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Hobby vs. Job.

One of the topics that come up from time to time is turning a hobby into a job, or a part-time job – people selling the things they are making.

One of the things that I always mention when this happens is the importance of calculating correctly. This means that if you would be working full-time in this new job, you should be able to make enough money to live off it. So you should calculate the price of your items accordingly – and that will give you a benchmark for what to ask, and should also give you an idea of whether turning your pastime into a job could work. Especially if you are thinking of quitting your current day job, you might want to check if you will be able to keep the standard of living that you are accustomed to, or if (and how much) you are willing to save in order to change to your new venture. Which means it’s probably a good idea to list how much money you are spending each month, and how much of that is fixed (which includes, for instance, rents and insurances) and how much is fluid. I had a conversation about this fairly recently, and it only took about three minutes of mentioning what all has to be paid by the income of what is made (such as health insurance, website costs, savings for old age, light and heating for the workspaces, and a gazillion other things) to get my conversation partner think really hard about whether this would be a good idea or not.

In case your numbers come out favourably, and you are planning to go full blast into your new venture, it’s also a good thing to keep in mind that your company will take some time to start up and to get known well enough to actually make money. Usually, it takes about two to three years for this – which means you should have some savings to keep you afloat during those lean times. Or start part-time, build up from there, and see if you can (and want) to go full-time after you are better established.

It may well be that, after looking at all these figures and doing the maths and thinking about it, you will prefer to leave things as they are – your day job as your day job, providing work and bread, and you hobby as just your pastime, providing fun and satisfaction (hopefully in addition to the satisfaction you get from your day job). And that is an absolutely valid decision. In fact, it may be the smartest decision in a lot of these cases.

One last thing that is sometimes forgotten, or not mentioned: If you turn your hobby into your work, you will lose the hobby. The way you look at things related to the hobby will change, and your whole attitude to this will change. It may stay fun work, but it will be work, and there will be days when you don’t enjoy it that much.

When I went ahead and turned Living History stuff into part of my job, it changed a lot for me. I knew that would happen, so I wasn’t surprised by it. However, the extent of the change actually did surprise me; I had not expected that much, and that deep of a change on how I look at things. It’s hard to pinpoint all the little and large aspects, and even harder to explain. It also does not mean that I don’t enjoy dressing in medieval garments and cooking food over an open fire and chat with people who do the same – but I’m still at my workplace, and I still have my professional hat on in some way, so it does feel very different from what it was before. So be aware that while trying to make money by doing something you love will not necessarily reduce that love, but it will most probably change things around it very much indeed.

There’s nothing wrong with having a hobby you enjoy and not making anything out of it except your own, personal enjoyment. That is what pastimes, hobbies, and holidays are for, after all: Personal enjoyment. Plus, while a part of your enjoyment may lie in getting better at what you are doing, part of what makes a hobby so enjoyable is that there is little pressure to achieve something within a certain time, or someone else expecting you to perform to a given standard. (Obviously, if your hobby is competing in some way, this may not be true – but it should still give you personal enjoyment, and that’s the point.)

Finally, there’s a very nice article about just that topic – letting a hobby stay a hobby – here. Enjoy – and let me know what you think!

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4 Responses to Hobby vs. Job.

  1. Heather says:

    Oi! Less of the “just”! 🙂

    Round here I now introduce my roles as, “I now work as X [registered professional] to pay for my archaeology habit.” People new to archaeology look startled, people more experienced nod sagely and congratulate me on achieving a balance with something that complements so well…

    • Katrin says:

      I was just trying to emphasise… 😉
      And I do know very well that something done as a hobby may be done with a lot of knowledge, experience, and to very high standards. There still is a vast difference to it being done as a job, though, on many levels, and often, the just actually is justified…

  2. Micky says:

    I couldn’t agree more!
    And I had a hard time finding new hobbies after I turned my hobby into a job… A “passion-job” that involves crafts takes up so much of your energy and time that you sometimes have to force yourself into taking a break! It’s a great path to tread, but not an easy one…

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