General rules for making your passion your life.

I have a daughter that loves painting.  She was talking to me a while ago about two things.  She was talking about trying to find a job, and about her painting.  I was kind of confused as to why she would want a job doing something that she doesn’t really enjoy, to pay for something she did.  I told her to make her painting her job, and she asked me how to do that.  This is what I told her, and it is the general steps that I think you can follow for any passion.  This is the slower approach, one that you want to start in your spare time. 

1)  Read some books.  Find the 4-5 most popular books on your subject.  Her subject is painting, which is very broad.  I recommended that she find a smaller area to focus on.  She was talking about using broken glass in her art, which I thought would be perfect.  The trick is to find an area that people care about, that can be found with one or two search words.  What you are looking for is a “niche”.  A niche is a smaller section of a larger topic.  If you focus on all of art for example, it is a huge market.  If you focus on art techniques using broken glass though, that is a much smaller niche.  If you can’t find things on your particular niche, great!  That means that there is something out there that you can be the main expert on.  Try articles and blogs instead.

2) Talk to some of the leaders in your area of expertise.  They can be the authors of the books, or people that already run successful websites on similar topics.  Ask them what they think is most important.

3) Find some groups, and get involved.  Facebook, Meetup, Craigslist, etc. are all great ways to find people that share the same interests and hobbies.  This will also help you to figure out what the hot topics are right now.

4) Write an ebook (optional).  If you have read all of those books and forum posts, and talked to a few leaders in your field, you know more about your subject than most of the people that engage in it.  Surprisingly few people take the time to master a subject.  Put what you have learned into an ebook, and place it on Amazon.com.  You can do this in less that a day.  There are several great ebooks by Ryan Deiss on Amazon that teach you how to make and publish ebooks.  This step is recommended if you need some fast income.

5) Start a website.  Using the things you have learned, post up answers to questions that people have.  Write down all of the things you have learned, and post up your experiences using the techniques.  Use your participation in the forums as a starting place for your customer base.

6) Start a newsletter and start collecting names of people that are interested in what you have to say.  These are the people that you will work with to achieve success for both of you.

7) Now that you have a loyal fan base, the proper knowledge, and the idea that helping people do what you love is what you want to do, you can start monetizing.  Some ideas include offering ebooks/pamphlets, seminars, selling art supplies directly, using affiliate products, selling your own art work(like on Etsey, Facebook, Ebay, Amazon…etc.), and pretty much anything else that you can think of.  What about weekend retreates where you all get together and try new techniques?  What about a series of classes teaching other people how to become the experts in their areas of the art world?  Google adwords is an excellent program that will place small ads on your site, and then pay you for the clicks that are generated.  The point is, when you know what your customers need and want, the monetization part becomes easy.

This is a basic guideline.  I would like to give special thanks to Timothy Ferriss, author of “The Four-Hour Work Week”, and to Ryan Deiss, an expert on ebook development and marketing.  Also the good people at SiteBuild-It, whose philosophy of helping others turn their passions into their jobs I fully agree with. Last, but not least a special “Thanks” goes out to my talented daughter, Felicia Armstrong, who inspired the mindset I was in to write this article.

Why have your own website?

Let me start this by saying that I am not a website developer.  I have a basic understanding of how webpages, search engines, RSS feeds, newsletters, etc. work.  I know there are millions and millions of web pages out there.  So why should you make one?  There are several reasons.

1)  Organization.  It gives you a place to keep notes.  As you learn, you come across questions.  I come up with at least 3-4 questions per day.  A website gives you a place to keep notes on the problems that you have come across.  This helps you, and also helps anyone else that has the same problems.  The world is complex, and there are thousands of things to learn.  Instead of having to remember each and every little thing I ever read, I can put them here.  If you had the question, someone else did too.

2)  Network.  It allows you to build a customer base.  When people are interested in the same things, it becomes easier to build a relationship with them.  Whatever you are going to become an expert in, there will be someone that needs your expertise.  Don’t be afraid to share.  When you have something of value, these people that trust your expertise will become your first customers.  It also allows you to get in touch with the people that you need to learn from.  Other people have made progress in your direction, join your paths to theirs.

3)  Encouragement.  It allows you to see progress.  When you get stuck on a problem, or feel as if you are not contributing anything, you can look back at your website.  You can see that you have overcome many problems in the past, and this one is no different.

4)  Income.  It will become a source of revenue for you.  Your articles over time will become useful.  This will allow you to create newsletters, podcasts, seminars, ebooks, and anything else that you find your followers need.  Just remember to offer something of value.  I kept thinking that I couldn’t create a site to help people succeed in giving themselves freedom.  There are thousands of these sites, why bother making one more?  The answer is that there are always new people learning about a subject.  Just because something is obvious to you, or how to find that information is obvious to you, doesn’t mean that it is to everyone.  Help spread your message.

5)  Image.  Having a website gives you an image of respectability.  People know that you are not messing around.  When people come to your site, the number of people that visit you is not posted on your headline.  All they see is that you have a website, and that you have devoted some time and effort at becoming great at whatever it is you want to do.  People respect devotion.

6)  Global presence.  If you have a local business, it is difficult to spread your message wide and far.  Think of it this way.  If one out of a thousand people cares about what you have to say, wouldn’t you rather have 100,000 people see it than just 2,000 people?  On the web, borders get erased.  True value, rather than proximity, is what people judge on.

I don’t think it is 100% necessary to have a website to achieve success.  However, to establish multiple streams of income, a website is important.  To be seen as an expert in your field, it is important to have a web presence.  The formula for success is to identify a need, develop a solution, and fill that need.  It is much harder for your solutions to get out to the rest of the world, if you don’t have a place to put them.

Follow your passion to wealth, or follow your wealth to passion.

One of the amazing things about striving to change things, is that you feel like you are onto something.  Like maybe the average man has blinders on, and you have been freed to see that life doesn’t have to be mediocre.  You don’t have to work in jobs that are ok, or good enough.  That you can find something that you truly enjoy, something that makes you happy, and choose to live your life doing that.  If you take a second and look at some of the experts out there, you can see that they are very specialized.  I was watching an episode of Pawn Stars the other day, or Storage Wars, can’t remember which.  What I do remember is that they had to consult an expert on an item.  This expert specialized in Elvis Presley memorabilia, from a very specific period in Elvis’s life.  I remember thinking “Wow, you can’t get much more specialized than that!”.  What was important was that he found something he truly liked, and made his passion his job.  If you think that your passion can’t be your way of making money, then don’t make your job your only way to make money!  Utilize leverage and knowledge to make money, then use your free time and newly freed resources to do whatever you want!  There are millions of people out there willing to do things for the minimum wage.  There are people that are content delivering your products, building your widgets, and advertising for you.  Let them.  Focus your time and effort on the things that you care about, and let other people that are willing to settle for less help you.  Just remember, you always want to make win-win solutions.  If you can employ other people, and help them provide for their families, that is a great thing.  Don’t take advatage of other people, just because they still have their blinders on.  Help them to achieve the things that they want to do with their life.

Fundamental ideas.

There are some fundamental ideas that I believe have shifted the way that I look at work.

1)  You must provide something of value.

People are willing to pay for the things that they find useful, or that they enjoy.  If I build something that takes 10 minutes or two years to produce the same item, it makes no difference to them.  Productivity, not time spent, is the important factor.

2)  It is best to have multiple streams of income.

What happens when the software system you are using crashes?  When all of the people that are interested in your product already own it?  What about a shift in the general economy, or some type of true casualty?  It is important to have multiple ways to make a living.  If you have a traditional job, and that emplyer decides they don’t want to pay you anymore, then you have no resources to fall back on.  People save and invest, in order to have a cushion.  Why not make your abilities your cushion?  Learning the right skill sets is way more important than having the right amount of money in the bank.

3)  Physical and financial freedom are important to me, and within my reach.

With the way that the world is connected now, there is very little reason for my personal body to be limited to a specific location.  If I want to see something, take a picture.  If I want to call someone, pick up a phone.  If I need to get something from point A to point B, there are people willing to do that, while I can focus on making sure the right things are moving in the right directions.

4)  Passion and interest are the most determining factors.  Do what you love, find what other people love.

People that are collectors will pay 100’s of thousands of dollars for unique items that are significant to them.  People that need to learn the proper skills, will pay a large amount of money to someone that can teach them those skills.  Even everyday normal people will pay money for things that make their lives easier, more fun, or more exciting.  If you care about something, it has worth for you.  It is actually the only thing that determines an items worth, is how much you can get someone to care about it.

There are some ideas that are important to relinquish.

1)  All the good ideas are taken.

This will never happen, ever.  If you discover someone else has taken or used the idea that you had, then your next task is to improve upon their idea.  Find areas of your life that don’t run as smoothly as you would like.  Then find ways to make them more enjoyable,  Trust that other people have the same problems, and would love for someone to solve them.

2)  It is too hard.

Trusting your well-being and your families well being to the mercies of other people is truly hard.  You have learned some skill set to perform your current job, something that people from outside of your work area might think is difficult.  why not learn skill sets that make all jobs easier?  Learning how to learn, learning how to question, and learning how to research are all the skills you will ever need.

3)  Everyone already knows these things, or offers these products. 

There is room for competition.  No matter how big the competition, there is always someone that can make a better, cheaper, faster, more bells and whistles, more simplified, easier, larger, or smaller version.  Think of the biggest companies in the world.  Now realize there is always at least two, and many more generics/knockoffs etc.

4)  If it was so easy to achieve independence, everyone would do it.

This is the issue that I had to face.  I kept thinking if it truly is easy to step off of the beaten path, then everyone would do it.  That is just not true.  It’s like saying that everyone is capable of leaving a bad relationship.  Or that everyone keeps searching until they find the job that makes them happy.  Unfortunately, most people are content with keeping their heads down and following the pack.  In order to be truly free, you have to look for the people that make their own trails, and learn from them.  All true progress is made from not following the majority, but working with and learning from the innovaters. 

If you can absorb these ideas, then you are off to a good start.  Recognize that almost anything can be taught.  The skills that you manage to build determine whether you become someone that makes their own destiny, or follows someone elses dreams.