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7 Essential Steps to Start Making a Living Doing What You Love (Finally!)

7 Essential Steps to Start Making a Living Doing What You Love (Finally!)

Does this sound like you?

You go to work each day. And each day you do, you watch the clock. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting for the clock to strike 5 p.m.

That’s when you get to go home and devote your time to what you truly love doing. That thing that brings you joy. That thing everyone tells you you’re so fantastic at. That thing you wish you could do every day instead of working.

If this sounds anything like you, don’t despair. You can make a living doing what you love.

Take the following essential steps to transform your passion into a business that frees you from that soul-sucking job, and enables you to live the life of your dreams.

1. Talk yourself out of it

Let’s face facts. The minute you decide you’ll start a business doing what you love, you’ll face naysayers. People will question your choice. They’ll give you all the reasons why you shouldn’t start down this path. They’ll tell you how risky it is, and point out all the people who tried but couldn’t make it work.

So beat them to the punch. Make a list of all the reasons why you shouldn’t start your business. Then for each of those reasons, write down what you will do to overcome that obstacle.

Let’s say the excuse is you don’t have enough time in your schedule. Your solution could be: “Cut out two hours of television a day to work on my business.”

By putting a plan in place to overcome the common objections that arise, you’ll better position yourself to smother those voices of dissent.

Bonus points: Write down all the reasons why you should move forward with your dream (freeing your soul from your current job should be on that list). Refer back to these compelling reasons whenever you need a push to keep going.

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And speaking of televisions, the next step explains what to do with yours.

2. Throw your TV out the window

Building a business takes time. And doing it right takes more time. And since all of us have access to only twenty-four hours in a day, time is a scarce resource.

Don’t fret though. All is not lost. I’ll bet you can find tons of extra time in your day if you cut out activities that don’t advance you toward making a living doing what you love.

Television is an easy thing to cut out. Yeah, you may not be able to talk about what happened on the latest episodes of Scandal or Game of Thrones, but you will be able to see tangible progress you’re making toward getting your business off the ground. That’s ten times more satisfying.

TV isn’t your time suck? Perhaps social media is. Whatever it is, take inventory of how you spend your existing time, and find two activities you can either cut out altogether, or significantly reduce. Find at least two hours in your day to free up.

Bonus points: Maximize your time by multi-tasking during activities that don’t require a ton of mental energy. Listen to a podcast while you cook, or do some research while you eat. You’ll find plenty of time when you’re hungry to find it.

3. Say adiós to your friends

As you get laser focused on building your dream business, you’ll need some new friends. People who will be invaluable to helping you reach your goals.

That doesn’t mean you have to ditch your existing friends (unless they’re unsupportive of your goals). You’ll just spend less time with them for a while, as you get cozy with the new additions to your friend list.

Write down at least three folks you need to add to your inner circle. Be sure to include the following three people:

  • A mentor, someone who is currently doing what you wish to do. They’ll guide you along the right path, and give you advice on what to do and what not to do.
  • A trainer, someone to push you beyond where you think you can go, hold you accountable, and kick your butt into shape when necessary.
  • And a peer, someone who is working toward similar goals. They’ll be there for support, venting sessions, and to share tips.

Bonus points: Let your current friends know what you’re working on. Explain that they’ll probably see you a bit less for a little while as you work toward your goal.

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Not only will they appreciate the advance warning before you stop showing up at happy hour, but they should also become a source of encouragement for you to move forward.

Besides, not being the social butterfly will help you with the next step.

4. Develop a taste for beans and potatoes

Your new business will need some upfront investment to get started. And once you do launch, arriving at the point where you can fully replace the income from your existing job will take some time.

So save your money. Pinch pennies. Look for areas to cut back, and put extra income aside as seed money for your business. Live below your means.

Create a budget of the necessities you need to pay for on a monthly basis (Starbucks is not a necessity). Then for anything else that doesn’t make the must-have list, cut it out of your budget and save that money.

The extra money will accumulate quickly and fuel your business. It can also help cover your expenses while you’re waiting for the sales to pour in.

Bonus points: Find creative ways to make necessary bills even smaller. You have to eat, right? Search for ways you can still feed yourself well-balanced, healthy meals at a lower price. And since you’ll have to leave your house from time to time, consider carpooling or taking public transportation to get to and from work to reduce transportation costs.

5. Acknowledge your ignorance

To make a living doing what you love, switch your approach from that of a hobbyist, to that of a professional. This will include investing time to study and get insanely good at your craft. You’ll also need to learn as much as you can about the business of your business.

In his best-selling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell laid out the case for how to operate in excellence:

“Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.”

Your journey to business success will run much more smoothly when you prepare.

So in addition to practicing your craft, study your competitors to see who is most successful and why. Pay attention to why others may not have done well in the past. The more you learn, the better equipped you’ll be to create the ideal business plan.

Bonus points: Commit yourself to working on your craft for at least thirty minutes a day for the next month. That dedicated time of learning how to get even better at what you do will set you apart from others in your field.

It will also put you in a better position to tackle the next step.

6. Get your freak on

Did you know that there are more than 70,000 yoga instructors in North America? If your dream business involved teaching yoga, you would need to identify a unique reason why students should choose you, instead of one of the many other instructors.

The same goes for any business. To get your customers to keep coming back, you must give them a compelling reason to choose you instead of someone else.

As part of your preparation process, make a list of at least three things that make you different from other available options to meet your customers’ needs. Next, choose which of those things matters most to the customers you want to serve.

Bonus points: Once you’ve got that one thing that truly makes you different, assess if you could add another skill to your wheelhouse to make your business even more attractive to your customers.

7. Burn your boats

To transition from your current job to running your dream business, at some point you will have to quit that job. Sure, you could do work on nights and weekends to get your business going, but at some point you will need to make the full-time business leap for you to truly start making a living with it. A living where you don’t have to count your pennies before going to dinner with your friends.

I get it. Holding on to your job is safe. It’s nice knowing a paycheck will come on the first and fifteenth of each month. But if you’re not careful, that comfort will keep you stuck in a job you loathe rather than building the life you love.

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So to make sure you don’t get stuck, you’ve got to burn your boats.

Back in the 1500s when Hernan Cortez led his army of men in a conquest of Mexico, he ordered that the boats they arrived in be burned. He did this to prevent anyone from turning back and abandoning the mission.

In essence, he ensured commitment to the battle, by eliminating all opportunity to abort the assignment.

Burn your boats by writing your resignation letter. Set a date for when you will kiss your job goodbye. Maybe that’s six months or a year from now. Just set a date.

To help you feel more comfortable about picking the time, make a list of all the activities and milestones you need to complete before transitioning. Then estimate the time needed to get it all done. Use that as the date for submitting your letter.

Bonus points: After you write the letter, set it to send automatically from your email account on the date you plan to leave. Set it, then forget about it as you get to work on your business. That way, in six months when that lovely email goes out, your boats will be blazing.

Time to stop watching the clock

Your dream of getting paid to do what you love is in reach. You can totally make it your reality, you just need to follow these essential steps.

Then instead of watching the clock all day, you’ll just blissfully stand still for a bit—so you can savor the amazing feelings that come with making a living doing what you love.

Featured photo credit: Man with guitar via gratisography.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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