Turn Your Passion into Payday: Advice on Forging a Creative Career

Creativity may come to you naturally.

You may sleep, eat, breathe and sweat for your craft. But when push comes to shove, getting your name out there and producing beautiful work can be a full-time job.

Now, if you want to get paid for the loving labor you do, it can be hard to make the jump from Creative to Creative Entrepreneur. But there are plenty of people who have come out the other side and spread their work around the globe.  

Mailande Moran is one such success story. An artist, writer and self-proclaimed “creative weirdo” working out of Durham, North Carolina. We sat down with her to discuss her craft, her practice and how taking risks with our creative sides can change the courses of our lives.

Mailande! We’re excited to hear your story. Why don’t you start by telling our audience a little about yourself.

Hey y’all! My name is Mailande Moran. I’m a resident of Durham, North Carolina. I’ve been here working as an independent creative for about four years now.

The majority of my work is working with words, so I’m a copywriter and an editor. I work primarily on branding for nonprofits and social ventures right now. It’s been four years of an interesting array of projects that all center around helping clients create, or helping clients realize a creative vision.

Whether that’s a video, or a website, or a business idea. I’ve been able to sort of interface with different people and be involved in different projects that help create a bigger vision. That’s been really exciting for me.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned as a working creative?

One of the most rewarding practices that I’ve been able to kind of cultivate and bring into my life over the past four years is the idea that if there’s something that brings you joy, like some sort of creative pursuit that you want to share, it can seem really scary to do that.

There are all kinds of voices inside. Like…

You’re going to fail.

 

Everyone else is already doing this.

 

Why does your voice need to be heard?

 

Why do your creations need to be seen?

I’ve learned a lot about some responses to those voices. I guess just starting with the background of the experiences that I’m talking about. One of the key things that really changed the trajectory of my career was something called the Biz Card Project.

Tell us more about the Biz Card Project!

Essentially, when I finished grad school, they make you buy, like, 500 business cards, which is way too many for any person to network enough to give out. Everyone graduates with like a giant chunk of them, and I kept them because I don’t like wasting paper. Essentially I accepted a creative challenge from a friend of mine to draw something every day and put it on the internet. I drew on the back of them and put them on Instagram every day until they were gone.

I wanted to practice being creative without being a perfectionist about it. Just kind of like making things for the sake of making things. I really had no clue what was coming from that. But what happened–there were a bunch of different things that came from it.

It really opened up some things for me professionally, which was incredible. But one of the other amazing things that happened that I didn’t see coming is that other people looked at that and got inspiration. My thought was that not all of these are going to be good but I’m going to share them with you anyway. Here you go. That opened up something in my followers to let them do the same.

So it’s all about risk taking?

I really think that people can see themselves in other people. If you’re willing to be vulnerable and be like, “I don’t totally know what I’m doing, but I’m just going to do this anyway, and what can you do? I want to see what you can make.”

But, that’s one of the joys of being human: experimentation and that kind of risk taking.

It’s funny, because drawing something and putting it on the internet, it’s not a big deal. There isn’t really a huge risk in the grand scheme of things, but it can really feel like that.

I think it’s a really lovely thing to be able to see, to kind of do that in community, and realize that we’re all becoming ourselves and discovering these different parts of ourselves.

What made you take the leap from creative to Creative Entrepreneur?

I guess that experience [The Biz Card Project] didn’t predate the entrepreneurship part at all. It was very concurrent. What I’ve found is that creativity shows up in all kinds of ways, right?

Like it can be making a drawing, it can be creating a website, it can be coming up with a new business model. Maybe working with a new population, connecting new markets, all that stuff. It comes from the same place – imagination and problem solving.

In starting my company, it really started from a love of Kyrgyzstan. I went over there with a very dear friend of mine who was also my housemate in business school. When we came back, we felt like this place is incredible. There’s this beautiful craftsmanship coming out of there. How can we connect what’s happening and sort of create new markets for this? Because a lot of Kyrgyzstan is very rural. There’s a lot of poverty, but there’s this beautiful craft happening.

So you were thinking about doing, ‘what if we could do that?’.

It was a question that I really wanted to see an answer to. It’s been three years, and it’s been a lot of adventure, and a lot of unknowns, and a lot of work. But at this point, we’re at a place where we’re employing women artisans in Kyrgyzstan. We are connecting them here, and I guess it’s that ability to visualize something and, like, step into the unknown in a different way.

It’s almost what I was just talking about in terms of just making something and sharing it. That’s the workout, right? Then you can use that as a practice, and strengthen those muscles.

Having the ability to see something differently and to see the steps between where you are and where that vision is, those larger projects can be a result of that training that you do.

Do your roles as both a creative and an entrepreneur ever come into conflict?

Exploding light bulb on a blue background

Usually, I have a chunk of the day that’s for doing client work. Some of that’s around the schedule of other people too. So if I need to be on call or I need to discuss something or meet with someone I have that time scheduled.

I also try to make sure that there’s a chunk of my day that is not interrupted. If I have writing to do, or something more focused to drop into, I can do that and kind of shut off for part of the day.

That’s one of the things that I really have tried to focus on doing better. There are so many fascinating people in the city and everywhere, and it can be really tempting to just like have meetings all day. You could schedule things back to back until you realize at the end of the day that you actually didn’t really stop for any period of time.

If you have the freedom to create whatever you want in your day, that freedom is incredible, but it can also a problem. No one is going to tell you where to be or what to do–I mean, other than client obligations.

Do you consider your personal life as separate from being an artist?

I find that my creative practices as an artist, they’re not that separate from my life as an entrepreneur.

The client work that I do is different than the work that I make for myself. But it all comes from the same place. I’m able to draw on the same wealth of experiences and the same practices that I’ve been building on for a long time.

One of the greatest gifts life can give is a fulfilling career. But risks are necessary to be able to reach that point.

If you have a passion that never rests, or a talent that’s begging to be shared, go out on that limb.

You never know where it may lead.

 

Amie ThompsonAmie is the Managing Editor for On The Scene and contributes articles about business, music, and entertainment.

Guest contributors are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Creative Allies Inc. or its affiliates.

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