Much has been written (in recent years, at least) about turning your passion into a full-time job. I mean, that’s the dream, right? Getting paid for doing what you love?
Well, the situation is actually a little more complicated than that. Can you make a living doing what you love? Yes. . . and no. To be honest with you, it depends. Not every passion or every dream or everything you love to do has profit potential. Some dreams and some hobbies make lousy businesses. Professional careers don’t exist for everything.
The trick is finding that sweet spot where what you love to do and what other people want overlap. Opportunity lies at the point where your passion and its usefulness to other people converge.
For a business to exist there have to be at least two things: a product or service, and people willing to pay for said product or service. If what you love to do isn’t useful to anyone else — if it doesn’t create value for other people by solving an obvious and irritating problem or bestowing some desirable benefit — then you’re probably never going to make money doing it. Passion isn’t enough if there’s no business potential.
That said, it’s almost always possible to find a career (or make your own) in an area closely related to something you love.
No one is going to pay you to read books for fun, but there are plenty of jobs — book editor, patent lawyer, proposal writer, reviewer/critic, researcher — that require a great deal of reading. No one is going to pay you for working in your garden or taking care of your own lawn, but they might be interested in buying your flowers or produce, or in learning how to create and tend their own garden. There’s the opportunity.
The question then becomes: Are any of the opportunities related to what you love interesting to you? If so, dig deeper. If not, pick something else you enjoy and explore the possibilities there.
If you’re thinking about starting your own business based on a hobby or personal passion, answering these questions before you continue will help you figure out if that’s really something you’d enjoy, and whether there’s actually a market for it:
- Would you enjoy pursuing your hobby/passion full-time, or at least 20 hours a week?
- Do you enjoy teaching others to practice the same hobby/share the same passion?
- Do you like ALL the details of your hobby, even the parts other people find tedious or boring or difficult?
- If your passion required a decent amount of administrative work, would you still enjoy it?
- If your paycheck depended on pursuing your hobby/passion, would you still enjoy it?
- Have other people asked for your help related to your hobby/passion?
- Are there enough people out there willing to pay to benefit from your expertise?
- Are there other businesses serving this market? Would you be able to serve this market better?
It’s all about the research. Whether you dream of bringing a new product to market or getting hired at Google, you need to become an expert on everything related to your dream job. Say you want to own your own coffee shop. Okay. What does it actually mean — what does it actually require to own your own coffee shop? Do you know anything about beans, farming, and growing regions? Do you know anything about different roasting, grinding, and brewing methods? Do you know anything about running a retail business? Do you know if there’s a market for a coffee shop in your area? Do you know what you could expect to earn running a coffee shop? Management? Hiring? Customer service? Do you know anything about FDA certification? If not, it’s time to learn.
As you think about your dream job and begin to refine it, here’s what you need to know:
- The history of the company, business, or product
- The education requirements and potential cost
- The working environment or physical location
- The tools of the trade
- The typical pay you can expect when starting out
- The typical benefits you can expect when starting out
- The time requirements needed to be successful
- The physical requirements
- The skills requirements needed
- The emotional, relational, and physical costs
- The laws and legal issues associated with the job
Intimidated? Allow me to introduce your new best friend — the Internet. So much information is available to you today, and much of it is free and can be accessed within three minutes. And don’t forget to take advantage of your local library as well. There’s much to be learned from books.
In the end, these questions should challenge you, not defeat you. If these questions challenge your dream and it your dream standing, it’s worth pursuing. If these questions defeat you, you need to ask yourself why. Are you settling? Are you giving up? Or have you simply discovered you’ve been barking up the wrong tree? Change demands growth and growth demands change.
This post is an excerpt from the author’s book, “Jump Ship: Turn Your Passion into a Profession.”