Exactly one year ago today I made the leap from full time teacher to full-ish* time writer. I’m proud to say that I have not only survived this first year, but thrived. I was able to financially contribute to my family’s budget, increase my connections and events, and manage to balance a schedule of many diverse writing tasks… all while having a great time. I often tell people that I am now living my best life.
As I reflect on this past year, there are a few things that stick out as I transitioned from “hobbyist” to “pro”. If you are thinking of taking a leap into a new career, especially a creative career, read on to vicariously pick up a few lessons I’ve learned on my own journey down this path.
1. Now that everything is about productive output, I don’t “play” nearly as often.
When I was a hobbyist, I spent loads of time playing around with my craft. I spent time journaling, free writing and writing to prompts that had zero connection to a project in progress. I have entire journals and notebooks full of this writing, all filled within the last few years while I was still teaching full time. Now, I spend most of my time working on the item at the top of the to-do list, the one with the nearest deadline. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being a full-time writer, but I also miss the “play time” that a low-expectations mindset allowed, not to mention the notebooks filled with fodder for short stories, blog entries, and pieces I can quickly revise as contest submission pieces.
Don’t forget how to play and have fun with your craft or business. Not only is that “play time” enjoyable, it can also be productive.
2. I am often thinking about money.
For all of my adult life a paycheck has been direct deposited into my bank account. Our family monthly income has remained the same… each and every month. Now that I’ve leapt from the public education system to a creative career, this isn’t true anymore. In order to meet my self-appointed quota of income, I need to hustle, to think, to reach out, to brainstorm, to research, to experiment. For me this kind of thinking is exciting. No matter how hard I worked in the teaching world, I always made the same amount of money. Not anymore. In my new author-prenuerial career I am always thinking about new ways I can make money, always thinking about new opportunities to grow my business. And I like it. But this might not be an enjoyable mindset for everyone.
Before you take the leap into a new career adventure, think about the ways in which you will need to think about income. If you are not interested in the type of energetic accounting I just described, you might want to press pause on your jumping off date, at least until you can get your finances into a place that will not force you do hustle in this way.
3. Embrace new uses and opportunities for your skill set.
I’m a writer, and if I had it my way, I’d be paid handsomely to write fiction all day long. But that’s not exactly the way the industry works… for most people. Unless you are a big time, household name, you are going to have to find other ways to use your skill set to earn a living. This goes back up to the previous lesson and money… but slightly different. This year I learned that I needed to use my creativity to think of ways I could find work for the skills I possess. For example, I was recently hired by Story Terrace to ghostwrite memoirs and also have started using my industry knowledge to help people complete the process of self-publishing their work on Amazon. I might soon also venture into co-writing a book. I use my ability as a writer to enter contests with paid prizes and also to lead workshops and present at schools and book festivals. Being a writer doesn’t mean writing all day… it means writing sometimes, while at others demystifying the process for those who need help.
Think about how you can apply your skills to new venues, events, markets and products to create more income.
4. It is STILL all about connections.
Most of the opportunities I have earned or been given this past year have come from the people I know in the industry. Friends of my writing club, writers I have met at conferences or online, former co-workers, friends from the past, former teachers, friends of friends, social media connections… the list goes on. You career does not exist in a vacuum. If I focused only on the work I did within the walls of my beautiful office, my career would fail, BIG TIME. As much as we want our success to be based on skill alone, it just isn’t so. i once wrote about why some authors say it takes 6 or 7 years to be successful in the industry and contentedness has a HUGE role in that.
This year more than ever I have learned that you need to get out there… mingle, meet people, try new locations/events/organizations/coffee shops! You never know where these new experiences will take you. (But I can promise you will take you somewhere other than where you are now!)
5. This new life is fun.
I said it at the beginning of this post, but it bears being mentioned again. I am now living my best life. Each day I wake up ready to do work that inspires and invigorates my soul. I am having fun and working hard and feeling great about all of it.
Take it from me, if you are miserable in your current job, seriously consider a change. Plan for it. Plan hard, as if your life depended on it… because it does. Your happiness is valuable. The work you do matters in this world. Make it matter to yourself as well.
I’d love to hear what career adventures you are planning to take or are already on. Connecting with other humans is one of my most favorite things to do. Got some questions about your own leap? Wanna share a mini-milestone success or a HUGE WIN? Need to vent out some entrepreneurial angst? Email me. I’d love to hear from you!
* I still teach part time at a technical college eight months a year, but by in large, my writing is the focus of my career.
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