You may have heard the quote, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s a phrase that’s been passed on for centuries and attributed to names like Mark Twain, Marc Anthony and Confucius. It may rub you the wrong way if you’re the kind of person who endures the 9-to-5 grind every week. But some of us do thoroughly enjoy what we do, and genuinely feel like we’re not working when we sit down at our desks for the day.
Of course, in order to get there, I needed to get my finance management in check. I never thought that my passion for writing and telling stories would ever create the kind of business where I could just sit and write all day — and make money for it. But honestly, turning my passion into a viable business wasn’t as hard as it’s often made out to be. By taking one small step at a time, I actually got there fairly easily.
Create a Portfolio
Whether you’re a photographer, writer, musician, artist or programmer, prospective clients need to be able to see your work before they trust you enough to hire you.
When I started getting my first clients as a freelance writer, I didn’t have a website — in fact, I couldn’t even afford one. Instead, I used websites like Portfoliobox and Behance. And since I was a writer, I looked for writing-specific portfolio websites that were also connected to job boards. These sites provided with me a link that I could send potential clients to check out my work. Even without my own website, I landed paid gigs so much easier because clients could see I was legit.
Get Someone to Hire You
Yes, you deserve to have the best, most amazing clients ever. But when you’re just launching your freelance career, the most important thing is to just get started and not get hung up on working with one client type over the other.
Once you’ve got your portfolio up, start looking for freelance gigs to which you can apply. Ideally, your first few gigs won’t require lots of hours each week, but they will give you experience doing what you love for money. At this point, it’s all about learning how to work with a client and finding a groove for yourself as a professional in your field.
When I started as a writer-for-hire, one of my first clients paid me $15 a pop to write how-to articles about random subjects. I wasn’t producing dream-worthy literary masterpieces, but I was learning how to work with clients and editors, while making money.
Set Money Aside for Taxes and Savings
Of course, if your clients are paying you, you’re making an income. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but an income means paying taxes, and you’ll have to learn how to set money aside each quarter.
You’ll also want to build up some funds for future business expenses, even if you don’t have them just yet. As you grow, you’ll notice your business will start costing money, whether it’s to pay for a new website, a regular financial advisor or anything in between.
Having money set aside for these expenses will give you a comfortable financial cushion. If you run into a new business expense or a high tax bill, you won’t “go under.” Trust me, I once got slammed with a tax bill that was higher than expected. It was a scary time, but I got through it.
Set Up an LLC or a Sole Proprietorship
After you’ve had enough experience with side gigs to know your business has full-time potential, you can turn it into a legal business entity by filing paperwork for an LLC or a sole proprietorship.
This paperwork is quick and painless, and it doesn’t cost much to have an experienced business lawyer help you put everything in place. Just make sure you choose the right lawyer, and not one who will ignore filing annual reports for you like mine did.
Having this paperwork filed with your state means you have a full-fledged business entity. Congratulations! You’ve successfully turned your passion into a viable business.
What’s the Expected Timeline?
The time it takes to transition from a freelancer with a free online portfolio to a full-fledged business owner will vary from person to person. Some people can do it in three months or less, and others can take a year or more. Personally, I freelanced for years before I filed the paperwork for my LLC. But had I known some of this advice, I may have been able to do it sooner.
It’s not impossible to turn a passion project into a full-time job. No matter how long it takes, go at your own pace, and make sure your finance management is in check. Soon, you’ll be one of those people who looks forward to sitting down to work every day — and you’ll love every second of it.