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Realistic Dreams

By Marty Nemko

You’d love to have a career pursuing your passion, for example, artist, athlete, musician, or writer.

Yes, if you’re very talented and driven it’s probably worth going for. But my rule of thumb is: If after a year of trying to get paid for your passion, it’s not earning you enough even to pay the rent, it’s time to look for a day job.

Don’t worry. You can probably achieve your dream-- as long as you don’t insist on making a living at it. For example:


· Be a volunteer assistant coach at a high school or small college.

· Ever thought of officiating? Perhaps your next vacation should be at the Florida-based Jim Evans Umpiring Academy ( Many high school leagues are desperate for officials. They even pay.


· Do community theater. It can be as rewarding (except financially) as professional theater.

· Write or get someone to write a play for you and perhaps one or two fellow actors, perform it for friends or in a rented-out space, for example, a church school stage.

· Get paid to play patient at a local medical school.

· Colleges hire people to read books for visually or learning-impaired students. Or try organizations that serve the blind.

· Be a reader during a children’s library story hour.


· With your work in tow, drive from gallery to gallery showing your wares. It’s much harder to refuse a request from an earnest artist with canvases in hand than a disembodied email with jpeg attachments.

· Have a show at a local bank, restaurant, or rented-out space, perhaps with another artist or two.

· Rent a booth at a local street fair.

· Give a talk on art, using your work as examples. How to find a group to talk to? Try the groups listed under “speakers” below.


· If your music appeals to young people, volunteer to perform at a junior high school or high school dance.

· If your music appeals to older adults, do a concert at a senior center or convalescent hospital.

· See if a local municipality will allow you to do street performances.

· Rent a recording studio for a few hours, make a CD, and use it as holiday gifts.


· Host a talk show on Public Access Cable TV. Many communities welcome anyone with the desire to do a show.

· Host a talk show on a local radio station. Surprisingly, many radio stations, especially university-based radio stations, rent out air time to the public.

· Volunteer to give a talk at the public library, a religious organization, or service club such as the unfairly belittled Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc.

· Teach a class at the local adult school or at the Learning Annex, which offers few-hour courses in hotels in most major cities. ( They pay their speakers.

· Teach a teleclass, a class you teach by telephone. People call in to a special phone number so everyone can hear everyone else. You can receive online training and marketing of your teleclasses for a fee at


· Write what you’d love to write. Pull no punches. Write what you find important and believe in without worrying what anyone else thinks of it. A client of mine is passionate about getting more black single women to adopt more black babies. She wrote an op-ed about it. If it doesn’t get published, she’ll send it as an email to everyone she can think of. Most of the pleasure of writing comes not from its getting published but from the process of writing it, rereading it, and showing it to even a few people.

· Can’t get your book published? Publish it on your website and sell it as an ebook ( converts MSWord files to the required pdf format) or get your book printed-on demand through or

· Blog. You get to write your thought of the day, short or long. Set up your blog using the easy and free It even helps direct traffic to your blog. You’ll probably find that people will actually visit your blog, read your stuff, and comment.

· Want to make your opinion known? Write reader reviews on,, or


· Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

· Create stage sets or costumes for high school, college, or community theater productions.

· Sew Halloween costumes. To get customers, put flyers around your neighborhood.

· Sell your crafts on or

· Decorate homes for Christmas


United Inventors Association offers plenty of advice for inventors:

For more ways to achieve seemingly long-shot dreams, see Barbara Sher’s Idea Book (available only from

Advice I’d Give My Child

Keep knitting. Give away everything you knit.

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