First let me say that there are two kinds of dreams; impossible dreams and possible ones. Usually the impossible dreams are only impossible because of the way you frame them. For example, you say that you want to dance for the Royal Ballet, but you’re forty and have never had any ballet lessons. That’s probably not going to happen. But what is it you really want? Does your dream have to be so specific? If you want to earn a living by dancing, then your dream is still attainable; it’s just that you’re going to have to be creative about it. If you want to be associated with a highly prestigious organisation, then you can find ways of making that happen. You can be on stage, you can give performances, you can make your dream happen — but only if you’re prepared to drop the specifics and think about what you really want.
Once you’ve looked into your heart and determined what you really want, freed from the specifics of how you want it, you can set about making it happen. The second major problem with most people’s dreams, is that they take a passive form. For instance, let’s say you want to be a great singer. Nothing wrong with that. What do you do about it? What many people would do, is to basically do very little except to perhaps record a few songs and hope that a talent scout from a huge music publishing company will spot them and make them famous. They imagine that once spotted by the talent scout, everything will be easy. Their lives will be transformed into glitter and happiness.
In reality, it rarely works like this. Very few people are elevated from ordinary lives into greatness. On the rare occasions when this does happen, people often find that their lives are still difficult — and in some ways even more difficult than before. Fame isn’t what it appeared to be, as seen through the media, from a safe distance.
Here’s what you need to do. Forget the great man (or woman) discovering your amazing talent. Forget the idea that the general public will abruptly acclaim your work as genius. Instead of expecting to be magically, passively lifted from your current situation to your ideal situation, figure out how to actively lift yourself step by step from your current situation to where you want to be.
The Internet is Your Ticket to Success
The Internet gives us unprecedented opportunity to realise our dreams. The key to using the Internet successfully is to realise that the Internet repays the creation of regular, quality content — whether the content is your manga illustrations, your latest recipes, videos of yourself singing or telling jokes or whatever. If you create regular, interesting content and put it somewhere, very few people will look at your stuff at first, but as time goes by you’ll pick up fans (and probably detractors too) and eventually you’ll be able to make a living by selling them your product in some form or other. Your own website or YouTube or iTunes or Facebook or some combination thereof are some especially great places to put stuff.
Yeah I know, that word “product” is unnerving. But if you want to be paid for your work, think of it as a product, whether that product is your stand-up comedy or your songs or whatever it is.
Let’s talk about the word “professional”. You want to be a professional, right? You want to be a professional dancer, singer, writer, artist or whatever. A “professional” is not someone who has a magical status in society that guarantees them adoration and fame. A professional is someone who makes their living by doing the thing that they are professional at. A professional writer is someone who makes their money by writing. It’s that simple. Look it up in the dictionary if you don’t believe me. Society has a way of making us feel that professionals in creative areas are leagues above us somehow, but if you read their actual biographies, usually you find that they struggled at first; they eventually reached a point where they could scrape a living doing what they love to do, and only later did they become famous due to the quality of their work and the extent of their output.
If you want widespread recognition, first accept that you have to start by doing what you do for very little monetary reward. In something like two years (or less, if you’re very productive) you can make a living doing it. From then on, it’s a question of getting better and better at what you do, and keeping on doing it.
If you want to write books, you no longer need a publishing company. You can publish an e-book yourself and potentially make millions with it (but you’re not focused on money, right? If you are — better to stay away from anything creative and go into something more mundane). If you’re a singer, you can sing on YouTube and eventually attract enough of a following to make money from YouTube advertising or from selling your songs by telling people where to buy them in your YouTube videos, or offering yourself for hire to sing at events.
Whatever you do, you can use the Internet to get there step by step.
Fun or Prestige?
One objection that a lot of people have to the Internet route to being a professional x, y or z, is that it isn’t prestigious. People will ask you stuff like, don’t want you a normal publishing deal? Don’t you want to work for a normal company doing what you’re doing? If you teach, they’ll ask you if you wouldn’t like to teach in a university. If you film your own drama series, they’ll ask if you wouldn’t like to be on TV.
You have to ask yourself why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Do you want and need prestige, or do you want to do the thing that you’ve always dreamed of for a living? If the answer is that you want the prestige, you may never succeed anyway — due to your lack of interest in the thing itself. A true actor will act whether on YouTube or on TV. Sure, a true actor desires the most prestigious option, but he or she knows that being able to make a living acting is the first and foremost greatest thing to reach for — not the ultimate goal of being on TV.
An Internet career may or may not segue into a conventional career, and you may or may not want it to. What it almost certainly will give you, at least if you’re at all dedicated, is the opportunity to make a living doing what you love.
Whatever it is that you want to do with your life, the Internet may give you the chance to do it. Things are changing, and careers are becoming stranger and less conventional. That’s a good thing. Embrace the change. The key to using the Internet is to create material and put it somewhere regularly. Think about where that place is going to be. Think about having a website. You don’t need to get mega technical; just have a place on the Net where people can find you. You won’t garner much interest at first; interest comes with time and persistence. It’s going to be probably a couple of years of regularly creating stuff before you can hope to make a living off it. You must first get people to look at your stuff, build a fanbase and start thinking about how to sell your talents to them.
On the other hand, the great thing about the Internet is that you won’t work in a vacuum for long. You will start getting feedback from people after a month or two if you work at creating interesting stuff. People will leave you comments and tell you what they think. You can start making money pretty quickly too; it’s just that it won’t be a lot at first. Meanwhile you’ll get better and better at your art, as you continue to publicly practise it.
Think practically, always think of new ways to get exposure and to make a living from what you do, and above all keep creating new material. I can’t emphasise the importance of this enough. The reason why everyone isn’t making a living on the Internet is partly because many people actually like their office jobs, and because most people who start creating stuff on the Internet just don’t love what they are doing enough to keep creating material week in, week out for a couple of years. If you can be one of those who have what it takes to keep going, you too can make a living doing whatever it is that you love doing.
You can eventually find ways to work with other people, but unless you’re very lucky with your choice of friends, initially you’re probably going to have to go solo. Your friends are unlikely to share your passion. If you do have friends who share your passion and are willing to work hard on it with you on a regular basis, then you’re probably destined for the big time! Check out Christopher Nolan’s biography and see how he got started making films if you want an example of the power of a dedicated circle of friends. Unless you’ve got Nolan’s charisma, leadership skills and/or dedicated circle of friends, you need to get together the courage and guts to do what you want by yourself initially.
Oh yeah, and one last thing. Make sure you know what it is that you’re doing. Don’t create a random blog like this one! I write on this blog for fun, not for profit. I put my experiments here. To succeed financially, your website or YouTube channel or whatever needs a clear theme. It can’t just be a mixture of random stuff. Make sure you know what you’re about, and keep doing it till you succeed!