Early Retirement: Get Paid for Doing What You Want

“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” – Goethe

One reason we often envy professional actors, athletes, and artists is that they seem to be doing what we’d like to be doing — but instead of paying for it (as we often do), they themselves get paid.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for what you like to do? Maybe you can — so long as you are not a complete dreamer.

If the only thing you like to do is play basketball and you’re 46 years old, well … I can’t think of a way for you to make money from that. But if you have a wider palette when it comes to fun, you could very well find something.

I spent about 90 minutes last night smoking cigars and talking to my old friend PP about what he could do in his second 50 years. None of the normal ideas excited him.

“Would you like to have your own small service business?”

“No, I’ve done that.”

“How about writing direct-mail copy?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Would you like to own a rare-book store?”


The conversation went on and on. Finally, we found something that inspired him — running a nonprofit artisan center that would provide pride and profits to young men and women who had otherwise grim futures.

We are talking now about how such an enterprise could work and give him a salary large enough to support himself.

There is almost always a way, so long as you keep a few things in mind:

1. Any business — from selling shoes to teaching ghetto kids how to paint furniture — will work only if the lion’s share of the business’s time and resources go into marketing.

2. To earn a good living from any business, you have to be prepared to provide a financially valued skill.

I’ve talked so much about these two issues in the past that I won’t say another word about them today. Just let the mention of them serve as an admonishment and directive for your planning.

So how do you make money doing what you want?

First, figure out how much money you need to take care of your needs and desires.

That number is almost entirely relative. I say “almost,” because I can’t see how anyone could live well and comfortably with a family income of less than $50,000 or $60,000 a year. And that’s a stretch. When I mentor people in this pursuit — making money doing what they want — my minimum target is $80,000. I’ve never been unsuccessful at hitting that goal, and I’ve worked on some very odd and unusual do-what-you-want fantasies.

OK, so let’s say, for example, that you have decided you want to make $80,000 to $100,000 a year helping women stay healthy and beautiful with herbal treatments.

Ask yourself: “Can I find a job working for someone else at that salary doing just that?” If the answer is “yes,” you need to work full time to get that job. Set up a schedule that allows you to spend no less than 10 and preferably more than 40 hours a week doing everything possible to get it. (I’ve talked before about how you do this, and I’ll come back to it another time.)

If you can’t make that kind of money working for someone else, you’ll have to create a business of your own that sells such treatments to women. I happen to have a friend who has decided to do just that.

My game plan for her should work for you:

* Spend 80% of your time (whatever time you have to develop this business — at least 10 hours a week) to marketing. First, you’ll need to do some basic research. What kind of marketing works for this kind of business? Study it. Find out who does it and interview them. (You’ll be amazed at how open people will be with you if you simply ask them.) Look for books, videotapes, audio seminars, and magazines on the subject. Get a part-time job doing that kind of marketing.

* Spend the other 20% of your time working on the product or developing your skill at providing the service. You won’t like this ratio at first. You’ll want to do the reverse — spend 80% of your available time on the product/service side. Resist this impulse resolutely.

Do the above until you’ve put in 1,000 hours. If you do that, you will absolutely be ready to start your business. You will have accomplished the following critical things:

* You will know exactly how to sell the product/service.

* You will be on a first-name basis with all the vendors.

* You will have a Rolodex full of key consultants, technical experts, creative people, etc.

* You will know precisely how much money you need to get the business going.

* Most importantly, you will have become competent in the most important skill you’ll need in your new business — selling the product/service.

After you’ve done that, after you’ve put in those 1,000 hours, you will be able to gradually change the ratio from 80/20 marketing to 20/80 marketing by hiring and training good people to execute your marketing plans. You will never be able to give up your role as primary marketer entirely, but you will be able to get your active marketing time down to 20%.

By the way … the marketing work itself will be quite pleasurable. I know, because I’ve done it and I’ve coached people who have done it.

But it will be especially enjoyable only if your primary purpose in starting your new career is something that is outside of yourself. If your goal is purely for self-gratification (“I want to be known and admired as the world’s most important natural-beauty guru”), the business will end up being no more fun (and possibly less fun) than what you are doing now. But if your goal is to accomplish something outside of yourself (to make hundreds or thousands of women feel happy and be healthy), you’ll have a blast — and be enriched — along the way.