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6 Things You Have to Remember When Your Dream Job Isn’t a Money-Maker

The career path that fuels your passions may not make you mad money - and that's okay. Here are 6 things to remember when it feels hopeless.

I’m a writer. I’ve written about this before. I’ve written about following your passion instead of practicality. I’ve written tips for writers. And, while all of those previous posts are honest and relevant to the life of a writer, I must admit that I’ve avoided the other side of the writer’s life… the side that just isn’t easy, no matter how much passion or how many tips you have.

My dream job isn’t a money-maker. Not usually. Sure, there are the lucky ones who start out as homeless, single mothers who somehow have time to write and then make it big (*cough* J.K. Rowling *cough*). But those are by far the minority of the minority who ever even get published at all.

So, you’re an artist. A writer. Or maybe you want to start a non-profit. A small business? Or maybe develop an iPhone app! Whatever the case, your dream job isn’t considered by Forbes’ all-knowing career experts to be a bring-home-lots-of-bacon job.

If you’re like me, you’re too stubborn to give it up and too one-track-minded to even consider any other career. What do you do?

1. Be realistic.

I hate being realistic. There’s a reason I write fiction and there’s a reason I’m considered an idealist. I like telling myself, “if that person can do it, why can’t I?” I know I have drive and passion – so when it comes to facing the fact that I might not ever make big money from my writing, it’s hard not to lose a bit of the joy that comes with pursuing the career I want.

But, I need to be realistic. We all do, at least some of the time. Your small business may bust. Your may never sell more than a few hundred books, if any. Your art may not fill a gallery. Your this or that may never make you money. It’s just reality.

2. Stay hopeful.

Before this post gets too miserable, I should say that I don’t think you should ever stop hoping to make it big. Just because you choose to accept the reality that you may never make bank, doesn’t mean you can’t dream about it.

That hope is what will push you through the hardest times. That hope is what will fuel your passion when you receive your 50th rejection letter. Hope will keep you going.

3. Remember your purpose.

Part of me can’t help but think that if you and I really put everything we have into pursuing our dreams, that we’ll make it. Karma, right? But the world doesn’t work that way.

Some of the best writers and artists and thinkers never see their names in print or their picture on a magazine. But, in reality, is the money really why you and I chose the paths we did? If that was the case, I would have pursued a career in technical writing… because they make money! But deep down, it’s not the money or fame I want.

You and I chose these careers because we love them.

You and I chose these careers because we love them. Because we have a passion for creating, or service, or art. It’s easy to get swept up by the feeling that we need to make lots of money or be famous to be considered successful. But the true success doesn’t lie in the money. It lies in doing and being fulfilled by what you love, despite your income.

4. Be willing to sacrifice.

That being said, we’ll all have to make some sacrifices. I will probably have a tiny apartment for a very long time. I’ll also have to do some jobs I don’t like as much to pay the bills. It’s important to have balance. While you shouldn’t give up your dream, you also have to be willing to do the work it takes to get there.

Working a full-time job while developing that app or starting that small business will be so hard. Right now, doing grad school with two jobs is miserable 58% of the time. But these are the things we must do if we ever want to get to a place where we can put 100% of our time into our dream.

5. Find joy in taking risks.

There’s a reason adrenaline junkies exist: risk can be fun. We like scary movies and jumping off high-dives and trying new foods. Most of us find joy in the things that are a little (or a lot) scary. It’s thrilling. If we can learn to apply this excitement to pursuing our passion, it can make the sacrifices and the hard times much more enjoyable. (I kind of enjoy the idea of being a writer, up late, in a tiny apartment, trying to make ends meet. It’s very writer-y.)

Taking risks means that every single time I publish something, even an article here on GenTwenty, I feel a rush of adrenaline because I’ve taken one baby step closer to where I want to be. Learn to enjoy the risks!

6. Don’t give up.

Last but not least, is something I will always, always preach. Do not give up. So many famous writers don’t publish until their final decade or so. Small business owners fail time and time again before they finally get up on their feet and stay up. Non-profits take a long while to get off the ground.

It will never be easy, even after you consider yourself to have “made it.” Even then, you’ll have to work your ass off. But, if you’re willing to be realistic, take risks, and find joy in the small successes, every struggle will be worth it, even if you never make big money.

About the Author

Maggie Marshall

Maggie is a senior English major at Abilene Christian University. She enjoys creative writing, reading everything she can get her hands on, and learning what it means to be a grown-up. After graduation, she plans to pursue a MFA in creative writing and perhaps a PhD after that, all while working on getting published and finding as many writing opportunities as possible. She would love to continue contributing to sites like GenTwenty and perhaps, after getting her doctorate, become a professor of creative writing at a university.