The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: For Love or Money?
We’ve all heard the adage, “Follow your passion and the money will come.”
When you’re thinking about starting your own business, this saying might not be very comforting. There are no guarantees of monetary success with entrepreneurial endeavors. In a troubled economy like this one, however, there is really no guarantee when you work for someone else, either. So, if leaving a day job to pursue your entrepreneurial passion seems like a good idea, what’s holding you back?
Likely, many things are. One of the big trip-ups to starting a business is the concept of passion itself. Deeply ingrained in our DNA is the want to do things we love: to tinker, to create, to solve problems, to help others, to build. But what if your passion doesn’t have the potential to rake in a lot of income? Should you still follow your heart and build a business around it? Or, should you abandon your passion and look for entrepreneurial opportunities with bigger income potential?
Of course, it depends on what your overall income needs and your monetary goals are for the future. Financial planners advise us to have enough savings for six months, a retirement account and funds available for health care, disability care and medical emergencies. This is in addition to whatever income you need in order to cover everyday living, like food and a mortgage. It also depends on how you imagine your working life in the future. With a few key questions, outlined below, you can start making a plan.
Have you considered all the ways to profit from your passion?
There are more than just one or two ways to profit from your business idea. You simply have to find them. Consider all of the revenue streams you can manifest. For instance, can you teach a class or hold online seminars as part of your business? Perhaps you can add products or services to your original idea. By following your heart, you’ll look at all the ways you can generate money from your idea and help make the dilemma of love vs. money a nonissue.
Does the business have a legitimate chance of success?
Ultimately, any business idea can seem like a good one; especially when you’re passionate about it. But reality dictates that we look closely at the validity of our ideas. This is one moment where your head and heart need to separate and let money step in between. If your business idea really doesn’t have a valid chance at success, consider revamping your plan by asking yourself the following questions.
1. Who is the market for your product or service? If it is a small niche, is it big enough to sustain consistent sales?
2. Are you offering something people genuinely will be interested in (and will pay for)?
3. Have you done enough research to know who your market is?
4. Can you start your business within your current resources and expect to become profitable within a reasonable time frame? If your business requires a lot of startup money, how soon can you expect to be making money to pay yourself back—and then earn an income?
Can you refocus your passion in a more profitable way?
Perhaps following your heart just isn’t going to be profitable enough. Fine. That’s OK, and it’s better to figure it out sooner than later. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t build a business that allows you to also live your passion.
For example, a local tax preparer—who is also a ballerina—wants to open a dance studio for underprivileged children. However, after creating several business plans with different scenarios and financial angles, she sees the income potential is not good—at least, not good enough to support her family of five with a comfortable lifestyle. So she buys a custom screen-printing and embroidery business from an accounting client and begins making custom dance wear to sell to other dance businesses across the country. She uses funds from the screen-printing business to finance a small group of ballet students in the evenings. In the end, this entrepreneur found a way to be financially successful, while still following her heart and living out her dream of helping kids through dance.
You can follow your heart and the money, too. Maintain the mindset that failure is not an option, plan early and be flexible. Entrepreneur icon Steve Jobs said it best: “There really is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Justine Grey is a Web entrepreneur and writes a blog, called Work Life Joy, for frazzled business builders who long to work vibrantly and live beautifully. You can find her on Twitter, at @JustineGrey, chatting about life, work and her pop culture obsession.