How to Finance Your Passions
Special thanks to our good friend, Stephen Carlock, for taking the time to add his insight into the topic of financing your passions. We discussed this content recently on our Church Misfit Podcast which is available on Spotify and iTunes.
The following is some general pointers for planning and generating the finances you need to pursue your passion.
Know your number. At what point can you transition from your career to your passion?
If pursuing your passion involves going to work for another entity (whether professional, non-profit, etc.) it makes sense to wait until you’ve found a position where you can at least cover all of your bills, preferably with some extra money to continue to further that passion. Pretty simple!
If pursuing your passion involves starting up your own business, it gets a bit trickier. Self-employment requires you to create your own income (there is no employer cutting you a check every 2 weeks) on an ongoing basis. Some passions will create more revenue at certain times of the year, for instance. And sometimes, for seemingly no reason at all, business will be a bit thinner and revenue will be lower.
To account for this, I suggest two things before transitioning:
Have at least 3-6 months worth of living expenses set aside somewhere, in case momentum builds slowly or you hit a rough patch and you have to live on savings for a while.
Generate at least your basic income goal for at least 3 consecutive months. It’s one thing to earn enough to cover your bills for a single month. But, can you repeat that? If you jump ship the first month you meet your living expenses, you may find yourself drowning on month 2.
Know your plan. If you had all the money you needed today to start, what would your plan be? How do you know it would work?
Build a path from now until day 1 of launch. Pursuing your passion is a noble, but challenging goal. You won’t be able to wing it. There are a few things to do -
Research Your Industry: Like I mentioned above, certain industries are more seasonal than others. Some industries are continually changing, or undergoing a huge change right now. Some industries require more training than others to succeed. Your plan needs to include contingencies to accommodate all of this. For example, non-profits tend to bring in a lot of year-end donations. You may see a huge spike in revenue around the end of the year/new year, but you may also need to operate largely on those donations for several months afterward.
Create smaller goals leading to your final launch: Morale is hugely important to your success. It takes a lot of effort to get from “concept” to “reality.” If your official launch is the only goal you have in mind, you run the risk of burning out during the lengthy grind to get there. Creating several smaller checkpoints along the way to your ultimate goal gives you a chance to experience success more often, which can keep the fire burning. For example, becoming a successful voice actor is greatly helped by receiving acting training, creating a professional demo, and building a strong website. I set each of these as individual goals for myself, and whenever I met a goal it reminded me that the ultimate goal really is achievable.
Recruit partners: Going it alone introduces an unnecessary challenge, and can really work against your success. Now matter how motivated you are, a burden is more easily overcome when shared. These could be financial partners, to help share the cost of starting. They could be brainstorming partners to help you further develop your plan over time. They could be accountability partners that you meet with weekly to keep yourself on track toward the goal. The point is - don’t go it alone. There is no point in wasting valuable resources.
Develop “side gigs” related to your main goal. Ever heard the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” Successful entrepreneurship relies heavily on developing a variety of income streams. That way, if one aspect of your venture isn’t doing as well you have other ways of keeping afloat while you continue to push the entire operation forward. For example, as a Voice Actor my primary focus is recording audio for clients. This works well, unless the number of clients I have is thin. As a related side gig I might offer to professionally edit the audio that other voice actors have recorded. Or I might offer to write scripts for other actors or businesses. In addition to creating more opportunities for income, these related practices can also prove very useful in helping to strengthen my core pursuit.
Know your timeframe. Wrap your mind around the realistic amount of time to gain the finances and plan you need to launch.
To succeed, you need to maintain a long-term mindset. Sometimes you will already have several pieces in place when you initially develop your goal. Other times you’ll have to work completely from scratch. When researching your industry or passion area, make sure to look for examples from others of the potential time it may take to reach certain mile-markers. And then set your own deadlines. Specific deadlines, with dates. Open-ended deadlines have a tendency to help us procrastinate, or even fail.
3 Ways to Finance Your Passions
Reducing Lifestyle and Cost of Living: I looked into some statistics, and apparently the latest research suggests that 40% of families in America are living on 110% of their actual income. What? That means many of us spend more than we make. We can thank credit cards, payment plans (layaway anyone?!) and also...not setting budgets...for this. Even if you aren’t pursuing a passion or some other large financial goal, it’s always a good idea to live below your means, for a number of reasons. When budgeting, I suggest trying to set at least 10% of your income aside every paycheck. If you can live on less, even better. Remember, this is going toward your passions. Some practical ideas:
Ditch the coffee shops for a few months, and make your own coffee at home. We talked earlier about how much you can save if you do this for a period of time.
Stop seeing every movie the day it comes out. It costs about $20 for a single movie ticket, popcorn and a drink (conservative estimate). Why not wait until the movie is at a discount theater, or even at Redbox? If you’re concerned your TV is not big enough to enjoy the movie...scoot a little bit closer. And remember, this is just for a little while, as you save for this true passion.
Stop eating out for as much. Even at a cheap place like McDonalds you’re likely to spend around $10 per meal. If you only did this for dinner every night of the month that’s still $300 per month on restaurants. If you shop right (no, not super coupon-clipping), you can support a family of 5 (I’ve done it) on this amount each month. And no, that’s not eating Ramen noodles every night.
Buy used stuff, or at least keep your iphone for more than one generation. In America we fall into a huge trap of having to buy something new every time it comes out. We do it with phone, cars, televisions, etc. The reality is, just because new tech is out it doesn’t instantly make what you own obsolete. You can save a lot of money by waiting a little longer to buy something new at a lower price, or used for even less. Penny saved penny earned.
Put your money to work through investing: Investing is scary to a lot of people these days. Many older investors experienced the stock market crash in 2008, and many younger investors remember the stories those older investors told (and still tell). But the reality is that investing done right generally carries more reward than loss. This is too broad a subject to discuss in great detail unless you’re devoting a single podcast (or five) to it, but it’s something to look into.
Be smart about the way you trade time for money: When you’re considering taking on a new task always think “ROI” which stands for return-on-investment. If you are spending 1 hour on a $20 task, and 1 hour on a $40 task, it makes sense to cut out the $20 task over time so you can take on more of the $40 tasks.
Practical ideas to generate funds:
Participate in focus group studies. EX: in Austin, TX you can get paid to review TV shows and commercials via “The Media Panel”
Create “side hustles” using your skills on websites like www.fiverr.com or www.upwork.com. Can you edit audio? Professionally proofread text? Blog? Drive views to YouTube videos? Record a great Donald Trump impression? All of these things are potential money makers on sites like these.
Do some extra work on the side for friends or family who own businesses. My mother-in-law owns rent houses. They often need painting, ceiling fans installed, etc. In a few hours I can make $100 or more for work that isn’t mentally challenging, so I get the added bonus of being able to brainstorm while I do it!
Medical studies. This one requires a bit more research, but companies like PPD in austin may pay several thousand dollars to participate in a medical study where you have to be on site for a week or two. Again, making money while having time to think. Just be comfy with the study you choose.
Create a YouTube channel. The millennial generation may not realize it, but we love the “seinfeld” experience. You know, the show about nothing. You can make a pretty successful YouTube channel creating content that isn’t about any specific thing, but simply blogging about your life. If you do have specific interests you can also create niche channels. This takes some build up, but there is money to be made.
Create “classes” about your area of expertise. If you’re an expert in a particular type of software, or a certain task, you can make money teaching others. Websites like www.udemy.com will allow you to create full courses teaching people about a particular topic, including everything from basic to professional level information. Any conceivable topic is a money maker - Geology, Audacity, C++, Photography, etc.