Community, Contributor Tips

The Art of the Hustle: Get Paid for Doing What You Love


Getting paid for doing what you love doesn’t necessarily come easy, but there are many ways to follow your creative passions and get paid for doing it if you’re up to the challenge. Fortunately, I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve been able to land gigs with three of the most well-known media providers in our industry. On the other hand, I’ve experienced a lean year or two interspersed between working for those companies.

If you come to the realization, like most creators eventually do, that you need to create to survive (and vice versa), you might also realize you need to expand your skills in your particular medium — and, more importantly, divorce yourself from preciousness. There is plenty of commercial work out there, which you be yours if you hustle.

Homeless Guitarist Playing for Money by PriceStock

Taking Inventory

Chances are, you have a collection of external drives loaded with media scattered around your home. There’s never a better a time than now to mine those drives for pre-shot or pre-recorded content that you own the copyright to. Cut and tag these assets and upload them to a media provider like Pond5. If you have have buyout model releases, great; if not, make the extra effort to contact the talent and secure them.

There’s no other business that I’m aware of that allows artists from all media types to earn a passive income, especially when you need it, and there’s no better feeling or sense of relief than receiving a check for your creative work when you’re down to your last dollar.

Woman Listening to Computer With Headphones by blendimages

Adding Weapons to Your Aresenal

In the early 2000s, I was tasked with assisting still photographers who wanted to make the transition to video, to help get them prepped and equipped with video skills to expand their creative offering. Today, many of those photographers who adopted the video medium are full-time video directors and camera operators, rarely taking photo gigs at all. The few that didn’t see the urgency and growing demand in the video market back then are struggling to make ends meet today. With that said, in order to survive, it’s crucial for you to be aware of new technologies and emerging media markets.

Drowning Man Saved by Lifeguard Underwater by CleverArts

During one of my lean years, I accompanied a friend of mine on a pitch to a creative team at a prestigious advertising agency in New York. At the end of the pitch, I asked the team what they were looking for and what they truly needed. “Talking heads,” was the unanimous response — and they didn’t mean the band. They weren’t looking for something sexy or clever. They needed someone to conduct simple video interviews.

Up until that time, I was pretty proficient directing talent and shooting MOS action with a pretty high aptitude for operating a variety of both film and video cameras — but I had never produced a video interview, let alone captured dialogue other than diegetic sound picked up from my camera. Immediately, it was apparent that being able to a shoot a video interview was something that almost all companies, start-ups and entrepreneurs alike, would desire.

Boom Operator Holding Microphone by opal2

I related this information to a friend who was a highly respected lighting director and camera assistant, also finding it difficult to make ends meet. We came up with a concept to interview artists, as well as unique and quirky personalities, in New York. We purchased the audio gear and created a series of interviews that were featured on a website we built. We did this with what money we could spare, and fortunately, enough time to learn and get comfortable with the technologies before we went looking for business. We found business and business found us. Today, I would recommend that you consider similarly beefing up your own offering and learning to fly — literally. Drones are affordable, but without a license to fly them, your efforts will be futile (or risky, at best). 360 VR is another frontier worth exploring.

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You Got Game

A curriculum vitae or resume are about as heavy as the paper it’s written on when your pitching your talent. Your chances of getting hired are pretty slim without examples of your work. Michael Jordan didn’t land a contract on the Bulls because he attended UNC. Cut a reel with your latest work or with the work that best represents your style. Make it short, somewhere between two to three minutes, tops. If you don’t have a website, you may want to create one. I use livebooks, which is fairly inexpensive and very easy to use. If you’re not quite ready or can’t afford a website, upload your reel to Vimeo for free. And even though the idea of creating and handing out business cards may be an archaic process, they still work.

Video Editor Works with Footage and Sound by Gorodenkoff

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Post It

A few years back, I had the pleasure of participating on a filmmakers’ panel at SXSW with Richard Botto, the CEO of Stage 32. Stage 32 is described by Forbes as “ meets LinkedIn for film, television, and theater creatives.” The have a wonderful network with an active jobs board. Another source to check out for job postings and to promote your services is

Finger Touching Computer Touchscreen by AilaImages

You Don’t Have to Starve

Working for a client doesn’t mean that you have to give up your aspirations to write that novel, produce a film, or any other personal projects you’re planning. What it does provide you is the financial security to pursue the projects you truly love while working within a medium that mirrors your own creative passions.

What do you do to balance your creative passions and financial independence? Tell us in the comments!

Top Image: Working Space for Photographer by Bialasiewicz