“Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” is a mantra so common and oft-repeated that proper attribution of the quote is difficult to track down. But whoever first said it, its meaning is the same: make a living following your passions and you’ll never get burnt out, wake up without purpose, or daydream of living a different life or building a different business.
But the benefits of building a business upon your existing passions are twofold. First you’ll be happier because you’re doing what you love. The second reason, though, and the one that many entrepreneurs forget about is that by monetizing your passions, you’re given the unfair advantage of loving what you do and of thus doing a better job at it than your competitors.
In truth, some of the most successful businesses in the world today started as labors of love from their founders. Jeff Bezos even says, “I want to see good financial returns, but also to me there’s the extra psychic return of having my creativity and technological vision bear fruit and change the world in a positive way.”
But how can you turn your passion into a profitable business realistically? Here are four tips.
When most people are passionate about a discipline, topic, or industry, they learn a lot about that market — they read the books, listen to the podcast, and practice the skills surrounding that niche. And by so doing they understand the market better than 90% of the population.
That knowledge is a goldmine for building a successful business, especially if you use it to identify gaps in the market. Consider Irene Barrera, for instance, who started Stay Lean With Irene — an online fitness regimen. Passionate about seeing other people get healthy, she noticed that many online fitness programs neglect one crucial element of a person’s journey to a healthy lifestyle: community.
With that, she launched Pretty Beast as a community-based (or “tribe”-based, as she calls it) program meant to fill the community gap she found in her passion for fitness.
When building a business, a founder must understand their target market. They must understand what their market needs and how their product serves that need or soothes a specific pain.
In the words of Peter Drucker, “The aim of marketing is to understand the customer so well, the product or service sells itself.”
And what’s one of the best ways to learn about your market as a startup founder? Talking to them yourself. A benefit of starting a business which revolves around your passion is that you already have personal connections with your target market. To build a product you can be confident they’ll pay money for, interview your ideal market, ask them what problems they want solved, what kind of product they would pay for, and how much they could afford.
While building a business based off of your passions is a surefire way of motivating yourself and enjoying the longterm journey, there are still certain risks involved — one of which is the chance of your passion becoming a business rather than your business becoming a passion.
Because the truth is, every growing business requires time in front of spreadsheets, time building processes, and time hiring and firing the right and wrong people. In other words, every business requires you to do things that you’re not passionate about. Until, at least, you have the funds to delegate the things you aren’t passionate about.
Zach Benson, the founder of Assistagram — an Instagram marketing agency — explained on a phone call, “Look, running a business will require you to do a lot of things you’re not passionate about. But as your business grows, you can hire people and delegate the things you don’t love doing and focus on the things that you’re actually passionate about.”
If you’re going to have to delegate tasks eventually anyways, you might as well delegate the things you don’t enjoy and hang on to the things you love.
When you start building a business that revolves around your passions, it’s important to keep in mind that you are building a business. And while the mental high from following something you’re passionate about is often immediate, growing a successful business takes time and grit.
Malcolm Gladwell famously popularized the idea that becoming an expert at anything requires about 10,000 hours of practice. And while that exact calculation is likely skewed for professionals who’ve mastered any skill, the basic point is the same: success, mastery, expertise… it all takes time, a lot of time.
To protect your passion over the longterm, pace yourself. Take a vacation every now and again and don’t be afraid to take a day off when you feel yourself burning out. It’s far better to rest now and succeed later than it is to hustle now and quit tomorrow.
You can use the above four tips to help you build a profitable business that you’re passionate about building.
Sure, you’ll still have to work for it, but you’ll enjoy that work. And that passion-based business you build has a good chance of succeeding since you love what you’re doing and you’ll stick with it longer than market competitors.