Ask Anna: How can I make my hobby a full-time job?

For her first advice column of 2019, our resident agony aunt Anna Higgs advises a reader with a passion for short film on how to turn her side hustle into a full-time job

Illustration by Sean McSorley

Dear Anna,

I am a freelance shorts producer and short film programmer for a pop-up cinema. I also work full time in marketing but would love some advice on how to make my hobby my full-time job, and be able to live off it!

Earleatha

Dear Earleatha,

Well, the good news is you’re in the right full-time job right now to make your hobby your paying gig – because the success of something like a cinema depends entirely on audience engagement, and that is always down to great marketing. In terms of how to get there – as is annoyingly always the case with most of the best stuff in life – there’s no set single route. The good news is that there’s a whole range of tools that you can leverage to pave the way; and the great news is that you have all the answers already. I promise.

First of all, I’d start with a vision. What does success look like to you here? Is it having a thriving pop-up cinema that’s your sole focus? Or a combination of shorts production and the cinema?  Whatever it is, set that out as your goal – on a wall, in a notepad, in images – get the goal down in the way that works best for you.

It’s not always easy to make a clear goal so consider asking yourself questions to make sure you have it as refined as possible: how will you know when you’ve reached your goal? What will reaching your goal give you? What’s most important to you when you think about this goal?

Then make sure that goal is realistic. In coaching this is called a ‘SMART’ goal, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. This is a good structure for ensuring you can then set your plans to meet something that’s actually achievable and gives you lots of useful milestones to check in on and keep you motivated along the way.

Now it’s time to step back and to look at where you are: your current reality. This is important because properly considering your starting point will help your journey towards your goal immeasurably. It’s clear you’ve already taken some steps towards your goal as you’re managing to do a lot of it in your own time which is amazing. But it’s often surprising how our laser like focus on where we want to be can mean we ignore the stuff we have around us right now that can help us get there. So ask yourself, what’s happening for you now? What stands in the way? What’s the impact of that? What is working for you?

Then look at exploring your options from right here, right now. You’re already doing a lot, but what else could you do to move towards your goal? What else? Push yourself to really think and repeat that question as much as you can – you’ll be amazed at what you might come up with.

Then go broader; what would you do if there was nothing stopping you? What else do you need to reach your goal? Where could you find that? What are the pros and cons of particular options? As you’re mapping these out it can be really powerful to imagine you’ve reached your goal and ask yourself – how did I do it?

As I said at the top, you do have the answers yourself, and in your situation you’re already operating in the space you want to occupy, so you’re ahead of the game. But that doesn’t mean it will be an easy journey from here, so the final stage is thinking about a concrete plan of action.

Ask yourself, what precisely are you going to do next to start to move towards your goal? Which of the options you have explored are you going to take? When are you going to do that by? What is the step after that? What obstacles will you face? How are you going to overcome them? On a scale of 1-10, how motivated are you to take this next step? If the answer isn’t 10, what could you do to get to 10? Set yourself up for success as far possible by being really honest here. You know yourself better than anyone and for this to succeed you have to invest real honesty and openness here.

Then the next step is actually putting that first step into action and then following step with step with step. And though I bet I was right when I said you have all the answers yourself, that doesn’t mean you have to do this all on your own. Find partners and allies and collaborators. As a shorts producer you’ll be a past master at that, which is great, because with the right fellow travellers, you’re not only likely to reach your goal more quickly, but you may find yourself surpassing your own ambitions.

Even with this exercise of mapping out your plan, ask for help. Have a go at it yourself then get someone you trust to feedback on it or to act as your coach and help you ask more questions. Find a mentor that can help who is perhaps a step further on in the journey that you want to take. And above all remember, your plan might change along the way, but as long as your goal is clear you’ll have a guiding star that keeps you going. This sort of journey requires a treasure map not a road atlas, and so it won’t be straightforward, but being able to spend your days doing what you’re passionate about is where the real gold is.

Anna

Anna Higgs is Head of Entertainment at Facebook. If you have a question for Anna, please send your problem via Twitter or Facebook, or if you would prefer to email, send it to eliza.williams@centaurmedia.com with the subject header ‘Ask Anna’