Why You Should NOT Turn Your Passion Into a Job

by Alexa Mason · 20 comments

“Turn your passion into a job, and the money will follow.”

“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

These sayings sound nice, but unfortunately, they hold little truth for most people. Turning your favorite hobby into a money-maker might seem like a good plan — but it can be a horrible mistake. Here’s why:

Your Passion Fizzles When It’s Work

When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to fantasize about doing it every day and watching the money roll in. It will bring meaning to your life, right?

Wrong.

When you turn your passion into a job, it becomes just that: work. You’re no longer doing something because you have an overwhelming desire to do it; you’re doing it because you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.

Your passion isn’t something you can let guide you — you have to guide it. When you turn your passion into a job, you’ll have a certain amount of work to complete each and every week or you go broke. Period.

The first couple of months, you may still feel the passion burning. But after a little while, you may realize that your passion really isn’t your passion anymore. You’re no longer doing something because you enjoy it; you’re doing something because you need money.

Taking Criticism is Hard

When you turn your passion into a job or business, it becomes your baby. You have to nurture it and grow it, and it becomes a part of you.

Therefore, when a friend or colleague points out all the things you could do to make improvements, it stings. After all, they’re talking about something you know and love, so it hurts a lot more than if it were something you weren’t passionate about.

Passion Doesn’t Always Pay the Bills

You might be passionate about gardening, music, or running — but is turning that into a job going to pay the bills?

You might think that trading in your salary to pursue your passion is totally worth it. That is, until you’re flat broke.

I firmly believe that money doesn’t buy happiness, but that the lack of money will make you downright miserable.

So before you turn your passion into a job, you need to be sure you can generate enough revenue to cover your bills.

What Should You Do Instead?

My advice is to instead find a job or start a business that you’re really good at.

What’s something you can do better than most people?

It doesn’t have to be your passion, just something you mildly enjoy. Since you’re not as intimately involved, you’ll be much more open to outside criticisms, and will be able to grow at a much faster pace. Faster growth equals more money, and you also won’t risk ruining your passion.

Though I stand by what I’ve said, there are, of course, exceptions. And it’s usually these success stories that stick with us. (Nobody wants to think about the guy who gave up everything to turn his passion into a job, then failed miserably.) Just remember that these successes are the exception, and think carefully before turning your passion into a business.

What do you think? Is turning a passion into a job really a good idea?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Retire Before Dad April 30, 2014 at 5:11 am

Compelling title and good counterpoint to some often heard cliches. Certain (probably most) passions do not make good careers, so I like your advice to do something you are good at instead. Something that earns the most money for your abilities. If a passionate hobby turns into a business over time, then that would great. But that is not a common outcome.
-RBD

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David Ning April 30, 2014 at 9:58 am

The funny thing about being good at something is that you tend to enjoy doing it, which can easily turn into a passion as success builds.

And speaking of compelling titles, I love yours at Retire Before Dad! :)

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Aldo @ MDN April 30, 2014 at 5:23 am

I’d have to agree somewhat but only because your passion doesn’t always pay the bills. But if you are really good at your passion then you should first treat it as a side gig and see where it goes. I don’t think people should stop working to pursue their passion because they might not be that good at it to begin with. Your friends and family might think you are good but you really don’t know what others might think of your work.

If you treat it as a side business and get a feel for it, then eventually you might feel that you like it enough to make it your full time job.

I understand your points, which are valid and true, but the joy of being your own boss and doing what you love should not be understated.

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David Ning April 30, 2014 at 10:02 am

Great point about testing the waters first. Not everyone is cut out to be their own boss so it’s not just a matter of being good at something.

But don’t let what I said stop anyone from trying a new career. After all, everything we are talking about here isn’t limited to running a business. It can also be through a new job position.

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Bill April 30, 2014 at 5:34 am

I think that it should be “Find a job that you are passionate about”. Trying to turn a passion into a business is where things go wrong. It can be done, but only when the passion is accompanied by good business sense.

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David Ning April 30, 2014 at 10:04 am

Or find joy in what you are already doing. If you can’t find the energy to get up in the morning, then look elsewhere.

And it doesn’t necessarily need to be a different type of career either. Sometimes, simply working in the same area but in a different industry is all it takes to “up the passion”.

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Lauren April 30, 2014 at 9:33 am

I think it really depends on what your passion is. Sometimes turning a passion into a career can make it much less enjoyable. If someone is really serious about doing it, it should be with a solid backup plan in place. Give it a go, but be willing to give it up if it isn’t paying the bills.

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David Ning April 30, 2014 at 10:07 am

Staying alert and be willing to move on is one of the keys to being successful, but it’s a delicate balance because you don’t want the backup plan to be so solid you give up before the new career has a chance to blossom.

Give it your very best and keep evaluating!

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David Ning April 30, 2014 at 9:56 am

Thanks for pointing this out Alexa because every aspiring and/or disgruntled employee needs to hear it. “Follow your passion” sounds awesome and works incredibly well for certain people, but the advice isn’t a bulletproof way to a comfortable retirement.

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Dee @ Color Me Frugal April 30, 2014 at 5:29 pm

“I firmly believe that money doesn’t buy happiness, but that the lack of money will make you downright miserable.”- I completely agree! Nothing breeds misery faster. And I’m so relieved that I’m not the only one who was always mystified by how all these people could “find their passion” and live happily ever after. That just hasn’t been the course for me at least. Glad I’m not the only one!

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David Ning May 1, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Doing what they love AND thriving is not common, which is why the advice to follow one’s passion is so dangerous.

An alternative would be to grind it out, save, save, save and reach financial independence early so you can afford to do what you love without worry of money!

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Property Marbella May 1, 2014 at 3:43 am

I know several people who have succeeded with their hobby and have it as their jobs and self-employed: postage stamp collectors, coin collectors, Aktion bargain seekers, musicians, artists, dancers, etc. They are happy every day and they go to a job that they love.

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DC May 1, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Early in my life I had two passions. One was sewing. So many people encouraged me to become a professional seamstress. I knew and still know myself well. I knew that becoming a professional seamstress would make work out of pleasure. So I ignored well-intentioned advice.
My other passion was – and still is – art, in a multitude of forms. For the most part, I was encouraged to become an artist or at least an art teacher. Pursuing art would be a dream come true. But still a dream. One must recognize one’s own limitations. To be what I would have liked to become requires genius. I am not an artistic genius. So I still have my art to give me pleasure.
Aldo’s advice, (above), “If you treat it as a side business and get a feel for it, then eventually you might feel that you like it enough to make it your full time job.”, is sound. I’d add to it: Take some business courses, too, so that you don’t go belly-up because you don’t understand the paper-work end of running a business well.

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David Ning May 2, 2014 at 9:16 am

Good for you on resisting the temptation to “make work out of pleasure”! But let me tempt you once more – perhaps one day you can start a side business sewing beautiful apparel and selling it online to test the waters! :)

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Michelle May 2, 2014 at 10:50 am

I get passion burnout easily when it comes to making or playing music. I was professionally trained, went to college, toured a bit, but I quickly realized that I lost interest when I actually had to view it as work.

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David Ning May 2, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Music is tough because you have to practice so much. My cousin told me she actually loves playing the piano but her mom nagged about practice so much that she now loathes it.

Hopefully one day she’ll start playing again.

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Abigail May 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

Love this! I actually wrote a blog post a few months ago called, “Doing what you love is overrated”. My perspective comes more from having been on disability. Having finally found a job I can do is enough for me. But I also mentioned how you might burn out on the activity, which is a sad idea.

Also, there’s this relatively new trend of people letting their job define them. You do your work, then you go home to the rest of your life. Combining the two means boundary problems, and you might never really be off work. It also reinforces the frankly unhealthy idea that your job defines who you are and how much you are (in the non-financial sense) worth.

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David Ning May 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

People have let their jobs define them somewhat all throughout history, but there’s definitely a trend (at least in the states) for people to take work home.

With the advances in technology allowing laptops and smartphones to easily connect to the office network, it’s getting harder and harder to leave work at the office and have a life!

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Suresh May 4, 2014 at 4:52 am

I agree with your comments that “Passion” cannot be linked to “work” as there is element of Money or earning in it. I feel that you work with passion and money would automatically flow-in… I like the way you detailed this topic….

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David Ning May 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Be careful going too far with the idea that money will follow if you just keep doing what you are passionate about. You need to make sure you are good at it + what you are doing is profitable as well!

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