Emilie Wapnick: How To Make Money Doing Exactly What You Want To Do

How four creative approaches can give you the life you’ll love

Katie E. Lawrence
6 min readMay 9, 2023
Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Emilie Wapnick is well known for her TED Talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”, and her website, PuttyLike.com. I first fell in love with the concepts in her book when I read the title: How To Be Everything — A Guide For Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want To Be When They Grow Up.

Wapnick writes about four different ways you can “be everything”. She provides four separate “work models” that you can fashion your life after, depending on your interests, your field of work, and your circumstances. I want to break down each of these different work models and show you how you can implement them in your own life:

#1: The Group Hug Approach — In this approach, an entrepreneur only owns one business or holds one title as a part of a greater business/company. However, they wear many hats. They either have a job or a business where they get to do a little bit of everything they love.

This is where the more famous creators come into the picture. These are the people who have a business, a brand, a company, etc. and they do everything for it. They’re the writers, the YouTube creators, they lead the coaching group through their Patreon and are the boss of whoever they’ve hired to help them run their brand/channel/etc.

“Daring leaders work to make sure people can be themselves and feel a sense of belonging.” — Brené Brown

I feel like Brené Brown, vulnerability researcher, speaker, and podcaster falls into this category well. She runs her empire of products, channels, teams, and books. She’s the writer of the books, the main host of her podcasts, the speaker behind it all, and the one who did the research herself for what she’s talking about.

She’s also the boss, the manager, and the team leader for everything. That’s a lot. But you can tell that she loves it — and it’s working out really well for her. She gets to wear many hats, lead the work that she’s doing, and generally be a blessing to the world.

#2: The Slash Approach — In this approach, a creator/entrepreneur has numerous jobs or explorative projects at once. This is where I come in. I very much live my life making money through the slash approach.

A quick look at my LinkedIn makes my life seem incredibly interesting, which I guess it is. At present, I’m making money through writing on Medium, working as an intern at my college ministry, working as an assistant learning coach at my mom’s school now that I’m home from college and babysitting. These, in total, all pay pretty well, it’s just not all coming from one place.

“Good things happen to those who hustle.” — Anais Nin

This is a very common approach for young adults, college students, and high schoolers, and it works really well. Just find people willing to pay you for different things. Find a part-time job you really enjoy, nanny on the side, write online, sell a product, start a business, and make it all work while the stakes are low. You’ll probably have a lot of fun in the process.

#3: The Einstein Approach — In this approach, an individual has a full-time job. But when they get home from work every day, they play music. On the weekends, they play various gigs and get to do a little bit of traveling. [Wapnick’s title for this system is based on Albert Einstein’s tendency to have a paying job while exploring many different projects and hobbies on the side.]

My old boss, the children’s minister at my church, is a great example of this. He has a full-time job running the children’s programming at our church of over 1,000 members.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” — Albert Einstein

However, on the weekends, in his spare time, on his Fridays, he and his wife (who also worked full-time before they had their first child) own a Glamping business — providing tents and adorable picnic set-ups for parties, gatherings, and family backyard camping experiences.

This is not only a fun and exciting side hustle to run, but it’s actually doing really well and they bring in a significant amount of money just from that business.

This approach is also great for people whose full-time jobs are flexible. For instance, if he finishes church work on a particular day, he can take off if he needs to, has a network of people through a church that advertises his business for him through word-of-mouth, and he also doesn’t work on Fridays, freeing up time to work on the glamping business if he needs to.

This is also a good approach for people whose full-time jobs don’t pay them as much as they’d like, or the work doesn’t scratch an itch that they have to do a certain something.

#4: The Phoenix Approach — In this approach, an individual goes into and rises up out of various careers over the course of their life. Recently I heard a story of a woman, the wife of a famous creator, who has given herself the “rule” that she has to completely change careers every ten years. This is what someone following “The Phoenix Approach” does.

I heard a story yesterday of a man who was in the Army for some number of years, went to welding school to become a welder and made a lot of money doing that, became an EMT, then became a nurse, and then became a flight nurse, and is now sailing on a yacht that he paid for in cash somewhere off the coast somewhere.

I think that’s the perfect example of the phoenix approach, someone who was able to follow the money but also follow his passions and interests to where he is now. He’s also able to work when he wants now if he ever wants to go out and make more money.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs

Ultimately, this is where I want to end up. I want to be a writer, who then gets her Master's degree and becomes a therapist, who then becomes a public speaker, and then a parenting coach, and so on and so forth.

This is what many individuals do when they make a hard pivot in their career, going from working at different places in different roles to working in academia or doing research somewhere. These people stay in their genre of work but pivot greatly when it comes to their actual role and related responsibilities — and from what I can tell, it works great for them.

Defining how you prefer to work as an entrepreneur is a powerful mindset shift for any business owner or intro-level creator.

Understanding what your preferences are in terms of how, when, and how much you work, in addition to what you’re working with, is imperative to growing not only your income and the success rate of your business ventures but also to your happiness as a person in addition to the creator.

Since I’ve discovered this concept and re-read this book numerous times, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be a “serial entrepreneur” and someone who never knows what she’s doing next — but I’ve also discovered how to do it, what the rules are for that type of life, and how to best use my natural tendencies to make money and fulfill my constant desire for adventure, novelty, and creativity.

The bottom line of all of this is, you can make money doing what you love — you just have to find the system that will allow you to do that, while providing for yourself financially. There’s a way to make time and space in your life for what you enjoy while not going bankrupt or risking life and limb to go out and be an entrepreneur with no promise of success.

The key is being creative and innovative enough to find the system that works, and to play around with your time, efforts, and projects until you figure out what works. It’ll be an ongoing process of figuring out what’s best for you, but it’ll be so worth it in the end.

Best of luck!

Kindly, Katie

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Katie E. Lawrence

Soon to be B.S. in Human Development & Family Science. I write about life, love, stories, psychology, family, technology, and how to do life better together.