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I’m just gonna come out and say it — passion doesn’t reliably point to a healthy freelance business.
If you get that, you can honestly stop reading right there, because you’ve probably saved yourself a ton of pain and frustration as a freelancer…but…
If you read that statement and it stung, felt disappointing, confusing, or discouraging, you should finish this post. Why?
Because your mindset might be out of line with what you want to see happen in your freelance life and you might be shorting yourself from even more freedom in exploring your passion without it being connected to a career.
BlackFreelance is all about balancing income and peace, and let me just say, if you’ve got passion in your business driver’s seat, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with just the opposite. (You might even be missing real opportunities to build a business based on your passion.)
But let’s take a look at why that’s true and how to do things better.
There Aren’t Many Good Arguments for Monetizing Passion.
Let’s just address the popular base assumption up front.
I know this goes against decades of pop-business and career advice, but most of that was at best, based on outliers and people who got really lucky in their careers.
Sure, from the outside, it seems like a great idea, especially if you’re in a spot like I was and bored and discouraged with your day job. But let me tell you, your passion probably isn’t the answer you think it is.
What’s so deceptive is that planning your business from a passion perspective feels amazing. The excitement is only more intense if you’re in a dull, unfulfilling career. But it’s kind of like that new, superficially interesting person that seems even more interesting/attractive/fun just because your current relationship is having some issues. Chances are incredibly slim that they, themselves are the answer to your problems.
Your Confidence Is at Stake.
Employment can really beat down your self-confidence. Between excessive control of your life, constantly lurking racism, and the general challenges that coworkers and organizational issues can present, it’s a lot.
You know what can be worse? Banging your head against a wall in a space where growth is unlikely or incredibly difficult.
Resilience matters and you need to develop it over time. You can miss all the great things a freelance career has to offer if you let the wrong people and spaces beat you up.
Here’s the thing…I won’t tell anyone to quit their passion work. I still have some running myself! I won’t even say that no passion business will ever get off the ground or do amazing things. The thing is, for most people, there are ways to find a healthy, balanced place for your passion (which might actually include incorporating into your work as a freelancer in a really deliberate way.) They just usually come after you figure out a sustainable way to bring in income.
Passion Doesn’t Point to Viability or Sustainability.
Ok, so back to why we’re freelancing in the first place.
If you aren’t worried about income, stress, or viability, then this doesn’t really apply to you…but if you are, leading with passion can throw you off the track of a healthy freelance business — one that improves your life and gives you time to freely explore your passion without the weight of needing it to pay your bills.
I always use the example of authors who freelance in higher-paying writing (like sales and business) to work short weeks and half days, saving the rest of the time to focus on their books at a pace they enjoy.
There’s a reason the Niche Asset Assessment starts with considering your employment background for your starter niche. That’s because if a field has whole, full-time, benefit-paying careers built into it, it’ll probably be easier to maximize your earning and minimize the time you spend working. (It just might take a few tweaks.)
Distance Can Be a Good Thing.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably heard me say that there are few risks that freelancers face that the companies that employ people don’t deal with too — anything that’s knocking outside your door as a freelancer is right there in an employed job too. We’re just more aware of (and responsible for) them.
Economic downturns, new competition, technological challenges…those all require that you shift and adjust your niche to adapt and survive. In those cases where you have to make a difficult decision, a little emotional distance can be a good thing.
People Take Advantage of Passion.
If you haven’t seen this study out of Duke, take a look. Here’s a quick quote:
“In the case of working employees harder for no extra pay, or asking them to do demeaning work or work outside their job description, believing this is fair because these workers are indulging their passions may be a similar means of justification.”
It’s basically a really strong indication that people feel more entitled to exploit you when you’re passionate about something — a dynamic we see going STRONG in journalism and consumer media freelance work. There are a lot of sharks out there in the passion waters.
So What’s the Solution?
Short answer? Interest.
“Interest” is actually what most people actually mean when they say “passion” in a business context. (Ever heard someone talk about their “passion” for project management? Yeah.) While “interest” might not sell courses, it’s really a powerful concept.
It’s generally reliable and flexible. Since it’s so closely related to curiosity, it can also be intentionally developed and shaped around niche dimensions that’ve proven themselves to be safer and more viable. So next time you’re feeling like your work isn’t allowing you to develop your passions, try rethinking the position both play in your life and freelance business — and start giving your interests a little more love.
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