Make Money Doing What You Love!

Introduction

Make money doing what you love – that’s the age old advice.  But, how do we really achieve this?  Indeed, all of us need money to live on, but most of us would rather not to hate our jobs and be bound by them solely for the sake of income.  

At the outset of this holiday season please allow me to offer some perspective on the matter.  I will let you in on how in-spite of being unemployed for about 4 years running, I generate passive income with rentals, internet sales, books, and consulting.  Perhaps this will provide and idea or two for how you can make money doing what you love as well…

Say hi to Tom!

Make money doing what you love
Tom – the before shot

This guy quite literally showed up at my door on November 24th.  Before joining me my family in time for Thanksgiving this year, Tom was living on a local farm, where he was enjoying a life-style out on the pasture.  Tom, as you can see, barely fit on the roasting pan – he was 23 pounds!

Make money doing what you love
Tom – the after shot

Then,Tom met  my wife, Patrisha, and he came out of the oven looking like this:

And believe me when I tell you that he tasted even better than he looked…:)

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, as I hope you did as well.  My parents joined us in Lima, and we enjoyed a cozy afternoon together.

In the evening I called them to make sure my parents got home all right (they live in Columbus), and this was when my father and I got to talking.  You see, my dad has always been a sort of a protagonist in my life in that his idea of pushing me toward success has always been to tell me that I can’t do it…  He’s always done this, naturally, because he figured out that I hate being told I can’t do something, and I will burst my gut trying before allowing someone the satisfaction of seeing me give up – specifically my father.  This approach has always worked for him.

The thing about my dad is that while financial success is important to him, it comes in second behind personal and professional achievement – making money is good, but making something of yourself is more important.

Well – I am 39 years old, and my father has been watching me achieve for as long as I’ve been able to “do”.  I would think that he knows me about as well as anyone can, and yet I’ve wondered for a long time whether he truly understands how I feel about money, and where money falls within the fabric of my personal and professional life.  I’ve tried to explain how I feel to my father on numerous occasions, but I don’t know that he truly understood – until now…

Make Money Doing What You Love

While on the phone with my father this time, I was able to deliver to him my thinking in a way that I hadn’t been able to before.  And, incidentally, having heard myself explain my feelings to him I was truly able to crystallize my thinking on the subject.  I’d like to share my perspective with you; perhaps my words will prove helpful to some of you.

Question: Do I do things for money?

Answer: No.

Question: Is money important to me?

Answer: Absolutely – money is the medium of exchange that allows me to pay for life.

Question: So, if money is important to me, how can I say that I don’t do things for money?

Answer: Because that’s the truth – I don’t do things for money.  I do things which make money, but money is not the ultimate reason why I do things.  Here’s the thing, even if the thing I do makes money, but I absolutely hate doing it, then I don’t do it any more – I go find something else to do that I like better and that also makes money.

People say – if you do what you love, the money will come.  This, as we all know, is a load of BS.  Doing what you love, and even being good at it does not guarantee financial reward – it’s a lie, and people should wake up to it.

However, the notion that you can achieve personal and professional happiness and fulfillment doing something that makes money, but which you hate is also nonsensical – you won’t last – you’ll quit; or, you’ll go through life being miserable.

Thus, while to my father and others it may at times seem as though I am bouncing from one thing to the next, all I am doing in actuality is shifting gears to something that excites me more.

Don’t Worry About Making Money?

Make money doing what you love
Aaron and Isabella

They say that a lot… The thing is, I have 5 year-old twins, Aaron and Isabella.  And as you may have heard, kids are not cheap – that’s an understatement!  With this in mind, I feel like I simply do not have the right to allocate time to things that excite me personally or professionally that don’t generate an income.

There are lots of things I’d like to do, and if life was utopia where my bills were paid by magic, then perhaps I would do all of them.  Such as it is, however, I am left with having to combine business and pleasure – I search for and only do those things that I enjoy and can make money with, and when I no longer enjoy one, I move to the next.

The Music Factory Provides Earned Income

The IRS groups all income into 3 categories – earned, portfolio, and passive.  Earned income is basically any income which comes out of us trading time, labor, and services for money, and it can either be employee W2, or self-employed 1099.  Portfolio income is income associated with paper investments.  Finally, passive income belongs to business and real estate ownership.  (Please listen below for a more detailed discussion of income.)

Income: 

Make Money Doing What You Love – Step One:

About 12 years ago I started The Music Factory of Lima because I enjoyed teaching kids to play music. This was not passive income, since it required a lot of personal service – I had to run the place and teach students.  I put a lot of hours into the paperwork setting up a non-profit and teaching violin lessons, but my schedule was up to me for the most part – it worked for a while.

However, after about five or six years I’d lost my zest and realized that I didn’t enjoy running a non-profit and teaching music as much as I thought.  This was when I passed the school over to Patrisha, who is passionately growing it more than I would have, and shifted gears to begin acquiring investment real estate.

Rentals Provide Passive Cash Flow

Make money doing what you love
Rentals

Make Money Doing What You Love – Step Two:

I bought my first rental in 2006.  This wasn’t my first transaction in real estate’; I tried fix and flipping first, and lost money.  In 2006, however, I was able to buy 2 building with 5 units combined as part of one transaction.  I loved it; the income was more or less passive and once the buildings were stabilized they did not require too much time.  I financed the purchase 100% without any of my cash, to boot!

As of this writing in November of 2014, I currently own 27 doors.  I’ve got 1 duplex, 2 triplexes, 6-plex, 10-plex, and a few SFRs.

Make money doing what you love
Rentals

But the question remains: Does real estate make money?  Sure – my portfolio cash flows about $40,000/year.  And considering that every single building I’ve ever bought was financed 100%, this really says something important  about  the kind of opportunities that real estate offers.  If you think about it, over the past 8 years (I began investing in 2006) I managed to generate $40,000 of annual profit literally out of thin air.

Make money doing what you love
Rentals

For the past five years,  I’ve reinvested practically all of my cash flow into paying off loans.  This Thanksgiving when my family took turns sharing the many reasons they have to give thanks, I had one more reason this year to share:  Having completed a couple of crucial transactions, the days of 100% reinvestment of my cash flow are over.  The day has finally come when my family can begin relying on a good portion of this income for security.

An important distinction to underscore is that income from rentals is quite passive.  I do not do any of the maintenance myself, and I’ve developed a systematic approach to deciding which kind of property to buy so that management and maintenance are as easy as possible.  As a result, my time commitment to my current portfolio of rentals is no more than 5-7 hours per month, which allows me to pursue other entrepreneurial ideas in addition to Real Estate Investing.

 Cash Flow Freedom University (CFFU)

Make Money Doing What You Love – Step Three:

By 2011, having acquired a considerable amount of investment real estate with $0 down, and having learned a bunch of stuff along the way, I thought it would be fun to share my knowledge and perspective with people and hopefully get paid something for it.  So – I set up JustAskBenWhy.com, which in its’ original concept was supposed to be a podcast-like webinar series.  However, in the first six months I’d realized that this was going nowhere, and decided to change course.  I decided do combine all of the content into an instantly downloadable package which I would sell on my site.

I called it Cash Flow Freedom University (CFFU), and I priced it at $295.  I have received many great reviews on it.  I am proud of what I did with the CFFU, and you can read what people are saying here.  There are 22 audio MP3 seminars and 200+ pages of print, not to mention the CFFU Cash Flow Analyzer software:

CFFU is truly a comprehensive look at creative finance, complete with lots of case-studies of transactions I’ve done!

But, does CFFU make money; this was after all a precondition? A bit – on a typical month I sell 3-6 CFFU packages, and while $900 – $1,800 is not too terribly much to write home about, it is not an insignificant amount to me and my family.  Besides, just like my rentals occupy very little of my time, CFFU is more or less passive as well, since aside for publishing a few articles every month, which I enjoy very much, I do not need to do anything to generate this income.

Books Provide Branding

Make money doing what you love_13 steps to valuing your first multiplex
Books

Make Money Doing What You Love – Step Four:

Next, in 2013, I had this notion that every respectable person should be an author, and since I see myself as respectable (no comments, please) I thought I needed to publish a book.  Well – I published a couple of e-books on Kindle:

Does this make money? Not really, which is why I haven’t published more.  Every month Kindle sends me about $80-$120 – that’s for 2 books.  I suppose if I had 20 books on Kindle, I’d be making some money, but I think that I can do much better allocating my time to something other than writing 20 e-Books.  I don’t regret having done e-Books, but the next one I’m working on right now, if I ever finish it with everything else going on, will be an actual soft cover and I will have it published by a brick and mortar publishing company.  Books don’t make a lot of money, but they can be a good lead generation and branding tool.  So, having done 2 books on Kindle, I want one on the shelf in Barnes and Noble 🙂

Books are a good educational product indeed.  I can teach people a lot by writing it down.  CFFU is even better since it includes audio seminars, and there are some things that don’t come across as well in written format.

However, neither the books nor even the Cash Flow Freedom University is a personalized training product; neither caters to the client’s specific situation.  Yes – everything in the Cash Flow Freedom University is actionable – I’ve done it all and so can you.  However, there’s a difference between something that can be done and something that is an appropriate thing for you to do.  In other words, an opportunity that is perfectly good for me, may be completely the wrong thing for you.

This is why if you approach me for advice on a specific deal, I simply cannot answer without knowing a whole lot more about you than just your name.  I need to know your goals, your experience, your skill-set, your time-frame, your risk tolerance, your desired time commitment, and the list goes on, and on…

JustAskBenWhy Consulting is Exciting For Me!

Make money doing what you love

 

 Make Money Doing What You Love – Step Five:

With this in mind, in 2014 I finally decided to offer individual consulting services, whereby I meet with clients virtually several times per week and offer general perspective and specific advice, as well as, keep them accountable on the path of achieving their objectives.  This is likely the most exciting work I’ve done to date.  I get to sit down with very serious people, analyze their circumstances, and brainstorm with them the best approach to move forward – really, really cool!

But, does consulting make money?  It seems to – the price for JustAskBenWhy Consulting is $5,000/year, and I am currently already working with several clients, having only launched a bit over a month ago.

What Am I Going to Do Next to Make Money?

Make Money Doing What You Love – Step Seven and on…:

OK – so, I wouldn’t be much of a consultant if I weren’t out there practicing what I preach.  As I mentioned earlier, in 2014 I was able to achieve a critical mass within my real estate portfolio whereby I was able to reverse the time paradigm (I talk about it here).  Every month I become financially stronger; every month I put equity on my balance sheet, and this process is automated by its very nature.  I can show up, or not – the process will continue regardless. I’ve accomplished what I set out to do for my family; I did this with real estate, and the sales of the CFFU and Consulting are just an added bonus.

Naturally I am a bug fan of investing in real estate.  Having said this, however, I am now bored with real estate investing such as I’ve known it over the past 8 years.  I don’t see myself buying any more duplexes, triplexes, or even 10-units.  If I am to continue being excited about playing this game, I have to set my sights higher.

And thus, about 9 months ago, I decided to become a syndicator of large apartment communities via PPM according to Regulation D 506, which will allow me to raise unlimited amount of capital.  I’ve been analyzing deals and placing offers for the past 9 months, but have not been able to get anything under contract – the market is too hot, and people are throwing money around chasing yield.  Thus, I have easily $1 million dollars of partner investment capital sitting on the sidelines, but I figure better not do a deal than do a bad one and loose people’s money!  The economic cycle will change, as it always does, and we’ll be ready to pounce… (If you’d like to get a call when the right opportunity presents itself, fill out this form.)

Conclusion

The title of this article is Making Money Doing What You Love.  I think my father is right – you must be excited by your endeavors.  Most people, unfortunately, are not.  Most people either do what they love and make no money, or do what makes money, but they hate their lives.

At the outset of this 2014 Holiday Season, a time of re-evaluation and introspection, I hope to have shed a little bit of light on another way.  What I do is I find something that I’m passionate about and that makes money, and I do it until I get bored with it and stop enjoying “going to work”, at which point I search for something that excites me more and still makes money with.

I figure doing it this way sort of captures the best of both worlds in that I am always doing something I enjoy, and I am always making money!

Did you find this article helpful?  Do you have anything to add?  If you do, I’d love for you to leave a comment below…

6 Comments

  • Leonid Sapronov Reply

    Ben,
    What a great post. You went ahead and answered the taboo question of “how much do you make?” and it was very interesting/informative/inspirational. It’s always great to hear your story, especially so with money numbers attached 🙂

    It’s awesome that you are naturally progressing to bigger and better things and I wish you success with everything! And thanks for being such an active (and controversial :-)) member of the biggerpocket community. I learn something new from your posts all the time.

    -Leonid

    • Ben Reply

      Leonid – thank you indeed for reading and commenting. One thing a guy like you will appreciate is that it’s not how much we make, as much as it is – how much we keep. Generating income the way I do affords a rather low effective tax rate, which certainly helps a lot. I’d have to make more than twice as much if it were W2 or 1099 income.

      Thank you for reading my thoughts as well on BiggerPockets. Personally, I think BP is kinda getting tired of me…

      Thank you, Leonid!

      • Leonid Sapronov Reply

        I wouldn’t say BP is getting tired of you. On the contrary, your posts generate a lot of discussions, people just need to remember that even opinions of knowledgeable and experienced people, no matter how strong, are just that – opinions. And not get all bent out of shape when Ben says “stay away from $30k houses!” 🙂

        • Ben Reply

          Hahah – that just made me laugh 🙂

  • James Braun Reply

    Ben
    That is my goal to replace dead end job with passive
    income real estate.
    I am 60 years old so I need to do this a little quicker.
    Jim

    • Ben Reply

      It’s a good goal, James. But, at 60 – slow down and hurry up…you know what I mean?

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