NYT bestselling author who started in sales: Here's how to turn your passion into full-time work

"In order to get to where you want to go, you need to know at least a handful of the steps."

Mateo Askaripour.
Photo by Andrew "Fifthgod" Askaripour

For Mateo Askaripour, who worked in sales at a start-up for four years, writing was a creative outlet, not a career. But after becoming "disillusioned with the world of start-ups and sales," he says, he quit his job and decided, "I'm going to take [writing] more seriously."

Between 2016 and 2018, Askaripour wrote three manuscripts. The first was rejected by nine agents, the second was rejected by six, and the third, finally, brought a handful of offers. It led to a book deal that was "more than six figures" for New York Times bestselling novel "Black Buck," which was published in January 2021.

Even while Askaripour was pursuing his dream, he kept up with the world of start-ups and sales through consulting. "All I did was just discuss what I knew," he says, "but that, for me, opened up a door." Consulting brought in a six-figure annual income for Askaripour, enabling him both to survive and continue working toward selling a book.

Whether your side hustle is what you're most excited about and you want to take it full time or your hobby doesn't pay yet but you hope someday it will, here's Askaripour's advice for turning a passion into a living.

'Know at least a handful of the steps'

"In order to get to where you want to go," says Askaripour, "you need to know at least a handful of the steps" that could get you there.

Begin by studying your field "deeply and widely," he says, and build a plan based on how various people in that field have succeeded. That doesn't mean you can expect to advance in the same exact way, but finding common strategies or steps could at least give you some guidance.

After such a study, Askaripour realized his first step was finishing a manuscript, and after that, getting it in shape to send along to agents. Then he sent it to agents, and so on.

Ultimately, "I knew that if I reached a certain milestone in my writing career, like getting a book deal, and the book deal was big enough, that I was going to stop consulting," he says.

"Black Buck" book cover.
Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

'Rejection is a means to an end'

"I come from this world of business and especially start-ups and sales where you need to have a short-term mentality," says Askaripour. "You have to realize that rejection is just a means to an end."

Although he wrote two full book manuscripts and was rejected more than a dozen times before he started writing his third, he knew those were valuable experiences. His attitude was, "let me figure out why it didn't work out, take stock, and then pivot or use it to help me with something else."

Setbacks can be an important part of your process and development. "It didn't work the first time. I learned," he says. "It didn't work the second time. I learned more. And the third time, fortunately, it did work out."

My life's purpose is to turn my ideas into reality that positively impacts others.
Mateo Askaripour
Author "Black Buck"

'What is your purpose?'

In part, Askaripour's drive and success come not just because he wanted to make it as a writer but because writing was connected to a deeper purpose in his life. "My life's purpose is to turn my ideas into reality that positively impacts others," he says, "and writing, fortunately, is one way to do that."

He encourages anyone else wanting to make a side hustle or passion their full-time work to ask yourself, "What is your main purpose?" and "What is the work that is going to allow you to fulfill your purpose?" Making that deeper connection could make any step in the process, big or small, that much more meaningful.

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