Featured Friday: The Reigning King and Queen of the Side Hustle

Featured Friday: The Reigning King and Queen of the Side Hustle

I originally reached out to these guys last year, when I was still all gung-ho – and on mat leave with lots of spare time! They were incredibly kind to respond right away to my questions, and like I often do, I totally dropped the ball. :/

(Like I told Éric, not long after they sent this, I ended up going back to work, and at the time we only had a desktop. Which was located in the basement. Away from the babies I am supposed to be keeping an eye on… as it is I am borrowing hubby’s laptop for this!) 

But this is about them, not me!

I am thrilled to share them as my first profile story.

Meet the minds behind JenEric Design!

Jen and Éric, and little Keladry! Just look at her little smile 🙂

I initially met Éric back in high school at a regional weekend camp organized by a certain student-led cultural organization.  When I asked Éric how I should characterize it, he described it as a mini-Olympics for culture! We lived about an hour away from each other but kept in touch via this newfangled contraption called… the Internet. (Typing that out did not make me feel old. Like, at all.)

We reconnected when we both ended up in Ottawa for school. Mr. Green Acres’ first-year roommate (Hi, Boberta!) was friends with Éric, so I thought it was kind of neat how our paths were crossing again.

Éric met his lovely wife Jen here, and I think they married the same year Team Green Acres did, with JenEric getting married in June 2009, and us at the beginning of July.

They no doubt bonded over their shared love of geek culture, which they are now passing along to their daughter Keladry (who is only a few months younger than our youngest baby, Rosebud.) This passion is what led them to their numerous side projects, and I will let them explain those in further detail.

Oh, and please be sure to check out their site:

JenEric Designs in their own words

JenEric Designs is a husband and wife team that work together to create various geeky products. Ranging from coffee, crocheted items, and buttons, to posters, passing by books and stories, they offer something for everyone.

Tell me about your 9-to-5 jobs.

Jen – I don’t really have a 9-5 job. I work as a Travel Consultant, and work for that can come in at any time. I have booked trips at 9 pm, but I usually do research for trips during the day. That can involve calling suppliers, checking flights (times and prices, although prices can change on a whim in a second), plotting out a complicated itinerary with trains and hotels throughout Europe, etc. I really enjoy working as a Travel Consultant, and I’m glad I chose to do this.

Eric – I work with the Treasury Board Secretariat as a Desktop Publisher, which is a cross between layout artist and webmaster. I’ve been doing layout and web since high school, and after graduating in communications I took any contract I could and eventually got hired where I am right now. I’ve been there for 9 years as of January 2018. My job consists of cleaning and laying out reports and publications, most of which go to parliament.

Éric, you have been affected by Phoenix just like I have. Can you tell me a little bit how that has affected you and your family?

We were extremely lucky with Phoenix. When I went on parental leave they took four months to transfer me to parental leave payments instead of my regular. This meant a lot of stress and some saving, but in the end it went really smoothly for us. I wasn’t looking forward to returning in June 2017, but nothing bad happened. I was one of the lucky ones, and I started getting paid regularly right on time.

I know you guys have a long list of side projects, and I am sure to forget some if I even tried to list them all! Tell me about your main projects, and those that might not be that big but are near and dear to your heart.

Jen – What occupies my time the most, other than the baby, is crocheting, taking care of my portion of the blog, and organizing CON Creative Ottawa Nerd’s craft fair (which took place June 10, 2017. There is no craft fair planned for 2018). Crocheting is complicated right now, especially making new patterns, because Keladry demands so much attention, and it’s hard to focus.
Eric – Currently my main work, other than taking care of Keladry, has been roasting a lot of coffee and working on lots of books (layout).
The project most dear to my heart are by far my books. My second published book, Parasomnia, has been published this past year. My third published book, The Sign of Faust, is in the editing stage with the publisher and I can’t wait to see it in a physical form. I’m also editing a book that I’ll be shopping around this fall called Everdome, which is a cross between survivor and Lord of the Rings, and I’m slowly writing another that has more of an action horror feel to it.

You guys are new parents; your Dragon is not that much younger than my Rosebud! How do you guys find the time? How much time do you spend on your projects in a given day or week?

(Mrs. Green Acres: as I am prepping this, I have a very whiny toddler who is upset because Daddy, big brother and big sister went to go see a show and left her behind. So my work is punctuated by me going to get her, and trying to coax her to come see me, and “What’s wrong, baby?” It’s a challenge!)
When I first reached out to Jen & Eric, this was their answer:
Fortunately, my mom comes over every day. Sometimes it’s not for very long, but other times, it can be up to an hour or two. Then she can play with the baby while we both do work. It’s really just a matter of taking advantage of the time we have and not procrastinating, which is very difficult for me (Jen).
This is the updated version:
She likes [the play pen] a lot more now, and is willing to be in it for up to an hour at a time, once a day. Twice if we are playing music that she enjoys. Now that Eric is back at work, this is a relief, because there is no-one here to switch off with if I get work.Keladry is really good at playing on her own for a time, and then will be quite happy to play with me, so I get a break from work. She is also still napping (sometimes…she hasn’t napped the past two days, and I’m really hoping that isn’t going to be the norm!) so I get 2 hours in the afternoon to do work.
(Mrs. Green Acres commentary: yep. Sleep issues are not fun to deal with. Naps are care of our amazingly awesome daycare provider, but bedtime is really hit-or-miss for us. Last night was relatively smooth as far as it goes but Tuesday night was kind of a gong show all-around!)
For packaging coffee, which we do together, we discovered that we can switch off watching Keladry, so Jen stamps the bags, then Eric fills them, and then Jen seals and puts the stickers on them.
We also have a playpen, that we use if work comes in for both of us and my mom isn’t coming over. Keladry only likes it for a short period of time though, so we have to work quickly, and then switch off.

To what extent do your side projects contribute to your family income?

Not as much as we’d like. Eric would love to leave the government and work full time on the side projects, but at the moment they’re less then a fifth of his salary annually. They are growing every year however and maybe sometime in the future.
(Mrs. Green Acres: 1/5 of the family income is nothing to sneeze at! Fantastic work, you guys!)

Blogging: You guys have blogged for quite a while. Éric, you have been writing for as long as I have known you! How long have you guys been blogging together and then at JenEric Designs? What are your readership stats like? I’m assuming you are self-hosted. How did you set yourselves up (platform, etc). Are you monetized? Have you ever considered monetizing your blog? What are some of your tips and tricks for aspiring bloggers?

 Eric started blogging on Livejournal in 2003 and moved over to WordPress.com in 2008. He’s been updating regularly since then. We acquired our own domain in 2011 to host The Travelling TARDIS. In 2013 Jen started selling her crochet on commission and at conventions. Jen started blogging about Blush and Fandom travel in 2015.
Our blog gets around 500 unique hits per month and each of our Facebook posts get between 200-500 views. Sometimes when Eric gets really mad and ranty or we have a big celebrity with the TARDIS it’ll double. We’ve yet to have a post go viral, but we have a dedicated community.
We use a small cloud based host called Host Hero; they’re based in Toronto and have both amazing prices and great customer service. We own JenEric-Designs.ca, Ericdesmarais,ca, and TravellingTardis.com. We use wordpress as our CMS, mostly because it’s simple.
As far as monetizing goes, we probably should. We tried at the beginning but it didn’t do much other than make the site ugly. We should probably look into alternatives.
Advice is hard. It really depends on what sort of blog you want to have, but I’m a firm believer in setting a schedule and sticking to it as much as possible. Constant quality content will get you an audience. Being specialized in a particular thing also helps.

What are some of your tips and tricks for people trying to turn hobbies into revenue?

Every hobby has a different path but the most important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll have to do it A LOT. I started out with coffee roasting 20lbs for a convention. I’m now roasting over 100lbs per convention.
Try to be unique and make friends with others that have more experience. If you love what you do then it’ll show in the final product.

Indeed it does, and it shines through everything Jen and Éric create. Please show them some love by heading over to their site. You may just find that unique gift for someone in your life.

Massive thanks and props to Jen and Éric for being so receptive and agreeing to do this.
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