You’ve heard of all the awesome benefits of having a creative outlet on the side, plus you’ve got SO many good ideas jotted down in notebooks, sticky notes, and random scraps of paper around the house. You talk about turning those ideas into wonderful things, but all that talking hasn’t translated to much, well, making.
You tell yourself that *tomorrow* will finally be the day you’ll start working on that project...but that was yesterday, and now it’s 8pm and you’re halfway into a bottle of red and an episode of Game of Thrones, so tomorrow will *really* be the day you start. This cycle repeats for a minimum of 34 consecutive days before you end up on this blog post.
Whatever the reason, you still haven’t started working on a passion project.
Whether you feel like it’s a lack of time, money, or motivation that’s getting in your way, I know how awful it feels to have tons of ideas but nothing to show for them. However, I want you to know that passion and ambition are powerful enough to overcome any roadblock.
Here are three common roadblocks people face when it comes to starting a passion project & how to overcome them:
1) “I don’t have enough MONEY to start a passion project.”
Money can buy you access to fancy equipment and resources, but you know what it can’t buy? Creativity. And guess what? Creativity is free, abundant, and already within you. In October 2012, I started a simple lettering blog called Daily Dishonesty using everything I already had at my desk: a pad of graph paper, pencils, Sharpie markers, and my laptop with Photoshop.
For a whopping $10, I bought a domain name, published the project on a free Tumblr theme, and shared it on my Facebook page. Eight months later, I was signing a five-figure book deal for a published version of the blog.
I owe my entire career to Daily Dishonesty. It got my work passed all around the internet, landed me clients, and gave me the confidence to go freelance less than a year out of school.
Best of all?
It barely cost any money to start. The secret ingredients were my creativity and resourcefulness.
Resourcefulness is another priceless quality you can harness to start a project.
It doesn’t require any money, just a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get your hands a little dirty. Take my most recent project, Flour Crowns, for example. From the look of the images above, you might guess that I have a photo studio with professional lighting and expensive equipment. To be honest, that’s exactly what I want you to think, but it’s time to come clean.
Believe it or not, this is the fancy photo studio I used to shoot this series:
Welcome to my photo studio AKA the trash alley behind my grandma’s house!
My brother jumped outside and snapped this photo of me while I was shooting and jokingly said, “HA! I can post this online and show people the truth.” I lovingly told him to get lost and to not so much as *think* about sharing the photo. But then I looked back at it a few weeks later and realized that there was a valuable lesson to be learned here. Once you get past the initial trash alley disgust (love you Grandma), here’s what I hope it teaches you: there’s SO much you can do with what little you have.
Instead of a photo studio → rolls of colored paper taped onto the side of grandma’s house
Instead of professional lighting → soft natural daylight (early morning or late afternoon)
Instead of hiring a photographer → tripod + digital camera on self-timer
Instead of spending $1,000+ on this project, I DIY’d it and ended up spending less than $150 on supplies (I already had the digital camera).
The lesson? You have more resources available to you than you might think. Don’t worry about the resources you don’t have; focus on the resources you do have. What’s laying around your studio or desk right now? What creative skills do you have? Do you have any creative friends to collaborate with?
You don’t need a big budget to do big things; get creative with what you have in your toolbox right now.
2. “I don’t have enough TIME to start a passion project.”
'Not enough time' frequently comes up in my conversations with people who feel stuck when it comes to starting a passion project. Many people feel like passion projects require setting aside big chunks of time (which they don’t have), so they avoid starting one altogether.
If you don’t have an entire day to set aside to work on a passion project, think about what you do have. Do you have an hour after work on a weeknight? No? Wow, look at you, busy bee. How about 15 minute pockets of downtime throughout the day? Yes? Okay great, let’s work with that.
I truly believe that short, 15-30 minute work sessions are the hidden productivity gems of our time. If you have a full-time job, relationship, busy social life, and/or a family, it may be hard to carve out hours or days to work on personal projects, but everyone has 15 minute windows sprinkled throughout their day: waiting for the bus, free time between meetings at work, etc.
Usually, those pockets of time are spent browsing social media because we feel like there couldn’t possibly be anything better to do with that little time, but my friend Amy Tangerine put it best in her book, Craft a Life You Love: “Just 15 minutes a day equals one work day a month!"
I was working a 55 hour week at the office when I was in the midst of creating content for the Daily Dishonesty book (over 100 illustrations in 6 months). The only way I managed to get them done was by taking advantage of all the little pockets of free time in my day.
I would do all of my thinking (brainstorming new pieces, writing captions and copy, etc.) during my morning commute to work and type notes into the Notes App on my iPhone.
During work, I’d use any downtime at the office (lulls in between projects, waiting for feedback, times where my boss didn’t have much for us to do, etc.) to draw the pieces I had brainstormed earlier that day.
When I got back home, I’d scan the drawing from the day into the computer and finish it up in Photoshop.
Obviously you need *some* downtime, but I did this routine a couple times a week to keep generating new posts for the blog, and the extra effort definitely paid off. Hopefully your weeks are a little more free than mine were, but I just wanted to show you that IS possible to pull off a passion project if you’re already working with a packed schedule.
To be honest, I poured all of my extra time into Daily Dishonesty because it was a creative escape from my office job. It gave me a sense of creative purpose and made me happy. The beauty of a passion project is that you get to work on something you’re genuinely excited about.
The truth is, you have the time. You’re just not spending it wisely. If you really want to make a change in your life, skip the mindless Instagram binges and trade happy hour for passion project hour once a week. Actions speak louder than words. The same way we make time for the people we care about, we make time for the activities that matter to us. The best way to honor your creativity is by making time to create!
3. “I don’t have enough MOTIVATION to start a passion project.”
It’s easy to say, “I don’t have enough (fill in the blank) to start a passion project.” and give yourself a free pass. If you say it enough times, you’ll start to believe it and never start working on anything extra.
It’s hard to be honest and ask yourself, “Am I happy with my creative career? Am I truly excited about the work I’m doing on a daily basis?” And if the answer is no, "What am I going to do to change that?"
For me, the motivation to turn up my passion project production came from a deep dissatisfaction with the work I was doing at my full-time agency job in 2013.
After a brief period of happy-houring the pain away, I realized that distracting myself from the problem wasn’t getting me any closer to solving it, so I decided to do something about it. As tempting as it was for me to want to tune out with TV and a bottle of wine after a stressful day, I decided to use that time to make a positive change in my life.
When I was a college student, I didn’t have much money, but I had time. When I was working full-time at an agency, I wasn’t short on money, but I was always strapped for time. In my experience, no matter how exhausted one of your resources feels, there’s always one that’s still abundant; get creative and use it to your advantage!
The best way to stay motivated is to commit to being a little bit better everyday and then do whatever it takes to follow through. Skip out on bar hopping this weekend and treat yourself to some uninterrupted personal work time. Find a creative friend to be your accountability partner, and check up on each others’ progress every week. Sign up for an online class to improve your skills. If you want it badly enough, you will make it happen.