Do Not Mistake Your Hobby as a Business

Remember hobbies? Those things our grandparents did in their free time for no other reason other than they loved the way they felt when they did it?

Gardening. Woodworking. Baking. Beading.

These are hobbies.

They are done because it feels good to do them. There is satisfaction and fulfillment gained when you engage with these activities. You produce something beautiful – even if it’s just the feeling inside.

Where did hobbies go?

They went the way working late, video games, marathon television sessions and endless evenings guzzling beverages with friends at yet another happy hour.

They got shoved aside and put off only to be seen in common refrains like, “When I retire, I’m going to raise chickens and grow herbs.”

And they got reassigned as work.

Between the contemporary media, which loves to highlight the rarified individual that makes bank by, say, selling bedspreads hand sewn by orphan pigmies, and the scores of online gurus encouraging you to ‘pursue your passion’ as income – we are inundated with the message that work is play, and play is work.

But, hello, it is not.

A hobby is not work. Work is not a hobby.

This seems obvious, but do not be fooled. I have encountered countless individuals that have tried their hand at starting a business that merged the hobby-business divide only to see their crumpled face months or years later if it failed. They are confused. They are sad. They are ashamed.

They feel like their hobby failed them, or that they failed their hobby. And either way, it’s heartbreak.

Not only is their bank account empty, their partner/spouse frustrated and their spirits shot, but now they’ve lost the thing that would normally have brought them solace and joy in down times. 

I say it all the time to friends and clients and I’ll share it here: Just because you love to do something doesn’t mean it should become a business.

So be careful the charlatans that lure you in promising fortune and freedom if you quit your job and pursue your passion. Be wary of the daydreams that taunt you with the vision of easy days, a big bank account and nothin’ but the pursuit of whim and desire.

It is not worth losing what gives you joy in life for a few bucks in the bank.

Here’s a better idea: Start small. Test the waters. Test yourself. Check in periodically to see if what you’ve made into a business is what you want to grow.

I’ve had at least a dozen side hustles quietly disappear because I didn’t want to lose my love for what started as a hobby: making artisan soap, teaching yoga, paddleboard lessons and embroidering, to name a few. In each case I was so enraptured with doing the thing that I took it up a notch and made money at it. In each case, I felt less joy for the activity and more burden. 

The love did not grow. So I let it go.

That’s the beauty of starting small. Try it out. Make a few bucks. If you don’t enjoy it,let it go. 

If you love it and loving it feels good, then feed it, grow it and let it evolve into the right size for you.

But please, if you find yourself going down la-la lane and dreaming of quitting your job to pursue a career in baking cakes, give me a call. We'll figure out together if launching a cake business is your calling or if it's my job to keep you from jumping off the cliff and losing what might be the best darn hobby you have.