How to Pursue Your Passion and Pay Your Bills

As children, we’re asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers vary, ranging from firefighters to candy testers to retired. As we get older, we become more practical in our approach to job searching. We go to school to be a dental hygienist or physical therapist or a salesperson, with the goal of reaching retirement someday and enjoying our Golden years.

If you were the precocious child who said they wanted to be retired when they grew up, congratulations! You’re on your way there!

If, however, you find yourself working at a job you know will pay your bills but does nothing to fuel your passion, there’s still work to be done. Lots of people have a dream of running their own business or getting into a different field or becoming a writer, actor, or candy tester. Yet, they never pursue that dream because, unfortunately, it’s not always realistic to do so.

Vincent van Gogh once said he’d “rather die of passion than boredom.” Here’s how you can take steps toward pursuing your passions while dealing with the responsibilities of adult life.


Assess Your Skills and Grow

Before you can start the journey on the long road of pursuing your passion, you need to take an in-depth look at your skills. Do you have the skills required to become successful, doing the thing you’re passionate about? If not, how can you acquire these skills? Are there personal development courses you can take? Do you need additional schooling? Maybe just opportunities for more practice, to refresh yourself and improve.

By assessing your skills first and foremost, you can start to formulate an action plan and figure out how long it will take to reach your goal. This gives you milestones to set along the way and helps you determine the best way to get started on your journey.


Define Your Goals

Before you jump in head-first, define your goals. Create a long-term goal, the ultimate goal, that you’re aiming for. Then set smaller goals that will take you there. You need to have a solid idea of what success means to you before you can venture out and start your journey.

Creating goals and milestones will help you design a roadmap for success, and determine what steps you need to take to get there.


Get in it for the Long Game

If you dream of being the CEO at a marketing firm and you’re currently in an entry-level accounting position, you can count on having a long road ahead. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never achieve your dream. It does, however, mean that you need to commit years of your life to this quest.

Start to trace your path and figure out the best way to advance toward your goal. If you’ve determined that you need marketing experience to be able to move forward, start looking at acquiring these skills while maintaining your accounting position.


Set a time limit for yourself and create a goal for finding a new job in your field. Go with the idea that after getting two more years of experience, you’re going to take another leap up the ladder. With persistence and dedication, you’ll eventually find yourself at the top-- it just might take 15 years to get there.


Start on the Side

Lots of entrepreneurs get their start with a side hustle, building a base before they jump into full-time entrepreneurship. This guarantees a steady income while building a business in pursual of one’s passion. For example, an aspiring writer might start freelance work on the side until they’re making enough to do it full time. A make-up artist or photographer might work a 9-5, Monday-Friday job and dedicate their weekends to their craft.

To start a side job, you’ll need to become a master at time management. If you find yourself saying that you “don’t have time” for something, take a really good look at your schedule and conduct a time audit for a week. Record what you’re doing and when. You may discover that you’re browsing aimlessly through social media for a couple of hours a day when you could be dedicating that time to pursuing your passion.


Get Your Finances in Order

For some, the side hustle mentality doesn’t work. They need to be able to throw themselves in full-time to make a go of it. If that sounds like you, then you’re going to need to have your ducks in a row ahead of time.

Get your finances in order. Create a budget that will allow you to get rid of debt and live on less money while tucking extra away into savings. Limit your spending to become financially independent. Practice discipline in your budgeting and prepare for the time when you’ll be returning to school, starting a business or taking a pay cut to change fields, whatever the case may be.



Not only does volunteerism greatly impact the social aspect of your whole person development, but it can also get you the experience you need to get started on the road to your goals.

If you love flowers and want to be a florist, offer yourself to a local florist to be an assistant during events in return for skills learned. If you want to get into graphic design, offer your services to local societies and nonprofit organizations. These tasks can help you add to your resume and portfolio before venturing out on your own, giving you a solid foundation on which to start.


Work with a Coach or Mentor

Working to pursue your passion can be emotional, which can make it hard to see the forest for the trees. You may not be able to take an objective view of your skills, highlight barriers you face, and create an action plan to circumvent them. That’s when working with a coach comes into play.

A coach can help you define your goals and design a roadmap to get you there. They can also navigate the twists and turns along the way, adding accountability and validity to your quest. They can help you focus on the small steps you need to take to get to the larger rocks and give you the confidence you need to succeed.

Vincent van Gogh might have been wrong about a lot of things-- I don’t recommend cutting off your ear because you want to be a C-Suite Executive someday-- but he was right about the importance of pursuing your passion. You don’t want to look back on your life with regret, wondering what could have happened if you chased your dream.

We live in a technologically advanced world that makes it simple to work from anywhere and do anything. Miracles happen every day. Are you going to stick with the status quo or are you ready to change your life?

Meredith Wailes is the president of Bloom Leadership, founder of SEED, and an advisor and builder of women who impact social change. Contact her via or connect on LinkedIn to see how she can help you.