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Why passion is not always profitable


work in a startup

writer icon Kristine Hanson     ISB   |   Culture     🕐 18. Jul. 2018


One might say that in order to be happy in life you should find something you love to do and then find a way to get paid for it.

The journey towards this supposed nirvana has almost certainly been a driving force for many entrepreneurs to start their own company. However, in order to truly succeed in business, is it enough to have a passion for what you do? Or can passion lead you down the wrong path?

Passion has value

People place great value on passion. If a person or company fails to display enthusiasm in their product or service, it can have a negative effect on how they are perceived by others. It could be even worse if a company were to project a passion that appeared forced or false.

However, merely being passionate about something is rarely enough to launch a successful company. Everyone needs to start somewhere, but there is a risk that those who build a business based purely on their passion will never get out of the startup phase.

There are not many people who would list filing tax returns as their main passion in life. The rare few that do, most likely have a prosperous and happy life ahead of them. For everyone else, there is a high chance that their passion is not profitable.

Those that do start a business doing what they love may find it hard once they have started. By turning what they love doing into a job that needs to pay the bills, there is a chance that they will develop a love-hate relationship with their work.

Forced into compromise

An example of this conflict could be a when a photographer decides to start their own photography business. Perhaps they love to take pictures of open landscapes, but in order to make enough money, they are forced to accept bookings for weddings, as there is more of this sort of work available. In this instance, the photographer is no longer purely doing what they love. They are forced to compromise in order to make a living.

Risk of losing interest

Another risk of starting a business based on passion is that one might find after some time that one tires of it. What once was a source of great joy has been transformed into a “must”. This can be doubly harsh, as not only would someone in this situation no longer enjoy their work, but they also would have lost touch with something that used to make them happy.

Expected to work for free

There is an assumption that people who do what they love will also be happy to do it for free. Some people are more than happy to take advantage of others based on this belief. This can be a huge problem within certain industries, and particularly for those whose skills are creative-based, such as musicians and designers.

Seeing something that you love doing being grossly undervalued can be quite a blow. At the same time, there is a risk that a person can misjudge the value of their own passion, and make assumptions of their own about how much demand there is for their particular interest or hobby.

Unable to be objective

Part of what makes a business successful is being able to take a pragmatic approach to the company and someone working within their passion may have a hard time being objective.

It can be difficult to accept that something that propelled an entrepreneur to action can eventually serve to be their downfall. There is something to be said for keeping passion separate from profession. Particularly when the enjoyment of one's passion is put at risk in an attempt to prove that it is profitable.



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