When I Grow Up: Becoming a Web Developer and Choreographer

Happy Wednesday! This week I'm excited to introduce you to another amazing woman from the Being Boss group - Tara King. She's a web developer and a choreographer. Or a choreographer and web developer, whichever you prefer :) 

When I Grow Up: Web Developer and Choreographer || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

As a child, I wanted to be a ­______ when I grew up. Depending on when you asked: a ballerina, a jockey, the President of the United States, a writer, an environmentalist, a paleontologist, a journalist, and/or a forensic pathologist.

How close (or far) is your current career from that dream? I'm not a ballerina, though I do choreograph and perform professionally.  I'm not a writer, but I do write for my dance company, my design blog, and myself.  And although I'm getting bossier by the day, I'm definitely not the President. 

What is your official job title? I don't have one! But when I need to make it clear what I do, I usually say I'm a web designer and choreographer. Sometimes I flip it and put choreographer first. Depending on who I'm talking to, sometimes I'll just say one or the other. 

Ok, now what does that really mean? What I am, really, is somebody trying to make things more awesome in a variety of venues. 

It means I do two very different kinds of work, but they closely relate.  I make dances and perform them with Mad King Thomas, a choreographic collaboration I formed ten years ago with two friends from college.  I also help other artists with a variety of design and technical problems, from creating instructional posters and websites, coding phone trees for interactive art projects, teaching them how to use Twitter, and other fun things. 

What is a typical day like? I wake up around 8:15 but I'm a painfully slow person in the morning, so I get to my desk a little before ten. I make a list of tasks before bed so I know what to do and don't have to think too hard.  I have a standing desk, which means I spend most of my day dancing while I work. My dance company is remote these days, so we have skype calls to plan our upcoming shows and work on our next piece.  I go for a walk in the afternoon with my partner, who also works from home (and doesn't mind the incessant dance party).  We have lunch together most days. I try to wrap it up by 6 pm.

The specific tasks I might do in a day: Write a blog post, respond to client inquiries, work on my upcoming website-building workshop materials, make a dance film, promote our kickstarter (it was funded!), reach out to arts service organizations for partnerships, interact with the arts community online, take a dance class, send invoices, go to a show in the evenings, design a logo, and more.

When I Grow Up - Choreographer || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

How did you end up in this career? I'll tackle the dance part first:  I was in dance classes from the time I was five, but I was never the star of the class so I didn't expect to become a professional dancer.  I went to a liberal arts college with a very small, non-degree dance department.  Unlike a lot of arts schools, this department taught me a LOT about how to produce a show, cast a piece, make a dance, and all that. The practical stuff. So I got a haphazard, but hands-on education in the real work of showbiz.  My two friends and I made a dance together for fun, and found the work of collaboration very exciting and fun.  So...long story short, we decided to spend a year in the Twin Cities making a go of it in the dance scene there.  A year eventually turned into ten years and we're still at it (though we are now working remotely, not just in the Twin Cities). 

The design/web thread starts in high school when my history teacher asked me to join the newspaper staff.  I learned to do layout and how to use QuarkXPress there, which gave me an in at my college's design department for my work/study job--creating posters, brochures and flyers for various events at the school.

So, when we graduated, the two threads come together:  Suddenly Mad King Thomas had to promote itself, so I volunteered to use all these on-the-job design experiences to make postcards.  Then I started making postcards for other artists as a side hustle.  After about 4 years I was tired of juggling my two side hustles (dance & design) along with a full-time job.  But... I was embarrassed to go into design full-time since I didn't know how to make a website. My partner offered to help me learn and I got into building Drupal sites, and finally, in 2012 I made the leap to full-time self-employment as a dancer/designer/developer.

Tara King, Web Developer and Choreographer || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

What kind of education or training did you complete for this career? I didn't get any formal education or training in either field. It's all been project-based. I learned to sew costumes for a show.  I learned to design by doing it, over and over again.  I have gone to lots of free or low-cost trainings; there are plenty of free or cheap meet-ups to learn technical skills.  I have taken dance classes all my life, and as I moved into the professional dance world, I started investing in intensives and workshops with master teachers.

I also spend a lot of time reading obsessively on both subjects.  Going to lots of dance shows, looking at lots of print & web design.

What advice would you give to someone who wants a similar career? First, get in touch with me because I want to know you! I've yet to meet anyone who does what I do, or wants to. Second, have faith that it is possible.  Everyone I meet looks at me and says, "You work with artists? But they don't have any money." Which is not true! But you do have to look longer for them and hear more nos than other people, maybe.

Second, if you're thinking of going out on your own: make the leap before you're ready.  You'll never be ready.

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Do you have any other career dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up? I'm a hobby writer and have always wanted to write full-time. So that might be my next side hustle. I just finished writing a poem every day for 100 days.  A lot of them are not great, but I have 100 more poems done and they got better as I went.  Now I'm going to make a website to house them and see where that goes.

Any last thoughts or encouragement for others trying to decide what they want to do “when they grow up”? Find some small way you can start today--whether that's writing yourself an encouraging note, or buying a domain name. Don't sit around waiting for something to call your name; get to work and you'll find what you want to do.

Also, please ignore anyone who says you can't do what you want to do. They have no idea what they're talking about.

Thank you so much for sharing Tara! If you'd like to learn more, you can visit her design site at www.sparklingrobots.com or her dance site at www.madkingthomas.com. Also, Tara's dance company is having their tenth anniversary show this weekend! Congratulations Tara!

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