I spent many years doing work I wasn’t terribly passionate about to make as much money as I could. I’m not ashamed of that, nor do I regret that time in life. I’m proud to have made a real difference in my family’s finances. But a year ago, after experiencing two miscarriages, a big piece of my drive to work died too. I lost my passion for working as furiously as I used to.
I realized I wanted to do something to give back in a meaningful way and started a project based on my own experience with loss. It’s a pregnancy loss gift box with feel-good products (home-baked desserts, a cozy coffee mug), handmade by fellow loss moms and with a heartfelt story from each woman who made it. Proceeds go directly to other women in need of assistance to pay for medical bills following a miscarriage.
I’m now over a year in, and while it has been an incredible experience, it’s also taught me some sobering lessons as well. Here’s what I wish I’d known before launching my own passion project.
1. EVEN ‘PASSION’ PROJECTS TAKE PLANNING — LOTS OF IT
I took my idea and ran with it at full-speed without doing any kind of market research. The thing about passion projects is that they’re born out of passion. I figured the kinks would work themselves out later and that I could tweak things along the way.
While I quickly got the basics done (creating a website, sourcing vendors, getting social media up and running), having zero market research at launch has caused a lot of major hurdles: effectively pricing my product to sell, targeting my ideal customer and even identifying my brand.
I would have benefited from having a solid strategy in place before doing anything else.
2. DON’T LET HIGH EXPECTATIONS SET YOU UP FOR FAILURE
I went into this project assuming that because I was doing something I was passionate about and not trying to make money off of it, the motivation — and sense of satisfaction — would come easily. I envisioned people lining up to help, word spreading effortlessly, fundraisers exceeding expectations, and all the little frustrations disappearing. You know, because, karma.
I focused on the heart of my passion project: giving back.
You can guess how that turned out. The wrong boxes were shipped, products got delayed, a key vendor backed out last-minute. I thought the project was doomed to fail.
My assumption that things should be easy only made things worse when reality didn’t meet my expectations. So, I focused on the heart of my passion project: giving back.
I decreased my marketing efforts so I could lower my price, which often meant losing money on the boxes. But I soaked in every message of gratitude I got from mothers who had lost babies at birth, mothers going through miscarriage, and friends who thanked me for giving them a tool to support their loved ones. Letting go of my expectations helped me zero in on the small ways I could still make a big difference, one box at a time.
3. HARD WORK CAN GIVE YOU ENERGY IN NEW WAYS
I was hesitant to start my project because I feared adding yet another task to my plate. I had four kids and a new house to care for, not to mention paid work to complete. But I longed to get my spark back.
Has it been busy and overwhelming at times? Of course. But my children have been able to help, my husband has backed me, and our family has bonded in new ways. It’s also helped me rediscover my drive to work toward something bigger than myself.
4. DON’T BURY YOURSELF IN YOUR WORK
I had high hopes that working on the project would help fill that empty spot in my heart that my own miscarriages left behind.
I was wrong. My project didn’t magically help me find the healing I desperately wanted. Yes, I’ve connected with other loss mothers and found an anchor on days I feel adrift. But I can’t hide behind a project. I still had to acknowledge my own pain and take time to heal with therapy, rest and self-care.
5. NO ONE WILL CARE LIKE YOU CARE — AND THAT’S OK
My passion project has been entirely funded out of my own pocket. I hoped that it would take off immediately. I envisioned all my family and friends jumping on board and orders flying off the shelves.
But the truth is, no one will care about your passion project as much as you will. And that’s OK. It’s your passion for a reason. But that does mean you have to work extra hard to believe in your cause and to not give up, even when it seems like it’s going nowhere, fast.