How 11 Successful Creatives Turned Their Hobby Into a Full-Time Job
Ask a kid we were asked the question: 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' Our answers would be something along the lines of an astronaut, dancer, doctor or teacher.
Then, as we graduated school, we were asked the same question — however, this time we approached it with hesitation, confusion and for some, even fear.
Deciding what impact you want to make in life can be an incredibly daunting task, regardless of your age, and it's often through life experiences in which you're truly able to find what your innate passion is. Ultimately, it should be something that brings you joy every day and something you find fulfilling, which is exactly what these 11 successful creatives have been able to find once they gave up their full-time job and focused on their artistic passion.
Some picked up their creative hobby in COVID lockdown, while others dabbled in their passion as an enjoyable way to relax after a stressful workday.
And while successful today, it goes without saying that it took a lot of trial and error for all of them — but the hard work has all been worth it. From following their gut to realising age is just a number, these female entrepreneurs, which we've interviewed as part of our The Makers series, share how they managed to turn their creative hobby into a thriving and enjoyable full-time job.
11 Successful Creatives on How They Turned Their Hobby Into a Full-Time Job
1. Madeline Jovicic, Artist
Jovicic had no idea she wanted to become an artist but always knew she wanted to do something creative.
"After high school, I studied branding and fashion design. I then started working a couple of days a week at a small fashion magazine whilst bartending on the side. From there, I moved into marketing and social media management with painting being my side hustle. My artwork then started taking off and I’m now lucky enough to be able to paint full-time."
Jovicic on her best career advice:
"You can change the path of your career journey. The lessons and skills you learn along the way will ultimately help you succeed in the endeavour you choose to pursue. Also, don’t stress over the little things."
2. Jessica Choi, Ceramicist
The Melbourne-based ceramicist never thought her hobby would turn into her main source of income when she enrolled in a community pottery course in 2016. The then-production coordinator simply saw ceramics as a creative way to pass the time.
During lockdown in 2020, Choi started to take her ceramics more seriously, and decided to take a leap of faith by selling her pieces.
"I actually wanted to be an art director for films, but I didn’t get into the theatre course I wanted (even though I gave up my Schoolies week to attend the interview!), so I studied more of a general film and media course instead. I worked as a production coordinator and manager for a small production company producing TV ads from when I was 23 years old and still do odd film jobs occasionally," she told Bed Threads Journal.
"My pottery journey began not long after I started my film job. I was working from home a lot and needed a hobby to get me out of the house so I decided to take on pottery to get my creative juices flowing. I was instantly hooked and have been practicing religiously since then.
"It wasn’t until the first COVID lockdown in 2020 that I started putting myself out there and actually tried to sell my work. I’ve always been afraid to make the leap because I was worried about how others might perceive my work and didn’t want to fail, but being in lockdown made me realise I had nothing to lose. There was no harm in me giving it a go."
She now pursues her craft full-time with her thriving business Eun Ceramics.
Choi on her best career advice:
"Just be persistent! If something doesn’t work, find another way to make it work.
"Now looking back, pushing myself to believe in myself has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m so grateful for all the support and how quickly I was able to grow despite the pandemic."
3. Teya Kepila, Ceramicist and Health Coach
The Brooklyn-based creative didn't go to university and instead worked in the hospitality industry at The Soho House in Malibu. She then relocated to New York, where she transferred to working at The Soho House in the Meatpacking District. However, after a year of working there, she felt "run down, chewed up and spat out."
"My heart knew I was not pursuing my purpose and it rippled throughout my entire life – I guess you could say that this was my massive fall before I started to shine. I quit my job, took a class at Cornell University and attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to further my education in holistic health coaching."
Kepila only picked up ceramics post-COVID at a studio in her neighbourhood, and has since turned the hobby into a full-on side business.
"When Covid hit, I took that time to slow down and reconnect with myself. I wrote down goals and slowly made them my reality. I took on clients as a health coach, even when it was scary and new. I found a ceramics studio near our Brooklyn apartment, got a membership and taught myself how to throw on the wheel. I mostly made pieces for our home but I eventually realised I could share my work with others by selling it online."
Kepila on her best career advice:
"Love every little step as its own! Wherever you’re at in life is exactly where you're meant to be. Remember that everything is temporary, so take what you can get from each phase while you're there. I used to live in the future and didn’t believe in myself. But if you’re consciously grateful for everything you have and do one thing to better yourself each day, you are growing.
"Also, success has no definition. Be proud of all your efforts and love yourself. If you currently feel challenged, try to learn something from it and don’t view it as a personal misfortune. The universe will only give you what you can handle. The strength that you need already resides in you. All your answers are right in front of you. The mind can get loud and disruptive when it comes to taking chances and living the life you dream of, but listen to your body and hear what your heart has to say. You deserve it all."
4. Jessalyn Brooks, Artist
Drawing and painting was always a skill the Los-Angeles creative had in her back pocket but after a year of art school, she decided to pursue her passion for music instead. She started singing jazz professionally, did musical theatre and regional and touring shows, but it was only until 12 years later did she decide to pick painting back up.
"I had no intention of choosing fine art as a profession. It sort of beautifully unfolded as a result of unintended life failures. Actually, I wouldn’t say “failures” – more just endeavours that felt forced and somewhat unnatural. I think all of these roads in life sort of siphoned into the thing I do now. It’s all just a subconscious response to everything I know to be true."
Brooks on her best career advice:
"My advice would be to read. Specifically history. This is just my personal thing – maybe it’s not everyone’s, I don’t know. I’m so inspired by antiquity and myth, how the world has always turned. What’s remained and what has died. Symbol, beauty, romance, heroism, death, duality, joy, desire – these are all central in art and creation. My other piece of advice is to never give up. Just never stop."
5. Abbey Rich, Artist
The Melbourne artist originally worked in fashion and even had her own label. However, after a few years she realised it wasn't for her.
"I accidentally started a fashion label, did that for a few years, burnt out, realised fashion wasn’t really my vibe as it is inherently bad for the environment and often the people working within it. I was making art to put on clothing so I think it was inevitable that I would just make art on things that already exist like walls and bodies – the damage has already been done."
Rich on her best career advice:
"Don’t do it to start a business, to be successful or make a lot of cash; do it because you care about what you’re doing and acknowledge that you have a responsibility with the voice that business affords you."
6. Tantri Mustika, Ceramicist
The Melbourne-based creative had no idea she'd ever be making ceramics as a full-time job; she only picked up the hobby as a "way to combat day-to-day stress and anxiety".
"I was working as a hairdresser when I finished school and after over a decade of hairdressing, I felt the creative spark for me had been lost," she said.
"I was seeking a hands-on hobby and I stumbled across clay. Soon after I was completely obsessed and I guess I just never stopped mucking around with the stuff! I enrolled myself into a couple of short courses and obsessively made ceramics in all of my spare time. Soon enough I had made some pieces I was really proud of and I decided to make a website (100% thinking nothing would come of it!) and people ACTUALLY bought things!"
Within a year, she narrowed her hours at her then full-time hairdressing job down to two days a week to free up time for ceramics. She then finally decided to "take a leap of faith" and quit her job to pursue her side hustle full-time.
Mustika on her best career advice:
"Follow your gut and don’t take on negativity from external sources. Just don’t listen to that stuff. Be yourself (something that is naturally always evolving – that’s normal). Don’t look too much at what everyone else is doing; work hard and be confident in your abilities. It's the only way to meet your true potential! (Soooo corny, I know, but so true!)
Also, you’re never too old and it’s never too late to just try something new so just do it!! Especially if it makes you feel happy."
7. Caitlin Robson, Ceramicist
Robson started her career in the fashion industry where she spent many years working for a high-end designer. She had a burning passion to pursue art, however, never had the faith in herself to make it happen.
But she followed her gut instincts and quit her job, realising for the first time her life felt in sync.
"After a lot of self-work and exploration, I managed to move past my fear of failure, quit my full-time job and threw myself entirely into my craft. Initially though, drawing was where I was directing all of my creative energy, I had never considered that ceramics would be where I would end up.
"However, as an illustrator whose work was focused primarily on realistic portraiture, I began using clay to create more abstract expressions of the forms I was illustrating, that would pair with the works to give added depth to their concepts. In doing so, I found myself falling more and more in love with the process of ceramics and the freedom of expression the medium provides."
Now, she spends every day at her ceramics studio and she admits the journey has helped her grown on both a personal and professional level.
Robson on her best career advice:
"Push through the fear of starting. You’re only holding yourself back and amazing things fall into place when you trust in the process, and trust in your gut feeling."
8. Hannah Carrick, Artist
The Sydney-based artist initially studied Graphic Design but soon realised the professions wasn't the right fit for her.
"Since I can remember, I have wanted to paint full-time. It took me a lot of hard work and multiple side jobs to get to this point, but that's all part of the journey."
Now working on her art full-time, Carrick has grown a cult following that sees her large-scale works sell out the minute they're posted on Instagram.
Carrick on her best career advice:
"That things take time and to be patient. I think a lot of people can relate to comparing yourself to others at some point in your career but if you just stay true to yourself and focus on your own path, things will fall into place the way they are meant to."
9. Natalie Rosin, Ceramicist
Rosin began her career studying architecture at university and went on to complete a Masters. During her studies, she enrolled herself in as many art electives — it was here she developed a passion for clay.
"Once graduating from university, I began practicing as a graduate architect, while still practicing ceramics every free moment I had, including joining a group studio called Claypool, selling my pieces and being part of exhibitions."
After a few years of working at different architecture practices in Sydney, she experienced the challenge of juggling both her full-time job and side hustle, so decided to follow her passion and pursue her art.
Rosin on her best career advice:
"Don’t believe there is a strict path in life that you need to follow. A significant life decision can be both extremely hard to accept but also easy to follow knowing it’s the right choice for you."
10. Laura Freestone, Artist
The Indigenous artist always loved painting but never thought anything would come of it. Instead, she saw it as more of a hobby and cultural connection she shares with her dad and grandfather.
Her career began in interior design where she worked for ten years in visual merchandising for furniture and decor.
It was only when she started selling her art that she was creating in her free time, did things become more serious — especially when she was asked to display some of her pieces in a gallery in Sydney.
"I was so nervous about it and so shocked that they sold," she recalls. "From there I had two exhibitions in Newcastle which went well. We set up a website and the power of social media took over from there. I was lucky enough to be a feature artist with Kyal & Kara as well as have my work represented by Jumbled Online, which really got my work out there."
Freestone on her best career advice:
"Believe in yourself and be true to yourself. I was always really hard on myself growing up and I think a lot of us are. Just know you are enough, you have a place here."
Also, "don’t be scared to ask for help and direction."
11. Prudence Caroline, Artist
Australian abstract artist Prudence Oliveri—professionally known as Prudence Caroline—never really thought it was possible to have a career as an artist, so she never studied it.
"I had a beauty salon and was painting as a creative outlet on weekends."
It wasn’t until she gained recognition for her work after a stint on The Block that she began pursuing a career as a full-time artist.
"When my work appeared on magazine covers and popular TV shows, I no longer had time to hold both jobs so I sold my salon to paint full-time."
Caroline on her best career advice:
"Be true to yourself, and look for inspiration in your every day."
Want more career inspiration? Here, 15 successful women entrepreneurs share their best business advice.