Career Exploration

Methods to the Madness

Last week, I presented a sort of year-in-review, looking at the various careers on my list that I’ve explored, with updated thoughts on each of those careers.

Today, I want to do a deep dive into the ways I’ve explored these various professional paths.

Self-Led Lessons

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the first approaches I took was online courses through freeCodeCamp.com, as part of my consideration of web development as a career. As the name of the website implies, the lessons are completely free and you just go through them at your own pace.

I really enjoyed going through the lessons. What helped was that the courses were highly interactive, teaching you a concept and then having you practice writing some code yourself. Where I got hung up was the end-of-unit sample projects, which I found tedious and uninteresting to work on. And since these were self-led lessons, there was nothing and no one to push me to complete the projects.

Conclusion

Self-led lessons — particularly free ones — can be a good way for me to get an initial taste of a new career, but it’s best for me to then transition to something more structured so that I’m pushed to continue my exploration, even when I hit patches where my motivation or interest wanes a bit.

Teacher-Led Courses

In contrast to the previous method, at the beginning of this year, I enrolled in interior design classes at Cañada College. So far, I’ve completed three courses and am currently taking two classes.

These classes have been a great way to get a breadth of knowledge of interior design, as well as some practical experience through the various projects we have to complete. There are some weeks when I’m uninterested in the lecture. And I will occasionally get some assignments that I find myself less motivated to get through than others. But because these are formal classes that I’ve signed up, paid for and are graded on, I still push myself to get the work done.

It has also been a great environment to hear from actual professionals in the field, whether that be my professors themselves or guest speakers.

Conclusion

Teacher-led courses are a little more helpful for me when it comes to really digging into a new career path. I seem to benefit from the structure of a set syllabus and deadlines. 

However, these courses only get me so far with understanding what a real day-to-day looks like in the career.

Interviewing people in the field

I will admit that this is a method I thought I would be doing a lot of, but I’ve really dropped the ball here. I interviewed Ryan to hear about his experience making a major career shift. And I interviewed Tasi to learn more about what it’s like to be a content creator.

Conclusion

Interviews really just give me one perspective and, from that standpoint, can be pretty limiting with regards to getting a good sense of a certain career path. However, I have found these interview sessions inspiring, so they serve as a good way to kick-start an exploration or reinvigorate something I had waned on. For example, after my conversation with Tasi, I went back and finally completed a video from start to finish.

Learn by doing…for fun

This method is the approach I’ve taken for my exploration of video production and content creation. From working on short films to producing the podcast and even writing this blog, it’s all been work that I do in my own time and sort of as a hobby. Even my acting— while requiring just as much work, diligence and dedication as a paid, full-time job — is still something that I do more for fun.

I would say that this method helps me gain the skills in doing the type of work (whether it be writing or producing or acting) but it gives me no insight at all into the actual business of these careers — i.e. how to actually make a living off of the activities.

And by approaching these new pursuits as simply a hobby, it’s easy to limit myself to activities or parts of the work that come naturally to me or things that I know I’ll enjoy rather than pushing myself to learn the parts that are harder but necessary if I want to actually have a career in this field.

Conclusion

Much like the self-led lessons, I think this method of ‘learning by doing as a hobby’ is a good way to get a taste of a new career. However, once I’ve identified that a certain path might be something I’d like to pursue professionally, I need to supplement with some more structured training or exploration.

For example, podcasting is something that I could see myself potentially doing professionally. But just working on the current podcast is not enough. I need to take the time to understand what types of roles are available in the professional podcasting space and what skills I may be lacking. These are skills that may not come easy to me, so I’ll need a structured way to develop them.

Internships and Jobs

This summer, I did an internship with a home staging company. I learned a lot about what goes into a staging project and got tons of hands-on experience with the work. I was lucky to have a mentor during that internship that took the time to explain the business to me.

And a few months ago, I started a part-time job as a design assistant for a local interior designer. This job has already been an invaluable experience not only with gaining more knowledge and skills in design work but also better understanding the business side of the interior design field. 

Conclusion

For any career path that I am seriously considering, an internship or a paid job is vital to understanding what the day-to-day looks like and really gauging if this is something I would enjoy doing full-time.


As I move forward with my sabbatical, I want to continue a variety of methods of exploring new career paths. But I want to be more aware of how these different strategies best serve the distinct stages of exploration.

Interviews will be good in the beginning, when I need to be inspired. Self-led lessons/research and trying things out casually will be good ways to get an initial taste of a career. If my interest is piqued, I can then move into more structured learning and even an internship or part-time work in order to really immerse myself in the career and see if I enjoy doing it on a daily basis.

Career Exploration

A Year of Exploration

Two days ago marked an important anniversary: my last official day at my corporate job and my first step to finding a more fulfilling career … and life!

It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. I’ve learned a lot about what drives me and how I like to work. I’ve broken some lifelong bad mental habits and learned to have a different mindset about work and life. I’ve dealt with unexpected developments and changed the plan along the way, but kept true to my goal of finding a new path I’m passionate about.

Over the next few weeks, I will be reflecting on my sabbatical so far and looking ahead to what the future holds. I’ll give an update on the careers on my list. I’ll look at the different methods I’ve used to explore these new paths. And I’ll go over my plans for the future.

The Careers

I kicked off this sabbatical with a goal: to find a new career path that was more creatively fulfilling and sparked my passion. And the plan was simple. I would use my time off of work to explore a list of careers that had always piqued my interest but that I had never pursued.

Well, a year later, and I’ve really only touched about half the list. But nonetheless, I do have some updated thoughts on each one. In case you missed it or need a refresher, you can take a look back at one of my early blog posts to see why each career originally interested me.

Video Producer

How I’ve explored

I’ve worked on a few short films, doing everything from being a production assistant to a set decorator to a writer. 

I also got a good crash course in video production, from planning to shooting. After that, I tried my hand at producing a couple of videos on my own, but got stalled in the editing phase.

I recently decided to scale back and just start simple, with a slideshow video, which I successfully executed to the end!

Updated thoughts

The part of video and film that I’ve found most rewarding has been writing, and I definitely want to continue that pursuit … as a hobby. I think, in general, I haven’t found myself driven enough to learn and improve my video production skills to truly pursue it as a career.

But it’s definitely fun as a new type of creative outlet, especially projects where I’m working as part of a larger team rather than running everything on my own.

Web Developer

How I’ve explored

This was the first career I tackled. I opted for self-led exploration with online lessons on freeCodeCamp.com. I completed the curriculum for their first certification — Responsive Web Design — through which I did a deep dive into HTML and CSS.

Sample lesson - ordered lists

Updated thoughts

While I really enjoyed going through the lessons, when it came to completing the end-of-unit sample projects, I found that (a) I hadn’t retained as much information as I thought and (b) I didn’t find them interesting to work on.

I just don’t think web development provides the creative outlet I thought it would. While it’s a great skill to have and I might enjoy it being part of a job, I don’t think I’d be interested in a role that was strictly web development.

Content Creator

How I’ve explored

This is definitely the broadest and most vague career on my list. So, it’s no surprise that my exploration here has taken me places I never expected it would.

I was originally inspired by my favorite YouTube creators and my exploration of video production has doubled in this arena.

I also have gotten a good taste with written content through my work on this blog.

And then there was the most unexpected project — the podcast. As a producer, I’ve gotten to learn how to launch a new show, manage operations and logistics, and market a podcast.

Updated thoughts

I’ve already spoken about how I think I’m going to leave video production to my hobby list for now. But I could definitely see myself exploring work in both blogging and podcasts.

For blogging, I’d be interested to see how much I’d enjoy freelance work, where I may need to write in a different voice or about topics I don’t really care about. Of course, there is also the option of monetizing my own blog, but even then, I think I’d have to be a bit more strategic about the content and may end up having to adjust topics and tone to appease an audience.

I’ve really enjoyed my work on the podcast! I’m just sorry that I can’t dedicate as much time and energy to the project. I want to continue my work on the podcast but also look more at the type of roles available in the professional podcasting space. For example, I notice that the role of “Podcast Producer” can vary wildly, and some opportunities require actual hands-on technical work with regards to recording and editing.

Furniture Upcycler

How I’ve explored

Well, in short, I haven’t explored this area at all. I do find myself inspired whenever I see an abandoned chair on the side of the road or a desk on the Craigslist free section. But this is the type of project that requires a lot of time, space and access to the right tools.

Updated thoughts

Given that this career would require a dedicated shop and collection of tools, I don’t think it’s feasible at this time. I can see this being an area that I may start as a hobby, which could then potentially turn into a business. But again, given that this demands the proper space and tools (that we don’t necessarily have access to, now that my husband has switched careers himself), even starting this for fun is far off.

Real Estate Agent

How I’ve explored

This is also an area I haven’t explored yet. I have some minor insights into the career from my previous house-hunting experiences, but it’s not a career to which I’ve dedicated exploration time.

Updated thoughts

From the beginning, I’ve had doubts about this career, given that the typical schedule conflicts with one of my biggest passions — theater. I’ve also heard from a previous real estate agent that it’s a career where you often have to be accessible day and night, and I’m not sure I would like the lack of boundaries.

Interior Designer

How I’ve explored

This is the one the career area that I’ve explored most in depth and most formally. At the beginning of the year, I started classes through Cañada College’s interior design certificate program. I got a good introduction to the field, learned all about drafting and am currently studying space planning and color theory.

I also started working part-time as a design assistant for a local interior designer. Through that work, I’ve gotten hands-on experience with many phases of the design process. I’ve also learned more about what goes into running your own interior design business.

Updated thoughts

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m still on the fence as to whether or not this is an industry I want to pursue professionally. I do find interior design interesting, and I’m having fun redesigning my own apartment. But I’m not sure how much I enjoy the business side of things and the potential of dealing with difficult clients.

With the baby’s arrival, I will likely need to take Spring semester off of classes, and I will also take a bit of a break from work. It’ll be interesting to see how much I’m itching to get back to interior design work after that break.

Major Gifts Officer

How I’ve explored

This would be a big … not at all. Actually, when I was trying to recall my list of careers (I knew I had nine different ones), this was the one position I couldn’t remember!

Back when I was hunting for a part-time job, I interviewed for a fundraising position with a theater company, and that would have given me exposure to major gift giving work. But I didn’t get that job and got the design assistant work instead — and the rest is history!

Updated thoughts

When I think about being a major gifts officer (again, this is someone who solicits large donations for a nonprofit), I would, of course, need to work for an organization that I was really passionate about. And that would likely be a theater company.

I am interested in learning more about theater administration, in general. But I’m thinking I would thrive more or enjoy work better at a smaller to mid-size theater company, where my work could span many tasks (including major giving), instead of strictly focusing on one specific area of fundraising.

Theater Company Executive Director

How I’ve explored

Again, not much exploration here. But this is one area I’m determined to explore soon. I think I’ll start with getting more experience (volunteer or paid) with theater administration, in general. And, of course, I know many theater executive/managing directors that I could interview to learn more about the work.

Updated thoughts

This is still something that interests me. Whenever I see roles for open Managing Director positions at theater companies, I do get excited about the potential of that type of work.

Actor

How I’ve explored

Well, I’ve continued to act. But I haven’t done anything to explore or pursue acting professionally. And this is really a failing on my part. This is the one career where I know how to do the actual work; it’s just the business side that I need to learn about. 

And I have so many resources that I haven’t tapped! Actors who have gone equity or are doing commercial work. Programs like the Theatre Bay Area ATLAS program, designed specifically to help actors create their career plans. 

Photo by Michael Kruse Craig.

Updated thoughts

I’m obviously still very interested in this as a career, even if it was something that I would ultimately need to supplement with additional work to get by. 


Next week, I’ll do a deeper look at the way I’ve tackled my career exploration. And the following week, I’ll preview what’s next on the sabbatical roadmap … included an additional career or two? New posts every Friday!

Video Producer

Start Simple

I’ve written a lot about video. From finding inspiration from my favorite YouTube content creators to getting a crash course in the basics of production. I even tried my hand at creating my own videos. Multiple times. But I always got stuck somewhere in the process.

I think I was starting too big and too complicated. I dove into the deep end when I should have been wading out from the shallows. I was already considering making another attempt at video production, but this time with a much simpler format. Then, during my interview with him, Tasi Alabastro brought up a good idea: why not do a slideshow video to the narration of one of my blog posts?

I really liked the idea. It made use of existing content (my blog posts) and relied on a relatively easy format. Programs like iMovie make it easy to splice together photos into a film. And it wouldn’t be too hard to record myself reading one of my blog posts.

Well, I did it! … kind of.

I didn’t start with my blog posts. I actually started with the piece of writing that I’m most proud of: my wedding vows.

You see, yesterday was my wedding anniversary. And instead of buying Ryan more stuff, I wanted to put together something special. So, I gathered photos of us from throughout our relationship and put them together in a film to the narration of my wedding vows and an instrumental version of our first dance song.

And before you get your hopes up, I’m not sharing that video in this post. I gifted that to Ryan, and he wants to keep it to himself.

But I can talk a little bit about the process.

Creating the Video

This was definitely a learning experience. Since I was combining existing content elements, a lot of the production mirrored the editing process that had stalled my previous projects. And there are steps that I would do differently in the future.

Narration

I knew I wanted the film to be a photo slideshow to the narration of my wedding vows. Ryan’s uncle had filmed our ceremony, so I tracked down that video to try to extract the audio. 

But as I reviewed the footage, I realized I wouldn’t be able to use the audio. There was just too much background noise, and I didn’t have the skills to clean it up.

No problem — I would just re-record my vows. I used my headphones and the iPhone Voice Memos app to record. I did notice a little bit of background noise, likely from me jostling the microphone on my headphones. I made a second attempt using Ryan’s Tascam recorder, but (a) it picked up street noise, (b) I realized I didn’t know how to transfer files from the recorder to my computer and (c) I preferred my rendition from the first recording on my iPhone.

So, despite the small background noise, I opted for the iPhone recording. And all I had to do was simply Airdrop the audio file to my laptop.

Music

Listening to the recording of my vows, I knew they would need to be paired with music. At first, I was just going to use some of the built-in music that GarageBand provides in their library. But then I had the idea of using music from our wedding.

Our first dance was to the rendition of “No Day But Today” that Idina Menzel sang during one of her concert tours (we bonded over musicals, so it seemed appropriate). I searched YouTube for an instrumental version and found this piano version. Since this was just a private gift, I didn’t worry about copyright, but obviously if this were a more public video, I would have sourced different music.

I found an online tool to extract the audio from the YouTube video, and then set out to make some adjustments and sync it with my vows narration using GarageBand.

I first slowed down the music to about half speed.

Then, I simply added the audio file from my vows recording as a second track.

Photos

Sourcing photos for the video took a lot longer than I originally anticipated. The first step was to type out my vows and mark which lines would have their own photo. Then I looked back through my Facebook photos and my iPhone photos to find the pictures that best matched the text.

It was a long process, but I finally came up with a selection that I was happy with. Then I uploaded all of the photo to my project in iMovie, the program I used to create the video.

Putting it all together

When you use photos to create a video in iMovie, you simply upload your pictures and then drag and drop them in the timeline.

iMovie will automatically set the image to display in your video for four seconds, but you can adjust that length. I listened to the recording of my vows and marked the timestamp for each line so I knew how long to display each photo. 

iMovie also allows you to create some movement with your photos, using the Ken Burns tool. You simply choose your beginning frame for the photo and the ending frame and the movement will happen during the time length you set.

So, I inserted in all the photos, adjusted their length, and set the movement. Then, I added the audio to make sure everything lined up. But wait, there was one more step — adding transitions! 

Transitions took a lot of trial and error. From choosing the appropriate type of transition to setting the best time length, it took a lot of time fiddling with the options to get the look and pace I desired.

But after a lot of adjustments and fine-tuning, I had a finished video. That’s right, a FINISHED video. I finally completed a full video project from start to finish!

While the video took longer to create than I anticipated, the tools I used were pretty intuitive. I’m definitely inspired to do more of these type of slideshow videos in order to get more practice and improve my skills in the process. I’ll use the learnings from this project to improve future videos!

Interior Designer, Reflections

On the Job Learning

I’m wrapping up my fourth week at my part-time job as a Design Assistant with Susie Novak Interiors. It’s amazing how time flies!

I’ve already learned so much — not just about the interior design business, but also about my preferred working style and how well a part-time job fits within my sabbatical plan.

Insights About Interior Design

My interior design classes have given me a good foundation on the concepts, theory and even art of design. However, it’s this job that has really revealed to me what it’s like to actually work in the field, particularly as an independent designer.

This experience has already been so fruitful, that I’ve started stressing to my classmates how important it is to get some hands-on experience in a real office. With just a few weeks under my belt, I’ve learned:

  • How much time is dedicated to each stage of the design process
  • Different ways of bringing on new clients and preparing sales & marketing materials
  • Project management and invoicing tools that work well for independent designers and small firms
  • The abundance of showrooms and vendors in this field and how to get set up with a trade account to get that designer discount
  • Different ways of charging for your design work and for purchasing furniture, furnishings, etc. on behalf of your clients

How I Like to Work

I’ve also reflected on the areas of this work that I particularly enjoy. I’ve really like sourcing inspiration photos and adding them to our Pinterest boards — it unlocks my imagination and creativity. And, of course, I’ve enjoyed drafting! That’s no surprise, given how much I liked my AutoCAD class. I’m learning a new program for drafting floor plans but have also been able to use my AutoCAD skills to mock up some room elevations and designs for a custom cabinet.

But beyond that, I’ve also learned a lot about my preferred working style: 

Right now, the hours of my job are set week to week, based on the other things in my schedule as well as the work needs for the business. And that has been great! Not only does it provide me the flexibility to accommodate the other activities in my life, but it also guarantees that my time is always put to good use. No twiddling my thumbs before the next task comes in or wasting time just waiting for 5 o’clock to come around. If I’m working, it’s because there are certain tasks that need to get done. It really makes the time go by quickly, and I end the work day feeling energized and accomplished.

I also realized that I like to have a clear to-do list but the autonomy to decide how and when I complete each task. And related to that — I need variety! It’s nice being able to switch from sourcing furniture pieces to drafting up a floor plan to working on sales materials to even getting out of the office to pick up samples from the design district.

Part-time Work & My Sabbatical

As I’ve alluded to earlier in this post, this part-time job has been a great contributor to the goals of my sabbatical. The key, of course, was taking on a position that was related to one of the careers I set out to explore.

In just four weeks, I feel like I already have a lot more insights into what it would really be like to work as an interior designer. And I’m determined to take this approach as much as possible with my exploration of the other careers on my list.

It’s also been helpful, mentally, to add this part-time job to my sabbatical repertoire. I feel a lot more accomplished — not only in getting stronger and faster insights into this career path and my working style but also in the fact that I’m bringing in money again. 

While I’m still not 100% sure if interior design is the right path for me, I’m confident that this position will help me figure that out more quickly.

Content Creator, Video Producer

And the Winner Is …

During this sabbatical, I’ve written a lot about exploring film and video. I mean, Video Producer is one of the careers on my list.

I got a crash course on the entire filmmaking process. I tried my hand at making my own video, only to get stuck at the editing stage due to the frustrating limitations of my technology. I helped write lyrics for a musical short film that went on to win the Best Use of Genre. I got more experience in front of the camera. And I’ve connected with other video producers to understand more about their creative process.

Through this exploration, I’ve not only learned a lot about filmmaking, but I’ve also gotten more insights into the parts of the process that really energize me. Screenwriting was never something I thought I’d get into, but it’s been an amazingly fulfilling creative outlet. I also really enjoyed set decorating (no big surprise, I suppose, given my interest in interior design). And though I don’t have much experience yet on the video side, my work on the podcast makes me think I’d like being a producer on a film.

Well, I was back at it a few weeks ago, when I volunteered to be a co-writer for a team competing in the San Jose 48-hour Film Project. For those who missed my earlier blog about the 48-hour film project, here’s an overview of how the competition works:

  • Filmmaking teams sign up to take on the challenge of creating a 4-7 minute film in 48 hours (one weekend).
  • Friday night of the competition weekend, teams draw two film genres. Their film must be one of those two genres.
  • All teams also have three elements that they must include in their films: a specified prop, line of dialogue and character. Unlike genre, these required elements are the same for every team for that city’s competition.
  • Fully finished films are due Sunday evening.
  • Films are judged and eligible for a number of awards.

Well, I am proud to announce …. we won Best Film

As winner, the film will go on to be screened at Filmapalooza next Spring. The film also won Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor (Angie Higgins as Tonya). And to top it off, we also won the Audience Favorite award.

Check out the film:

The success of this project has reinvigorated me on video, and I have a few upcoming goals around that:

  • Write more scripts! I have a ton of ideas floating around in my head, many of which came out of our brainstorm session for the 48-hour Film Project. 
  • Work on a film that isn’t time-sensitive. A lot of the videos I’ve helped out on have been on a bit of a time crunch. It’d be interesting to see what I can help produce when we have the luxury of more time.
  • Get more experience as a film producer.
  • Execute some small, easy videos. Inspired by my conversation with Tasi, I think I need to scale back on the complexity of the videos I attempt to produce all on my own and just start simple. Maybe an easy to-the-camera video or a film with a slideshow of images and a voiceover.

In the meantime, congrats to the Ovation Pictures team on their win!

Content Creator

“Oh, I Can Do That”: Interview with Tasi Alabastro

Tasi Alabastro is a San Jose based actor, gamer, designer, and filmmaker. I sat down with him last week to talk about his work as a content creator.

When people ask you “what does it mean to be a content creator?”, what do you tell them?

I’ll define it as: it means that I’m producing work that I’m interested in on any platform that I want. So, for example, if it’s live-streaming where I put on a show twice a week, pulling together communities from around the world who are also invested in me as a person because they find me (1) entertaining and (2) personable, then I build the content around that. 

And content feels like a very loaded word. Like what’s content exactly, right? Content is whatever a viewer or a fan or someone who subscribes to you — it’s whatever they consume. Whatever they take in and find value in. You can make content that has zero value to one person but also has tremendous value to another person. 

What’s been your history with content creation? Where did you start?

The first time I started really creating content was when I got into gaming. At the time — I think it was like 2000s — having online forums was a thing, and in the forums people had really distinct signatures, like graphic signatures. So, I used to take screenshots of conversations from the forum that, read out of context, were kinda funny. And I would make signatures based off of that. And eventually people would reach out to me, saying, “hey, can you photoshop my name and my avatar”. So I had to figure out how to do that. I learned how to do that. And that really created the fundamentals of my understanding of graphic design.

Recent design for a local charity event.

And what about acting and performing?

In 2003, I moved out to Hawaii, where my brother was living. And while I was there, I decided to take an acting class at the community college. First day of Acting 101, I was madly in love. It felt like the things that I was feeling at that time had a better way to access the surface than drawing. Nothing really resonated with me like standing in front of an audience and being really scared and not dying. It’s kinda why people like spicy food, right? Because they can go really hot but know they’re not going to die.

And eventually, I found a jazz club in Hawaii, and after some talk with the owner, they allowed me and my friends to do monologues right after the band had set up and they had like an hour and a half before people really started arriving. So, every Monday — Monday Night Monologues as we billed it — we would do that.

When did you start filmmaking?

I got into film because I answered a Craigslist ad from a guy named Richard Gali. We started doing a lot of short films together because we really vibed. So flash forward years later, we’re really good friends now, and we started a group to do 48-hour film festivals. I grew my network out that way, got to know more filmmakers, learned how to use a camera, and I started watching movies differently. 

We won some awards, that was fun. And now Richard is in escrow on a house being paid for by a filmmaking background. In fact I have a vlog about it — he’s unboxing a RED camera. He’s just one of those people that just never stops and he has a partner, his wife, who absolutely believes in him. 

That’s inspiring. Is that the kind of stuff that motivates you?

Yeah. You know, something I was talking to my girlfriend about the other night — she was like “I have no idea where these motivations come from.” I have had enough time now to think about where some of these motivations come from and for me, a huge jumping off point for actually doing things is if I ever find myself saying “Oh, I can do that” — like in a dismissive way — then, I go and do it. 

Because I found that after I said it, I felt like that was really negative. Why am I dismissive of someone else’s creation when they put time and effort into creating what I am now seeing, even if I have a negative opinion about it? And so it put me in the mindset of: ok, let me do it. Let me attempt it. Let me finish it. Let me execute it to the completion. And then let me have an opinion about it based on my own work.

So, you do graphic design, theatre, videos, and on top of that you also stream on Twitch! When did that start?

The Twitch streaming started when I was watching a YouTube video and the guy said, “I’m going to start streaming on Twitch”. So, I clicked on the link and I saw — at the time — a very small directory of streamers, and I literally did say, “Oh, I can do that.” And so, I started streaming.

With content creation, there’s the other side: audience building and promotion. How much time does that take compared to creating content? And how do you tackle that?

So, if I spent 2 hours streaming, I would spend an hour outside of that making sure that whatever I was creating made it to Instagram and Facebook. I would download and cut clips, edit it. 

And then it’s the relationship building that I think is probably the hardest and longest aspect of it.

Your latest project is this new vlog series. Can you walk me through a typical process of filming an episode of your vlog?

I have to think about what I’m doing for that day. I have to be ok with calling out the mundane things that happen in my life, while also being delusional enough to think that someone would be interested in watching this and really dig into what I think is valuable about that.

And then there’s the aspect of: “how do I present the things around me in a way that adds value to that community, too?”

So, I will generally start off with turning the camera on and talking to it. Which makes me think things like, “Oh I gotta adjust the lighting.” But I can’t be too nitpicky, otherwise it’ll be two hours later and I haven’t done anything. 

Then I’ll go about my day and I’ll carry this camera around. And the hope is, at some point, the structure starts to show itself in the process. But that doesn’t always happen. So, I’ll shoot and I’ll shoot and I’ll shoot, and I’ll start to develop a shot list in my head. I will start to develop the who, the what, the when, the why.

At the end of the day, I will take all that footage and put it on my computer. I will organize it, and then I will start that timeline. I’ll trim all the video clips — all the things that I think are necessary to tell the story. Then I will line them up and make sure they look ok. Then I will go back and look for b-roll to fill in.

After I’m done editing and I’m happy with it, I will then find a minute within there, I’ll snip that out and I’ll export that along with the main video to use for promotion on social media. And at this point, I’ll also have a thumbnail picked out, too.

Through any of your content creation, has monetization ever been a consideration for you or something you’ve attempted?

I get paid on Twitch. The way it works is they give you a subscription button; people just click on that and then every month, if you hit a certain threshold, they’ll cut you a check.

For YouTube, I used to be monetized on my gaming channel by being on a network. But now, monetization on YouTube is a little different. You need to hit a certain threshold, which I’m not eligible for yet. You need 1,000 subscribers, I think, and like 10,000 hours of watch time from viewers. Once that hits, then I can actually apply for AdSense. 

But that’s through that avenue. I’m also in the process now of exploring Amazon affiliate links, creating courses that people can purchase online, and Patreon. So, all of it. It’s all about stacking your different ways of making money.

What’s next?

The next big thing is expanding this network of local creators. I have a separate channel called Art Time Job, which is a hub of curated work from other channels — mine included. And I’ll have playlists. So you can watch the videos in the playlist from this hub but it’s the individual creator’s channel that will get the view.

There’s also Somewhere Street, which is the title of a project that’s yet to be cemented. It’s my way of amplifying the voices of the community that haven’t been heard or haven’t been represented in a way that is true to me as a creator and true to the people who are going to be in it. That’s the next big one. And that one requires me to hone my craft on camera but also my craft as a writer and also assemble a crew.

Lastly, are there any final tips you have for someone who wants to become a content creator?

As a content creator, you really need to hone in on your sense of observation. Everything around you is content. Everything around you has value in some way. Whether that’s digital content. Whether that’s driving to work. Whether that’s grocery shopping. There’s something there, and it’s really about finding what your story is in relation to that. And that’s something that I’m working on every day.


Be sure to subscribe to Tasi’s YouTube channel and catch him on Twitch.

Content Creator

Social Media Insights

As a content creator, if you really want to build and maintain an audience, it’s not enough to just produce the content. You really have to hustle and push hard on promotion. Whether it’s paid advertising or taking advantage of free channels, plugging your content can often require more time and effort than actually creating it.

That has certainly been the case for the podcast. Back in March, I wrote about our plans for promoting Bring Your Own Movie. The team and I sat down to identify our target audience, craft our brand’s voice, decide on the best promotional channels (for us, it’s social media), understand our marketing goals, and create a promotion calendar.

And although I had a background on social media advertising, I didn’t have much experience managing a brand’s social media page. So, this was a fun challenge for me and an opportunity to learn new skills.

We started out strong. We were very regular with our social media posts across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We were seeing good engagement with likes, comments and shares. 

Our episode announcement posts, like this one, see some of the highest reach and engagement.

And then, as so often happens, life got in the way, and our busy schedules were making it hard to coordinate podcast recordings, let alone keep up with promotional efforts.

But when we decided in late June to switch from a bi-weekly episode release schedule to a monthly one, we knew more than ever, that it was imperative that we bump up our activity on social media. We needed to keep our audience engaged in between episodes now that they were going to be a month apart.

So, we regrouped, nailed down a new promotional schedule and, most importantly, made it clear who would be in charge of what. For the last two months, we’ve successfully pushed out regular posts from our social media channels.

Diving into the Metrics

With the logistics of promotion smoothed out, it was finally time to address something we’d been neglecting for far too long — analytics. Afterall, with the amount of time and energy required to produce and publish our social media posts, shouldn’t we make sure they are working?

And what does it mean for them to be “working”?

Well, back in March when we were putting together our marketing strategy, we did identify our key goals:

  • Primary goal: Getting people to download and listen to our podcast
  • Secondary goal: Getting people to connect with our social media pages
  • Secondary goal: Encouraging people to engage with our social media posts
  • Secondary goal: Getting iTunes reviews

For my first look at the metrics, I focused on one of our secondary goals — engagement with our social media posts. Why not start with our primary goal? Well, with the tracking capabilities available to us, it’s difficult to identify whether or not a certain social media post directly resulted in an episode download. We can try to make correlations, but that analysis will take some time, so I wanted to start with some concrete metrics that I could more easily and quickly pull and analyze.

The theory is that an engaged audience is one that will keep listening to the podcast and hopefully share it with their friends. And from a more technical perspective, for many social media platforms, engagement does influence the algorithm and can help get your posts in front of a larger audience.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all allow you to look at a variety of metrics on your posts. For Facebook and Instagram, I focused on reach (number of unique people who saw the post in their Feed), reactions/likes, and comments. For Twitter, I looked at impressions and engagement (number of times a user has interacted with a Tweet, including all clicks anywhere on the Tweet, retweets, replies, follows, and likes).

These are the top ten Facebook posts with the largest reach. Most of them are episode launch announcement posts, in which we reveal the movie and tag our guest host.

Findings

It was interesting digging into the results and identifying some patterns. There were some similarities across the platforms and some big differences. Here are the highlights from my analysis:

  • For Facebook, posts where our guests were tagged saw the most engagement. 
  • Shares can also help increase reach in Facebook.
  • Instagram posts with popular hastags helped increase reach.
  • Instagram posts with tagged users also saw high reach and likes.
  • Twitter posts where users with big followings are tagged receive a high number of impressions and engagement.
  • The live-tweet thread also received a high number of impressions and engagement.

Takeaways

With the findings above, we are now armed with some “quick wins” to maximize engagement:

  • For Facebook, find more opportunity to tag people in our posts, especially past guests.
  • For Instagram, increase our usage of hashtags, especially popular ones and tag users when applicable.
  • For Twitter, find more opportunity to tag users with a large number of followers. Also, try more live-tweet sessions.

With this initial analysis completed, I will now take the time to dive into our episode download metrics. I’ll see if there are any patterns regarding when people download our podcast episodes and look for any correlations between social media posts and spikes in downloads.

This dive into the metrics has been an interesting intersection between my old life as a marketer and my new journey as a content creator!

Interior Designer, Planning, Theater Executive Director

Part-Time Work

This week, I’ve been working on something I haven’t done in quite a while: applying for jobs!

Wait, Laura, are you done with your sabbatical?!

No, not at all. But I have been getting a bit antsy not working. Sure, I’ve been keeping busy. Quite busy, in fact. I’ve had classes, my internship, work on the podcast and a lot of projects around the apartment as we prepare for the baby. But there’s something about actually getting paid for the work you’re doing that is much more satisfying.

And from a more practical standpoint, it would also be good to make a little extra money. While we’re very excited about expanding our family, it wasn’t something I was expecting to happen during my sabbatical. And as I’ve written about before, this new development will likely push back my timeline on going back to work full-time and may draw out my career exploration process, as I’ll need to fit in caring for a baby! So, my thought is that if I start working part time now, I won’t feel as much pressure to rush back to full-time work.

What are my requirements?

Related to my career exploration

A while back, I wrote about pursuing different ways of making some extra cash — everything from selling old clothes online to being a mock patient for medical students. The goal was just to make money.

This time around, I want to be more focused, taking on opportunities that are in some way related to one of the careers on my sabbatical list.

Part-time only

In addition to the job, I would still be taking classes and working on non-paid projects that relate to my sabbatical career exploration — not to mention taking care of a newborn very soon!

By limiting my work to just part-time, I’ll give myself the time and mental space to still work on my other ventures. And most importantly, by not committing to a full-time job in one specific area, I hope to prevent tunnel vision and keep my mind open to all of the possible careers on my list.

Flexible schedule and (ideally) location

Again, outside of work, I’ll have a lot of other things that fill up my schedule: classes, the podcast, theater projects, house projects, and doctor’s appointments, to name a few. Having some flexibility in a work schedule would allow me to better accommodate these other projects.

As for location, it would be great to find a job that is either close to home or allows for some remote work, both for my own comfort as I get farther along in my pregnancy and from a logistical perspective for when I’m taking care of the baby.

What opportunities are out there?

So far, I’ve pursued a couple of roles, both in different areas of my career exploration.

Theater Administration & Management

I’ve applied to and have an interview for a part-time fundraising position with a local theater company. I, obviously, have extensive experience in fundraising and a background in online advertising for theaters; however, I’ve never worked in-house at a theater company.

Being an Executive or Managing Director for a theater company is one of the careers on my list, so I figure this would be good exposure to the inside workings of theater management and administration.

Photo credit: Richard Mayer

Interior Design

I’ve also just applied to be a part-time design assistant for an interior designer, located right here in Oakland. 

This summer, I’ve done my internship with the home staging company and really have learned a lot about that area of design. My next goal was to intern with an interior designer (or firm) in order to get hands on experience with that process. To find a paid position would be even better!


We’ll see how these two opportunities pan out and what else comes up. It will be important for me to stay steadfast in my requirements. While it would be nice to make some extra money, I can’t let it derail me in my ultimate goal of exploring new careers and finding the path I’m passionate about.

Interior Designer

To Freelance or Not to Freelance

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I was enjoying my class on AutoCAD. Working with the program is a perfect mix of computer skills and creativity. I pick up the tools and commands really easily. I like the challenge of looking at an assignment (e.g. a floor plan) and figuring out the best way to approach the drawing in AutoCAD.

I’ve relished working with AutoCAD so much that I’ve been looking into opportunities where computer drafting could be the primary focus of my work. There seem to be two main options: work in-house at a large firm as a dedicated drafter or pick up freelance drafting work.

The Appeal of Freelancing

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about whether or not freelancing would be a good fit for me. I like the idea of being able to set my own hours and work from home (especially with a baby on the way). 

And I also think about how freelancing could be a good complement to some of my other career interests. For example, looking at a career in theater management, some of those opportunities — especially on the community theater level — are part-time. Having another skill where I could do freelance work could help me close that salary gap.

Of course there are cons to working as a freelancer:

  • No stability or consistent paycheck — another benefit of pairing it with a permanent part-time job.
  • No paid benefits — you’re working for yourself!
  • More complicated taxes — or at least, there is no one necessarily withholding your taxes, so you’ll see that hit on tax day.

CAD Freelancing

Work as a CAD freelancer can be pretty broad. Since I’m taking my course as part of an interior design program, our projects have focused on floor plans, electrical plans and elevations. However, CAD program can also be used for a vast variety of projects, such as mocking up 3D concept drawings for a new product.

I’ve done a little research on freelance work in the CAD industry, and here are some top skills that will help one be successful:

  • Knowledge of multiple CAD software programs: While I’ve been learning AutoCAD (which is definitely one of the most common programs in the interior design field), some firms or clients may rely on other software and want their freelance drafter to work in that same program.
  • Familiarity with both 2D and 3D design: In interior design, AutoCAD is mostly used for 2D drawings, such as floor plans or elevations. However, often interior designers need to show their clients 3D models. That’s where it is useful to have experience with software like SketchUp or Revit — both of which I plan on learning.
  • Good understanding of math: Mocking up floor plans or other interior drawings involves working with a lot of dimensions and angles. In my assignments, I often have to calculate distances, diameters, etc. Luckily, I was a math whiz in school!
  • Speed: With freelance work, you are working on a deadline, and clients won’t be happy if projects aren’t turned in on time.
  • Ability to work remotely and independently: This one is a little obvious, but as a freelancer you really are your own taskmaster. You have to be good as setting your own schedule and following through on timelines.

Next Steps

In the immediate future, I need to focus on building up my experience, skills and portfolio. 

For experience and portfolio, I’m looking at a few avenues. The next type of internship I want to take on is with an interior design firm or independent designer; often interns help with computer drafting. I’m also taking a space planning class in the fall which will involve drafting up floor plans. And I’m considering offering to draft floor plans for friends and family who may be looking to rearrange their space.

As for beefing up my skills, there are many AutoCAD practice drawings and exercises available online, which will help increase my expertise with the software. And as I mentioned earlier, I also want to learn SketchUp and Revit, two software programs that I see often in job requirements within the interior design field.

Interior Designer

Behind the Scenes: Home Staging

Through my internship, I’ve now had the opportunity to work on a couple of home staging projects. It’s been great to work with my hands and see how we can completely change the feel of a home with some furniture and accessories.

My mentor, Joe, has also been good about giving me tips and pointers throughout the staging process and really explaining why we set things up a certain way.

New Learnings

In my initial post on my internship, I talked about some early guidance I received on home staging. Here are some additional things I’ve learned, working on actual staging projects.

Focus on living rooms and master bedrooms

It’s often said that kitchens sell homes. And while that may be generally true, a lot of that has to do with the counters, appliances, etc. that are already built into the kitchen — so things out of the home stager’s control.

When it comes to rooms that can be completely transformed through staging, that would be living rooms and master bedrooms. And it makes sense. Without staging, these can be pretty empty, blank rooms, with little features. The addition of furniture and accessories can have a huge impact in helping potential buyers picture themselves in the home.

Place your sofa on a full wall

Every home stager may have differing opinions on this one, but by placing the sofa on a full wall, you have the opportunity to place a show-stopping art piece above, making this a real focal point of the room.

Interestingly, this is not necessarily how most people would set up the living room if they are actually living there, as full walls tend to be reserved for the TV/entertainment system. But you hardly ever see TVs included in a home stage.

Think about foot traffic

When placing furniture, it’s imperative to keep in mind how potential buyers will walk through the home, especially during open houses when there may be high foot traffic.

In one home we staged, we had brought a full living room set with a sofa and two large matching armchairs. However, when setting up the living room, we realized that by including both armchairs, we were blocking the natural pathway that buyers would move through the home on their tour. So, we decided to remove one.

Consider which angle the room will be photographed

Staging is not just to make an impact during open houses but also to help bring out the home through its photographs and get potential buyers to the property in the first place.

When arranging a room, it’s good to keep in mind where the photographer will most likely stand. In this bedroom below, we made sure that the comforter length was perfect and the skirt was thoroughly steamed on the side where the photographer would shoot.

Don’t ignore the outdoors

Home owners don’t just spend their time inside the house. There’s a lot of living that happens in the backyard. And with some patio furniture and some strategic accessories, you can help potential buyers picture themselves enjoying this space.

What’s Next

Already, I think I’ve gotten a good handle on how to set up a home stage. I’m still hoping to shadow a consultation and help work through that initial design strategy and selection of furniture pieces.

I’d also like to get some more experience on the business side of things — landing new business, marketing and drawing up contracts.