THE TRUTH ABOUT RUNNING A (SPIRITUAL) ONLINE BUSINESS

What’s next for The Numinous, and the long-winded, behind-the-scenes, real-deal process of how I arrived at this decision (plus some thoughts on running a spiritual online business in the Now Age and the future, or not, of capitalism)

Photo: Ruvan Wijesooriya

Warning: this post is long, messy, and rambling. A bit like my decision-making process for what’s next with The Numinous. I hesitated about posting it, but in the end I needed to write it for me—and, if you’re running an online business, are a spiritual solopreneur, or are overall just sick of selling and being sold to, I suspect there will also be plenty in here for YOU …

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In the weeks leading up to my Numinous sabbatical I’d been gearing up for exactly the opposite: I was preparing to launch The Numinous Astrology School (a.k.a. NAS—kinda like NASA, but without the Astronauts part. Lol). But as I went about putting all the pieces together, the anxiety knitting my shoulders to the back of my skull was a signal that something was off.

On the one hand, I was nervous about the financial investment. Between the artwork, tech build, marketing funnels, and promo materials, it would cost me at least $10K to get it off the ground. That’s not factoring in the countless hours of my own time spent on content creation. And while I’d seen some of my peers make a mint with their digital products, I knew others who’d been burned when the supposedly magical “launch formula” peddled by the likes of Marie Forleo, didn’t work out so magic for them.

It was after I spent $1600 on a 3-minute promo video that looked like something a 5-year-old could have made on an iPhone, that the house of cards came tumbling down, scenes of past launch “failures” flashing before my third eye.

The time I spent thousands on the Numinous sweatshirt line my readers had been so excited for … which only a handful of people actually bought (it took two years to just about break even, and I wound up donating the leftover sweats to the Bowery Mission two Thanksgivings ago). The digital Numiversity courses I created with my then-resident astrologers Bess Matassa and Sandy Sitron, of which we sold about 30 for a total of less than $1K. Divided three ways, my split didn’t even cover one month’s medical insurance.

Why should this time would be any different? I was banking on at least 1000 sign-ups to cover my costs and (finally) generate a sustainable income to offset the hours (years) I have put into building this platform. To foot the bill of maintaining this platform going forward. This represented just 1% of my Instagram following. But based on past experience and given my miserably low IG engagement at the time (due partly, no doubt, to my growing resentment at IG for stealing our attention and creativity to profit an increasingly ethically challenged Zuckerberg empire), even this moderate goal suddenly seemed totally pie in the sky.

And so I quit. Not only did I not proceed with launching the course, I decided to press pause on everything Numinous while I took a big old breath. Created some space for myself to feel into what exactly did want to come next.

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I’m sharing these details because I know I’m not alone in my attempts and my failures to “successfully” launch. Meaning, to create an income from my work that at least covers my rent and basic living costs (in NYC, this totals roughly an eye-watering $7K a month). In the age of side hustles and spiritual solopreneurship, “how to monetize my passion project / healing gifts” has got to be one of the crunchiest conundrums of the Now Age; we want to create a business and a life that serves others as it serves us … and the capitalist systems we are expected to fall into line with in order to do this are often totally at odds with who we are as creators, and what we believe as spiritual beings. Not to mention the basic root of all inequality and exploitation on the planet.

The “create a digital course” model is typically pitched as a way to generate a “passive income,” leaving you free to pursue what you really came here to do—but not only does it often entail subtle manipulation of your intended customer base, it seems more to me like it becomes your full-time job. And what if posting the recommended 25-30 IG stories per day, managing assistants and affiliates, and writing copy for marketing funnels, feels about as far removed as it gets from what your soul incarnated to contribute to the collective in this one wild and precious life?

Which is not to say there aren’t some beautiful, soulful, and generous digital courses out there. If you’ve created a course and / or a library of digital products that deeply serves you and others, fantastic! Some of us have an innate gift for community building that translates perfectly to authentic and heartfelt network marketing.

If anything, my “failure” to turn The Numinous into a one-stop online astrology shop (what well-meaning advisors have been telling me to do with this platform since before it even launched) has forced me to look more deeply at why this hasn’t worked FOR ME. To consider the value of what I actually DO feel called to create—and of MY unique gifts. And, in doing so, to trust fall back into walking my own messy, intuitive, utterly un-formulaic patchwork of a path.

-This has meant looking at what has worked, what space I was creating from when it did, and working out how I can do more of that.

-It’s meant reminding myself, as a writer in a world where “content” often only exists to sell a product, that my words have value in and of themselves. That my words are my product.

-It’s meant a deeper dive into my own lack of worthiness, the ancestral roots of this, and a look at what we value as a society (where we literally put our $$$) and why.

This is a process that remains ongoing, which is pretty much forming the basis of my next book (how to earn a living, or not, as an author: whole other subject!), and which has resulted in me creating a suite of personal services—from book doula’ing, to personal brand consulting, to astrology coaching 1-2-1s—that I’ll be offering going forward. You can learn more about them HERE.

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But what of The Numinous? If you’re reading this, I hope it’s because you’ve found value in this platform over the years. Maybe you’ve missed our mystical missives, and you’re wondering when we’ll be back. And well the truth is, The Numinous cannot continue to exist until it can earn its own keep.

When I launched the site, it was because I’d always wanted my own magazine. My own space to create and commission content that meant something to me, and that I felt contributed something of value in the wider world. And off I went. I didn’t charge a subscription fee (who paid for online media?), and as well as my own writing, I relied on unpaid contributions from writers keen to promote their own offerings to fill in the gaps.

Within two years, in late 2014, I’d been approached by HarperCollins about doing a book, for which I received a $50K advance. Result! This felt like payment for the work I’d put into the platform to date. Five years down the line, I have yet to earn any royalties from Material Girl, Mystical World (and given that only 30% of authors “earn out” their book advances, it’s unlikely that I will)—and I’ve had to find revenue from other streams to support the site and its growth.

Freelance journalism, hosting events and retreats, the occasional paid partnership. More books, some affiliate sales of other people’s digital courses. There were also my Moon Club earnings, the biz I co-founded with Alexandra Roxo, which I exited in Jan this year. I scraped a decent living keeping these plates spinning, until I hit a wall. Here I was, age 43, super “accomplished” by any external measure, and working all the hours—yet eaten up with constant anxiety about where my next rent check was coming from.

The other reason I “quit” The Numinous this summer? Having finally hired a book-keeper, there was no more ignoring the fact that the majority of my earnings were going straight back into this platform—despite it not actually generating any revenue. Sure, it was what had led to my book deals, and what supported the income streams listed above, etc. But when I weighed the time and energy that was going into maintaining it against what I was getting out of it, the scales were waaaaaaay off.

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Shit … is this coming off as some privileged white girl sob story?! I am mega aware that having a publishing deal land in my lap, for example, is a HUGE opportunity, for which I am extremely grateful. I also acknowledge that my previous career in journalism has opened many doors for me. That being straight and white and thin, it has been easier to risk “using my voice” without underlying fears for my safety. And that having husband who (until this summer) brought home a corporate salary also provided a financial buffer over the years.

And I also I know that my story mirrors many of our stories, regardless of our identities and external circumstances. Whether you’re creating a personal brand or are in any way pursuing a more creative career, the sheer volume of work that has to happen behind the scenes to generate even a moderate income, can be overwhelming. And if you don’t have a natural aptitude for IG stories, it can be even more draining. If this is you, I FEEL YOU. (And, going forward, I also want this to be a space for us to talk about the reality of running a digital business in the Now Age.)

Of course, the “smart” thing to do, as may others have advised me over the years, would be to seek VC investment. Use it to hire a team. Build an app. MAKE A FUCKING COURSE ALREADY. Put a bunch of money into Facebook ads, and get with the 21ST century!

But … that just doesn’t feel (as if you couldn’t guess by now) very “me.” It’s also playing by those same old capitalist rules again, and honestly, isn’t it time for something better? Elizabeth Warren might be promising to “remake capitalism” as part of her 2020 election manifesto, but I am leery of Big Politics ability to affect real change (given its affiliation with Big Business).

For now, here we are, lots of little, individual, human-run businesses, just making it up as we go along. And so long as the rules for how to make it work are still being written, here are some ideas that get a vote from me (*lifted pretty much verbatim from my proposal for book #3):

-We measure the “success” of a business by the positive impact it has on others.

-We buy less “stuff” and we invest more in each other.

-We revalue feelings, ideas, and relationships as our most valuable “assets.”

-We enact a more “matriarchal” business model, by pooling and sharing our resources equally.

-We embrace rest, resourcefulness, and wanting less, as vital elements of our planetary healing process.

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… which is a very, very, long-winded of way of informing you that, going forward, The Numinous will be switching to a subscription model. I’ll still be posting select astro content and lengthy rants on Instagram. You’ll find the odd missive from a guest writer on this site. There will still be one free newsletter per month with info about upcoming events and retreats, details of any other stuff I’m promoting, and the astro mantras you love so much.

But the JUICE. The really GOOD STUFF. The writings and the teachings that reflect the contents of my heart, the ponderings of my mind, and the yearnings of my soul. These will be delivered as a monthly content drop to subscribers via my new Patreon page—which is still in the process of being set up, and which I’ll be sharing links to in the coming weeks.

So, there you have it. The full story and the real, behind-the-scenes deal. If you have any thoughts, feedback, or feelings about this post to share, I’d love to hear from you at [email protected] <3

Ruby Warrington

MY MANTRA: Believing is Healing. MY MISSION: To help create a world where everybody gets to feel whole. // MY STYLE: Rock 'n' roll yogi fashionista. 99% recycled and vintage. // MY SIGN: Aries Sun, Sagittarius Rising, Cancer Moon. // MY HEALING: Time with friends, time alone, time offline, getting Sober Curious, and being f*cking real with myself!
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