This series, which began with my frustration at seeing so many people doing good work and unable to make a living at it, could go on forever. The creative ways people find to make a living doing what they love are endless.
But the point is: it must be done. It’s not easy, but as I’ve said before, we cannot keep abdicating our right to financial compensation just because we’re doing socially valuable work. That logic leads to a world where only the morally bankrupt and completely exploitative have any money.
Every enterprise, of any kind, is tough to keep in the black. There will be ups and downs, especially when your project is new and you’re figuring out the basics. One way to make this a bit less crazy making is to set a deadline.
When you’re just starting out, no one expects that you’ll make a mint. That’s why things like start up funding, seed money and angel investors exist. That’s why some of us keep our day jobs, most of us make sacrifices to afford to do our work, and some of us lean on our spouses or families for a while.
All of that is perfectly reasonable and acceptable. At first. But investors expect to see a return. Loans have to be paid back. Family and friends don’t usually want to carry you forever. Working a full time job while pouring your heart into your true passion on off hours is exhausting. Sacrificing creature comforts and luxuries isn’t something anyone dreams of doing indefinitely.
So the lean years must have a limit. It’s important to set expectations about how long we’re willing to scrape by before we seriously re-evaluate the plan. Good works are only sustainable if, ultimately, they don’t drain us.
When that limit comes, if we’re still not getting paid, it’s time for a major shift. Maybe it’s time to pack it in. Or maybe the work needs to take a different form. Something.
Let me put my money where my mouth is. I started The Savvy Do Gooder as a full time business almost three years ago and worked at it full time until I got pregnant (and sick) about a year and a half ago. Returning from maternity leave, I come back to a business that covers costs, and generates a bit of money for me without my having to take odd jobs unrelated to my mission.
I pledge now that if The Savvy Do Gooder has not doubled its current annual revenue by the time my baby goes to school in the fall of 2018 and I can return to full time work, I will make major changes.
How about you? What’s your deadline?