s the old saying goes, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Perhaps you’ve heard (or uttered) the somewhat cynical addendum … because no one will pay you to do it.

While doing what you love is still the gold standard to which many people hold their professional lives, pulling it off can remain an elusive goal. Can you actually find a job doing what you most love to do? Will being responsible for doing that thing day in and day out make it less enjoyable? Is there a way to strike a balance?

Figuring out how to lead a fulfilling life -- personally and professionally -- is one of the major challenges of adulthood. Keep reading for our thoughts and advice on doing what you love, including:

  • Why monetizing what you love to do isn’t always a good idea
  • When and how to make money doing what you love
  • Maintaining a good relationship with your interests over time
two artists working from home on tablets
Should you find ways to bring your hobbies into your professional life, or will it leave you feeling burnt out?

Not Every Passion Has to Be Professional

Why “Doing What You Love” Tends to Mean “Monetizing What You Love,” And Why It’s Not Always a Good Idea

Our passions are those topics and activities that we’re naturally drawn to, the ones that make us happier or more excited or more engaged than anything else. Working with your passions is still work, but it can be energizing, motivating. Usually, it’s something that we want to do.But where do these passions come from? And why does it sometimes seem that focusing your effort on delving deeper into passion projects can have the befuddling effect of making them feel less fun, rather than allowing you to enjoy the time spent on something you know that you love?

One of the ways we might identify our passions is our desire to do it for its own sake. We may not have any particular aptitude for it, it may not serve any practical use in our daily lives, we may not be able to build it into a career, but we love it regardless because its value to us is intrinsic.

Passions like these can be difficult to keep in the modern world. With so many demands placed on the painfully finite number of hours in our days, it can be a challenge to justify dedicating time to anything that does not have a measurable payoff.

The capitalist underpinnings of our modern society suggest that individuals have a duty towards increasing their own capital, “which is assumed as an end in itself.” But in its current stage, it isn’t quite so simple. Everything, it seems -- even our leisure hours -- must have some monetary value, or else it is not actually valuable at all, which leaves little room for activities that aren’t directly profitable.

Today, “passion” is such a ubiquitous phrase in the professional world that it’s easy to forget there was a time not so long ago when passion was not such a large part of the average adult’s professional life or goals.

Prevelance of the Word "Passion" in Print: 1920-2019

Traced by some to the security and prosperity of the post-WWII economy and others to the technological explosion of the dot-com era, the generational trend towards individuality and self expression has resulted in an increasingly “passion”-ate professional landscape since the early 2000s. Now, real or feigned passion is practically a prerequisite for landing any job, from entry level jobs waiting tables all the way up to executive positions at large corporations.

We are drawn to our passions for different reasons -- self expression, curiosity, escapism -- and not all of these motivations coexist with monetization, which is why attempting to turn them into something productive rather than simply allowing them to be can feel so exploitative. If part of what we like about a particular passtime is that it allows us to step back from our daily routines, our professional goals, our personal lives, using it as a means to lean into those same pressures will inherently make it less appealing.

Passions can absolutely be the jumping-off point for fulfilling jobs or side hustles, but they  may also better serve us as hobbies, catharsis, or simply interests. The tricky part, then, is figuring out what role the things we love should play in our lives.

a designer working out a design in his notebook
Creatives may find monetizing their craft a fun challenge rather than a drain.

When + How to Make Money Doing What You Love

Finding and Following Your Dreams in the Gig Economy

Do you want to turn your passion into a paycheck? You’re definitely not alone. It’s a given that people want to spend more time doing the things that they enjoy doing and less time doing the things that they don’t, but recent data suggests that most recent additions to our workforce may also be the most dedicated to finding work they’re passionate about.

In a partnership with the University of Guelph, Lovell Corp. surveyed over 2,000 Millennials and Gen Z-ers to understand what the respective groups value most in a job. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results suggest that the older Millennials value stability (after being brought up in the shadow of 9/11 and surviving three “once-in-a-lifetime” recessions, who wouldn’t be?) and that Zoomers report a preference for work they believe will make a difference (and who didn’t have plans to change the world at 19?).

With the majority of the jobs created since 2005 falling squarely within the gig economy (and the trend continuing), doing what you love looks very different than it has in the past. For all of the drawbacks of the gig economy, it does offer an unprecedented level of flexibility for those looking for ways to pick up side work in their area(s) of interest or transition to a new field entirely.

woman painting abstract flowers
Monetizing your interests may allow you to make money doing something you genuinely love to do.

Some interests are definitely easier to turn into jobs than others. Creatives, for example, may not feel the same burnout that others do when finding ways to monetize their passion because they may be able to use the world and the requests of clients as fodder to further explore their creativity.

If you’re looking for a way to do what you love professionally, consider these tips:

  • Get certified. You don’t have to have a degree to be good at something, but having a certification certainly never hurts. Look for free online courses or sales on e-learning sites like Coursera and Udemy.
  • Become a freelancer. It’s an easy way to test the waters and see how viable your venture is as a money-maker, and if all you’re looking for is a side gig, doing this might be enough! Websites like Fiverr and Upwork make it easy to market your skills and find paid work.
  • Don’t be afraid to be choosy. Not all creative opportunities are created equal. There’s a huge difference between the level of fulfillment you get from writing a PR piece for a random client and iterating through the whole creative process to invent an engaging voice and overhaul the stuffy language on a client’s website. Choose the projects that speak to you.
  • Start a blog. Not only is starting a blog a great way to get some exposure, you can also make money blogging. Getting started takes some time and effort, but it can be super worth it!
  • Create an Etsy shop. Does your interest translate to a product people might want to buy? Then Etsy is your place. Your Etsy shop can take up as much (custom orders) or as little (selling a few things you’ve created) time as you want, and it can be a great outlet for all of your creative energy.
  • Follow brands you love. There are tons of cool jobs out there, some you may not even know exist. Follow cool brands, and keep an eye on their job boards. You never know what kind of talent they’re looking to add to their team.
  • Network, network, network. Doing what you love isn’t always easy. Networking opens you up to more opportunities, which allows you to choose the best and most rewarding ones. Don’t be afraid to join professional organizations, reach out on LinkedIn, and seek help from mentors.
woman arranging a bouquet of flowers
Relationships with our hobbies are just like any other kind of relationship -- they change over time.

Doing What You Love is All About Balance

It’s Okay if Your Passions Don’t All Play the Same Role in Your Life All the Time

Choosing how to divide your time as an adult is difficult. It’s a balancing act, and how you balance work, home life, and personal interests will probably look different at different points in your life. Same goes for your hobbies and interests -- there may be times when you can dedicate lots of time to them, when you choose to turn them into a business, when you have to step back and spend more time on other things -- and all of that is okay.

Your relationship with a closely held passion is like a good marriage -- it’s rewarding, but it takes consistent energy and effort to thrive. Giving yourself the freedom to change and evolve -- and for your relationships with the things you love to do the same -- will help you enjoy them as much as possible over time.

man woodworking
Your skills and hobbies don't have to translate to a career path, but they can if you want them to.

Doing what you love doesn’t have to be your job for it to be a valuable part of your adult life, but three are certainly ways you can monetize hobbies to turn them into fulfilling careers or fun side hustles. Ultimately, where you choose to take your hobbies is entirely up to you -- so get out there, have fun, and do what you love the way you love to do it :)

Mar 3, 2021