When Will You Turn Pro?

You know it when you see friends doing it.

They use words that belittle what they do:

“I’m an aspiring artist.”
“I’m a wannabe writer.”
“I’m trying to be a photographer.”

The problem isn’t them though. The problem is you do this to yourself too.

In this essay I’ll lay out exactly why some people are able to “turn pro” (in a Steven Pressfield kind of way), while others are stuck pretending and failing. Plus, we’ll figure out how you will turn pro today.

Why Amateurs Are More Common

It is perhaps easiest to think about this “amateur vs. professional” mindset in terms of athletics.

When you’re getting paid big bucks to play in front of thousands of people in person and millions on television, it’s easier to be in the professional mindset. Your life is your job and your job is your life. You eat, sleep, and breathe whatever sport you’re a pro at.

Amateurs on the other hand may have to balance two or three “jobs” at a time. While they are striving for greatness in one area of expertise they are also working nights and weekends bartending so they can pay rent. They spend hours distracted and feeling sorry for themselves with mental escapes like television, video games, and movies.

The pro put in the hours at the gym after everyone else had left. The pro made no excuses for why they couldn’t do a particular move. They learned how to do it through repetition, dedication, and practice.

The amateur calls it quits early. The amateur looks at a pro and makes excuses for why they should be that successful too. Instead of working harder to get where they want to be, they get jealous and complain to their peers. They blame other people for their own lack of success.

Lucky for you, there is one simple reason that turning pro is easier for you than it ever is for an athlete: gatekeepers.

Why and How You Will Turn Pro Today

Here is the good news.

Going from amateur to professional as a crafter, maker, or business owner isn’t actually under someone else’s control. In fact, it has nothing to do with revenue, analytics, or subscribers either.

You can turn pro today if you want to because all it takes is a commitment to a single decree.

Today I am turning pro. No more excuses. No more complaining. No more bullshit. From this day forward, everything I do will be in pursuit of perfecting my craft, providing value, and staying focused on one project at a time. Tweet this

It is simple, really. You’re committing yourself to a cause. To one cause. To your cause.

You’re putting away your bad habits and unnecessary distractions so you will put your head down and do the work. You’re creating a mindset for dedication, focus, and clarity.

And if you ask anyone that has turned pro, that shift makes all the difference.

Woo-woo Mindset Mumbo Jumbo

Now, I know this is getting out of the technical and step-by-step list posts that cause people to have aneurisms trying to click the share button fast enough, but this mental shift is both life and business changing.

Repeat: Life. And. Business. Changing.

When you start to view things based on whether or not a pro would do it that way, it will revolutionize how you work.

  • Would a pro hire that amazing designer, no matter the cost?
  • Would a pro have a strict content schedule that they never miss?
  • Would a pro track actionable metrics regularly and use them to make big decisions?
  • Would a pro hire an actual accountant instead of wasting a few days each April trying to figure it out themselves?
  • Would a pro get wasted every night at a conference or spend extra hours in their room going through their presentation just one more time?

You get the point. This mindset shift changes how you think about every decision in your business. And once you turn pro, there is no going back.


I’d challenge each and every one of you to sit down on a rainy fall evening, spend an hour reading Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro, make the decision to turn pro, and not remember that moment in time for the rest of your life.

I knew where I was when I turned pro. So does my wife.

Where were you?

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  • http://www.localprofit.co.uk Mike Morrison

    The link between our mindset and the language we use is a funny one. I would always refer to myself as a “freelance web designer” when I first started out, and I cottoned on that I was using the word “freelance” as a replacement for “amateur”.

    Having no formal training and being young in business I was lacking in the self-belief department so I felt as though that gave me an “out” in case things went wrong or my work wasn’t up to scratch.

  • http://webdesignerarsenal.wordpress.com Jotpreet Singh

    Hmm. Turning pro. Seems the way to go. And, being just an amateur for all the time seems to be a waste of whatever you are doing. Turn pro. No excuses. No here & there. No bullshit.

  • http://collegeinfogeek.com Thomas Frank

    I’ve always considered the word “professional” to be a label that comes with some pretty big obligations that you’ll need to be able to fill in order to take in on. The chief one is trust; if you’re a professional at something, then people should feel that they can trust you to do your craft right.

    So if people are putting their direct trust in you – if they’ve got something on the line when they solicit your services – you’d better be able to deliver if you’re going to call yourself a pro. Just being passionate and determined to succeed won’t cut it.

    However, I do agree that telling *yourself* that you’re now a pro – with the intention of using that mindset to drive yourself forward more intensely – is a great thing to do.

  • http://dailydissident.com Brady Thomas

    I know platitudes are used much too frequently but that simple statement in your message changed my life and attitude. Thanks

  • http://TrafficSmartMarketing.com/ Tom Southern

    The difference that drives pros is that they know that they are good at what they do. Not just good but great in many cases. They not only know it, they can feel it. They get told they’re great every day, often many times a day, by fans and other professionals alike.

    Amateurs don’t.

    Amateurs have to struggle with wondering if they’re any good or not. A few people might tell them that they are good. But mostly, they have to draw on their own self belief (if it exists), and trudge through the mire of other people’s b.s. and low self-esteem.

    For those of us not good enough to have praise for our talents heaped upon us every day, we have to make the choice to rise out of the mire, often distancing ourselves from everyone we know and the comfort of mediocrity, to believe in our own talents.

    If we’re lucky, we succeed. And enough people tell us we’re good, that we believe them and grow. And with this growth comes the confidence to ride on our talents and seek out the talent of others for those things we’re not good at, so we can get better at what we are.

    And of course, pros who spend hours perfecting their talents have the time to do so. Time they are allowed to have because they are recognised already for being great.

    This is what really separates pros from amateurs.

  • http://gretchenbehnke.com Gretchen Behnke

    “… staying focused on one project at at time.” Something about that line is helpful. Love Pressfield’s book and this concept. For me, sometimes the question is: Turning Pro at what? The answer is: If you believe in your current project, commit to it, like a Pro.

  • http://naturalhumanperformance.com Jeff Washburn

    I played golf with Tony, a car dealer, that sold his business (not the buildings) and the banker that wrote him the check. I asked Tony, “If I were starting in the car business, what is the one thing you would tell me?” Tony told me to not hire anything to be done that I could do for myself. If the walls needed to be painted, then I and my people should do it. Tony’s point was not to save money by not hiring others, but rather not losing sight of other possibilities.

    Painting the walls can build teams. The salesmen get to think about what makes it comfortable for customers to buy cars. The mechanic may realize that a clean shop attracts people, too.

    Peyton Manning may have the title of quarterback, but he develops receivers. Painting walls can develop mechanics, salesmen and receptionists. Doing your own taxes will make you think about your business structure and decisions. Hiring the accountant to do them doesn’t have to be all about filing your taxes. Pros take people along with them.

  • http://www.woowoothings.com Bo

    Agree that both pro and amateur all start in your head as mindsets. Either way, you are what you believe you are, and you also act accordingly.

    Nice reminder. As you act like a pro, all will follow that mindset. It may take a little while for your actions and mindset to feel comfortable with being a pro, but that’s what it takes to become one.

  • http://www.jasonloveslife.com Jason Love

    I wanted to be an independent artist.
    So I used Kickstarter to fund my first project.
    Now I can say I’m a published Comic Book writer & producer.
    I’ve been struggling again to get focused on the work of creating, so I am going to launch another Kickstarter campaign. Having people waiting for the product (having already paid) is a great motivator to go from messing around as an amateur to thinking like a pro really quickly.

  • http://www.vintagerenewal.com Jeanne Connolly

    This post really spoke to me today. Thank you!! I made sure to quote you on Facebook to inspire my creative friends and printed out your fantastic quote for my own inspiration. Today I am turning pro! No more bullshit.
    xo
    Jeanne Connolly
    http://www.vintagerenewal.com

  • http://rebelmale.com Jack Richards

    Turning Pro. I’ve read the book a few times. Very powerful. As is the War or Art. Where am I? I’m not where I need to be. One day PRO, then one week AMATEUR. It requires consistency of action. It requires an inner confidence that you’re good enough to be a PRO. I believe that one of the reasons why people don’t make the grade is that they don’t believe they’re good enough.

    Consistency + Competence + Confidence = PRO

  • http://justinbrand.com.au/ Justin Brand

    Thanks for this post – Im going to read the book. I think one of the biggest dangers in not adopting a professional mindset and daily routine, is that much of the time we spent learning something is wasted if we don’t put the new knowledge and skills into practice every day.

  • http://naturalhumanperformance.com Jeff Washburn

    One more thing – an important one.

    People look at some professionals as paragons of willpower. That is a mistaken observation because of the work of Emile Coue in the 19th century. Coue discovered one of the few psychological “laws.” That law=> Imagination wins over willpower, but only every time.

    Drug testing utilizes one aspect of the law when they conduct the placebo portion for their controls. This is here the mind games are played in sports.

    I’ve employed the law for 30 years. Basically, you must imagine some future state that is very powerful for you. Alternatively, you can imagine that that cigarette will kill you. If you imagine that one would taste so good, then that imagination will win over your willpower eventually.

    This is one reason why the value proposition is so important to get right.

  • Damian Navas

    I have not finished reading yet, but I found an idea worth of positive and thanking feedback:

    Would a pro… ?

    This is one of those few thing having in mind all day, whatever you’re doing.

    Thanks Caleb. Now I’ll read the rest :)

  • http://microblogger.com/?utm_source=thinktraffic&utm_medium=profile&utm_campaign=comment Jim Wang

    Do you want to be a lion that hunts for his food on the savannah? Or the one that does tricks at the zoo for his meal?

  • http://zenpsychiatry.com Elana Miller

    This is great. I feel I had my own “Turning Pro” moment a few months ago. Not sure why it happened when it did, but I just woke up deciding to take my writing seriously. Once I started doing the work, I started getting the reward almost immediately. I got a spot writing regularly on the Huff Post and have gotten more subscribers to my blog so far today than I did in the entire year prior. Thanks for writing about this important topic!

  • http://ww.WesleyWiley.com Wesley Wiley

    Beautiful & convicting.

  • http://joshmedeski.com Josh Medeski

    Great article Caleb. I’ve turned pro in the past few weeks as Fizzle’s whipping me into shape. For too long I’ve been saying I want to be a writer, and now I’m doing it!

    I’ve also been a web designer for years, but I’m realizing that you have to position yourself as a pro so that other pros will notice you. I’ve been working with amateurs for too long (and in turn that made me an amateur).

    I’m now a pro, and I love it! This article came at the perfect time for me :)

  • http://www.linkedinprofilewritingservices.com Matt

    A great quote from Michael Jordan- “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Commit to something and great things follow.

  • http://www.simplelifecelebrations.com Shawna Cevraini

    This is exactly what my hubby and I have been talking about. We have continually jumped in to new things and kinda play around a little (amateurs) and then we’ve wondered why these endeavors have failed! This is why!

    We haven’t set up the plan seriously on the calendar. We haven’t laid out and tracked and measured progress. Yes, you can overdo it on those things too – spending too much time with the numbers can affect creativity. But…we’ve barely scratched the surface! There’s no point fretting about overdoing it when we’re not actually doing anything!

    I’d say it’s time for the Cev’s to turn pro! Thanks for this!

  • Chase Reeves

    “Now, I know this is getting out of the technical and step-by-step list posts that cause people to have aneurisms trying to click the share button fast enough…” Ha!

  • http://sorsaw.com Hubert Sawyers III

    There have been queues from the universe leading to me reading this. I don’t read everything, but I seem to read it when I need to.

    I must agree. I am an amateur. The struggles I currently deal with now are due to me not fully committing. I’m doing too much and not really good at anything.

    This must stop. Like, today.

    I will say I am getting a bit better every day. Thing is, I need to have a better sense of what success looks like. Kudos to Stephen Pressfield and Caleb. Bravo.

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  • http://www.shadeofinfo.com Andrew M. Warner

    Really good post here,

    I find that many people with the amateur mindset (sometimes) are those that are always looking to take shortcuts. They want to make money easily and not have to work hard for it. They want to try and “cheat” the system (Google) and take every shortcut to try and get ranked instead of doing it ethically.

    Alot of people have that amateur mindset and I think that if you have that mindset, you have to acknowledge that mindset and be willing to work to become a pro.

    You mentioned one thing here that for some reason, stood out to me. “Would a pro hire an actual accountant instead of wasting a few days each April trying to figure it out themselves?”

    I use to try and do absolutely everything in my business by myself and I realized that I was spending more time wasting away doing tasks that I wasn’t good at (ie. Website design, eBook Cover Designs, proofreading, etc) rather than hire professionals in those fields. Another thing for a pro mindset, is to know to work on what YOU’RE good at and be willing to outsource the rest.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this post.

  • http://www.blogete.com Lakhyajyoti

    Great post. It changed my mindset completely. Surely I’ll follow all the tips to become a Pro. Thanks for the share.

  • http://www.loganthompson.me Logan Thompson

    Awesome post Caleb. I think it’s easier for people to think of pro and amateur in sports, but when you put it in business terms, I’m guessing the majority of people would put themselves in the amateur category. I love this mindset of considering you’re a pro at business and running things as such.

  • http://kcprocter.com ThatGuyKC

    Damn you guys! Just when I think the awesome sauce is finally run dry y’all open the valve wide on the back of the truck and drown us. Jerks.

    Here’s what I believe. I believe that if you’ve been involved in creating online content (I know you hate that word, but even Corbett admitted there isn’t another suitable catch all alternative) for more than 3 months and you’ve read anything resembling Seth Godin, Copyblogger, Think Traffic or Jeff Goins that you already know what you need to do.

    If someone were to ask me the same questions I ask of guys like you, I’d give them the exact same answer! We already know what needs to be done. We just need to grow a pair of hairy cajones and have the testicular fortitude to do it.

    Put your phone down. Close down Facebook. Exit out of email.

    CREATE!

  • http://erikaawakening.com Erika

    This is a really strong message. And although I’ve already been very successful at this location-independent entrepreneur thing, TBH after reading you article I may install some new habits.

    The biggest thing I see with people who don’t make it is they don’t want it enough. When I first started trying to make sales, I totally sucked at it. And for a while I sat around and made excuses but then I had to make the decision you’re mentioning here … I could either stay in my day job for the rest of eternity pining away for a new life … or I could put my foot down with myself and go pro. I went pro and never looked back.

    Thank you :)

  • http://heksebua.com/ Linda Ursin

    I know where I was :) I was at home. It was almost three years ago. I now am the multi-creative heathen witch gone magical life coach 100%

  • http://www.jasonloveslife.com/ Jason Love

    This is still one of my favorite blog posts.

  • http://livetogivecoaching.com/ Jason Pockrandt

    Adam Wernecke just turned Pro. I am glad that I was able to be a part of that with him. Thank You Caleb. Also were the answers to all the questions but the last a yes? Thought so.

  • http://www.carolinefrenette.com/ Intuitive Leadership Coach

    Love this book by Pressfield: it helped me kick my butt into gears and make some important tweeks to my lifestyle so that it can support my success.

  • http://creatro.com/ Sean Hodge

    Great post Caleb.

    One point I’d add is that it’s okay to turn pro slowly.

    Just incrementally add one more professional activity to your workflow and you’re becoming more pro, try to do that weekly and monthly.

    Maybe you still got wasted at the last conference—whoops, but this month you are successfully committing to a publishing schedule—yippee. It’s often a two steps forward one step back path for me. But over time I improve bit by bit.

    For me personally, I’m super pro at a few things now and a struggling amateur at all too many others. So, even after looking at yourself and work professionally and committing to positive change, it’s often a tough, muddy road forward. And that’s okay.

    It is a big deal to make that mental shift and focus on going pro though; it’s a defining moment. Thanks.

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