“Never turn your hobby into a job” is a pithy piece of advice handed out for free by well-meaning folk apparently to those hobbyists on the brink of entrepreneurial catastrophe. My gut reaction is to reject this notion. Often what is proffered as sound advice is rather the bitter whine of someone who lives in regret. I have never heard a real entrepreneur give this advice. But there it is. A chilling warning that is known world-wide. So let us take a closer look at this verbal dose of nasty medicine and see if there is some truth to it.
A Person Needs a Job and a Hobby
The rationale is that once your hobby becomes a job you are now stuck in a miserable life of administration and money worries. To make matters worse you no longer have a hobby to help you relax after a tedious day at work…mmm. Sounds like a whiner to me. But let’s dig deeper.
Do You Need a Nasty Job to Enjoy a Hobby?
That may be a silly question. Instinctively you think “No, of course I can enjoy my work and have a hobby too.” But what if you hate your work and you would rather enjoy your work? Then you would not need a hobby to stay sane, but could choose to have a hobby just for the fun of it. Would it not be better if people loved their work in the first place? Is it reasonable to say that if you monetize your hobby and make that your business, you have a good chance of enjoying your work? I think so.
What is the Lie?
The real issue has nothing to do with turning your hobby into a job. Personally I have been making art since I was six. Clearly my hobby was drawing. Then came painting. I did these passionately after school. Then after work. One day I decided to make painting my business. How did this turn into a good thing? If the theory was correct I should be very unhappy having lost my hobby for a job. Am I the exception proving the rule? No, I don’t think so. Many businesses fail. Hobbies have nothing to do with this. Also many people are happily doing business with their former hobby.
The lie is that a hobby turned business will make you unhappy. The truth is that whatever makes you happy as a hobby should continue to make you happy as a business provided you keep this in mind:
Here is the Real Problem
The real issue is not the hobby. The real issue is that the hobbyist knows everything about the hobby, but not enough about business. But do not accept my word on this. Rather consider the excellent book by Michael Gerber called the E-myth Revisited. In this seminal work Gerber argues that the problem with experts-turned-entrepreneurs is that these experts remain technicians. The hobbyist (technician) carries on working in his new job as the expert at whatever the hobby entails. However he ignores the business. Result? Another failed business. Much stress and blame and so on.
Michael Gerber says that the entrepreneur must see the business as a separate and distinct living entity. The business is not the technician. The business is separate from him or her. Therefore two personalities are required. You as an entrepreneur and you as the technician. When you wear your entrepreneur hat you are working ON your business. Not IN your business. The business needs special attention as a business.
I have to run my art business just like most other businesses. When that is done I can put on my artist (technician) hat and paint. By learning about business and marketing I have a good chance of having a successful business. By doing something I also love such as painting I also get to enjoy the actual work in the business..
It is a balance.
Gerber also supports the idea of establishing a system to run your business consistently. Like a franchise that follows a formula at every store. So too the artist entrepreneur can have a system for giving consistent attention to the business.
Start Now and Build a System
Work on a side-business to test the water. Grow slowly and consistently. Work smart using technology and use time better. Get rid of time wasting activities like TV. Instead learn about ways to work on your business. Through persistence and desire you can make your hobby into a rewarding business. Many have done it before you. Why not you too?
What Does a System Look Like?
To MacDonalds the system is the same fast food sold and served in every store worldwide. "Do you want fries with that?" is a question asked by every sales staff member in every MacDonalds. The system works.
For you the system may consist of marketing your art though blog posts once a week. Followed by a sale or exhibition every quarter. Topics and themes worked out in advance with an overall strategy to target a particular audience. A calendar of events and activities for at least the next six months ensure a consistent approach.
I cover a series of strategies and tactics in my book and course, Content Marketing for the Creative Soul. It is not an overnight thing. This is the long game for people serious about building a business. With one BIG difference. It is a business based on something you love doing every day. Is that worth it to you?
Only you know the truth, but do not let negative comments hold you down. All things are possible if you focus on achieving them over time.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments if you have an experience to relate on this topic.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa