Should You Follow Money or Follow Your Passion?

February 9, 2017 ​- 37 Comments

Follow your passion! Dare to believe in your dreams! You can do it!!

Sound familiar? The areas of entrepreneurship and personal development/motivational stuff and intertwined and "follow your passion" is run-of-the-mill advice in both.

But is it actually good advice or is it just another example of guru bullshit?

In my experience, it's bad advice and the "follow your passion" crowd usually don't last long as entrepreneurs.

So, you should be a hard hitter and chase the money, right? Coffee is for closers and all that.

Well, chasing the money is also a pretty reliable way to fail at the startup game...

So, what exactly is the right approach? Check out today's video to find out...


The Problem with Chasing the Money

Just find a good niche, no matter what it is, and monetize it! It's all about the opportunity, bro!

This is a pretty common attitude in the online marketing space. The problem is, it usually doesn’t work.

If your single focus is making money, you’re only chasing the best keywords, the latest money making machine tools, endlessly trying to hack search engines and find more opportunities you see others getting rich by.

All you do is keep on chasing that bright shiny object in the dark and never actually get anything done.

Does Passion Matter?

Follow your heart - is this just an overused cliché or it’s something you can allow yourself?

Spending our days on something we truly love is the end goal for most of us, but for an emerging business, that might not be the right step to do.

Doing what you’re passionate about gives you more gratification to start with - you can’t wait to grab your laptop and continue working on your project, even when you’re supposed to eat or sleep!

But, as long as you don’t have it all figured out, not being able to see your business without the rose-tinted glasses can easily make you go bankrupt.

Having passion for something doesn’t validate the business on its own. If there’s no viable business in the area you picked, it’s damn hard to make money out of it.

Finding the Middle Ground

If following the money and following your passions are both to avoid, what is the right thing to do?

To get the full picture, watch the video at the top of this post. As a reminder, the solution lies in finding that intersection of stuff that pays, but within your area of interest:

Especially when you start out, it pays to be a bit ruthless about getting paid. Think of it as creating the foundation which will later allow you to focus more on what you're truly passionate about.

One of the examples I mention is blogging. In my experience, most people who start a blog go about it totally backwards. You can see an example of how I applied this money/passion approach to blogging in this article on how to build your mailing list fast during a product launch.

More good reading on the topic: this post shows you how to effectively build a mailing list with a product launch. That's a good way to:

  • Get real validation and feedback from your market.
  • Get paid.
  • Build an audience.

The more you do those last two things, the more "fuel" you have to start pure passion projects.

Over To You

What's your experience with following your passion vs. chasing the money? Have you made any mistakes in striking the right balance? Any questions about how to apply it to your business?

Leave a comment below - we’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Shane's Signature

About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • I think you just give a great example of common sense and I love that! If we don’t overthink everything, we will most likely end up doing exactly what work the best :)

  • Solid advice, Shane.

    It’s similar to what I tell folks who ask me which niche to choose for their blog.

    The perfect niche lies at the intersection of what people know, what they’re passionate about and what will make money.

    • Yes, that’s exactly right. Unfortunately, no keyword tool will tell you what that niche is. :D

  • Thanks once again for Awesome post i am just trying to get out of financial circle of pay check to pay check !

    This is my first goal hopfully soon i would be out of it :) once again Awesome post !

    • Yes, that’s a big deal. It can be a big challenge to reach this level of financial freedom, but it’s also hugely important to accomplish it. That’s why I think it’s important to be a bit ruthless about getting paid in the beginning. It’s just too damn hard to try and change the world when you worry about rent every month.

  • Great advice, and a good reminder. It’s simple, but important to make the distinctions noted.

  • Hi Shane,

    great Stuff, you speech directly from my soul. After the endless ping pong game from yin to yang we all have to learn about the great power of a good Balance in our Life, and even in our Business. That’s it what most peoples forgot. Thanks for your Inspiration, i think it helps to put me a little more left to the middle.;-)

    • Thank you, Joerg! It can indeed feel like being the ball in a Ping-Pong match when you are constantly chasing opportunities.

  • HI Shane.

    Thanks for this valuable input.

    This post reminded me a post I wrote some time ago. It was about a business book called “Good to great” by Jim collins. The author explains something called “The Hedgehog Concept”. It’s all about the intersection of three circles when creating a business (Make money while being passionate & the best in your field). The author says you must first understand three things:

    1- What can I do best than anyone in the world?

    2- Find your passion.

    3- Understand the way you can get money from it.

    Everything within a framework of simplicity.

    When you defined these aspects, you get your “Hedgehog Concept”. By taking into account your Hedgehog Concept, all your activities and business decisions are easy to make.

    The best thing about this book is that it gives you an appropriate framework so “we can dream, with our feet well down-to-earth, and, obviously, turning our eyes to heaven.”

    I hope this helps! If you want to read the post here you have the link:

    Best Regards!


    • Thanks for your comment, Frank. Jim Collins is one of my favorite business authors and his books have definitely been influential to the way I think and the way I run my business.

  • Hi Shane,

    I like your visuals and great approach. I’ve read so many articles about passion -vs- chasing $$.

    We need a good distribution between the two.

    Off to share your post.


  • There are people who speak directly a language that we understand. Shane is one of them, which I admire and has my respect for.

    In my native language, people only talk about online money. The only niche market. I was a victim of this, buying courses that had nothing, just dirty roulette. I hate that game.

    My online start was not easy, but it was a need to keep me active. To have a goal was to be busy. Due to chronic illness I can not work anymore. Being online is sometimes exhausting and very painful.

    Making money can also be a goal, but in my real life I’ve had 2 companies. In order to monetize the investment, a minimum of 3-5 years is required.

    I already bought online courses a lot that looked good, but when we open the box, it is empty of content.

    Shane showed in the Low Tech Product Launch: course, how we can create a simple course.

    Today I can say that it is my passion, in the beginning it was out of need of occupation.

    I never talked about making money on my blog, or on my videos.

    It is like an addiction, in this case a positive addiction. But also ThriveThemes is an addiction. My school, better now my university.

    What else is waiting for us Shane?

    • Thank you for your comment, Ana!

      It’s an interesting point that you say in your native language, everyone’s just talking about the money. I think it was the same in English, a few years ago. Over the years, the market has “matured” and the focus has been slowly shifting from “make money now!!!” to a more serious startup and business approach.

      Of course, both sides of the spectrum have always been represented, but I think the “mainstream” is shifting from one side to the other.

  • I am very happy to learn from someone with an online presence who is (from my vantage point) credible, practical, and realistic. Thank you for that, Shane! It is obvious to all of us that you are not “selling the dream.” Aaaahhh. I am just getting my Thrive Themes site going and have been seeking a bit more direction on how to approach it. I will move forward with your mental model in mind.

  • I’ve never been one for following a passion. Passions change. They grow, they shrivel and they deepen. My passion at 18 was tall, blond and gorgeous (I married him dear reader) and it would be unlikely that I could a)Follow him b)earn an income from him. Even if I could earn the income I doubt it would be legal.
    At 25 my passion was helping people. 8 years later having worked with recovering addicts, I was burnt out from helping people. Passion whilst nice, isn’t sustainable unless there are other things involved.

    Also, taking in how the mind works is a factor that’s often overlooked. Our minds give our work meaning. In other words, if we do enough of something then our minds allocate more importance to it.

    Passion is wonderful, in the right places. However, it’s not the foundation of a sustainable business.

    • Thank you for your comment, Sarah! This is some very insightful stuff! I can only agree.

  • Hello Shane, thanks for your work and effort. You are the only one whom I still trust :)

    Keep well!

  • Hi Shane,
    I would add another twist. If you enjoy helping others with more value than the money they give you in return which is the basic tenent of capitalism you can get joy out of any business. If you build your business to make yourself redundant you then can follow the money (what people want, servicing the market) then you will have the freedom to take on other projects with more passion as you progress in life.

    Kind regards

    • Yes, I totally agree, Tim! I think that’s one of the great rewards of being financially successful: it gives you the freedom to pursue things you care about, without having to worry so much about the financial side.

  • Shane,

    In my humble opinion, when it comes to blogging, having a monetary incentive can actually make your content worse. Based on my experiences, the bloggers that come off as “most authentic” are the ones who aren’t chasing money- and ironically end up making more money because of it. Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to focus on blogging when you’re constantly struggling to pay the bills. Hence, the tip in your video (about making money first then chasing your passion) is a great one!


    • Yeah, that’s true. I think that’s true beyond blogging as well. If you’re too desperate to get someone’s money, you’re much less likely to get it. Whether in a one-on-one direct sales scenario or on the scale of a business.

  • I like it! Shane!

    I follow my passion, I’m working on my pre-lauch. I have read a lot of information last year and my head is spinning… It’s time for shipping to get the ball roling… Very excited!

    I want to send some emails to a couple of (warm) leads to get started.

    Can you share your process with me?
    Maybe you have some great posts for me;-)

    Best Hendrik

  • Great point. It makes sense when you think about it. The problem is that one has to stop and think about it to realize that passion alone doesn’t work to generate income. I have a Kindle e-book about How Relationship Selling Rewards Small Business. I’m passionate about the concept of serving through sales, about helping customers get what they want and perceive they need. But I failed to find out first what small business people are aware they wanted help and training on. So, ironically for someone writing about sales and marketing, I myself focused on the function, not the benefit though a benefit is implied in the word “reward.”

    As a result, I think that part of the problem for some people may lie in how they talk about their passion. They need, as you indicated, to address it from the perspective of what the marketplace is aware of needing and wanting.

    • Yes, exactly. And it’s actually very common for people to make these marketing mistakes, even if they are marketing specialists. It’s the CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE at work and the only way to overcome that is constant vigilance.

  • Shane this post is right on time. In the education niche I have an interest in creating an audiobook on the deceptions of the college system. Though education is not my life’s passion, there are some things that really need to be talked about that I feel people will get value and benefit from, especially those at a crossroads wondering if they should attend college or not. I’ve been through that deception and feel the need to steer those considering it in the right direction. I was also thinking of selling this audio book on amazon. Do you think I’m way off base here with this type of thinking?


    • Hi Aaron,

      I can’t answer that question for you. The simple fact is, I have no knowledge about the marketplace you’re trying to enter, here. So, my opinion on it isn’t worth more than yours. :)

      What you can and should do is some research and maybe some interviews with people in the market, to see if you are on target and if people will be likely to spend money on what you want to offer.

  • Sound advice, Shane. Something you care about and which you can monetize makes a lot of sense. Too often people choose just one or the other.

  • Great article and definitely something to ponder. For me, I would go for money first (follow the money trail) and once I’m much better off, slowly move towards passion.

    That’s my 2 cents!

  • I think you just give a great example of common sense and I love that! If we don’t overthink everything, we will most likely end up doing exactly what work the best :)

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