It’s all over the news, the struggle today’s college students and their parents face in financing a college education—the same education that is pursued with a belief that it will bring the student that much closer to making their life’s dream a reality.
According to CollegeBoard.org, tuition and fees constitute 39% of the total budget for in-state students living on campus at public four-year colleges and universities, and 20% of the budget for public two-year college students who pay for off-campus housing.
The not-for-profit student advocacy organization also notes that though housing, food, and other living expenses are not technically costs of attending college, a very significant college expense is forgone earnings from time devoted to school instead of the workforce, and without sufficient earnings, many students struggle to meet daily expenses, with non-tuition components of student budgets easily interfering with student success.
But, this is not a money story of woe. There are students, both nontraditional and traditional, who successfully forge creative ways to follow their dreams and succeed in their career goals while pursuing their education.
Oye Diran, founder of Arista Imagery, is one of them. The self-taught photographer based in New York City has taken a childhood love of art and photography to not only pursue his passion while studying business at CUNY’s College of Staten Island, but to sustain a living on his own. The 25-year-old has already shot the runways of New York Fashion Week and has global publications and brands, including Munaluchi Bride, New African Woman, Zen Magazine, Applause Africa, and Project Runway alumnus Korto Momolu to his credit.
Below, Diran shares three steps to tapping into your creative talents and using them to fund your dreams:
Tap into the child in you and use talents that showcase your passion. “When I was little, I was always into art. I still draw and paint as well,” Diran says. “I’ve always admired works from fashion photographers and the images they create, especially those who had an artistic flair. When I decided to do this for a living while in school, I purchased a camera and just started getting into event photography and, later, got into fashion photography.”
Search the Web and use campus resources to find ways to monetize your creative talents. Diran decided to study business in school to not only tap into his more analytical side, but as a way to help with running his budding business. “I live on my own in Staten Island, N.Y., and my photography gigs help with my school and living expenses,” he says. “Photography helps me bring in an income, and I learned about the business aspect of it all over time. I got professional advice from established photographers and researched how much others charge for their services via the Internet. I also read up on marketing and customer service—skills that are critical to this business. Taking photos is maybe 30% of the job. The business is 70%.”
Gain inspiration from your family, culture, or community in creating a niche for what you offer to clients or consumers. Diran was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to entrepreneurial parents, and he says these factors play a big part in his photography and clientele. “My mother was also an artist who drew and painted as well,” Diran says. “All that played a role in my photography, as well as pursuing a business major. In Lagos, we have a diverse, rich culture and, in terms of fashion, we have a booming industry there right now. That inspires me because a lot of my photos have an African flair to them, featuring colorful, vibrant imagery. My culture plays a role in the moods of my photos and the direction of many of my shoots.”