What are you doing? What do you REALLY want to be doing? If the answer isn’t the same, reevaluate.

People talk about being multi-hyphenates. This is common among artists. They call themselves one thing (some form of artist), but spend a majority of their time and energy doing another (something that makes more money than an artist). These people don’t focus on the art; they make the art a side hustle — even when they say it’s the art that drives them.

No one ever rose to the top of their craft by making it a side hustle. So why would you kid yourself? I ask… because this was me.

What did/do you want to do?

The common saying goes, “People who can’t do teach.” While that may be true for some, I have a theory it’s closer to, “Those who don’t want to do teach.”

A finance teacher can be very passionate about what she is teaching. She can know every theory and analysis, she could have read every book and article on finance and Wall Street. But she doesn’t want to be a wealth manager or stock broker. Why? Because that’s not what she loves. She loves knowing about it. She loves teaching it.

I have had this relationship with acting. I used to say that’s what I wanted most in life, to be a working actor. (Meaning, I would make a good living solely through acting.) That was what I considered to be my holy grail. It was a challenging goal to reach, and it was my purpose in life to reach it.

However, I also found that I could fall in and out of love with acting. Script analysis felt like homework. Preparation weighed on my mind like something I had to check off a to-do list. I got distracted easily. I took long breaks from acting classes. Finally I realized…

If you can fall out of love with something, that’s not your holy grail.

Frankly, people who want nothing more than to be an actor don’t dedicate their time to writing weekly blogs (unless maybe it’s a weekly acting blog). They act. They study the craft and better themselves.

This sent me into somewhat of an existential crisis, because I still loved the craft. Any time I got on set I was elated. I still loved watching film and TV and thinking (or wishing) I could do what they were doing.

What I lacked was a love of the work. The work is not between “action” and “cut.” Performing is the job I wanted. That’s not the work. The work is auditioning, networking, maintaining an online profile and a social media presence. Then after getting the job, the work is script analysis, character study, rehearsal, rehearsal, and more rehearsal.

Now, there are aspects of all that which I enjoy quite a bit… Then again, every once in a while I’d get homework I found interesting too.

The Job vs. The Work

This is the shit that aptitude tests don’t tell you.

  • Teaching is a job. The work is grading papers, class preparation, navigating formalities and rules of conduct, and furthering your own study.
  • Travel writing is a job — one that looks appealing to a lot of people. The work of a travel writer is sitting in airports, filling out expense reports, taking diligent notes (even when you’re doing something fun), and meeting deadlines.
  • The work of a social media influencer is taking selfies, constantly being detached from reality, and preparing for their fake life to inevitably come crashing down one day.
  • You get it.

Obviously every job has less-than-ideal aspects about it. Many artists detest interacting on social media. That’s ok, they aren’t social media managers, they’re artists. Unfortunately, that’s become part of the work. I love brand strategy and design, but sometimes I get difficult clients. That’s ok, it’s part of the work. Here’s what I do:

Apply the 80/20 rule.

If you like 80% of the job, I’d say you’re on the right track. I think side hustles are created when this ratio is off. (And also because of “hustle culture.”) People make passion projects jobs, trying to find this 80/20 balance by adding morework.

Ask yourself this question:

“When am I the happiest?”

Find your throughline. Of course we’re all happiest when we’re lying on the beach drinking margaritas, or tucking in our children at night, or cooking out with our family and friends on a fall Sunday afternoon… but of course that’s not what I’m talking about. Ask as it pertains to your job.

When are you really happy and when do you think about throwing your desk through the nearest window? If you have a side hustle, or many hustles, what is the throughline that drives you in each of them?

I’m happiest when I’m using my imagination. That’s why I love acting; however, spending time in imagination land was a lot less than 80% of the acting work. Everything else I do (improv, branding and design, writing) falls nicely within the 80/20 rule. Once I figured that out, it changed my perspective.

On Freelancing

Since I talk about freelancing a lot, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shift the conversation specifically toward the solopreneurs of the world. As I said in my post 5 Things You Should Do Before Becoming A Freelancer, you become your own accountant, project manager, marketing manager, office manager, art director, receptionist, customer service representative, digital director, janitor, and maybe even lawyer. You also won’t have employer-provided health insurance; there’s no such thing at PTO; and you’ll have to get your own taxes in order. Depending on what you do, you’ll also need to handle welcome email(s), a project brief, a proposal template, a contract, a way of logging your time, an invoicing system, and an accounting system.

So make sure all that isn’t your worst nightmare, because that is way more than 20% of the work.

I’ll offer up a call to action, especially to those who are still finding their way. What is your throughline? WHY are you doing what you do (or why do you want to do what you want to do)? When are you the most happy?

Let that be a guiding principal in how you structure your life.