6 min read
What if I told you that there’s something you can start doing today that will help you gain a sense of autonomy over your work, learn new skills, increase your chances of meeting like-minded people, potentially increase your income, and likely enhance your quality of life?
You’d probably be interested.
I’m talking about starting a passion project.
A passion project is something that you decide to work on, typically in your free time, simply because you’re passionate about it.
It’s the blog you start about cats, the YouTube channel about traveling, the podcast about collecting old baseball cards. Passion projects are the things you use to express and explore your natural interest about some topic. Starting one can be simple and the benefits can be enormous.
Here are 5 reasons why you should start a passion project.
1. To Gain Autonomy Over Your Work
If there’s one thing that most people dislike about their day jobs, it’s the fact that they don’t have as much autonomy over their work as they’d like.
They don’t have the ability to choose which projects to work on, whom to work with, and what pace to work at. On top of that, micro-managers who peer over your shoulder and ask for frequent updates can make it feel like you don’t have the freedom to work on a project in a way that feels natural to you.
Thus, one reason to start a passion project is because it gives you the means to work on something with complete autonomy. No deadlines, no bosses, no coworkers, and no stress.
My friend The Luxe Strategist once shared that starting a blog gave her the ability to work on something in the exact way she wanted, without anyone telling her what to do:
“Like lots of people, I’m hugely motivated by autonomy. In a perfect world, I’d get to do what I want, when I want. And somehow get paid for it.
The reality is, I don’t always get my way at day job. There are times that I know I’m right about something, I voice my opinion, and then I get overruled anyway.
But then I remember that I have my blog. The thing I built from scratch myself. And I get to run it however I want. I can choose to work on things with no clear end result, just because I enjoy the process of doing it.”
With a passion project, you are in charge. You call the shots. Even if you don’t have much autonomy at your day job, you can be sure that you have complete autonomy over your passion project, which can be a great feeling.
2. To Acquire New Skills
Another reason to start a passion project is to acquire new skills. Whether you intend to or not, when you start a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel around your passion, you will pick up new skills.
You’ll inadvertently learn a bit about code, marketing, social media, blogging, design, audio engineering, or video lighting.
When I started this site I knew very little about D3.js, a programming language that you can use to create interactive data visualizations in web browsers. However, as I wrote more and more about personal finance I became interested in answering questions by using interactive maps, such as:
How long is the average daily commute in every U.S. county?
What is the median monthly rent in every U.S. county?
What is the median household income in every U.S. county?
What percentage of individuals have a bachelor’s degree or higher in every U.S. county?
To create each of these maps, I had to learn a bit of D3.js. Now, it’s a useful skill that I can use to create interactive data visualizations whenever I want.
3. To Meet Like-Minded People
When you start a passion project, particularly when it’s online, you’re likely to attract like-minded people who share your interests.
Personally I have met hundreds of other personal finance nerds online thanks to this blog. I’ve had the chance to interact with them on Twitter, hop on phone calls with them, and even Skype a few. I’ve even had the chance to connect with some of them in person at FinCon not once, but twice.
When you create things around your passion and share them on the internet, you instantly gain the potential to meet people who are searching for information about your exact passion online. When they stumble across your blog, social media account, YouTube channel, or podcast, there’s a potential for you to connect with them. This can lead to unlikely friendships.
David Perell once shared on Twitter that writing stuff on the internet is the new modern-day version of networking:
He points out the three reasons why sharing stuff online makes networking so effective:
1. It’s shareable. If someone likes your blog post, there’s a good chance that they’ll share it with their friends, thus exposing more people to you and your work.
2. It’s long-lasting. Once you share your work on the internet, it’s out there for people to discover for years to come.
3. It’s infinitely scalable. You might be able to meet four people in your area who also love cats by hosting a cat meetup at a local bar. But you can meet millions of people who love cats by sharing your cat videos online.
Whether you’re looking to expand your social life or you’re looking to build your professional network, there is perhaps no better way to do so than to start a passion project and share it online.
4. To Potentially Earn Extra Income
While you don’t have to start a passion project with the goal of earning income from it, it’s always a possibility that it could turn into an income stream.
When I started this blog three years ago, I actually had no idea it was even possible to earn money from a blog. Fast forward to present day, and I’m currently earning a full-time income from websites.
Related: I share my exact online income each month on this page.
When you start a passion project, it typically entails creating something around your passion. And whenever you create something from scratch, the potential to earn income from your creations is always present.
If your passion project is woodworking, then you can earn an income by selling the items that you create.
If your passion project is writing articles that document your travels around the world, you can monetize your blog through ads, affiliate links, or your own products.
If your passion project is hosting a podcast about your favorite sports team, you can monetize it through paid sponsorships.
You don’t have to feel slimy about earning an income from your passion either. Through promoting products and services that you personally use, you can improve the lives of your readers while earning some extra income. I personally earn some extra income through recommending a bunch of free products and services I actually use that have improved my life in some way.
5. To Enhance Your Quality of Life
One of the obvious reasons to start a passion project is because it has the potential to enhance your quality of life.
An International Gallup poll recently found that just 15% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are engaged at work. That means 85% of people aren’t thrilled about how they’re spending 8 to 10 hours per day through the week.
Thus, one way to improve your life is to have a passion project that you can look forward to working on outside of your day job.
In one of my favorite essays on work and life titled “How to do what you love and make good money,” Derek Sivers shares that the happiest people he knows have well-paying jobs and work on their art on the side.
They use a day job purely to earn money and they work on their art purely to satisfy their creative itch. They don’t force their day job to bring them joy and they don’t force their art to bring them income. Through maintaining this balance, he explains that they’re able to cultivate a happy life.
Kurt Vonnegut once said:
“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
There’s something about creating things that brings people joy.
Whether or not you earn money from your passion project, it’s always something you can use to gain joy and enhance your quality of life.
How to Create Time for Your Passion Project
Once you’re convinced of the potential benefits of starting a passion project, the final step is to simply make time for one.
If you’re like most Americans, you probably have an unnecessarily busy schedule, which means you need to find ways to free up some time. I have two recommendations for doing so, per my essay on How To Simplify Your Life:
1. Remove unnecessary obligations. The Minimalists say “the easiest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it.” In the same vein, the easiest way to simplify your life is by getting rid of most of your obligations. Say “no” to more things so that you have the capacity to say “yes” to a passion project you want to start.
2. Focus on intensity, not duration. When you work on your passion project, remove distractions. You can create a lot of stuff in just one hour if you’re focused. For anyone who has a family, kids, or pets that require your attention, freeing up just one hour per day might be all you need to make significant progress on your project.
It’s hard to overstate the benefits of starting a passion project. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to start one and share it with the world. So, get started on one today. Your future self will thank you.
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
His favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, a site that allows him to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free, has no trading or maintenance fees, and even allows him to set up automated target-allocated investments.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.