I recently was interviewed for an article about making a living out of a passion. Here were some of the questions I was asked.
How did you get started in your current career?
I feel fortunate because my career sucked me in without much thought. Six months after I started dancing I was asked by our local teacher to start assisting her and it took off from there. Once the ball was rolling it was easy to maintain momentum. From the age of 16 to 18, after teaching and performing as a professional dancer, I quit. I returned to my original ambition to go to college get a degree in business. I wanted to head down a path where I thought I could find financial security. In the beginning I didn’t believe dancing would make that possible. However, after one year of college, dancing kept drawing me back in. I had too many opportunities and couldn’t ignore it. I was lucky, the doors opened easily, however I had to work hard to succeed once I took the plunge. I spent most of my energy defining what made me unique and honed ability as a dancer and especially as a teacher.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to turn a hobby or a passion into a living? What is a smart first step?
Turning a hobby into a career can be tricky, but if you are successful at your hobby you have a much higher chance of making a living with it. If you are lucky, the opportunity will probably call upon you and you will see the doors open. This will get you started, but only hard work, training and refinement of your artistic and business skills will lead to success. If doors of opportunity aren’t opening for you, it is still possible to make it happen, it just takes more work and dedication in the beginning.
There are a few paths to follow when turning a passion or hobby into a career. Teach it, perform it, or create some product out of it and sell it. There are also other ways to stay directly connected to the hobby without being a master at it. You can create an event or facility to host either the production or instruction of the craft, art, or hobby. If you have the business skills, it is easy to take your awareness of the niche market and figure out a way to monetize it and bring value to the community. (This is the secret, you must find a way to add value to your niche community/market. If you create something of real value, people will support you and your projects. )
The first step is to define what it is you are going to offer and whether or not you have a potential market. Will people actually pay for it? Can you do a show, sell a product or teach others how to do it? The second step is try it. You have to test this before you fully commit. Don’t jump assuming that everything will just work out. After a real trail, you will know exactly how to transition from your current situation and whether it will be possible. Balance working your current job, and work your hobby on the side to see if you actually like it when it becomes business. From there it is pretty easy to know when and if you can go full time and make a living.
What mistakes do you see people making when they try to become self-employed?
1) Taking the plunge to soon. Being over confident and going for it without a trail or a true calling.
2) Not being professional. Hobbies are where most people do it for fun. So when the calling comes, they don’t get professional. This often creates burnt bridges, and bad relationships can easily harm your career.
3) Don’t Be Lazy! Especially for people who are naturally more talented. Always remember there are probably hundreds of other people who will work harder and eventually surpass you if you don’t progress. Even if competition didn’t exist, avoid mediocre success and be exceptional. Never stop developing your craft and your business will never die.
4) Failing to find support. You career literally begins once you engage early adopters or fans. People who really believe in your product and abilities. These people will sell you better then you ever will alone. Engage a few and the rest will follow. If you fail to find this early support, then it will be a very rough ride.
How has the web helped your career?
The web has helped immensely with publicity. Video and word of mouth spreads almost instantaneously on the web. The web is an amazing marketing resource and one that happens naturally if you attract the interest of heavy web users and fans. Having a personal website is also another way to allow people to get to know you and your product without having to be there in person all the time.
The web is also a great source of inspiration. You can easily find people around the world in seconds who can inspire you in your craft. This is something that was previously extremely hard to come by for people unable to travel and meet other talented people who study their craft. The key is to be inspired but not to copy.