“You don’t have to be world-class great to make a great living doing what you love,” Jonathan Fields writes in Career Renegade, “if you are willing to step outside the box, approach your passion differently, find innovative ways to mine that passion for money, and work like crazy to make it happen.”
In Career Renegade, Fields draws upon his own experience, as well as that of others, to provide a blueprint for those willing to take that entrepreneurial leap of faith.
Career Renegade is an odd book. Its title and marketing might lead you to believe it’s about careers. As I write this, it’s the number one book in Amazon’s “job hunting” category, which is baffling. Career Renegade isn’t about job hunting or changing careers. It’s about taking your passion and turning it into a business. It’s about entrepreneurship. As long as you expect this going in, it’s a great book.
Profiting from your passion
Career Renegade starts by exploring the relationship between what we do and what we love. Fields encourages readers to examine their own lives to discover what it is they’re passionate about. His message is that although it might seem impossible, although it might take some hard work, you can turn your dreams into a career.
“The paths to transforming a moneyless passion into a lucrative future are limited only by your own creativity,” Fields writes. Career Renegade suggests seven possible paths for turning passion into profit:
- Redeploying your passion in a hungrier market. Do what you love in an area where there’s high demand.
- Refocusing and mining the most lucrative micro-markets. Sometimes the solution is to narrow your market, to focus on doing something valuable for a select group of people.
- Exploiting gaps in the information needed to excel at an activity. Fields argues that one way to succeed at doing what you love is to provide information that nobody else offers, or to offer it in a way that others don’t. Get Rich Slowly is an example of following this path.
- Exploiting gaps in education. Beyond just providing information, some people can profit by directly teaching others.
- Exploiting gaps in gear or merchandise. Using this path, you turn your passion into a product. You “build a better mousetrap”, so to speak.
- Exploiting gaps in community. People value networks, and if you’re the first or best to create one devoted to your subject, you can become the leader in the field. Fields mentions Ladies Who Launch as an example of taking a passion for community-building and it into a career.
- Exploiting gaps in the way a pursuit is provided. The final path is to make it easier for people to do what you love (and what they love).
Fields writes that it’s possible to “turn your passion loose in unexpected places”. He cites the example of Liv Hansen, a young woman just out of school who couldn’t find a job in the art world. She went to work at her mother’s bakery, and began to create fanciful designs on the wedding cakes and cupcakes. Though this may not have been how she had planned to use her art degree, it turned out to be profitable and fulfilling work.
While the first half of Career Renegade is devoted to helping you find your passion, the second half is all about developing an entrepreneurial mindset and marketing your idea.
What if you’re not an entrepreneur?
Many of my friends love their jobs and have no desire to become self-employed. They use hustle, passion, and patience to make the most of working for somebody else. It’s very possible to make a great living doing what you love without striking out on your own.
My wife, for example, just isn’t an entrepreneur. Kris loves her job as much as I love mine. She enjoys her co-workers and the workplace culture. She has no desire to work for herself. What does Career Renegade have to offer folks who don’t want to become entrepreneurs? I asked the author to comment on this. Jonathan Fields responded:
I lean strongly toward taking more control and being an entrepreneur. And, most of the people in my book seem to be wired that way, too. But that’s not necessarily true.
There will still be some people that just want to keep working for someone else. The cool thing is, you can tap many of the market research strategies that I lay out in the early part of the book to not only test your idea, but identify other people and companies to connect with. They’ll reveal companies who are doing something similar, then you can:
- approach them for a job, or
- build your personal brand online to showcase your abilities in the area of your passion, then tap social media to find key influencers and hiring managers and make them aware of your showcase
That whole process is largely what the second half of the book is about.
All the same, I’d hesitate to recommend Career Renegade to somebody simply hunting for a new job. I don’t think it’s appropriate.
Career Renegade also suffers from one of the same flaws as The Power of Less [my review]: it’s tech-centric. Its examples and suggestions are based on the assumption that you can leverage the web and social media to make your business succeed. This isn’t always true. My father’s passion was to start a small manufacturer of custom boxes. There is nothing that Twitter could offer my family’s box factory. Podcasts and blogs won’t help either. It’s not that sort of business.
The bottom line
Career Renegade is not a bad book — not at all! It is, however, a book aimed a narrow target audience, one much narrower than the cover and title might lead you to believe. Entrepreneurs are a subset of the general population. This book is written for a subset of entrepreneurs.
There’s a lot of fine information here for those interested in launching a business in which the internet will play a key role. I love the case histories that Fields uses to flesh out his topics. I never tire of reading how other people have managed to turn their passion into a business. I can learn a lot, for example, from reading how Anita Campbell moved from lawyer to blogger at Small Business Trends.
Career Renegade is a great book — for a certain type of person. If you believe you might enjoy working for yourself — even if you don’t know what it is you’d do — this book is worth reading. If you are looking to start your own business and if that business requires a strong online presence, this book is a tremendous resource. But it’s not the next What Color is Your Parachute?