Advice to turn what you love to do into a way to make money from Hannah DeVries, the owner of a natural light photography studio.
1. To figure out what your passion is: Go back to your childhood
While photography and a natural light studio may not have been on Hannah’s mind when she was a kid, entrepreneurship was. Before going blueberry picking as a kid, she went door to door to ask neighbors if they wanted her to bring them some. She took down orders and made deliveries. “From that point on,” Hannah said, “I thought, ‘I want to keep doing this.'”
2. To get started: Put yourself out there
To get her photography business started, Hannah had to allow herself to be uncomfortable. She said she made a list of things that would get her out of her comfort zone while she was living in Florida for a few months. The first item she checked off the list was walking up to strangers on the beach and asking if they wanted her to take photos of them.
3. To turn what you do into a business: Look for a problem you can solve
The idea for Hannah’s natural light studio, called Lightbox, was born out of trying to solve her own problems as a photographer. She was tired of wearing herself out every summer to make up for the lack of business in the winter. The solution? An indoor photography studio that would allow photographers to take pictures inside where it was warm while still taking advantage of natural light.
4. To make sure the business will work: Let the idea brew
Before opening the doors of Lightbox in October 2019, Hannah spent two years doing market research to make sure her problem was a problem for other photographers, too. This took extra time before she was able to open the business, but it set a firm foundation and let her know she was onto something with her business idea.
5. To make your business last: Don’t give up
Hannah stressed the importance of not giving up. Challenges will come and it will take time, but it’s all part of the process of turning your creative passion into a business. “Keep going,” she said. “Keep creating. Keep taking steps to do what you want to do.”
Practical steps to get past the hardest part in pursuing a creative career — getting started.
Breaking onto the career scene as a creator can be a challenge, to say the least. There is no easy, three-step plan of action for writers, artists, and designers to turn what they do into a living. No two creators follow the same path.
The hardest part is getting started. Once you get started, one thing will usually lead to the next. That’s where the list I’m about to share with you comes into action.
Here’s my challenge to you: Read through the list below and pick just one step to take. See where that one step takes you. Don’t worry about the rest.
1. Build your portfolio
Creating work is how you get better. It’s also how you show people you know what you’re doing. Create as much as you can, then curate it so you’re only showing off your best work. Create a portfolio website or a physical portfolio.
2. Get an internship
Sometimes you have to start out by working for free to prove yourself. If you can find a paid internship, more power to you. This will help you build your portfolio and network. Internships often lead to permanent jobs, too.
3. Cold call or email
Do some research on Google, LinkedIn, or even Instagram or Facebook, to find the name and contact information of someone who is currently doing what you want to do. Then, reach out to them. Ask them for advice for someone starting out in the field. Ask them if you can job shadow them for an afternoon. Ask them to look at your portfolio and critique it. It doesn’t really matter what you ask — just make the connection.
Cold calling can work, but you’re going to get a lot further when reaching out to someone who knows someone who can vouch for you. You could attend a professional networking event, but networking can also happen more organically. If you overhear someone at a coffee shop talking about a job that’s right up your alley, introduce yourself and ask them about it. Walk into a business and ask them what opportunities they have in your field. The key is to make your name, face, and career goal known. Other people can help you take it from there.
5. Take a class
Sometimes having a degree can give you an advantage, but other times it isn’t necessary. Ask others in your potential career field if they think it’s necessary and go from there. You could take a class as part of a degree program, or just take an isolated class to improve your skills. This will give you opportunities to network and build your portfolio, as well.
After you take your first step, let me know how it went (comment below or reach out to me on social media: @theadventuresofmic). I’m willing to bet you will have gotten your start and figured out the step you need to take after that on your own.
What I’ve learned from some of my personal experiences finding my identity and calling.
1. Our differences are our strengths
When I was a kid, I always had a sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind that I thought differently than everyone else.
When the teacher would ask a question, I wouldn’t hesitate to raise my hand to answer. Somehow, it seemed like I always took the conversation in a different way than the teacher had planned. I became less confident in my answers over the years, and would just sit back and listen to others answer and wonder why I always thought about the question in a completely different way than everyone else.
It is only in recent years that I have started to speak up again when I think about something differently than everyone else. I am finding that the different answer is sometimes what everyone else was trying to figure out all along.
The more I use my own, unique voice when I write, the more people seem to praise it. If Mark Twain sounded like C.S. Lewis and he sounded like Maya Angelou and she sounded like Flannery O’Connor, we wouldn’t have a need for all these great writers. Everything they had written would be the same. As it stands, they all have different voices and they all write about different things, so we need them all.
Our differences are not our weaknesses. They are our strengths, because they are what everyone around us is missing.
Our differences are what we have to offer others that they don’t already have.
2. Go with the gift
I’ve had a love for writing my entire life and have been told I’m a gifted writer since I was a kid. It’s just a part of me.
Somewhere along the way, I started telling myself it wasn’t a good enough gift. I’ve always had this vague desire to change the world in a big way, but writing has always seemed like a very passive way to do that to me.
One time I was with friends and discussing what career I should choose. The conversation naturally went to writing, and one of my friends looked me dead in the eye. “You have to be a writer,” he said.
I asked him why.
“Because you lit up when you talked about it,” he said.
I wasn’t convinced this was a good enough reason to pursue any career path. My true calling couldn’t possibly be something I loved so much — it would involve sacrifice.
I thought being a teacher seemed like a more noble calling. It was an active way to change the world and serve others. It seemed like the type of job God would approve of. I convinced myself that was what He wanted me to do.
Eventually, I heard someone say your calling is where your gifts, interests, and something the world needs collide. Writing is one of those things for me and I started to see how it could be used to change the world. In an effort to serve God how I thought would be best, I was missing the opportunity He had placed right in front of me through my gift of writing. I look back at that time of my life and laugh at how obvious it should have been.
I knew pursuing writing was the right choice when I was visiting my high school and told one of my old teachers about my decision.
“Ah, yes,” she said. “Go with the gift.”
3. Just tell the truth
The comedian Tim Hawkins once said, “If you want to be a comedian, tell the truth.”
You can make a whole comedy sketch by simply saying what everyone is already thinking.
People gravitate to genuine people. We can get really lost looking for it and often deny it, but we all want truth at the end of the day.
The silly thing is, I always think people will want some put-together, perfected version of myself. I spend so much time crafting an elaborate facade of who I think people will want me to be, only to find the facade becomes a wall between me and them. Every relationship requires tearing down this facade, one truth at a time. Then, the real friendship begins because I am relieved to find they actually wanted the real me all along. The real me doesn’t usually scare people off and, if it does, they aren’t my people.
When I write, sometimes all I’m thinking about is how to impress people with my writing. I want it to be profound and perfectly worded. When this is my motivation, the writing never turns out very good. It’s stiff, stale, and just plain boring. It’s like the phony facade, keeping people from the real me. If I skip the facade and just write down what I really think, it resonates with others and becomes what I actually wanted it to be all along.
If you want to be a writer, tell the truth. The truth always makes the best stories. And everyone knows, truth is stranger than fiction.
Everything I’m learning about being a writer keeps bringing me back to this one truth:
The best spots downtown to get writing or other work done when you need to get out of the house.
When I have some writing I need to get done and catch a pang of procrastination, suddenly my whole house becomes a big project. You might find me cleaning the furthest corners of the pantry which haven’t been touched in years, or ironing every shirt in my closet to perfection, or any other completely unnecessary task that is not writing.
I get a lot of things done when I’m really supposed to be doing other things.
When it’s really bad, the only solution is to get out of the house. Luckily, there are plenty of great writing spots in Springfield, Missouri, the city I live just outside of. Some of my favorites are located downtown. Coffee shops are usually the perfect atmosphere to get inspired and focused.
Here are 5 of my favorite downtown Springfield coffee shops to write at:
1. Kingdom Coffee
Unit #100, 211 S. Market Ave.
The atmosphere: Kingdom Coffee is the right mix of cozy and airy. The decor is modern yet rustic, with an industrial flair. Plants sprinkled throughout the room give it an earthy feel. With two rooms, there are plenty of seating options.
What to order: In the winter, the O Holy Nog is a must — think eggnog, but add coffee for a whole new take on the classic drink. Year round, all the coffee drinks are top notch.
2. The Coffee Ethic
124 Park Central Square
The atmosphere: Located right on the square, you’re in the right place for people watching out the window at The Coffee Ethic. Dimmer lighting and industrial decor makes it cozy so you can feel at home, but not actually be at home where there is a distraction obstacle course.
What to order: Personally, I’m a fan of the chai latte and a cinnamon roll, with plenty of icing.
3. European Cafe
207 Park Central E.
The atmosphere: The European Cafe is the best choice if you need plenty of bright lighting to work. The room has lots of seating and airy, elegant decor. If you want to pretend you’re in Europe for the afternoon, go here.
What to order: You absolutely can’t pass up the macarons. Grab a drink to go with them.
4. Cherry Picker
601 S. Pickwick Ave.
The atmosphere: Cherry Picker has a charming hole-in-the-wall feel to it. It’s extremely small, but if you can snag a spot at the bar facing the window, you’re in for some focused writing time.
What to order: I liked the chai latte (my go-to), and I’m sure the other drinks are great, too. Leland’s grilled cheese was out of this world, if you happen to be there at lunch time.
5. The Potter’s House
724 S. National Ave.
The atmosphere: This place is the closest you’re going to get to a home away from home, as it’s literally located in a house. There are three levels filled with cozy nooks around every corner.
What to order: There is an extensive menu here, and I like everything I’ve tried. The Thai tea is my personal favorite. The Oreo Quicksand is all the buzz if you’re craving a milkshake, and the Honeybee smoothie is a healthier option that will still satisfy your sweet tooth.
What’s your favorite local coffee shop? Tell me where I need to go next in the comments!
P.S. If you’re working on a novel during your next coffee shop visit, check out this resource from author Beth Linton about the concept of showing rather than telling in writing. She gives practical tips and great examples from classic novels.
Advice for journalists and writers I learned from interviewing actor Rudy Pankow.
This summer, I had the opportunity to work at a magazine called Local Life on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (if you’re reading this, I miss you all).
Outer Banks, the Netflix hit show (click here for some background info if you have no idea what I’m talking about), came out a couple months before my internship. It was filmed in South Carolina, so I received an assignment to write a story about the tie between the show and where our magazine was located.
The editor said I could take it any direction I wanted, including interviewing an actor. As big as the show is, it seemed impossible to land an interview with one of them. Still, I decided to go on a quest to track them down.
Against all odds, Rudy Pankow (aka JJ) said yes. Needless to say, I learned a lot from the experience.
Here are 3 essentials for any interview:
Getting the interview was a long shot. A very long shot. I felt like a crazy woman, sending an email to ask someone with over 3 million Instagram followers if they would take the time to talk to an intern at a magazine that goes to about 30,000 people.
Rudy’s publicist asked if he would be on the cover, and the answer was no. She asked if he was the first actor we reached out to. Again, no. Then, I accidentally advertised the fact that an intern was going to be doing the writing and interviewing. Three strikes, right?
But then, he said yes.
Never be afraid to ask. You might not get the answer you’re looking for. Then again, you just might get it. If you don’t ask, it’s guaranteed you won’t get a yes. I received a no from the publicists of several other actors, but that didn’t stop me from asking again. All it took was one yes.
Ask. Ask twice. Ask three times.
I’m pretty sure being annoying when it comes to getting interviews is part of the job description for journalists. You can be a little annoying, but be respectful. You’re not entitled to an interview with anyone, but you are always allowed to ask.
When writing questions for interviews, don’t be skimpy. Write down every question you can think of. I don’t care if “What’s your favorite vegetable?” is the question that comes to mind — write it down. After you finish your master list of questions, refine it to 10 or 15 of the best ones.
List them in order of the most important ones to cover. I’ll explain how to figure out which questions those are in a bit.
Bring the master list with every dumb question you could think of into the interview, too.
My fellow intern (shoutout to Megan who was my copilot in the interview and also did an amazing job illustrating and designing the article) and I ended up getting more time in the interview than we planned for, so we almost ran out of questions. If you ever get extra interview time with a celebrity and run out of questions, grab onto every last second and just ask something. However, coming prepared with plenty of extra questions is always helpful.
On top of that, don’t make assumptions. Be very clear about the time and location of your interview.
In this case, I knew Rudy would be in a different time zone than us, so I asked about his time zone. As it turned out, when Rudy’s publicist told me the time of the interview, she told me the time in my time zone. I assumed she would realize that’s why I asked about the time zone and clarify, but I was wrong. We got on the phone a little later than planned due to this mix up. Thankfully, he was understanding and it turned out okay.
3. The golden question
The golden question is the question that unlocks the person you’re interviewing. Let me explain.
In the interview, my thinking was that we would take care of business first. So, first on my list were questions about the location where they filmed. This part of the interview felt a little stiff and didn’t flow.
Near the end, I got curious about what an actor must do to prepare for an audition after Rudy said something about auditioning. I went off the question list and asked him about it. He lit up and started explaining the ins and outs of acting — stuff I wouldn’t have even known to ask about. Acting is his expertise. He loved talking about it.
The questions following this one flowed naturally. I realized I should have started with this question, because it put him at ease. Rudy was comfortable and confident talking about acting.
Find whatever it is the person you’re interviewing loves to talk about, and ask them that first.
If they feel confident answering the first question, they’re going to feel more confident talking about things they don’t know as much about later on and the whole interview will run much more smoothly.
Try to figure out what the golden question might be beforehand. If you’re not sure, start the interview with some easier questions and look for rabbit trails. The rabbit trails will usually lead you to the golden question. After that, it’s all about asking follow up questions.