Do you sort of have a passion that you would love to turn into money,
but you don’t think it’s good enough?
Are you clueless as to how your “love for a certain hobby”
should be turned into something valuable?
Are you secretly dreaming to build something that fulfils you and inspires,
but you don’t wanna be crazy and quit your job without a clear tested business model?
This one’s for you!
(Disclaimer: This is for those who – like me – are at least slightly risk-averse. Who wanna have a safe start. Rather than those who prefer one of those crazy rides like in a venture-backed startup). – written by ASTRID SCHRADER
The degree to which we – and by that I mean our team and myself – LOVE The Arc is sometimes scary to me. Words are not enough to describe the zest, the almost fanatic joy, the craziness and intensity, the aliveness this project has brought to our lives.
This year I received I don’t know how many requests from people who wanted free coaching on “How to follow their passions” or “Finding out what they should do professionally”.
These free coachings are often hopeless (and will remain increasingly unanswered), for two simple reasons:
Why on earth do we think that the mere process of “finding our passions” 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 choose that your passion isn’t cool enough to be implemented, my words won’t do the trick.
The problem is: IT SUCKS, IF YOU ARE NOT LIKING 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 reasons that are still positive about your situation. If you are not happy, you are not happy. Stop trying to find excuses of 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.
STEP #1 Understand how much money you should be making
If you DO wanna make money with your life purpose, it helps if you become extremely good at what you wanna be doing.
This (not always but) often involved 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 together with? Maybe you wanna finance the college education of your children? Work for a wonderful retirement? Bring love to the world? Just wanna 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?
Maybe for the coming five years, you are perfectly fine and even good 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 that fulfils you based on your own standards.
And you put figures behind it. What you DON’T do is that you 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.
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 magically 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?
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 gotta 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 in paper you are not. Allow yourself to feel safe. Your business will be grateful.
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 always can 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.” A quote from the amazing movie “Way of the peaceful Warrier”
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?
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.
AND: Do it for free (or if you like: a ridiculously low price).
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.
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!
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!)
- …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 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 in 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.
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.
Credits go to WeCreate Coaching
and Daniel Sa Nogueira who has inspired
this way of thinking in me years ago.