Don't Know Where to Begin?
Fortunately You're Not Alone
You have an idea to make money doing what you love. You
even have the talent and drive to make it happen. There's just one problem. You
don't know where to begin. Not knowing how to successfully launch a business
idea is one of my favorite kinds of problems, because it's usually one of easiest
ones to solve.
But that's certainly not how it feels especially if your
passion is a little off the beaten path. To his delight, Christopher has
discovered he has the unique "ability to show self-improvement ideas in a
single-cartoon strip." Adding, "Nothing gets me more excited when I come up with
an idea that is universal. Like a mirror to us all yet on paper."
Christopher gets most of his ideas through the tried and
true method of observation. His first "office" was the local Starbucks in Las
Vegas. In the beginning, he concentrated on sharpening his drawing technique. But
when he started tuning into the other patrons, Christopher says he began to see
in their every day actions "a global truth that came to me in the form of a
cartoon" prompting him to "draw idea after idea." The fact that so many
strangers expressed interest in his work was encouraging. But he was also
frustrated because he didn't have the money he needed to "get this thing going."
Christopher continued barely getting by at jobs he disliked
and drawing cartoons on his time off. During this time, he moved to Arizona and
the same thing happened, "I was getting more attention and results. Teachers,
photographers, kids... anyone who saw me was curious and I felt this could not be
a coincidence. I knew I was close and on to something, but I just couldn't seem
to get 'there'."
When Christopher moved back to his home in Toulouse France
he didn't draw for a year. Recently the cartoon bug bit again and as did his
commitment to find a way to sell his cartoons. There is just one little problem.
Christopher doesn't know where to begin.
Change the Question
Of course Christopher doesn't know where to begin. Why
would he? It's not like they teach this stuff in school! So where does
Christopher, or anyone who has a dream but no roadmap, begin? To start, you have
to ask the right question. Simply changing the question from "Where do I begin?"
to "Who knows how to begin?" shifts the focus from what you don't know to
finding the people who do.
Fortunately Christopher is not alone in his pursuit of a
career as a paid cartoonist. I'm not talking here about all of the other
aspiring cartoonists who are also wondering where to begin. What I'm saying is there
are people who are living Christopher's dream right this very minute. And what
better place to turn to for directions than from someone who has already reached
your desired destination.
The first person I thought of was Scott Adams, developer of
the office-lampooning cartoon Dilbert. Proving that there really are some
universal truths, today Adams' strip appears in over 2,000 newspapers in 65 countries, his
22 Dilbert books have sold a combined total of over 10 million copies, and he's
written four best selling original books including The Dilbert Principle
and Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook - both of which were #1 New
York Times Best Sellers.
Adams' dream started like all dreams one step at a time.
If Christopher feels discouraged at the slow pace of his own cartooning career,
all he has to do is click on the News and History link at
Dilbert.com and he'll learn that
Adams spent six years at his day job while working at his comic strip mornings,
evenings and weekends. (As I thought about Christopher's concern that he didn't
have the money to "get this thing going" I couldn't help but notice that what
enabled Adams' success was not money but the willingness to put in the time).
Even though all that hard work paid off, it was not without
its disappointments. Proving once again that failure is a bump in the road and
not the end of the road, Adams even includes the actual rejection letters he
received from a long list of top syndication companies. But here's the best
part. From the "About Scott Adams" page Christopher will find a link that says
How to Become a Cartoonist. What could
be better than getting free step-by-step advice from one of the
most successful cartoonists of our time?!
In addition to specific book recommendations for the
aspiring cartoonist, he'll find links to such invaluable resources
The National Cartoonist Society (NCS) (Reuben.org).
To be a member, you have to earn the majority of your income from cartooning. But
the site features yet another resource called "How to Become a Cartoonist." This
one is from Dik Browne, creator of the lovable Viking cartoon Hagar Horrible
appearing in over 1,900 newspapers in 58 countries and in 13 languages. So in
about three minutes I managed to find not one but two cartoonists at the top of
their game who have actually posted their answers to the question "Where do I
But what if Adams and Browne weren't quite so generous with
their advice? In the absence of clearly recognized stars like Adams and Browne,
finding information about a career in cartooning is as simple as doing an online
search for "how to become a cartoonist," or "how to become a syndicated
cartoonist" or "resources for cartoonists." One of the best resources out there
is the FabJob Guide to Becoming a cartoonist which gives you "everything you
need to know to break into this competitive career and sell your work." (ChangingCourse.com/recommends/fabjob)
Whittier College Career Services
offers a very informative article on cartooning that includes for example,
information about how much cartoonists earn (between $20,000 and $1 million a
year go for the later) depending on how many newspapers syndicate the cartoon
and how products are made from your characters as well as how to submit your
work to a syndicate and where to find them (Whittier.edu/career/guide/art/cartoonist.htm).
Unless you're charting entirely virgin territory (and
remember best ideas are often not new ones), you can almost always find people
out there who know more than you do. Begin by "benchmarking" similar businesses
as a point of reference or something from which to measure, compare, or
evaluate. Businesses who want to be successful will often benchmark successful
competitors and then try to copy what they're doing right.
Let's say you want to start a mobile bookkeeping business
that caters to home-based businesses but don't have any idea what to charge.
Again make sure you're asking the right question. Instead of "How much should I
charge?" try asking "What are other mobile bookkeepers charging home businesses
to reconcile their books?"
If you live in Tulsa, Oklahoma you can still benchmark how
a bookkeeper in New York or Toronto presents their services to potential
clients. But since hourly rates are likely to be much higher in large
metropolitan areas to answer the question "what do I charge" you'll want to
search for businesses in comparable sized markets in your region.
There will always be things you don't know how do. That's
why Woodrow Wilson once said, "I use not only all the brains I have but all that
I can borrow." Instead of letting a lack of information stop you in your tracks
change the question from "how" to "who" and see what happens. As you seek to
change course remember, you may not always have the answer but fortunately
someone does. Your job is to find them and ask.
Learn how you can Fast Track Your Dream of working at
what you love on your own terms.
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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