The Fiverr Experiment

I have never been a fan of the mentality that my job is my only source of income. This comes from my parents, my father specifically. If you are good at something, and you enjoy doing it, why not attempt to monetize it in a way that supports that activity, without being greedy?

People are always saying the thing you do in your free time is the thing you should be doing full time. I don’t know if I agree with that, entirely… But I do know that visual thinking is something I do in my free time, and I always get positive feedback when I post the sketchnotes online.

In my attempts to make my sketchnoting and illustrating services a serious thing (i.e. something people pay me to do), I have published a book, given a conference presentation and co-led a workshop, and more recently, joined Fiverr. Fiverr is a website that operates along those old Klondike bar commercials… “What would you do-ooh-oooh for a Klondike Bar?”

Except in this instance, it’s “what would you do for five dollars?”


This is something of a lie, however. The Fiverr buyer pays $5, but the system takes a dollar, leaving $4 for the Fiverr seller as compensation. ANYWAY. The point is I joined the website to see if people would pay for my sketchnotes as a commissioned interaction. I created three gigs:

  • I will sketchnote your talk for $5
  • I will speed draw your text for $5
  • I will create a sketchnote animation for $5

Speakers in the past have paid to have print copies of my sketchnotes of their talks, so I know I’m good enough for that. And after two weeks of being on Fiverr, I am already overwhelmed with gigs that I need to complete… In two weeks I received ELEVEN gig requests, bumping me up to a Level One seller, which allows me to add “extras” such as color, more pages, etc, for more money.

So. I know my sketchnoting is viable in terms of people wanting to buy my designs. With Fiverr, however, you don’t get revisions. What you get from me is what you get. And the money is very little, so while it was exciting to get so much interest (moreso on the videos, and I don’t blame them… a 30 second commercial for $5? Why not?!), I shut down the video gigs. My time is worth much more than $5 per two hours, which is how long it takes me to create a 30 second speed drawing in black and white.

That said, I have been taking the Earn1K course via Remit Sethi, also because I believe my sketchnoting can be a freelance service. I’ve fallen behind, but so far the system seems to kind of be working. I hope so, because I spent $1k to take the course with the expectation that it will help me make that money back. Ergo the title, Earn $1k.

This is an interesting project, for sure, trying to make my sketchnotes a freelance service. And not just my sketchnotes, but my illustration capabilities. I used to do a comic in high school (magical girl manga genre) and a separate one in undergrad (The Adventures of Nerderella).

So yes. If you know anyone looking for help communicating a complex process, or a one page summary of a talk that they can hand out to the audience after speaking, or need illustrations for a book, article, or blog, send them my way. We can make magic happen together at the start of $5 to try out our working relationship. Or if they like what they see, they can jump into the serious query process by contacting me via the form at the bottom of the page.

Reflections on Sketchnoting PechaKuchaCMH 18

Tonight I went to the 18th Pecha Kucha here in good ole Columbus town. It was my fourth time attending and I went to be enlightened, empowered, and inspired. Of course I went with my sketchbook and pens in tow, but, having sketchnoted other Pecha Kucha events, I experimented with my process.


Like other events I’ve attended where I planned to sketchnote, I arrived early to stake out a good spot. Because the event was outside, I had to bring my own chair. To make it easier to carry everything, I brought two black pens and no color markers. I grabbed a program at the entrance and sat my chair at the edge of the crowd.

Setting Up

After sitting, I looked over the program. Ten speakers, two musical guests. Excellent. I drew the Pecha Kucha logo in the corner with the date, and decided to do something I’ve never done before: draw a grid on my paper.

The thing is, with Pecha Kucha, speakers get 20 secs for each of their 20 slides which progress automatically. That gives them 6:40min to say whatever point they want to make… and sketchnoting that can get crazy difficult because you never know what will be super inspiring. I tend to run out of space for the last speakers, which is frustrating, to say the least.

Ergo the grid. By blocking off ten equal (roughly) areas on the page, I was guaranteed to have enough space to cover every speaker. I labeled each block at the top with the speaker’s name and affiliation while it was still light out to ensure I wouldn’t mess up in between speakers. The transition time is less than a minute between speakers anyway, and I’ve had trouble keeping up in the past.

The Talks

I underestimated the grid, completely. I’ve never enjoyed a Pecha Kucha event more! I didn’t have to worry about spacing, keeping up, or anything. It was almost like my page was split into ten mini-pages where I had to capture the one or two main points of the talk as I understood it. I brought my thicker marker (Micron 08) to make sure I didn’t focus on drawing super detailed. I knew I wouldn’t have the time.

Only drawing with black pen felt like going back to my roots. When I began sketchnoting in earnest, I refused to use any color. I wanted to explore the high contrast of black pen on white-ish paper; I wasn’t ready for color yet. I did go back and throw some colored pencil on top of my drawings, only because it seemed difficult to separate the talks even with (or because of) the grid.

Parting Thoughts

All in all, experimenting with an explicit grid and labeling the sections half an hour before the talks even began was worth it. The constraints were exactly what I needed to make the sketchnoting experience less stressful and more fun.

The final sketch, shown below, is also on Flickr.

Making my thoughts tangible

Over the weekend, I threw together some sticky notes, as mentioned in my status report. This has been extremely helpful for me to get some of my thoughts out without censoring myself, which is great. When my thoughts are hidden in my head, they’re locked in a black box. When thrown out onto sticky notes? I can move them around, create associations, transcribe the ideas into a meaningful post on a blog, etc.

Theories, Concepts, Issues and Questions
Theories, Concepts, Issues and Questions

Above, is a photo of the wall above my bed. The orange notes are my questions, the blue notes are questions that are explicit from the papers I’ve been reading, and the fuchsia are the theoretical concepts, theories, and issues that I’ve determined from my papers. Continue reading

Pitching in Paragraph Format

For capstone tonight we need to have a paragraph written about our capstone topic. I’m about to meet with Shaowen to talk in more detail, but I wanted to give it a shot before our meeting to consolidate my thoughts…

“Steampunk is a way of creating sublime awe within an apathetic, overly-connected, jaded culture.”  – Kyshah Hell

The world of the creative practitioner has been around for centuries. Men like William Morris during the Victorian era, as well as all the unnamed professional artisans over time, have given us a rich history of using our hands, minds, and the materials around us to create exciting, functional, and/or beautiful artifacts. With the adoption of online technology, the role of the creative practitioner comes to the forefront again as their works are displayed for audiences who wouldn’t have previously had access due to location, etc.

Here are my questions about this phenomenon: How is the creative practitioner’s identity changing due to online communities, and why? What can we abstract from this in terms of HCI design? How is the material world being influenced by its online counterpart, and more importantly, vice versa?

Whistle While You Work

It seems to me that once you get into the thick of design philosophy, you can never escape designing.  However, I’m beginning to realize that while this graduate program certainly encourages and incites the designer in me to be a bit more active, Interaction-Designer!Binaebi was by no means silent in the first place.

In the Kitchen

Whenever my roommate leaves town she returns with the expectation that I’ve moved something. This is a semi-nervous tick of mine, completely intentional, but not malicious. I don’t like clutter, especially on kitchen counter tops. So when I open the kitchen cabinets and find empty spaces, I move the items from the counter top to the cabinet so the kitchen looks cleaner.

The thing is, I don’t remember to tell my roommate I’ve done this… and half the time it’s with her food in the first place. Thank goodness it’s something of a game to her. “Hmm… I wonder where Binaebi put the [fill in the blank] this time?” is a question she utters frequently, she admitted just the other day.

Now, this information concerned me. Was my shifting redesign of the kitchen’s organizational structure making her interaction with the kitchen frustrating due to my need for bare counter tops? Worse yet, was it hurting our interactions as roommates?

No, actually, because it turns out my shifting redesign has a pattern to it. I place all the baking items together on one shelf, the chips on another. All the Tupperware is in that bottom drawer. Unopened juice is placed in the fridge so the first glass will be cold. In the long run, it seems to work out for us, because my reorganization has an intuitive bent to it.

Which is good. The act of me rearranging items may not be time-efficient, but it is intuitively-efficient for when we need to find said items later.

Side note: This is an interesting concept I recently thought of… “time-efficient” vs “intuitively-efficient.” I should come back to this, see if it’s worth pursuing.

In the Arts

When I have any sort of emotional upheaval, I turn to my artistic roots and let the muses fly. I have, in the last month, upcycled two chairs that my roommate and I found by our dumpster. Solid wooden chairs with a screw or two missing, left for me to play with in the evenings after work.

The process is what makes these chairs amazing, not the end result. Though, I will admit, the chairs turned out pretty sweet. I sanded the chairs by hand, getting to know their shape, their feel, their character.

Argyle Chair: Finis!

“Argyle,” the first one screamed at me, “you must reupholster me in argyle.” When I bought the fabric, it was the end of the bolt, so I got three yards instead of one. Which was perfect, because the next day we found the second chair, and it was just as eager to have an argyle redressing.

I have also sculpted a little android, a paranoid little android who, despite his best intentions and careful planning, lost his heart and is absolutely befuddled by the realization. This project was a true design experiment, as I had no plans when I began to work the Sculpey clay. I simply rolled the clay into a ball, broke off a piece here and there while watching the movie Dogma, and by the end of the movie, I had a mini-Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Marvin the Paranoid Android loses his heart

But I’m never one to simply mimic. My Marvin needed something special, something which made him especially down. So I poked out his heart. For artistic purposes, of course.

Side note: I don’t know why Marvin lost his heart. He’s much too sad to go into the details with me.

I have turned to my music, listening to new and old favorites constantly, while psyching myself up to play the violin again after a three-month absence.

I have, for the first time in ten years, painted my toe nails. This may not be a big deal to you, but to me, every little bit of artistic expression counts. Like my Hot Topic earrings, which are currently little gray skulls. It’s the little things that make me laugh.

In Me

What am I trying to get at here? The fact is that all these little things…

  • Rearranging the kitchen
  • Reflecting on the interactions between my roommate and me
  • Upcycling a couple of discarded chairs
  • Sculpting a hilariously depressed robot
  • Preparing to practice violin again
  • Painting my toe nails
  • Buying and wearing goofy earrings

…these are things that point to me redesigning myself. Everything we do affects us positively, negatively, neutrally. When I began these projects, my motivation was lackluster at best. But as with anything, the more time I invested into the project, the more I cared about it. The more I cared, the more motivated I became. The higher my motivation, the more I poured my creativity into the project, the more I pushed myself to try something new.

The Moral of the Story

Interaction Design isn’t always just about man vs technology. Sometimes it’s about man vs man, or man vs self .*

How do we design and redesign ourselves? What goes into that decision-making process? And what can we learn from that process to help inform our design process, professionally?

I don’t know yet. It’s a work-in-progress.

*Borrowed from creative writing theory

Sharing is Caring

Cross-posted to the IDPo8 Blue Blog.

A word from Bill Buxton (with my emphasis):

“The risk of someone stealing your ideas, or making a fool of yourself, by sharing your ideas before they are done is NOTHING compared to the certainty of ending up with IMPOVERISHED RESULTS if you don’t.”

In the aftermath of project two, I have to comment on the fact that it felt like everyone was guarding some huge secret idea that was supposed to be the next big million dollar extravaganza. I literally had no idea what people were doing until the presentations, and that kind of saddened me. And it’s really frustrating that there are people in this program that think we’re competing to be the “best designer” out of everyone.

I realize some students want their ideas to be “pure” from the outside influence of their peers (mentors and professors excepting). But it seems to me that’s the wrong sort of motivation for this program. I mean, we’re not learning from the professors and mentors only, we’re learning from each other.

Maybe this is happening already and I’m not seeing it because I’m too busy running around being an AI and keeping on top of classes. And that’s fair. But in case it isn’t happening, I’d just like to say that I think it would be really cool if there were more inter-group discussions about projects in general.