How to turn what you love into a career

It sounds like the dream doesn’t it? To turn what you love into a living. But let’s dive into this topic because it’s a bit more nuanced than simply doing what you love and hoping the money will fall out of the sky.

It’s good to start with the ideal, then we can see how close we can get to it. So here’s a question for you: What would you do if I gave you a year’s salary?

Imagine I just gave you all the money you need for a year off. What would you do when you don’t need to earn anything? Yes, you might escape to the beach and drink cocktails for a month or two, but eventually even that will become boring and empty. Humans are only truly happy when we are being useful.

So what would you do? Think about this for a moment – this coming Friday is now your last day in your current job. What is it you’re going to do in this precious year of total freedom? What projects would you want to tackle? Which topics would you dive deeper into? What business or non-profit would you start up?

Would you do up your home, get serious about your photography, hold your own exhibition, get into futurology, attend conferences and share what you learn on YouTube, become a public speaker, get into TV, go work alongside a hero of yours, or change some piece of the world for the better?

Even if your answers seem impossible to you now, it’s still important information. If something seems too out there to make a reality, don’t just discard it. Ask yourself, “What is the experience I want to have?” If your dream is to be a rockstar but you’re tone deaf, perhaps you want to experience the status that comes with it, or perhaps it’s the self-expression or the freedom to go wherever you want. Whatever the experience is that you’re craving, there will be other ways to get it if you don’t want to go for the far-out dream.

Man on laptop

Aristotle cracked it 2000 years ago

Now you’ve done the blue-sky thinking let’s get a little more practical. Here’s the thing, there are lots of activities we could all write down that we love doing but won’t ever get paid for. I love scrolling through funny memes but no one’s about to send me a cheque for it!

The key to getting paid is to provide value to people. So, if you can find a way to do what you love in a way that meets people’s needs (is useful, entertaining, educational, helpful, or makes them feel better), you can be pretty sure you can get paid for it. 

Joel Ostrovsky loved funny memes but he used his love to do something of value to others. He created the outrageous online personality of ‘The Fat Jew’ on Instagram (@thefatjewish), shared the most outrageous memes he could find, and attracted 10 million followers eager for a moment of comic relief. He then used his personal brand to launch a wine brand then went on to be bought by one of the largest drinks conglomerates in the world.

If you want to get paid to do what you love, take the advice of Aristotle who said 2,300 years ago, “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” It was superb advice but sadly there was no Instagram at the time so few people have heard it (if only he could have written it as a caption for a moody sunset pic).

Here’s how to use Aristotle’s advice today…

Use the three P’s

To find the best career direction or business focus for you, find the thing that scores highest on your three P’s: 

The first P is for ‘Play’ – this is the doing what you love bit. What kind of work would you find interesting and rewarding even if you didn’t get paid for it? We’re looking for something that feels like it naturally suits your interests and personality. You should have several possibilities here. The ultimate destination is to get paid for doing something you’d happily do even if you didn’t need the money. That’s what I call getting paid to play.

The second P is for ‘Practised’ – it’s faster to make money from something you have a track record in. You don’t have to do exactly what you did in your job if you don’t enjoy it. What are some of the things you know you’re good at that you could use in an area you’d find more interesting? Have you got great people skills? Are you good with technology? Have you been reading and studying psychology for years? Choose a path that uses it and you’ll be at an advantage.

The third P is for ‘Profit’ – check you’re choosing something that people have a real need for and are happy to pay for. If you want to make sure there is money to be made, the simplest thing to do is to check whether people are already paying for this from other people or businesses.

John Williams

John Williams

For real flexibility, work for yourself. There’s no doubt that working for yourself or having your own business gives you a lot more room to direct your career exactly where you want to go for maximum enjoyment and fulfilment. And when the world is in a state of flux and uncertainty as it is now, working for yourself is actually safer because you are in control of your own career and you’re not dependent on one person – your boss – for your income.

Want to make money? Solve a problem

If you want to get something going fairly soon, make sure you’re doing something that solves a problem for people.

People new to working for themselves often start out with broad, vague pitches that end up a nice to have rather than a must have. This makes it much harder to get people to pay you. 

Life coaches are often guilty of this. They say they can help anyone do anything. That may be true, but it makes it very difficult for the prospective client to choose who to work with. We prefer specialists and when we see someone who focuses intensely on helping people who are in exactly our situation, it’s very enticing.

So avoid describing what you do in vague, broad terms. Set out to solve one really specific problem people have. I’ve spent the last 15 years and written three books to help people create a successful one-of-a-kind business they love. It never gets boring because I spend all day being creative with other people’s ideas – and every idea and every person is different.

What I do solves real problems – wanting to escape the 9-5 but not knowing exactly what to do, starting a business without the endless aimless slog, and doubling your prices without losing clients.

What are the problems you would enjoy solving for people?

Think big start small

You don’t need to quit your current work to get started. In fact it’s often better not to. Instead, start your new business on the side. Start by talking to people who could be clients/customers and find out what they really want. Look for how you can hit that sweet spot of all three P’s. 

When you get clearer on what you could provide, reach out to everyone you know and see if you can get your first clients, customers or sales. You could start by discounting your offer for the first five or 10 people. Tell them what your final pricing will be and explain that this is a reduced price offer for a limited number of people in exchange for giving you feedback that you could quote from.

When you have more demand than you can fit into your evenings and weekends, you might be ready to go part-time or quit altogether. And once you’re out, things will really speed up because now you can dedicate all your time to making this new business of yours fly. 

Get ready for one of the most rewarding adventures possible in life. And it’s one you can take as far as you want you go.


John Williams is the author of the new book F**k Work Let’s Play: Do what you love and get paid for it published by Pearson. Download a free chapter or join John’s free 5-Day Business Startup Challenge at fworkletsplay.com 

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John Williams

Written by John Williams

John Williams is a bestselling author and founder of The Ideas Lab.

Written by John Williams

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