Personal web projects, full-time

The shot heard around the blogosphere: Jason Kottke has quit his job to work on his web site full-time, and has started a three-week campaign to raise enough funds to do it for a year. The idea of making a living from blogging is not new, nor is a fundraising drive — Andrew Sullivan raised nearly $80,000 that way a couple of years back. What’s new is that Jason is soliciting donations, but not advertising, and his focus will be creative and personal rather than, say, journalism or commentary. It doesn’t look like it’ll be limited to blogging, either, but a return to the personal web site — which is something that I still practice around here in the non-McWetlog areas of, but is not often seen elsewhere.

Some bloggers are skeptical if not outright hostile: their attitude is, who does this Kottke guy think he is, asking for $30 so he can play with his web site. Apart from working for the Man (and that Man’s name is usually Denton or Calacanis) or generating massive advertising revenues all on your lonesome doing political commentary, blogging isn’t usually seen as a job. Personal web projects even less so. A substantial portion of web opinion doesn’t like the thought of web site owners earning any income at all, whether from ads or fundraising drives, but they’ve usually got day jobs or are otherwise financially secure, and can afford their notions of financial purity.

This news is particularly relevant to me. Though not by design, I’m spending most of my time working on personal web projects. And to my surprise, some of them — The Map Room in particular — are earning revenue. Not enough to live on, but right now, with employment insurance benefits exhausted and few employment opportunities for an editor/writer in a small town who’s semi-disabled (in that I can’t physically handle manual labour or even being on my feet all day), it’s all I’ve got.

It’s getting to the point where I have to identify myself as a blogger when the media asks after my occupation; otherwise, they think I’m making my fortune breeding snakes (which, let me tell you, is much less lucrative than blogging, if you can believe it).

Jason’s aiming for one-third to one-half his former income. Right now I’m making about one-eighth my income as a reporter (which was a pretty paltry income to begin with) and one-sixteenth my income as a government drone. My goal is to increase that. Fortunately, living out here is pretty cheap and I’m not living alone, so I don’t need to generate vast sums.

My current plan, such as it is, is to keep plugging away at The Map Room while building up my other projects. Neither Ankylose This! nor get much traffic right now, but they only launched last September. Critical mass is still a way off. Eventually, they might do all right, and combined, I might earn something resembling a living.

So I have a vested interest in Jason’s success. If he can succeed, spectacularly, there’s a chance I might be able to muddle through.

If nothing else, a web populated with self-sustaining personal projects would be a very interesting place.