Raw Truth: Making Money Ain’t Glamourous

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The other day I saw this great graphic comparing How People Think Professional Photographers Spend Their Time vs. How They Actually Spend Their Time:

glamourous jobs don't pay well

How People Think Photographers Spend Their Time


fun and glamourous jobs have a dull-normal side

How Photographers Actually Spend Their Time

(Click “display images” if you’re reading this by email.)

People who work in “glamourous” industries often face these misconceptions.

“Oh, you’re a journalist! You can jet off to Paris as an international correspondent …”

“Wow, you’re a freelance writer – like Carrie Bradshaw! You write whatever’s on your mind without doing any research or interviews and you make $5 a word!”

“You do public relations or event planning? That’s cool. You go to swanky parties …”

It Ain’t All Champagne and Caviar

A friend of mine applied for an editor position at Maxim magazine. He wrote in his cover letter: “Don’t worry. I’m not under the impression that the office is filled with bikini-clad models spraying champagne on each other.” That line earned a good chuckle with the hiring editors — and landed him an interview.

It’s funny because its true. Loads of applicants carried that impression.

Years ago, I applied for an editorial position at a boutique wine magazine. During the interview, the managing editor told me that my application stood out because I emphasized the work — being an editor — rather than the hook, wine.

“I read hundreds of applications from people who said they’re passionate about wine,” he told me, “and I thought, well, that’s great, but can you edit a magazine?”

Will had the same experience when he ran a solar energy company. He’d receive a deluge of applications from people who said “I love solar energy!” or “I’m passionate about the environment!”

“That’s fine,” he thought, “but how proficient are you with Quikbooks?”

Conversely, when he entered his current line of work — running a highway construction company — his buddies from his eco-preneur days predicted that he’d hate it.

“Road work? That’s so boring!” they said. He transitioned from a glamourous industry to an industry that kills conversation at cocktail parties, and no one could figure out why.

“I like growing companies,” he explained. “I like managing a business. That’s the appeal.” But few people understood. They heard the words “asphalt” and “traffic cones,” and they tuned out.

Most Millionaires Work in Boring Industries

But here’s a reason they should tune in: most millionaires work in “dull-normal” industries, according to Thomas Stanley and William Danko, authors of The Millionaire Next Door.

“We are welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, and paving contractors,” the book says.

Why are millionaires clustered in dull-normal jobs? It’s partly because there’s less competition. Millions of people flock to glamourous industries. Heavy competition drives down profit margins and payrates.

Few people, by contrast, are elbowing each other for a slice of the pest-control pie. It’s a dirty job. When competition is lower, profits and payrates may be higher.

The bottom line? Making money isn’t always glamorous.

Source: International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers

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26 Responses to “Raw Truth: Making Money Ain’t Glamourous”

  1. Carol
    28. Mar, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    That infographic a society of wedding photographers:

    Seth Godin picked it up on his blog

    • AffordAnything.org
      28. Mar, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      @Carol – Yep, I cited the original source of the graphic (the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers) at the bottom of the post, and I included a link back to their website. Seth Godin also wrote about it, but ISPWP is the original source, so they deserve the citation.

  2. Modest Money
    28. Mar, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    I think this comes down to the grass always being greener on the other side. People have these misconceptions about certain careers because they jealously want to believe that those careers really are glamorous. As for it not being fun, I think that all depends if you follow your heart and pursue something that you actually love doing. If you’re in it just to make money, it is unlikely to actually be fun.

    • AffordAnything.org
      28. Mar, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

      @Modest Money – Fun is definitely in the eye of the beholder. It’s easy for someone to sit in front of a computer all day and think: “If only I were an XYZ, my job would be so much more exciting.” But the better question they should ask themselves is, “Why isn’t my current job more exciting? Is my heart really in it?”

      • modestmoney
        04. Apr, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

        Very good point. A job is what you make of it. My level of happiness definitely depends on who I’m working for and what specifically I’m focusing on. Unfortunately I’ve worked for some employers where I lost a lot of motivation for one reason or another. So what was a fairly enjoyable job turned into something that I dreaded facing each day.

        • AffordAnything.org
          06. Apr, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

          @Modest – I once heard someone say that your relationship/respect for your boss is the simple most important predictor of how much you’ll enjoy your job.

  3. eemusings
    28. Mar, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    I loved that graph when I saw it last month, and there’s also those great panels (of six) depicting how various people (family, friends etc) perceive your job – seen those around?

    Journalism has its moments – recently I’ve been sailing, to the races and some swanky conferences. But that’s the exception. And getting out of the office puts me behind on all my other day-to-day stuff :/

    Prime example: plumber. High pay, zero glam factor.

    (PS – I’m a Kiwi and we use British English so I applaud your use of ‘u’ in glamour, but it does get dropped when it is ‘glamorous’)

    • AffordAnything.org
      28. Mar, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      @eemusings — Whoops! I wondered about the spelling of “glamorous,” but WordPress didn’t flag it as a misspelling, so I figured it was accurate. :-) (Normally it highlights misspelled words.) I also have a habit of spelling “theatre” instead of “theater” … but I draw the line at “gaol” for “jail,” which is how the Aussies spell it.

  4. Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple
    28. Mar, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Your point about competition is really critical.

    One of the reasons I decided not to go into video game programming was that they end up being the most overworked and underpaid of all programmers because every nerdy kid wants one of those jobs.

    Personally, I like free time and money… :)

  5. Marianne
    28. Mar, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    I work at a motorcycle dealership and when people hear that they assume that the job is amazing and fun and we just sit around and play with motorcycles all day. Realistically though, this is the most stressful job I’ve ever had and the employees who do actually ride rarely get to do so because they are working when everyone else is playing.

  6. Frugal City Girl
    29. Mar, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    I think also this might be down to people trying to emphasise their “good fit” in cover letters – I know when I’ve applied to work at eg travel magazines I’ve always written something in the cover letter about how much I enjoy travel, as well as what a whiz I am in InDesign. I guess the important thing is not to focus on one at the expense of the other, and leave “also I really enjoy international trips!” to a sentence or two.

    • AffordAnything.org
      29. Mar, 2012 at 10:24 am #

      @Frugal City Girl – Exactly! It certainly makes sense that a person who hates travel shouldn’t work at a travel magazine, a person who despises skiing should avoid working for a skiing magazine, and so forth.

      I think hiring managers see a lot of people who “want to work in the travel industry” (or the skiing industry, or the wine industry, or the solar industry, etc.) and so they apply to all jobs within that industry, regardless of their qualifications.

  7. Melissa
    29. Mar, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Ah, this is so true! I spent a couple of years as a magazine editor, and now I’m a freelance writer/editor, and I get this all the time. People assume my work i s so glamourous! Now, don’t get me wrong, my work is a lot of fun, but for every hour I spent reporting on interesting local news issues, I probably spend five hours doing boring corporate writing and pitching emails that will never be responded to and reading documents to try to find a story. My work is fun, but it’s nothing like Carrie Bradshaw!

  8. Christa
    29. Mar, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    I think that many millionaires also work in boring industries because of the stability factor. And when you take that into account, it’s more likely that people in these industries have the personality traits (like striving for stability and being dependable/driven) that will help guide them toward millionaire savings goals.

    • AffordAnything.org
      30. Mar, 2012 at 11:41 am #

      @Christa – That’s a great point! There’s a slight paradox: most millionaires are entrepreneurs, which means they’re taking risks by starting their own businesses, BUT they’re also going into stable businesses rather than “hot” industries. It’s all about smart “risk management” rather than total risk avoidance!

  9. Serena
    30. Mar, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    I think the previous commentor hit the nail in the head: people think the grass is greener on the other side. What’s sad is that it’s not just with careers–it’s with relationships, families, and damn-near everything that we think other people are doing so much better, having so much more fun, living such a “high life” compared to our own drone of a life.

    You know, I actually wrote a poem about this some time ago, called Sliding Fences! It’s a little long, but of you’re ip for a good read, about a poem that speaks to this exact phenomenon, check it out here:


    Let me know what you think! :)

  10. femmefrugality
    30. Mar, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Interesting points at the end there: competition in glamorous fields drives the pay rate down. I remember being surprised when I first learned how much garbage men (sanitation workers?) make. Granted the guy loading the truck probably isn’t a millionaire, but he’s taking home a real decent salary.

  11. Barbara Friedberg
    04. Apr, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Paula, I’d like to revise your title to; work is not glamorous. Every job has it’s pros and cons. As you so aptly pointed out, even the glamorous jobs have hours and hours of drudgery behind the glamour. Think actors working 15 hour days doing retake after retake!

    • AffordAnything.org
      04. Apr, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

      @Barb – How perfect that you recently published “a day in the life of a trader” … another glamorous job that has lots of drudgery, early mornings and stress!

  12. Luis@wealthsteps
    04. Apr, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    I know some of those welding contractors that are millionaires. From that experience I can tell you that they have been doing their job for 20+ years and although their work is dirty, dangerous and requires no college degree it also requires many years to become good at it so those that have stuck it out make a LOT of money. I am talking about $100+ per hour plus bonuses…

  13. DeniseGabbard@WriteandGetPaid
    09. Apr, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    I love the Carrie Bradshaw mention– people have no idea what freelance writers really do. They probably do think we traipse around New York City in stilettos all weekend and only write for a few hours once a week!

    It reminds me of those pics that were going around on social media– what my clients think I do, what my Mom thinks I do, what I really do…those were funny:) and much more realistic.

    • AffordAnything.org
      09. Apr, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      @Denise -Exactly! Carrie Bradshaw was the craziest thing that ever happened to the public perception of freelance writers! I remember talking to a woman who was feeling trapped in her job, and she GUSHED about how awesome freelance writing must be, basing her entire perception off the Carrie Bradshaw image. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love it (otherwise I wouldn’t do it), but she definitely had the wrong idea!


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