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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

I do what I love - but that's NOT what pays the bills!

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

The best quote challenging the "do what you love and the money will follow" myth comes from Dan Lok "It's bulls* might be doing what you love, and thinking where the f*** is my money!?" His conclusion - it helps to love what you do, and especially if you want to make money - you do what it takes.

While nuanced, this is a distinction that deserves a little teasing out:

1.Doing what you love will NOT always pay bills - so have a side hustle

Yes of course there are some people who are fortunate that what they love earns them millions (although you can be sure there will be parts of it they don't love, but just have to suck up for the bits they do!) But you only need to look at the number of people "following their passion" and not making money to know that "doing what you love" can have some problematic consequences.

Of course, if a job is making you physically ill - then change it; and if you have a business idea - go for it; but passion is unfortunately not always rewarded. AND if you are looking to jump out on your own, then my key piece of advice is have a second stream of income until you can float alone.

It is always best to look for a new job while you are in the old one - so that fear doesn't push you into making a rash decision, and similarly if you can plant your entrepreneur seeds while in a job, that also provides you a safety net. If nothing else, if you are worried about your bills, it dilutes your focus anyway. Of course there are circumstances where a redundancy may mean "there's no time like the present" to try that business idea, but remember, growing anything takes work, and it might take longer than you think.

I do what I love - but writing books, especially non-fiction - with the exception of a few - doesn't pay well. I've worked off my advances and my commission for translated copies and am just about in the black for royalties across 3 books now in 6 years, and to me that's a success, but I'm not rolling in it. Yes my training, coaching and speaking pay me - and the latter can be extremely lucrative depending on the cause - but as a freelancer, that's as much down to market demand as it is budget of those asking my services. All told, I probable make around 20k a year (with nothing extra for holidays, sick pay and so on...) - but I also only work about 200 days in a year. You can't put a price on free time. Free time allows me to do what I love - reading, blogging, making videos...maybe eventually they'll bring in remuneration, but I'm still chipping away.

What pays my bills is that I run a property company with my dad. I barely talk about it. I don't enjoy the admin, the legalities, the work that goes with it - but I'm always grateful to it because it means I can do what I love.

2. Love what you do

This helps - a lot. It helps more if that is the case where someone is paying your wages - simply because being self-employed means you also have to budget, ensure you pay your taxes and there will be some months where you don't earn as much as you'd hope. The consistency of employment can be very comforting - and if you love what you do in that job chances are, you'll work harder, rise higher, and reap the rewards.

As I said in point 1, there will be times when you don't love everything - but the best balance is to be able to love the majority of where you spend most of your time. If you are working in order to live, and you love your life outside work - then relish it. The worst trap is to be working hard and hating it, but not finding time to appreciate the reasons why you are giving so much of your time and energy.

This is where consciously focusing on the good parts not only helps you recognise them, but it serves to remind you why you are doing what you do.

Too often I see clients who don't love their job because it takes them away from their family, but then don't appreciate their family time because they are drawn to their job. Their initial solution is sometimes to "chuck it all in". If only it were that simple.

Before you make any decision that will have quite stark financial consequences I always suggest you identify your bottom line - that means, the MINIMUM you need to maintain the lifestyle you want. If a new job - despite there being different stressors - will not cover that, you might find yourself in a whole new world of pain if you throw in a directorship to become a swimming teacher. If you STILL want - or need - to change careers, then seek out your second stream of income (lodgers, other family member contributions etc), OR limit your new search to those which will at least pay you your bottom line.

3. Do what it takes

Whether in your job, starting out, or changing career to meet that vision board image - this is how to tackle the bits you don't love: You might just have to accept they are the price you pay for the bits you do enjoy (and as point 2, always consciously recognise the bits you like)...and if you are in a situation where you are paddling without a canoe - then be prepared to work even harder to get going which make take longer than you think...and you may not love all of it.

Of course things may work out better and faster than you ever expected - that's the beauty of life, luck and chance can sometimes be on our side. Who knew that Zoom was going to have such a boost to it's profile?

Follow your dreams by all means, but lay the groundwork while you are awake.

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt


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