I experienced a rapid ascent during the first 18 months I was in the workforce. I built a business, had a monthly subscription business model, and it was probably a time in my life where I felt the highest level of confidence and self-worth. I didn’t even know that I knew how to build a business, but there I was setting up my own pricing tiers for yearly marketing packages, drafting proposals targeted at closing prospects, and being the CEO of a boutique agency.
I reached that beautiful place because of the hard work, mentorship, and perhaps an obsessive commitment to the process. I could see tangible outcomes and results based on how much time I was willing to invest in practicing my craft.
In recent years, however, I began to sense the status I once had in my domain had begun to wither. I longer had the skills everyone else wanted because everyone else had caught up. Looking back, I can see one of the problems that prevented me from unlocking career potential was that I stopped learning. I wasn’t throwing myself into the ambiguous process of trying to learn the technical aspects of a new tool. Learning the skill is only one part. The second part is applying the skill to real world projects. Those were the steps to my success. I now had neither.
Those early projects were the stepping stone and building blocks for the life I had to make for myself. The work wasn’t always gorgeous. I never had a problem with that. I just had the feeling that I had to keep going. I had to keep making, keep creating, and keep innovating. It was never about getting paid or finding fame. It was about getting better at using the technology.
Overtime, that ambiguous feeling of not knowing what the hell I’m doing turned into panic and anxiety. Anytime I tried to jump into learning something new I would panic because I immediately felt the magnitude of the problem: there was so much I did not know.
Eventually, I became fluent enough in the technical aspects that I was able to design my own workflow unique to each project, considering any constraints, people involved, expected outcomes, etc. Reaching this phase is when monetization became possible.
Monetizing my skills
I hope that by laying out my story in these three succinct steps it provides you with an understanding of how to setup a similar flow for yourself. Many of us are actively learning new skills for our present jobs and some are learning skills for pleasure outside of work. To each her own. If you want to maximize your impact while streamlining the amount of time it takes for you to get from A to B then you will find value in the process I am referring to.
Skills-based volunteer projects for organizations in your local community is a great way to get noticed by the employer or the organization you hope to eventually be hired by.
Perhaps you might start with community based organizations for the first few projects you work on, and then start conversations with businesses to see if what you are doing might come in handy to future employers. Let her give you ideas and insights about how you might apply your new skills within an organization such as hers.
How would the process look for you if you mapped out a loose framework that takes you from today to tomorrow (community based projects) and tomorrow to the future (apprenticeship program for businesses and begin accumulating happy clients who pay you for your services.
Community first, you’ll see
At the time, I wasn’t interested in working for a company. I wanted to figure out how to make my own way.
On the road to launching a service-based business I managed to setup a few things which empowered me to evolve into the next phases and earn a living for myself.
I started building a community of listening ears and gazing eyes long before I was ready to be paid for my services.
The moment I started learning, I was applying the new skills on projects within my local community. I had essentially started marketing myself when I published my first-ever solo video to my Vimeo account in 2009. You know what, I would even say that I started marketing the moment I reached out to the list people who I wanted to interview on camera.
Writing this post right now is bringing up a lot of important memories for me. I wanted to mention this quick side note because so many of you have not yet started to blog or journal. The reflective nature of writing about my experiences or documenting the process of learning something new, is incredible powerful. I learn the new skill faster because I have to be able to talk to you about it in such a way that is easier to understand than it was for me to initially acquire the information from various sources. Synthesizing the various resources and disseminating it to you in the most practical way I can come up with is an exercise that attracts more people to start making their way over to my space. It gets their ears to open up – it makes people willing to listen to the next thing I share or talk about because they know when I make something it isn’t something I did to entertain myself. I make things because of the value it will add to your personal and professional life.