I‘m a huge advocate for monetizing your passion, not “following” it. There’s a right way & a wrong way, and what most people believe about “following their passion” is pretty stupid.
Here in the West, we’re taught that if you go to school, study hard, and get a degree, you’ll get a good job and live happily every after. This may have been the case for many back in 1955, but today it’s a little different. Today, the corporate bottom line, means that the higher ups at your company don’t give a damn about firing your bottom and sending you to the unemployment line.
At least back then, in previous generations, the Degree-Job-Pension-Picket Fence myth led to people swallowing their dreams and majoring in sensible topics like law and accounting to get boring but lucrative jobs. People may have been bored spirituality, but they moved out of their parent’s houses and paid for their kid’s food.
And they had Pensions.
Today, add in the coddling of the Millennial generation to believe that each and every one of them is a special shining star who poops lemon drops and should “follow their passion”, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Today, it’s led to a generation of people majoring in Interpretive Dance, Smurf Studies, and the Humanities living on their parent’s couches and wondering how to earn a living. So the entire young workforce is riddled with debt, clueless about how to contribute value to the culture or how to feed themselves properly.
There are still those who have submitted to the soul sucking call of the Accounting Firm or the Trading Flooor as well, doing what’s “smart” and “right” and involves no passion.
Exploring The Stupid Way
But either side of this equation is really dumb. People are either blindly following platitudes hoping that their passion will somehow turn into cash, or they are submitting them fully to the drudgery of 9 to 5 conformity.
Many Parents don’t want to dampen their children’s spirits, so they support whatever whim or interest the kid has without understanding where it will lead.
That’s stupid. That was me. My Parents were wonderfully supportive and allowed me to Major in Film Production, a completely bullshit major. We all went into debt for that.
This same waste could be said of people who majored in Art History. They end up with a vault of useless knowledge working as Receptionists. Journalism majors are often devastated to learn that Journalism died years ago and has been replaced with infotainment and perfectly apportioned visually pleasing news anchors. Psychology and Sociology majors don’t usually find work at the local Sociology or Psychology factory downtown.
Personally, I did a lot of artsy projects and emerged with no knowledge of how to earn any income from my passion. It wasn’t until years later when I learned about blogging, self publishing, and Internet Marketing that I learned how to monetize these passions with the help of many wonderful teachers, most of whom never went to college.
It’s not enough to “Follow Your Passion”. Even if you are a true artist and skip school, it is a rare person who can just start playing guitar, singing, sculpting, drawing, painting, writing, or making movies and have it will somehow turn into income.
That’s as stupid as hoping to win American Idol or be cast in a Hollywood movie after auditioning to be a model at the local shopping mall.
Exploring The Smart Way
I know other people whose parents forced them (or they forced themselves) to major in business or become an accountant purely for the money. That sucks too. They become afraid to do anything creative.
Understanding Passion as a Business
So remember, I say “monetize” your passion, don’t just follow it.
What I said earlier about corporations and bottom lines — most artists, students and workers have no idea what is going through the CEO’s head. They don’t get that this whole money thing is a game of supply and demand, problems and creative solutions.
You look at the demand for your passion in the marketplace and how it is delivered.
The first step is to even be interested in the marketplace and business at all. Then start to examine how people are making money… what do people want and need, and how is it delivered?
People love watching movies, reading, and listening to music for example. In the old days, you had to win American Idol to make money as a musician or hustle it in nightclubs for years. To make money from a movie you needed millions to spend on advertising.
Today, Amazon has changed all that. Anyone can publish a book, get paid to watch their streaming movie, or download a movie from iTunes.
The model has changed… so it’s not completely wacko to believe you could make a buck from your artistic creation. You can do that.
But you still have to learn how to conduct your art as a business.
Another huge marketplace when it comes to passion: information, solutions… i.e. teaching.
I’m a Teacher, but I’m not certified by the state and I’ll never teach in a public school. I teach people about the things I am passionate about, like being creative, how to make money online, how to make movies, how to writer comedy, and so on.
There’s a huge demand for information, and I can position myself in a place where I provide the answers to people and get paid for it.
And it’s things I am passionate about.
Micro Businesses: Monetizing Passion That Works
So in the Smart Approach — you get that you are starting from square zero and you need a foundation. So you find ways to pay the rent and meet your basic requirements. You don’t go deeply into debt to pay for a degree and hope it somehow magically leads to a dream career.
There’s been a backlash against the “follow your passion” movement, which can sound more like positive hype than actual life advice. Mike Rowe, himself a passionate entrepreneur, famously told a fan not to follow his passion. An excerpt of what he said”
…Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’re determined to improve doesn’t mean that you will……When it comes to earning a living and being a productive member of society – I don’t think people should limit their options to those vocations they feel passionate towards.”
There’s a lot of truth in this, based on the conventional way people look at things.
Not everyone is going to be the next American Idol or get a 3 picture deal with Sony. There’s a limited number of slots at the top.
But guess what? You don’t need to get to the top anymore!
You’re not looking to sell 1 million copies of an album and retire to the Riviera. You’re looking to see if you can generate your first 1000 fans and sell 500 downloads. And grow from there.
And you don’t need six figures in startup capital to get going.
Mike Rowe’s statement makes prefect sense from the limited perspective most people have of a world where there are 3 publishers and limited spots to convey your passion — it completely ignores that $1 Billion online publishing industry that has grown in the last 10 years.
Most people aren’t even aware of the fact that they can realistically monetize their passion online – so it still does sound a little foofy. But it’s possible.
And at the same time, I agree with what Mike says about working jobs you aren’t passionate about. I don’t think too many people are passionate about waiting tables, but it’s one of the best side jobs you can have to support a passion — you can make more money through tips and have a flexible schedule. Accounting isn’t a passion magnet but it provides for regular income when you need it, if you can stomach working after hours on your own business.
I’ll tell you this from personal experience: any boring day job becomes a thousand times better when you a nurturing a side business that gets your heart racing. Because you know that you can’t quit today, you’ve still got to pay rent, but then the job is like a friend helping you out while you grow your real calling.
Cents & Sensibility
Combining Passion, enjoyment, fun, freedom, and play with business actually makes people better businessmen. But most people start out with no business knowledge. So I recommend the following resources.
The $100 Start Up – Chris’ book is one of best overviews of micro businesses in existence. It’s not just a bunch of rah rah you can do it BS – he actually breaks down the process of building an online business and has dozens of specific, real life case studies from normal people who were able to monetize their passion online.
What’s best, in my mind, is that there are no “overnight success” stories here that will get you fantasizing. People all started out making a few thousand here and there and then grew — which is something you can do to and is grounded in reality.
To learn more click the image or here.
Designed to Sell – Another product from Chris Guillebeau designed specifically for artists on how to sell their products and turn them into a successful business.
This is one of Chris’s in depth courses that includes worksheets, PDFs, interviews with successful artists and links to their sites so you can network with them.
To learn more click the image or here.
Passion Product Profit – Yeah, this is a plug for my own course. The $100 Start Up is a great start but it’s just a book. “Designed to Sell” is fantastic, but specifically to help artists built a business making their art. (i.e. Trading time for money). Passion Product Profit isn’t about building an art business, but rather an online automated business based on your passion. 15 hours of in depth training and support to help you realistically take your knowledge and information and turn it into a sustainable passive source of income by teaching. Click here or on the image to check it out