Stop trying to make money from your passion.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

You’re so good at ______________! You really should start a business!

We all have. Because we’re all brilliant, talented, passionate people.

It’s a terrible reason to start a business.

How about this one?

I really love to _____________. I’m going to sell it!

I think at this point, you realize it’s not that easy. Right?

You want to pursue your passion and build a thriving business? Fantastic. I love it. Please do. But understand that you’re missing a step.

You’re missing the most crucial part of developing a business that works for you. You’re missing the thing that makes people take notice. The key to creating viral marketing campaigns. The cornerstone of community building.

When your business is built to make money from your passion, you are constantly struggling to find the model that enables you to do that work. It’s an endless pursuit of the right system, the right tactics, and the right marketplace.

It’s business based on self-interest.

What if, instead of focusing on your own self-interest – impassioned as it may be, you focused on how your passion enables you to serve others? Why are you in business? Why do you what you do?

The answers for to these questions are crucial. As Simon Sinek would say:

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

Your widget – no matter how beautiful or how well made – doesn’t open wallets on its own merit. Your service – no matter how well-executed or useful – doesn’t move people to click the “buy now” button.

We live amidst abundance. Every where you look, your widget choices abound. Services are aplenty. Never before has there existed such an accessibility to exactly what you need.

What we need may be utilitarian. What we crave is nuanced, meaningful, experiential.

This is why making money from your passion just isn’t enough. This is why there is a third part to the equation.

Often, when I ask an aspiring passion-driven entrepreneur what their “why” is, the answer is, “Because I just love to [make, create, give advice, write, etc…].”

That answer always falls flat.

The response to “I just love to…” isn’t a transaction, it’s a pat on the back.

Back pats don’t pay the bills.

Of course, your passion – your unceasing desire to do what you do – is key to creating a business that serves you well in the You-Centered Economy. But it’s not an end itself.

Your passion is an opportunity. It’s the inspiration.

Your passion is an opportunity to serve others with clarity & inspiration.

To teach. To advocate. To support. To comfort. To motivate. Click to tweet it!

You don’t make money from your passion. You create the opportunity for commerce around the way your passion inspires you to serve others.

The hipster food truck owner doesn’t only have a passion for selling Mexican-Korean fusion tacos. He is creating an opportunity to educate others about foreign food cultures. He is offering a hub for human connection. He is inspiring others to try new things.

The jewelry designer doesn’t only have a passion for making elegant jewelry from recycled metal. She is empowering women to feel beautiful in their own skin. She is creating opportunities for boyfriends and husbands to delight their girlfriends and wives. She is jumpstarting wardrobes.

The copywriter doesn’t only have a passion for the written word. He is bringing clarity to his clients. He is enabling business owners to see a new side of their business. He is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to better serve their own customers.

It’s not the passion that triggers the transaction. It’s the service.

You can love what you do – completely – while making others the foundation of everything you do.

Use your passion to inspire the service of others and, in that service, create the opportunity for commerce.

Click to tweet the word!

Ask yourself, What am I teaching and whom am I serving by practicing my passion?

Your business is built from there.

A system of commerce based on the service of others transcends individual passion even as it elevates it and those who feed the system.

Continue the conversation...

44 comments on “Stop trying to make money from your passion.

  1. love this, so very true. great post!

  2. MadameSaslow says:

    Great way to think about it. That I love what I do goes well with my desire to have a business and do it my way. But that still doesn’t include the necessary third party, the customer. I’ll be pondering this today.

  3. Laura Simms says:

    Bingo! This comes up in career coaching a lot. “I love to knit.” Ok, so…why? For who? How you gonna make that work for you? As. a. business? The passion is starting point–filter it through being of service, and things get a lot easier.

  4. Brilliant post! When I first started out with my business, my mindset was solely on using the passion I had, thinking that it was enough. It took me a while to discover that passion is actually the fuel, or the fire, that ignites my business and (as you wrote it this great article) provides a valuable offering/service to others.

  5. Yes! I love to sing and write songs but the work is worth doing because the world is thirsting not only for my voice but for the voices of all my students.

  6. YES to all of this! A great reminder, a great post. Thank you Tara. Transferable passion – and finding the right way to create this transfer is what it’s all about.

  7. Angela Childress says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It was perfect timing. Too many times, I have signed up with a company or taken a part time job to simply bring in some income. The jobs were just jobs and lifeless. The various sales companies I failed or quit because I really was not into what the product was. I finally took the steps to take what I am passionate about, share it, and teach it to others, and create a business to help others find a passion for something too. Thank you again for this post.

  8. Tara, this is right on! I love that you are asking the essential question: WHY? Thank you for reminding us that it’s not all about us (gasp!) xo, Nisha

  9. Joe Breunig says:

    Amen! If one is truly passionate about their business, then it will be self-evident. If in doubt – ask your customers for their opinions, but make sure that you don’t get upset when their perspective differs from your reality. Truth, although brutal at times, can be a real eye-opener. That’s why it’s important to have customer feedback system(s) in place – to help keep you in line and your clients/customers happy.

    -Joe Breunig
    Reaching Towards His Unbounded Glory

    PS Seasons greetings to you and yours!

  10. Love, love, love. I am completely with you. Was nodding my head through the whole thing! :p You stated this beautifully. Thank you.

  11. Laura Gates says:

    Great post, thanks! I love this line: A system of commerce based on the service of others transcends individual passion even as it elevates it and those who feed the system.

  12. Wow! I love this. You put to words what goes through my head so many times. Great job. I love your writing style.

  13. Julia says:

    Tara, this is right on and think a true key to being a profitable, sustainable business–taking the focus off of you, and turning toward how you make the world better. Bianca says it all–the passion is the fuel, not the focus. Thank you for giving me a fresh perspective!

  14. Debra says:

    Thanks Tara, this is something that I really struggle to get my head around! I really want to clarify and maximise how I best serve my customers as an artist. Your examples help me begin to understand how my passion can inspire me to serve others. I’d love to read more on this – with advice on the questions we need to ask to draw out this absolute core of our business. Food for thought! Thank you.

  15. That’s really funny, I never thought of this, nor thought of passion in that way.

    It’s true though – definitely true.

    We think passion is great because it’s what we want to do, and it’s because what we like, and because it’s what we find easy.

    But like you said.. there is no “you” or “what the customer likes” in this equation. So logical so many of us miss it…

    Thank you :)


  16. Monica Crowe says:

    This makes complete sense, Tara! I just told my husband about your post last night, because the “do your passion” thing came up. I’m a muti-passionate person with lots of interests and talents, so I wish I’d learned your lesson earlier. Luckily though, this year I found the sweet spot of business — the place where I’m able to help people with something I’m good at and have a deep interest in.

  17. Kara says:

    That’s the idea that moved me from doing what I love to doing what I love for others. You can get a sweater at the store (where I live that’s Walmart) but you can’t get a handmade sweater designed to make full figured curvy women feel more confident about themselves. I think about what is going to feel good next to the skin, how it will cling or skim curves, what makes a woman feel feminine and confident, how to play up the good parts and downplay our bits that may look bad in our own eyes. Each piece I make I think about the person who will wear it. I want people to tell her she looks terrific, not that she’s wearing a nice sweater. I’ve always looked at it from how do I help “big girls” like myself feel good about their bodies which translates into feeling good about themselves, to feel beautiful not like an afterthought market and not those hideous fabrics that feel horrible or awful colors that the fashion industry uses that seem to say “you’re fat, you don’t deserve to look and feel comfortable and confident”. Also everything is made to fit women of a normal height. I may be a size 18 but I’m not 6 feet tall. Neither is the next lady. Sleeves are the right length, the sweater are long enough without being a dress or riding up over the tummy. Anyway, that’s why I started my business. And I say so up front. But the business ain’t picking up. I have a few repeat customers. Very few new ones. You have great ideas. And you’re very encouraging. But I’m not always sure of your practicality. Saying and even doing don’t always work out as livable income. But thanks for the positive outlook. : )

    • nathalie says:

      as i will be re-beginning my design business this coming year, i am adding your post to my thinking. important perspective for me to make a living from what i do well. i enjoyed this post!!!

  18. Karen says:

    I love your message, Tara. It speaks to my heart.

  19. Shelly Hughes says:

    What??!! Stop trying to make money from my passion? You nailed it. Somehow you turned this idea inside out and revealed to me a much more powerful and meaningful way to consider my work. Thank you thank you!!!

  20. JoAnna says:

    Great points Tara. I love it. Think I’m going to go re-read it now.

  21. Wow! So glad to read this post. I had just had a meeting with a trusted friend to talk about our respective business goals. One thing our talk centered on was how to bring home the bacon when you want to be in “expansive mode” and “say yes to everyone” and every possible opportunity to ply your passion. I hear you saying those things can be profitable. Fingers crossed ;-).

  22. Jude Spacks says:

    So clearly said. Yum! Loving the straight-up truth nuggets.
    Only thing I’d add is: your jewelry maker can provide opportunities for sweethearts and spouses to delight each other with jewelry without having to be hetero to do it. ;-)

  23. Re: What am I teaching and who am I serving? Also, people don’t buy what you do – they buy who you do it.

    These questions and statement not only helped me understand why diving into a business based on passion alone isn’t enough, but I understand why I’ve been working myself into an endless cycle and getting nowhere. I really needed a different approach. I’m an visual artist but I also love writing and teaching (even if it’s not art related). Surely there’s a way I can combine my talent with a desire to serve and maybe even to teach! Thanks so much!
    P.S , any additional advise or comments would be most welcomed!

  24. Andrew Walsh says:

    Great post. Your examples of the food truck owner, jewelry designer and copywriter really made this idea come to life in my head. It’s absolutely crucial for anyone hoping to launch a passion-based business!

  25. janet says:

    Did you know that some kind of bankruptcy pop up asking VERY personal information pops up when you try to sign up for your free course. Is this associated with you?

  26. Jenny says:

    Congratulations. Brilliant post — hit the nail right on the head.

    Many of my customers started their businesses as hobbyists, and are finding it hard to ‘get out of their own way’ and let their business flourish. Passion-blindness is not good!

  27. yes, an important distinction…thanks for clarifying that! I’m booming with passion, but how you communicate the value it provides others is how you put that passion into positive effect…aka service.

  28. dear Tara! i actually went to read your post because I was provoked by the headline, and thought “this is just TOO WRONG, I gotta know what it is about” :) and then I started reading, and you really have a wonderful point, I really wanted to hear!

    I am designer and entrepreneur, and have spent a year looking for this last piece:

    “The jewelry designer doesn’t only have a passion for making elegant jewelry from recycled metal. She is empowering women to feel beautiful in their own skin. She is creating opportunities for boyfriends and husbands to delight their girlfriends and wives. She is jumpstarting wardrobes.”

    THANK YOU so much for sharing!!

  29. So very true! This is actually what led me to create a system of sleuthing on the Internet to find people’s pain points, and use THAT as the starting point for a business idea. Your true passion (at least when it comes to making money from it) can only be found in relation to someone else’s need.