Mike Burton always wanted to be a rapper. The 38-year-old began making music when he was 15. While he was "going to school, working at Domino's, working at McDonald's, I'm still rapping," he says. "That's still what I'm doing in my breaks, in my free time, on my weekend. It's never stopped."
Burton, who's based in Houston, graduated from the University of Houston in 2013 and ended up working at a call center. He used freelancer marketplace Fiverr to hire a graphic designer for some of his solo rap work and eventually discovered people offer their rapping skills on the site as well.
In 2015, he decided to give it a try. By December 2016, when he was let go from his call center job, Burton was bringing in thousands from Fiverr.
Today, Burton's working full time as a rapper on the site, writing original verses for people and making up to $9,000 per month. He's thrilled to have a found a backdoor into the job of his dreams. Here's his career advice for new grads looking to find work doing what they love.
First, never stop honing your skills.
"I didn't think this was a possibility," says Burton about his job. "But I knew I had an obsession with studying the craft." He'd study music making by watching YouTube videos on how to produce, for example, and give himself challenges like writing a song per day. "I guess I became a master" even before getting paid to do it, he says.
"Be voracious and reading about what you're doing and watching other people who have done it," he says. "Stay a perpetual student of any craft" you want to master so when the opportunity arises, you'll be able to dive right in.
Even as you fine tune your skills, look for opportunities to apply them.
"Whatever it is that you do, look at where it's used and how it's used," he says. Burton noticed people needed original music in mediums like television. So he bought books to try to figure out how he might get his foot in the door in that way. He'd also recommend new grads reach out to people in their network doing work in the realm of what they're interested in to learn more.
"There's always resources," he says. "As long as you keep asking questions, you'll find an answer."
Ultimately, Burton would recommend new grads follow their passion.
"Anything where you just have so many questions and you stay up late troubleshooting or stay up late reading about it, you just have an excitement to just know the ins and outs of it," he says. "Don't drop that."
It might not be paying the bills right now, but the kinds of work people are hiring or looking for changes constantly, and there might be a future you're not even aware of that opens a doorway into that dream.
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