3 SMALL STEPS TO START YOUR BIG CAREER
You may have noticed that things look a little different these days.
Sure, there’s a global pandemic, a long-overdue racial revolution, and a national political crisis to navigate. But — at the risk of sounding self-involved — right now, I’m talking about me. And more specifically, I’m talking about my career shift.
Like you, I did it all right. I spent four amazing (but grueling) years in a rigorous college training program, I went out on national tours, I performed off-Broadway and around the country. I saved my money and I prioritized gigs that paid well. I began working as an associate choreographer to expand my horizons, I networked, I auditioned, I practiced, and I was lucky enough to have worked consistently in the arts.
And then the world stopped.
The entire theater industry was put on indefinite hold. Many in the theatrical community did what I did: we waited with bated breath to see when we might be able to return to the stage. The days slowly rolled by, and the projected return date got pushed back several times. I started to feel powerless, restless, and frankly… angry. There are thousands of artists who work hard and are gainfully employed by the theater every year, and we were all treading water.
Anyone who knows me well also knows that I can’t sit around and do nothing for very long. (Relaxing has never been my strength.) So, I rolled up my sleeves and began to brainstorm ways in which I could stay creative, work safely from home, and pay the rent. Like the light at the end of the tunnel, I found my calling: copywriting. Again, I worked hard and trained, I practiced, I networked, I applied, I failed, and I tried again. I honed my craft and launched my own business, Copy By Gabby. And, just a few months after nervously getting started, I am proud to say that I have a growing list of trusted clients with whom I love collaborating.
This blog post is by no means a “I did it, and so can you!” journal entry. Full disclosure: I was scared. And I did it anyway. I’m here to say: if you’re a creative person like me looking to make the leap toward your own business: you can do this. Leap and the net will appear… because you’re going to make your own net super strong and flexible.
Whether you’re making a big career move, or just waiting until the show can go on, I’ve got 3 Small Steps that you can take to turn your “maybe I can do this” career idea into an “I’ve got this!” victory lap.
Step 1. Find the people who are doing it right.
This may sound obvious, but it was news to me. All those burning questions you have about what the next steps are, or how to begin… someone else has been there before you. I guarantee it. Get on Google and keep a spreadsheet of names and websites. Who out there is doing what you wish you were doing right now? Who’s making it work?
What exactly about their presence and know-how is working for you?
What isn’t really working for you, and why?
Can you emulate their strengths in your own way and in your own voice?
In copywriting, we look for the “deep benefit” of a product or a service. (How will it make the customer feel deep down: happier, more fulfilled, more confident, sexier, better, prouder?) Try to identify the “deep benefit” of your mentor’s presence. How do they make you feel when you’re looking at their work? How could you make your some-day clients feel the same way?
Finally, screw up your courage and drop them a line! The worst that can happen is that they’ll say “no” (which they very likely won’t). Would they be willing to teach you? Answer a few questions for you? Maybe even collab with you?
Step 2. Set specific income goals.
Take the plunge and open up your bank statement. How are your finances right now? Where would you like them to be in the next few months?
Calculate the realistic profits you could make if you were to open up your business. What might you charge? (Pro tip: don't sell yourself short. No one knows your business like you do. You’re charging your clients for your precious time and energy, and that's no bargain! When pricing your services, be your own advocate and factor in time to brainstorm, edit, email, attend meetings, and then give yourself a little wiggle room.)
Make a list of how you can reach your income goals. Can you apply to agency or corporate jobs? Open a freelance business and network in your community? Will you focus on several new, high-paying clients, or charge a little less and build trust with a few repeat customers?
Make another list of projected costs and risks. Do you need to take a qualifying course? Get a registered license? Pay taxes on your new income? Change your Unemployment Insurance benefit rate? Buy a domain name and business cards? Lots of little things can add up, so make a comprehensive list of everything that might lessen your initial profits.
Pro tip #2: Never publish numbers on your website. If they’re interested, clients can ask you for a quote.
Step 3. Network with your chosen family.
Telling your close circle of friends and family that you’re opening your own business can be really scary. What will they think? Will they think you’re quitting the theater? Will they see you as a failure, or someone who “gave up”?
As hard as it can be to take the first step, you’ll receive nothing but support. You’ll be seen as a go-getter who’s spending this time on other lucrative endeavors. When you’re ready to launch your business, tell your friends, family, and work colleagues all about your new baby! They’ll spread the word, or even become your next client. (You never know… it happened to me!)
Take the pressure off of networking. Yes, you should make a LinkedIn and a formal website, but you can also get really far within your own trusted community of folks who are already your biggest fans.
Okay, you got this!
Brainstorm. Create. Make some lists. Set your goals. Identify your target audience and your brand’s unique voice. Launch your business and watch those scary bank account numbers slowly begin to rise again.
Most importantly, you’ll feel creative and active again. I know the theater industry is only on “pause”, and it will be back in full swing someday. But, in the meantime, let’s make our dreams come true.