Tips to turn your passion into profit »

You don’t need Suze Orman credentials to know that times are tough. Grim predictions that the economy will only get worse are enough to make even the most optimistic anxious. But instead of letting you panic, we sought the advice of Melissa Dawn Johnson, CEO of Velvet Suite, a premier marketing consulting firm in Atlanta. Johnson is also the author of “Brand Me. Make Your Mark: Turn Passion Into Profit” (Ambassador Press). This North Carolina native is an expert at giving regular folks the valuable tools to brand their hobbies into successful businesses. So embrace that long lost love of cooking, hair styling or acting and turn those past-time pleasures into full-time careers.

ESSENCE.COM: What are some of the challenges Black women face when trying to reinvent themselves and how can we avoid those challenges?

MELISSA DAWN JOHNSON: We work hard to please others but we have lost our authentic identity. Time won’t be given to us, we have to take it. Each day, take time, even if it is five minutes to gain perspective and take back ground toward your personal aspirations and desires. We have to make sure that we live in the N.O.W. Now stands for No Opportunity Waits. We have to maximize the moment and take time for ourselves but we also have to move beyond the limitations that others have placed upon us. It starts with changing our expectations and believing that we can live the life that we desire.

ESSENCE.COM: Are there practices that women who are presently employed should master just in case their employment situation changes in the near future?

JOHNSON: Discover Your Hidden Value: Take inventory of your top three core strengths. Your strength should be the object of your attention. Build a case for how you have used these abilities to add value on your current job, with a project or in advancing your career. Become familiar with these personal brand attributes. Work them and watch them work for you.

Be Prepared: Update your resume, attend an additional networking event each month, reach out to mentors in other industries who can help keep you fresh on what are the latest trends and opportunities that you may not be aware of. Practice your pitch and get familiar and comfortable in talking about what you offer.

Get Connected: Build your social networking profile. Begin to blog as a “go-to” expert in the area of your passion. This will help build your visibility but it will also expand your network for current and future opportunities.

ESSENCE.COM: What advice do you have for those women who are over 50 and think reinvention is out of reach because of their age?

JOHNSON: Reinvention is about an attitude not an age. It is about a lifetime journey of self-discovery. Realizing that who you are today may be different than who you were yesterday but the core of you…the most valuable part of you remains the same. It will be absurd to think you could fit in the same dress you wore at four years old at forty. But that same personality, drive and resilient spirit that gave you the courage to take your first steps is the same core that gives you the power to reposition yourself for success now.