Calling 2020 a turbulent year is perhaps the biggest understatement in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic seemed to change the world overnight, altering the way we live and work, and stripping away access to the freedoms and pleasures many of us took for granted.
Over the years here at Crunch, we’ve seen thousands of people – motivated by circumstances beyond their control – decide to take the plunge and go self-employed. In fact, experience tells us that periods of economic downturn like we’re undergoing in 2020 usually result in an uptake in self-employment.
When it’s safe to do so, we’re expecting to see scores of people rushing back to the gym, spending a Friday night down the pub with their friends, and firing up the barbecue for a celebratory street party, but we’re also expecting to see a rise in the number of people going self-employed.
If you’re toying with the idea of turning your favourite hobby or greatest passion into your livelihood, here are some of the important questions you need to ask yourself before taking the plunge.
Hobbies and the work/life balance
Nobody should be dreading waking up in the morning. You deserve better than being stuck in a job you hate. One thing’s for sure, if this sounds like you, then you should plan your escape route – whatever it may be – as soon as you can. Why not turn your hobby into a career?
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. Whether you’re looking to go freelance, set up a limited company or become a sole trader, making your hobby your livelihood can be a messy business.
Hobbies are really important for personal growth and enjoyment, and the last thing you want to do is turn a form of escapism from the hustle, bustle, and grind of everyday life into something stressful and pressurised.
So, which category do 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.
Reasons why you SHOULDN’T turn your hobby your career
Anyone who’s ever gone self-employed has had to contend with the lingering “What ifs?” that come with breaking out on your own, leaving behind the steady nine-to-five and the guaranteed monthly paycheck.
When it comes to working with one of your greatest passions, however, there are a bunch of extra questions and doubts that will inevitably run through your mind. It’s not always pleasant facing these concerns, but you need to be sure that you can handle them before you turn your hobby into a career.
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’s 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.
Reasons why you SHOULD turn your hobby into a career
Enough with the negative thinking, though – it’s true that there are things you need to be wary of when you turn your hobby into your career, but there are also dozens of exciting positives, too.
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, or fail to keep yourself up to date with the latest skills and training, 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 your social media presence, 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 clamoring 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.”
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. Although, in our experience, local freelancers can often become valuable allies and even sources of leads or collaborators.
Also, ask your friends for advice – they know you the best and will have your best interests at heart. At Crunch, we started Crunch Chorus to help people who wanted to make a living doing what they love – why not join for free and take advantage of our Facebook group and meetups?
Alternatively, you can always dabble in some e-learning. E-learning has been on the rise for a number of years, offering accessible tutoring on a range of different skills. If you’re going self-employed but need to touch up some of the weaker areas of your game, here are a couple of resources that may prove helpful:
- Duolingo – a mobile and web app for learning languages, available for iPhone and Android. The current languages on offer include – but aren’t limited to – Spanish, Danish, Irish, French, German, Portuguese, Hindi, Esperanto, Japanese and Dutch.The app uses some clever gamification to inspire you on your way from unintelligible amateur to silver-tongued linguist. Work your way through increasingly tricky levels, spurred on by an endearing green owl, who rewards you for answering questions correctly by dancing round the screen to pleasant twinkly trumpet sounds.
- Canvas – an online learning platform designed to encourage teachers to develop new, interactive ways of providing education. All the courses available are currently free and range from foundational courses in reading, writing and maths, to more left field offerings like how to teach using the computer game, Minecraft.
- Lumosity – an online and app-based brain-training service developed by an expert team of neuroscientists. Currently used by over 60 million people, it’s proving to be a new favourite way to exercise our minds. The service allows you to develop your skills in memory, attention, speed, flexibility and problem solving.
- Memrise – similar to Canvas, but is more like a social network of learning. Anyone can submit their courses on a very wide range of topics, from accounting and finance, to capital cities and celebrity trivia. Courses are rated by the community to help you choose. There’s a broader offering on Memrise than on Canvas, which means you can find more ‘absolute beginner’ courses, if you’re looking to expand into a whole new area of expertise.
- Datacamp – an online learning tool designed to teach you how to be a data scientist. You’ll learn everything you need, from how to use the programming language ‘R’, to basic computational finance and financial econometrics. Running in a very similar way to the Codecademy courses, Datacamp’s modules are set out in chapters and subsections, intuitively organised to help you progress with ease. This one’s really not for the faint-hearted.
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.
Fools rush in
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. Don’t forget that freelancing on the side means you’ll need to pay tax on your extra income.
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.
Ready to get started?
If you’re ready to take the plunge and go self-employed, Crunch can help. Not only can we form your new company on your behalf, but we can also offer you a suite of online accountancy packages tailored to your business and the unique challenges you’ll face.
If you’d like to learn more about the Crunch platform and the various packages we offer, why not give our team of friendly advisors a call? They’ll be able to answer your questions, help you figure out what package and services would be right for you, and help you take your next step into the excited world of self-employment.