Professionalize Your Passion: Build a Budget


Last year I "Retired Before I Retired. Much has changed in a year. When I first wrote about my husband and I envisioning retirement it was I who had made the big career change.  I quit my job, started a consulting business, finished working on a book, and went through a training program to become a certified vegan lifestyle coach.  I spent the summer providing pro-bono coaching and doing free cooking demos because I needed to get out there to hone my skills and to determine if working my passion was something I would enjoy doing.

I loved it.

It was time for the next step: incorporating those “loves” – writing, coaching, and teaching – into my business plan.

Something was stopping my husband from doing the same with his passion for triathlon coaching. It was New York. Okay, not exactly. It was his feeling of obligation to continue his “day job” working for a large corporation because we had great health insurance and a 401k. And New York isn’t cheap; it didn’t feel like the best place to toy with our income.

So we moved.

Tip 1:  Build a budget

The reason we moved is because we started to think about what we could realistically earn in each of our new businesses. The projected income was not nearly enough to maintain our current lifestyle in Westchester County, NY.  One option was to skip the dream and just keep doing what we were doing. He would keep working in an uninspiring IT environment and I would have to take on more consulting clients. We would not retire before we retired.

The other option was to dramatically alter our living expenses. We researched communities all over the country – with an eye to where he could build a triathlon coaching practice because my work was more virtual – and ultimately decided on Colorado Springs.

Recareering - Budget for the Change

Image: Beverly & Pack via Flickr

We developed a spreadsheet that would include all of our living expenses (housing, utilities, car payment, groceries, etc.), plus the cost of medical and life insurance and an investment and savings plan. Once we were aware of the financial requirements to make a comfortable career move that was financially smart, we looked at our respective business plans to see what income would be required to meet our expenses. 

We started with our passions. How much did we really think we could earn?  Our “passion” revenue streams included writing, coaching, classes, and speaking engagements. We were extremely realistic about what we could earn in the first year of business. As a result we developed our overall income plan: 

  • 50% consulting in our prior fields. We each continue to work in the field that we excelled and earned income for over 20 years but now we are independent contractors and we pick and choose our clients.  We both love our respective consulting projects because we are working with clients we enjoy and we are not doing it full time.
  • 50% working our passion.  He is working with individual athletes, writing articles on sports sites and for professional associations, and organizing training clinics. I am freelance writing, offering vegan lifestyle coaching and classes, and launched in-home cooking services. The income on this side of things is considerably less than on the consulting side but we are building our practices and are no longer providing free services.

Why is building a budget important?

  1. By moving, our living expenses are 55% less than in New York. So is our income.  We maintained our lifestyle by adjusting income and expense expectations. Do you have to move to professionalize your passion? Of course not! But you may need to really examine how and why you spend and make realistic adjustments to support your career shift.
  2. Goals. It is easy to think that you’re going to make money writing, for example, but it is much harder to actually get paid to write. By setting a monetary goal for my writing, coaching, and teaching the logical next step was to develop a plan to make it happen.

Ah yes, the plan. The budget is simply the jumping off point. It outlines what you need. The plan is how you’re going to get there – it’s how you will turn your goals into outcomes.

How did we turn our projected revenue into earned income? Networking, networking, networking.

This is the first in my Professionalize your Passion series. Stay tuned for Tip 2: If you don’t network, it’s not going to happen on JLgoesVegan.

JL Fields is co-author of the forthcoming Vegan for Her: The Women’s Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet and writes the blog JL goes Vegan.


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