734
7 min 4 sec

Data Geek Charts Course From Analyst to Author

Bored at work, a young economics analyst gets creative and designs charts about love and breakups. She ends up with a book deal—and a better job.
Arts & Crafts Book Design Product

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What It's About

This chart-topping hustle brings a whole new meaning to supply and demand.

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Illustration & Creativity
Complexity
Low
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

You really only need that one, right person to see your work and respond to it for something magical to happen.

Fun Fact

Liz’s original plan was just to put up a personal website. Once she had it, she needed something to put on the website—which is why she began making her charts.

Notes from Chris

Episode 734
In 2011, Liz Fosslien was in her early twenties, fairly new to the workforce, and totally unhappy at her day job. The life of an economics analyst is one of crunching numbers and data, not necessarily creativity and passion. She felt stifled and decided to channel that feeling into something creative.

When it comes to creating anything new, it’s good to start with what you know. Liz was an expert at charting data in interesting ways. She decided to begin creating charts, graphs and diagrams that shined a humorous light on society and life. She took anecdotal data from everyday life and created her first few charts.

Those first charts were published under the title "14 Ways An Economist Says I Love You” right before Valentine’s Day 2012. They included things like “How I Love You” in pie chart form and funny stock charts indicating explosive growth in the love markets. She decided to put them up on her personal website and shared them with her social network. The page proved a hit with her data nerd friends!

Liz had successfully tested her work with a small audience, and that gave her confidence to show it to the wider data community. She emailed a few blogs that wrote about finance and economics. After all, what did she have to lose?

A year into charting and illustrating, Liz had built an audience but still wasn’t making any money directly from her side hustle. But it did lead to other opportunities.

In 2013, she landed a new job as Editor at Genius, a popular music startup. It was a more creative role, and the ease of transition was made possible by her side hustle. It proved to her new employer that she had creative talent and wasn’t just a number-crunching zombie.

As 2014 turned into 2015, Liz kept illustrating and from time to time would land some paid work as a result of her illustrations. She’d built up a good social following by interacting as much as possible with anyone who showed an interest in her work.

One day she noticed a particular account was liking every single one of her posts. She did some snooping and noticed the person doing all the liking was actually a book agent for authors of business-related books! Just like when she contacted those first blogs, Liz took a chance and sent an email.

It took 30 minutes to type up and craft the perfect email, but it worked. A few weeks later Liz had an agent! This was a special moment for her. She felt it gave her some professional recognition, and that she had proof she wasn’t just doodling in a corner of the internet somewhere.

From there, the chart of Liz’s rise was going up and to the right! Liz and her agent pitched a book concept to some publishers and received an offer. The book is called No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power Of Embracing Emotions at Work. It will be co-authored by a colleague of Liz’s and feature their take on well being in the workplace. Liz puts the successful pitch down to her building her own audience first and creating content that they love.

But the best part of all was that the advance for the book gave Liz enough money to quit her job and focus on it full-time, for an entire year. She had to live frugally, but she considered it a small price to pay for creative freedom.

From job to side hustle and back to full-time work. Sounds like Liz charted a course that’s just right for her.

 
  MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Liz + Mollie: Liz's first book is launching soon! Learn more about it over on Amazon
  • No Hard Feelings: Liz's first book is launching soon! Learn more about it over on Amazon

SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

cg-sig-newsletter


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Resources

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Quote of the Day
"Most 'overnight successes' you hear about are usually the result of people putting themselves out there over and over and setting up situations that might lead to success. You really only need that one, right person to see your work and respond to it for something magical to happen.​"
—Liz Fosslien #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau