Transcript: Closing Keynote – A Day in the Creator Life

Alright, hi, everyone. Jeff Rozic here from the WordPress.com team.
Welcome to A Day in the Creator life. And more importantly, I’m really
proud and excited to introduce Mr. Nick Engvall to talk us through his life in the creator world and before we do, Nick, welcome, sir. Good to see you again. Good to see you. And I’m going to ask you for a proper self introduction in just a second, but the way we found Nick or the way I found Nick, I should say, was I was looking for a podcast of a notable topic and if you can look at the wall behind nick, you might guess what the topic was that I first found Nick through. So just I don’t know where to start with your creator story because you work on so many different things. So let’s just start with something
easy – point me to a pair of shoes back there that has, where you got it or why you got it, or why you love it, just get us started on the sneaker topic. OK, so this pair right here – the kind of white with the red and black on it is a pair that is kind of, the thing that keeps me going. It was given to me by one of the members of our Sneaker History, discord community, patron community, all as a result of us just creating great content and getting to know our supporters. And to me, that’s kind of the reason for doing it, is the personal connections and that one just was of a supporter who has become a great friend, and, you know, it started with just talking about sneakers on the internet. Well, there you have it. If we like our talk today, we’ll get Nick’s address up on screen and we all know where to send some sneakers. I love it. Well, like I said, we found Nick’s sneaker history podcast and website first. But as it turns out, you just have so many cool things going on. So I’m going to ask you to if it’s OK, give a self introduction. We don’t have to go too far back in your work. We’ll talk about that in a moment. But as of today, where are you? Who are you? And what are all the things, if you don’t mind, what are all the things you’re working on right now that just kind of set the table for this discussion? Yeah so my name is Nick Engvall.
I’m originally from Sacramento, California, I actually just moved back to Sacramento during the pandemic to kind of be closer to family and support my older grandparents and just kind of get some grounding again. I move around a lot as I’ve told you. My work now consists of supporting a handful of different companies, brands, clients, however you want to look at that, most of them are people I’ve become friends
with throughout the years. And then on the side, I kind of have a few different projects. I do a sneaker history podcast, which is a community based, you know, kind of just talking about sneakers on a regular basis. We have a few of those that go out each week in various formats. That includes a few dozen patron supporters, you know, 100 plus discord community members, and, you know, it’s just really been my passion project. I’ve been lucky enough to work in the footwear industry for about 15 years now. So this kind of was my way of just having a place to connect with people without necessarily having, you know, as someone who creates content professionally, your voice kind of gets lost in the predetermined narratives of what exists for a big business to speak to their consumers. So I just kind of wanted to create this and it’s been, I think, five, six years now, seven years now going on, seven years now of having this kind of side project to introduce the next generation of people into the sneaker world and the footwear industry. And, you know, as I mentioned, like, you know, we’ve run a WordPress blog. I’ve run WordPress blog for a really long time so it just was a perfect connection when you reached out, I just thought, hey, this is great. That’s great. Well, thank you for taking us through at the high level. We’re going to drill in on a couple of things, including podcasting, including content creation. I think it might be good to start with a little bit of your background, because over the years you’ve worked with some really cool brands. A lot of them happen to have been in the sneaker industry. So you describe yourself as a content architect, which I think a lot of people in our audience today would either aspire to or are to describe themselves as well. So talk us through your background a bit and how you got to being kind of this prolific creator of content in many forms. Yeah, so I started writing. I was always into writing even as a young kid. I entered into writing contests and kind of found it as a way to express myself and then I moved into kind of more professional setting and that kind of became just a release and you know, a personal thing. And as I got into the sneaker world in a professional aspect, you know, I’ve written for, started with Nice Kicks. I was one of the first people that they hired many, many years ago and that transitioned into working for Soul Collector Magazine, which is that used to be an industry magazine, very focused on the sneaker community and then I worked for Complex. I literally managed the start of Complex Sneakers and what it’s become is that, you know, massive media company has expanded into such a large array of different things. So I’ve really just kind of followed the, you know, the passion and the waves that took me to different places and introduced me to different things and, you know, just kind of just enjoying the ride along the way, really. That’s awesome. Well, thank you for taking us through that. And we’ll come back a little bit and talk about the juggling act of it all and the making money aspect of it all in general terms at least. But I think it might be a good time to drill in on podcasting. And again, the first podcast kind of vehicle that I found you through with Sneaker History. So we can start with that and describe kind of how you started that, who you started it with, why. and then we’ll Zoom out and talk a little bit about the role of podcasting in your arsenal of creative work today. So tell us a little bit about Sneaker History first and then we’ll back out from there. Yeah, so Sneaker History is just kind of my passion project, but it also became a way for me to introduce new writers, new creators into the world of footwear on the business side. And, you know, part of it was just me networking with people that were excited to be a part of things and part of it would be kind of a coaching session, in a sense to kind of guide them into like maybe opportunities that exist. Because I think sneakers is a really fascinating world in that the general consumer, myself included, up until years ago when I got started in it just thought, hey, you can either be a footwear designer or a marketing person or like the CEO of Nike. Right like, you don’t really have an insight into all the different nuances of what exists. So the podcast kind of spun off from the website, which was already know a WordPress blog that we just kind of used to share different stories that have gone up, that have happened throughout the years, you know, especially when there’s new products coming out and people need to know about like, hey, why is this important? So the podcast kind of became a way for us to connect a little bit deeper with our already existing followers and friends that are out there supporting us. And so on that podcast I have, you know, Robby, Mike and Rohit are all, you know, kind of sneaker heads that had been a part of the community in various aspects and each of them kind of has like their foot in the door in various ways of like, you know, turning that passion into something, some sort of revenue or some sort of professional, you know, position, right? So the podcast just gave us a way to take, you know, what we were trying to do with our website, with our social media and, you know, really get to let people get to know us beyond just the photos and the descriptions and blog posts. So my personal journey with podcasts, you know, has been going on a really long time. It was something that I wanted to start at Complex, you know, 10 years ago when I was there and, you know, they just weren’t in a position to do that, you know, it didn’t make sense and I totally understand why, because the focus was not there at that time and in the landscape of what content was a much different place, especially for sneakers. So with sneaker history, it became kind of an escape from the normal day to day stuff for us and then when the pandemic hit, you know, we realized that we became the escape for our listeners. So they didn’t have the opportunity to maybe go and talk with their friends about sneakers every day. But they could listen to our show a couple times a week and feel like we were having regular conversations and inevitably that turned into, you know, I mean, dozens of new friends in a time where we’re all trying to figure out how to just still be in touch with people. So it was really a blessing in disguise for all of us. I just love that. Now, you built the Discord community around it and you have backers, and really it kind of brings to mind that creator economy adage of find your first 100 true fans, or your first 1,000 or whatever that magic number is. But you are all doing it as much for yourselves throughout the last year or two as this growing community that you’ve been building around it, which I think a lot of people can emulate. If you just think about who are those people? Who are those people, my audience, who this is most important for now? As you zoom out, you see just an explosion of podcasting today and definitely a big topic for us here at the Summit and among our customer base. What are you seeing as just trends as far as getting started in podcasting, but also figuring out where it fits in your life, whether it’s making money, whether it’s the effort or the time that you put into it? I think that you’re in a unique position because you’re hands on, but then you’re also advising or helping others get started. Just as much as you were kind of ahead of the curve 10 years ago at Complex. Yeah, it’s interesting because, you know, being somebody who works in this space and does so much, you know, it’s not really a day job, kind of a schedule, but I refer to it as my day job, right? Those things seem like they fit together, but they can also be exhausting at the same time, because I’m so intertwined in all these conversations that are very repetitive. If I’m having one conversation with somebody at 10 am and the same conversation on a podcast, you know, six hours later, it can be challenging. But I think that, you know, as the podcast has grown, the value on it not just in a financial way, but in a real, you know, just people and connecting with people has been so motivational for me to, you know, kind of keep it going even when juggling all of those things can be challenging. And I think with the podcast, too, like we’ve tried a lot of different things. And I think that it’s the most forgiving audience that I’ve ever had. And that is something that is, you know, as someone who’s created a high level professional, you know, media content for various retailers and various brands like a Complex or a Stockx. You get so much negative feedback in those spaces no matter what you do, and so to have something where, when the negative feedback comes in, you know that it’s genuine, you know that it’s something that you need to take to heart and really consider and, you know, you’ve still got to make your own decisions and navigate those things, but you’ve built up such a level of trust with the audience through the podcast that they genuinely care about like, you know, there are probably people from the Sneaker History podcast watching us right now that have no real interest in WordPress or creating content, but they’re supporting me and that’s something that I could have only dreamt about with any other platform. And I think that’s the beauty of it. And that also has turned into other opportunities to earn income, connect with different brands and businesses, whether that’s podcasts, sponsorships or, you know, for me, creating content or at least strategizing content and helping different businesses create their content. So it’s kind of an all encompassing giant funnel to bring people into everything that I do because we can connect on something that has nothing to do with business and build a relationship before we get into something that we might not have even known that we were going to do a six months or a year prior. Yeah, that’s very true. And I think it’s really relevant. If I can ask you this kind of two part question, first about podcasters in general who maybe don’t have your body of content work behind them and they’re just getting started and podcasting is this explosive medium that they can really focus on. What would your advice to be? I think part of what you’re just saying is don’t look at it purely from a revenue standpoint, but even in terms of just revenue, what would be your advice to a starting podcaster today? How do you monetize that if that’s one of your goals, how should you think about monetizing podcasts? I think consistency is the main thing. You know, the same with, you know, with myself and blogging, like I was writing on my own personal blog about sneakers before I got a job writing about sneakers and that turned into other things. But, you know, we just published our 250th episode, I’ve got another kind of side project podcast that’s called Outside the Box, that’s more of an industry and like I guess like a, guess more of a one on one personal conversation type of podcast. But the goal is to give people insight into how to get into the footwear industry with that one. And we’ve done that off and on. I’ve done that off and on, I should say, for five or six years and both of those things kind of know, they present different ways to bring in advertisers, if that’s what you’re looking to do. But with Sneaker History, the success, you know, the downloads, all of that has come from consistency. And really, for me, as someone who’s wearing a bunch of different hats, you know, all of them Giants hats, of course. But like, you know, I’m constantly needing people to keep me accountable in a lot of ways because I can get distracted and stop doing things and pick it up and put it down. So having the guys on there with me and having them, you know, want to hop on and have these conversations on a regular basis is one of the major keys. And, you know, they help me to say, hey, if it’s Monday’s, then it’s Monday’s, we commit to Mondays and we just roll with it. If we need to take a break, that’s fine. It’s totally OK to take a break. I don’t want to, you know, run myself ragged and I don’t want anybody else to do that either. So we’re very upfront about that and we’re very communicative about it. But it’s one of those things where, you know, having those people that are willing to ride it out without even thinking about, you know, the revenue side of it has been super, super helpful for me. And I know that’s a tough thing for, you know, a creator that’s just starting out but it is very much like how it works. Eventually you get to the point where you get into that rhythm and that flow and it doesn’t feel like work at all. You’re just doing it because you’re enjoying the conversations, you’re enjoying the people that you meet through it and eventually that becomes people reaching out to say, “Hey, we want to sponsor the podcast because we like the conversations you’re having.” Yeah, that’s fantastic. And we have about 10 minutes left. We’ll get to some questions from the audience we’ll shift into a little bit of a lightning round here. And Nick, for this one, this is the second part of that last question and don’t be too specific here, but just in a general sense for you now acknowledging that you are both generous with your time, obviously, but also have this incredible body of content architecture content work behind you. How do you look at your personal revenue or earnings mix? Is it mostly from projects where you work with others? Is it mostly from working directly with brands that you’ve met over the years? Is it mostly from something like Stature, which is your creative agency, which by the way, is one of the best looking agency websites I’ve seen – Stature.ltd – so whatever you can share there about how you kind of manage your own earnings, your own income, if I can ask you that pretty bluntly? Yeah, definitely. Well, thank you. I definitely spent a lot of time like hunting and, you know, tweaking all of the themes and finding the right ones for each of the sites so I definitely appreciate that. I think that it’s still something that I’m learning. It’s ever changing. You know, I think in a perfect world, I would have millions of downloads and listeners on the podcast, and that would be my main source of income but I’m just not there yet. You know, it’s a piece and it’s a piece of the puzzle and, you know, it goes to support the community that we’re building around that podcast more than it goes to me. So my work does fall under kind of the agency and what we do and it’s something that – I’m one of those people that loves my flexibility. So, you know, I’m not one of those people that’s going to take on something that’s going to make me sit in an office or even in my own office seven days a week. You know, it’s just not how I’m wired. I need to get out and have that free time to connect with people and grabbing coffee and even coffee over Zoom call for the last year and a half. You know, like that’s something that I’ve done regularly to try to keep that energy level up. So I would say that it’s the podcast for me I still, even though it’s in a place where it’s bringing in a little bit of money, I’m still focused on, you know, kind of the agency work that I do, and also just my own personal writing. I just enjoy writing still – I’ve gotten to contribute to a lot of different places. I recently wrote some stuff for Sotheby’s because they’re doing a lot of sneaker auctions, which is, you know, as someone who used to look at all those auctions and what Sotheby’s stands for as a brand, it’s like, I couldn’t not take the opportunity when it came, you know, it is one of those things where I just wanted to say – hey, this might not be a long term thing, but I absolutely want to contribute here and be a part of what you guys are doing. So it’s still difficult, though, and I think that’s something that’s an ongoing thing for me. With the agency work specifically, you know, I think there’s always in the back of my mind the thought of, hey, this could eventually turn into something that would or some partnership that would sponsor the podcast if I were to ever be able to move away from that day to day grind of that work. So I’m constantly looking to work with brands that might evolve into partnerships where we can build something or even be creating podcast content for those brands. You know, like I’m just kind of open to all of that and I kind of try to focus on those connections and those at least have those thoughts when I meet new people just to see where does this fit in a bigger picture or a long term picture? Because ultimately, I don’t think it’s very enjoyable for anybody to just be like, “Hey, we worked together for 60 days and now we no longer speak to each other.” You know that that’s not the kind of life I want to live and it’s not the kind of business relationships that I want to have. So that’s kind of where I stand on balancing all of those things, I guess. That’s great and on that topic, we have just about five minutes to encourage any last minute questions from the audience. We’ll get to one or two or three. But what you’re saying is both aspirational. A lot of us don’t have a deep network of brand contacts and an affinity area like you do in the sneaker world, but at the same time, authentic in that you’re constantly thinking about where the opportunities are coming from. A basic one is just in a nutshell, how do you focus each day? How do you decide what the most important thing for you work on is whether it’s building your sites, producing podcasts, client work, whatever it might be, how do you decide that each morning? I mean, I have, I would say about 60% of my schedule is relatively set. Right? I know that I’m an early riser. Typically, I’m up between 5 and 6 in the morning. And I thrive off of that kind of quiet time. Sometimes it’s not quiet and I’m banging away at something the computer. But like, so typically what happens is I’ll have three days a week that I set out for podcast specifically, and then kind of from there, it’s like, OK, I know that I have, you know, the regular ongoing projects that I work on might take, you know, half day, two to three days a week. So I usually keep, you know, I would say like I’ll fill in a day up to 60%, maybe 70% of what I am comfortable working. Yeah, I always work way longer than that. But if I do that, then, you know, like when you reached out, it gives me the opportunity to be a part of something like this that is incredibly important to me and a part of what I’ve done for so long but if I don’t have that flexibility, then I can’t take on these kind off the cuff things that inevitably come my way. Yeah, that’s awesome. We’re going to take a question here and I’ll just say, when you look at both Stature.ltd, and when you look at Nick’s personal site, by the way, NickEngvall.com, check his name out for the right spelling in the agenda, they’re really good looking sites and they take some time to build and get them looking exactly the way you want. So, Nick, a question from DJ Johnny Medley, What is your take on Vlogs? And it’s a great question – you’re putting all this time and energy into podcasting, what about the video component of that? Great question. Yeah, I’m a big fan. I think that those can, I think a vlog can ultimately, you know, take what a podcast does and put it on steroids to where you really get to know somebody, you feel like you’re living life with them in so many ways. It’s really challenging to create. I’ve worked with a lot of people that have found success with vlogs, but it’s not something that, you know, that can be done quickly. You know, like there’s almost no way to make it efficient in terms of the creative, the time that it takes for the creative work to be done to get that content out. So it’s really challenging, but it’s something that I think personally is probably the most valuable piece of content you could possibly have. But again, going back to my previous statement, it’s all about consistency, right? If you, if you’re going to commit to that, I think, you know, most people that look at vlogs probably know Casey Neistat, creating a vlog every single day for nearly two years. It’s an exhausting way to live, but it also gives him a lot of freedom now that he’s done it. So, yeah, that’s a great answer. And I’d love to take one more question. I would just say make it as repeatable as you’ve made your podcast work. You have a studio right here that we’re looking at and make sure it’s a serial format that you can keep reproducing and take some of that production work, production overhead out of it. Eve would like to ask, “How do you stay creative? How do you fight creative blocks?” I love this because I was going to ask you something similar. How do you find the story? But let’s ask it the way Eve asked it – “How do you stay creative when you’re just in this real hustle and sometimes the grind as well?” I mean, sometimes you just have to acknowledge that now’s not the time and I think that’s know, not a stereotypical answer for that question. But we all kind of run into it. We’ve all, especially when you are just getting started or when you’re in, that, you know, just to the point of finding what you would consider success, that is the hardest time. And I think for me, it’s taking a break. It’s taking the dog for a walk on a daily basis. It’s, you know, getting away to you know, for me, it’s the ocean is a huge inspiration and sometimes I might go to the ocean and turn my phone off and other times I might go with a notebook and come back with, you know, two weeks worth of work that I’ve now brainstormed. So I think that it’s important to take the breaks and find that creativity because, you know, especially for me, I shut off my social media every once in a while for a week or two at a time. And I just have to do that because otherwise you just get caught up in the keeping up and it’s a really tough thing to keep up with because there’s so many different platforms and so many different places that you’re looking to connect with people. So for me, I think that the number one thing is being able to step away from it to refocus and, you know, whatever that is, whether it’s on a short term basis during the day or a weekend getaway or something like that. That’s a great answer and a real answer. If you’re Nick and you can be creatively burnt out, I think it can happen to the rest of us, too. Well, everyone, thank so much for tuning in. And Nick, just a huge thank you on behalf of our team for sharing your multi-creator story, your creators creator as I like to say. Check out NickEngvall.com, or Stature.ltd or Sneakerhistory.com and the podcast. Nick, thanks so much for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. You bet. Thanks you as well. Thanks

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