I love playing the trumpet.
I spend at least four hours a week going to orchestra and quintet rehearsals. It’s not about the money. I’d do it whether I got paid or not. It is my passion.
Eight years into my copywriting business, I have yet to figure out how to make money from my music passion. And believe me, it’s not for lack of trying.
I’ve tailored my website so that it appeals to musicians, but managed to attract only a handful of low paying jobs.
I’ve changed my business model, offering to set musicians up with paying gigs and also helping restaurants, wedding planners, and other venues find bands. But it was so expensive for me to get the word out I wasn’t actually making much money.
I’ve also approached several orchestras and bands, only to find that a volunteer on the board does their marketing… and they have it under control, thank you very much.
What I learned is that musicians don’t pay copywriters. (They’re probably too busy trying to get paid themselves!) The more I put my energy into struggling and toiling to find a way to get musicians to pay me to write for them, the less time and energy I had to play music.
There was no joy in that.
When most career advice begins with finding your passion, it’s easy to feel like you’ve done something wrong when following your passion doesn’t work out. Many writers (myself included) sabotage their success before they even get started because they feel as if they need to follow their passion.
That’s why I was so relieved to hear Joshua Boswell’s practical advice on achieving a balance between following your passion and finding a profitable niche.
Before you plow ahead, ask yourself these questions:
- What is your REAL passion?
Boswell unapologetically followed the money right out of the gate. He never felt conflicted about pursuing the most profitable projects he could find, or worried about whether he was following his passion. Why?
His real passion is hanging out with his wife and kids, and he urgently needed to make money his first year in order to do that. So he didn’t feel conflicted about pursuing the most profitable projects available to him.
“The thing I wanted more than living my passion was to live my deeper passion,” said Boswell. “I’m far more interested in spending time with my family and having the great income to be able to do what I want to do. In other words, I wanted to minimize how much time I spent at my desk working, and maximize how much time I spent doing things I really, really loved.”
If you have something that you are giddily passionate about, you have two choices. You can spend your working hours immersed in that interest or you can find a way to get paid crazy well so that you can have more free time and enjoy the passion when you’re not working.
If you’re not getting the results you want with the question, “What is my passion?” what should the question be instead?
- Does anybody use and pay copywriters well in that arena?
I failed to find clients in the music niche because I wasted time approaching people who were used to doing the work themselves, or who relied on volunteers to get their marketing done.
They weren’t used to spending money on copywriting, so before I could even begin to persuade them to hire me, I would have to first convince them to hire a writer.
That’s too hard!
If this sounds familiar, I encourage you to ask an important question that will weed out a lot of prospects. “Do they use and pay copywriters?”
There are clues that will tell you. They have a lot of content on their websites like blog posts, white papers, case studies, and newsletters. They use sales copy to generate revenue. They have a marketing director.
Avoid pursuing clients that are doing very little marketing or doing everything themselves. Put all your efforts into talking to the companies that are already in the habit of paying for marketing support.
Find out where sales are being made, donations are being solicited, and money is changing hands. That is where your skills are going to be needed and valued the most.
Boswell encourages writers to zero in on the opportunities within their niche by asking, “Is there some place else in that market where copy is used? For example, does that industry have a massive funnel of products and services flowing in and out of it? How are all those guys selling their stuff to people? Maybe they’re using copy.”
If you can’t find the financial engine within your chosen niche, move on to the next question.
- What’s my second passion?
If your first idea doesn’t work, give yourself permission to move on to your next passion.
For me, I’ve had a lot more success working with entrepreneurs and small business owners. But even then, I’m careful to avoid wasting time and focus on approaching people who are open to the idea of spending money on the kind of marketing pieces I write.
- How can I make adjustments so that it can work?
If you are determined to focus on the things you love doing, you may have to tweak your plan a little bit and realize that it might not look the way you originally expected it to.
Here are some possible adjustments:
Create your own product. To follow my music niche example, I could offer an inexpensive product that teaches copywriting to my target audience so they could do it themselves.
Use your copywriting skills to grow your own business. As a musician, I could use my writing and marketing skills to grow a business like a private trumpet studio.
Find companies that are loosely related to your area of interest or companies that serve your target market. Instead of writing for orchestras, I could adapt my knowledge of orchestras to write for travel companies that specialize in helping orchestras while they tour. Or I could work for a college trying to recruit music students.
If you love doing or learning about a particular thing, it makes sense to want to spend as much time as possible on that one thing. But before you concentrate all of your professional energy in that direction, decide whether you would be happier pursuing more profitable projects so you can spend your leisure time on your passion.
Find out if people are already spending money in that area, and learn how to scope out the areas where you stand a chance of getting paid well. Finally, would you rather find clients who will pay you, or start your own company and use your copywriting skills to grow a business of your own?