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Stephanie Halligan is the author for the book Art to Self: Cartoon Notes to Remind You of Your Awesomeness. Take it away Stephanie!
“Follow your passion!”
That advice is a tough pill to swallow.
Follow your passion is missing one key ingredient: money. Follow your passion doesn’t come with instructions on how to make a living doing what you love.
Follow your passion actually never worked for me.
My motto? “Test out your passion to see where it sticks.”
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. And that’s how I finally found a way to make money doing what I was born to do.
My Journey From Childhood Dream to Actually Making Money
As a kid, I wanted to grow up and be a cartoonist. I knew I would be a cartoonist because I was a cartoonist – it’s what I did everyday.
I spent my childhood watching Looney Tunes, reading Calvin and Hobbes and dreaming of becoming a Disney animator. Fueled by the support of my family and teachers, I cartooned my way through elementary, middle and high school (and even won the award for “Best Artist” my senior year).
But fast forward to high school graduation, and I did not want to be a cartoonist… because that’s when I realized that cartoonists do not make money.
That’s where the “follow your passion” equation fell apart for me. So I pushed my art to the side to pursue more practical and lucrative things. I went off to college and earned a degree in international relations from Boston University.
After graduation, I landed an “adult” job in Washington, D.C. where I began my career in financial education. I even started a personal finance blog.
I was earning a decent living. Even though the money was there, something was missing.
After four years in the workforce, I quit my full-time job, started my own consulting practice and began the deliberate effort to find out what that missing piece was.
And that’s when—after an eight-year-long hiatus—I remembered that I loved to draw. I didn’t know how I was going to start putting my art into the world. But I knew that I needed to. I must.
That’s when I started to test out my passion.
The Great Passion Experiment
I started by adding cartoons to my personal finance website. It was the only place I could think of at the time, and the perfect place to try my hand at online cartoons. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, so I started drawing more and more and my cartoons began taking on motivational quality to them.
For a year and a half, I kept drawing online. I would pitch myself to other blogs and companies, offering custom cartoons to anyone who would bite. I even experimented with “buy this print” buttons on my blog to see what would sell (I sold two).
All the while, I had no idea what I was doing. But I kept sharing my cartoons with the world. I knew it would take tons of experimenting to find “my thing.”
It took three years of experimenting to come up with the idea that finally started to make money: ArtToSelf.com (which is now Cece and the Wild).
I started Art to Self as a place to share my cartoons with the world every single day without any expectations for making money. But I had hopes.
So every day, I would send out a motivational cartoon note. As my fan base grew, I started experimenting with asking for donations. And as my collection of cartoon notes piled up, I realized I had something special on my hands. So I took my best cartoons and put them together into a book.
Finally, I had found the thing that would make me money and make me happy.
This is where I am today: a professional motivational cartoonist that makes money doing what I love. I’ve cobbled together my own career and found weird and creative ways to make money.
As a kid, I knew I would be a cartoonist. But I would have never guessed that it would look like this.
I’m glad I tested it out.
Steph Halligan is the motivational cartoonist behind Art To Self, a daily inspirational cartoon newsletter. Her book, Art to Self, was published this month, and is available on Amazon.