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13 Steps To Actually Make Your Career Dream A Reality

Freelance artist Pavel Sokov went from an office job to painting a commissioned portrait for Time magazine in less than a year. He shared some tips with BuzzFeed Life on how (and when) to take the plunge.

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Pavel Sokov’s life changed forever the day he quit his stable job in marketing and moved to California to attend an art program.

In less than a year, he went from a predictable career in a field he didn’t like, to getting a commission from Time to paint Vladimir Putin for the Person of the Year issue. Sokov spoke to BuzzFeed Life about what it took for him to finally quit his day job.

1. Recognize when a hobby is really your passion.

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"I have always been drawing, as all kids tend to do, but never really stopped," Sokov told BuzzFeed Life. "When I was around 13 I discovered digital painting and have been digitally painting in my free time ever since."

2. Don’t be discouraged by early failures.

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While he was in his marketing job, Sokov was trying to paint on the side but it just wasn’t enough.

“I would sell an adorable amount of prints to people on Reddit of my Louis C.K. painting, and would do sadly paid commissions for friends. Unfortunately, by the time I got home from work, made food, ate it, washed the dishes it was usually 9:45 to 10 p.m., which left me with an hour of painting at home a day.”

3. Stop waiting for contentment to find you.

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"I spent two years working in marketing, waiting for the moment when the amount of money I was getting would somehow offset the reality of not doing what I love. That moment never came, of course, because you can't get enough of what you don't really want."

4. Reconsider your assumptions.

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"I have always wanted to be an artist but I fell for several mainstream narratives: that artists cannot make money, a job should not be enjoyable, and that having security/money will make me happy."

5. Take risks, and know that they are risks.

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"Last year, with more fear and trepidation than I care to admit I put in a two-month notice (right before I was supposed to get a raise), and moved near San Diego to attend Watts Atelier, where I learned traditional oil painting and drawing."

6. Take the biggest risks while you are still young.

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"As a young person you have not only crazy amounts of energy (I haven't taken a day off in over three months, and am still alive; this probably isn't doable when I'm 50) but also a really high risk tolerance because not a lot depends on you. "

7. Work really, really hard.

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"I took 16 different classes a week, which amounted to 48 hours a week of class, plus work at home if we could manage it. [At first] everything I made looked like a child made it."

8. Work long hours.

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"All I really did was do art, come home, spend time with a girl I met if I could manage it, sleep a little bit on the floor on a way expired mattress (my spinal column became crooked as a result of that terrible mattress, haha, I had to get it realigned when I got back to Montreal after), and go back to class the next day. No days off."

9. Don’t expect results right away.

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"Being upset that your first oil paintings aren't turning out is almost rude in a way, because it is saying that you don't think you need to put in the work to get your teacher's results."

10. With success comes even more work.

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When he got the email about the Time portrait, Sokov was still at the Atelier so he had to complete the portrait in addition to his course load.

“I think at one point I hallucinated from being too tired. It took 40 to 45 hours or so, and most of my dreams during that period were about painting Putin's pores. I finished it a day early, sent it in, and they loved it. Somehow I went from painting Reddit's dogs to a Time Person of the Year.”

11. Know that success doesn’t (usually) mean stability.

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In any freelance career, work (which also means money) can come in waves.

"You can no longer expect a steady stream," Sokov said. "It is very feast or famine. Right now is amazing, two months from now may be crickets."

12. Learn from later failures.

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When Sokov first started oil painting in school, he wasn't any good.

"I remember looking at what I made and thinking, Holy shit, I quit my job to produce this? We went home that day and were too sad to attend the next class. And that is how I learned the most important skill at the Atelier: how to make terrible work and be OK with it, because you don't deserve to make good stuff yet."

13. Prepare for your whole life to change.

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"My entire brain is rewired completely and I am an entirely new person. I have developed understandings that would probably have eluded me my whole life if it wasn't for this. Life now feels like an adventure with a mission, and not the stale boring routine it was before. I determine the outcomes in my life now, and that is terribly exciting."

See more of Sokov's work on his website, and follow his adventures in art on Tumblr.

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