We often hear people giving advice like “follow your passion” or “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. While the promise of making a living out of your passion sounds great on paper, it is a lot harder to do in practice. “Follow your dreams” might be the worse advice you can receive if you don’t put things into context.
Follow your passion if you’re good at it
“Follow your dreams” should always be followed by “if you are talented”. And by talented, I don’t mean according to your family. I mean talented enough to compete in the marketplace.
During college, I was quite passionate about dance (swing, rock). During a rough couple of years, I considered dropping out of engineering school to “follow my passion”. Though I was considered good in my club, I was nowhere close to a professional level. And guess what? 6 years later, I’m not even dancing anymore. I’m really glad I decided against following that dream.
What you need to figure out is whether your skills are good enough to make a living. It’s great to be passionate but it’s not enough.
If you want to make a living, following your passion just won’t be enough. You’ll need to build and grow a business. It means you will spend a lot of time doing things other than photography.
As a photographer, there are weeks I don’t go out to shoot. I do accounting, marketing, retouching, gear maintenance, emails, phone calls, website management, blogging, contracts, etc.. You will need a lot more than passion: you’ll need business skills, marketing skills, and more.
Passion is just not enough
If you’re unhappy at your job and just want to spend all of your time photographing, I’d recommend finding a job that you don’t hate and that leaves you time to go out and shoot.
Passion is important
I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow your passion. That’s what I did when I started my photography business and I have never had any regrets. Just know what following your passion really means. Like with any job, there will be some parts that you enjoy more than others. And it won’t be all photography.
Passion is what will keep you going after a bad week. It is what will make you work 12 hours a day every day of the week. It is what will keep you from giving up. If you’re not passionate about your work, it’s going next to impossible to build a business.
So yes, follow your passion, but not blindly.