How to do what you enjoy and make money doing it

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If you follow XKCD, you may remember number 576. The main character, who loves getting packages, programs his computer to buy him a $1 item on eBay every day. Well, someone decided to do it in real life. Paul Hunkins, a PhD student in New Zealand, made his own version. The kicker: he made his program post its activity on Twitter.

Some people might say he’s squandering his experience. He should be producing more for society. New security software, or word processors. Something everybody can use. But I’ve got to say I disagree. And so does the blog beckitrue.com. Just read #1 on their list “Top 10 Career Advice Tips for IT and InfoSec [Information Security] Students“:

1. Do what you enjoy doing. Life is too short and this business is too demanding to spend your time working on things that you don’t enjoy.

Some people really struggle finding a legitimate way to do what they love (read that; it’s ten pages but highly interesting). Especially those interested in computers. A lot of computer users like gaming, which can’t really be a source of income. (Or can it?) Still others are interested in security, like the New York Times story I linked to above. Follow these steps. This is text-heavy, but this list is… Well, just read it and you’ll see what I mean.

How to do what you enjoy and make money doing it

  1. Define what you enjoy. You might have to dive pretty deep. “I enjoy gaming” isn’t enough; what about it do you like? This isn’t something another person can walk you through. If you don’t know you’ve defined it right, you haven’t. And you will know when you’ve defined it right.
  2. Get good at it. Often this means drilling. If you want to get good at a language, you have to memorize vocabulary. If you want to get good at programming, you have to program. A lot. Come up with as many projects as you can think of. It doesn’t matter if they’re pointless, because that’s not the point. The point is the practice. Do you like making LEGO NXT robots? Make one that can navigate a minefield of cups. Make one that walks with legs, instead of wheels. Make one that can solve a Rubik’s cube. Make one that does something. Anything. It sounds like work at first, but remember something important here: you’re doing what you enjoy. Once you get into the rhythm you’ll get lost in your work. And if you don’t, go back to number 1 on this list.
  3. Make it a part of your life. When you introduce yourself to new people, this should be one of the things you mention. First impressions are a big deal and they affect how people view you for as long as they know you. If you introduce yourself as “a programmer” they will categorize you as one forever. And that will be good for you, if they meet other programmers. They will say to you “Oh, then you should meet my friend! S/he is a programmer too!” You want this. Making it a part of your life also means doing it a lot. See number 2.
  4. Find a way to let other people appreciate how good you are at it. Ultimately, you want them to appreciate with their wallets, but don’t worry about that just yet. Make your hobby cool or useful to people you’ve never met. If you are a gamer, enter competitions, tournaments, and try to get into the professional circuit. If you like something like building computers it’s a no-brainer: build computers for people. If you like making programs to automate your work, or make your life easier, start designing Firefox add-ons. If you’re not making money, you’re building a resume.
  5. Get a job that is, at least, somehow related to what you enjoy. You’ll just have to grit your teeth if it’s not the best. It’s work. You’ve got to make money. If you’re still under 18, skip this step because it’s hard to find relevant work before you’re a legal adult.
  6. Make connections. Find other people who enjoy doing what you enjoy doing. If you’re in school, get to talk to your teachers. And your classmates. If you’re over 18 and are working somewhere decent, your coworkers. Be their friends. Communicate with them often. The best and easiest way to get jobs is through connections, but they won’t connect you unless you stay connected with them. After you’ve gotten to know these people, tell them about your aspirations and projects. Keep them up-to-date on everything in your life that is relevant. If you’re a programmer, tell your programmer friends you’re working on some cool project, and are working on getting someone to acquire (read: buy) it from you. Someone they know may be looking for such a thing. And chances are, if they’re looking to acquire (read: buy) something, they probably have a fair sum of money to hand over. Making connections also means finding where your community hangs out. Sometimes it’s on the internet—most likely, if you’re in to programming. If you know people in real life who do what you like, ask them about it. Search Reddit, a widely-used forum, for a “sub-reddit” on your clique.
  7. Repeat steps 2 through 6. You’ll enjoy it because you enjoy doing this. And if you don’t, again: go back to number 1.

Unless you take this to an extreme, it almost does not matter what you enjoy doing—you will be able to make money doing it. And you’ll be able to have a pretty enjoyable life.

And if you’re in high school, you’re at a time of your life where remembering these steps is really important; if you forget them, you might start heading down a path you don’t like, and you’ll either not have fun or you’ll make bad money.

Then again, some people would rather make bank doing something they hate. And if that’s your bag, then do it! You can watch Dirty Jobs for advice on where to look for work, because those guys make pretty good money.

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2 thoughts on “How to do what you enjoy and make money doing it

  1. Sound advice.

    If you struggle to figure a way of making a living following what you are passionate about, then you may have to do something else to keep the wolf from the door in the meantime.

    Alternatively, look for a compromise. For example, there are many aspiring novelists making good money writing quality articles for professional websites and blogs.

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