This article on being successful with your passion project is a guest post by Tom.
Everyone and their mother has a passion project these days. But the big question is, “How do I turn my passion project into my full-time project?”
Well, that is a tricky question. To put it simply, there’s a certain amount of luck involved, quite a bit of hard work, and some ingenuity. But it’s not impossible, that’s for sure.
Several years ago, I started my own side hustle. It all started with one blog post, in fact! A blog post just like this. Except it was about the gear I used to travel the world out of my backpack and it was posted on my personal Medium account.
Okay, so it was almost nothing like this. But it was a blog post.
The point is, that one blog post led me to create Pack Hacker, which has blossomed into my full-time job. I’m now able to fund my lifestyle (which involves quite a bit of traveling) with this, which is pretty sweet. And I didn’t entirely see this coming—call me pessimistic—but looking back on it, there were a few things I did that made a big difference.
I’m no business coach and I’m not promising to solve all of your problems. But I’d like to share these tips with you because, quite frankly, I wish someone had shared them with me.
3 Tips for Creating a Successful Passion Project
1. There’s a Reason It’s Called a PASSION Project
If you want to turn your small passion project into something that can actually fund your lifestyle, you have to be overly passionate about it. There’s no other way around it. If your little project feels like work, if you dread getting started on it, or if you’d rather just procrastinate… You might want to look for another project.
If you don’t have an actual passion for your project, nothing’s going to happen with it.
People talk a lot about this on a higher level, but I think it’s far more important when you’re just starting out.
My company reviews backpacks and travel gear. And guess what? I love backpacks and travel gear! Call me a nerd, gearhead, whatever you want—this stuff tickles my fancy. I am borderline obsessed with finding the best travel gear on the planet.
The reason I started this company is because I wrote a blog post about the gear I used. That post gained quite a bit of traction and I actually made some good money off of it (through affiliate links).
That post is what created Pack Hacker. And that post wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have a passion for the subject. It also wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much traction if it wasn’t for the passion I was able to metaphorically “put down on the page.”
Once I started Pack Hacker, the only reason it lasted for more than a month or two was because I was so passionate about it that I was able to put every ounce of my being into making it a success.
Oh, and I’m still doing that today.
On top of being passionate about my company, I’ve always been passionate about creating things for myself. That’s why I became an entrepreneur—to build a rocket ship for myself and have the freedom to do what I want when I want.
If you don’t want it, you’re not going to get it. …Whoa. That just got pretty deep.
2. It’s All About Adding Value
I am of the mindset that you can boil just about everything in life into the concept of adding value. People do things because they add value to their lives, in one way or another.
- Products add value
- Hobbies (like travel) add value
- Services add value
- Content adds value
- Relationships add value
The list goes on.
You have an opportunity to add value to people’s lives with your passion project. You need to make sure you’re adding as much value as possible.
If your passion project can add value into people’s lives, you are on the right track. Whether you’re selling something, providing a service, or something else entirely—once you can establish and quantify that value, you can start to charge for it or capitalize off of it in some way.
How I Provided Value
In my case, I provide gear recommendations. That is the value I am able to add to people’s lives. I make money off of my recommendations via affiliate links, so every time someone buys a product through my website I get a chunk of change. To be clear, it is a very small chunk of change—but a chunk nonetheless—at no cost to the purchaser.
I love that I am adding value to people’s lives. I honestly think that is one of the biggest advantages of becoming an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, yes—you can work remotely, you can make lots of money, you can be your own boss, you can have your own schedule. All those things are great. But being able to actually improve people’s lives in some way is an amazing opportunity.
It’s all about adding value. The more value you can add, the more success you will have. And as an added bonus, if you can add enough value from the get-go—your project will market itself.
3. Capitalize on Your Unique Gift
Pretty much every entrepreneur has heard this rant—”You have to focus on your unique gift and outsource everything else so you can provide the most impact to your business!”
And no, I’m not talking about finding a unique gift for your entrepreneur friend. I’m talking about the one skill—or skills—that set you above the rest. The stuff you can do blindfolded and knock it out of the park every time.
When it comes to a passion project, unless you have some trust fund or pot of gold hidden away somewhere—you’re going to have to do most of it yourself. At least in the beginning.
You should try to make—and save—the most money possible by using your unique gift. Here’s what I mean…
I’d say I have two unique gifts that are applicable to my business. I am a great web designer, and I have a solid knowledge of travel gear. I also have some kind of unique thoughts on what makes a piece of travel gear good or not, so let’s lump that into the “knowledge” part.
So, How Was I Able to Capitalize on This?
Well, I was able to put a ton of effort into building an awesome website. And outside of about a thousand hours of my time, I spent very little money on it. This set me up for success, and just through my initial website I was already providing people with a valuable experience. From the moment they visited my website, they were impressed.
Well, I think they were impressed. I hope they were…
And then my knowledge of travel gear, which is really the foundation of the company. I was able to capitalize on this by analyzing how bags and travel gear would actually hold up in the real world.
I was able to put them through real-world testing and give actual feedback as to what works and doesn’t work.
The icing on top is that I was able to do this in a relatable way. All of this—the website and the knowledge—made Pack Hacker stand out from the crowd.
Whatever your gift is, try to find a way to capitalize on it. If you take awesome photos, put your effort into that Instagram feed and build an awesome following. If you’re a great writer, take a page from Nina’s book and start a sweet blog. These are all things that can add value to people’s lives, help you stand out from the rest, and will save you tons of money.
I’ll close this out with my final piece of advice, which is to stay consistent. With everything.
Consistently add value.
Consistently capitalize on your gift. Stay passionate. Put out your content on a consistent basis. Consistently improve your project, company, side hustle—whatever it may be.
If you can incorporate all three of these factors into your passion project on a consistent basis, you will have no problems. I’ve been putting out content consistently for years now, and it’s the one thing I can really control in my business. I know that if I consistently put out quality material, my following will continue to grow.
So—at the risk of sounding like a life coach—get out there and make it happen!
What’s your passion project? What makes you want to become an entrepreneur?
Tom Wahlin took his digital design and creative direction career on the road in May of 2015. He sold nearly all of his belongings, packing up his New York City life into a 40L backpack. As of October 2017, he’s been living a fully nomadic lifestyle traveling to a new country every couple of weeks.
He shared his learnings in the Medium article, “Everything You Need to Travel The World in One Backpack” and found that he wasn’t alone. The article was a hit, and the idea for Pack Hacker was born.
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.