6 Tips For Turning Your Passion Into Your Career

How to do what you love as your job, according to badass women who have done just that.

If you think painting a masterpiece sounds challenging, imagine then having to market and sell your artwork while hiring employees and balancing checkbooks. To find out what it takes to successfully turn creativity into a profitable business, photographer Erin Austen Abbott interviewed 25 entrepreneurs in creative industries from around the country for the ultimate guide to building a brand. Her new book (out today!), How to Make It: 25 Makers Share the Secrets to Building a Creative Business, features encouraging stories, beautiful behind-the-scenes photography, and valuable advice about the reality of turning your passion into a career.

Here are a few lessons learned from six of those inspiring women. Take note!

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Tip No. 1: Steal the Right Way

Who: Brit McDaniel, ceramic artist

What: Paper & Clay

Where: Memphis, Tennessee

"Creative work has been both complicated and glorified by digital media. On one hand, we have this incredible network of peers and customers that has never before been possible, but on the other hand it's become increasingly easy to copy or borrow too closely from other people's work. I firmly believe that artists need to steal ideas, techniques, etc. to grow and improve, but I think the trouble comes when creative professionals are simply copying work instead of stealing inspiration. If I see an idea that I'm drawn to, I try to either make it my own or make it better. If I can't do either of those things, I throw it out."

"I do subscribe to the idea of a collective unconscious (which I believe is stronger than ever thanks to social media and the internet), and sometimes two or more people can come to a similar idea organically. When this happens it's a good test of your confidence in your own work, and it can often help show you areas that need improvement…. When it comes to staying fresh, I sort of turn the tables a bit. If I start to see a lot of work on Pinterest or Etsy that's similar to something I've made, I feel like that's an indication that it's time to push forward and evolve my work."

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Tip No. 2: Every Challenge Is a Lesson in Disguise

Who: Jessica Tata, jewelry designer

What: Son of a Sailor

Where: Austin, Texas

"Attending wholesale trade shows, negotiating deals with large corporations, and dealing with some of the pitfalls and perils that those things come with have strengthened us as businesspeople quite a bit. We know more about what our time and energy and ideas are worth, and how to defend those against exploitation and undervaluing. By necessity we have begun learning about our rights as creative businesspeople and how to approach legal issues. We continue to learn more about financial planning and taking on risk as a business, and are beginning to move toward more comprehensive planning for the future of our company. All of these things come along with the growth of a small business. If you're paying attention, you can't help but learn so much along the way!"

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Tip No. 3: Be Your Own Biggest Cheerleader

Who: Kate Roebuck, painter

What: Kate Roebuck Studio

Where: Chattanooga, Tennessee

"There are always going to be hurdles. Many of them. My thought is that the biggest hurdle for artists is themselves. Self-doubt, frustration, jealousy, distraction...the list goes on! Working on yourself helps eliminate those hurdles, so that you are your best supporter and sharpest tool. I always ask myself, 'If you're not on your side, then who is?'"

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Tip No. 4: Never Stop Creating

Who: Emily Reinhardt, ceramic artist

What: The Object Enthusiast

Where: Kansas City, Missouri

"The thing that keeps me in a forward motion is just staying true to the work I want to make. I have so many ideas in my head that I haven't had time to create in the real world yet. So whenever I'm feeling stuck, I try to spend an hour making one of those ideas that has been waiting for attention. It usually informs a different project, or gets me more motivated to finish something I've been procrastinating on. I can't let those ideas be forgotten, so I'm often motivated to try to get one out. There's always a fear of failure in the back of my head, so I catch myself working like crazy once in a while."

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Tip No. 5: Don't Underestimate the Importance of a Good Work Space

Who: Jesse Levison, printmaker

What: Gold Teeth Brooklyn

Where: Los Angeles, California

"My two-room studio allows for a flexible environment. I usually have a tidy room for new projects and so I can clear my head. My messier printing room lets me throw caution to the wind. I can get ink on the floor or on tables, and I can spread out over my big worktables. Having good light also makes all the difference. I love my windows."

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Tip No. 6: Always Put Yourself First

Who: Sonia Chhinji, candlemaker

What: Woodlot

Where: Vancouver, British Columbia

"Some of the best advice I've received is to take care of ourselves. Always make time to exercise and eat well. It's easy to put your business first and neglect yourself, but when your business is your baby, you need to take care of yourself to make sure you are giving your business everything it needs to thrive. This starts with a healthy and stable founder."

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How to Make It: 25 Makers Share the Secrets to Building a Creative Business by Erin Austen Abbott (Chronicle Books), $17, amazon.com.

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