We all have a passion–something that we’ve loved since childhood that brings us pure joy when we think about it, talk about it, or do it! Or maybe it is a passion that has developed later on in life–like a newfound love for eating and cooking healthy, or an obsession with all things motherhood. For me it was always jewelry, it just took me a few years to figure out that it was an industry I needed to be a part of rather than the teaching career I had set out to do. And for you, the possibilities are endless as to what passion you have and want to explore…luckily we have the internet and social media to easily connect with hundreds, if not thousands, of others who also share this same passion.
Having that small idea sparked everything for me–I simply wanted to share my passion for jewelry with others who also love jewelry because at that moment in my life I was the only person I knew who loved jewelry. That idea was the sole purpose for starting Gem Gossip. I never thought in a million years it would end up becoming my brand, my career and my 24/7 life…but here I am, and here we are.
I’ve put together some tips, ten of them to be exact, that will chronologically guide you if you are also looking to make your passion project your career. I use my situation in a lot of these and hope you find my advice useful! Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments section.
1. Define your passion
This may seem redundant or the simplest of tasks on this list, but it is most important. It is essential that you define your passion, knowing exactly what that encompasses and what it leaves out. Especially with starting a blog, having a very specific subject is important–being too broad can sometimes hurt you in the long run.
2. Don’t quit your day job
Your passion project should always start out as a part-time “thing on the side” gig, because in most cases you won’t be earning money from your passion project in the very beginning stages. For some, it may take months, years, even several years before any money can start being obtained from your passion project. For me, it took about five years to score my first big collaboration, but that still didn’t allow me to quit my day job.
3. Work hard towards goals
Once I realized that collaborating on projects, writing sponsored blog posts and Instagram posts, as well as creating content for jewelry designers could pay me about the same if not more than what I was currently making, that’s when I knew I could potentially quit and be my own boss. I made sure to first set some goals–for me this was setting aside a certain amount of money before I could quit my job. I had a number in my head and worked hard everyday at chipping away. It is often very hard to quit a job and doing so can be quite scary, but you’ll know when the timing is right–you’ll get a feeling that is indescribable and walking out the door will be euphoric. I know it was for me!
4. Build your audience
Your audience is everything. They become your value, your reason for continuing to create content. Without them, you have no brand. Every single follow or like should be considered similar to a customer walking through your store. It’s important to build audiences on several different platforms, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter…even LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media websites.
5. Don’t ever sell out or do things that don’t align with what you believe in
Once you build your brand, it sometimes can be easy to veer off from a path you thought was once straight and narrow, easy and consistent. You should know your limits and stick to them. For me, since day one I have never featured fashion jewelry like silver or gold-plated items and that has been easy to stick to (people often praise my decision for sticking with this). On the other hand, I’ve also drawn the line with synthetic gemstones and vowed since day one to only feature genuine gems, nothing man-made like moissanite or sythetic diamonds. This has been more challenging lately because of all the synthetic diamond companies popping up and offering $$. They are heavily marketing this topic and I have stood my ground. (No thanks, move on to someone else who is easily swayed by $.)
6. Do things for free, eventually ask for pay
I easily noticed my first several clients were ones I had always been writing about, featuring, or Instagramming since the very beginning when I did everything for free and on my own dime. You have to start somewhere, you have to see results so you can show your “worth,” so doing things for free in the beginning is essential. Some of my best clients are people I’ve randomly featured one day, and then they suddenly get 300+ followers and a few orders and realize, hey this type of advertising might be something I should try! Working with “influencers” or bloggers is very new to so many people, so taking things slow is usually necessary but the impact is big. When pay becomes involved, for bloggers it is necessary to cite that it has been paid for–making certain that content says #sponsored quite visibily is both necessary and shows your audience you comply with guidelines.
7. Know your worth
It may be hard to put a dollar amount on your work, after all sometimes creativity can’t be priced, but you’ll have to formulate some sort of fees for what you do if you do decide to be self-employed. For me, it was trial-and-error when it came to pricing…sometimes I would complete a job that took way longer than expected, but I had set a fee prior to beginning. You learn from mistakes and don’t be afraid to make them! Another important point would be to be sure you work with people that you align well with–only offer your services to those who you truly believe in yourself.
8. Explore different networks, avoid becoming predictable
It’s important to branch out, especially if you end up working from home and are comfortably facing everyday tasks in your own little world. Connect with others that are both in your realm and out of your realm by collaborating and working together. A few ways I’ve done this was by hiring a PR company to help get my name out there–they planned a trip for me to come to NYC and have meetings with People Style Watch, the Observer, The Knot, Cosmo, and Barney’s. I was able to share my world with those and branch out. I’ve also collaborated with some fashion bloggers.
As it is always important to have something you’re known for, too often than not it isn’t good to be so predictable. Do things differently, change up routines, add an intern, try a new photographer…there are so many ways of stirring the pot in a positive way because the moment you become predictable is the moment you become boring!
9. Give back and interact with your audience
Once you’ve established yourself and are feeling confident as a self-employed being, I think it’s really important to give back, especially toward what helped you along the way or to charities that are close to your heart. I also think it is vital to interact with your audience, so no matter how busy I may be, I make time in my schedule to answer comments, DMs and emails.
10. Plan for the future
As a self-employed entrepreneur, you never know what can happen especially living in a society where one thing can be hot one day and the next it’s so over. It’s important to plan for the future, whether that means saving money, investing in other ventures, learning new skills, or continually network…all these are vital. For me, being self-employed means no 401k plan and I went without health insurance for the first three years. I’ve learned to make sacrifices in order to be my own boss, and I will continue to do so in the future!
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