When you’re up to your eyeballs in debt, and stuck in a job you hate just to pay the bills, living your passion can seem like something that will never happen. Believe me, I’ve been there. Five years ago, I was sinking in over $40,000 of debt and more payments than paychecks.

I wanted to be a movie director, but with all the work I had to do just to service my debt, I couldn’t even think of it. It took creativity, hard work, and the plan I am about to present to you to get me to Hollywood.

The All-or-Nothing Plan

If you are a creative type who wants to make it in your chosen field, you have two choices. 1) The all-or-nothing plan, or 2) My roadmap.

The all-or-nothing plan involves diving into your creative passion without thinking about where you are going to get the money to pay your bills. If you want to be a musician, you just play music and hope that someone will pay you to do so. If you want to be an actor, you just act.

The problem with this approach is that most people in creative fields don’t start making money for a very long time after they have started. This can mean a wall of debt and utter misery.

I can’t tell you how many starving artists I met when I worked in the restaurant industry. They’ve all got the same story. They just want to create, but no one is paying for their creativity. The more debt they build, the more they have to work, and the less they can create.

My Roadmap

This isn’t a get rich quick plan. It takes a lot of hard work in addition to creativity in order to succeed. It might be years before you can actually start to live your passion.

The good news is that if you follow the plan, you will eventually be able to practice your passion whether someone is paying you or not! You can spin your wheels forever in the all-or-nothing plan, or you can guarantee yourself eventual happiness by preparing for your future.

The other nice benefit is that you will be building long-term wealth and multiple income streams that will provide you with abundance for the rest of your life!

The examples I use below are just one way this scenario might unfold, but the possibilities are endless. I assume that you want to be a movie director, but you could substitute any creative passion that suits you.

Stage 1

If you are like most people in North America, you are starting off in this stage. You spend most of your waking hours working a job that doesn’t even cover your expenses, and make up for the gap with credit cards. Since you are spending more than you make month after month, I don’t have to tell you that this is a recipe for disaster.

In the diagram below, the left axis represents how much money you make. The taller the rectangle, the more that activity makes.

There is a red line that crosses this axis about 2/3 of the way up. This is the cost of living line. It represents the amount of money you need to pay your bills, feed, clothe, and entertain yourself.

The bottom axis represents all of your available time in any given month. If a rectangle were as wide as the entire axis, that would mean it takes up all of your time. If it is skinny, it doesn’t take much time.

To get out of stage 1, you have two options: 1. Lower your expenses, or 2. Increase your income.

The most powerful of the two is lowering your expenses because it frees you from needing to work for money. If your ultimate goal is to live your passion, you need to get rid of any obstacle in your way. Most creative passions don’t pay much at first, so you can’t be spending all of your time trying to make money to pay for your lifestyle.

Either way, it will require what I call the crowbar, which is a short burst of energy that gets you from one level to the next. In this case, it means sacrificing for a couple of months by living without a few luxuries and working in your spare time.

Increase your income by taking on overtime or a part time job. You can do it, it’s only until you can pay off enough debt to get your expenses below your income line.

Lowering expenses is easy, most people just don’t want to do it. Think of all the excess you could live without for a little while until you got your life under control. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Get rid of your new car that is costing you several hundred dollars a month and trade it in for an old car that is paid for.

2. Go without Cable TV/High Speed Internet/Home Phone Service for a year. When I did, I didn’t even miss it.

3. Sell one car and share with your spouse/partner. My girlfriend and I have lived with one car for two years now.

4. Get Blockbuster Online or Netflix instead of going out. $15 a month could save you a ton at the bar or buying theatre popcorn.

5. Sell anything you don’t need on eBay and use the money to pay down credit cards.

Stage 2

Getting here is an accomplishment in itself. Pat yourself on the back. You are no longer heading for bankruptcy! Now that you are making more than you spend, you have a new freedom that you didn’t have before. You’ll have to decide what to do with the extra money.

Now you can concentrate on getting rid of that job you hate; but first, you’ll have to build up some extra income to give you the padding you need to take a more exciting, but less paying job.

In this stage, you use the extra money you are making above your cost of living and put it into income-producing assets. Ideally, these assets will require a low amount of maintenance after the initial crowbar.

Stage 3

This is where it starts to get exciting. You have built up enough monthly income flowing from your income-producing assets that you can quit that awful job and do something that you actually care about. Maybe you were making $25 an hour shipping boxes around town, but you really want to be in the movie business. Since most entry-level movie jobs are basically minimum wage or less, you could never make this leap until this moment.

Instead of getting a job, you get a trade. A trade is a job within the field of your passion. You might work for someone who is doing what you want to eventually do. By doing this, you are gaining special skills that you will use to build your passion.

You take a minimum wage job getting coffee for a movie producer which doesn’t sound that great, but is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done. You get to be on set, where the magic is made, things get blown up, and the stars live. The information that you are absorbing is priceless compared to your meager salary. (If you really are interested in the movie biz, read How to Break Into the Film Industry.)

Best of all, your new trade only takes up 60% of your time instead of 80%. Movie jobs only last a few months. You choose to take a month off between each job to relax and get your passion cooking.

In your down time, you take a little bit of the money you are making over your cost of living and put it into your passion. Maybe you have a movie idea of your own. You buy a little DV camera and get a few friends together to shoot some shorts.

You spend that extra time shopping around your work at film festivals and shooting more work. You put some clips on Revver.com and start to get a trickle of income.

The movie business is tough work, but you’ve got the time and the energy. This stream of income is much harder to grow than your bulk candy vending business, but it’s worth it because it’s your passion.

Stage 4

This stage is every creative person’s dream. When your income-producing assets plus your now part-time trade are kicking off enough income to cover your cost of living, you are almost financially free. You have enough flexibility to work your passion full time and reduce your trade to part time. You have the freedom to create your art the way you want it because you are not depending on it for money.

Stage 5

The ultimate stage is when both your income and your passion individually cover your cost of living. You have an abundance of money and you have multiple streams protecting you in case one dries up.

In my life, I am personally at stage 3. It took me three years to move through stage 1 and 2. I’ve written quite a bit about the different forms of extra income that I am involved in.

My trade is working in the film industry. I have worked on several movies, and currently I am producing behind-the-scenes podcasts for Nickelodeon. I’ll be sure to show you when Nick releases them to the public!

I am a firm example that it can be done. I have more freedom now than I ever have before. I have the comfort of knowing that no matter what happens to my film career, my financial future is secure. That comfort gives me the freedom to create work that is my own.

I hope this roadmap has helped you. If you are already at the higher stages, congratulations! You are the type of person we all could learn from.

Good luck on your journey!