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.
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.