How to make money doing what you love: 5 essential steps

From planning to execution, learn how to make your passion pay off and transform your side hustle into a career.

Apr 02, 2021
Decorative image

Here we are in 2021, and many of us are re-evaluating our priorities. This is a good thing. It needed to happen. If you're a creative—photographer, videographer, writer, designer, for instance—and have decided to focus on the things you're passionate about, you're in luck. Now is the best time to get started making money doing what you love. The internet has given everyone access to the buying and selling of creative work. You just need to have the skills, talent, and desire to get your share of the passion economy. We have learned a lot at Dropbox while helping small businesses get off the ground. Here are our top five essential steps to turning your side hustle into a career:

1. Know your passion. For sure.

Seems simple enough, right? Pump the brakes. It takes hard work to profit from any endeavor, especially one that you love. Too often, the fun stops when you try to make money off something you enjoy. Before you quit your day job and spend your life savings on building a photography studio, for instance, you need to ensure your passion doesn't just become the new grind. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself every couple of weeks to see how you feel. If you have a plan and pace yourself, you’ll be making money and loving it! 

2. Start small. Test the waters.

Before you jump in the deep end, do some small jobs for cheap or even for free. If taking photos is your passion, offer to shoot some family photos for friends. If you aren't very experienced, do the work for free, but make sure you get permission to use the images in your portfolio. Love shooting video? Ask a local business if you can create some video content for their social media. If you do a good job, chances are they'll recommend you to their friends. Starting with small gigs is also a great way to see if the demand is there. Remember: This is a short-term experiment. Don't get caught in the trap of devaluing your work by giving it away.

Once you start creating content, it's essential to have a secure place to organize your work. A cloud storage solution like Dropbox lets you easily share content and collaborate with clients efficiently and professionally. Don't stress. It doesn't have to be expensive, especially if you start with a free plan. Since all of our plans are easily scalable, you can always upgrade as your business grows.

3. Research. Then network like crazy.

What equipment do you need? How much should you charge? Who is the competition? How can you stand out? When it comes to something you're passionate about, you can never know too much. While a simple Google search can answer many of your questions, it's hard to know how reliable the information is. 

The best resource for information is other people who already work in the field. If you want to do graphic design work, for instance, Google will feed you countless freelance placement services. Still, only an experienced freelance designer can tell which ones are best. If you take the time to build a network with other pros in your field, they might throw you some jobs down the line. It may be their scraps, but chances are they got their start with someone else's scraps too. Who knows? In a little while, you may be giving advice and extra work to another up-and-comer. 

4. Make a plan.

OK. You've got some jobs under your belt, and you still love it. You've done your research and built a network. Good for you, high five! Now it's time to get organized and lay out a business plan. Unfortunately, you aren't going to learn how to make a business plan by reading this bullet point. This guide to creating a business plan is a solid free resource to get you started. With a good plan, you can go from making extra cash off your passion to making an actual living. 

Business plans include countless spreadsheets, documents, brainstorms, and research. Dropbox has many great tools to help you organize your initial ideas. It's also collaborative, so you can share it with people to get their input. Dropbox works with all your favorite software. You can store and easily preview versions of your logo designs with our Adobe integration and filter through all of your Excel accounting files with our Microsoft integration.

5. Invest and reinvest. Money and time.

Never underestimate the value of your time. You may love making music, but you need more than passion if you want people to pay for it. Make sure you invest time into mastering your art. Also, never underestimate the value of professional-grade equipment. It isn't cheap. But, if it saves you time and makes you money, it's worth it. For example, if you're a photographer, you'll only get by for a short time without decent lights. While a basic lighting setup will cost some money up front, it will more than make up for the time you’d have otherwise spend retouching.

Once you start making money, use it to reinvest in your business. Be smart and buy the things that will make you money and save you time. Also, never underestimate the importance of your digital presence. Investing in a service like Dropbox Pro can give your work that professional touch with tools that simplify file viewing, facilitate remote collaboration, and allow for flexible workflow management. 

Ready to take your creative business to the next level? Yeah, you are!

Get Dropbox Pro