The Autonomous Creative

How do they really do it?

So, are you just supposed to quit your day job? How do you actually make a living? Where do paying fans magically materialize from? Join Jessica Abel as she dives deep into the reality of life as a creative pro — the stuff no professional practice class ever really prepares you for.

Featuring cartoonists, writers, podcasters, small-press publishers, and creative professionals such as Oliver Burkeman, Alison Bechdel, Tom Hart, Alexander Chee, Gene Luen Yang, C. Spike Trotman, Tomm Moore, and many more. Listen, learn, and collaborate with us to make something great.

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There's no magic creative career fairy

You've got the creative skills, and you've got the ideas. How do you translate that into actually building a sustainable career?

Enter The Autonomous Creative: A talk show where we dive deep into the unseen reality of what it means to be a professional creative and to build a life around creative work.

"Such an informative and enriching conversation!
– Crowdcast user APetty

  • Alison Bechdel
  • Tom Hart
  • Alexander Chee
  • Austin Kleon
  • Oliver Burkeman
  • Sarah Firth
  • Sarah Von Bargen
  • Gene Luen Yang
  • And many more!
All Podcast Episodes and Show Notes
ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Meg Casebolt

How to find clients and build your audience without relying on social media, with Meg Casebolt

Listen to the episode: “With relationships, it’s not about numbers. It’s about depth.”Meg Casebolt What happens to your business when you take an extended break from social media? Will it fall apart? Wither on the vine? What if the answer is…not much? Meg Casebolt is an SEO expert and the founder of Love at First…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Rauni Higson

How to quit undercharging for your work, with Rauni Higson

Listen to the episode: What has been a game changer for me is flexibility because I love flexibility. But if you are responding to things that you don’t feel like you can actually say no to, then there isn’t flexibility. And what I’ve done now is design sort of big projects and it can all…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Samantha Clark

How to make more money without investing more time, with Samantha Clark

Listen to the episode: “The more I get into this, the more it strikes me that actually running a business isn’t that unfamiliar. The process is really creative. You just try something and then you see what happens. It’s an iterative process. It’s like writing a book. You don’t expect to get it right on…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Emily Zilber

How to move from intention to action, with ADHD coach Emily Zilber

Listen to the episode: “We’re often taught as artists the myth that having the passion to do something should be enough, without taking a step back and saying, what tools do I need to actually move from intention to action?” Emily ZIlber If you have a brain that doesn’t work the way it seems like…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Gabriela Pereira

How to end burnout and tap into creative flow, with Gabriela Pereira

Listen to the episode: “There were so many times where I would imagine that if I followed my passions enough, if I worked hard enough, if my work was good enough, somehow, you know, a fairy godmother would wave her magic wand and all the other things would fall into place…and they so don’t fall…

ACPOD SQ - Sarah Lacy

How to find (and actually talk to) your ideal clients, with Sarah Marie Lacy

Listen to the episode: That’s been a huge thing of just letting myself have that identity of “I am an artist.” This is a real job. This is actual work. I am allowed to make money. I am allowed to succeed and thrive at this, and I refuse to make myself small anymore. Sarah Marie…


How to stop waiting for permission to be a professional creative, with filmmaker Henry Thong

Listen to the episode: “I’m an all or nothing person. So when I get that resistance…it’s like a stubborn trigger in me that gets triggered and I’m like, you know what? I’m gonna use the frustration that I feel that people aren’t seeing what I’m seeing, or the resistance that I’m getting. I’m gonna use…

Shawn Fink

How to handle your creative business finances—even if you’re “not a math person,” with Shawn Fink

Listen to the episode: Do the thing. You might not be ready. It might not be ready. But put it out there anyway… …because that’s the only way you’re gonna know. SHAWN FINK On this episode, I’m joined by fellow business strategist and courage coach, Shawn Fink, for a wide-ranging and empathetic conversation about the…

Tara McMullin explores What Works with us on The Autonomous Creative

Are you exploiting yourself and your own creative labor? with Tara McMullin

Listen to the episode: Labor exploitation is labor exploitation, whether it happens in the non-profit world or the for-profit world. Or in the home-work world, or the educational world. It’s all still labor exploitation. And I believe very strongly that whether we’re talking about goal setting, or we’re talking about business models, or we’re talking…

Sarah Von Bargen on The Autonomous Creative Podcast

Life is more than an endless slog of tasks, with Sarah Von Bargen

Listen to the episode: “Truly, until I was like, oh god, like 34, I was working two jobs to make ends meet. I was teaching and then I was also like tutoring on the side……or I was teaching full-time plus like publishing a new blog post. And I just sort of realized like if I…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Oliver Burkeman

Embracing your limits in order to find creative freedom and fulfillment, with Oliver Burkeman

Listen to the episode: There’s no alternative here. It’s absolutely inevitable that things that matter will be being neglected while you do other things. And this is just built into the condition of being a finite human who will always have more goals, ambitions, demands, felt obligations…always have more of those than can be met.…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Austin Kleon

Discovering your creative system (and the perpetual motion machine), with Austin Kleon

Listen to the episode: “If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started ‘being creative,’ well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Alison Bechdel

The need to feel extraordinary, with Alison Bechdel

Listen to the episode: The thing that kind of has saved me is this awareness of my mortality. Something I’ve been really seeking out quite intentionally for most of my life. Like, I wanna really get it. I wanna really understand that I’m gonna die. And you’re only able to do that in different ways…


Transitioning from (art) school to the working world, with Brendan Keen, Mariel Capanna, and Brittany Bennett

Listen to the episode: This episode is a bit of a departure for the Autonomous Creative; it’s a panel discussion I moderated with three dynamic young artists about navigating the difficult transition from school to the working world. Each of them is following a unique path, and it was so valuable to dig into the…


From coding to comics, and what it takes to reach the finish line, with Gene Luen Yang

Listen to the episode: When I was a kid, I had this habit of just starting up a project and leaving it usually halfway through or three fourths of the way through. I just did it over and over and over again. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I figured out how…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Tomm Moore

Crazy artists making a living doing what they want to do, with Tomm Moore

Listen to the episode: The hard skills I have, whatever their worth…they were only a small part of it. I think building the company really was about soft skills—making connections and finding trustworthy partners and people. Tomm Moore Tomm Moore is an award-winning animator and director, and the co-founder of Cartoon Saloon animation studio in…

The Autonomous Creative with Josh O'Neill

Publishing the almost-impossible (and rethinking creative business) with Josh O’Neill of Beehive Books

Listen to the episode: Josh O’Neill is a comics writer and editor, and co-owner of the Philadelphia-based publishing company, Beehive Books. Using Kickstarter, Josh and his business partner Maëlle Doliveux, publish books and literary objects too risky for traditional publishers. Josh shares what inspired him to pursue publishing, and how crowdfunding allows Beehive to create…

Jenna Weiss Berman on the AC Pod

Running a creative business on your own terms, with Jenna Weiss-Berman

Listen to the episode: In 2016, Jenna Weiss-Berman quit her job and decided to launch her own podcast company a month before her first child was born. It was an almost immediate success, and Pineapple Street Studios never took an outside investment. Jenna explains what prompted her risky career leap, and how she taught herself…

The Autonomous Creative with Shannon Wright

Boundaries, balance, and burnout, with Shannon Wright

Listen to the episode: I can understand when people are just like, “oh, I’m posting all the time cause I don’t want to be forgotten” and all those other things, but that is also going to lead to a type of high expectation that you’re putting on yourself—and burnout that you’ll have a hard time…

Sonia Simone on The Autonomous Creative

Writing 1.3 million words (and learning how to slow down), with Sonia Simone

Why not put your best stuff in front of the biggest room? On this episode, I’m joined by writer, marketer, teacher, and Creative Focus Workshop alumni, Sonia Simone. Sonia goes into detail about her two major career pivots, including how she went from “fan-girl” to founding partner at Rainmaker Digital, formerly CopyBlogger Media. She describes…

Nurturing your creative ecosystem, with Didier William

Nurturing your creative ecosystem, with Didier William

Listen to the episode: “Labor is not a sexy thing to talk about in the art world. We would rather talk about genius and talent and skill, but it’s labor.” Didier William In this episode, I’m joined by contemporary painter and printmaker Didier William. Didier’s incredible work explores the diasporan experience, as well as what…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Myla Goldberg

Being protective of your creative time (and saying no), with Myla Goldberg

Listen to the episode: “You have to protect that time because no one’s going to protect it for you, and no one’s going to give it to you. Only you can give it to you.” On this episode, I’m joined by my long-time friend, novelist Myla Goldberg. In 2000, Myla found breakout success with her…

ACPOD Blog Featured Image - Victoria Lansford

Creative problem solving and creative self-care, with Victoria Lansford

Listen to the episode: On this episode of the Autonomous Creative, I’m joined by metalsmith, Victoria Lansford. Victoria specializes in old world metalsmithing techniques, like Russian Filigree and Eastern Repoussé, and passes these skills onto others through her many workshops and videos. Victoria calls creative problem solving her ‘ultimate superpower’, and she’s hardly exaggerating. Whether…

The Autonomous Creative with Ronald Wimberly

Challenging the dominant culture— intent vs. interpretation with Ronald Wimberly

Listen to the episode: There are moments when your work clicks for people— they see what you’re trying to put together— and that’s when you feel great about what you’re doing with your work.And there might be other times when people aren’t quite following. The breadcrumbs just aren’t enough to lead them through the forest.When…

ACPOD Blog Featured - NLK

Building a healthy relationship with your creative work, with Nicole Lewis-Keeber

Listen to the episode: Are you in a healthy relationship with your business? With your creative practice? Or is it unrequited love? On this episode of The Autonomous Creative, I talk to psychologist, author and business therapist, Nicole Lewis-Keeber. As a business therapist, Nicole uses her eighteen years of experience as a clinical social worker…

Julia DeWitt on The Autonomous Creative

When it’s time to walk away from a creative career (and why that’s totally OK), with Julia DeWitt

Listen to the episode: Julia DeWitt spent most of 2020 at a Zen Buddhist monastery and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work. So…why is she on the Autonomous Creative? Because for the prior eight years, she had an incredibly successful career in podcasting.I met Julia in 2012, while she was l interning…

Matt Madden on the Autonomous Creative Podcast part 2

What does it actually take to find 1,000 True Fans? with Matt Madden

Listen to the episode: What does it actually take to find 1,000 True Fans? Seriously, where are they hiding? Your work is amazing. You’re constantly promoting on social media. You already know that your creative business isn’t bringing in the kind of money you need…especially in a reasonable time frame. So, why is that? Finding…

make more money with creative business

How to go from making some money to making a living as a creative, with Matt Madden

Listen to the episode: I’ve been thinking and talking a lot with creative people about how they make a living, how they struggle with money, and what they might do differently to bring in a reasonable income. It comes up in virtually every coaching call. I talk about it with friends. I ask people rude…

The Autonomous Creative with Spike Trotman

Kickstarting strange and amazing comics (and making a living!), with C. Spike Trotman

Listen to the episode: Cartoonist and publisher Spike Trotman publishes books she considers “strange and amazing.” Her company Iron Circus specializes in “underrepresented voices, underrepresented themes, stuff that has not got a big audience quite frankly or a lot of people catering to it right now.” Sounds like a recipe for struggle. Yet they’re KILLING…

The Autonomous Creative with Lisa Frühbeis

Envy as a virtue: How to turn your greenest eyed demon into a tool for success, with Lisa Frühbeis

Listen to the episode: Cartoonist and graphic recorder Lisa Frühbeis has made bold moves that have led to an incredibly rapid career trajectory in the last few years, starting with pitching a comic strip to a newspaper straight out of school…and then parlaying the end of that strip into a book deal, and then much…

The Autonomous Creative with Martha Rich

Navigating the midlife pivot to a creative career, with Martha Rich

Listen to the episode: Martha Rich is commercial and fine artist who took a long and circuitous route through many day jobs (Workman’s comp insurance. Hotel front desk clerk. Repo woman?) to pivot to an art career at the age of 37. Now Martha makes a full-time living as an artist making work that brings…

Why being multi-passionate is your strength, with Sarah Firth

Why being a multi-passionate creative is your strength, with Sarah Firth

Listen to the episode: “What theories about myself and my creativity am I willing to test? Am I willing to fail?” Sarah Firth is an awesome cartoonist and graphic recorder, among many other things. Sarah takes a bit of a mad scientist approach to her creative life. She embraces experimentation and testing to try to…

How to make a career out of art with Tom Hart

How to make a career out of art, with Tom Hart

Listen to the episode: It’s no secret—building a career with your creative practice is difficult. But for those of us who value autonomy, freedom, and making room for passion (and who doesn’t??) building a career out of art can feel like a necessity. My guest for this episode of The Autonomous Creative, Tom Hart, is…

When to (or not to) quit your day job with Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson

When to quit your day job (or when not to!), with Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson

Listen to the episode: Quitting your day job — That’s billed as the final frontier for artists. Proof of success. And if someone tells you not to? Generally an insult. But the reality of being a successful creative professional isn’t so black and white. Quitting your day job is a laudable goal (by all means,…

how to finish your novel with alexander chee

How to finish writing your novel: don’t write for free, with Alexander Chee

Listen to the episode: If you haven’t finished writing your novel yet, you could lay the blame on any of a myriad of reasons. You’ve got too many commitments, your day job or freelance work sucks up all your time, you’ve got kids, a spouse, friends (never mind your own physical and mental health) competing…