That’s the brilliant way that writer Molly Conway puts it, the old advice that bears repeating: When you’re good at something, people will tell you to turn it into your job, but you don’t have to. You probably don’t want to. Doing something for money is very different than doing it for fun. Still, in the modern world, whenever we see someone’s talent, we encourage them to use it to make money. Conway talks about meeting a woman who made her own dress:
“Wow!” I said. “It’s gorgeous. Do you have an Etsy shop or…?” And suddenly, it was like all the light went out of the room. She looked down despairingly. “No,” she sighed. “Everyone keeps telling me I should, but I just wouldn’t know where to start.” I recognised the look of a woman suddenly overwhelmed by people’s expectations of her.
Giving yourself a retail job
I love a side hustle. My hobbies — blogging, podcasting, making comedy videos, even tweeting — have all become my job. I even contributed to a book called The Hustle Economy: Transforming Your Creativity Into a Career. So believe me when I tell you: Your hobby is also allowed to be completely useless.
Hold onto the joy
If it’s not really the money you want, but the opportunity to expand your hobby, you can find a lot of other outlets that will heighten your joy, not displace it. Find a club of other hobbyists, to swap work or share advice or compete.
Join a forum or subreddit or Facebook group or Discord chat. Start some social accounts to show off your work and follow fellow hobbyists. Blog about your process, or put making-of videos online, or podcast about it—but only if it adds to your joy and doesn’t eat away at the time spent on the hobby itself.
If people show interest, teach others how to do what you do. If there’s no club, start your own. Find people who will teach you new tricks, or who can help you tackle a big project that you couldn’t do on your own. Maybe they know a better bird-watching spot or found the perfect wood glue or want to practice drawing by illustrating your writing.
You can make custom items, or give custom performances, to friends and family instead of to clients. If you’re actually very good at it, use your hobby as a gift. Challenge yourself by doing a project for someone important to you. If you find you don’t like doing commissions for someone else, you can quit a lot easier than you would when there’s a financial transaction.
If you want some recognition or you want to test your talent, perform at open mics, submit to contests, and find ways to do your stuff in public that don’t revolve around money. Some of us seriously thrive on competition or a little bit of stress, but capitalism is only one form of that. A $20 prize from a local fair can mean a lot more than $200 earned from an Etsy shop.
And if you’re not good at your hobby, who’s going to tell you that your homemade jewellery was a terrible Christmas present? If it doesn’t matter to you if you’re good at your hobby, then you don’t actually need honest feedback. You might just need to find someone who will appreciate what you do, or who wants to do the same thing alongside you.
Take the compliment
When people see how good you are at something, they will inevitably bring up doing it for money. They’re just trying to compliment you, to express the value of your work, or at worst, to make conversation. Take the compliment. Explain that your hobby is for fun, and you don’t want to endanger that fun. And steer the conversation back toward the thing itself, what you like about it, what it’s taught you.
And any time you feel guilty about not turning your hobby into a job, re-read the intro to Conway’s piece, ride its waves of emotion, and cherish your un-monetized joy.
The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles | Man Repeller