Starting A Business Abroad: What Role Does Passion Play In Your Project?

Posted on 11. Dec, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Entrepreneurs, Expat Life

You’ve heard it countless times from well-meaning friends and experts: Don’t make your passion your job. Passion alone will get you nowhere. Passion won’t pay the bills.

In his Free Pursuits blog, Corbett Barr offers a good overview of both sides of the passion-in-business debate. In my opinion, passion is hugely important for a small business.

I love work - graffiti

Why passion is so crucial

Passion is what will see you through the emotional ups-and-downs and the minor crises that come with having your own business. When things get tough, you’ll need to remind yourself why you are doing this – and it’s much easier to keep going if you’re working for something you truly believe in and are passionate about.

Passion will help you work the extra hour, make the difficult phone call, or do the additional research that will make the difference. Passion ensures that you speak the same language as your clients, find yourself in the same places they do, and are able to relate to them easily.

Got passion? Turn it into a livelihood!

Turning your passion into a business is entirely doable. My most successful self-employed clients are also the most passionate about their work, and their business ideas all share a common formula:

What you’re passionate about (your field) + what you’re good at (your work) = viable business concept.

Let’s say you love exploring your host country, and are also good at writing. Instead of turning your fun weekend jaunts into a commercial venture (at the risk of burning out trying to make it as a tour operator or travel writer), why not specialise in writing press releases and ad copy for the tourism industry?

The trick is to make your passion your field – that is to say, your specialty, or the type of clients you work with – as opposed to making it your work properly speaking.

For instance, my work is advising, consulting and coaching. These are all things I’m really good at and love doing, but they are not my passion. What gets me out of bed in the morning, and motivates me to work late at night, is building bridges between cultures, teaching expats how to feel at home anywhere in the world, and generally helping people make the most out of their life abroad.

Don’t listen to the naysayers…

Those who tell you not to turn your passion into a job aren’t really talking about passion. They’re talking about hobbies. What they’re really saying is, “Don’t become a ski instructor if you truly love skiing”, or “Just because you enjoy sewing up felt platypuses doesn’t mean you should quit your job to set up an Etsy shop” – although I would definitely be into cute felt platypuses myself, but then again, I have strange tastes.

These people are absolutely right. Hobbies don’t scale up very well into a business. There is something about having to hand make, package and deliver 250 platypuses by yourself before the end of the week that really takes the fun out of felting.

Passion is a different beast, though. It is the emotional drive, the fundamental meaning behind what you do. It is far deeper and bigger than any hobby, or any job description for that matter.

… except when they’re right, that is

There’s no denying that passion alone isn’t going to take you far if you don’t get off your derrière and do something commercially viable with it. However, it is equally true that, as a small business owner, you won’t last the distance if you lack passion.

One word of caution, though: no matter how passionate you are about what you do, your clients’ needs must come first. Don’t be the annoying business owner who talks at people instead of listening to them. If your website is all about the thing you do and how great it is, it’s a sure sign that in your enthusiasm, you’ve forgotten to focus on your clients and their actual issues.

Passion - art

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Images by elycefeliz (top) and lindley rebecca. (bottom), both via Flickr Creative Commons


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