passion“The people who make it to the top — whether they’re musicians, or great chefs, or corporate honchos — are addicted to their calling … [they] are the ones who’d be doing whatever it is they love, even if they weren’t being paid.” — Quincy Jones

But wouldn’t it nice to get paid?

“Do what makes you happy” is a controversial business mantra. Someone who loves to talk to people and make a great cupcake might decide to open a catering business. Within six months, they have not only failed at building a business, but are in the hole financially. This is an incredibly common scenario. Don’t even look at the statistics behind how many new businesses- businesses started by people following their passion- fail within the first eighteen months. Blindly following one’s dreams is often a recipe for disaster. Does that mean you should throw away your dreams of doing what you love and continue at your desk job? Not necessarily.

If you have a skill for working with people, there’s still potential to create a successful business enterprise. Whether you start your own business or join a company that will benefit from your passion, pursuing an active, fulfilling vocation doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. The key behind making a living with it is understanding that passion alone does not make a business. Your passion needs to be supported with, experience, pragmatism, business acumen, and a lot of work. Here are some tips on how to successfully making your passion your primary source of income.

  1. Expand your vision. Finding a market niche where there is a sufficient market size to consistently support your lifestyle is difficult. The man who makes it big whittling figurines out of wood is an anomaly. If your friends tell you that you throw the very best Christmas parties, you may envision yourself working as a successful party planner. While you may believe that party planning is the only career that will fulfill you completely, you need to look at your passion objectively. List what it is about your passion that you love. What do you love about, for example, party planning? Is it organizing? Decorating? Interacting with people? Working with children? Looking at the bigger picture expands your entrepreneurial options. After you have listed what exactly it is about your social passion that you love doing, make a list of professions and businesses that incorporate these skills.
  1. Do your research. A few years ago, there was a cupcake shop on every corner of every major city. Today, food trucks selling gourmet macaroni and cheese are fixtures on the street and at outdoor events. Tomorrow, maybe juice bars will really take off. It’s important to research what’s selling in the marketplace. If you want to actually do what you love, you need to become business savvy. If your passion doesn’t meet a specific need or opening within the marketplace, your business will not succeed. Similarly, if you decide to pursue only one avenue without opening your search to other possibilities, you limit your chances of finding the right mix of love and income.

You have made a list of potential possibilities. Look into the probability of turning one of those into a lucrative business. Does your area need another wedding planner? Perhaps there is a dearth of professional organizers in your city. Your organizational and social skills would be put to good use helping others make sense of their closets, and you will find satisfaction in doing what you naturally enjoy.

  1. Prepare to work hard. When people try to turn their hobby into a business, they are often operating under the misconception that because they are pursuing something they love, work won’t feel like, well, work. But making a profit doing something you love takes hours of planning and research and requires careful execution, and that occasionally means working outside of your comfort zone. Running a business requires financing and budgeting and marketing and, if necessary, proper licensing. The monetary and personal rewards of doing what you’re passionate about are procured through careful, often solitary, planning. Sure, there are benefits to being your own boss. But success comes down to decisions that you make. If you’re not prepared to spend hours upon hours pouring yourself into your work, return to the cubicle from whence you came.

After you’ve found a target market, here’s a short overview of what you must do to form a successful business:

  • Form a business plan.
  • Form a detailed marketing plan.
  • Determine financing options.
  • Building and maintaining a solid client base.
  • Staying on top of the market and business trends.
  • Keeping careful track of your finances.
  • Knowing when to expand or cut back.

Conclusion: Yes, you can make a living pursuing your passion. However, your passion does not trump business sense and hard work. Pragmatism, hard work, feeding your passion: if you go about pursuing your passion in that order, you will decrease the likelihood of becoming another statistic in the book of business failures.