Sources for stories: Doing what you love, and making money doing it

We are having a wonderful time in the Netherlands, and I’ll do a full write-up of the week when we get back. In the meantime, I’m using a low-key day to get a little jump on next week.

I’m working on a Fast Company piece on career and earning advice from people who’ve found that “do what you love” doesn’t have to be a bad financial plan. If you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ wage data, you’ll see that the 90th percentile for various careers that are not known for being high paying is actually not subsistence level. For fine artists (painters, sculptors) it’s $91k. For writers and authors, it’s $117k. For music directors and composers, it’s $88k. Sure, for other professions (doctors, lawyers) the 90th percentile is much higher. Nonetheless, you do not necessarily need to be a household name to make a reasonable living as, say, an artist.

So how do you go about doing that? I’d love to talk with people who’ve kept “do what you love” from being horrible financial advice. As always, you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.

2 thoughts on “Sources for stories: Doing what you love, and making money doing it

  1. But… only 10% of those people are in the 90th percentile… Heck, if you look at the 99th percentile you’ll see million+ salaries. That doesn’t mean much for the 99% of people.
    With a lot of these professions (professional athletes, CEOs, actors, etc.) there are tournaments and super-stars. The people who do really really well are rewarded, but the people who are average… that’s a different story for the different professions.
    More important is the 50% percentile– what can the average person going into the field expect? In some cases, this isn’t as bad as one might think (artists or writers willing to do commercial work). In some cases it’s not so great.
    And, for a lot of people, the 20th percentile can be important… what if you’re competent but not that good compared to the other passionate people? That’s the “are you going to starve” question.
    And, who is to say it isn’t luck that determines the person at the 90th percentile point to the person at the 50th or even 20th percentile point? Conditional on passing some threshold of ability.

    1. @NicoleandMaggie- sure, luck is part of any career. But there are all sorts of stories out there about famous/successful/wealthy people giving their tips for getting where they are. I’m aiming to do one on a slightly different angle — if you’re making good money in a difficult field, and you are not actually a household name, how did you do that? I’m guessing that people at the 90th percentile are doing different things than people at the 50th. I can tell aspiring writers not to just do magazine or newspaper work, for instance. Or that book writing doesn’t pay off in year one, but it can pay off over time — so make sure you have the right time horizon. None of us are J.K. Rowling, but you don’t have to be.

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