Stage 1: Strictly Volunteer
Everything you do is on your own dime. You may be invited to speak at conferences, to appear on TV or radio, or to consult with NHL teams, agents, or media organizations, but none of it is paid - not even your expenses. Even your writing is unpaid, or has bare minimum compensation (i.e. 2 cents per word, or less). This stage will cost you money.
Stage 2: Breaking Even
Eventually, many people find ways to pay for their hobby. Whether it's ad revenue for their own websites, donations and patrons, increased pay for written work, or the sales of a book, product, or a service, this stage is reached when there's enough money coming in to cover expenses, but not enough to quit your day job.
Stage 3: Getting Paid
Ever since the 2014 "summer of analytics," many hobbyists have advanced into stage three, which involves actually getting paid for their work, either in a front office, with mainstream media, a well-funded website, or with a third party consulting company (possibly of their own creation). It is just barely enough to live on, but far less than what they would make in another field.
Stage 4: Career
This stage is reached when some job security has been achieved, either through full-time employment with benefits, or from a regular and guaranteed consulting assignment, at the very least. Furthermore, it's at this stage that the compensation begins to rival what someone with the same skills, experience, and qualifications would earn in another field.
Stage 5: The Boss
Finally, there's the stage where the former hobbyist is in charge, and making the decisions. Now, they're the ones with a budget to work with, and they're the ones selecting hobbyists to move up the lower stages. In essence, it's all part of a cycle.
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