Use Freelancing as a Safety Net for Your Passion Projects
Following your passion when trying to earn a living is bad advice
The advice to follow your passion when trying to earn a living is inadequate at best. For many people, it is harmful.
Not every passion has the same commercial potential. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue your passion. It does mean that you need to create a career that can function as a safety net for your passion.
When I was five, I saw two trapeze artists fall from their lofty perches onto the net below. They bounced a few times, jumped from the net onto the floor of the circus tent, and scaled back up their dizzyingly tall towers to try again.
This was my first trip to the circus. We had arrived early and were watching the performers warm up.
After the two performers had fallen, my dad turned to me and with a wry smile, asked if I wanted to try swinging on the trapeze.
I jumped up and said, “Yes!”
This was not the answer my dad was anticipating.
“But what if you fall?” My mom asked.
“So? There’s a net.”
For five-year-old me, it was that simple. What’s the big deal when you know there’s a giant net below to catch you.
During the actual show, the net was removed for the trapeze and hire wire parts of the program. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe these crazy people who had fallen in practice were going to do the same thing without a net.
Nobody fell, I almost had a heart attack, and I cheered louder than anyone else in the crowd.
Freelancing is My Safety Net
I’ve been self-employed for most of my life. I’ve also had several businesses that never got off the ground, and I’ve crashed more than one successful business in a fiery failure.
I may not seem like the cautious type. But, in many ways, I’m the same as I was at age five. As long as there’s a net under me, I’ll try almost anything.
I’ve been a freelance copywriter for seven years. During that time, I’ve learned how to find the right clients, how to charge so that I don’t have to work very hard, and what projects are the most profitable for me.
To meet my minimum financial needs, I only need to do one to two hours of client work a day, five days a week. It’s my safety net.
Freelance copywriting isn’t exciting to me anymore. I like it; it’s better than a lot of other things I could do to earn a living. But, for the past several years, it hasn’t satisfied my creative urges.
However, it does pay the bills. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to work terribly hard to pay the bills with my copywriting skills.
This allows me to have time to pursue work that is less commercial but more satisfying. It gives me the chance to fail.
I’m a haiku maniac. But, I don’t write typical haiku. I write pulp poetry. I write haiku about monsters, time travel, and pirates. I write weird stuff.
My readers are mostly people who would not consider themselves poetry fans. Writing poetry for people who don’t think they like poetry is not the easy path to riches.
I’ve published one book of haiku, am working on a second, and publish a bi-monthly magazine of poetry and short fiction.
So far, these projects have not made me a lot of money. But, I’m having a blast. I’m meeting interesting people, and each month my creative work earns me a little more money.
If I depended on royalties from my poetry and short stories to pay my bills, I would be out on the street.
Freelance copywriting allows me to fail financially at work that I love.
Don’t get me wrong. I plan to make as good of a living off of my creative writing as I do my freelance writing, but that day may be several years away.
I’m like the trapeze artists at the circus. I can try risky maneuvers because there is a net below me.
Money and Passion
Just like not all passions have the same commercial appeal, not all day-jobs have the same soul-sucking downsides.
I don’t think you should do work that you hate.
If you can find something you are good at and that you love, go for it. But, whatever you do, you need to find a way to support yourself and to have time for things that bring you unbridled joy. It’s okay for your day job and your passion project to be separate things.
What I love about freelancing is that I’m in control of my time and my income. I can say no to projects. I can raise my rates.
The first thing I do most mornings is write poetry. Because I have four kids to get off to school, I don’t start working on client work until between ten and eleven ‘o’clock most mornings.
But, as long as I put in my hour or two, I have the rest of the day to take care of my family and work on my passion project.
Freelancing gives me a relatively stress-free way to earn money and take big risks with my writing.
What are you going to do today to structure your life so that you have more time for the things you love?