The Hard Truth About Following Your Passion to Do Work You Love

Oct 25, 2013 - Joe Matar

How many times have you heard stories like these?

A woman loves making pottery, so she decides to open a little shop to sell her wares.

A man is passionate about writing, so he quits his job to focus on his first novel.

Then… wait for it…

Nothing happens.

Nothing. No customers, no readers, no clients. Zilch.

They return to the world of the "working dead" with their tails tucked between their legs and their egos bruised. But, worst of all, they’ve lost faith in the kind of world where they can make a living doing something they love.

But it didn't have to be that way.

The hard truth about “following your passion”

We believe money will follow if we do what we love, but it's a dangerous recommendation.

It makes sense that you'd make the most money when you do something you're interested and invested in. When you bring your heart and soul to work, the work should earn you more than when you're dragging yourself in every day.


As a career coach, I've seen it happen again and again. Clients get excited about their idea for a passion-based business. They start making plans, they mentally decorate their new offices and they wonder how their boss is going to take it when they've made enough money to quit. And they do all this without taking into account the biggest myth.

When it comes to earning money doing what you love, you have to remember: Right now, nobody cares about your passions.

It isn't about you.

It isn't about your passion.

It's about your clients and customers: what you give to them, what you do for them and how they benefit from knowing you. You have to make them care about your passion so much they'll pay you to do it. (Click here to Tweet this thought.)

The Hollywood Principle

Many people blindly follow their passion, believing their love for it will be enough to make them successful. But they fail to factor in what I call The Hollywood Principle.

The Hollywood Principle states that no matter how passionate you are about something, nobody cares about it simply because you do.

If you want clients or customers, you need to be concerned with why they should care about what you're doing, even when you’re doing what you love.

People fleeing the corporate world — the world of 9-to-5, dictated eating and bathroom schedules — tend to equate a passion-based business with freedom. They want the freedom to be their own boss, the freedom to be in charge of their own time and the freedom to do whatever it is they love.

With this mindset, they throw caution to the wind and do what they love without regard for The Hollywood Principle. They pursue their venture with the love and compulsion characteristic of passions.

But it all goes horribly wrong because they forget to connect what they love to something others will care about.  They're so engrossed in doing what they love and why it matters to them that they forget to look up and show others why they should care about it, too.

Don't be fooled into thinking you have to contort your passion-based business into something it isn’t to find potential clients and customers. You're not out to find any market need and fill it. That's the old way of doing business, and also how you'll end back up with something that feels like a “job.”

The real challenge is to persuasively communicate the gift of your passion, your mission and your unique value.

Your unique value

You've probably heard about unique value from the worlds of personal branding and job hunting.  But in this case, instead of unique value being about who you are and the value you offer, it's about what you're really here to do.

Are you an expert at making pretty, functional pottery, or are you helping people to experience something through your work?

Are you writing a great novel, or are you on a mission to make people think about an issue so profoundly meaningful to you it's a part of who you are?

Unique value for passion-based workers is very close to the heart. It's why you do what you do. It's the heart and soul of who you are.

You can start looking for your unique value by knowing what you love to give so much you can't help giving it (your mission). Once you've found that, it's your job to make other people care about it, too. Don't just expect that other people will "get it." Show them why they should care.

A passion with a mission behind it is a world-changing force.

Your challenge

If you dream of doing work based on your passion, answer these unique value questions in the comments below:

Why do you do your passion?

What do you bring to the table that no one else does?

What would you love to contribute to the world?

Spend your time doing something you absolutely love, and move away from wasting your life on things that don't matter to you. Now is your chance to define what matters and why others should care about it as much as you do.

Jessica Sweet, LICSW, is a life and career coach who can help you uncover your passions and make money doing work you love.If you hate your current job, but going off the grid and moving to Zimbabwe isn’t your idea of a good time, it’s time to do what you love in a way that fits your real life. Join Jessica at