5 Unusual Ways to Get Paid Doing What You Love (Even If You’re Not an Expert Yet!)

5 Unusual Ways to Get Paid Doing What You Love (Even If You’re Not an Expert Yet!)


“It is more rewarding to watch money change the world than to watch it accumulate.” –Gloria Steinem

When you first start pursuing work that really lights you up, it’s super exciting and fulfilling. You can spend hours being lost in the flow of creating and building. It’s fun, it feels easy, it feels right! But at some point, if you are looking to live off your passion, you eventually come across the question of making money—and for a lot of us that’s when the brakes are applied.

The thought of charging actual dollars scares the sh*t out of most people and can bring up all kinds of thoughts, such as:

  • I’m not expert enough yet! Who am I to ask for money?!
  • How can I possibly charge for doing something I love?
  • What if people say no?
  • If I am charging money that means I am taking from someone… doesn’t it? 

Have you ever had those thoughts?

While the only thing you should ever be charging for is something that is actually adding value to another person or solving some sort of problem in the world, it is still easy to question whether you are a “bad person” if you ask for money for skills that come naturally to you—after all, many of us are conditioned this way in our childhood, and it is hard to break free of that early-childhood conditioning.

For many, the first months (maybe years?!) of pursing a passion is all about experimenting and learning about what works and doesn’t, seeing how people respond, etc. Which is great—because that feedback from others is super valuable.

But at some point if you don’t start making money doing what you love, you are simply left with a hobby. And that’s fine, if that’s your intention. But if your goal is to eventually transition to this kind of passion-based work full time, earning income is a requirement!

And as a side note, our guess is that many of you reading this are creating offerings that are service-based and this comes with an additional challenge because sometimes we tie our personal value and worth to that service. Which means that when someone says no, there is the potential for us to make that mean: “They don’t believe in who I am. I am not worthy of their investment.”

But the truth is: your worth is unchangeable. Remember that when offering your personal services like coaching, mentoring, running workshops, speaking, and anything else that is personal to you and your presence. Potential clients are either saying YES or NO to your offering, not you as a person!

Today we are going to share with you the baby steps you can take to bust this fear of asking for money. Why? Because:

  • We want to make sure you get your unique and beautiful gifts out into the world in a sustainable way.
  • It’s a great way to start experimenting and practicing your talents in the real world with real, paying people.
  • So you can start to build a portfolio of experience.
  • So you can start to get invaluable feedback from those you are serving (paying clients are often more invested than those who get free stuff).
  • In the hope that you can get more comfortable with asking for something in return for what you are providing.
  • There is a multitude of ways to receive value in return for what you give (and we want to shine a light on some alternate, even unusual ideas!).

5 Unusual Ways to Get Paid Doing What You Love

1. The $1 Challenge—Ask for “Seed Money” 

Sometimes all it takes is that first baby step to get you over the hurdle of a fear like asking for money. When we started out, we were so paralyzed by asking for money that we set ourselves a simple challenge over a week:

  1. We found an empty jar at home,
  2. Labeled it “Passion Project Seed Fund”, and
  3. Started to ask our friends and family for just a $1 contribution as “seed money” toward what we were building.

It felt awkward, kind of ridiculous, and very vulnerable (especially with those closest to us), but slowly and surely we filled each of our jars, many people gave us more than $1 and we realized actually how good it felt to receive money for what we were creating, even if it wasn’t more than $30 combined!

It was a powerful first step in disappearing the fear of asking for money and remembering that it was a contribution toward the larger vision, as opposed to filling our personal pockets. We highly recommend you set yourself the same challenge if this fear is true for you too.

You can also make slight variations to this by requesting the contribution to the “seed fund” and then providing a thank you in return like:

  • creating hand-designed thank-you cards
  • creating unique video compilations
  • giving them a little supporters badge
  • free hugs!

2. Ask for Testimonials Instead of $$

Testimonials are the most valuable thing you can request in exchange for your services—and are especially useful when you are still dealing with the fear of asking for dollars. The surprising thing though is that this actually makes for a much better experience on the recipient’s end because they feel less like they are getting a “freebie” and it becomes more of an equal exchange. You might be surprised to know that people actually usually prefer to give something in return as it makes them feel less like they are taking!

These testimonials also form part of you “seeding” what you are creating as they validate and provide credibility to what you are doing, no matter how early on in the process you are. And we highly recommend requesting these even if you are charging money.

So if you are providing a free service while you find your feet, before agreeing to go ahead, ask the person you are serving that instead of paying money if they’d be willing to:

  • provide you with constructive feedback to help you improve, and
  • a testimonial (either written or video) if they felt compelled.

If you are asking for feedback, be sure to give them full permission and reassurance that you promise you won’t get upset and that their honest feedback will help immensely to further and improve what you are creating (and then keep that promise!).

3. Trial a “Pay What You Want” Model

Trial a “Pay What You Want” model to get your feet wet accepting payment and to get an understanding of what people are willing to pay for what you are creating.

Fantastic platforms like Gumroad and Eventbrite (you can set up a “Donation” option) are an awesome place to start experimenting. Be sure to also provide a guide price, so that people have a ballpark figure.

  • After creating your offer, simply set up a couple of purchase options like “Early Bird”, “Event Attendee”, “Donation”, “Pay What You Want”, etc.
  • Include in your description why you are including the “Donation” or “Pay What You Want” options (e.g., to make the offer accessible to everyone, to ensure nobody is excluded due to financial limitations, etc.)
  • Make a request that to support what you are building, if they are in a financial position to do so, to purchase the early bird or full-priced purchase option so that you can keep on doing what you are doing!

While this is a great strategy to begin with, in the long term we actually would not recommend a “Pay What You Want” model for providing services. Mainly because the time investment required from you, as well as other fixed costs (like venue hire, supplies, etc.), means that you might end up at a loss. But the experience is an invaluable place to start.

4. Find an Intermediary

If asking for money is incredibly problematic for you right now, then consider finding an “intermediary” to collaborate with, so that they are the ones on the coal face (on the front lines offering the service or product for sale), while you deliver the service/product, and you both take a percentage. This can be a great option if charging is preventing you from making your unique impact in the world long-term.

After we took the first release of the Connect With Anyone course we saw an opportunity to add value to what Scott had created and after supporting for free on a couple of rounds of the course, we asked him if we could run professionally facilitated coaching groups. Scott said yes and so it meant that we only had one person to sell to (Scott!) and once we had negotiated a fair remuneration, he took care of the rest with us simply in a support role.

The key here is to:

  1. Get super clear on what your natural talents and strengths are.
  2. Find someone working in a similar space to you (or where you want to be) who doesn’t possess those same strengths AND is comfortable with sales.
  3. Make sure you find an intermediary who shares the same values as you and works with similar kinds of people.
  4. Reach out and give them a “teaser” of how you could add value to them and their offering (Meaning: don’t land them with the whole offer and idea in one huge email).
  5. If they are open, share some options for how you could add value, always focusing on how it will benefit them or what they are creating.
  6. Give them full permission to say “no thanks” and show them that you are unattached to the outcome, but genuinely looking to help.
  7. If it’s a “hell yes!” then let them know your thoughts about a fair “cut” or remuneration and negotiate until you are both comfortable.
  8. And remember! Especially if this is an early opportunity, always remember that the experience and relationship are more important than the dollars. So even if the money is not as much as you would like, but the collaboration will be super beneficial all round… go for it!

5. Invite Collaboration

Another awesome great start to getting paid is to find collaborators who have skills and services that you don’t (and vice versa) and agree on an exchange of services.

For example, as you start out, what is important is gaining experience and understanding who you want to ideally work with. So this may look something like saying: ­“So the options are: You can join at $X, you can decline our offer, and/or you can hit us with a counter-offer where perhaps you give something/add value in exchange at a discounted price!”

Suddenly what you are offering is no longer just about a pure monetary investment… It becomes a way to add skills and value to what you are doing, that you are not capable of and/or would normally pay someone to do. It will also mean that the right people will be joining you because they are that invested—and there is no bigger win-win than working with your ideal customer!

So who do you know that you would love to work with and can propose a switch of services? Because especially in the early days of your journey, having collaborators on board to help with the areas you are not expert in is incredible valuable.

Stop robbing the world of your unique talents and gifts!

Remember, these tips are to get you out of the stands and into the arena, because if you are committed to living your legend and making money from it… well, then, you have to start asking for money!

There is simply no other way around it.

And remember: You are NOT “taking” from someone—you are providing something they actually need and have likely been waiting for! You are fulfilling a need that only you can uniquely serve.

So stop robbing them (pun intended!) of that opportunity to progress their own journey. Get out of your own way, and start practicing being open to receiving as much as you are giving the world.

Then share with us in the comments below a story about a hurdle you overcame!

There’s no time to waste…

–Leah & Naz

P.S. Interested in other alternative ways to make money from your passions and talents? Check out our workshop on How to Earn Your First $1,000 From Your Passions and Talents.

Photo Credit: Kandui Resort