How to Become a Professional at Your Craft

A professional is someone who gets paid. Someone who is respected for their craft, who’s taken seriously. So… what’s holding you back from being a professional?

Maybe the answer is you.

Become a professional
Photo credit: Matthew Keefe (Creative Commons)

Recently, I had a conversation with Aaron McHugh and Justin Lukasavige for a podcast they co-hosted (I was the guest). They asked a lot of great questions, and it was a fun dialogue about comfort, calling, and building genuine relationships online.

I have a lot of conversations like this but rarely get to record them. I thought the insights were valuable and might be interesting to some of you. So I asked if I could share it on my blog, and they were kind enough to let me.

Listen to the interview


Download the MP3

Show highlights

Here are some of the highlights from the show:

  • How I found and developed my writing voice
  • What it takes to connect with influential people online
  • When I stopped acting the amateur and finally turned pro with my craft
  • The 1000-hour rule of proficiency and practice
  • Why artists need to claim their craft before they create their best work
  • How to serve your way into influential relationships and get people to take you seriously

Be sure to check out Aaron’s site. He has a lot of great thought bombs. Justin also has a great site, full of helpful content. They’re both good. 🙂


If you want to hear more of these types of interviews (or have a podcast that you want to interview me for), check out my Media page.

When did you become a professional? Or are you still waiting to become who you are? Share in the comments.

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means that if you buy the above books, I get a commission at no extra expense to you.

47 thoughts on “How to Become a Professional at Your Craft

  1. I’m still waiting to be brave enough to face my fears and write fiction 🙂 Nonfiction is no biggie, it’s my work. But fiction.. it’s my love and yet it scares me to death ha!

  2. I’ve treated writing as a job (albeit a part-time one for the most part) since I began pursuing publication years ago. Once I had some work published and got paid for it, that made it easier to consider myself a professional. When asked what I do, it took me awhile to graduate from saying, “Oh, I do some writing” to “I’m a writer,” but I’m there now. I’m a writer! 🙂

  3. This is a wonderful interview.  Thanks for sharing, Jeff!  I’ve been following your blog for a few months.  Even though my own creativity focuses more on painting than writing (I do both), your insights are often applicable to any kind of creative work.  Thanks so much for doing what you do and sharing it with us.

  4. At the moment I’m having to homeschool my disabled son. It’s not paid, the hours are terrible, there is little respect from society at large and motherhood in general has the social standing of dog poo collector. I’ve had to put on hold my university course. I write when I can. People ask ‘do you work?’ I say ‘yes, but I don’t get paid.’ I am a thorough professional, however, in my approach. I have to be. Otherwise I’d crack. 

  5. I’m a huge fan of Steven Pressfield- “The War of Art” was life changing for me. I haven’t  read Turning Pro yet but I suspect it’s just as powerful so thanks for sharing it. 

    I did want to mention an idea that I think you failed to include and that is the aspect of Gods timing. While turning pro does require a definite proactive movement, for the believer, it also requires seeking Gods will. 

    Over two years ago God revealed some things to me, and I used the word revealed over called because the impression was very direct, more like this *is* your future. Not only was I caught off guard, I was terrified. 
    So I began to pray. A lot. I would get confirmation after confirmation, yet so much wasn’t clear. It was like having pieces of a puzzle but no picture to go by. 

    Over time I became impatient. I was eager to move into His plans for me. Over and I over I asked Him to open doors, prepare the way. 
    During this time I was doing my homework. Honing my craft. But I was also just living. Waiting. 

    Sometimes, the waiting seemed unbearable. So much seemed to elude me. I’d study your advice on blogging. I’ve read countless books on writing, speaking, following Gods call. But it was still cloudy. 

    Until yesterday. In one day-ONE DAY! It all came clear. It was amazing! I saw how He had opened doors, prepared people, places, even markets to receive the message He gave me! 
    I prayed for two years Jeff! I wanted it sooner. But I now see I wasn’t ready. And Gods timing is so much better now that He’s revealed my path. It’s like a super-charged light bulb has come on and all that you’ve said just clicked for me in one day. 
    So, while I agree moving to a new level does require a concentrated effort, I also believe -if God is leading us- His timing is best. Praying for that is the first-and most important- step. 

    1. I think you’re right: timing is certainly important. In my case, I felt called by God to the work. As with many callings, it was something I avoided for a long time.

    2. I could not agree more, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to read about someone else’s trust in God. Listening, waiting and trusting are not easy things to do. God knows when the timing is right, but truly giving up control sucks. It’s really hard! But once you do, even if it’s just admitting to Him “I want this to happen now, I know I have to wait, I’m not happy about it but at least I’ll try to accept it” you WILL feel a change. And the greatest part? You won’t realize it! Not right away anyway.

      My story is just like yours Pam. He brought the paths together when I finally gave up trying, and today my life’s path is CRUISIN’ toward the happiness I asked for. And knowing He is with me provides a comfort unlike any other!

      Thanks for sharing your faith!

  6. Thanks for this. The reminder of being identified by the way I serve and finding ways to serve rather than constantly promoting my agenda was something I needed to hear today.

  7. I read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield at your suggestion, Jeff. It was great. I haven’t read “Turning Pro” yet, but I will. Who I just discovered at your suggestion was Seth Godin. I LOVE how he thinks! Oh my goodness! Anyway, I am definitely going to start reading his books too. I wish I had more time in the day to read. LOL. By the way, you rock!

  8. There’s not a day I come here that my blood doesn’t flows a little faster. It’s the call–the one I  hear inside my head and then I hear it echoed here. Professional writer? It will definitely be a fun adventure from bean-counter. I can see it on the horizon…

  9. I claim professional status as a writer. When I submit articles to magazines, I am rarely rejected. So I have published. I can’t say the same for book manuscripts. However, I really started to claim my professional status when I realized that I was no longer asking permission to write what I am supposed to write. I used to dither about markets and readers and  followers. I worried that people would dislike or reject or worst of all scorn what I had to say. I don’t do that any more.
    After I participated in Michael Hyatt’s launch team, I focused on his admonition about content. I realized that I had been too prone to test the breeze before I wrote anything. God didn’t call me to be a a weathervane. God called me to be a leader. I’m not a project manager or an executive or the president — I’m not that kind of leader.
    I’m more like the guide for the wagon train, or the guide for an expedition to summit Everest. I study the lay of the land, watch for weather, prepare for hazards. Sometimes I hold up a lamp to help other people see what I see. Sometimes I talk about the map and help people understand what all the symbols mean.
    What I discovered is that my work is about each day as it comes along. I have two book manuscripts in the works, but I they continually need revision as I learn new things, and besides, they interfere with blogging. My real work is my blog. It takes a lot of reading and research to write the material I need to write, and a book manuscript doesn’t fit in.
    So, I’m not being paid, but I am working as a professional writer. I could be paid if I chose to write books and magazine articles, and I might do that later, but right now there is so much to write for my blog that I don’t have time for the other options. I discipline myself to my posting calendar, and I use that calendar to keep me current and faithful to my core focus.
    Which, by the way, is continually being refined. I feel like Michelangelo who said that he sculpted by chipping away all the unnecessary stone until the work of art emerged. I am constantly reshaping my focus, yet it is always a refinement rather than a change of direction. As each chip falls away, the real shape becomes more obvious.
    I’m not sure if God is calling me to be paid in any way. I feel that the things I learn and the growth I experience is beyond any remuneration I might receive. God provides for my life’s needs. I know that I am a professional, because I am following my unique call to be my unique self. I am a professional writer.

  10. I actually feel like more of a professional fine artist now than ever now that I have some small amount of recognition from a gallery. Earlier this summer, a gallery in Boston called me out of the blue. Long story short, I created a painting for them for a particular show of work that my style fits into nicely. So I suppose it’s not so much that I’ve turned pro as it is that I’ve finally gained some amount of validation for what I do. And believe me, The Resistance is stronger than before. I imagine it will get even stronger as I progress.

  11. I’m on my way Jeff. It’s been  a rough road so far but I’m learning that all professionals need to do is put one foot in front of the other and continue towards the goal.

  12. I just found this blog today through a list of articles that someone listed. I have to say: I’ve never been stuck to a blog as quickly as I was to yours! I absolutely love this interview, and I think that your writing is extremely helpful.

    I am most definitely one of the writers/artists who needs to get out there in the world.

    This is an extremely helpful piece of information – and very inspiring!

    Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned, my friend. It’s impressive to hear, and inspiring to read. 

  13. By definition I became a professional writer (that is, I was paid for an article) in 1983. But in practical terms I didn’t become professional until recently when I took steps to act like it. This included:

    1) Saying with confidence, “I am a writer.”
    2) Taking steps to improve as a writer.
    3) Having a professionally designed website.
    4) Having “writer” business cards.
    5) Pitching a book idea.

  14. This is a GREAT interview for where I am today.  After our first Atlanta blogger gathering (where Jeff skyped in) I started toying around with starting my own blog to communicate the things I’m passionate about – I’ve been working toward the blog launch for about 3 months and learning a ton about how to market it but still it’s terrifying to put yourself and your writing out there in this way.  Thanks for the encouragement I needed to continue to move forward! 

    1. Kathryn-You are in good company.  I believe starting is a large part of the initial challenge.  As you say putting yourself and your writing out there can be awkward.  I believe Jeff is a good model as he speaks to his transition from writing what he hoped people would like instead of writing from his own internal voice.  Good luck to you on your journey. 

  15. Jeff, I’ve been following your blog for several months and your posts have served as a nudge in the “write” direction.  Please thank Aaron and Justin for allowing you to share this interview!  

  16. Great interview Jeff, you’re right, amazing content! I remember the first time a non friend or family member bought my book, I still have the email 🙂 It’s a blessing to get paid to do something you’re passionate about!

  17. Thanks Jeff for the thought provoking advice.  I think I need to listen to your interview again.  There was so much there that really spoke to me.  I’m new to claiming what I am.  People have been saying to me, “You’re an artist, so…” and I never felt worthy to claim that.  I AM an artist/illustrator.  (And a writer who is finally out of the closet!)  I always have been and I appreciate the encouragement you give not only in this interview but through out your blog.  I look forward to each new post.  I know that finding your blog is a little extra grace given for my own journey which I just started to do seriously by starting my own blog to keep me accountable and motivated.  Thanks again.  You really help!

  18. Great podcast, Jeff. Inspired me to read ‘Turning Pro’ after I listened, which of course is silly good. Thanks for all you’re doing to encourage the me’s of the blog world. 


  19. Don’t know what happened to the comment I posted a second ago…

    Great podcast, Jeff. Loved the info. After listening, I was inspired to read ‘Turning Pro.’ What a great book. Thanks for all you’re doing to help the me’s of the blog world! 

  20. For some reason, my comments aren’t sticking. 
    So, this is a test. 

    Really enjoyed the podcast, Jeff. Fabulous content. Inspired me to finally read Turning Pro. Soooooooo glad I did!

  21. I really enjoyed listening to this and found it very relevant. I know I’m being true to my art by putting in all these hours, even during those times when others (why are they always from high school?) frown and talk about salaries.  I could have been a $uccessful ______, but I’m so blessed to be a writer.
    Thank you for this, and I look forward to reading your other posts,
    Jennie Alice

  22. Jeff, I had some time to listen tonight, and it was nice to connect your audible voice with your written one.  I don’t get to read as much here as I’d like, but I get some good ideas from from you and would like to thank you for being so gracious to your readers.

  23. I’m not a professional writer, I keep more words and ideas in my head then the ones that manage to make it to paper or a computer blog, or e-mail or……. I still have  writer’s bump  on my middle finger of my right hand. You used to aways tell a writer by looking at their hands.
    What stops me and most people to taking their love/passion to another level is Fear.

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