5 Tips for Turning Your Creative Hobby into a Career
Photo by Tim Mossholder.
Fourteen years ago, Anna Sabino was a Wall Street market analyst with a side hustle creating glass jewelry. She planted the seeds for what would become her own jewelry brand, called Lucid New York, in her bedroom in a Lower East Side apartment (and later moved her production to a studio at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn). She started out small, selling to friends and acquaintances, and learned what her customers liked, before quitting her day job to pursue the budding business full-time. Sabino began selling her wares at trade shows and eventually retail stores; she launched a subscription jewelry service and pop-up shops.
In her new book, Your Creative Career: Turn Your Passion into a Fulfilling and Financially Rewarding Lifestyle, Sabino shares advice for others looking to turn their own creative pursuits into a successful business. Below, she shares five quick tips to get started.
1. Take your customers behind the scenes.
We’re surrounded by books and lectures instructing us to follow our passion when creating. It works well if you’d like to keep your creative endeavor at a hobby level, but to make it as a creative entrepreneur, you need to make sure your products have commercial value. It’s risky to just follow your gut when making, because you may not be able to be objective. You need to take your customers behind the scenes and make them a part of the creative process. Their feedback should influence your process. Creating while having customers in mind will make your business sustainable.
2. Use criticism as feedback.
The more exposure your work gets, the more feedback you’ll be getting. From words of encouragement to harsh critiques, this comes with growing a business, and the way you react will impact your creative career. Some makers may take it personally, instead of detaching themselves from the work. With the right mindset, you can distill critiques, use them as feedback, and get inspired.
At the beginning of my design career, I was very affected by negative feedback my customers would share with me about my creations. I learned to pick and choose what feedback I was going to act on and accepted that my work is not for everybody. This was very liberating.
3. Connect with your supporters (they’re closer than you think).
Creatives are often too intimidated to reach out to people they know. We reach far, trying to connect with strangers, and often neglect our local communities, friends, and friends-of-friends who are ready to support us. Remember to remind your existing network about your products and ask them for help because they, just like everyone, lead busy lives. Also, in most cases, even those who know you really well may not know how to help you because they are not familiar with your business. Making it clear what could help you increases the chances of being on your friends’ minds when an opportunity arises.
Photo by rawpixel.
4. Develop your creative muscle through consistency.
By sharing your creative process and valuable content daily, you can become a part of your customers’ routines and be on their minds. You will also develop fluency and creative efficiency, which will greatly benefit your creative process.
Back in May, I was conflicted over whether I should participate in posting daily on Medium as part of a 30-day challenge. The manuscript for Your Creative Career was due in just a few months, and I was afraid that writing blog posts in addition would impact my book-writing process. When I decided to participate in the challenge, I noticed that posting content on Medium daily did impact my book-writing process—but in a very positive way. The experiment made me a more efficient writer, and I built invaluable connections with readers, whose reactions to my Medium articles shaped a lot of the content in my book.
5. Go through the whole process of making it.
Some creatives have the misconception that their work finishes at creating. They put all their energy and effort into making, but they stop right there and wait for opportunities to just show up in front of them. In most cases, these entrepreneurs don’t have the resources to hire help to take care of marketing and distribution. They opt to wait and see what happens.
To create a sustainable business, these entrepreneurs should realize they need to go through the whole process—from concept to creation to audience building, marketing, and finding distribution channels where their products will be sold.
Avoiding the promotion and selling of your products doesn’t work anymore. A creative career is multidimensional, and you need to stay involved in all aspects of the business.
As a designer and author, I am fully aware that I have to be personally involved in spreading the word about my creative projects. I join groups, connect with and support other entrepreneurs, and I’m always looking for creative ways to share content and meet others. I started spreading the word about Your Creative Career ahead of its release by connecting with creative entrepreneurs who were in need of business guidance. Because I started the conversation early, I had a group of devoted fans by the time my book was published. They not only bought the book, but reviewed it and spread word about it to their audiences. It’s important to develop and nourish relationships with your customers and readers well before your products are released. Focusing on being helpful by sharing valuable content and establishing yourself as an expert is a long process.