What are you going to be when you grow up?
How many times have you heard that in your life?
Wow does that question hold a lot of hopes and dreams in it. The pressure starts at a young age when you are expected to start deciding what sports to play or what electives to take and it only intensifies as you grow older.
Many people decide that the college route is a good way to answer that question. It buys you time and you can choose a major to pursue with a somewhat determined career path to follow. While it’s a good start, it’s seldom the final answer with over 80% of college students changing their major at least once according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
So what then is the best way to actually figure out what you want to do with your life?
I had a chance to talk to someone who is pursuing his dreams and has some advice as to how to find your passion and what to do in life.
Ian Micallef is a digital designer living in New York and has found success in many different ways. He has started his own design company, has worked for large entertainment companies like HBO, and has done design work for big name musical artists like John Mayer, J.Cole, Daft Punk, and many others.
(ABOVE LEFT) Ian was responsible for the interactive web application’s visual design for the release of John Mayer’s 2012 Paradise Valley album. Ian was the lead designer for Little Mix, the British girl group who won The X Factor 2011 (ABOVE RIGHT)
Ian’s best advice for helping you figure out what the heck it is you should do with your life?
Side hustle… A lot.
Ian has had 9 side hustles over the years. While not all have been successful, each side hustle has helped him develop the skills necessary to advance his career. More importantly, they have each helped him to grow a more robust perspective on life.
“I started doing my first side hustle in college. Everyone has a sort of side hustle these days and no matter how you frame it like this is going to be my company or whatever it may be, I think it’s so valuable to start doing that early on. In terms of just having a side hustle, learning other skills, running your own thing, pouring yourself into it, you’ll pick up a lot of other tangible skills whether you frame it as it’s going to make you a million dollars or its just something fun you do on the side.”
Ian is a successful designer who is currently building his own design firm. But before that, he tried his hand in many different side hustles that helped lead him down the windy road to where he is now. Whether it be the skills or the connections or the timing of doing a project, there is never a way to tell what will you can benefit from a side hustle without just going for it.
While in his last year of school, Ian started a small design agency where he and some fellow designers he recruited began making designs for musicians and artists he liked.
There was no way to know where this project would take him or how big it would get. He simply spotted an opportunity that he knew would be both fun and educational and started.
How do you get started?
How did he actually go about working with musicians?
“Cold calling every artist I liked on Soundcloud. I was a music buff and was really into the underground rap and hip hop scene and just started cold pitching them. I would offer to do people’s profile pictures, Facebook banners, their actual posts, their Twitter skins, their YouTube skins. I would do some of their album art for Soundcloud and Spotify. If they needed it I would do it.”
(ABOVE) Some of Ian’s work for John Mayer
Ian started to grow a reputation as a trusted designer and started by offering some of his services for free. Because he was not charging at first, he was able to get his foot in the door, learn a ton, and make connections.
It turned out, his hard work and ambition to do something paid off. He ended up hitting the jackpot when a duo DJ group helped him get his dream job at the time.
“I got really lucky when the Jane Doze, a DJ duo who I was doing their album art, doing their social stuff for and doing it all pro bono just because I thought they were super cool … I found out they were the two publicists at Columbia Records.”
This connection essential led to Ian landing a job at Columbia Records right after he graduated from college. There he gained a ton of new skills and experience that helped lead him to bigger and better things.
This goes to show that if you are willing to put in work and apply your ambition in whatever way you can, that will help you get noticed. It helps put you in places that you would otherwise never have been that change the course of your life for the better.
Starting your side hustle for free is a great way to get noticed and get your foot in the door.
“There are so many lessons you can learn from a year of side hustling. Learning how to do different press and marketing you can pull out of it… You need to research and try different things so that you can learn what works and what doesn’t work.”
Among the many side hustles he’s been involved with, Ian has been the cofounder of a New York blog, an email marketing hustle, and many others. While these were not unicorn companies that delivered Ian loads and loads of money, he was able to place himself in a position for future success.
(Above) Ian and his side hustle portfolio
Because you can never know for sure how a side hustle is going to turn out, it may be hard to see the worth in putting so much time in.
The reality is, success rewards those who put in the the extra effort.
There is no such thing as a single solution and by doing and creating something of your own, you need can keep advancing yourself and give yourself the most opportunity for success.
Keep up with what Ian is up to by following him at @IanMicallef and check out his site at ianhm.com.
You can also email Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in your own powerful digital brand and web presence.
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