“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” – Reggie Leach

What’s your favorite thing? Golfing? Gardening? Poetry? Sports? It doesn’t make any difference what it is, there is a way to make a living from it — maybe even a very good living.

Today, let’s talk about earning lots of money doing what you love to do — i.e., making a business out of your favorite pastime. I’m going to tell you two big secrets that will make it possible, I’ll show you how I’m doing it in my own life — and then I’ll tell you how to take your next step and in what direction.

Let’s start with a cold dip into reality’s pool: If you are past your prime, you are probably not going to become a rock star or a world-class golfer or a professional-level basketball player. Nor are you going to become chief council for the New York Knicks if you are 45 and don’t have a law degree. Well, maybe you can. But I don’t think you should spend any time or money trying to make it happen.

As a regular ETR reader, you know that success comes from making the smart moves and taking reasonable chances. Choose goals that are both completely wonderful (in terms of satisfying your fantasy needs) but also “good bets.” (For me, a good bet is one that has better than a 70% chance of coming true.)

So forget about becoming a prima ballerina if you are 30 years old and weigh 165 pounds. That won’t happen. But what CAN happen is that you could earn a great living in the world of ballet — even get to know the dancers and choreographers on a first-name basis — and make a very nice dollar at it.

How do you make a living doing what you love to do? There are two options. You can go to work for a business that is involved with your passion. Or you can create a business selling products or information that relates to your hobby.

Having your own business is preferable because:

  • You will have more independence.
  • You can make more money.
  • You can get closer to the people that make the business fun.

So let’s talk about that — starting a business. If you have money and good contacts, you can talk to those contacts, get their advice, and then put yourself into whatever sort of business they suggest.

If you have no contacts and little or no money, you need to start small — working from home and using the least-expensive and most-efficient marketing methods:

  • self-promotion and public relations
  • direct-mail marketing
  • Internet marketing

If, for example, you love oil painting, sell oil-painting supplies through the Internet or publish a newsletter about oil painting. If your passion is betting on horses, create a publication or product around that. Your hobby doesn’t have to be mainstream for you to turn it into a moneymaking business. In fact, in many ways, it’s easier to make a living from smaller interests (such as collecting stamps or building model cars, for example).

Realize this: There are hundreds — more probably, thousands or even tens of thousands — of people out there who share your passion. By using targeted P.R. and direct-marketing techniques, you can sell to those people without spending a lot of money. When you reach them with a strongly worded promotion that shows them how they can enjoy their passion more (by buying your products and/or publications), they will buy.

And then, having established a good base of like-minded customers, you will have an amazingly easy time of it, getting them to buy more from you month after month and year after year. It won’t take very long — probably two or three years — before you’ll be earning more than you are now and doing something that you really love to do.

I’m about to prove this point with DF. Starting next month, I’m going to be coaching her on her passion: working with pets. We are going to create a product that she will sell to the pet market. We will start small, with very little cash outlay and taking very few risks — and yet, we should be able to build the business pretty rapidly. DF will learn how to do that by using techniques that she will learn about in Mailbox Millionaire, the direct-marketing program that I edited and that ETR endorses.

DF will keep her present job (working for ETR) and grow her business safely and slowly over the next two or three years. Once it is strong and established and she’s earning more than $100,000 a year from it, she can decide if she wants to quit her job and run her business full-time.

You can do that too.

Start today by deciding which of your hobbies would make the best career for you. Then, create a chart with 1,000 boxes. These will represent the 1,000 hours you are committing to making your dream come true. Next, set a specific five-year goal for the business, including how much you want to make from it and what kind of products or services you will be selling. Then work backward from there to create yearly, monthly, and weekly goals.

If you know direct marketing, you can get going very quickly. (In fact, you can knock off 500 hours from your commitment chart.) If you don’t, start reading up on it. If you want to really get into it seriously, sign up for my mail-order mastery program, Mailbox Millionaire.

At the beginning of today’s message, I told you that you should forget about actually becoming a rock star — that the way to fulfill your fantasy and earn a great living is by selling information about your fantasy. Now that you understand that, I don’t mind saying this: Sometimes, your unrealistic fantasy job WILL bring you wealth and happiness.

That’s what happened to BP, a young man I know. BP was addicted to a form of music known as “hard core.” About a half-dozen years ago, he decided that since he didn’t know much about singing or playing an instrument, he’d publish a little magazine about his favorite bands. I spent some time talking to him about that, giving him an idea or two . . . and he did very well with it. Had he continued along that line, he would no doubt be the owner of a very successful music-publishing business right now. Instead — and surprisingly — his path led to performance. He’s now the lead singer (i.e., “screamer”) for Autumn to Ashes, a very successful and very good up-and-coming band touring the world, cutting albums, and on the cusp of fame and fortune. This would never, ever have happened had BP’s approach been the conventional, low-probability one: playing in the garage or trying out for American Idol.