Photo: Ethan via Flickr
We all want to rule the world someday — to launch and grow a creative project that empowers us to work when we feel like it, buy what we want, and travel wherever we please. But in the meantime, we need to pay the bills, and that requires a job.
For many creative people, working a day job is one of their biggest obstacles when it comes to making progress on personal goals. By the time the workday is over, you don’t have much time left for your side hustle. Plus, you’re tired. It’s hard to summon any energy to invest in your blog, your book, or your business.
But what if there’s a better way? What if your day job actually primed you for success in your creative goals? I know that’s possible because I’ve lived it. And if you’d like to give it a try, here are 6 jobs worth considering.
In the words of Robert Kiyosake, “If you can’t sell, you don’t make money!”
Selling is a crucial part of virtually any side hustle or creative endeavor. Entrepreneurs sell opportunities to investors and products to customers. Authors sell the value of their ideas to agents, publishers, and eventually readers. If you want your creative goals to be more than a hobby, you need to start learning how to sell, and the best way I’ve found is through practice.
In college, I worked in a clothing store where most of my pay came from commission. As an introvert, the idea of approaching strangers, striking up a conversation, helping them find the best clothes for their needs, and trying to close a sale was pretty intimidating — but I stuck with it. Two years later, I had outlasted every other employee in that store. And I’m still benefiting from the experience today.
As a marketing consultant, bringing on new clients is an important part of my business, and my experience in sales has allowed me to make enough money that my wife recently quit her job.
Whether you work retail, in a call center, or selling door-to-door, finding a job that helps you practice selling is a great way to learn an important skill (and get paid in the process).
Different goals require different skills, but in any case, teaching is a great way to learn. Do your creative goals involve art? Teach art to kids. Math? Take on a few students who aren’t as experienced as you.
In my case, most of my goals involved writing. So after my time in retail, I spent roughly two years as a writing tutor. When most people think about improving their writing, they go buy a new writing software or read a bunch of blog posts on writing. But a smarter way to improve is to read extensively, pausing to notice how different techniques impact you as a reader.
That’s what tutoring allowed me to do. After reading and critiquing hundreds of essays, I knew which writing strategies I wanted to imitate and which to avoid. Years later, thanks to what I learned as a tutor, I now get paid to write for many of my marketing clients, and I recently had a post published on the Harvard Business Review.
We all know networking is important. They say, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And while that’s not exclusively true, knowing how to network certainly gives you a big advantage when you’re pursuing big goals.
At its core, networking is primarily the ability to strike up and sustain an interesting conversation with strangers. Ridesharing is an awesome chance to practice that. You can have interactions with a wide variety of people and get some feedback in the form of ratings.
And the best part is, the pressure is low. If you have an awkward conversation, you can just drop the rider off and try again with the next one. When that happens, remember, you’re getting paid to learn — and failure is part of the process.
Delivery jobs are great for people with big goals because …
They give you hours of paid time to learn!
As you drive around town, you can listen to podcasts and audiobooks through apps like Audible or Playster. You can also use the time to brainstorm ideas and solutions for the work you’re doing in your side hustle.
One of the easiest ways to become a delivery driver is by working in the food delivery space. As companies like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and GrubHub rapidly expand to new markets, the need for drivers continues to grow. And unlike traditional delivery jobs, with food delivery, you can usually set your own schedule — only working when you feel like it. The FoodDeliveryGuru blog has a detailed Uber Eats review that talks about what it’s like to be a delivery driver, how pay is structured, and the requirements for getting hired.
As a creative person with big dreams, the idea of being an assistant to someone else might not sound appealing to you. But if you do it intelligently, it can be almost like a paid apprenticeship.
Working with successful entrepreneurs as a consultant, I’ve stumbled upon dozens of insights that have helped in my own business. Assisting gives you the chance to learn how a successful business works, watch closely as an expert solves problems, and ask lots of questions.
When you think about it that way, it’s kind of crazy that you get paid to do it!
List a few people who have succeeded in the area where you have big goals and see if any of them are hiring help.
If you ever plan to hire a team, you need to learn how to lead. Contrary to popular opinion, effective leadership is not a skill you pick up naturally like walking or breathing. It’s also not an extension of some other skill. As NBC’s sitcom The Office comically pointed out, being a great salesman doesn’t make you a great regional manager.
What will make you a great leader? Practice. Finding a management level position now can prepare you for leadership success later in life.
How do you find a management position? Start small. Franchises, such as fast food restaurants, have very effective management training programs. Personally, I got my start in leadership by running marketing activations for General Motors. When it comes to practicing leadership, it’s less about the prestige of the position and more about having people to lead.
Don’t miss the big picture
Creative people often dislike their day jobs. To make things easier, they seek out boring work that doesn’t really challenge them, so they can save their energy for their own projects. But sometimes, the biggest benefits come from choosing jobs that push you to learn and grow.
Keep an eye out for positions where you can acquire not just a paycheck, but the skills you’ll need to succeed at your personal goals. This intentional approach to work is, in my opinion, one of the most effective forms of multitasking.
And who doesn’t want to succeed faster?
Kyle Young is helping creative people achieve big goals that matter.