Do What You Want To Be Known For

No more excuses.

Black and White Abstract Mural

Someone recently asked me how I got started into painting murals. I get a lot of questions about how I got to where I am now, working for myself, blogging for 10 years, 7 of those full-time, etc. I’ve answered those questions in pieces, but I continue to get asked about it and will do one big post or video about it soon. I’ve also spoken before about how I’ve always wanted to be an artist and how I’m turning back in that direction.

This question and my own recent desire for a refocusing on my art and changing my direction a bit in my work got me thinking. And the answer is simple really — I just did it for myself first.

The first mural I ever painted was in high school (I tell that story in this post). Fast forward 15 years and when I opened my studio space in Georgetown I painted a mural in the hallway just because I wanted to. A few years later, a client asked me to paint a similar mural in her office, which sparked another person to ask me to paint one in her new studio, which sparked three more projects — one of which is going in a famous chef’s new restaurant in the InterContinental Hotel at the Wharf in DC. More on that later.

But the point here is, is that I just started doing it because I personally wanted to. I didn’t paint the mural in my studio hallway with any expectations of painting murals at all. Honestly painting murals wasn’t really something I was really thinking about until someone asked me to do it.

This got me thinking about a lot of things that I personally do, and advice that I give to students, consulting clients, friends even. A lot of the projects and things I do for a living now, I just started doing on my own because I had a passion for them. My blog — my blog didn’t make A DIME for at least 4 years, if not longer. I did it for FOUR YEARS because I loved it. I wanted to do it. And back then brands weren’t sending bloggers free products — I literally wasn’t benefitting from it financially or materially AT ALL.

So think about something you already do or would do for 4 years without getting paid for it? What is that thing? Is there anything?

My advice is, whatever that thing is, the thing you’d do (or already do in some capacity) for free for years, for forever — just keep doing that thing. It will work itself out. A lot of people feel like they have to make money from something right away, or have a business plan around it, or have the perfect circumstances to start.

NO. You don’t. You don’t need anything. You just need to start doing it. Make it work.

Anyone who feels like they just can’t because of blah blah blah, I tell them to read this book, then come back to me and tell me they can’t.

Whatever the thing is that you want to be known for? Start doing that thing. Make up your own project and just do it. 

I tell college students this all the time. I ask them what their dream job is — often it’s some sort of social media something — and I say, for your senior project, go out and find a company that can’t afford a social media manager, offer to do it for free for your senior project and GET TO WORK. Build something, show them, and your professors WHAT YOU’VE GOT.

Want to start being an interior decorator — start with your own home, make it a model for the type of work you want to do. Whatever it is, start ANYWHERE and do SOMETHING that’s in the style/direction you want to go.

You have to show people what you are capable of. Do the thing you want to be known for — THEN once you SHOW PEOPLE, they will hire you to do it. 

Don’t let it overwhelm you, start small. I started by painting a small mural in a hallway.

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Image from a mural painted recently.