I’m always interested in the stories of people who’ve built a career from scratch that they love doing, and that they don’t drag their feet every day to go to. I guess that’s why I love meeting creatives and small business owners here in Hong Kong, to hear about their experiences, the trials and the tribulations of doing what the love and going out on their own. These days I get quite a few emails from people asking me how I went about a career change, people that perhaps feel unhappy or unfulfilled in their current role and need some guidance. For that reason, I’m introducing ‘Do What You Love’, a series where I’ll be chatting with inspiring business owners and creatives from all over the world, sharing their insights with you on what makes them tick and lessons they’ve learnt (usually the hard way) along the way.
As an intro, I thought I would share with you a few thoughts on the matter of doing what you love, bearing in mind that a. I’m probably at the beginning of a very long journey and have probably only learnt 1/6204794th of the lessons out there to learn b. regardless of what you do, work is work, and if it’s not hard/painful at times you’re probably not doing it right. As a bit of background, up until last year I worked as a Town Planner, and had done for 5 years since studying Town Planning at university. It was a profession I enjoyed (most of the time) but in many ways I often felt I was missing out on something a little more creative. I had always shied away from working in fashion because it felt quite foreign to me (I loved clothes and craft but didn’t know a thing about ‘fashun’), and the only (pre-internet) options appeared to be being a designer/magazine writer or stylist. I guess that’s probably why I started this blog, as a fun outlet where I could channel some of my interests in DIY and my own take on fashion. And yes I never knew it could be anything at all let alone a career (if that’s what you even call the pile of emails and rhinestones that is my day to day), but honestly getting started was the biggest hurdle and most important part. Here are a few thoughts!
– Just start: When it comes to doing what you love, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be getting some enjoyment out of it (and maybe even making a living off it!). I’ve met lots of people who aspire to do something different but are paralysed by the thought of starting. Maybe they don’t know where to begin or it seems like a giant mountain to climb, but as my mum always says ‘the first five minutes are the worst’. As true for your new career as it is for Monday’s spin class.
– Start small: Scared to begin? Seriously you’re not alone. When in doubt, just take it slowly. Every little step takes you that much closer to doing what you love. And relax in the fact that you don’t have to know everything about what you’re doing in that first step – things evolve over time so just put your oar in and start paddling!
– Don’t be afraid to fail: Nobody likes to fail, right? On the same token nobody likes to put themselves in a position where they could fail, particularly if there is any chance people might find out they failed (we’re shallow and socially aware creatures). But (and sorry to sound like every Pinterest quote board ever) if you live your life afraid of failing you’ll never do anything. So just begin! And when given a chance, think carefully before you decide not to take it. I lost loads of sleep trying to decide whether to write a book or not, it meant having to take time off my work and leave the comfort and security of my profession. And yes there are things I would probably do differently next time (writing a book in 3 months was one of the most intense experiences of my life) but as just about everybody says – anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And if I had given up that chance I would spend forever wondering, which would, like, totally suck.
– Lower your expectations: I know some of you may think this is counter productive, but honestly, sh*t takes time. It really does. Unless you’re one of those 0.001% of people that are overnight successes, chances are you’ll have to work hard for a long time (or at least a while) before you’ll start feeling good at it. This is part of the journey. As an example, for the first year of writing my blog every day I think like 30 people were reading it, and chances are that was just the combined pageviews of myself and my housemate who worked in an equally uninspiring job. If I had super high expectations I probably would have been put off, but luckily I took it day by day and celebrated each small success as it came (or didn’t). Have high expectations for what you you produce rather than your success, knowing that it will come in time (oh, and don’t forget to market yourself! But more on that next time…).
– Don’t analyse your success: The internet has made it so much easier for the little guy to reach out to their niche and market (who knew there was a world full of DIY addicts – yay for the internets!), but is has also made it possible to compare where you’re at and how well you are doing at all times. Coming from experience, comparisons (while sometimes useful for helping you lift your game) can make you depressed and stunt your creativity ie make you want to get under the covers and stay there. The sooner you stop analysing how you the measure up, the better you’ll feel. To get through any tendencies I have to compare (we all have them!), I focus on collaborating with others, if you think about things in a collaborative way you can begin to see everyone’s success as your own. Just a thought!
– Prepare to multitask: My last thought would be, in your quest for doing what you love, be prepared to do lots of things to supplement your income, whether it be staying in your day job and juggling the demands of a side project, or doing projects you don’t love in order to pay the bills. Above all else, girls gotta eat. Oh and one more thing, doing what you love is often harder than doing something you’re used to, but pays off a million times. You’ve been warned!
Want to get involved? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject of doing what you love. Also, if you have any questions about how to do more of what you love, specifics of getting started or inspiring people who you would like to hear from on this subject, simply leave a comment below. For those of you who are wondering, contributors will be a mix of professions, experiences and opinions (including one person who thinks you should do what you’re good at rather than what you love…), and not just bloggers and designers – life would be boring if we all did the same thing right?
Typography by the very talented Jasmine Dowling