What to do when you want to start doing what you love but you need money now

So you want to start doing what you love but you also need money – you know, for rent and food and similar luxuries. What do you do?

This comes up a lot and the most pressing version of it is when someone has just left their job. The freshly escaped ‘player’ rushes headlong into writing their book or blog or starting an online shop. But as time goes on and little or no money rolls in, they start to panic and lose faith in what they’re doing – perhaps they’re being unrealistic and should go back and beg for their old job?

The next day they read something inspiring and, feeling emboldened, double their commitment to their new line of work… until the mortgage is due and they lose their confidence again.

What’s the solution?

The solution to the panic and flip-flopping is to stop thinking of your choices as either/or.

Start thinking in terms of two tracks running in parallel, at least for a while.

Two tracks by Triviaking http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Twin_track_of_train_rails_in_a_wooded_area.JPGTrack one is the thing that makes you money right now.

It’s something you can win work in fairly quickly (in a few weeks) because you have skills, experience and a proven track record you can point to.

Track two is the thing you love that you might need to learn new skills and establish new contacts in.

So it’s likely to be a while to get to the point you can make money out of it – months rather than weeks. And probably longer than that before it makes enough to completely replace your current source of income.

The less this new work bears in common with your career to date, the longer it is likely to take.

That’s why you need track one to keep you afloat in the meantime. Then you can take that paralysing pressure off yourself.

What does track one look like?

If you’ve already got a job then this could be your track one. You might be keen to get out of the job but unless it’s really terrible (e.g. a toxic working environment / very long hours), you might be surprised how your attitude changes once you see your job as supporting you while you launch your track two on the side. Now rather than being a burden it’s part of your escape plan.

If your job is in danger of burning you out or if you’ve already jumped (or been pushed) then one option is to find what Barbara Sher calls ‘a good enough job’ – something that pays you enough, doesn’t demand excessive hours, and suits you well enough that it doesn’t drive you crazy or leave you drained at the end of the day.

It’s surprising how often people give up on their dream and then get what seems like the worst imaginable job almost as if they are punishing themselves – for instance creative people taking the most mundane office admin jobs. Instead, think of what is the best possible version of your old work and go hunt for that.

Aside from a job you could also try temping, freelancing or contracting in the field you already know.

Once you’ve got that sorted you can turn your attention to starting what you really love on the side. And you’ll be in a much calmer and more creative state of mind when you don’t have to worry how you’ll pay the next month’s rent.

At some point down the line when you’re making good money from your track two you’ll be ready to finally give up track one. Or you might even find an interesting way to merge the two tracks using the best of both.


Has this been helpful to you? What are your two tracks? Leave a comment and let me know…

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  • Track 1: Part-time Project Worker for Barnardo’s. All the best bits about teaching without the teaching. Track 2: Part-time artist. Both tracks will continue to run in parallel for quite some time! And `I don’t mind because I enjoy them both.

  • Great post John & good advice. I’ve always found that desperate money energy attracts more desperate money energy (price shoppers and hagglers) so if you’re strapped for cash and freaking out about it, get something that will pay the bills whilst you work on your passion alongside . Money stress really screws with your creativity, man. Hope you are well!

  • johnsw

    Ooh nice point there Amy.
    Yes I’m doing well!

  • johnsw

    Nice combo, Richard!

  • Sarah Clare

    This is my biggest source of self-doubt at the moment. I see my fun stuff as having to make money and see a direct correlation between my effort and income. It was just yesterday that I thought I should reframe it and separate ‘earning money time’ (my 9-5) with my ‘play time’. It’s still hard but I think it takes the pressure off.

  • Sarah

    I’m currently in a dilemma about both tracks! On maternity leave with a very high energy baby – going back to work doesn’t make much sense due to childcare costs so am thinking of doing a track 1 own business in the area I know similar to my job and then track 2 the thing that excites me but will require more money and time than I can give at the moment. Finding ‘play time’ is sooo hard as a new mum!

  • johnsw

    That is certainly a lot to cope with! It’s usually a bad idea to start 2 things at once. And starting a completely new thing just to keep you in money is troublesome because it’s likely to take a while. Can you merge the two ideas into something commercial that you’ll love doing?

  • johnsw

    Although if your fun stuff IS making money then that’s no bad thing. Perhaps there’s a way to scale that up or add other fun things so that you don’t need the day job?

  • Sarah

    I think that’s what I’m going to have to do – it’s deciding where to start and then actually getting going on it! Hubby is supporting us for the time being but the guilt of not earning means I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to make a success of it! I know it’s a good opportunity but I guess the dreaded fear of failure plus baby time is getting in my way!

  • johnsw

    On my programmes I teach people to cut to the chase – go try and do the work / sell the thing etc and don’t worry about business cards and pretty websites if can do without. That way you know as soon as possible if you’re on the right track.

  • Sarah

    Yes – I did one of your 30dc which was great – my challenge was related to my employment and I got the result I wanted. Need to apply the techniques to this new, less ‘safe’ idea!

  • Youcanthidethespark

    Track 1: Working for a publishing company – writing book content and doing picture research, which I love. Track 2: Writing my own books! Both tracks will run parallel until I can write full time (but when I say write ‘full time’, I really mean that my aim is to be able to combine writing my books with other things I really want to do that don’t involve sitting in an office/being in front of a computer all the time!).

  • Jeff

    This is what I’m doing now. I had a hard time doing two tracks when I was full time at job one. After about a year-and-a-half of spinning my wheels, I negotiated ( with my wife and my boss) a part-time schedule on track one, that freed up time to work on track two. A month in, I have made great progress!

  • johnsw

    Fantastic, Jeff!

  • johnsw

    And it looks like it’s going really well!

  • johnsw

    I think that might be more realistic!

  • Sarah Clare

    It’s making some money intermittently… Not enough to survive on yet. I am not sure how to scale up right now!

  • Ben

    Yes, having trouble with the two tracks:
    Track 1. Civil Service job that keeps the rent/food/toys paid for. Boring but safe.
    Track 2. I have looked at every avenue, but cannot find a small creative project that I can start on, so it’ll have to be a big one. I’m going try to create and publish the graphic novel I started on the 30DC. It’s the shortest of my list of ideas, but is still quite big. Wish me (a lot of) luck!

  • nancee

    Previous comments have been helpful – thanks. Track #1 is a nursing job, full time, in a new location. Hoped for part time, but someone pretty much has to die right now to get part time. Long hrs, but I’ve been doing it a long time and it will support Track #2, which is an educator/doula and some other certs that I can add one at a time. Spending time this week training.

    I have a Track #3 and #4, as I suspect most of us do, but I’m focusing on #2 so I can cut back on #1.

  • Deborah Seeley

    I have found that Track 1 has become much more engaging as Track 2 develops – much of what i love exists in the day job and tackling it with a playful heart makes a huge difference – no longer am i digging an escape tunnel – I’m pursuing a portfolio!

  • Camille Jeanmonod

    I left track #1 when I quit my job 4 years ago to go back to school to become a psychologist. I have had to use good enough jobs but they quickly turned into track #2, #3 and #4.
    Thanks again John for clarifying what we all have to go through to transition into a new career or project.

  • johnsw

    Sounds like you’ve made it all fit together which is very cool, Camille

  • johnsw

    Funny how that works isn’t it? I expected to never use my technical skills in my new business but in fact I enjoy using them every day

  • johnsw

    Good plan!

  • johnsw

    it’s usually worth following through on these projects no matter where they lead. You’ll have achieved something important and it’ll inspire you on to other things.

  • Charlotte Evanson

    This speaks so clearly to where I am now, thanks John. I’m excited about launching my new business but realised there was a big risk I’d resent it if I didn’t have enough money to pay my mortgage. Retaining a Track 1 job in the form of a new contract is the answer I arrived at. It should take some pressure off whilst I get started and I’m hoping to find something part-time to give me more time to focus on building something I love.

  • johnsw

    Good plan, Charlotte!

  • Alice Hadridge

    A useful reminder at a time when i am not enjoying track 1 particularly (interim contracts in public sector purchasing that does pay well and as an interim I can step back from the politics – usually) while pursuing track 2 (my gardening healthy living blog). Trying currently to figure out where to take track 2 so that track 1 can be ditched completely in time. also whether there is anything from track 1 that I can use in track 2.

  • Peggy

    Great points John. I have been happy recently to keep the best parts of track 1, which are satisfying, while developing tracks 2 and 3, which are passions. Last time I tried to change tracks, years ago, I tried to make the shift all at once. Trying to be smarter this time. Participating in your last 30DC provided me with a lot of helpful insight and tools. Thanks!

  • Hi John,
    Track one is a combination of journalism and increasingly copywriting. I currently have a good flow of the latter and I’m even turning work down. Track two is The Memory Store, which I believe in, really enjoy working on and would love to make money out of. I hoped to do a lot on it in January and had many plans but didn’t manage much due to moving home, illness and a big, time-consuming, well-paid Track one project. I’m frustrated that Track two is moving forwards at a crawl but determined that it won’t hit the buffers… I have lots of Track one work this month and I’ll also be away for a week so I’m starting to fear Feb going the way of January – but also telling myself that if I do the well-paid work offered to me now, it will be easier to take time out to concentrate on Track two at some point before long…

  • Marina

    Hi John, I absolutely agree. I’m working in creating multiple income streams while having a balance between the spending, building and preserving my energies and money (and relationships).
    Track One, a job in corporate world where I’m utilizing a number of my skills (learning and development, analysis, quality and dispute resolution with financial, legal and medical overtones – aka Senior claims assessor for insurance/pension fund).
    Track Two at this point has a number of strands/intertwining sequences: writing a book and creating forums from which will come the blog followed by coaching/seminars business, as well as studying for Diploma in coaching and working on website design.
    Ah, when I just think people used to tell me I don’t know what I want to do and to focus on one thing at the time LOL, so glad I can tell them now I’m like Leonardo da Vinci, a multi-skilled creative polymath 🙂

  • johnsw

    It’s always a good idea to have multiple income streams! It’s less work generally if they all interrelate which it sounds like yours will.

  • johnsw

    Sounds like a good approach, Peggy

  • Anna

    HI John,
    Thank you for this article. I would like to share my own experience. I am in the corporate world for about 7 years already, but I have realised some years ago it’s not what I want to do. I have a passion, modern / contemporary dance, and would like to dedicate fair amount of time to work on different dance projects. I am not sure it will bring me enough money to pay my bills. But I found the incredibly opportunity of using Digital economy opportunities, create business online and have freedom, time and resources to dedicate to my passion. If anybody would like to learn more about it please visit my personal blog at http://www.annaglambotskaya.com
    Good luck for all you guys! Follow your dreams and do what you love!