Do you have a passion that you would love to turn into money, but you don’t think it - or you - are good enough?
Are you clueless as to how your love for a certain hobby could or should be turned into something valuable?
Are you secretly dreaming to build something that fulfills and inspires you, but you don’t want to be crazy and quit your job without a clear tested business model?
Then this one’s for you!
(Disclaimer: This is for those who – like me – are at least slightly risk-averse and who want to have a safe start. As opposed to those who prefer one of those crazy rides like in a venture-backed startup).
As a career coach, every year I receive endless requests from people who want free coaching on how to follow their passion or what to do with their careers. These free coachings are often hopeless for two simple reasons:
A) I don't know how you are supposed to follow your passion, if you refuse to do it!
When we were kids and we loved drawing, we just spent time drawing pictures. And when we didn’t love it anymore we did something else. We never thought about what would be more beneficial to spend our time with: “drawing” or “building a sand castle”.
Why on earth do we think that the mere process of “finding our passion” is so complicated? Here’s what a passion is: Something that arouses great enthusiasm (says Google Dictionary). We’ve all got something there!
The problem is NOT that we don’t know WHAT our passions are. But we have to smuggle them through our internal judgement filter of this being an “acceptable passion”. An acceptable passion which is worthy of being practiced regularly or even the source of your income! #OMG
If you think that you can find a way to transform a (in your opinion) “unacceptable passion” into an “acceptable passion” by talking to me for 60min, I will disappoint you. If you decide that your passion isn’t cool enough to be implemented, my words won’t do the trick.
B) Most people do not really want to follow through. They want inspiration. They don't want the perspiration.
I would say that in 90% of the “free call requests” I am getting people who want to have a nice chat that makes them feel good; that takes away the pain of their existence for an hour.
The problem is: IT SUCKS, IF YOU DO NOT LIKE YOUR JOB!
And no, I won’t call it “a challenge”. It’s a f***** problem. And I am fed up with searching for 10 things that are still positive about your situation. If you are not happy, you are not happy. Stop trying to find excuses for why it’s really just temporary or why you are just complaining or asking too much.
If you keep on finding excuses, you will never get going.
Hence, please only read on, if you are willing to…
- trust that your “unacceptable passions” are good and even great
- take real action
STEP #1: Understand how much money you should be making
The worst way to start “I want to be a millionaire – just because.”
Just because isn't enough. If “just because” or anything comparable to that is your mere motivation, it won’t carry you through the slumps that will inevitably cross your path.
If you DO want to make money with your life purpose, it helps if you become extremely good at what you want to be doing.
This (not always, but often) involves a certain amount of work: implementing something you put your love, sweat and tears into, taking and suffering through “constructive” feedback, thinking hard, coming up with a solution and implementing it again.
The people who do not just survive, but actually master this process and find fulfilment at the end are often those who really understand WHY they are doing it.
WHY do you want to make money with your life purpose?
Maybe at the end of the day, what you are trying to achieve is independence. Looking forward in the morning to getting to “work”? You want to create a space around you where YOU are the one who chooses who to work with? Maybe you want to finance the college education of your children? Work for a wonderful retirement? Bring love to the world? Just want to have realised your potential?
What is your end goal?
What are you trying to reach by lifting “that thing you love” from the state of a hobby to a profession? What difference will it make?
What lifestyle would you require to be happy?
Most of the times we think that entrepreneurship is only worth it, if at the end of the day we have a big house with a big car in front of it. But is that true?
Maybe for the coming five years, you are perfectly fine and even happy to have a NORMAL apartment and enough money to pay for restaurants, holidays, insurances and save for the college education of your kids.
So: What kind of lifestyle is “satisfactory” or even “great”, if you factor in that you’d be doing something that you love and that you are really good at?
Based on that, you make a list of the lifestyle attributes that fulfil you based on your own standards.
And you put figures behind it. What you DON’T do is make a surreal list of crazy things and expect them to fall from heaven. Instead: You take responsibility for the magnitude of the financial results you want to achieve.
Reality-check your alternative
When we coach people, many are so stuck on the thought that “giving up their job” means they will cut themselves off from their salary. This is especially true for people who earn good money. Where the money itself has become the reason why they’d do their job since it’s the basis for so many other things: From the general lifestyle to (more often than we think) their relationships.
We all know: Theoretically, you can make the same amount of money (or even more) if you follow your passion. I know it, they know it, you know it. Yet, we are irrationally attached to the idea that only our current job can provide that certainty.
If you are not leaving your job ONLY BECAUSE you believe your job to be the machine to provide for a decent living, ask yourself this:
If your current job is the best alternative, what would you earn there in five years?
Do you really need to make more than that? (It’s always nice, but … do you REALLY NEED TO?)
How do you feel about making exactly that, but through work that inspires you?
What is enough?
Yes, you MUST treat your ego fairly. If you now design a lifestyle that won’t fulfil you, you will start sabotaging your work. BUT ask your ego sincerely: What do I need? What don’t I need?
So what is enough?
We feel enough and abundant if we feel that we are on the WINNING side of life.
- When would that be? We personally calculate it like that:
- 100% of the expenses we classify as necessary (rent, health insurance, minimum food/clothes, moderate travelling …),
- 50% we classify as “premium” (a bit more than moderate travelling, a slightly too expensive pair of sneakers…),
- 10% of the expenses we classify as “luxury” (a ridiculously expensive restaurant or hotel visit that is completely unnecessary ;))
When bootstrapping: Don’t live a lifestyle that makes you feel poor. You will start sabotaging your own business.
- Why? We do something CRAZY even if we have only very little money in the bank account. If YOU are starting to bootstrap a company and you start hating your lifestyle, you will be eaten up by the frustration about your lack of money. And guess what: Your business will suffer! No! You have to be happy! Hence, have a solid calculation which ALLOWS for some craziness. Allow yourself to feel like you are making a good income, although maybe on paper you are not. Allow yourself to feel safe. Your business will be grateful.
Why we think you should ALWAYS donate - even if you believe you have nothing.
We for instance – no matter how strained we were financially – we always donated!
The cynical way to express it would be: Through donations, you start to feel like there are people who are even poorer.
And the empowering way to think about donations is:
Never will I be in a situation that I have NOTHING to give.
I will NEVER be completely poor. I can always afford to donate. You donate your time, your money – whatever! The best way to counter your fear of being “poor” is to practice generosity.
And besides: Just donate! You always can! Be a good person!
STEP #2: Forget Step #1 and do your thing for free
“A warrior doesn’t give up what he loves. He finds the love in what he does.” - Way of the Peaceful Warrior
Answer the test questions: Do you really want this? Even if nobody paid for this?
So now, look at your passion. That one thing you want to be doing (if you don’t know what that is, pls check out THIS article on “How to inspire through the impact of your work” in 20min).
The central thing about people who follow their passions and are making money with it, is that THEY would do it even if nobody paid for them.
Hence, your test questions:
- Do you LOVE that thing ENOUGH so that you’d do it, even if you weren’t paid for it?
- Would you – for a very very long time – accept feedback rather than money as payment? For how long?
Interpret your answers to the test questions
Your answers to both questions should be YES. And if your answer to question #2 is “eternity”, that is perfect, too.
Why? Because this means that
A) you will be happy and fulfilled REGARDLESS of the money you are making with it. This is important to get you through times where money MIGHT be a problem.
B) you told your brain that you value feedback more than money. As a consequence, you will constantly try to become better, rather than just trying to monetize on the “potentially mediocre” thing that you have.
Both answers are the precondition to build IMPACT not just a business.
Launch! Do it for free (or a ridiculously low price)
MAKE A PROTOTYPE! This week! It should be quick and easy. If you are proud of it, you invested too much. Go out there. Now!
AND: Do it for free (or if you like: a ridiculously low price).
Why on earth should you work for free, if you wanna make money?
Why in the first place?
Because you’ll want to minimize any pressure on you having to “perform well”. Instead: Give yourself permission to love what you are doing.
Then work for free.
Do this as long as you possibly can.
Why you should continue working for free as long as you possibly can
As long as you are working for free, you do NOT COMPROMISE YOUR VALUES!
Instead: You cultivate work that you love. You learn from feedback.
And at some point: you will be hit by a situation where people will queue! Where your time is not enough to satisfy demand.
This is the first time when you might be tempted to charge.
Instead: Continue to work for free. Love it. Take feedback. Become a master at this.
And: Focus on the customers you really love! Let go of the customers you love less.
Become even better. With even lovelier people.
You work for free. Love it. Get feedback. Repeat. Until the market BEGS YOU to be Paid!
STEP #3: Determine the right time to charge and to exit your job!
When do you start charging?
At some point keeping your capacity will make you lose some of your most beloved customers.
That’s when you start charging!
Those who still will want to work with you, will be more than ready to pay. Those who won’t you can still fiddle in once the paying customers are satisfied.
Remember: you will likely get higher results with paying customers, because as soon as someone is willing to pay, YOU will magically jump up their priority list… which again is likely to bring THEM better results. (Ouch… you become EVEN better – without even having to do anything about it!)
When do you quit your job?
- …you are fully occupied, cos you have ONLY customers who you love.
- …you have understood the value that you bring through the feedback that you gathered (best case: You have clear numbers about it. At The Arc for instance the best number that we have is “96% of our alumni call it THE BEST (67%) or ONE OF THE BEST (29%) training events they ever attended”. This makes attending the event a no brainer!
- …your team members start to threaten to leave unless you quit your job and do your project full time. At The Arc this happened in 2015 for the first time.
By then you are likely to be so good iat what you do that people around you might call you crazy that you are not yet running a business.
When starting a business has become a no-brainer. That’s when you quit your job.
And be totally safe.
How long can this take?
I personally believe that ANYTHING can be turned into a business. “Contribution” in my opinion is a deep human desire and I have not yet seen a hobby – as weird as it might be – that CANNOT be twisted in a way so that it can be profitable. When you do what you love, you usually also contribute to something. It is an art though to find out who or what you are truly contributing to (= in case you haven’t noticed, these people are your potential customers, the people to who you provide value ;)).
Having said that: This process can take a long while. I have seen people who, two months after The Arc, founded their own business or started an incredibly cool internal /intrapreneurial project within their organisation.
As for myself? The first person to tell me that I should make a company out of The Arc was Alex Anton in September 2012. My need for certainty however was so massive, that it took me until March 2017 to leave my job (and I am still freelancing there – so I still haven’t cut the ties completely).
Does your need for certainty have to be as big as mine? No.
Can it be even bigger? Yes!
This whole article is really just supposed to mediate the negotiation between your fears and your dreams, your doubts and your wish to just trust in the world, your brains and your heart. All of these have a purpose.
Let’s listen and have fun.
About the Author:
Astrid is the Founder of The Arc. The Arc is a community whose members challenge, support, inspire and coach each other to a level where their impact is inspirational to themselves and to others.