Making Money from a Passion

If you’re passionate about something, you can make money from it, because people will pay for passion. Sometimes, it’s enough to earn a living, and on occasion, you can make really good money from your passion.

Whenever I tell people this, they usually scoff. Usually, they don’t believe it’s really possible for anyone to do it, or they believe that people who do make money doing something they’re passionate about had someone financially helping them to get started.

I can’t tell you how many emails I get where someone is saying, “I wish I could make a living out of my passion for X,” where X is any number of things. The same basic tactics work for most of those passions.

You can make at least a small side income out of almost anything you’re passionate about. There are a few catches, of course.

First of all, you have to have at least some transferable skills to go along with that passion. You’re going to have to be good at time management, because without that, you’ll never find the time to do what needs to be done. You need to have strong communication skills. You also need to be able to take criticism, because you’re going to be criticized no matter what you do (if criticism makes you upset, this probably isn’t going to work for you).

Second, you need to be patient. You’re going to have to put in some groundwork to make this possible, and that groundwork is not going to earn you very much money per hour. It’s going to have to be fueled by the passion that you have for whatever excites you.

Most endeavors that are fueled by passion eat up thousands of hours before beginning to turn a profit. I often call this the “valley of patience,” and many people never make it through to the other side. You have to work at something for a long while and often experience a lot of small failures along the way in order to succeed.

You also have to be willing to look at your failures, distinguish between what works and what doesn’t, and move forward from there. Every single time you try something, you’re going to do something imperfect. The challenge is to be able to look carefully at what you did, identify what you did wrong there, and try to correct it.

The most effective way to correct something that you did wrong is through deliberate practice. Deliberate practice means that you’re specifically focusing on just the elements that you need to improve on with a laserlike focus and with repeated feedback (meaning you do it with a coach or you do it with some sort of self-observation).

Got that? Here are five ways to turn whatever you’re passionate about into a side income.

Make items for sale. If you make things, selling them is an obvious route to income. One of my good friends loved to sketch fantasy art. Over a period of years, he gradually moved from offhand doodles to making custom art for people for a living. My great aunt used to make crocheted blankets and sell them; she also gave away many of them to charities, which she felt both helped her business and helped the community. My father loves to fish and sell what he catches.

Write a blog about your passion. Every successful blog I’ve ever read mixes two things. They tell stories and they also make points that are of value to the readers, often at the same time. Talk about your experiences with whatever your passion actually is. Tell stories about how you messed up, and tell stories about how you succeeded. Tie them in with some ideas that they can take home (either subtly or directly) and you’re going down the right path. The more you write, the easier it gets and the better your writing is. The key is writing consistently and generating a backlog of content that’s out there for people to find and read. Your first post won’t be a hit, and neither will post #100. Write a thousand, though, and people will begin to come.

Make videos about your passion. If you don’t like writing, make videos and post them on YouTube. The same ideas apply here as with writing a blog: tell stories and share information. In this case, you’re showing it, too. Again, a big key is to make a lot of videos, post them, and learn from what you’re doing. Eventually, the sheer body of work will begin to attract followers.

Write e-books about your passion. If you prefer longer-form writing, e-books are a great way to channel that passion. Write a short book-length document telling stories and sharing ideas about your passion, then put it up on the Kindle Store to sell for a few dollars. As with the others, practice makes perfect, and the more you write, the more ability you have to gain a following.

In each case, creating new content on a regular basis is the key thing. It makes you work on it regularly, forcing you to improve through repetition. It also puts more and more of your material out there, meaning that more and more search terms that people type into Google and Amazon will find matches with your work, meaning you have a greater and greater chance of finding a fan.

Teach. For the most part, the three items above also fall under teaching, too. However, teaching face-to-face can be a powerful revenue stream. Offer musical lessons to the public. Teach classes wherever you can, particularly for community groups. Give speeches (getting involved in your local Toastmasters is a great way to start) and presentations. Early on, you won’t get much money from this, but if you’re passionate and active in becoming better at this, you will gradually find more and more paid opportunities.

These are not the only ways to earn money off of your passion, but they’re a start. These all apply to a lot of possible passions, and you can often try to do more than one at the same time.

I’ve seen people turn many, many different passions into some source of income, from fantasy doodling and board games to fishing and hunting. The ones that succeed do the things I mentioned above: they utilize some basic transferable skills such as time management and communication skills, they work continually at it and strive to improve, and they’re willing to accept that they’re not going to earn much at first (or possibly ever) and still keep at it over a long period of time.

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