How to make grownup money doing what you love by getting honest about who is willing to pay you for it with Take The Leap author Sara Bliss

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Sara Bliss liked her career writing for prestigious magazines, but she loved being able to pay her bills and have the financial freedom she deserved for her hard work, even more. So she decided to write for clients who had the budgets to pay her more, and has never looked back. She also shares tips on how to level-up careers from her bestselling book "Take The Leap".

In Sara's money story you will learn:

I hustled a lot and wrote for everyone, and when you need to make money that is actually a great career motivator.

I started in the art world, and I realized, pretty quickly, it just wasn't for me. I felt like we were moving art from one Park Avenue apartment to another, and I just wasn't super psyched about how much art sold for, which is what you have to be focused on if you're in that world.

I was writing all the time, on the side, so I took a writing for magazines class at NYU at night. Then, I ended up getting hired at House Beautiful, as an assistant, and then, that led to a whole magazine writing career. A few years later, I started freelancing, and I wrote a couple books, and that really took off.

Bobbi Rebell - Let's go back and talk about the money situation. So, first of all, the money, when you're working in the art business, how does the money work there? What would be your path, at that point, as a desk assistant, working at the front of an auction house, doing all these other tasks? What was that picture like, and then, what was it like transitioning to being a writer, from a financial standpoint?

Well, the job at Christie's actually paid hourly, with no benefits. It was ridiculous. It was basically designed for people who have wealthy parents. I needed to make money, but then, I chose another career, where you don't make a ton of money, starting out, which was in magazines. But, I was salaried, and I had benefits, and I made a little bit more than I did at Christie's, so that was exciting.

Bobbi Rebell - Was that first job your dream job?

It wasn't. It was my dream job to be in magazines, but it wasn't to be writing about design. I wanted to be in women's magazines, but you get pigeonholed really early, even if you want to change your career. If you don't have stuff on your resume, that directly correlates to what you want to do, people just can't see it, even at a super young age, I think.

So, for me, that writing for magazines job, was kind of crucial to getting me there, but the stuff that I was writing and publishing, in small local papers, was about art and design, because I had that experience, so it made sense. So, even from my first job, I always wanted to leap, and keep leaping, so I've always had that mentality.

Bobbi Rebell - Let's talk about that. You were constantly trading up jobs and assignments. How did you get to a level where, financially, it was sustainable to be a writer?

I went freelance way sooner than I should have, in all honesty, because I got married, and my husband was in business school in Boston. We had plan to leave New York for a couple years, and I saw, from being on the editorial side, that actually, the freelancers did pretty well. At that time, a feature story for a magazine, averaged around $2,000. Then, I got a book assignment pretty early on. So, you can make a living. It wasn't a huge amount of money. It was definitely under six figures, but I hustled a lot, and wrote for everyone, and when you need to make money, that's actually a great career motivator.

I did well at my career, because I needed to make an income. It wasn't just like a fun, hobby job for me, it was a serious career, but then, in 2008, the financial crisis really ended up affecting my industry. That, combined with the advent of the internet, has really killed magazines, and also has really devalued my work as a writer.

Bobbi Rebell - So now, how have you adjusted and pivoted, to maintain financial viability?

The key for me, was I realized early on, that ... or pretty quickly into this, that a lot of the brands I wrote about, they started wanting branded content. They wanted to create their own in-house magazines, or their own online blogs. They wanted copy that sounded really enticing and cool, and the way it would in a magazine, if a editorial writer was writing about it. So, I jumped onboard with that bandwagon, and I've worked for some amazing clients. I've worked for Bobbi Brown and Estee Lauder, and Erin, and Rosebud Hotels. I've done all that, and it's wonderful, because the brands pay a lot better than editorial now.

Editorial now, if you're writing on the internet, you can get, sometimes, your pay based on your traffic, which is ridiculous. Sometimes, you're paid based on assignment, and that's anywhere from 50-$250 for an editorial online assignment. It pays a little better if you write for the magazines, but those assignments are less and less and less. So, branding has been the key, for me, to financial viability, in this career.

In Sara’s money lesson you will learn:

I did well at my career because I needed to make an income.

I think the lesson is, you really need to see the direction your industry is going. I really saw, pretty quickly, that magazines were shrinking, and that opportunities were less and less. I can pretty much write for any editorial outlet, but if I want to have a career, and be financially successful, I had to really lessen the editorial side, and up the branding side. I'm actually okay with that. I love the branding work that I do. I'm very happy that I can make money from it, and that I can add value. It allows me, to then, take on projects that I really love, and think need to be out in the world, like Take the Leap.

In Sara's everyday money tip you will learn:

70% of the people in my book are making more money at their new careers than they were at their previous careers.

I am a bit of a cheapskate. I hate spending money on things that don't matter. When we go out to lunch or breakfast, or a bite with our kids, we always have the kids order water. I hate it when they want to order like mango smoothies, that cost like $10 each, and all that adds up. And the-

Bobbi Rebell - Yeah. They're not necessarily ... Mango smoothies are not really bad for you, but they are sugary. Water is better, I would argue.

Yeah. It's like soda and apple juice, and of all, it's just so expensive and silly. The next step that we're supposed to do, that I read about in a magazine, was to put that money, that you would save on the drinks, into a savings account for your kids, and then they can see the benefit of making those kind of small choices, and how quickly they add up.

Bobbi - I like that. You're taking it to the next level, so they're making the commitment.

In My Take you will learn:

Financial Grownup Tip Number One - I'm going to reveal something, that I don't actually talk about directly on this show, but I think you guys should really understand how money works, in a lot of somewhat creative industries. I did what Sara did, only for on-camera work. I looked at the time involved, and the pay tied to working in editorial content, on-camera work for a corporation, and I made a career pivot, to doing more working in partnerships with brands.

Not only does it pay more, I truly love the work. So, think about what you do now, and if there is a different kind of employer, or a different kind of client, that will have the financial resources to pay you more, for the work that you already love to do.

Financial Grownup Tip Number Two - I want to add to what Sara said about learning a new craft, and being real about what it takes. For example, when I decided to talk more about personal finances, as opposed to the stock market and economic news that I covered as a journalist, before writing my book, I decided to become a Certified Financial Planner. It was so challenging, guys. Tears of exhaustion and frustration, were involved on a regular basis, but I did it, so I could make a career transition, with the street cred that I wanted.

I encourage and support all of you to do the same in your ventures. Sara's mantra is, "Begin anyhow." You are ready now. This is the time to take control. Please be in touch. Let me know what you are doing to level up your career, and the money you earn.

Episode Links:

Blinkist - The app I’m loving right now. Please use our link to support the show and get a free trial.

Sara’s website -

Sara’s Book Take the Leap

Barbara Corcoran’s Financial Grownup episode

Christina Alger’s Financial Grownup episode

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