Graphic designers were pioneers of the Maker Movement that’s been underway for the past decade. The movement has kindled a creative spark in many thousands of people, spawned marketplaces both online (Etsy) and off (urban flea markets) and given rise to a new segment of the economy.
For creative pros, making is often an antidote to client work, an opportunity to shed constrictions and expectations. “Making something out of thin air feels amazing,” says Terri Trespicio. “There’s something so productive about it. Most people who don’t define themselves as artists don’t [create] and wonder why they’re so frustrated all the time. But if everyone could make something, they’d feel less frustrated.”
“There’s no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.” — Elizabeth Gilbert, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”
Trespicio, a brand strategist and coach, will lead Ignite Your Passion Project: A Side-Gig Seminar and Connecting Event at HOW Design Live. In this evening session, attendees hear from a panel of experts, then have a chance to pitch their projects to the panel and get feedback. Afterward, makers of all kinds will have the opportunity to connect and share their work.
We recently chatted with Trespicio about dreaming, making and doing.
What is it in our DNA that compels us to make stuff?
While artists and writers and musicians get most of the credit for making stuff, I believe we as humans have it in our DNA to make stuff. That’s what we do. We have a compulsion to make because it’s satisfying to create. To make is what it means to be fully human. Making is where our inner thoughts and ideas meet the world’s material. When we can hold our creation in our hands and share it, then it becomes real — and by extension, we’re real.
How can people shift from side gig (I make this thing on weekends and give it to my friends) to creative business (I make this thing as a part- or full-time job and sell it to people around the world)?
Three things: First, it doesn’t have to earn you a living in order for the side gig to be real. But if you want to grow it into a business, you have to stop referring it to as a hobby.
The second thing is to realize that the skill that is required to do what you do well is not the same skill you’ll need to build a business around it. For some people, the idea of making a living out of it saps the passion out of it, while for others it helps make the work feel legitimate to make a business out of it.
You don’t have to be an expert in business, but you have to find the resources, tools and partners you lack. There’s no glory — only pain — in doing it all yourself.
And third, whatever you’re making must solve a need for someone, even if it’s someone’s need for new earrings. It has to be a good idea and be well executed and be compelling and connectible to an audience. And you have to be willing to find and sell to those people.
Ahh … selling. It’s a challenge for makers, no?
That’s one of the biggest roadblocks, the fear of selling, the fear of taking money and what that means. If I had a penny for every person who says, “I don’t want to sound like a used car salesman” …
You have to come to terms with your relationship with money, you have to come to terms with asking people to pay for what you make. If you think that a transaction de-legitimizes your work, then you have a problem.
Who is the Side Gig Seminar and Networking Event for? What will attendees come away with?
It’s for artists, designers, creators, writers, anyone who has an itch to do something beyond the scope of their day job or are already toying with something that they don’t quite know what to do with. Show me someone in this field who doesn’t have something in the drawer that they’re working on, and I’ll eat my hat. We want to encourage and nurture that desire to create.
It will start with me and three of our experts — Kristian Andersen, Danny Gregory and Holly Quarzo. We’re going to have a conversation about what it means to invest in passion projects and how you know when it’s time to take this from a back-room, weekend project into something bigger.
Then the fun part is that we’ll have attendees get up and pitch their ideas. It’s meant not just for the attendee to get the approval of the panel, but to give that person next steps and to spark ideas in people in the audience. Afterward, people can connect with each other to talk about their side projects. My hope is that a year from now there are people who met at this event and went on to make things together.
Who can side-giggers look at as role models? Anyone you can point to who has successfully made the leap?
Jeff Greenspan is one of them — we met at HOW last year. He was an advertising copywriter who, in his own words, was frustrated. He asked himself, why can’t I create things? He teamed up with a friend who’s an artist and designer to create these projects that have gotten a lot of attention [including “Hipster Traps” and “Tourist Lanes” in New York City].
The other one is Kabir Seghal. You can describe him a lot of ways: He’s a financial guy at J.P. Morgan, he’s a jazz musician and a Grammy award-winning music producer, and a writer. [See his book, “Coined.”] He’s an example of making because he wants to learn; he writes about what he’s curious about. He’s kept his full-time job because it funds everything. It’s like he has a Ph.D. in side gigs.
And finally: If you want to do more, be insatiable, don’t make excuses.
And be sure to sign up for HOW Design Live by April 1 for the last, best offer on registration packages!