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Is "Following Your Passion" the Right Way to Go?

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Posted 31st October 2009 at 02:17 AM by TheNightOwl

There was an interesting thread today about the role of Passion (with a big "P") in your online endeavours.

Here's the original thread (if it doesn't get nuked for some reason, that is).

I started writing this response and it became far too big for a forum post so I put it here. I hope it's helpful.

Here goes:

First off, at the time of posting this, my absolute favourite comments in the thread so far are:

Troy_Phillips on Passion

RussRave's take on it

Kevin_Hutto's comment

And Black-Hat-Cat's pov


My Thoughts

I agree with MichaelHiles about the milkman. It's a commodity. Most people drink milk. We don't think too much about it for the most part. We just buy it. (Yeah, I know there are 4000 types of milk in your local supermarket or convenience store, even, meaning you have to "think" more, but it's really only about which milk you're going to buy; not whether you're going to buy milk).

Then I was thinking about the fridge salesperson. (Or any other thing like that. Could be a Bentley. Not all that different the way I see it...)

This is what I'm thinking:

I'm currently in the market for some new items around the home (some new furniture and a couple of electronic gizmos).

Now, I don't expect many sales people to be "passionate" about plasma TVs or chests of drawers or Bentleys or whatever. And, yeah, it's possible that someone is, in fact, passionate about, say, high-end performance cars, but it's still akin to selling fridges in my mind because all I really hope for in a sales person is sincerity. I'm much more likely to buy from the person who listens to my needs and wants and then presents me with the best solution they've got. (IF they've got one, that is; Over the years many sales people with integrity have actually referred me to competitors simply because they couldn't match my needs/wants.)

What I'm getting at is that someone who deals with me in an authentic and genuine way and helps me solve my problem within my budget is going to get my business - and VERY likely to get my repeat business, and going to get WOM referrals.

This is the "Tribes" point. But also not, in a way.

What if...

There is a bit of an assumption from some responses so far in this thread that everyone wants to build a huge business around something.

That may not be true. What if you just want to make a few extra grand a year or month?

Or what if you want to get started bringing money in so you can edge out of your day job and then build something more lasting?

The Frustration

I don't agree with everything the OP says, but I certainly feel his frustration. When I started out online all I heard was the "Follow your passions!" line.

It sounded plausible enough. I'm not all that interested in fly-by-night things - opting, generally, for long-term approaches. For example, I'm an educator and much of my approach to teaching and training flies in the face of traditional education because I believe in the long-term benefits of being able to apply one's education based on really having apprehended it in the first place.

So... I thought "Cool! I'll go with what I'm passionate about." I spent a long time learning all the basics online. No problemo that's the price of entry if you're serious.

And I spent a long time building a site and writing content and trying to get traffic and so on... for something that I'm passionate about.

But no money became of it.

Did that with two different things I'm passionate about. One I'm REALLY passionate about and one which is a hobby - but one I'm serious about and with which I'd like to help folks who are interested in.

Neither of these projects really does anything to set my bank balance on fire.

Forex versus Snow Globes

There are, of course, thousands of possibilities as to why those sites make me next to no money. And it doesn't in any way suggest that following your passions is a bad thing to do. It's not. Necessarily.

For example, as Eric pointed out, above, if your passion "just happens" to be FOREX, you're in a much better position to make some decent money online and grow a business than if it's about snow globes. Now...

Can you build a business around snow globes? I'm sure you can.

If you're passionate about snow globes will that carry through to all your communication with your prospects? I bet it will.

Is this likely to result in building a Tribe who'll disseminate your message in that beautiful third-party endorsement, WOM, free referral way and lead to your being the go-to snow globe guru? Yep, could well do.

No Momentum without Traction

I think I can feel some of the OP's frustration, though, because when you start out (with anything), there's SO much to learn. And you need traction.

You need some positive feedback to (a) build some momentum - You can't get momentum if you're spinning your wheels, and (b) give you the confidence to proceed, knowing that you're moving in the right direction.

I agree with the people who've commented that Passion will get you through the slumps and go a long way to get you over the times you feel like giving up. And that when the Passion isn't there, it's more likely that you will, indeed, throw in the towel. Totally agreed.

But... what if your goal is to move away from being a wage-slave (as I assume it is for most folks on this forum - regardless of whether or not you'd like to stay IN a job; just not HAVING TO stay in a job)?

I agree with the comments that money can help stoke the "little 'p'" passion and keep you going also. Maybe not for the long term, but enough to not quit.

For example, the thing I'm REALLY passionate about... well, I've finally worked out how I can turn that into a REAL business. As in a serious online and offline business with the possibility of global licensing to big organisations and blah blah blah.

And my Passion for the topic is likely to carry me through the next X number of years until I see my vision come to life. And that's amazingly exciting. Almost exciting enough to carry me through. But is it?

The short, honest answer is "Yes, most probably it is," giving a BIG thumbs up for the Passion model.

But it's extraordinarily hard to keep slogging away at something that's not making any money and is unlikely to make any sort of real money for the next little while as I do the full and proper market research to determine whether the market wants what I have to offer and, if so, the best angle of attack. And then, if both the quantitative and qualitative data is promising, time to then build a prototype and roll it out. Then time to tweak it and so on.

The Surge to Enable the old Cut'n'Run

In the meantime, I'm still not making enough to have replaced my day-job income. Not by a long shot. (So perhaps my response will get tossed into the "whining losers who can't make money" box. ** shrug ** )

Which is really, really, unbelivably tiring. I go to work and give it my best for 10 hours a day and then come home, do the things I have to do, and then chip away at the tasks i need to complete in order to learn everything I can about doing business online, product creation, customer relationship management, etc.

Which is fine, of course. That's the price we all have to pay in order to build something that's going to last. No complaints from me on that account. The preceding paragraph was not a complaint. It was just a big old tired sigh!

What I SHOULD have done starting out, however, was follow Marketing & Selling 101:

  • find a market that LOTS OF OTHER people are passionate about
  • find out what exactly they want
  • sell it to them
  • sell them more of it on the backend

I could still have learnt all the basics (how to set up a simple website, install a blog, manage mailing lists, get a product on Clickbank and/or use your my inhouse sales management and affiliate script, etc., generate traffic, build backlinks, track everything, test different offers/elements/etc. ... and so on)...


... actually earn some money!

Saturated Markets

I assume that's the reason there are so many people in the "make money online" niche -- the majority of whom probably aren't making much or any money (myself included! Well, kinda. The little bundle of online tools that I sell on my site was put together after reading "The Fortune at Your Fingertips" by Paul Myers (highly recommended, incidentally) because I'd collected so much stuff (as bonuses, etc.) and I figured it wasn't doing any good on my hard-drive so I may as well put it up and see if I could make a few sales here and there with it. I wouldn't say that I'm "actively" in the MMO niche, however. In truth, though, the point still remains: There is a HUGE pool of people who are trying to make money online and are happy to whip out their credit card if they think something will make them more money (= passionate market); the tools I'm talkiing about are for that purpose; so perhaps I can get my sales message in front of a certain percentage of them; and perhaps what I'm offering will be of use to a certain percentage of those people; = I make money from a market that I'm not actually "Passionate" about)

I see why so many people go after the MMO niche right out the gate, along with other things like FOREX and weightloss and dating, etc. It's because there is a HUGE market - a HUGELY PASSIONATE market! - driving those niches. And this equals a lot of money.

Of course, it also means there's a lot of competition. And lotsa noobs get burnt trying to get into those markets. But instead of slogging away at something you're Passionate about for months and earning a few hundred, perhaps... why not spend that time learning how to get even a small sliver of a MASSIVE pie? And then using that money to ease yourself out of your wage-slave status so you can then concentrate on your "Passion" and build that up into something long-term?

"Don't Try This At Home," but still...

Let's take the MMO niche as an example again. Anyone on this forum is no doubt familiar with the person who is just beyond noob and runs a WSO for a tidy little report. I've bought some good ones. Even some excellent ones.

And then I've bought some that are just a rehash of a handful of recent discussions on this very forum (WTF? But it gets worse...) which then auto-subscribe me to their autoresponder sequence [a topic for another day - and the topic of MANY other threads here] and then proceed to hammer me with affiliate offers.

Just as noobs are taught to do at forty thousand different IM membership sites and forums all around the Net.

I can't help but wonder, though, how much money those who do this kind of thing make. Sure, you'd be inclined to think "Not very much. Everyone's just gonna unsub quicker than you can say 'Geez! Another one!'" but I'm very willing to suspend my judgement on that (1. because I have no idea, of course, and 2. because part of me thinks that they DO actually make some decent coin before the rug is pulled).

Okay, if you do this, you're likely to undermine your credibility and not get any repeat sales. But you only have to do this kind of thing once every couple of months to take advantage of the constant influx of new members here.

And this kind of thing could easily then prop a person up enough (monetarily) to enable them to move into a part-time position in their job -- giving them, say, an extra 20 hours a week to work on their "Passion" project.

And after 6 months of that, they might actually be generating enough Nett profit from their Passion project to move out of their job entirely and concentrate on the Passion project full-time and ramp it up into a full-on legitimate business, complete with Tribe-building and all the good things that come from being genuinely invested in that niche.

And then drop the other niche projects.

Or -- even better -- simply outsource the management thereof from the profits generated (from the dating site, or weightloss site, or forex site, or MMO site, etc.). In fact, why not outsource the management and pay a writer who IS passionate (but has no interest in setting up an online niche store/blog/site) to connect more authentically with the people who visit the site, join the mailing list, buy from the site, etc?

Scratching My Head

I'm kinda bewildered (and somewhat frustrated with myself, truth be told) on this account. For a smart guy I sure was dumb about this when I started, buying, instead, the "Follow your passions!" line. I'm quick to point out, once again, that I don't think this is INTRINSICALLY bad advice. It's just that if your Passion is not in a niche that's readily monetized (and readily monetized in a way that actually gives you traction; $5 or $10 or even $20 a day ain't gonna cut it, I'm afraid), then you're setting yourself up for a hard slog in my opinion.

======== Cynical Aside ==========

The cynical part of me also thinks the "Follow your passion!" line gets spouted by too many people who got into IM via the MMO niche. So it kind of sounds like the following to me now:

"Follow you passion! Don't go into IM, for example, because that'll just be more competition in the space I'M competing in. Never mind that I started out in IM and now make a killing with my monthly coaching program about how to make money online and didn't really know the first thing about authenctially connecting with my prospects in a niche other than MMO when I started. Sure, I learnt pretty quickly how to be passionate and connect with my subscribers even though I, myself, was a noob and couldn't freakin' believe that I was actually making hundreds of dollars per affiliate commission sometimes when I knew diddly about anything other than setting up a basic website with a free report about something just below my own level of noobness and then pitching affiliate offers for high-priced wing wangs on the backend that promised the earth and plucked at the desperate noobies' emotional desire to get out of the Rat Race (just like me, right!)... funny how earning real money will make you passionate about something, eh? So now I can say "I was always passionate about making money online and helping others make money online, but you... no, no, you need to go for something that you're passionate about... and as a noob to this biz, you couldn't possibly know about how to make money online (never mind that I didn't either)... so, uh, it'd be better if you went for something that's likely to NOT earn you very much... and that way I can get you to buy all the affiliate offers I send your way promising to "explode" your conversions and do all sorts of other Inquisition-like things to Google that'll have you "an automatic cash injection directly into your bank account" and/or "unleash an unstoppable flood of rabid buyers" or whatever. Not to mention enrolling you into my private coaching program."

But like I said, that's just the cynical side of me talking.


The Upshot

So... I think I'll be taking my own advice and trying to cash in on one of the "money niches" for a little bit. Hopefully, with what I've learnt about building and maintaining websites, generating visitors, copywriting, testing & tracking, sales processing, follow-up relationship marketing, etc. I can build up enough reasonably hands-off income to (a) be able to outsource the management of it, and (b) ease out of my full-time job and concentrate on my "Passion" projects.

I wish I'd been given a decent model for this when I started.

Yeah, I know that going into competitive markets when starting out is a great way to lose your shirt. So I'm not sure what the best solution is. But I read threads on this very forum quite often from people claiming they've gone from total noob to earning a decent income online just from article marketing by focusing on hot-selling products.

Okay, am I naive enough to think this is a sustainable practice? No. (And it's not even close to being a "business model" in my opinion) But my thesis here is that it could be just what's needed for someone who DOES have an idea for building a real business in a niche they're Passionate about and needs the TRACTION to get going and stick at it through the thousands of hours of massive learning curve after massive learning curve - while trying to hold down a day job, get enough sleep to function well, spend time with family and friends, take care of everything else (household chores, paying bills, waiting in line at the post office, etc.).

All the best,
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