Name: Sarah Coloma
Main Hustle: During the day, I work at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine. There I ensure instructional continuity for the Clinical Educational Program, so basically I work with students to help them navigate medical school and faculty to assist with coordinating educational activities.
Side Hustle: On the side I create watercolor paintings and prints, as well as commissioned portraits. I can also do custom cards, postcards, and other stationery.
How did you get started?: I had a burst of inspiration to start a hobby in late 2017 as New Year’s was approaching, but it turned out to be a resolution that I quickly gave up. I bought a $5 watercolor set at IKEA to start, but it sat on my shelf for months until my first Paint and Sip at a friend’s place. I noticed that it put me into a kind of meditative state—you really have to focus on the lines that you see, translating that onto paper—and I loved it.
The first painting I did on my own started at 8:00 PM, and once I was done, I looked at the clock and realized it was 1:00 AM, so I knew I had a great hobby.
After posting some of my work to Instagram and telling friends and coworkers, one of them approached me for a commission: an original watercolor piece of her dog. That was this past fall. She asked whether I would pursue it and continue to try and expand my horizons of what I could accomplish with it. No, I told her. At that point I didn’t think I was at any level to attempt an Etsy Shop or think of the possibilities beyond that.
Since then I’ve done numerous commissions and created prints.
When/where do you work on your Side Hustle?: I work before and after my main hustle. So basically anywhere from 5-7:00 AM and 5-10:00 PM. I usually work just from my room at home, but I think that it’s important to mix up your environment in order to spark your creativity.
What are the challenges of your Side Hustle?: I think the biggest challenge of this particular side hustle is time. There’s only so much time you have, and you have to constantly challenge yourself and the thoughts your brain creates—all of those procrastinating thoughts about every night being for Netflix—to keep you from achieving your goals.
Calendaring has been immensely helpful in managing my time, naturally, as well as challenging any thoughts that hinder me from reaching my goals in my business.
What are the rewards of your Side Hustle?: It is so fulfilling to know that when I create a portrait for someone they are giving it to someone they love and commemorating and celebrating that person.
I am also proud of myself for having created a business and expanded my understanding of art. I’ve learned new artistic techniques, as well as how to price my artwork or how to account for my expenses as a business owner.
It’s also taught me about the power of consistency and time management. I now aim to wake up before 6:00 AM to get in time for writing or admin or painting before my 9-5. At night sometimes I have to say no to commitments to make time for this goal, and it’s been an important lesson in the value and benefit of constraint.
Who is your greatest supporter?: By far my boyfriend who has always cheered me on and been a vocal supporter of my business. He is always encouraging me whenever I plan a new endeavor for my art and has been the recipient of many art pieces I’ve created.
Who/what is your greatest source of inspiration?: I have a lot of sources of inspiration. I was a huge magazine reader as a kid—everything from Elle Girl to The Gentlewoman to J-14. I think the colors and editorial photos and movies and music referenced in those magazines have had a major influence on the subjects I choose and the colors I lean toward. I learned so much about old movies, and I think that technicolor palette and subject matter has found its way into my art.
Artists that inspired me as a kid were people like Hilary Knight, who drew the Eloise books, and lately I love Matisse and those wonderful cutouts and geometric prints. Others include David Hockney and Kehinde Wiley.
Growing up in Japan, too, had a large influence on me. My parents always had kimonos and obis in the house. They had kokeshi dolls and porcelain and would take us to museums every chance they could, and it’s an experience I’m truly thankful for. I think I’m drawn to bright colors set against bright whites and pastels, lots of floral prints that appear in kimonos, silk screen prints, and lacquered wood carvings.
What is your dream for your Side Hustle?: I have a lot of dreams for my Side Hustle; for example I would love my art to be used in a print or digital media publication.
Do you have any advice for others working on a Side Hustle?:
My first bit of advice for people is to lean into the discomfort of talking with people about it.
Kara Loewentheil of the Unf*ck Your Brain Podcast puts it exactly as I wish I could. She once said, “If you were given the option of having a leg cramp for 30 minutes or an awkward conversation for 30 minutes that offered a financial return, you would take the awkward conversation, right?”
I would also say that a side hustle requires intention. With intention it’s easier to form a plan, because you know what the end goal is. Also there are so many decisions you have to make with a side hustle that you may face decision paralysis, but it’s easy to avoid confusion if you just make a choice. When I’m faced with a difficult decision, I ask myself what my goal is and whether something I want to do is either helpful or hurtful in achieving a goal. I think this helps with procrastination, too.
My last tip is that when the going gets tough, the tough watch Legally Blonde and then get going.