It recently came to light that the developers who worked on the acclaimed computer game Kerbal Space Program (KSP) had left their jobs at Squad. Most of these developers had been working on KSP prior to the launch by Squad in 2013. There had been persistent rumours that working conditions at Squad were abysmal with developers being paid less than $US200 per month, but employees stayed on because they loved the game so much. But is there a way to follow your dreams without taking a huge financial hit? Read on to find out.
Leaving your boring 9-to-5 job and pursuing what you love is a romantic notion that many of us dream about. It's one of the reasons that start-ups are popping up all the time; people want to escape the daily grind and work on something exciting that would eventually bring in a decent income. But life is not a Hollywood movie and most start-ups fail.
Money is a key factor holding people back from quitting their day jobs to do something they're passionate about. Bills have to be paid and people need to eat.
"Do what you love" sounds like a fantastic idea when you're not starving. Job satisfaction is important but often it won't bring food to the table; at least not immediately. Passion is an important ingredient to success but money is a necessary goal when choosing a career path.
But there are steps you can take to move into a career that's meaningful to you without going broke, so long as you have both feet firmly planted on the ground.
#1 Be Practical
This is probably the most important thing to consider when you are looking to pursue your passion as a full-time job.
This is when you need to take a good hard look at yourself and do an honest assessment on whether you have the talent required to pursue your passion. According to entrepreneur and journalist J. Maureen Henderson:
"You might love teaching yoga, offering life coaching services or taking baby portraits, but if the market doesn’t value these activities as highly as you do, you either have to fight the uphill battle of creating demand, pare down your lifestyle until you can afford to live on what you can get paid or accept that your passion is not suitable for paying bills."
That doesn't mean you should just give up on what you're passionate about. It may just mean you're not able to live of it right now:
"Take a searching inventory of the profit-generating skills and experience you do have and use the most lucrative among them as a means of earning your keep and purchasing yourself the mental freedom and leisure time to indulge in your passion without stressing about how to make it pay."
Leonardo A. Schlesinger, business author and president of Babson College, added:
"More often than not, these people say, 'Once I get enough money, I’ll do what I really want to do. I won’t worry about the money.' But somehow, they never get to that point. Time is finite. The question might be enough to get you to reconsider how you’re spending it."
#2 Be Financially Literate
If you're determined to dive into the career of your dreams, you may need to make some hard decisions. You may not be able continue your current lifestyle and will likely have to sacrifice on small luxuries here and there. But more importantly, you need to be able to manage your finances.
Financial planner Randell Tiongson had this advice for individuals who plan to pursue their passion as a day job:
"It's so corny because we've been doing it, saying it a lot of times...money management, basic money management, learning how to understand needs and wants. These are the things that needs for them to understand. You can either learn it the hard way, and that's the time they realize that they need to do these things, or somebody was able to reach to them. You can learn from your mistakes, or you can learn from other people's mistakes."
#3 Do Your Research So You Don't Get Exploited
The problem with pursuing your passion is that people will often expect you to work for free because "you're doing something you love". That doesn't constitute as 'work', right?
Just look at the developers for KSP. Even when you consider the fact that Squad is based in Mexico and the cost of living is much lower over there, $US200 per month is ridiculously low for an IT professional. They worked for next to nothing because they were all so dedicated to game they love. They didn't want to leave until their project was 'finished', by their standards.
There will be plenty of employers out there who are only too happy to take advantage of you. In the words of Henderson:
"Folks would never think to ask a plumber to work for free because he simply loves snaking drains, but if you’re trying to make a living from doing what you love in a creative field, there will always be potential clients, customers and acquaintances trying to leverage your passion for your work as a reason to pay you less than market value."
If you're planning a career move, make sure you do your research so you can get a better idea on how much you're worth. Talk to other people that are already in the industry you desire to be a part; network and learn from them.
Money is always going to be an obstacle for people who hope to work in a job that they absolutely love. This hurdle often discourages people from ever pursuing their passion, but it's important to remember that the future is unknown.
As Schlesinger noted:
"Who knows what people will buy, or what you might invent after your very next act. At any moment in time, you are only one thought away from an insight — an insight that can change everything. "… You might discover that your passion does, in fact, make you money. After all, who knew you could make huge amounts of money figuring out a way to connect all your friends (Facebook) or make a better map (pick your favorite GPS tool)."