How I Started Getting Paid for My Passion

People often ask how I made the transition from full-time employee to full-time writer. Some want to know the steps I took to get paid for my passion, while others are interested in how I manage to make a living writing.

Picture of dollar bills
Photo Credit: cafemama via Compfight cc

But here’s the truth: I never intended to make money doing this. I didn’t think it was possible. But that doesn’t mean any of it “just happened,” either.

When I started this blog, I thought at most I’d be able to publish some books (if I was lucky) and collect a few meager royalties. All while holding down a day job for the rest of my life.

In less than two years, though, I found myself at a crossroads. My blog (which accounted for less than 10 hours per week) was now contributing more income than my full-time job (which took up at least 40 hours per week).

Within three months, I had not only replaced my wife’s salary but had surpassed both of our incomes combined. It was mind-blowing. And it meant that I had to make a decision.

Making the “leap”

This put us in a strange position. I wondered,

Should I keep my job and play it safe or make the leap into full-time self-employment?

I liked my job, but I’d felt for a while that it was time to move on. At the same time, my family was relying on me now. Was my dream worth the risk?

After some discussion and prayer, my wife and I concluded that the success of my side gig was God’s way of saying it was time to jump. So that’s what we did.

In a matter of just a few months, my wife and I went from two steady incomes to no steady incomes and a job description that was hard to describe (“Well, you see, he writes for a website and sells stuff that you can’t hold in your hands… and no, we’re not living in a cardboard box.”).

When people hear this story, they often tell me how “risky” it sounds. But the truth is it felt a lot more like building a bridge than making a leap. And the reason for that lies in how I made the transition to full-time self-employment.

I did it gradually. Perhaps, not as slowly as some, but certainly not as quickly, either. Two years is a long time to wait when you feel a strong tugging at your heart.

So when transition time came, there was a lot of security (both financially and emotionally) in that decision. We knew we would be okay. Because this was something I built gradually over time, the “leap” of faith felt more like taking the next step.

The practical parts (how I actually did it)

So that’s how I made the transition to full-time writing, but how did I even get to that point? How did I start getting paid for my passion in the first place? Here’s what I did:

  1. I built the audience first. I’d heard stories of people like Brian Clark who built their audiences long before they tried to sell , and I thought that sounded smart. For more than a year, I wrote a LOT of free, helpful content (i.e. eBooks, newsletters, blog posts, guest posts, webinars, and more) and shared it with my audience. The result was a tremendous amount of trust — to the point that people started begging me to sell them something.
  2. I asked my audience what they wanted. Sean Platt told me to do this, recommending a survey to ask people what they’d buy from me, even how much I should charge them. Over 1000 people responded, many indicating (to my utter shock) they would indeed pay for something I created. That gave me the confidence to try something.
  3. I experimented with an initial offering. My first product was a $2.99 eBook (which I seriously doubted people would buy). Based on the concept of a minimum viable product, I put together an offering that required minimal effort to create and then put it out there to see if people would buy it. The money I made from the first weekend it was released paid for my email marketing service for an entire year (about $1500). After that, everything changed. A hobby became a business.
  4. I learned how to launch things. After that first eBook, I released another eBook but with three different price points (based on Chris Guillebeau’s advice) and a few other tweaks. This generate ten times the sales that the first product did — in a matter of a few weeks. It also taught me how to harness the power of an online product launch (which I’ve since used on my book and online course). Learning how to launch was the golden nugget I was missing that led to sustainable, repeatable success in my business.

Dreams don’t just happen

It’s worth repeating: I didn’t plan for any of this to happen. But that doesn’t mean it was an accident. I saw an opportunity and took it. Which may be the biggest takeaway from the past two years.

Some of our biggest successes can’t be planned, but they can be anticipated. [Tweet that]

This means if you want to do something similar, you will need to be patient but also vigilant, paying attention to the opportunities that come. And when the right one presents itself, be ready to take it. You won’t be able to plan for it, but you will be able to recognize it (if you know what to look for).

Until then, the best course of action is to be generous and build trust like there’s no tomorrow.

Have you ever gotten paid to do what you love? What did you learn? If not, what would you do? Share in the comments.