In the recent years, we have seen more and more people making a living by creating content and publishing that content on the internet. And most of the time, it looks so easy. Just sit in front of a camera and talk for ten minutes or write a few hundred words or take some photos in your living room or record yourself talking with someone and make a podcast.
Sounds very doable, right? And it’s so much better than the usual 9 to 5. Who wouldn’t want to be a creator?
It’s only after we become serious about it, after we actually sit in front of a camera or a microphone or start typing or taking photographs, that it becomes painfully obvious: this is hard work and it’s not for everyone.
Oh, and this is all before getting the “algorithm” headache and trying to grow on different platforms and find a real audience, which is a big enough job on its own.
Look, I will not sit here and say, with a straight face, that it’s not fun and a pure pleasure sometimes. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it for the past 6 years. But it’s also very hard and time-consuming and even painful some other times.
I guess I’m trying to say that, like any other job, being a creator has its ups and downs. And you should be ready for all of it. If you want to be good at it, that is.
So in this post, I’m gonna talk about being a creator. (More specifically, the process of becoming one) And then, you can decide for yourself if it’s for you or not.
If you want to be a writer
Written content is still very much alive. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, according to Hubspot, “55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority”. And in the recent years, big internet companies like Airbnb and Bumble are producing print magazines as well as online content.
You can also write for big blogs or news sites and become a sort of journalist.
And the last option is to write your own blog and monetize it after you’ve gained a big enough audience. Although this is usually much harder to do.
So how can you become a writer?
1- You need to consume content first
Read as much as you can. Read everything you can. Then, read some more!
Read books, magazines, news sites, blogs and anything in between. At the early stages, you should read to become familiar with different styles of writing and to expand and improve your own vocabulary. After that, you should read to further develop your own style and to stay up to date with the world of writing.
Reading other peoples work will present you with different ideas and points of view. It will train your brain to think as a writer and a communicator. And in time, you’ll be able to write your own ideas and opinions and present them to others. It’s a glorious circle of ideas in the shape of words. And you get to be a part of it as a writer!
If you are serious about being a writer, you should read for at least one or two hours each day.
2- Go out and experience the world
A good writer only creates content about stuff that he or she knows. I mean really knows! And what better way to gather knowledge than going out (or in some cases, staying in) and experiencing the subject matter first hand.
Reading is a form of gathering experience. But, if possible, actually getting your hands dirty is the better way in most cases.
Imagine you’re a staff writer at an online publication and your editor assigns you a piece about racism. You can read hundreds of books about racism and base your piece on their content and different stats and facts. But it will never be the same as a piece that describes a firsthand account of racism.
What’s that you say? You are white? No problem! Most journalists are! In this particular case, you should interview people of color and hear their stories.
If you can’t experience something personally, talk to someone who has and use their experience. If you combine this with reading other source material, you’ll have an excellent chance at writing a memorable piece.
3- Make writing a habit / have a note book or note app
Write every day, even if you have to force yourself. Habits are powerful things and if you can make writing a habit, you can truly become a writer in every sense of the word.
To make things easier, always have a small notebook with yourself or install an app on your phone to take notes. I personally use google keep.
Every time an idea pops into your head, write it down. With some apps, you can even record your voice instead of typing. Choose whatever method you want. But make sure to record every idea, even if you think that nothing can come of it.
This will make you immune to writer’s block, the number one reason we don’t write regularly. You will always have ideas to go through and things to write about.
You don’t have to publish every piece you write. But to become a good writer, you have to make writing a habit.
4- Build an online presence
If you want to work as a writer, you should build an online presence. Making a personal blog and creating profiles on different social media is the first step.
I use WordPress for my blog and also post on Instagram and LinkedIn regularly. (Maybe you’ll want Squarespace for your blog and Facebook and Twitter instead. Choose whatever works for you.) You should learn the ins and outs of these tools as well, while you’re at it.
The next step is to look for guest post opportunities and blogging jobs. If you do the first step well, you shouldn’t have too much trouble in the second.
Either way, you should keep writing on different online platforms to build a stronger presence. After a while, you can become an authority on certain topics and find work easier.
This step is really necessary to become any kind of content creator these days, not just writing.
If you want to be a photographer
If you learn photography really well, you can work as a freelancer with brands and companies, you can have your own studio (or work without a studio) and take photos of people and their life events (like weddings) or you can become an Instagram influencer.
There are also other options somewhere between the ones that I mentioned, like stock photography.
If you think about becoming a photographer, you should consider these steps:
1- Make sure you really love it
Many people take a few snapshots and selfies on their phone and claim they love photography. Hate to break it to you, but that’s not photography! That’s just taking photos. You may like taking photos, especially with your phone. But photography has a very technical side too. Make sure you understand and love both the technical and artistic sides of photography.
2- Start learning
Dive into online resources and start learning. First of all, learn about exposure. Then get to composition. Watch video tutorials on YouTube. Sign up for online photography courses. (I love Ben Long’s courses on Lynda) Read photography blogs and follow awesome photographers on Instagram to see different styles of work.
You can start doing this before buying fancy gear. Many camera apps allow manual control over important settings. Use them to start learning on your phone camera.
This is where you start developing your own style and decide if photography is right for you or not.
3- Choose (and buy) your own gear
There’s no way around it. If you want to be a professional photographer, you need a good camera and at least a couple of good lenses. And then there are other tools like a tripod and lens filters. You should choose carefully and spend as much money as you can, especially on lenses.
4- Find your niche / be different
At the beginning of your career as a photographer, you should experience different styles and different kinds of work. But as the time passes, you have to form your own style and choose what you want to photograph.
Maybe you enjoy taking portraits, maybe you like the nature and want to be a landscape photographer or maybe it’s photojournalism and documentary work that catches your attention. Choose whatever you really want and slowly work towards that.
With the vast improvements coming to phone cameras every day, if you don’t have a unique style, you’ll be in trouble in a few years.
Making videos and podcasts
Learn how to work with specific gear, like microphones and sound recorders or video cameras and gimbals.
Then learn how to edit your sound and footage. I use adobe creative cloud for this. (audition for podcasts and premiere for videos)
And then? Work, work, work…
What I described in this post is just the beginning. Being a creator and living creatively is not something that happens overnight or something you can turn on and off whenever you like. It’s a life-long process, it’s a way of life. And if you choose it, it can be a source of pleasure (and sometimes pain) for many years to come.
So choose carefully. Happy creating!
Photo Credit: Veeka Skaya