I Love Breaking Goals Into Small Steps: A Day of Work

A Day of Work zooms in on the daily routine and work habits of Autostraddle team members. Read about the coffee, the cats, the Slack meetings, emails and minutiae that makes Autostraddle go.

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Right now on 6/29/21 we’re still in the midst of our June Member Drive. Thanks to this community, we’ve surpassed our drive goal of 300 and our stretch goal of 350! With just 2 days left in the drive at this point and all our posts planned, we’re going to keep going to see what could happen! We set our goal based on how many members we thought were possible to welcome during this drive, but you’ve shown us that so much more is possible than we dreamed! Thank you and onward, into the queer future!


This Post Was Written June 7th, 2021

My alarm wakes me up at 6:03am. I snooze a few times before sitting up at around 6:40am. My partner Sadie stays sleeping next to me, and Mya the dog doesn’t wake up, either. It’s cheering to finally open my eyes in the room Sadie and I spent two years re-doing (in between our other work) from its drop ceilings, wood panelling and red carpeting to its current state. The last, long stretch of it was all Sadie’s work on restoring the plaster. From the windows, I can see a haze hanging over Pittsburgh. We’re up on one of the hills of the city, and the hills are really just old, worn down Appalachian mountains. At this point, my eyes are most of the way open, and I remember that my current audiobook is emily m. danforth’s Plain Bad Heroines. That fact alone propels me out of bed.

a view from Nicole's bedroom window of Pittsburgh

View from the bedroom window, but up close. Can you spot the lifesize cardboard cutout of Stone Cold Steve Austin in my neighbor’s window?

I brush my teeth and do the whole mouthwash thing while completing a Duolingo Italian lesson. I wonder if it will stick this time. Sadie’s Italian is relatively passable, and we have a friend who’s married to a human from Italy, so we’re operating on some vague plans to form a “learning Italian” club in the future. I put on sunscreen, which is a thing I do now solely because of Rachel’s recommendation, and go back in the bedroom to wake Mya up by giving her some pets (because she is both a heavy sleeper and seems to be losing her hearing) get her dressed for the day (putting her collar around her neck), and head downstairs.

It’s a little after 7am by now. Mya runs into the backyard, and I follow with the compost I need to take out. I put on the audiobook and take a peek at the vegetable garden and the various pots of lettuce and basil and rosemary sitting around. Puffy white blossoms hang from the pea vines, but none are showing any interest in growing into pods yet. I check the weather, note that it’s going to rain and am pleased that I don’t have to do anything with the garden today because, friends, today is looking BUSY. There’s some pokeweed sprouting in the beet patch I’ll have to take care of later, but it can wait. It’s totally poisonous in certain doses and not really good for you in any amount, but also easy to identify, so I make peace with leaving it even though it looks a little too much like beet shoots for total comfort. Fun fact: Dolly Parton used to use pokeberry juice for lip color as a teen when her parents wouldn’t let her wear makeup. I put the coffee on the stove and wash a dish-rack-full of dishes.

Mya the dog in front of some lettuce

Mya, guardian of the lettuce.

At 8 am I remember to put some Platinum boxes (these are so cute, you all!!!) out for pickup by the mailperson. I add some sodas and sparkling waters to a bowl with an ice pack for the mailperson, too because my steps are…a lot. I’ll be packing more of these today. I open the window in my office to let air in while it’s still in the 70s because it’s going to climb into the high 80s and be muggy as all heck, and I keep having to sit on the floor to cope with bouts of dizziness while packing perks in the heat.

At 8:08am, I have my first sip of coffee. I get Mya’s food ready and brush her teeth, which she hates. Then she eats and goes outside to lay on the concrete by the fence, which is quite cool from the night. She loves to watch the bugs and there are so many bugs to watch! I pray, and then take a cup of coffee upstairs to Sadie, who’s waking up. Because of her disability, she has nausea and vertigo every morning, so I bring her coffee in bed, which she drinks while reading. She gives me a sleep-heavy good morning and I go back downstairs to another round of dishes and other morning chores.

Sadie in our bed, reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay with a cup of coffee

Sadie reading in bed, which is hot.

By 9am, I’m ready to write. I take more coffee upstairs to update Sadie on my morning plans and top off her cup. We chat for a bit, then, I head out back with my laptop and an entire French press of newly brewed coffee to join Mya outside and write. Normally, I try to reserve about an hour of time before work in the morning for writing. I work on my book draft or on an essay not related to my work at Autostraddle. Today, I just check in early, which is typical in the lead-up to a membership drive. Every fundraiser, I wind up having to set aside my personal writing for the duration, as well as the aftermath. I really, truly hope that someday we’ll be in a place where the work is more sustainable, and less demanding of each of us, body and soul, so that we can be fuller, more restored versions of ourselves when we’re at work. For now, until we have to run our second fundraiser of the year, I’m devoting as much free time as I can to my book (currently at about 40k of a 75k first draft word count goal). I’m hopeful that the next fundraiser goal will be able to be smaller than the last one, and this membership drive is a part of that plan.

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Nicole's computer is open on a table to Autostraddle.com. It's outside. Mya lookson way off in the background.

Mya, supervisor of smiles, is making sure we meet our daily quota.

That’s right. There’s a chance, dear reader, that things are slowly, gradually looking up for us. Throughout the pandemic, people like you have been there to catch us when we’ve been in danger of falling, of closing. But we haven’t had to shutter our doors because of the support of so many A+ Members and people who gave to our fundraiser (or both!). We said before our last fundraiser, this winter of 2021, that we needed T I M E. And you bought us that time. With it, we’ve been able to undertake SEO training and structural updates for the website, give our team new editorial opportunities and zoom in on what we need from a business perspective. Our approach is threefold:

  • SEO and Site Structure – we need to make changes so that Google ranks us as the experts on queer culture, media and sex that we are! This will make us better positioned for advertising and partnerships so we have to rely less on large fundraisers.
  • We are looking at taking a calculated risk on some new hires to help us because there is too much work, friends.
  • And we are continuing to concentrate on growing our A+ membership because throughout our time on this planet, A+ members have stood between us and closure, especially during the pandemic, especially now, when almost half of our budget comes directly from A+ memberships! We know now more than ever that we have to make membership central to our plans going forward — it’s why we’re having a drive and why we’re asking you to join, if you haven’t already and you can afford it. A+ starts at just $4 a month, and most members are at that level.

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In February of this year, my mornings looked a lot more like gasping into panicked consciousness in the late winter dark. This was during the fundraiser that ran February through March. I’d pull my computer onto the bed to see what our overnight progress looked like (usually not too much, since many of our supporters are in western hemisphere time zones, though not all!). Then, I’d get up and head downstairs with Mya, let her out, and open my laptop on the counter while I made coffee. While it brewed, I manually updated the tracking (only part of it can be automated) and updated the pop-up. That tracking update took anywhere from a half hour to an hour, depending on how much I was looking at (more is better though!). Bless those A+ members who write in to tell me when I have a pre-coffee typo in the pop-up’s, too.

During the August fundraiser, Sadie had a series of migraines that had her in bed for almost the entire run of the actual fundraiser. I want to say thank you to everyone who got us to that goal at the time because it was not easy running that thing. It was emotionally and mentally just really difficult working those long days and taking on the majority of housework, and, sometimes, just letting things like the dishes go. For those two weeks, I only fundraised, cared for the other two living beings I lived with, or slept. I forgot how to eat lunch, then dinner. I pushed through on very little but pure faith that if Autostraddle was worth keeping around, that you believed in our vision, and that you would see this place through. And you did. Fundraising during this pandemic has been an inextricable mix of being drained and then inspired and cycled back and forth between. I can’t separate the gratitude from the exhaustion, but I also know I’m not alone in either of those feelings. We’re all exhausted, we’re all grateful for this community and touched by what you’ve proven capable of.

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This last fundraiser was still hard, though it lacked the near-breakdown edge of last summer. We’d learned a great deal from our last two trips around together as a team, and I now had the experience and understanding with our senior crew you need time to build. In February and March, after updating tracking and putting out any overnight fires, I’d start the morning by checking in with Heather about social media for the day and the usual tracking updates. Then, I’d move onto any posts or emails that had to go up or out soon. Hopefully, I’d done most of the prep the day before, but if things didn’t go quite to plan, which they never do anyway, I probably had some catch-up to do. On any given day, my fundraiser task list looked like: sending out various segmented emails, dealing with technology breaking — from the pop-up maker to any number of things with the site or membership sign-up portal (which broke only during the fundraiser… awesome), project managing the senior team’s participation in the fundraiser, drafting agendas for whole-team and one-on-one check-ins and running those meetings, providing feedback and editing on letters, putting up Instagram stories, updating the house ads on the site, running any events like an AMA or an A+ Discord Server, ordering refills of our custom-designed perks or shipping supplies and tracking inventory, organizing and then providing tech support for virtual events, helping with organizing special days (like Straight People Day), and responding to reader questions as quickly as possible — all on top of regular A+ duties (like answering A+ help tickets).

As you might know, during the first week of the February-March fundraiser, Sadie counted 102 hours of work. By the time I wrap up tonight at about 9:40pm, the day will seem a little busy, but really just breezy when compared to the way it’s been during our three pandemic fundraisers. Three people could easily split the work of this role, but the same can be said of each of my colleagues. Things are ramping up today because of the upcoming membership drive. I can feel the brief respite after the last fundraiser receding.

After my initial block of writing, I make breakfast sandwiches for Sadie and me, with lettuce I pick from our two lettuce containers outside. I set aside writing this piece for the time being to turn to other little fires.

By 12:40pm, it’s in the high 80’s, I’m watching ice melt in my glass faster than I can believe. So far, I’ve made updates to the meeting agenda for later, checked in with Valerie about social media for the drive, checked my email to see that the captioner is confirmed for the Town Hall because we are now stringent in our requirement that all live workshops have live captioning, and also check my email (with no luck) for news about VAT and our registration with the UK government, so that we can actually ship things to the UK again, since their 2021 changes that place the burden of collecting VAT tax and reporting to the UK government on people outside of the UK. This is one of those things that is nobody’s job in particular, so it fell on Riese, Autostraddle’s accountant, and me to figure it out. And it might surprise you to know that I’m not a UK tax expert!

After fielding several Slack questions, it’s 1:06pm. I put Plain Bad Heroines back on and I get back to packing Platinum boxes. I have a small stack by the time we head into our weekly staff meeting at 2pm. After a brief break between meetings, we go into our Member Drive check-in. Things are looking well-planned and we digress at one point into some brainstorming of quiz ideas that I am sure, reader, you will love when some day they publish on this very site. After the check-in, I go downstairs to give Mya her mid-day treats, some of which are actually joint supplements. She LIVES for her green dental treats and does a little 14-year-old 75-lb dog dance for them.

Nicole lies on the floor among a bunch of boxes

Live footage of perks being packed in 90 degree weather. I love you and love sending you perks but it would be all the more pleasant if we all still lived in the Holocene as opposed to whatever this is.

Speaking of bonus A+ content: of the people who wind up on Autostraddle and read it, less than 00.04% are A+ members at the time of writing this post. I truly believe there are other folks out there (is this you?) who can support. A+ members, aren’t just there, passively funding us — they are a collective that has taken a stand and actively chosen to keep independent queer media alive on the internet. Small choices add up, and A+ is proof of that. If you’ve gotten this far, will you consider signing up, even if you don’t read every day, even every week — even if none of the A+ content appeals to you (though please feel free to tell me what would!) — if you get something out of Autostraddle and want others to have it, too, will you help us out?

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a photo of nicole's desk

My teeny tiny desk!

I move from there to a few tasks that came out of the meet: hammering out messaging points with Carmen that we want to work on conveying in Tweets, as well as some preliminary work ahead of a post she’s writing for the drive. Then, I have an impromptu meeting with Sarah so we can catch up on graphics. I wrap all this up by around 6pm, when I step away for twenty minutes to work out with Sadie. We get out our resistance bands and make each other laugh while out on the back patio, decide it’s too hot for two sets, and quit exercising for the day. I go back to the computer and get Sarah some copy she needed for graphics. There are a few Slack conversations I tend to, updates to review and read, and then I take a break to shower around 8pm.

After my shower, I returned to work and to writing this very item! Throughout the day, I’d had various carbonated beverages — from Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar (please don’t make me tell you what flavors) to Spindrift sparkling waters because for some reason, once I get going, I wind up being pretty uninterested in unflavored water. I’m sorry! But, the caffeine has to stop sometime, so at the end of my day, I go for a non-caffeinated sparkling beverage like non-alcoholic bitters and soda, or the mint & lime spritzers Sadie made us the other night from mint she grew. Sometimes, I’ll make something we call “yard tea” which is just a generous handful of various herbs, mainly mint, rosemary and lemon balm, put directly into a cup and steeped with boiling water, but tonight it’s too hot for that so bitters & soda it is.

By 9:40pm, it’s time to admit that I’m not getting any further. I make my notes about tasks to do the next day and log off for the night. Part of this job is making peace with the fact that I will, in fact, never get everything done that I want to. There’s never a “done” or a “finished” moment, only smaller celebrations along the way. But I think you know that, especially when we think in a larger sense. When the queer world is so expansive, our task of chronicling and illuminating and sharing in the queer experience is unending, too. There’s so much more work to do. That’s why we need you, if you aren’t already, to consider becoming an A+ member. We know and deeply respect that not everyone who reads Autostraddle can become a member. That’s why Autostraddle is free to read. A+ members receive bonus content, but it’s never vital, needed or life-saving content so that content can remain free. We have most of our content outside the paywall because we know so many of our readers first come to us from a place where they need to discover Autostraddle and our archives without having to first give money. But if you’ve been around for a minute, and you can, we hope you’ll chip in. A+ starts at just $4 a month, and while the member drive will be wrapping up by the time you read this, we will still have fun the during the whole other half of the year!

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After work, I go visit Sadie in her studio, where she’s been mixing a piece she’s composing. I ask for a listen and sit down in the spinny chair with fuzzy, musician-grade earphones replacing my usual cheap-o bluetooth ones, and let the undertow of the music take me down for six minutes. We move down to the kitchen to discuss, I pick lettuce for a salad, and we heat up burgers (mine veggie, hers meat) for dinner, which we have outside, with The Circle playing in the background on our lil first gen iPad. I have to note that I take care of feeding Mya in the morning, but Sadie gets her evening meal, so she is in fact fed by this time even if she does want Sadie’s burger.

The three of us go to bed soon after in our bedroom, home to the only window A/C unit we have (And it’s re-done! And does not look like a 70’s horror movie set anymore!). Mya lays down on her cooling doggie bed, and after about a half hour, we turn off the lights at 11:40pm or so.

So here’s a question you might have: “Why does Autostraddle need more members, Nicole? Didn’t you JUST have 700 people sign up with the last fundraiser?”

And yes, yes we did! It was AWESOME! That made such a huge difference. Here’s the thing: we needed more members before the pandemic, but were getting along okay without, and also, Autostraddle had not hired an A+ Director (me!) to help with that. Then, the pandemic hit, advertising bottomed out with it, and we suddenly really needed those members, like yesterday, and so we had to basically build the bridge as we were running across it. If I had my druthers — and I think my druthers are probably most of our druthers — we would grow A+ by several thousand more members over the next couple years. And that, dear reader, would put us in a pretty stable place. Imagine! We currently have 6,100 members (update: on 6/29/21 we have 6,400+). I’d LOVE to see 9,000 some year soon, and 12,500 in due time. This might seem unrealistic, but I actually think that 9,000 A+ members is within our grasp. When I came on the team in late 2019, we had about 3,700 members, and together we’ve grown to over 6,400! Thank you!! That’s you all! That’s 2,700 in a year and a half. If we can do similarly, and grow A+ by an additional 2,600 people, just another hair in terms of the overall readership to membership ratio, over the next two-ish years, which I think we can (I see you A+ members who are always helping us with suggestions and brainstorms for ways to fundraise!), we will be better and better off. This will provide an ever-more-stable base from which our editorial team and our Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Carmen Phillips, can launch queer and trans writers’ careers, elevate the voices of our community, and bring you reading that is relevant to your life — all within a home on the internet you and others can count on.

I love breaking down long-term goals into smaller steps. This member drive is one of them.

If you decide to join, thank you. It takes many people, each making one decision — to become an A+ member — but all together, at the same time, to make a difference. That’s why, no matter how tired I get, I’m inspired to keep going. Because, as grim as things have gotten, I’ve been able to bear witness to the power and resilience, the collectivism and cooperation of our community and I am so grateful to be here with you. Thank you for letting me see this queer miracle.

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Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Nicole Hall is Autostraddle's A+ and Fundraising Director, and has been fundraising and working in the arts and nonprofit sector for over a decade. They write nonfiction as well as aggressively gay and sometimes spooky fiction. They live in Pittsburgh with their partner, Sadie. They are also a gardener, project queer, witchy/wizardly human and BFF to a lovely senior rescue dog. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram as @nknhall.

Nicole has written 42 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. “Thank you for letting me see this queer miracle” –
    a queer miracle it is, but I’d quibble that you’re not seeing it but instead facilitating the everliving shit out of it (along with the rest of the team, of course) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again until everyone’s sick of it – thank you so much for all that you do.

    Also I too am really working on the making peace with never finishing everything I want to get done, especially on a day-to-day. Switching from a to-do list to a brutally honest “must do / would be good to do / can wait” system has been one of the best things I’ve done for my mental health, maybe…ever?

  2. Thanks for sharing this and all the work you’re doing with the membership drive and fundraising events! I have random question, just out of curiosity: how do you guys decide which content should be A+ and which should be open to everyone?

    • Thank you!! And totally not random. It’s not a hard science, but we have a few things going on. We have behind-the-scenes content, like the Insider, that we publish to keep you up to date and give you a look at what’s going on. Then, we have series or columns that are conceived with A+ in mine (A+ advice, S L I C K) as items that we regularly publish on a set schedule. These serve the purpose of being cornerstone A+ content and they always are something that has the vibe of being an *extra* or a *treat*. Then there are one-off’s! That gets a little more nebulous. Sometimes someone on the team pitches us, but most of the time we brainstorm things we’d like to see and then find people to do them! It’s very rarely to never that something going through a normal pitch process would be made into A+ content. If it’s an A+ piece, it’s usually intended to be A+ content from conception to execution. I hope that’s helpful! Lmk if you have follow-up’s.

  3. 1. Some days my reading skills need a bit of work: I was keeping an open mind about the drop ceilings before I got to the end of that sentence and realized I didn’t have to. (I was going to need pictures if they’d been added to the design.)

    2. I also now put on sun screen daily because of the Rachel article followed immediately by the Heather article.

    3. That is too long of a work day. I hope you guys are able to take that chance on some new hires and that it pays off for all involved.

    • 1. Ahahaha noo. The drop ceilings have been removed. Thank you for being so willing to give us the benefit of the doubt though!
      2. Right? Life-changing.
      3. We sure are hopeful! And I’m also hoping things calm down on my end for a little bit over the next month or so.

      Thank you so much for reading!

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