In today’s episode, we check in with multi-hyphenate Morgan Harper Nichols, who makes her living as a poet, artist, musician, author, and podcaster. We talk about trading the music industry for poetry and art, the importance of listening to your followers, and how happy accidents have led her on this journey. We also talk about how a recent diagnosis affected her path and perspective on life.
Morgan Harper Nichols might be the rarest bird in the entrepreneurial aviary: she was actually looking for a nine-to-five job when she started as an internet sensation. After a half-decade on the contemporary Christian music scene, she was tired of hustling. “It’s a hard industry to be in,” she says. She was looking for something more stable, but, she laughs, with an English degree, “there aren’t a ton of Indeed posts out there.”
In 2016, she put her frustration into words, shared her personal poem on Pinterest, and then forgot about it. But in a few short weeks, that poem had been repinned over 100,000 times. She had gone viral without really trying to.
From there, she’s launched herself as a visual artist and poet, been picked up by publishing company Zondervan, amassed more than 1.7 million Instagram followers, done collaborations with Coach, Adobe, Vogue and Aerie, and launched The Storyteller App, where, for $2.99 a month, subscribers receive a daily infusion of her poetry and art.
She credits her followers for the push that got her where she is today. Back in 2017, a DM in her inbox requesting an illustrated poem netted her fifty dollars—her first commission—and the sense that this was something she should pursue.
Coming from the music world, a “gig” often meant shelling out her own money to perform: a flight here, a venue rental there. Of course, Morgan would get paid eventually, but she discovered that poetry doesn’t have that same cash-flow issue. She continued to share online, and her audience grew. That first commission had given her the confidence to believe, “There’s gotta be at least a few other people out there who are willing to support me in this way.”
She was also, for the first time in a long time, able to experiment. She is delicate in saying so, but the Christian music world doesn’t always reward innovation. Channelling her creativity into these new outlets was something she could do from home, and that didn’t cost her money to produce. “I was investing time, but I wasn’t losing thousands of dollars by sharing something on Instagram. If it didn’t work, try something else the next day.” It gave her permission to craft her own voice and the freedom to explore.
Morgan was also diagnosed with autism in her early 30s. Understanding neurodivergence as a creative working with other brands has been tough but necessary. “I’ve had to ask for a lot of help in areas where I was pushing myself.” (She admits to getting bogged down in admin tasks because she believed that she had to do it on her own.) Her diagnosis forced her to grapple with the parts of her day where she struggled (that inbox, for instance), and pass those over to her business partner and husband so he could support her more effectively.
While the traditional work world might reward the most neurotypical, entrepreneurs get to create their own work settings and figure out what makes them really thrive. For example, Morgan’s hypersensitivity to colour and stimulation might make grocery shopping a problem, but it makes her artwork richer and more resonant. She then shares that with her collaborative partners and followers. She’s created a work-life that supports her entire life—a way of operating that makes the world more beautiful indeed.
To learn more about our guest, go to https://morganharpernichols.com/
To learn more about FreshBooks and take advantage of an offer exclusive to our podcast listeners, go to freshbooks.com/podcast
Follow us on social @freshbooks, and remember to subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as they become available!