• Zach

Make Money By Creating Passionately

Updated: Feb 22, 2019


I shot this, it's a soap bubble, it's very tricky

Back when I was much younger and sillier, I used to go to this club in Bahrain with my friends. We would go every week and dance and cavort. I was new in town, and I didn't really know what else to do there. Every week I would look at the pictures we took, and they were all the same. Today we would call them selfies, but that word hadn't caught on back then. Basically, it was two or three of us together, camera raised over our faces pointing back down at us, flash on, big smiles. All the same. Hundreds. Of. Them.


It made me think: There has to be more to photography than this! How can I do this better?


Being the naturally curious person that I am (and most people are, deep down, curious about things in life), I started reading articles about how to improve my "photography" and came across Photoshop pretty quickly. I found free step-by-step tutorials that looked cool (like that one to remove acne), and just tried them out. They were tough at first, and required a lot of re-watching of videos, but in the end, I was making cool products. At the same time, a friend, who would later become one of the best friends I will ever have, also got interested in photography and bought his first "real" camera, a Nikon D80, and we would go out and experiment with it all over the island.


The more I read, the more I realized that photography was a HUGE topic, with tons of different types to practice and master. I loved food photography, portraits, landscape, macro, wedding, pretty much all of it. Because all of it took skill to excel at, and I found out that I could learn these skills and see quick improvement as I learned the art and science behind the subject.


I kept finding new things to learn how to do, and with practice, I was making some cool stuff that I wanted to show people. When I showed it to them, a common response I got was, "I have this nice camera, but I have no idea what to do with it! Can you teach me?" At first, I was reluctant, so I just started a photography club at my school, with the help of my very good friend Moe. It went well, and we thought through how we should teach these kids photography, what should be taught first, and how, and the club kept growing, until it could barely fit into my classroom.


All the while, I was still obsessed. I was reading about photography and shooting like 3 hours a day, for about a year and a half. More and more people were coming up to Moe and I and asking us to teach them how to get shots like ours. Others wanted to hire us to shoot events and portraits and stuff for newspapers and magazines. We bought better equipment so we could do different, more difficult types of photography. One of the most successful photographers in the country took us under his wing and showed us the ropes of commercial and studio photography. Eventually, Moe and I started making money charging people in the community for photography lessons, based on the curriculum we developed for the Photography club at school.


After a couple years of this, we realized we were making 20-30% of our income from photography and teaching it. Many people asked us when we would quit teaching at a school and become full time photographers, and I know that for me, it was a very tempting proposition.


I could tell a similar story about music and percussion since I got to Dubai. But percussion is something I've done since I was 10 years old, and I've pretty much always loved it. Now it's taken a more active roll in my life, and I gig regularly with my band, The Part Time Sinners here in the UAE. On a good month, I can make 20-30% of my income from music these days. Not enough to live on, but it definitely helps me save money. And I love it, as I always have.


These stories highlight a couple principles that can help you find your passions and even make money in a way that makes your life richer and fuller. Obviously, I can only really speak to my own experiences with photography, music, and now personal finance/blogging (still at the early stages on this one), and your area of curiosity may need different things, but you'll find that out in the obsession phase.

  1. Find what you're curious about - if it's something that leads you to creating a product like art, or cooking, or inventing something to solve a problem, that's the best! This article can help.

  2. Let your curiosity become an obsession - go down the rabbit hole, so to speak. In learning about the subject, you will find out tons and tons of nooks and crannies in the area that all require knowledge and skill. Youtube is a FANTASTIC resource, but there are blogs about just about everything as well. It's also a great idea to find a friend or group of people around you to do it with you. It's A LOT more fun, and you'll make great connections with like-minded people.

  3. Practice - Start creating, fail, fix, make things you are PROUD of.

  4. Share what you've made - give presents, show it off on social media, go into forums online.

  5. Keep learning and practicing - this won't feel like a burden, due to your obsession. You'll fight for time to do it, other pursuits will fall by the wayside, and that's ok.

  6. Start charging money for it - It's hard to know when to do this exactly, for me, it was always an organic process that happened once I was making things that people got value from. Start low at first and build your brand. Underpromise and overdeliver.

A lot of people become obsessed with things that aren't about creating, but about consuming. Heck, even I do it! I get REALLY in to reading certain authors, or watching certain TV shows. If consuming the products of others' creativity gets you to go out and try to imitate them by writing a book or screenplay, or creating a short film or animation in the style of your favorite author, or writing fanfic, that's awesome and can totally follow that same path.



BUT if you're limiting yourself to only consuming and not creating, this won't work. You'll just consume, consume, consume and not make the world a better or more beautiful place, or make money from it. Tons of people fall into this trap, and they are often miserable at work, but that's the only thing in their life besides going home and consuming the products of others, usually on their couches. Do you want to be that person?


Your Passions Can Also Get You Closer To Retirement!


Once you turn your creative passion into a source of income it has two huge benefits for your Financial Independence.

  1. It helps you save more money by generating a second income stream, building your nest egg that you can live off. This is doubly beneficial, because for many people, the time they spend creating what they sell, they're not out there consuming and spending money.

  2. If you keep creating based on your passion after you retire, it can make retirement come a LOT sooner. If we follow the 4% rule and use our investment nest egg as our only source of income in retirement, we will need a pretty big nest egg! In order to safely generate $40,000 a year, we need a $1,000,000 nest egg. But if we add in a second revenue stream, let's say you make $1,000 a month off your passionate creativity, it totally changes the math! Now you only need to generate $40,000-$12,000 = $28,000 a year from your investments. $28,000 a year only requires a nest egg of $700,000. Your math may vary, depending on what you create and how much money you can make from it, but any generated income significantly lowers the amount of money you need to save up by working for The Man! And you'll have something you love to do to occupy your time, instead of just waiting to die.


Can everyone do this? Probably not. There are going to be lots of people out there that take the path of least resistance, and never develop their passions or obsessions, or they have way too many obligations and can't find the time or energy. But do you want to be a person who never sees what they're capable of? That never learns about anything interesting or creates things that make the world a better or more beautiful place?


I don't. The happiest times in my life have been pursuing my passions. The fact that they also generate income is just wonderful icing on an awesome cake.


What has worked for you? Comment below, and if you like this, subscribe for more.


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Currently in Dubai, UAE