“Find something you love, and make that your job.”
How many times have you heard that in your lifetime? My high school guidance counselor was telling me that a good twenty years ago. And although I knew she was right, I never thought her advice applied to me. Sure, I’ve had my hobbies: golf, music, reading, gardening, and more recently I discovered a love for cooking. But these are all run-of-the-mill hobbies that didn’t seem to hold much career potential.
That is, until I started my food blog.
I launched The Wicked Noodle just under two years ago and it’s been a wild ride ever since. I had no idea what opportunities it would open up for me: I’m paid to host dinner parties at my home and travel throughout the US to participate in foodie and blogger events. I’ve won national cooking contests (my recipe is on hot wing sauce bottles nationwide!) and I’ve also become a personal chef. And by the time this article goes to print, I’ll have filmed five webisodes as a guest judge for a highly publicized cooking contest in Los Angeles, alongside two celebrity chefs. It’s been a dream, and I’m thrilled to be living it!
So what steps did I take to ensure my success? Here are five that are crucial to anyone starting out:
Find your niche. Specialize in something. There are plenty of people who garden, but what about how to garden in small spaces? Or how to grow a vegetable garden then live sustainably from just that? The more specific you can be the more you’ll stand out.
Start a blog. This is, hands down, the quickest way to get your name out there. A blog not only gives you the opportunity to share your hobby with the world, but also to interact with people who love the same things that you do. Most large companies also have blogger outreach programs, so once you start gaining a loyal following (and often even before that), they’ll likely start contacting you. They may ask you to accept their products in exchange for a review on your blog, or you might be asked to participate in an event for their company - and you might even get paid for it. Yes, maintaining a blog is a lot of work, but if you’re consistent, it can really pay off.
Embrace social networking. Get yourself a Twitter account as well as a Facebook fan page. Reach out to other bloggers in your niche and get to know them. Comment on their blogs, tweet regularly and update your fan page at least a few times a week. You don’t want to inundate people with information, but you also don’t want them to forget about you.
Discover what’s available in your area. Seek out every type of conference or event that applies to you. Don’t wait until you’re already successful to do this; now is the time you need it most. Even if you don’t think you’re ready for this step, do it anyway. You’ll not only be rubbing elbows with the experts in your field, but you’ll be surprised how many contacts you’ll make. And many experts enjoy helping people just starting out; they were once there, too.
Share your own expertise. You view yourself as an expert for your chosen hobby or you wouldn’t feel ready to turn it into a career, so do your best to make sure others view you in that same light. You know those conferences and events you’ve been attending? Ask if they need speakers. Yes, you might work for free, but the potential contacts you’ll make are invaluable. Offer to donate your product or service to some worthy causes, too. My daughter’s elementary school holds a silent auction every year, and I always offer cooking classes for kids. It raises money for something important to me while getting my name out there in the process.
Turning your hobby into a career isn’t easy. But if you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life. What are you waiting for?
Starting a blog: wordpress.org
Find a seminar: findaseminar.com/index.asp
How to use Twitter: news.cnet.com/newbies-guide-to-twitter/
How to start a Facebook fan page: blogs.sitepoint.com/2010/02/25/why-you-need-facebook-fan-page/
KRISTY BERNARDO is a personal chef and the author of the popular food blog "The Wicked Noodle". She began cooking six years ago when she resigned from the corporate world to raise her daughters. She has won several local and national cooking contests and is currently at work on a cookbook filled with easy yet elegant and unique recipes. Kristy lives in Aldie, VA with her husband and two girls. For more of Kristy's delicious recipes, please visit her website, thewickednoodle.com.