Can You Turn Your Passion Into a Job and Keep the Passion Alive?

Chris Guillebeau recently asked me to contribute to a post on his blog about whether financial success follows if you “follow your passion” as so many gurus recommend. There ended up being a bunch of great opinions from a number of successful bloggers, writers, and business owners. But none of us addressed another topic, which I thought of later: If you turn your passion into a job, can you still love it?

I love podcasting. I love podcasting so much that I moved from California to Arizona in large part to lower my cost of living so I could pursue podcasting and still have a roof over my head. I never expected Absolute Science or Grammar Girl to make enough money to support a middle-class life in a high-cost region. But much to my surprise, Grammar Girl took off. Building on that success, I was able to found a podcasting network&#151Quick and Dirty Tips&#151and now my passion is my full-time job.

But now I spend about 3/4 of my time on stuff that isn’t podcasting. I have a job (or run a business, depending on how you look at it) and every job includes tedium. My time is mostly consumed by the following less-than-thrilling activities:

  • Dealing with money (following up with people who haven’t paid, paying people, keeping books, planning, filing quarterly taxes, etc.)
  • Hiring (and firing) people
  • Attending meetings
  • Fielding business inquiries
  • Worrying about the money because now that I employ people, I have a responsibility to keep this thing going and growing
  • Traveling for business
  • Dealing with contract negotiations and legal issues

Granted, I should outsource more of the mundane tasks like bookkeeping, but the reality is that if you do what you love and you’re successful at making it your job, you have a job that is like any other job&#151it involves a lot of boring or unpleasant tasks.

I’m not complaining. I still enjoy what I do and have more fun than I did as a technical writer. I’m glad that podcasting and all the job-related stuff that goes with it is my job. I just find myself wondering whether it’s a given that you diminish a passion by turning it into a job. Thoughts?

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7 Responses to Can You Turn Your Passion Into a Job and Keep the Passion Alive?

  1. Steve Parker says:

    I wouldn’t say you diminished your passion. Your job and your passion have simply started seeing other people, but have vowed to remain friends. Anyone who has ever jumped into running his/her own business must have a passion in order to succeed. That you are still participating, at least in part, with the aspect of your business that is your real passion makes you quite fortunate. Also, you obviously still harbor the original passion. I have a friend who was an interior designer. She started small, working clients into her work schedule. Eventually, she was in it full time. One day, she announced her passion had taken over her life and was no longer enjoyable. She completed her obligations and reentered the workforce within six weeks time.

    P.S. I love the Grammar Girl podcasts, as well as the whole concept of Quick and Dirty Tips. They are wonderful, helpful, and entirely relevant to our everyday lives.

    Follow me on Twitter! @stephenparker

  2. Hi Mignon,

    Congrats on your nice new blog! It was nice to have your comments over on the “Follow Your Passion” discussion this morning.

    I’m glad you brought this up. I wish I could say otherwise, but it seems to me that a lot of people who turn their passions into jobs end up burning out and quitting at some point due to all the technical and administrative details that become overwhelming.

    Of course, the good news is that not everyone burns out– and the ones who are able to keep it going have usually done some serious work building systems for their businesses so that they can devote more time to the “passion” side of the job.

    Keep up the writing! It’s not just another WordPress blog. đŸ™‚


  3. Ashish says:

    Reading your post made me remember what Richard Branson said once – “I wanted to be an editor or a journalist… but I soon found I had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep my magazine going. ~Richard Branson”.
    I absolutely enjoy your tips on Grammer and the rest. I am a loyal reader of

  4. I think it’s very easy to get bogged down with all the admin, red tape, tedious stuff you talk about. I find I go through phases – sometimes I’m bursting with what I guess you’d call the passion, other times I wonder if it would be easier after all to go back to being someone’s employee. But the truth is, trawling through the administrative tedium associated with my own business will never be as bad as doing the same for someone else’s.

    On the practical side, when I’m feeling the passion fading, I find it helps to:
    1) always have a ‘project’ on the go, even if it spends for ever in the planning/musing stage
    2) go in search of inspiration from others who are in their ‘passionate’ phases
    3) delegate as much of the boring/energy draining stuff as possible(book keeping, invoice chasing, data inputting etc)
    4) go home and spend time with my loved one
    Cheers and thanks for the blog, just discovered Grammar Girl and love it.

  5. admin says:

    Coincidentally, the Get-It-Done Guy just released a great podcast about finding passion in your job. I swear it wasn’t inspired by me!

  6. Yep, once the honeymoon’s over, and you’re staying up late to finish the accounting, you start to wonder if it’s worth it.

    I find that maintaining a life outside of the job I feel passionate about is important. Booking time to get away and get some perspective helps me come back with renewed perspective. I’ve seen colleagues come dangerously close to burning out because they couldn’t put the job down.

    It’s like a marriage. And yes, that’s a simile. I recently heard someone say that falling in love is easy, because all you have to do is fall. Making a marriage work takes planning and effort and attention to the small stuff.

    There are great things that evolve from doing the daily entropic work that has to be done again tomorrow, and doing them with the understanding that this apparent drudgery actually feeds the moments when you’re revved up and filled with enthusiasm for your work.

    Thanks for a great podcast, Mignon. And thanks for creating Grammar Girl. That’s all!

  7. fm lyons. says:

    I’m looking for a new job and all the people i ask for help ask me, “What are you passionate about.” I reply, “I dunno?” HELP!

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