Do You Have Enough Passion to
Be a Renegade?

Career Renegade

Imagine that your occupation involves doing what you truly love, regardless of money.

Now imagine you do actually make good money doing what you love.

Let’s face it, unless you’re a trust fund kid or the developer of a Web 2.0 site, money still matters.

That’s what lawyer-turned-blogger Jonathan Fields wants to talk about. And he gets the conversation started brilliantly with his new book, Career Renegade: How To Make A Living Doing What You Love.

I’m featured in the book because Jonathan found Teaching Sells to be a prime example of a career renegade path. People who have a passion to teach can also make good money and enjoy a wonderful lifestyle… but it’s a different way of approaching a vocation that many associate with low wages and meager living.

Jonathan explores plenty of other examples of renegade career paths in the book. I asked him a few questions so you can get a feel for his unique philosophy of work and life.

Brian: People often say that if you do what you love, the money will magically follow or you’ll be so happy the money won’t matter. What do you think about that?

Jonathan: It’s a lie. Flat-out B.S. Okay, well, at least it’s a lie for millions of people. If you’re one of the lucky few who love medicine, law or accounting, then, yes, there is a ready path to serious money. But, what if the thing that joneses you more than anything else is painting or collecting dolls or writing? Or, what if your mad passion is basketball, but you’re 5 feet tall, 50 years old, 50 pounds overweight and you’ve got an awful outside jumpshot?

If that’s you, there is no clear and easy, mainstream path to real money. It won’t just automatically follow. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but I have to support a family in NYC, so I need to make a pretty serious living. And, while I would be willing to scale back a bit if that allowed me to do what I love, I am not willing to dramatically shrink my or my family’s lifestyle. Most people I know feel the same way.

So, they end up just turning their secret passion into a hobby. Thing is, that always struck more as more of a cop-out, a surrender to “conventional” wisdom than a solution. I don’t go down easily. At least, not without testing the assumptions. So, I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 years figuring out “unconventional” ways to turn seemingly moneyless passions into not only serious money, but serious businesses…and MAKE the money follow. It’s not always easy, but it is nearly always possible.

Brian: Okay, so if there’s no “conventional” easy way to make money doing what you love, what are some of the “unconventional” things you can do?

Jonathan: This is where it gets fun, because you get to go renegade, get hyper-creative and often create opportunities that might not have even existed before you gave them life. I get into some very cool renegade paths that involve little or no technology in the book, but let me share a few of the more tech-oriented paths here.

One of the best renegade ways to leverage a passion into a living online is to find and exploit gaps in the culture surrounding your passion. In Career Renegade, I lay out five major exploits and detail how to tap them in the book:

  • Information
  • Education
  • Products/merchandise
  • Community, and
  • Mode/delivery

Exploiting these gaps in the culture surrounding your passion keeps you close enough to the action to satisfy your passion jones, but opens “monetization” doors that most people never even see, let alone walk through.

Let’s take information/education gaps, for example.

One of the case-studies in Career Renegade shares how a thirty-something married father turned his obsession with playing the John Madden Football video games into a six-figure business. He knew nobody would pay him to sit on his couch and play games, but by repurposing his vast knowledge of game “cheats” into high-demand ebooks and info-products, he was able to do what he loved and leverage his expertise to create a thriving information business.

Now, take that information exploit, give it steroids and you’ve got education gaps that can be turned into very lucrative income streams. Actually, while I lay out a bunch of different ways to exploit education gaps in the book, your Teaching Sells training is a perfect example of this approach.

It shows you how to take knowledge you’ve built around a passion, test it to see if others are hungry for it, then leverage it to create online learning portals. Done right, as you already know, this model can be a real win-win. It allows you to mine your knowledge of an activity you’re passionate about, commoditize and distribute it, then turn it into a very real, ongoing stream of income. And, the success of Teaching Sells is a testament to the viability of this model.

These are just a few tech-driven examples. But, the point is, even passions that most people thought could never make money can often generate a lot of money, if you throw off the chains of convention and take a renegade approach. And, if you’re willing to swap time for money, you can often do it from anywhere, spending almost nothing.

Brian: So, if this is really so doable, why don’t more people do it?

Jonathan: Lots of reasons, but there are two biggies, from what I’ve seen. One, many of the tech-oriented renegade paths simply weren’t viable for the average person until the last three to five years. They were either too costly, required too much time to learn, required too much logistics and, often, too much risk.

Thankfully, with the explosion of broadband internet access, the blogosphere and high-quality communication tools, it’s no longer a matter of “whether” these things are possible, but rather, “how.” It’s gotten so fast and affordable, the greatest barrier is simply knowing these solutions exist.

One of the main reasons I wrote Career Renegade was to shine the light on a wide range of unconventional, renegade solutions, then deliver up a ton of resources to give readers something to immediately act upon.

The second challenge is really just decades of conditioning. We’ve spent so many years being told what we can’t do, sucking up to a job we hate and shelving what we really want to do, it’s become a deeply ingrained pattern.

Inertia is an astonishingly powerful force. Especially when we can’t see a clear way out, a different pattern that we believe has the ability to give us both meaning and money. And, again, one of my greatest desires is that Career Renegade delivers that “clear way out.” And, that the many case-studies serve as proof that it can be done.

Brian: Okay, last question. Can this really be done in this economy?

Jonathan: Absolutely. In fact, after so many people have been burned by the old rules that said, “give us your life, sacrifice what you love and we’ll give you your retirement,” we are about to see a rebound wave of homegrown, passion-driven entrepreneurship in the U.S. like never before.

Economic downturns often create once in a generation opportunities, your job is to look for the intersection between what makes you come alive and what the market is looking for.

For example, in a downturn, tons of people decide that instead of paying someone to do work for them, like painting or renovating a house, they’ll do it themselves. This creates a massive uptick in the do-it-yourself (DIY) market and the need for really high-value DIY information. If the information people are hungry for syncs with your passion-acquired knowledge, you could have a huge market to tap.

In fact, I recently saw an electrician who launched a website and blog and monetized it by offering DIY electrical advice for something like $27/10-minute call, chat or e-mail. That comes out to an hourly rate of $162. Not bad for kicking back on the couch and answering questions.

So, yes, you can still be a career renegade, even in this economy…bigtime.

Thanks Jonathan!

Career Renegade: How To Make A Living Doing What You Love is available online and at booksellers everywhere. Teaching Sells is opening for enrollment this week, so if that sounds like your renegade path, let’s get rolling!

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Comments

  1. This is a great article and quite timely for myself as I am working towards turning my loves, drawing and writing into something which I can make a living at.

    And thank you for exploding the myth that simply doing what you love will bring you money. People, particularly those spouting platitudes on Oprah, LOVE to repeat that line.

    GREAT interview. I look forward to checking out the book.

  2. The 5 points listed as ways to attack the exploits connected to one’s category of interest are worthwhile to select from. Each one of them is a completely different pursuit that can be focused on alone, although some individuals do target more than one of them. Filling in the education gap in one’s desired category can work wonders for people wanting to add to their repertoire online or offline. A gap in educational material can be found very quickly, and then effort can be put in to fill that gap with a modern flair.

  3. Jonathan’s advice is great as is most of the content back at his website.

    It’s refreshing to see someone say it out loud that do what you love might not be a viable business option AND then offer a solution that is practical – make the money follow.

    I myself have turned this around even more and have done what I love (neuroscience is my job) and also turned it into a hobby (my site).

    Cheers
    Patrick

  4. I think this economy is the perfect environment to implement a new mindset. Your book sounds awesome, Jonathan. Absolutely on my short list.

  5. Hi Jonathan. I am reading Career Renegade at the moment (my hubby isn’t very pleased because I sit up all night making notes!) and have found it amazing. And I don’t find many books amazing. Truth be told I don’t read any ‘self help’ books because I figure what can they tell me that I don’t already know as an intelligent person and isn’t it all going to turn out to be just common sense anyway.

    In short, no! I really have been glued to it and, after quitting my job on a daily newspaper that I thought was sending itself down the toilet with very poor decisions I was constantly highlighting, I thought why don’t I put those thoughts to my own good.

    And then while reading this book, I’m convinced I can do it.

    So thank you JF. I cannot recommend your book highly enough.

  6. We definitely live in a very privileged age. I quit my job in the middle 2008 to live off income from my business in a virtual world. I’m learning to blog in order to share. This would not be remotely possible if I was born 50 years earlier. Definitely a believe in going your own path and leave a trail…

  7. This sounds like a really interesting book. Many of the conclusions he came to I’d already come to myself. However, I like his take on things. The Madden Football example is pretty inspiring (even though I don’t like Madden Football!)

    - Dave

  8. I love this whole idea and the passionate way you put it out there, Jonathan. There’s so much media noise about the dismal economy (not to say it isn’t dismal) and layoffs, and hardly a peep about the opportunities that are opening up. Not least of which, for many people, are just getting thrown into the deep end and having to figure out how to swim.

  9. I am making this my year of renegade! I’m determined to use my blog as a means of sharing my passion for writing and for real truths about health/getting in shape … and I trust and believe that steps I’m putting into place will ensure I do make money from this as well (working on an e-book to that end!). Nice interview, thanks.

  10. You’re so right, Jonathan. There’s always a way to generate a viable income by living true to your passions. Thanks for sharing a wealth of wisdom here.

    Although the “follow your passions and the money will follow” saying is misleading, it isn’t a lie. It alludes to a legitimate concept, but one that’s frequently misunderstood because the statement is an oversimplified, incomplete tidbit taken out of the context of the greater truth behind it.

    Additionally, “passion” has become a catchall term used to describe everything from a hobby or passing interest, to [unhealthy] obsessions.

    I’ve been helping clients pinpoint and turn their passions into profits for more than a decade. But when we first start working together, most of them don’t understand what a passion really is.

    And these people are bright, introspective, successful professionals.

    For any readers serious about building a career or business around their passions, perhaps the following snippets will be of help.

    A passion is a tangible doing or experience that’s freely chosen from among alternatives. It’s a gratifying expression of who you are.

    So when does an interest, hobby or obsession qualify as a bona fide passion?

    The specific attributes of a passion are as varied and unique as the individual who chooses it.

    But my personal experience, years of working through this with clients and a whole lot of research led to the creation of a list of the hallmark traits of a passion that distinguish it from a hobby, interest or passing whim.

    A true passion…

    1. Makes you feel alive and exuberant on a day-in, day-out basis
    2. Showcases and enhances your core strengths and natural genius in a satisfying way
    3. Sparks your creativity
    4. Causes time to “fly by”
    5. Is an activity you’d probably do for free
    6. Is a source of growth-oriented challenges
    7. Is something you’d regret not having done at the end of your life

    I’m always thrilled to come across a kindred spirit who’s helping people lead lives of their own choosing.

    I’ve no doubt your new book is going to help thousands of people around the world, Jonathan.

  11. I have been flung out into the world of lifestyle design. I totally agree with the ability to make money out of doing what you love, combined with teaching. What I am struggling with is what if your passion is teaching and coaching. What do I teach and how do I teach it to give me a lifestyle that is free from the 9-5 (or more regularly 7-7)? Where do I get the research on what is hot to teach? What kinds of resources can I find that give examples of things that can be done still, not what has been done already?

    Thanks for the help.

  12. I wish I could say this post had inspired me to quit my day job & leap into entrepreneurial life, but in fact I had given notice a couple of hours before it posted. But when I say I love Jonathan’s ideas, I am not kidding around. :)

    I esp. love that you don’t give people the tired “leap and the net will appear” thing. There are no magic dream fairies that will support us, but we can learn to support ourselves.

  13. Jonathan,your post is perfect timing for me.Especially about the $27/10 electrician.I have been targeting electricians only-maybe I ought to open the door to the public.I’ll be checking B/N for your book now!

    Thanks,
    Sparky

  14. Bought it, Love it , doing it. ;-)

  15. What a great article. This will offer a lot of hope to those who do not know what they are going to do now.

    and I love how you encapsulated what the American Dream has been made of:

    decades of conditioning. We’ve spent so many years being told what we can’t do, sucking up to a job we hate and shelving what we really want to do…

    It makes me feel claustrophobic just thinking about it.

  16. Great. I need a boost: a bit more flow on the income side.

  17. This is an inspiring post. I’ll definitely buy the book!
    I like the fact how you put the words ‘passion’ and ‘renegade’ together. It’s not always pleasant to be a renegade and you need a lot of passion to sustain yourself in the face of opposition.

    I’m going through that phase at the moment. I’m a Zen master and right now I’m just about to launch my first Virtual Zen Retreat.

    I’m passionate about it, because it means that people can foster their natural spirituality without having to leave home or work! And by running them by donation, everyone can join.

    But some of my Zen-teacher colleagues are spitting tacks. After all, I am breaking new ground. I’m a renegade :-)

  18. Hey everyone – Thanks for all the great thoughts and ideas in the comments.

    @ Armen – The interesting hings about the 5 exploits is that, very often, you start with one and end up discovering opportunities in others. Especially if you begin by filling an information or community gap, then ask the community what else is missing and create the solution they most want.

    @ Tara – Yeah, when I was writing, my mantra was “be insanely useful.” Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker, but time is short, we need more than just inspiration these days, we need comprehensive solutions.

    @ MaryAnne – I like your list of items that help describe what a viable “monetizable” passion is. It’s similar to the exploration I lay out in the book that also focuses in on Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s famed flow state as well as the impact of the people you surround yourself with. Though I’m hesitant to be the one to judge any deeply held passion “unworthy” of being monetizable these days, because I’ve now seem so many pursuits that others have deemed unworthy turned into viable, deeply satisfying livings.

    That said, Brian and I have talked about the importance, from a business and marketing standpoint, of bringing your “passion” to life in a way that satisfies the needs of a hungry market. Just because it lights your fire doesn’t mean people will want to line up to pay you to do it. Which is why I spend a lot of time in the book walking through tools and strategies to test ideas for market viability, a huge missing step in a lot of peoples’ adventures.

    Here’s the big question I tend to ask myself, “will this choice give me the ability to spend the greatest amount of time absorbed in activities and relationships that fill me up, while earning enough to live well in the world?” If something serves as a basis for me to do that, it’s good enough for me. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

    @ Coach Kip – You’re not alone, my book dives into your questions about teaching and Brian’s Teaching Sells takes you way deeper than I could in a book format, you should seriously think about checking it out.

    @ Sonia – Wait a friggin’ minute, you’re telling me there are no magic dream fairies?!

  19. Thank you for the encouragement! It comes at a time when I’ve been struggling with what I want to be when I grow up, and since I turn 45 next week I feel a real need to figure that out. I know there must be a way to make a living doing what I love, and this post encourages me to dig down and find the answer.

  20. Love your “big question.” Anyone who truly desires personal, professional and financial freedom must ask and be able to answer it.

    I work with clients specifically in the area of building an online business. And yes, market viability is an essential component in the monetization process.

    But there is a broad, diverse range of proven-to-be-profitable (hungry) online markets making it much easier than people think to make a living doing what they love… at the very least, working in the “area” of their passions.

    Once a client has identified and narrowed their list of passions, the next step is aligning them/it with a viable market. Then we identify, integrate and leverage their core strengths and genius enabling them to carve out and easily dominate a niche or niches within a proven market.

    Proven market first, then specialization(s) and niche audience(s) within that market based on the individual’s unique gifts and talents, in conjunction with their specific goals and desired experiences. As with your work, market research is a critical part of the process.

    In my experience, once clients home in on and muster the courage to “own,” align with and integrate their true passions, strengths, genius and desires, monetization is the easy part.

    Thanks again for sharing your powerful insights, for your response and for being “out there” living true to your own passions, Jonathan.

  21. Thank you for posting this interview. Since I launched Green and Chic a few months ago, I have been fearful of the economy and what it would do to my business. I’m learning more and more that there is more than one way to skin a cat and that I have to think outside of the box.

  22. theres is no need to think you can´t do what you love but you need to acept this: is you whant do what you love the way is more dificult but and the end the feeling is great

  23. I’m at the edge of Web 2.0 , trying not to cut myself or fall over. This could be the guide I need! :)

  24. Keeping things muddled and confusing has been a way of keeping people stuck in fear and unable to move.

    I liked the statement “Inertia is a powerful force.” and your solution of a clear way out. What a deal! Bought it, and looking forward to reading it.

    Sheila

  25. In a similar vein, I’m producing a TV series entitled “Business With Passion”, which showcases people who’ve turned their long-term passions into successful businesses. Episodes available online.

  26. I suspect that 5’10″ guy didn’t really love basketball. Who can possibly love eating the ball 10 or so times every game?

    What he loved was the idea of himself as a basketball player.

    I once knew a full-time potter who hated:
    -- clay on his hands
    -- mixing glaze
    -- throwing on the wheel
    -- working with plaster
    -- loading the kiln
    -- unloading the kiln
    -- teaching
    -- in short, every single thing that you have to do to be a potter.

    He just liked the idea of calling himself a potter. He made himself and everyone around him miserable for years.

    I left. Most people did. He’s still at it, though.

  27. Oh. Heh. Left out the point.

    Loving to do something doesn’t happen all that frequently, and is enormously important. Loving the thought of doing something happens all the time, and is nearly meaningless.

    That “basketball guy” couldn’t possibly love doing something he was that ill-suited to do. Loving the idea of doing something for which one has no gift is all too easy, though. Even the magic dream fairies can’t help you if you don’t really love DOING whatever.

  28. The Internet is a huge stimulus for expanding our minds for ideas. I think the biggest thing that keeps people back is fear.

    The ones who are passionate and persistent usually succeed. Well, sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know that helps too.

    This is another excellent post,
    thanks Jordy

  29. Well, at least I am doing something I like now rather than being stuck in an office and earning less than what I earn now.