How to Realistically Make Money From Your Passion
Blindly following your passion is a recipe for financial disaster. But if you learn just a little bit about how business and passion fit together in the modern age, you can realistically monetize the things you care about.
You may have heard, "Follow your passion and the money will follow."
That's a popular phrase, but it's terrible advice. If that were true, then the phrase "starving artist" wouldn't exist.
It's terrible advice because it isn't grounded in reality. But it can be if you approach your passion intelligently and with a respect and understanding of how money and passions are related. To begin, we need to define both of these things.
What is a passion anyway?
"Passion" for most people involves their creativity, their thirst for adventure, an expression of their spirit, a sport, a hobby or an art. Some people want to act, make music, films, write books, travel the world, play sports, perform magic, play videos games, knit or 1000s of other interesting pursuits. Many people want to help others, heal the world, educate and enlighten.
These are all wonderful things. But by themselves, they have absolutely no relationship with money. And that is probably one reason why they are so fulfilling and enjoyable. The average human being doesn't dream of spending their days trading stocks or analyzing financial figures.
The average person human being, given no constraints, wants to do things that make him or her feel alive or contribute to others. Most people want money to buy things, but they aren't interested in the mechanisms of the money itself. But we have to look at it closely to understand how to make it.
Related: Passion, People, Process
What is "money," really?
So what is money? "Money" is an agreed upon medium of exchange, given in return for goods and services.
Boring, I know. But if you connect the two, a whole world of inspiring (and realistic) possibilities begins to open.
The key is to understand that your passion is not just a passion: It is a good or service, ready to be purchased by eager consumers if presented properly. Most passions previously mentioned can fall into two main industries: entertainment and education.
The Global Film Industry was worth $136 billion in 2018. That means millions and millions of people decide to spend their capital being entertained by these motion picture products.
The music and book Industries are also worth billions of dollars. Human beings like to consume entertainment. A lot.
Let's say your passion isn't entertainment, but instead making a difference in the world.
That's the education industry, which is also worth billions of dollars.
How to connect your passion with the money
Now, instead of just being someone with a passion, you are really an entrepreneur working in one of two industries: entertainment or education.
But even with this perspective, making money from your passion was still a distant pipe dream through the 1980s, 1990s, even in the 2000s. Why?
Because it was nearly impossible to engage in commerce with either of these industries. If you wanted to provide entertainment to other people in the 1980s, you'd be limited to whatever venues you had nearby. You and your band could perform at the local bar, you could act at the local community theater, and you could potentially pass out flyers and pay a local printing press to make copies of a book (at great expense).
If you wanted to provide education to other people, you could hope there was a college or continuing education company nearby. If you wanted to teach at the college, you'd usually need some kind of expensive academic accreditation and compete for one or two job openings.
These two industries were juggernauts with an iron grip on billions of people's hearts and minds. Multinational corporations controlled all the movie theaters, video-rental stores, bookstores and TV stations in the world. Giant universities controlled all the classrooms and lecture halls in the world.
The industries had gatekeepers and millions of passionate artists and educators competing for a few coveted spots.
The internet changes everything
Then...the internet happened.
And in a decade, both of these monstrous industries were turned upside down.
Netflix put Blockbuster video out of business. Amazon drove shopping malls to the brink. Youtube made it possible for average people to become superstars, and Kindle made it possible for the average person to publish their books.
People shifted their attention to their mobile and computer screens, looking at tiny little websites. And unlike NBC or AMC Theaters, you didn't need a multimillion-dollar deal or fame to get onto these websites.
You just needed to understand one thing: how to market and package your passion.
Packaging your passion
Sharing your passion in pre-internet days was very difficult:
- If you wanted to show people your film, you'd need to carry around nine reels of film and physically load it into a projector. This was of course provided you had the $400,000 to $2 million to make the movie in the first place.
- If you wanted to share your music, you'd either need to physically perform for people or pay a huge fee to record a demo and carry copies of the tapes with you or mail them out.
- If you wanted to share or sell your book, you had to hire a printing press to physically print up hundreds of copies and hope you sold them all.
Now, with all of the new platforms provided via the internet, it's completely changed:
- If your passion is film, you can shoot an independent movie (for less than $400,000) and upload it to Amazon Prime Video and reach millions of people throughout the country and the world. You can work with an aggregator like Filmhub to get on platforms like Google TV and Apple TV, Tubi and Plex.
- If your passion is music, you can put your music on Spotify or iTunes with the help of a platform like TuneCore.
- If you've written a book, stop hoping to get an agent or publishing deal: Upload it and sell it on Kindle. Not only that, but via print-on-demand technology, Amazon will actually print up individual copies of your book when an individual customer orders it.
- If you're a painter, sculptor or other kind of physical artist, you can sell your crafts and creations through your own Etsy store.
- If you want to be an educator, you can create an online course about nearly any topic at all, from ballroom dancing to electronic music creation to juggling. You can reach millions of potential students via a site like Udemy.
- If you're passionate about any other topic, anything from travel to snowboarding to woodworking, you can start a blog on the topic. You can monetize your blog by selling ads with Google Adsense or promoting other people's products via affiliate marketing.
- If you don't want to sell anything, but get paid for creating, you can hire yourself out as a writer, artist, animator, videographer, editor and more via a freelancing marketplace like Upwork.
Marketing your passion
The final piece of the puzzle is something most creators completely overlook, but it's also the most important: marketing. Many people believe that if they just put their art, creation or course up on a website, people will buy it. That's not true.
Have you ever seen Brad Pitt or Margot Robbie on a TV talk show? This isn't done isn't for fun. They are promoting their latest creative project. That's right, even the biggest movie stars on the planet can't just make something and have it sell. They spend weeks and weeks promoting their creations. Movie studios, music labels and book publishers spend millions of dollars every year marketing their products.
Fortunately, you don't need a million-dollar budget to market and share your passion products online. Here are a few tips:
- Start a dedicated website or blog for your creation. This is a centralized hub you have complete control over and can be a place to not only sell your product or service but also keep in touch with your fans and customers.
- Capture your website visitor's emails using an autoresponder service like Mailchimp. There's a saying that "the money is in the list." Consider how powerful it would be if even 50 or 100 people sign up for your list. In real life, it would take hours to personally message all of these people. With an autoresponder, you can message thousands of people with the click of a button.
- Give away portions of your creation on social media. Give people a small taste of what you have to share in such a way that it leaves them wanting more. This is what movie trailers do, as well as singles released from popular albums.
- Research your audience. Use tools like Ubersuggest to find out the questions and interests they are searching for on Google, and then write content, articles and posts to answer those questions.
- Advertise on Google, Facebook and Instagram. For as little as $5 or $10 a day, you can advertise just like major companies and share your creation with a targeted audience. Facebook Ads, for example, let you target people by their likes and interests. So if you are selling music, you can target people who like music similar to yours.
- Hustle! If Brad Pitt still has to hustle to promote his creations, so can you!
A realistic framework for passionate profit
In 2017, I shot a comedy movie called Wally Got Wasted. I put my movie up for sale on Amazon Prime Video. I ran ads to the movie using Facebook and Instagram, and we started getting sales, views and reviews. At times, hundreds of people a day were watching my movie. It was thrilling! I wasn't making millions, but the ability to have even a few people across the world appreciate my art, and pay me for it, was very satisfying.
I hope you have a chance to experience similar satisfaction with your passion and that this article has helped you see a realistic pathway to do so.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor