8 steps for turning your craft into a career
Your day job is what pays the bills. So you get up every day and go to work faithfully. But secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly), you harbor a passion for some other work – your craft – that one thing you feel like you were destined to do with your life. The only problem is, if you were to jump head first into pursuing your passion, you might not be able to keep the lights on. So, maybe you should just give up on that dream of yours, right?
Wrong. If you’re focused and willing to put forth a little extra effort, there’s a way for you to make it happen. While there’s no guaranteed path to success, here are 8 steps that will undoubtedly help you transform your part-time hobby into a full-time career.
Educate Yourself – Either enroll in a paid course or do some targeted self-study. Buy books and read articles in industry publications. You need to get very smart about the history, and current and future trends of the work you want to do. Is there a viable market for what you want to do? Also, get a feel for what goes on behind-the-scenes of the craft – those things that you’ll have to do that aren’t necessarily related to the craft itself. For instance, if you want to be a writer, you need to learn how to write pitch letters. If you want to be a musician, you might need to learn about putting together a press kit or music copyright law. Find out what average salaries or pay rates are in the field. This step alone may make you second guess your decision to pursue your craft as a full-time career.
Carve Out a Niche – How do you do your work differently? Are your products and services for a certain type of person or audience? What can you do with your work that’s totally unique? Develop your own persona, your own set of offerings that’s just a little bit different than what’s already out there.
Build a Resume – Whether you want to work your craft as an employee or as a business owner, you’ll need to show that you’re experienced. Early on you may not have a lot to put on a resume, so seek out volunteer or non-paying opportunities that will give you that experience. Look at previous jobs that may have required you to use the same skills, even though you might not have had the exact title. If you have the time and energy, consider moonlighting or taking some one-off projects or a part-time gig in the field you’re looking to break into.
Join a Flock – Seek out a trade association, industry organization, or just a network of people who are doing the same work. Be active, ask a lot of questions, let people know that you’re trying to break in to the industry, ask for ways you can lend your talents to the group, offer to take people out to coffee, to collaborate with them on their next project. Above all, be genuine with this group. They’ll be like your new family.
Tell Everyone – Tell everyone you know – friends, family, former co-workers, the guy who makes your coffee at the corner café – about your ‘new’ line of work. This is for two reasons: 1) so you get comfortable claiming your new career, and 2) so people you know start seeing you as this person. Ideally, you should get some self-promotion tools in place – business cards, a website or blog – so you can showcase your talent to the world.
Define Your Prey – Clearly define who your target customer is or what type of organization you want to work for. How far are you willing to travel? How many hours do you want to work? What types of people do you want to work with? What kind of salary are you willing to accept? Get clear about what it is you’re actually looking for, and then…
Go Hunting – Talk to contacts in your network that can introduce you to your target clients. Hang out in places where your clients hang out (be sure to bring your self-promotion items with you), meet people and follow up with them, even if it’s just for personal reasons. This step is about building the relationships that will get you closer to your ideal client or type of work.
Be Patient Persistent – If you’re lucky, you may achieve success overnight. If you’re patient, you’ll wait as long as it takes for success to come to you. But if you’re persistent, you’ll realize that it takes both time and consistent effort for you to reach a desired level of success, and you’ll continue to do the work required to meet your goals.