I increasingly see books, magazines, blog posts and e-courses that promote ‘turn your passion into profit’. More and more people discover Etsy and other online marketplaces and are encouraged to become crafters.
The more I see this idea of ‘turning your passion into profit’ promoted, the more I start to disagree with it, and actually get rather cross about it – hence this blog post!
1. Being your own boss is hard and it isn’t for everybody
Many of these books or blog posts seem to say that anybody can run their own business and become self-employed. But actually, although it is very easy to register as being self-employed in the UK, it is far harder to make a success out of it.
You need to be reasonably good at a wide variety of skills: creative, technical, business, marketing, planning, IT, financial, multi-tasking, communication, negotiation, …
You need to be very self-motivated and determined to keep going and focus on your strengths and potential market.
You might need some money to get started, and it isn’t always easy to get hold of that money.
Many creative start-ups are surprised about how much time they need to spend on marketing and business, and how little time is left over for actual creating.
Over the years as a creative business adviser and coach I have seen many very creative graduates who become really disappointed with the financial returns a couple of years after graduating. Often they didn’t get any business or marketing skills at university, but more importantly weren’t at all emotionally prepared for the harsh reality of being their own boss in a very competitive UK market.
Many creatives are unable to create a successful business for themselves for all sorts of reasons – not because they are ‘failures’ but because it isn’t that easy actually.
2. The sole trader lifestyle isn’t for everybody (not even me!)
When I first became a freelancer 14 years ago I thought I was well prepared. Most of the people I knew were working as freelancers or sole traders. I had a fairly good understanding of basic business, marketing and bookkeeping jobs that I needed to do. My mum had a gift shop/gallery so I grew up in an enterprising environment.
And still … I very quickly started to feel miserable.
Being a freelancer confronted me with some of my biggest fears.
I got a couple of well paid jobs but didn’t know how long the money was going to last.
I became worried about money and didn’t enjoy spending any. I missed the routine of going to work. I was scared about the blank pages in my diary that I hopelessly tried to ‘fill up’. I didn’t feel I was fulfilling my potential. I wasn’t getting any feedback. I realised I didn’t know enough of the right people.
My confidence got quickly shattered and hit rock bottom.
Only when I got a part time regular paying job did I start enjoying my freelance work again. Just having a little bit more financial stability and a routine helped me to enjoy it, build my confidence and helped me to get out there again to look for new freelance projects.
When I took over The Design Trust 3 years ago I learnt from this previous experience how important regular income and working with partners was for me. I had build up a wider network and a bit more financial security over the years, and have had fantastic emotional and financial support from my husband to keep me going and to celebrate with me when things go well.
I now love being a soletrader with the flexibility to work part-time, from home and to be able to pick up my children from school.
Are YOU ready for the roller coaster ride of being a freelancer with all the ups and downs?
3. ‘Anybody is creative’ devalues professional skills and creativity
The idea of ‘turning your passion into profit’ seems to be very much geared towards people who want to make ‘a bit of money on the side’. People who want to turn their hobby into some extra cash. To sell some of their creations at Etsy, Folksy or other online market places or local craft fairs.
They are not aimed at people who want to run a professional business, who have trained and developed their skills often over many years, who design and create original work, who need to charge professional prices for their work to cover their high overhead costs for their studio and materials.
In a way they stimulate the idea that ‘anybody can be creative and sell their work’.
Thereby damaging the brand of high quality, creative and professional products and skills.
Downgrading the value of creativity, innovation and skills in general.
Often charging prices that are way below the going rate to build a sustainable business, and threatening to push all prices downwards.
This idea of ‘turning your passion into profit’ is actually rather damaging for professional creatives who want to run professional businesses.
4 It’s not about you
If you are passionate about somebody or something you are really focused on that. You love it and you can get really absorbed, getting into your ‘flow’, without thinking about ‘the outside world’.
I strongly believe that you can only create a successful small business if you find your ‘sweet spot’ where you combine your passions, strengths and skills. (Yes, I do think it helps enormously if you are passionate about what you do!)
But the missing link is that you need to find people who are interested in buying from you, who see a value in what you do and therefore are prepared to buy your work or commission you.
Not just to earn money, but also to create work for them.
Most creative work only really comes alive when it is used, worn, sit on, played with.
The idea of ‘art for art sake’ won’t work if you want to earn a decent income. You will need to go out there, be pro-active, present and promote yourself to potential clients. Your clients will inspire you to keep creating better work. If you wait till potential clients might ‘magically’ discover you then you will be disappointed. (Read more about how to avoid being a starving creative here)
5 Having ‘just a hobby’ is rather a good thing actually
If you are a busy person then having a hobby is a great thing! Enjoy yourself, learn something new. Especially if you are a busy entrepreneur having a hobby is a great release from the many stresses you might have.
I meet so many creatives who spend all their time on their work. Barely have ‘got a life’.
Just creating something personal, to express yourself, is really valuable all by itself.
If you start adding pressure on to yourself that you need to earn money from what you love doing will quickly make you stressed. If you start to get feedback from people about really personal and often emotional work that can really hurt.
Both are a very quick way towards losing your creativity and ability to express yourself visually all together. Your source of inspiration and motivation dries up.
‘Just a hobby’ is actually the best thing for many people.
What do you think about ‘turning your passion into profit’? Feel free to add your comments and feedback in the box below. Really looking forward to your comments and some constructive discussion.