Content Creator

Early Thoughts: Content Creation

Writing about my sabbatical through this blog has not only helped me document the experience, but it has also doubled as a light exploration into one of my career areas: content creation.

Now, content creation is a pretty broad field that spans many different types of media (blogs, videos, podcasts, etc.), and even different types of positions (e.g. independent content creator, producer, content marketing manager).

And some of you who are familiar with my career might be asking — Wait, wasn’t your most recent job centered around creating content?

Well, when I added this to my career exploration list, I was mostly inspired by my favorite YouTube channels, and, thus, focused on learning about being an independent content creator. The idea of being able to have complete control over the content themes, topics, format, and style — not to mention being able to write or speak in my own voice rather than some company’s voice — is really appealing to me.

Blogging lessons so far

Though I do not dedicate my full time to this blog, it is a form of independent content creation, which has already netted some learnings:

1) Preparing a post takes more time than you think

With this blog primarily acting as a documentation of my sabbatical, I initially thought I’d be able to draft each post in no time! I would be thinking and reflecting on all this career exploration work I’m doing anyway, so the words should just flow out, right?

Of course, it doesn’t exactly work that way. At least not for me. Thoughts are jumbled, disorganized, sometimes fractured. Transferring those reflections and ruminations into an organized written post that makes sense for an outside reader really does take effort and time, not to mention a lot of “R” tasks — reading, rewording, rereading, revising, rearranging.

And the more time I dedicate to writing these posts, the less time I have to do the actual career exploration work I’m supposed to be documenting through this blog. Which leads be to my next point …

2) You have to find the schedule and frequency that works for you

When I first launched my blog, I imagined posting at least three times a week, on the same days each week.

I released my first post on a Tuesday and was ready to go with a second post on Thursday. Saturday came around and … nothing. No post. My schedule had filled up. I didn’t have the time to get anything written.

No worries, I thought, let’s try this again the next week. This time, I started the week with my first post on Monday, thinking I’d switch to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. People seemed to have more time to read during the week when they needed a little break from work, so this should be a better schedule.

I started that week with a long post on Monday. Of course, in order to get that post out on Monday, I had to draft it over the weekend. And then Wednesday snuck up on me, and I scrambled that morning to get a short post out. And when Friday arrived … nothing. Once again, I didn’t have the time.

I had started out with this idea that I needed to post three times a week because, for some reason, that seemed like an ideal number. But the reality is my schedule better allows for just two posts a week. And that’s ok! As for the schedule, I find it better to have my first post of the week be on Tuesday rather than Monday, so that I have Monday to get my thoughts together.

3) Having a bank of content ideas saves time

Leading up to the launch of my blog, I had a good idea of what I wanted my first three posts to be, which made writing them really easy. Because I had these topics selected well ahead of actually drafting them, I had a lot of time to think about them and what I’d say, even before I got to the writing stage.

After those initial posts, I didn’t have that many blog post ideas on my list, as I assumed that my career exploration activities would naturally surface a steady flow of topics. But since my that exploration work has not been as robust and varied as I originally planned, my well of blog topics has quickly run dry.

And this, in turn, makes writing each post more arduous and time-consuming. Not only do I need to spend extra time brainstorming what I should write about, but since I’m choosing these blog topics last minute, I’m missing that early time to think about what I’ll include in the post.

I think I’ll take some time this week just dedicated to brainstorming new post topic ideas.

4) Trust your authentic voice

When I was preparing to create and launch this blog, I knew my first post would be the big announcement of my sabbatical and this career exploration journey I was about to embark on. I imagined the post being very upbeat and optimistic and inspirational.

However, when I sat down to write the post, I felt compelled to first give context around what led me to this decision to take a sabbatical. And suddenly, the post was heavier, more serious, and even a little dark.

But it felt a lot more honest, more authentic. I was worried it might put some people off, but I knew I’d be able to defend the post because the words so genuinely reflected my feelings and experience.

And the result? When I shared that first post, I received an outpouring of support. I had numerous people reach out to me expressing that the post really spoke to them and that they had been feeling a lot of the same pressures and dissatisfaction that I had.

Further exploration

I want to deepen my exploration of the content creation arena, but it’s hard to know the best way to tackle that.

I know I need to break this down into both (a) understanding what is takes to actually create the content and (b) determining how to monetize this content (in the case of being an independent content creator).

I’ll likely start by exploring the former, getting an understanding of what goes into creating a blog or a video or a podcast. I can compare working on different media and see if I enjoy one format over the other. It should also give me a better understanding of the time needed for each media and format.

It will also be good to explore different roles within the content creation process. I have the opportunity to act as a producer for a podcast being launched by a couple of friends. It’ll be interesting to see how much I enjoy working as part of a larger content team, focusing on one aspect of the creation process vs. being an independent content creator, where I control pretty much everything.

What I find interesting about being a content creator, particularly an independent content creator, is that it can naturally pair will a lot of the other careers on my list. For example, I can create a video series (Video Producer) on giving new life to old, beat up furniture pieces (Furniture Upcycler).

It seems like the wild, wild west out there. A lot of ways to tackle this. A lot of competition for attention. But as I said in my first post, sometimes you just have to start by starting!

Web Developer

Initial Thoughts: freeCodeCamp

The first career I’ve decided to explore is web development. Aside from acting, it’s the career on my list that I have the most experience with. As I mentioned in my previous post, I taught myself HTML a while back and have had an opportunity to actually use it a bit in my jobs.

Luckily, there are a lot of resources available to learn web development. For the last week and a half, I’ve been going through the lessons on freeCodeCamp. True to its name, this website offers thousands of small coding lessons 100% free.

The curriculum

Free Code Camp offers six overarching areas of study, or certification topics:

Certifications or areas of study on Free Code Camp
Six areas of study (or certifications) are available.

Each area of study is broken down into units:

Certifications on Free Code Camp are broken down into units
The number of units range from 2 to 9 for each certification topic.

 

The units can have as few as five lessons to upward of 60 lessons. Now, that may seem overwhelming, but the lessons are really short and just focus on one piece of code. For example, using the u tag to underline text is one single lesson and took 1-2 minutes to complete.

The final unit in each area of study is a list of projects.

The lessons

As I noted above, each lesson focuses on one small concept or piece of code, so they are really quick to get through. The lessons include an explanation of the code, and an interactive exercise.

Sample lesson - ordered lists
Directions for the exercise are included at the bottom of each lesson. You complete the exercise in the code editor in the middle and see the effects on the sample web page on the right.

Initial thoughts

I am about halfway through the first area of study, Responsive Web Design. Even though I already knew basic HTML, I still started from the very beginning, which was actually pretty helpful because I learned some HTML5 concepts that I didn’t know about previously.

I really like how the lessons are broken down, each focusing on one simple concept. It’s also helpful to have the interactive exercise for each lesson. Typing out the code (or in some cases, copying and pasting) and seeing how it functions, helps cement the concept a little better than just reading about it.

One thing I will note, however, is that the exercises are so prescriptive that you can get through them even if you don’t 100% understand the concept. So, for example, I’m still not completely clear how a bezier curve works, but it was easy enough to follow the directions of the exercise and copy and paste the code in order to pass the lesson. However, if I needed to create a specific speed and path of an animated movement using a bezier curve, I don’t think I’d know where to start. So for some lessons, I may need to do outside research to really understand the concept

Sample lesson - bezier curves
Huh? Some lessons include concepts that are a little more difficult to understand, but the exercises are still easy to complete.

 

The lessons and exercises are pretty easy to get through, but I have questioned whether or not I’ve actually retained the information in a way that I could complete a full project which requires the use of multiple concepts combined together. That’s why I’m glad each area of study ends with a unit of sample projects. I’m looking forward to getting to that section.

I would definitely recommend freeCodeCamp for anyone who is looking to just get a little taste of web development. It’s free and easy to get through, so the only cost is time.

Reflections

I’ve enjoyed going through these lessons, but I think it’ll take completing a full web project or two to determine whether or not I’d find this type of work fulfilling. So far, I really enjoyed the CSS unit and things to do with styling, which I guess speaks to my artistic background.

I can’t wait to get a good baseline of knowledge and test out my skills with a real project. Maybe I’ll finally set up my acting website …

I’ll report back when I’ve gotten through all the freeCodeCamp curriculum.

Career Exploration

The List

Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.

Winston Churchill

This quote can seem perplexing upon first read. What’s the use of planning if you think plans are of little importance? But the observation really speaks to something I noted in my previous postthe plan will change. Plans are of little importance because they will never go exactly as … well, planned. But planning is essential because it lies the foundation that allows you to quickly pivot when you do hit that unexpected curve in the road.

And while at first this concept can seem frustrating, it’s actually quite liberating. It means I can have a basic direction but be perfectly comfortable when the path bends a way I didn’t expect.

So, I’d like to think that my outline below is not necessarily a plan but rather a reflection of the planning. It’s the foundation upon which I will venture into new territories, while taking the surprise twists and turns in stride.

Video Producer

Why it interests me?

I like the idea of being able to work on a creative project from inception through final product, managing both the vision and the execution. The type of work is a good mix of flexing your creative muscles but also relying on being very organized and structured. I’m also drawn to storytelling, and I like that as a video producer, I would have a lot of creative control.

Just need a beret, and I’m set!

How will I explore?

  • Paid classes & workshops
  • Short films
  • Free or contract video projects
  • Interview people working as a video producer

Resources

Web Developer

Why it interests me?

In one of my first jobs, I worked at a nonprofit where we did a complete website overhaul. I wanted to know more about being able to set up pages myself, so I taught myself basic HTML. At my next job at an email marketing agency, I actually got to put those skills to the test – whenever our web developers were overloaded with work, I’d do the basic HTML set-up myself.

With web development, I like the idea that typing in a little code in one place, transforms the web page on the other end. I also like that a lot of times web development involves figuring out solutions — almost like cracking a case. Why isn’t that working the way I think it should?  What would be the best way to set this up?

Does watching Hackers on repeat count?

How will I explore?

  • Talk to web developers
  • Online training/learning
  • Bootcamps
  • Building/managing websites for free

Resources

Content Creator

Why it interests me?

When I put this one on my list, I was really referring to being an independent content creator. I love the idea of being able to talk or write about my passions – food, travel, creative projects. For years, I’ve thought about starting a blog or my own YouTube channel. Enough with thinking; time to start doing!

An Instagram-worthy workspace is a requirement of any good blogger.

How will I explore?

  • This blog documenting my sabbatical journey
  • Food video series
  • Submitting articles to sites that allow contributor content

Resources

Furniture Upcycler

Why it interests me?

I’ve watched way too many episodes of Flea Market Flip.

No, but really, I love the idea of giving things a new life. Transformation. I also like the idea of being able to work with my hands and be creative.

This is where you learn that you can convert anything into a bar cart.

How will I explore?

  • Free (or close to free projects): work with existing furniture or found furniture
  • Commissioned pieces
  • Booth at a flea market
  • Courses – upholstery, woodworking

Resources

Real Estate Agent

Why it interests me?

I like the idea of helping people find the right home. I think I have a talent for listening to people’s needs, translating them and finding the perfect solutions, product, etc. I also like that it seems like you could have a pretty independent work life.

I will need to practice the perfect key-handing-over pose.

How will I explore?

  • Talk to/shadow real estate agents
  • Read articles about becoming a real estate agent

Resources

Interior Designer

Why it interests me?

Creativity abounds! I like the idea of getting to work on distinct projects, so the work is always fresh and new. I also love the idea of getting to be creative and innovative. And to be honest, years of watching HGTV shows has finally gotten to me.

Mood boards and swatches and tiles, oh my!

How will I explore?

  • Interview people who’ve gotten into interior design
  • Free work/projects
  • Classes

Resources

Major Gifts Officer

Why it interests me?

The success of a major gifts officer lies in building relationships with big donors. I used to work in sales, and my favorite part was getting to know my clients on a personal level, socializing with them at conferences, and strengthening that relationship. In this line of work, you get to drive to the core of a donor’s passions.

“But, you see, it’s not every donor that would have the vision to name a bathroom …”

How will I explore?

  • Talk to/shadow major gifts officers
  • Volunteer

Resources

Theater Executive Director

Why it interests me?

Anyone who knows me, knows I love the theater. And I’ve been an actor for years. But beyond being onstage, there’s the thrill of telling a story, creating something new, and delighting audiences. I also really like managing things and being the leader. I think as an Executive Director, rather than the Artistic Director, I would get a healthy mix of the creative side and the organization side.

I hope to be a little more effective in filling up the house than this guy.

How will I explore?

  • Interview theater Executive Directors
  • Volunteer for duties that an Executive Director often does

Resources

Actor

Why it interests me?

Funny enough, this one was actually not on my original sabbatical list, even though this is the one career that I’ve said I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a kid. Yes, even as a painfully shy child, I said I wanted to be an actor because I loved the idea of getting to be different people and playing make-believe. I think I left it off the list because I was scared what would happen to this activity that I love so much, if I added the stress of actually needing to make an income from it. And I may very well not be able to make a living doing this (especially in the Bay Area), but it doesn’t hurt to try!

My career as an actor can be defined by my ridiculous facial expressions in production photos.

How will I explore?

  • Talking to people who are doing acting on a professional basis
  • Researching non-theater paying acting gigs

Resources

 

So, that’s where I’m going to start! It’s a rough blueprint. I’ve sketched out my initial ideas, but I welcome any suggestions of other resources I should add to my exploration toolkit. Leave a comment if you have any recommendations!


In case you missed it, check out why I’ve decided to embark on this new career exploration and the overview of my sabbatical plan.