It’s a dream, isn’t it? Ditching client projects and following your own creative whims? Tina Roth Eisenberg is livin’ the dream, with a wildly popular blog, an event series, a coworking space, an app, a product line—oh, and two beautiful children—keeping her happy, fulfilled and financially sound. In advance of her much-anticipated keynote presentation at HOW Design Live in Chicago this May, we recently exchanged questions and answers with Tina.
First, give us an update on what you’re working on right now. What’s on your TeuxDeux list
You can find three categories on my current TeuxDeux: The big ones are finding new artists for Tattly, my temporary tattoo company. I just crossed off hiring a co-CEO for CreativeMornings, so that felt good. And then there is a long list of to-dos related to our upcoming office move. We are moving into the Invisible Dog, a beautiful artist space in Boerum Hill Brooklyn.
You’ve written about swissmiss, “Little did I know that it would eventually grow into a popular design journal with an average of 1 million unique visitors a month.” What is it about the site that really caught fire, do you think?
I believe it has to do with it having a clear, consistent voice. My readers seem to love the fact that every single post is handpicked and written by me. I’ve seen other successful design blogs hire editorial team, and then the site loses its magic. My blog is a clear reflection of what I am thinking about, looking at and am amused by. I myself tend to go back to sites where I feel a connection with the person running it. In this day and age, more than ever, it all comes down to that feeling of a real human touching the product, service I am enjoying. Authenticity wins!
I think so many designers aspire to do what you’ve done so successfully: to work on their own creative projects instead of serving clients. Was there a moment for you when you realized, “Hey, I can actually make this work?” What was that realization like?
I realize how fortunate I am for the way my career has evolved. I never take it for granted. Interestingly enough, I don’t think I would have ever thought about saying no to clients if it wouldn’t have been for some of my Studiomates who were working on their own projects and often asked why I didn’t do the same. I had plenty of ideas for products but the thought never occurred to me.
I started my design studio the day my daughter was born, as I felt I could no longer NOT go after my dreams. Now that I was a mom, I had to really tackle all ever wanted to accomplish in life. After all, I now officially had to be a role model. But then, 3 years later, when I was pregnant with my son, I took inventory of my life and realized I really wasn’t happy running a design studio. I had more clients that I could handle, prestigious clients, but I wasn’t happy. I realized that my “side projects” made me happy. So, the day my son was born, I dared to go on a one-year client sabbatical. The only reason I was able to do that was because I had some savings and my blog created some advertising income that allowed me to keep going.
Since then, I am convinced that passive income is the secret sauce to live a creative life. And I am happy to say that with running Tattly, I have become a passive income source for many of our artists. For every Tattly sold, the artist gets a generous cut. Just in the last quarter we paid $69k in artist commissions. This makes me so happy and wonder what are artists are doing with this newfound freedom.
Your businesses are so different. What’s the common thread that links them?
I am trying to help creative types live their best lives: Pointing them to beautiful, curious things with my blog. Creating communities and helping them find like-minded folks (Studiomates and CreativeMornings). And with Tattly, I try to sprinkle and extra layer of love and fun on all of this, plus, I am helping creative passive income for our artists.
One of the things I love about swissmiss is that it’s a little ADD—you post quick little snippets of interesting stuff and then move onto the next shiny thing. Is that kind of your nature in real life— to be always looking and gathering ideas and inspiration?
Yes! I have always been a collector. When I was a kid and teenager, I collected physical stuff; now, I am a digital collector. And I love to share my findings. It makes me especially happy when I can help someone jumpstart their new business. I have a folder filled with e-mails from people telling me their stories on what happened after I blogged about them. I know how hard it is to get something new off the ground. Being able to share good ideas and products with my readers, and knowing that could change someone’s life for the better, there’s nothing better.
Is there anything you miss about working for others? What’s the key challenge of being “clientless?”
I absolutely do not miss having clients. Now that I am often the client myself, I do understand how hard it can be to be the client. If I would ever go back to the service industry, I would be way more empathetic with my clients. It’s always good to walk in someone else’s shoes.
Can you give us a sneak preview of your talk at HOW Design Live?
I will speak on the importance of generosity, kindness and respect in the workplace. I believe that many work environments today are missing a human touch. A lot of business owners make their decisions purely based on spreadsheets, instead of what is right. Also, I’ll talk about my confetti drawer. Every business should have one!
Featured photo by Julia Robbs