A Job, a Career or a "Calling" – How to Get Paid for Doing What You Love

The New York Times headline jumped out at me: "I'm Making a Living From My Hobbies" (ironically, this was in the Jobs section of the Sunday paper on January 9, right above an ad for Monster.com!).

Here was a guy, Frank Hyman, who decided back in 1986 that he wanted to get paid for his hobbies. Two years later, he was doing it, and he's been doing it ever since.

Frank has been doing what he loves for 23 years, and carving out a pretty decent income in the process. He started out writing freelance articles for a regional newspaper, and now intertwines seven "avocations": sculpture, stonemasonry, woodworking, gardening, photography, writing and politics (one of his sites, gardenrant.com, makes for some interesting reading).

He's found a way to make money at each of them, but doesn't obsess over clients. They seem to come to him, and Frank's laid-back phone message tells them, " … not sure when I'll get back to you." He writes every morning, gardens in the afternoon, and carries his camera wherever he goes.

Now, don't worry – this isn't an article about "Do what you love, and the money will follow."

Nice advice for starry-eyed optimists, but it's not quite that simple. When someone said that to me back in 1999, I vividly remember joking, "I wish I could get someone to pay me for riding my bike and traveling."

Why not? Working my passions into a lifestyle …

That offhand comment about biking and traveling set the wheels in motion. A year later, my sales manager gave a motivational presentation, asking a group of us: "Do you have a job? A career? Or have you found your calling?" (Guess he asked the wrong question – shortly after that speech I gave my resignation.)

I didn't set out to become the next Lance Armstrong, and I'm still not getting paid to travel (not yet). But I decided there had to be a way to restructure my life so I had more time to pursue my passions.

While I eventually rediscovered my long-lost writing skills, and developed a strong desire to live The Writer's Life, it wasn't an immediate transition. Not by any means.

I began a circuitous path that took me from career, to job (I did things a little backwards) to true "calling".

In the process, I learned some things the hard way that could have shaved years off my learning curve. Eventually, the sweet tasting rewards of The Writer's Life made it all worth it.

The long way home

Here's the Reader's Digest version of my path: Left a lucrative direct sales career to find my "calling". Missed on the first two attempts. Finally stumbled upon AWAI's Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting in 2004.

My epiphany! I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up!

Devoured the program while working a job I really didn't like (supervising a call center for a large regional bank). Registered for the 2006 Bootcamp but cancelled, thinking I wasn't ready yet (big mistake). Signed up again in 2007, this time I went. Met real people who were making it happen. Didn't get any projects yet, but kept plugging away at my skills. Went back in 2008, had another distinct moment of clarity, making a decision to quit my job and become a full-time freelance copywriter.

Five months later, on March 31, 2009, I did just that. It's been a wild ride since, and I'm still learning every day. But somehow I've done enough things right to replace my previous income as an employee, and then some. More important, I was able to take about seven weeks off to travel over the past 16 months, and even do enough bike training to compete in a crazy off-road triathlon called the Wolfman.

A faster road to The Writer's Life

Four things I'd recommend if you want to get there quicker than I did:

  1. Set a goal with a date. Frank Hyman set an original goal of getting paid for his hobbies of writing, gardening and politics within two years. He achieved the writing part of it by writing freelance articles, then a few years later started his gardening business. Roy Furr designated his "Personal Independence Day" as March 1, 2010 (he wrote it on December 28, 2009). Ahead of schedule, he's been "doing his own thing" since February 11, 2010 (and we all know it's worked out pretty well for Roy so far). And it wasn't until I finally stamped a date on my goal that I was able to make the leap. Whether it's two months or two years out, set a goal with a date.
  2. Realize that there will be setbacks. Frank says, "Failures are a one-room schoolhouse for the adventurous." I could have played it safe, and there's a lot to be said for a steady paycheck and benefits. But I wouldn't trade the experience of living life on my terms for anything, even with the uphill struggles, potholes and roadblocks. As Amelia Earhart put it, "Adventure is worthwhile in itself." Indeed.
  3. Use AWAI resources to accelerate your growth. I absorbed as much as I could, as quickly as possible. The only thing I'd do differently is take one thing at a time, master it, and move on to the next. The new Writer's Alliance will be great for this, and Circle of Success was a huge factor in my success. I'm currently building a business around another passion of mine using How to Write Your Own Money-Making Websites(that's a whole other article!), and next up will be How to be a Social Media Expert. Oh, and in my spare time after that? The Ultimate Travel Writer's Program, of course (the original source of my career wanderlust!). Finally,
  4. Find a purpose bigger than yourself. If your goal is to become a six-figure copywriter (my first goal) or the general idea of "living The Writer's Life" (time freedom, being your own boss, doing something you love), connect it with a strong emotion and if possible, people you really care about. What I mean is, I wanted to be a freelance copywriter in the beginning so I could make a lot of money, take time off to travel whenever I wanted, and train for the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. I'm not sure how, but something magical happened when I took the focus off myself. When I changed my focus to being able to take my wife to Buenos Aires for our 10th anniversary, and traveling with my wife and kids to Ecuador this summer for a month, things started falling into place. And instead of a goal of doing the Ironman, when I structured my schedule to go on leisurely bike rides with my kids, I found my productivity (and income) increased. Discover (and write out!) your emotional purposes for wanting The Writer's Life, and I promise, it will happen.

It came to me a little later in life than I had hoped, but I finally found my calling in life. I'm blessed to have found AWAI, and thankful that I had a supportive family who stuck with me in my quest to live this incredible thing we call The Writer's Life.

And you know what? I take back what I said earlier. You can do what you love, and the money will follow.

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Published: March 9, 2011

6 Responses to “A Job, a Career or a "Calling" – How to Get Paid for Doing What You Love”

  1. Thank you, I definitely need to comment! I love AWAI's numerous articles I print and save. My life is growing rapidly through this process of connection. Loss and Identity threw me a difficult situation to be in. I reduced my reason for living to an emotional area, and that is where I can't stop writing in morning journal. I decided that the word passion best explained my artistic personality. I am a mother, artist and musician. I doubt my ability to succeed. Passion is a must for my creative personality. I'm going to make it as a writer because of AWAI.

    JMStuart--Write2011March 18, 2011 at 10:54 am

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for writing this peace. It resonated with me. It really did.

    I can't imagine your struggles, but serendipity is the word that best describes your association with AWAI.

    That relationship led you to a brilliant copywriting career, still in the throes of evolution, which encouraged your wanderlust and your love of flexibility.

    It is heartening to know there are people like you who are nonconformists and prefer to march to the beat of their own drummer. Cheers to your life.

    Archan MehtaMay 14, 2011 at 5:20 am

  3. Dear Steve Roller,

    Sometimes your career is not on your choice and you do the job you never wanted to do and you are compell to work against your wishes.

    Ofcourse writing is a highly skilled profession, a write-up is the raw material for an end product i.e. Book, magazine, Movie,Internet etc., but this skill can be polished under the guidance of experts and you are one of them.

    I am following you, but it is necessary to choose a specialty topic/subject to gears up the finger holder and maintains the required momentum...

    Guest (Yaqeen)November 21, 2011 at 6:39 pm

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