Practice What I Preach, Part 4: How to turn your passion into your paycheck!

My passion is fashion... no pun intended. Since I was in elementary school, I always found subtle ways to make money with what I then thought was my passion.

It all started in 5th Grade when I would make power point presentations for my teachers who weren't technologically savvy, it was hilarious because here I was...knowing all of the lesson plans of my classes.

7th Grade when I thought I was meant to be a baker, so I made cookies and sold them in packs of 25 to the members of my church, and made so much money! That was short lived because I was habitually messy in the kitchen, and my meticulous mother was not having that.

10th Grade I bought a Nikon D3000 SLR Camera after working at the Augusta National Golf Course with the Masters' Tournament. I already had photography experience from my grandmother who is a professional photographer, as well as being one of the lead photographers for the yearbook! So, literally 2 months after buying my camera, I was shooting events.

12th Grade I had an old denim shirt, and decided to bleach it! After I bleached it, I put a picture of it on Facebook to sell, and within minutes, I had sold it! That led to a feature in the newspaper, a booth at an Arts Festival and two other ventures in bow ties and embroidery! And my passion for fashion has sparked immensely from them on!

So as you can see, I know a thing or two about making your passion your paycheck. These tips are for teens who are trying to break out of just having a part-time job, and wanting to gain some business experience. Here we go:

1. Don't give up your part-time job: Many teenagers make this mistake because they feel that they are immune to failure. I made this mistake when I was pursuing my bow ties and embroidery. I was working part-time in fast food and I quit my job because I felt that I could be self-sufficient with just doing those business ventures. I soon found that I was sadly mistaken. When the business started to die down after Christmas time I was quickly out of money, and didn't have a job to fall back on. Luckily, my job embraced me back and I was able to make money again.

Part-time jobs are like gems to teenagers, because they offer two things, flexible hours and good money! The key to finding a good part-time job is to keeping your options open. Don't automatically rule out working somewhere because it doesn't look as glamorous as working somewhere else. It's amazing how some teenagers will say, " I will never work at fast food, I want a job at the mall!", when they first enter the job market. Let me be the first to tell you, I worked at in fast food for almost a year before getting a job in retail, and I had to have a connection to get the job in retail. If you don't have any job experience, don't limit your thinking to just a job you feel you are "qualified" for, because if you do... likely chances are, you won't find a job.

2. Make sure it's your passion, and not just a hobby: When something is your passion, you will stay up all night, miss a meal, skip a party just to do what you love. I knew that fashion was truly my passion when I used to tell my mom to fix my plate, and leave it in the microwave. What's funny is, I would never go get the plate out of the microwave, because when I finished sewing, my appetite had gone away! When something is your passion, you will eat, sleep, breathe it. Anything having to do with fashion, I am ALL OVER IT. From watching a fashion show, to going to the fabric store, to looking at an art exhibit for inspiration, Fashion is my passion. I can't explain it any clearer than that.

3. Do everything you can to get noticed: When I was featured in the Augusta Chronicle, I actually used a connection I had, Latina Emerson, to get the article. Latina and I were friends from Church, and I knew she was a reporter for the Chronicle, and I emailed her and told her about everything I was doing! I wasn't afraid to step out and get noticed. I had to keep in mind that I have nothing to lose, and the worst thing the reporter can say is no! When I started doing denim customization, I would let the really popular kids model for me, so that I could get the word out faster. Also as a marketing tool, because if the popular kids are doing something, you're most likely going to follow (bandwagon).

4. Get/Use all the free stuff you can: I've noticed something, when adults see teenagers who are passionate about what they are doing, they are more likely to support them! Whether it's tangible, monetary, intangible, use what other people give you! So many of my business smarts have been tips from other people that I didn't have to pay for! It was just something that I received from being passionate and doing what I love. It's amazing, how easily people are willing to support when they find out that you are serious. Once, I was given over twelve pairs of jeans to help my business, and with those, I made full profit, because the jeans were given to me. When people support you, think of it as investments into your future.

5. Build a Social Media Audience: It's funny how when you're on-line they fine tune your advertising to what you've searched for and viewed in the past, to keep it reoccurring in your brain. That's how you build a social media presence! Start a Facebook Group, a Twitter Page, and Instagram Account, whatever you need to do to attract people, but that's only the first part. The 2nd part is keeping them engaged in your accounts. By frequently posting articles, writing your opinions in a note or status, and even posting consistent pictures, you are keeping them engaged by showing how much you love your brand. When I started my photography pages, I would post new pictures once or twice a week with my watermark, so that everyone could see my work, as well as gain interest in my brand.

Once you find your passion, hold onto it, as hard as you can. Don't let anyone take it from you. Even when it gets hard, don't let it go. It takes hard work to be able to successfully brand yourself as a teenager, but once you master it, you'll be unstoppable!

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