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.
“You slept in ’til two,” he said, “and you’re at the BEACH?”
This was the reprimand I received from my friend when I finally arose from my slumber and made my way to the shore. He had a point, but I was not about to spend my trip totally wiped out after the long drive there.
About 100 of us from a college ministry I was involved in had loaded up on charter buses, pulling all-nighters in our seats which grew more uncomfortable by the hour. We didn’t care. We were on our way to a carefree week of equal parts sleeping and shenanigans. A 14 hour drive was worth every agonizing minute for that first view of the ocean, wild and free.
But first, I had to get some rest.
In our go-go-go lifestyles, slowing down seems counterproductive. Sleeping in way too late while at the beach? Sounds ridiculous.
This is the attitude that carries from spring break into our everyday lives. We want to accomplish so much with our lives that we fill our Google calendars with endless tasks to accomplish each day. We keep going and going until we burn out. We have good intentions, but we miss out on the strength a simple day of rest here and there can bring to all our pursuits.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, was one place I learned to rest.
Days pass by more slowly on the island. Softened sunlight on the white sand shores melts into a sunset each evening. Mild air whips around you as you race to your next destination on the bike paths that run all over the island. There are no calendars or alarms to govern the days which pass by at a rate even the gators lazing by the pond could keep up with, and everyone likes it like that.
Little shops and restaurants around the island have a tropical Southern charm. My favorite restaurant was Giuseppi’s, a local pizza place with lots of soup and salad options, too. For nights out, Poseidon is a great restaurant. There’s even a rooftop bar with live music. Kilwin’s is a chain, but it’s one of the best chocolate stores around and a great place to get your ice cream fix.
Visiting the beach is the main attraction on the island, of course. The water is a deep blue. The shore is perfect for building sandcastles and playing catch. The sand closest to the water is packed down enough to ride your bike across the shore.
It only takes a few steps away from the beach to immerse yourself in the flora and fauna similar to a tropical forest. Am I in South Carolina or somewhere near the Amazon River? Tough to say. The greenery makes a great backdrop for photos.
For the full experience of a local, renting a beach house is ideal. The quaint beach house neighborhood we stayed in probably wasn’t too thrilled to see buses full of college students in every shade of Comfort Colors shirts roll up. Hopefully, we restored their hope in the upcoming generation (other than a few pranks we pulled on each other that may or may not have happened, but you didn’t hear it from me).
I got to stay in one of the fanciest houses and I couldn’t complain. All the houses were nice, but this one was a cut above.
I spotted this house on a bike ride and fell in love with the charming shaker shingles and teal accents. It was my favorite one in the whole neighborhood. I had to take some pictures in front of it.
Biking is the preferred method of transportation on the island. Whatever you do, do not rent a car.
A bike is cheaper and way more fun, whether gliding through the neighborhood streets or trekking into town. Bonus points if you put a speaker in the basket to play The Beach Boys. We rented our bikes from Hilton Head Bicycle Co.
Traveling by bike sets a slow pace. This is just what you want for a week of rest.
Whenever our whole group gathered at one house for a game night or worship night, the driveway would overflow with around 100 bikes. I loved the feeling of community this brought. 100 different people with 100 different backgrounds and perspectives, but some bikes and a beach house were all it took to unite us.
We’d get competitive together over card games, sing together to worship, and laugh together over a houseful of chatter. The nights when we filled every last space in one glowing house were my favorites.
Community is something that helps me find rest. Knowing I have a home team to go to when everything is falling apart or when everything is coming together sets me at ease. God calls us to live in community and it’s so easy to see why.
I’ve gone through long stretches without a tangible community. Getting involved in one can sometimes take a lot of work and even feel impossible.
When you’re crammed in a house with 100 bikes outside and dying laughing with your best friends, you know the work is worth it.
The whole trip may sound a little boring to the more adventurous of us, but boring is something I can’t get enough of.
Boring days can be the best days. Boring days allow me to move at my own pace. There is time to think and dream, time to really sit down and listen to family and friends, and time to talk to God.
We often trade these things for fast-paced activities that don’t require patience. Patience is something there doesn’t seem to be a lot of in our society. We want to communicate with two sentence text messages and get our news in 30 second video clips. We like our food fast. We want what we want and we want it now.
We also want constant stimulation. If there should, heaven forbid, ever be an unscheduled moment to sit and wait, we pull out our phones for instant entertainment. We fill our schedules from morning to night. We rush from one activity to the next.
It’s no wonder we put rest on the back-burner.
Sarah Young said, “Hurry keeps the heart earthbound.”
It’s only when we slow down and breathe that we have a chance to lift our eyes to God and think about how He sees it all. He is outside of time, in control of it. Time is not a worry for Him. He knows the perfect time for everything and He is not in a hurry.
Staying focused on eternity with Him helps us stop worrying about the time and, as a result, we are able to make the time we do have count. It keeps us thinking about the big picture and all the things that truly matter at the end of the day.
So, go ahead and let yourself slow down on your days off. Try to experience the world by bike. Schedule some time to do nothing.
Visit an island like Hilton Head if you need to, and don’t be afraid to sleep until two.