What Being a Professional Means: “Maybe You Can’t Get Paid for Doing Your Art”

This post is one of many brilliant ideas from marketing guru and thought leader Seth Godin.  I thought I’d re-post it here so it was more accessible to the class.

Maybe You Can’t Get Paid for Doing Your Art

The thing is, it’s far easier than ever before to surface your ideas. Far easier to have
 someone notice your interpersonal skills or your writing or your vision. Which means 
that people who might have hidden their talents are now finding them noticed.

That blog you’ve built, the one with a lot of traffic–perhaps it can’t be monetized.

That nonprofit you work with, the one where you are able to change lives–perhaps turning it into a career will ruin it.

That passion you have for abstract painting–perhaps making your work commercial enough to sell will squeeze the joy out of it.

When what you do is what you love, you’re able to invest more effort and care and time. That means you’re more likely to win, to gain share, to profit. On the other hand, poets don’t get paid. Even worse, poets who try to get paid end up writing jingles and failing and hating it at the same time.

Today, there are more ways than ever to share your talents and hobbies in public. And if you’re driven, talented, and focused, you may discover that the market loves what you do. That people read your blog or click on your cartoons or listen to your MP3s. But, alas, that doesn’t mean you can monetize it, quit your day job, and spend all day writing songs.

The pitfalls:

1. In order to monetize your work, you’ll probably corrupt it, taking out the magic, in
 search of dollars; and

2. Attention doesn’t always equal significant cash flow.

I think it makes sense to make your art your art, to give yourself over to it without regard for commerce.

Doing what you love is as important as ever, but if you’re going to make a living at it, it helps to find a niche where money flows as a regular consequence of the success of your idea. Loving what you do is almost as important as doing what you love, especially if you need to make a living at it. Go find a job you can commit to, a career or a business you can fall in love with.

A friend who loved music, who wanted to spend his life doing it, got a job doing PR for a
record label. He hated doing PR, and eventually realized that simply being in the record 
business didn’t mean he had anything at all to do with music. Instead of finding a job he 
could love, he ended up being in proximity to, but nowhere involved with, something he 
cared about. I wish he had become a committed schoolteacher instead, spending every
 minute of his spare time making music and sharing it online for free. Instead, he’s a 
frazzled publicity hound, working twice as many hours for less money and doing no 
music at all.

Maybe you can’t make money doing what you love (at least what you love right now).
But I bet you can figure out how to love what you do to make money (if you choose

Do your art. But don’t wreck your art if it doesn’t lend itself to paying the bills. That would be a tragedy.

(And the twist, because there is always a twist, is that as soon as you focus on your art 
and leave the money behind, you may discover that this focus turns out to be the secret of
 actually breaking through and making money.)

From Linchpin by Seth Godin


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