I have been thinking a lot about blogging lately. Mostly because of international taxes.
Taxes! Who would’ve thought that when I launched this endeavor 21 years ago that I would be tackling such hip and relatable topics such as international tax law.
When you move to a new country, you learn new things in phases. First the obvious things, like which side of the road to drive on and where to buy expensive cheese. Later, the cultural things, like songs that are more popular here than anywhere else or the sort of cheap improvised sandwiches people had for dinner as kids. And, still later, a bunch of dry, uninteresting things about international tax law.
That is what lead E and I to have a video meeting with a knowledgable but-also-hilarious tax professional last week.
(That’s really my ideal balance for any sort of professional advisor. Completely reliable, incredibly funny. Leave no stone unturned and put me at ease.)
As part of meeting with any tax professional, you are inevitably going to discuss all of your income, assets, and expenses. Which means in the middle of a lot of very serious talk about very adult topics, I had to broach the topic of blogging. Not just blogging, but blogging, comic books, YouTube-ing – my whole internet package.
Awesome Tax Person: “I see you have listed some items related to your website.”
ATP: “Do you sell a product or service?”
ATP: “Do you get paid to write?”
Me: “Not quite.”
ATP: “Hold on. Are you some sort of influencer?”
Me: [shaking my head vigorously in dissent]
E: [nodding her head in agreement and cackling]
ATP: “Oh, how interesting! The revenue department just put out a very interesting memo on internet influencers and I wasn’t sure if I’d need to reference it, but now I do!”
Dear readers, when I tell you that the Awesome Tax Person said this last part with obvious verve and glee you will understand why I enjoyed her so much.
I’m not really an “influencer” in the way most people mean it. I’m not internet famous. I don’t have big brand deals. I don’t think I particularly influence anyone about anything other than wanting them to read more comic books. I maintain an elderly-in-internet-years blog that hosts an reference resource about a niche hobby. I sometimes appear on audio or video to talk about it.
And, unrelated to that, I happen to have a truly stunning and noteworthy head of hair.
As far as the New Zealand Internal Revenue Department and their very interesting memo, “influencer” is the broad category inside of which the business aspects of my particular little niche fits.
That made me think back to the early days of Crushing Krisis. I would’ve loved the modern concept of being an influencer back then. I blogged more times a day than most people tweet in a week! I wanted to broadcast my life 24/7 in full video, but had to settle for sharing salacious, partially-nude shots of myself with a low-resolution hand-me-down webcam.
In a way, 2021 is the closest I’ve ever come to that. From January to June I shared well over a hundred videos on YouTube and dozens of hours of podcasts, at one point ramping up to eight shows a week. It was my internet comics person version of being on Broadway.
Even though it was all ostensibly about comics, a lot of it was also personal. There’s something that feels safer about sharing personal things strewn across dozens of hours of video than sharing them here as a wall of text at the top of a page that can be easily indexed by search engines.
That is the main reason why my personal blogging has withered away over the past four years. I assumed chronicling the process of living in a new country would be the perfect fodder for a blog. Maybe it could’ve been. But, those chronicles weren’t all positive things. A lot of them would’ve been about being unhappy and frustrated. I don’t always love New Zealand, which shouldn’t come as a terrible shock since I didn’t always love America and also don’t always love the X-Men.
As I continued to try to get hired to work in New Zealand so we could stay in New Zealand, I became increasingly reticent to want to share anything about my New Zealand experience on CK where it would be the literal first thing a potential colleague or client or government official would read if they Googled my name.
(Sometimes my colleagues have been government officials – something I probably hadn’t anticipated while blogging about breakups and cheesesteaks in between the salacious web cam shots back in 2001.)
While that hasn’t changed, some other things have. I am now a permanent resident of New Zealand (after a legitimately terrifying visa scare in 2020), so now I can write about how I think their ice cream is mostly horrible and it will (probably) not lead to my deportation.
That means I don’t have to work for a Kiwi employer who can sponsor my visa. In fact, right now all of the folks I am working with live outside of New Zealand. So, again, let me mention how much the ice cream sucks here even though everyone thinks it is quite good.
Which brings me back to taxes. They’re one of the only two certainties in life, after all, along with death – as so infamously highlighted by my fellow Philadelphian influencer Ben Franklin in 1789.
Crushing Krisis used to be the third certainty in my life. Not just mine, either! Comic fans around the world rely on it; I’ve even met some in person here in NZ. Lindsay always jokes that when she’s trying to recall a certain event from our Philly music scene years, she searches CK to corroborate it.
We’re living in an influencer world (and I am a material girl). It’s really not so shocking for me to be a professional while I write on a blog, tweet, appear in videos, or anything else. People are doing much wilder, more objectionable things on a much wider variety of platforms. Blogging about bad kiwi ice cream doesn’t even rank on the list of potentially salacious internet activity when every 20-something job applicant has either a Instagram, a TikTok, or both.
In this influencer world, why would I hesitate to do the thing that has brought me the most continued happiness and success out of almost everything in my life?! 2021 has continued my streak of finding personal and professional opportunities directly through my internet presence rather than in spite of it. If I happen to post something objectionable here or anywhere else on the internet and people don’t like it, then they’re probably not going to like me anyway.
That’s the real influencer tax. Not the dollars, but the willingness to expose yourself entirely while knowing there will be some future price to pay for it.
If I’m going to have to pay the tax eventually (and continuously), I might as well keep doing the thing I love where everyone can see (and tax) it.