TJE 43: When your hobbies become a living

When I decided to leave my first career, I spent the next 16 months (😧) mostly with a negative cash flow.  In about 14 of those months, the business was either not making progress or losing money.  I have 1 assured income by virtue of helping out in a relative’s business.  However, with the ongoing house loan in addition to living expenses (including help to parents), the cash in wasn’t enough.  The burn rate was too high to even consider gain from stocks investment as income.  There were a few months though that had net positive cash flow in spite of the said challenges. How did that happen? That’s thanks to the skills I acquired thru hobbies.

Hobby 1: Photography

My interest in traveling started when I joined the mountaineering club of my university.  I wish I had a camera back then!  The idea of capturing a moment, view or beauty, that you may not always remember and see again seemed necessary. Hence, my want to have a camera started.

So a few years afterwards, with a penchant for going places growing, I bought a camera as soon as I could afford one. I got a point and shoot digital camera (RIP) back in 2007. And as soon as I could afford a DSLR, I got one in 2011.  I haven’t upgraded my camera since, because my demand for features rarely exceeded the gadget’s limits.  My goal was simply to keep good or decent travel photos.  

But throughout the years, this hobby inevitably gave me a skill, no matter how slow the pace was. I understand the basics of light and composition, at least subconsciously, and I know the camera well enough to adjust settings quickly.  With a myriad of photos taken since I started, I collected a few of them that I’m proud of, or that some people admire.  

Photograph showing Diatabs branding at a running event

In 2017 and 2018, I got a few opportunities to have paid photography gigs.  They were for clients with simple requirements, open for amateurs, and so would only pay a small amount.  In those “gigs” I just had to take photos of people or a brand endorser, while showing brand names in the frame. I had more than five years of (amateur) photography experience, so why not?

Filipino artist Ian Veneracion, joking about his life-size standee he carried himself during the surprise appearance

Also, for a few months while Palakape was still in a food park, I managed the latter’s social media content creation by taking photographs, in exchange for a discount in our rental.  It made us extend our stay in the food park a little longer, before we caved in (with the losses).

Hobby 2: Video Editing

When I started uploading videos on Youtube, the skill that I acquired was video editing.  Looking at my vlogs, the camera work is pretty poor and hardly improved over time. LOL. But I think editing-wise, I got better (albeit slowly).

A snapshot of my first travel video shared on YouTube. It’s about Caramoan trip in February 2009!

In 2018 and this year, 2019, I got to have a few paid opportunities again, this time for video editing. Two of them were for corporate events, where I also had to conceptualize and write a storyline.  One even included a video shoot.  So I had to go on site to take footages and make out something fit for their occasion.  For the other one, the people involved recorded on their own based on the direction I wrote, then I just had to compile them.

A couple of skills that was also practiced in this endeavor: conceptualizing and writing a storyline. So my mediocre YouTubing activities actually paid off. LOL!

One other gig was preparing a Videoke game, that would require some animation and attention to timing. Now this was something I already did while organizing an event in the last company I was employed in.  So I just had to do something similar, though this time I was paid.

I won’t share the videos here for privacy and copyright reasons. But these things happened. 😀

By July of last year, I was able to avert my negative cash flow by renting out my sole real estate property.  But there’s one other hobby that got me paid gigs just recently.

Hobby 3: Public Speaking

I conquered the fear of public speaking early, thanks to declamation contests schools have from kindergarten.  Does this happen still? Anyway, I was one of those kids who got picked to participate in such.  I wasn’t really a winner though.  But the experience of facing a crowd at such a young age, that was followed up almost every year had made me comfortable to be on stage.  

3rd grade me, at a declamation contest 😀

I still get nervous most of the time, especially if it’s a new crowd.  But so long as I get through the first sentence, I warm up immediately. 

As an adult, this hobby was practiced by hosting parties in my personal and even professional network (think company parties).  And the skill was especially honed when I lived in Korea.  I talked about my special time being a member of the Seoul Toastmasters before. I got to be more spontaneous in English speaking (oddly, in a non-English speaking country) thanks to that. 

The first experience of paid hosting happened this year. It was for a segment of a group of medical brands sponsoring the professional development program for pharmacists. Thing was, they prepared an interactive segment that meshed brand presentation with games.  So basically, they needed a host who’s enthusiastic, can present the brands and could manage a crowd.  

With my chemical engineering background, the chemical names of the drugs didn’t come off strange to me.  And I could manage a big crowd thanks to the experience of hosting company events. Easy peasy! I accepted the opportunity, and actually had a run at it for the first 10 events of the road show.  That was fun! It also saved me from financial trouble caused by delinquent renters (a story maybe worth a post next time.)

The challenge I had, was keeping my voice full. I think I need vocal coaching. 

Another more recent experience was facilitating a short segment with a celebrity brand endorser, who made a surprise appearance in a gathering of drugstore owners.  I just had to build up hype while introducing her, and then conduct a short Q&A that would highlight the brand.  That was quite amusing.

Interacting with celebrity Anne Curtis during her surprise guesting; September 2019

And as an aside, I also experienced doing a paid voice over work for a company’s hotline last year, thanks to a friend of mine who’s working there.

All the gigs I scored above were mostly thanks to my involvement in my relative’s business I mentioned at the beginning.  That part was luck.  But that luck wouldn’t come to me had I not built the skills. Having some satisfied clients also means that I was able to provide value to them. 

These experiences, to me, begs the question: does our education system hinder us from maximizing our lives? Recently, as I was struggling with writing this blog post, I came across a video of Sir Ken Robinson – a person who’s pushing for an education revolution.  And then I started binge-watching videos of him.  Here’s a video of his TED talk to get you started:

If you’ve watched the video, let me ask you, how did it make you feel? 

It really resonated in me.  I thought with the aptitude in mathematics and science, I was meant to pursue an engineering or scientific career, and I did.  I also thought I should do my chosen path forever.  But as time went by, why did I feel like my soul was slowly dying? That’s when I started questioning my path.  I’d been confused for a while, and it took years of thinking filled with hesitation before I decided to finally leave my career. And when I did, even with the struggles, the world started opening up. 

I could be all over the place, which specialists might view as a recipe for mediocrity. But who’s grading?  Tapping all these interests makes me feel alive. It’s actually the conclusion that made me pursue entrepreneurship. I thought in being an entrepreneur, I can make use of many skills and interests that would otherwise be unrelated.  

So what’s my point?  Well, I suggest to not pursue a straightforward path, because it could hinder our creativity. And if you’re a young person who find yourself listless and shifting courses, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.  Not everyone gets it immediately, and it’s okay. 

We should not feel guilty of spending more time in hobbies.  But when you feel your energy drawn towards it, consider making a living out of it.  Because in a career, we get paid for providing value.  So why not get paid on any value you can give? The possibilities are endless.  Speaking of possibilities…

Hobby 4: Writing

This blog, is an exercise of creativity by writing.  It’s funny how for a long time I stayed away from writing, believing that I wasn’t meant to do it.  I sucked at the language and literature subjects (English and Filipino) back in school. Well I didn’t really fail, but they were usually my weakest subjects.  So for a long time, I thought I shouldn’t consider a career out of it.

But as I graduated from schooling, I got interested in writing, mainly due to story telling. I like doing it from time to time, hence this blog.  And recently I decided to make more content for this site.

Now, I’m far from being an expert. And I never got paid for writing yet.  But that shouldn’t stop me from dreaming that I could one day make a living out of this hobby.

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