How can I start taking my blogging and creative work more seriously?
First, congratulations on wanting to take that next step. Transitioning from hobby to career is not easy (or quick!), but it's unbelievably rewarding. I have done my best to formulate an answer and please check the related reading at the bottom of this post for more of my thoughts on self-employment.
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Create something great that makes you proud and others will take notice. A concern that I hear often is that family and friends are not supportive of non-traditional career paths. More than likely, these folks think they are looking out for you and do not fully understand what you are trying to accomplish. I recommend that you communicate with them. Talk through your goals and business plan (having to put it into words will help you too!). If I had, out of the blue, turned to Paul and announced a plan to quit my job and start some random venture, he probably would have been confused and un-supportive. Instead, I built a business by stringing small projects together. After each step I took, I had something to show for my work and build upon. Now, when I have a new idea (which always come with risk and up front cost), I have a good track record to back it up to myself, prospective partners & my family.
Don't quit your day job...yet. I am a firm believer that while you are getting your business (or blog, or creative venture, or whatever) off the ground it is good to hold a "real" job. After college, I worked for almost three years out of the house (full time for two years and part time for one) while blogging, teaching online workshops and running my etsy shop. It was chaotic, but an absolutely necessary step. Juggling the two meant that I had to learn time management skills. I know that cramming in all the "extra" tasks while working for someone else is why I am now efficient & productive while working for myself. There are of course many other advantages (like a steady paycheck!) that make sense for many people. I learned so much about my current field though my retail job at a paper store and I am grateful for that experience every day.
Schedule time for your creative goals. You must make making time for your creative ventures a priority. If you can't yet dedicate 40 hours a week then dedicate five. But be sure that those five hours are the most productive hours you can give. It's easy to say, "If only I had more time..." but it's difficult to buckle down and just use the time that you've got. Remember that the people who have carved out their own careers did it by taking the harder, not easier path.
Set financial goals. If you are determined to get serious and turn your creative work into a career you have to consider the money.* At the beginning of each calendar year, I pick a dollar amount that I would like to hit by year's end. I evaluate the past year, think it over for a few days, then commit to it and say outloud, "This is the number to beat!" to Paul, my parents and some close friends. Then, I ceremoniously create a new "Ins & Outs" Excel spreadsheet for the upcoming year and type in The Number. 2011 was my first year of full-time self employment and my goal was to make as much as I had at my salaried job (remember, this was was a retail job so the figure was not mind-blowing). I hit my 2011 goal on December 23rd and I was overjoyed. In 2012, I increased The Number by 25% and I am on track to reach it. I love a goal that makes my stomach flip-flop but is not so outrageous that I get discouraged before I start.
Check in on your financial goal. Setting a goal is great. Achieving that goal is better. Figure out a schedule that works for you and once a month (or week, or quarter, or whatever) take a look at your goal. Be sure to celebrate how far you have come, not just lament over how far you have to go. What can you do to increase your income? What is working? What is not working? As mentioned, I keep a giant Excel spreadsheet that tracks income and expenses. At any given moment, I have a good idea of how much I have made and how much I have yet to make. I also always have a rough estimate of how much I need to bring in a month to wind up in the green at the end of December. Please note, I do this because it works for me! If I was terrified of money, I would not use it as a motivational tool. But at the same time, I don't think I would have had as much success transitioning from "hobby" to "career" if I was scared to talk, set & ambitiously work towards financial goals.
Don't wait for permission. No one is going to tell you what to do or where to go or what that first step needs to be. No one will hand you a road map... and if they did, it wouldn't work for YOU and YOUR business anyway. Remember that you are the only one who can allow yourself to go for it.
And seriously, you've got to take pride in your work. I've been asked before if I recommend making your blog private while you're on a job search. My answer is this: pretend you are walking into an interview and the first thing the interviewer says when you sit down is, "So, I read your blog yesterday." Is your first thought, "Sweet!" or "Shoot!"? If it's "Sweet!" Awesome - you're set. But if it's "Shoot!" you've got some work to do. It's time to turn your online space into something you're proud of.
- how I get from idea to reality quickly
- on self-employment
- on motivation
- Q & A on the shop and small business
- elise talks college
Want more reader questions and answers? Here you go!
*Sidenote - we have an accountant (Paul's mom!) that helps us figure out our owed income taxes each year. Because I am self-employed, I pay estimated taxes quarterly to avoid a big surprise in April. I can't say enough good stuff about the peace of mind that comes from turning over taxes to a professional.