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How do you decide when to take on a passion project?

Much of the work I do has a “passion project” element to it. 

What that means is that it’s something I’m passionate about… and it’s something the people I’m working with are passionate about, too, but the project pays below market rate, if it pays at all.

As part of my annual end-of-one-year-beginning-of-another analysis of my work and lifestyle choices, I’ve been thinking a lot about passion projects, and though it may sound Scrooge-y to say so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to be much more discerning about the work and projects I’ll take on that don’t involve (fair) compensation in 2012.

I’ve always been a hard worker and I’ve always given my all to support projects I felt were worthy of my time and energy, even if there was nothing but good feeling in it for me. But as a mom and a wife who wants to be present to her family, and as a person who has many interests she doesn’t have time to explore as much as she’d like, it’s time to prioritize and get selective. I won’t be taking on work–writing or otherwise–that pays below market rate, and the “feel-good” projects to which I lend my time have to pass a “major impact” test (as in: Will they have a major impact? For who? How?).

Sure, the world economy (still) sucks. No, writing has never paid exceptionally well. But unless we each set down a quantitative and a qualitative accounting of what we believe our worth is, no one is going to step up to change either of those conditions.

How do you decide when (or if) to take on a passion project? Have a specific example you care to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


One response »

  1. Passion projects are so hard to decide on. I did a pretty healthy cut of these last year. I’ve taken on a couple new ones this year, but I’ve written them into my business plan so I know they have direction, meaning and a real purpose. Good for you for recommitting yourself to those things that are most important to you – both professional and personal. I know it isn’t easy.


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