day gives me an awesome feeling. When I get scared about the future, I remember all the new music I haven’t heard yet. It makes me feel so hopeful! Only music can move me like that. It’s powerful and so strongly connected to memory and emotion. My favorite right now is this song called Waking Up by MJ Cole & Freya Ridings. By the time you publish this, I’m sure I will have a new one and I like it that way:-)

Thank you for sharing your story!

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DISCLAIMER: AS ALWAYS, IF YOU NEED PSYCHOLOGICAL OR FINANCIAL ADVICE PLEASE SEEK A PROFESSIONAL FOR YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION.