I get the reaction all the time “What? You quit your job and now you write superhero stories?! How is that possible?” Well, it’s possible but definitely not easy.
In fact, quitting my day job, starting a creative business (comics & animation) while trying to pay bills and live a functional life has been the most trying times of my life…
Which leads to (Using the Mandarin’s voice from the infamous Ironman 3 movie) Lesson Number One: Achieving something great requires great sacrifice.
As painful as it has been, this has also been the most rewarding time of my life.
So, if you’re considering making the bold leap to chase your dreams (whether it’s starting your own comic, a business idea, directing a movie or another creative venture) full time or you already made the leap and are questioning yourself (like I do almost every month), here’s a list of 7 things that have worked/are working for me as I keep chasing my own dreams.
Hopefully, this helps a little.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” One of my favorite bible verses. And it’s 100% true when chasing a dream.
Without a map for where you are going, you will eventually get lost. You need both a short-term and a long-term plan. But know that these plans WILL eventually get busted.
You always have to be ready to adjust. But it’s easier to adjust when you at least have an overall roadmap of what you want to achieve. Also, you must know “why” you are doing what you are doing.
Never focus solely on what (your product, your business, your book etc.), focus also on why. This is what people (your clients, fans, customers etc.) will be drawn to.
So always be able to say: “I’m doing this because….”
I wasn’t kidding when I said achieving something great requires great sacrifice. There’s no two ways about it, if you want to achieve success and/or achieve a lifelong dream of running your own creative business, you WILL go through pain.
Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishing houses before it was accepted, Steven Spielberg was rejected from University of Southern California School of Theater 3 times and the list goes on (see more here).
It just comes with the territory. You will feel left out when you see people doing fun stuff and you have to stay home to put in extra work, you will get depressed when you can’t go shopping for months because you’re on a lean budget, you will get frustrated when you work twice as hard and twice as long as you did at your day job only to earn a quarter (sometimes nothing) of what you did.
This is where having a vision and knowing “why” keeps you going. Being mentally prepared to make these sacrifices ahead of time helps tremendously! One quote that constantly inspires me is “Success is a very, very lonely road… You are going to see your shadow most of the time…”
…That will more than likely go to crap. But again, it’s easier to adjust when you have a plan than when you don’t.
Trying to make financial adjustments without first having an overall financial plan is like trying to merge onto a highway while blindfolded. It’s not going to end well.
Money is usually the greatest factor that keeps people from chasing after their dreams. I know because it held me back for a while and still terrifies me till today.
These are some of the things I did (before quitting my job) to alleviate the anxiety:
My main gig is YouNeek Studios i.e selling my books as well as merchandise and licenses tied to my all original characters/stories (and eventually animated products).
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pull in a decent amount of cash to keep me happy, but that’s not my only source of income.
I also run another business called Roye Productions which focuses on website design, branding & online Marketing for small businesses.
This helps me supplement the money I get from YouNeek Studios, allowing me to survive this indie comics/animation life lol.
It was always my plan to keep this going simultaneously (not as a backup). So if you have some secondary (or primary) skill that you can monetize (and gives you flexibility with your time) while you chase your dream, I suggest you invest time in it.
If you’re an artist working on your indie comic, keep doing commissions, design logos, brochures etc. If you’re a director working on your indie film, edit videos for clients.
You can even take this a step further and get a remote job and work from home (which gives you flexibility) while you slowly pursue your lifelong dream.
Check out websites like FlexJobs that offer only telecommuting opportunities. If you are looking for work as a freelancer, check this sites out.
This is so key! You need like-minded people to lean on as you strive for success. So surround yourself with people who want to achieve greatness, trust me, it rubs off on you.
They become not just a support system, but a system of accountability. They will more than likely also be your first clients/fans which is a much-needed boost when you start (they will be more forgiving when you mess up).
Another person I really recommend having (if you can find a good one) is a mentor. A great mentor will save you a lot of time and headache. Finding one within your industry/field can be a lifesaver.
They’ve more than likely been through everything you will go through so their experience is indispensable! Please remember though, this is not a person that will solve ALL your problems, you WILL still make your own mistakes.
The key is learning from the ones you’ll inevitably make and avoiding the ones you don’t need to make.
I read a blog post last week that perfectly describes this point. Check it out here. One way to build this support system is to begin attending networking events.
I’ll share a quick story. I attended a major entertainment content market event called MIPCOM years ago. I quickly made a friend on day one.
This guy just happened to love my book so we got along nicely ? By the end of the conference he had introduced me to people that worked at Disney, BET, Viacom and more! I still have those people in my network today.
It’s cool to stay behind your desk and put in long hours, but there’s just stuff you cannot achieve without leaving your comfort zone and exploring. So… Make sure you network!
Never, ever stop learning. Albert Einstein said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
I identify 100% with this. I’ve been so fortunate to achieve some great things in my short time running a creative business, but it’s not because I have any glaring talent.
I recognized that early on and decided that if I have no special talent then all I can do is vow to always outwork everyone and learn as much as I can, as fast as I can.
Chasing your dreams is tough (did I say this already?). You will feel like you made a mistake choosing this path, you will lose money, you will waste money, you will make bad decisions, people will cheat you, people will question your decision (most will do it because they love and care about you), you will question your decision, you will want to quit, you will cry.
I say this because all of the above happened to me (except I did not cry… Okay maybe I cried a bit, so what).
But if you truly believe in your heart that this is where you are meant to be, then don’t look back. Keep pushing, be persistent and keep fighting.
I promise you eventually things will slowly start to make sense.
There’s a flip side to this though. Which is when it comes to quitting your job and pursuing your dream full time… it’s not meant for everybody. And that’s absolutely okay as well.
Because at the end of the day, the ultimate dream/goal should be to live a happy life and spread love while doing that.
Whatever gets you to that position, is what you should always fight for.
Let me know what you think in the comments section. Would love to hear from you!
Thank you so much brother. All your words really speaks to me in volumes. I have had this dream for years to create my own graphic novel. Now I am going down that road. I see what you are doing and your are an inspiration.
Hey, Steve! I’m so glad that this article helped. Keep pushing, brother!
Roye! Thank you so much for this brother! I’ll be reaching out soon!
You’re most welcome, Jarmel!
As a fellow Nigerian, pursuing my dreams as well, I find this very encouraging! Thanks brother for sharing your insight! We collaborate because our interests and background are too similar not to! Check out my blog: http://www.toocoolchronicles.blogspot.com
As a fellow Nigerian, pursuing my dreams as well, I find this very encouraging! Thanks brother for sharing your insight! We should collaborate because our interests and background are too similar not to! Check out my blog: http://www.toocoolchronicles.blogspot.com
Not an entrepreneur (yet?) but this was a really good read! I like the note you ended on and the focal point of making love and happiness the ultimate goal. More muscle to your hustle!
Thanks, Anon! At the end of the day, happiness and joy is the true success 🙂
Is article is slowly forcing me to come to terms of what sacrifice means trying to make my slice out of the industry thank you so much.
That’s awesome to hear. Jamal! Keep pushing!
Love your work! Keep it up. Looking forward to seeing Malika animated!
I just read this and i feel it describes my current situation.
Good morning Mr. Okupe, My name is Okeke Chimezie, I graduated from UniJos (Biochemistry) and only just completed my Msc. Program this month but honestly my heart yearns for animation. For as long as i can remember, i have loved drawing, gaming and watching animated moves but never knew it could be harnessed in Nigeria until this year February after seeing the teaser of the anticipated Malika and some other animated clips then i discovered how valuable animation can become in telling the African story, i made up my mind no matter the odds, to chase this dream of mine.
Since then, i have tried my hands on Moho and Toonboom and only started using Maya this month within which i have succesfully completed a character rig. I have been aggressively learning from Youtube vids nd some materials online and my hunger to learn just gets bigger by the day.
I know i am still a novice in this Field but i have no doubts that i have what it takes to succeed in animation. I came into lagos to see if there is anything relating to animation that i can get my hands on, volunteer, intern, i am ready to learn, i am ready to give it my best shot. Please, i need your advice and help. Where do i go from here?
@Okeke! Keep pushing my brother. You’re well on your way. I would suggest you try to intern at Anthill Studios. They are the best in Nigeria. You will learn a lot!
I have intentions of creating a super hero series….
But yet I find it confusing to start…
Because I haven’t yet finished my education on engineering… Can anyone help me out in balancing engineering and creativity 🙏