You often hear ‘if something seems too good to be true, it probably is’, but when it comes to choosing a career path, it’s not quite as black and white as that. That big decision of whether to turn a hobby into a career is a godsend for some lucky folks, but for other poor souls, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
So, which category would you fall into? Well, it depends on what type of hobby you have, and whether you’re the right person for the full-time career version of it. Hopefully, you’ll have a better idea after taking these pointers into consideration.
Why you shouldn’t make your hobby your career
“If there’s always biscuits in the tin, where’s the fun in biscuits?”
– Gary Strang (Men Behaving Badly)
The novelty might wear off
Have a long think about why you enjoy your hobby so much – is it because it’s an escape from the mundanity and monotony of working? Taking it up as a profession could very well remove any sense of novelty and spontaneity it used to have.
Is the activity going to be as fun when you’ve done it over and over? Or to put it differently, would your favourite song still be your favourite song if you had to listen to it multiple times a day, every day?
No room for mistakes
Monetising your hobby means that you’re seriously reducing the margin for error. The freedom to make mistakes becomes much more restricted when you’re answering to a paying customer who expects the very best from you every time. On that note, do you really have the composure to deal with someone who thinks they know better than you, telling you how to do the thing you’ve been passionately doing for years?
Having a creative slump
If your dream job relies on you being creative, be wary that that creativity can always dry up, leaving you workless. The best people in every industry experience their own form of writer’s block at some point, but will you be able to put food on the table if you’re not producing to your normal standard? There’s a very high chance that you won’t find your situation quite so relaxing after all.
Hugh Salmon, who ran a short-lived cassette-based music magazine ‘SFX’ in the early 80’s, told the HuffPost of his waning passion for the industry he’d grown up in love with.
“I meet youngsters, fresh out of uni, keen to make the most of their lives. And so many say to me ‘I am sporty. I want to work in sports marketing’. Or ‘I like food. I want to own a restaurant’. Or ‘I’m into music. I want to be in the music business’. And I think ‘No. Please – no. Don’t do it. Don’t risk the loss of that which you love. Don’t make your leisure your business. Don’t make your hobby your job.”
But not everyone is the same, and not everyone has the same experiences. Who knows, a different person might have relished Salmon’s career, or adapted to keep it fresh. Such cynicism might suggest that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t the right path for him after all.
Why you SHOULD make your hobby your career
“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
– Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation)
You’re hitting the ground running
If you pick a job in an industry you’re truly passionate about, you’ll have a head-start knowing who you’re aiming your service at, what your competitors are doing, and what problem you’re solving.
With a genuine interest in the progression of your field, you’ll hopefully not get complacent with your market research, either.
Pushing yourself forward
Some people are just way more productive under pressure. Having targets and bank balance looming over you may also serve as a catalyst to you really upping your game and becoming a go-to industry expert. With plenty of expertise and opinion to share, you could promote your business through blogs, interviews and even podcasts.
People will often ask you – if you’re doing your hobby for a job, what will you do for a hobby? Well, get another hobby, of course! It’s a bit patronising to assume that removing your primary vocational interest will result in you aimlessly clamouring for a way to fill your spare time. Read more. Learn more. Make things. See people. The world’s your oyster (providing that you actually end up with any spare time!)
Life is way too short to not spend it doing something you enjoy. Sure, you might start to take it for granted, but as Confucius (apparently) said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Fools rush in
First things first – nobody should be dreading waking up in the morning. You deserve better than being stuck in a job you hate. One thing is for sure, if this sounds like you, then you should plan your escape route – whatever it may be – as soon as you can.
Hobbies are really important for personal growth and enjoyment, and putting a dampener on the thing you enjoy most can be a depressing experience. Rather than making your hobby your career, it might be the case that the best job for you is the one that you’re really good at, but also gives you enough time and freedom to pursue your hobby on the side.
Just because you love doing something, doesn’t mean you’ll be better at it than your competitors, or that people will pay you to do it. Regardless of your chosen profession, it’s wise to pick up some clients in your spare time before going in headfirst and turning a hobby into a career. Testing the milk is always smarter than taking a massive glug and realising it’s rotten.
Self-employment, for its many advantages, takes a great deal of self-discipline. Only you can truly answer the question of whether you have the passion and patience it takes to succeed. But with all this in mind, if you’ve read this entire article and are convinced that turning your hobby into a full-time career is the right move for you, then congratulations. This may well be the best decision you ever make.
Someone, somewhere in the world will inevitably be doing something similar to what you’re aspiring to do, so why not reach out to them? If you don’t want to awkwardly approach local competitors, speak to someone online on the other side of the world. Also, ask your friends for advice – they know you the best and will have your best interests at heart.
For the rest, it’s easy to get caught up waiting for the “right time”. Check out our downloadable jargon-free business guides for everything you need to know about starting your own business doing something you love.
Gary Men Behaving Badly image via John Keogh