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Why You Should NOT Turn Your Hobbies Into A Business

There is a TON of advice out there about how to monetize your hobbies and why you should think like an entrepreneur. But... that's not always great advice. Let's explore why you may not want to be so quick to start a new side-hustle.

Man holding a camera in front of his face
Blake Reichenbach

Blake Reichenbach

He/ Him/ His pronouns. Blake is a writer, gym addict, dog dad, researcher, and general life enthusiast. He's passionate about helping others reach their goals and live happier, more fulfilling lives.


Hey everyone, this is Blake. I'm the owner and editor of this website. And today I wanted to talk to you a little bit about why you shouldn't try and turn your hobbies into a business or a side hustle. When you're looking around online, there's tons and tons and tons of information about how to turn your hobbies and interest into a side hustle. 

There's also a ton of information about why you should. In fact, if you look on Reddit or just do a basic Google search, you're going to see tons and tons and tons and tons and tons and tons and tons of people telling you that if you're not turning your hobbies and side hustles into a business you're doing something wrong, and they have tons of advice about how to do it.

If you ask these people who are adamant about turning your hobbies into a side hustle what to do, they're going to list off a ton of ideas that may or may not be relevant to you or to your interests. And if you spend a lot of time in these forums, you're going to see that there are a lot of people who are adamant about this idea of monetizing your hobbies, who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. 

And so that's what we're going to dig into today– we're going to look at this mentality of "monetize everything", and why that's not always going to be a very good idea. 

If you've been around the Self-Himprovement website for a while, or if you're an OG from back when it was BlakeWrites, you probably know this type of audio article is not our go-to for content, but we've got a couple of reasons for recording this one and publishing it with a transcript, instead of writing out our standard long-form blog post. 

And that ladies, gentlemen, non binary folks, is because in the coming weeks, we're going to be launching our podcast. 

In the past we've teased around the idea of having a podcast but didn't really pull the strings together to make it come to fruition. Now with our book Big Picture Living: A Guide to Finding Fulfillment (Even when Everything Sucks), available, which I should put an asterisk there and say it's available at shop.selfhimprovement.com. But with our book available we wanted to revisit some of these topics. 

You know, I wrote Big Picture Living because at the time, and especially with the state that we were in while in quarantine with COVID, it really felt like the right time to take some of the lessons that I had collected about fulfillment and purpose and distill them down into a book. And as time has gone on and as I've continued to implement those ideas and iterate upon them. I feel like I have a lot more to say about the topic. So in our upcoming podcast we're going to be revisiting a lot of the same content that's within the book and expanding upon it and exploring new elements of it that weren't discussed in detail in the Big Picture Living book. So, we're going to be looking at really fun topics like insight and self awareness, shame and shame resilience, what it means to have a direction and purpose in life, and also how you can figure out what the hell your direction and purpose is. 

The details for that will be coming out soon. Please keep an eye on our social channels and here on the website for more information about when and where you can find that podcast. On our all of our social media channels, we are selfhimprovement. Our Twitter handle is a little bit abbreviated to "selfhimprove" because you know, Twitter character limits. 

With that out of the way, let's jump back into this topic about monetizing hobbies.

As we as we get into it, I want to give a quick heads up that if you hear some yawning or some very squelchy licking sounds, my puppy is seated right next to me. He does not leave my side, and he's deaf, so he has no idea how loud he's being– so hopefully the mic doesn't pick up on that too much and he continues to nap. 

But anyway, when it comes to this mentality of if you're good at something monetize it... You know it seems like, especially here in the United States, we've really internalized the aphorism of if you're good at something, don't do it for free. You know, wedefine success as making money. Being successful at something means that you're profiting off of it. And in my opinion that's a really narrow view of success. 

I completely recognize that I'm speaking from a position of privilege when I say that money isn't everything and that making money isn't everything, because I completely recognize that for many people, every opportunity to make money is something that you have to take advantage of, because that might mean the difference between paying your rent that month or putting food on the table. And I really want to specify that I'm not talking about survival right now. I'm not talking about working and being innovative and creative as a means of meeting your basic needs. 

Instead, I'm talking more about the culture of folks (which I should add it's especially prominent among men in the entrepreneurship and startup space) I see it all the time. Among that demographic especially you know towards the younger end of you know 20 to 28, maybe I would say even up to like 35, but I'm speaking specifically about people who have their needs met, in some way, you know, they typically refer to like their day job. They're traditionally employed at another at another company or another business, and they have a means of income that way, that meets most of their basic needs, and probably even some of their wants and still among this demographic there's this really strong push to be innovative and be an entrepreneur or whatever cost.

I was on Reddit a couple of weeks ago, and for all the shit that Reddit gets it's really a pretty fine social media platform. Plus, with the way that content is curated, I can, I can block out a lot of what I don't want to interact with. So, like right now, for example, I am so burnt out on politics and partisan bickering. I feel like, at this point, I'm not going to convince anybody to swing left, and sure as hell, no one's going to convince me to swing right. 

So, I feel like that which is kind of the the standard right now on social media, it's all that I see when I log into Facebook, that's a much easier avoided on Reddit. Plus on Reddit, it's a bit more accommodating for conversational interactions and long form content, which is really, really my bread and butter, especially with my background and coaching. 

But I was on Reddit a couple of weeks ago. And there was a gentleman who made a post about how he had been tinkering with creating his own beard oils and pommade– his own grooming products– and he was tossing around whether or not he shouldn't make that into a business. 

I had a conversation with him and inquired a little bit about what his thoughts were with making it a business. And what he went on to explain was that you know this person in this friend group had told him that he could make a killing because of the quality of its products and he had read this article on Forbes and this other article entrepreneur and this other article and on and on about how all of these external influences were sending the message like, hey, you've got something you're good at, you've got something that could be quality; you should go in to starting a business you should go in to monetizing that shit. And the more I spoke with him about it, the more I realized that all of his influences, were external. 

At no point during the conversation Did I hear him say anything like, oh, I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur, or I would love to be my own boss, or you know I've always wanted to have my own business. 

(Sorry that background noise was my dog he has perfect pitch for a deaf baby.)

But anyways, the this guy on Reddit he never really said that he wanted to be an entrepreneur, never said that he wanted to start his own business. And the more we spoke about it, I decided to be a bit more direct than I would if I would have been speaking to him in a coaching session. But what I advised him was, if there is a specific reason that you want to go into business and take on everything that comes with that territory. So you know, having to do essentially HR work if you're hiring people and dealing with marketing, fulfillment, scaling, and building a website and getting your website out there and build an organic traffic creating content for your website writing copy for your website, you know, investing in an e commerce platform if that's the route you go. 

That's like... if that appeals to you, if you have goals for yourself that are rooted in being your own boss and being an entrepreneur, then by all means, take time, educate yourself, and really invest in making sure that you're prepared to do so. 

If, however, this is something that you just enjoy, and you like doing for yourself. That's okay. There's nothing wrong with having a hobby, there's nothing wrong with doing things that you enjoy. 

Of course, I was, I was more more metered in my response to him on Reddit, but that was the gist of my message. If it's something you enjoy doing then, what's wrong with just enjoying it, you know once you introduce business and making money into an equation, things change the nature of what you're doing, changes. 

The example that I always give is back a few years ago I was fresh out of undergrad and working at a local university, and I absolutely hated the work that I was doing, I went into the role with the expectation that I would be focused on advising and helping students be successful in their academic career. I was a think my title was Academic Services Coordinator, and it was essentially pitched as like a academic advisor role. Turns out, the role was 99.99% clerical work, and like, 0.01% advising, and so I spent all day every day just updating and cleaning files, and being yelled at by students about things that I had no control over. 

If you ever want to hear some really great stories about the type of thing students would yell at me about, let me know. I've got you. 

But anyways, I hated the work that I was doing as an academic advisor. And so after a year I decided to take some time off, and resigned from that position, and just do freelance writing. Because in my mind, you know, I'm a writer. I love to write. I love the creative process. And so it just made sense to me like this is what I love, I should make money off of it. And I started getting a couple of clients while I was still working at the university, and it was great, you know I specifically had some clients in the high-end men's fashion industry. I would come home from work. I would do yoga. I would decompress, and then I would sit down and I would open up my computer and think like, "wow this is crazy I'm getting paid $50 to write an inconsequential article about underwear, and why micro modal fabric is great for men's underwear. This is phenomenal." 

But once I resigned (from the university) and started freelancing full-time that became less phenomenal. Suddenly that hour and a half or two hours I would spend writing for fun– and just happening to earn $50 from– suddenly that was my income and, it turns out, when you live in a major city, you have to write a lot of $50 articles to make ends meet. And that means taking on a lot of jobs that aren't really of interest to you, and are in industries that you could not care less about.  

I would have weeks as a freelancer, where I was bouncing back and forth, writing about men's underwear and then, heavy machinery and construction equipment, and then yoga, and then back to underwear. And then I was sending out pitches trying to write for more publications, and I was answering emails of someone saying, "hey I'll pay you $2 to write a 5000-word article", you know, so, so much that I had not anticipated. 

Before making that my primary source of income–– and it was really a lesson for me that having your own business and being a good writer, like those are two completely different skill sets. They could not be more different. 

And I think that's something that a lot of people don't realize. There's so much that goes into turning a hobby into a business that it stops just being the hobby. When writing was my sole source of income and it was completely dependent upon how many clients I could lay it and how much writing I could do in a day. I wasn't just writing the process of sitting down to write did not feel creative and generative. It didn't feel intrinsically rewarding. It felt like a chore. Like, I would have rather gone and scrubbed my kitchen from top to bottom, and washed all of my dishes by hand, with a single bristle paintbrush. I don't even know if that's a thing but I would have rather have done that, than write some of the articles that I was writing to try and make ends meet. And if you've read Big Picture Living, you know that I really didn't make ends meet. I think my profit– I have to double-check with the book to confirm, but I think my profit at the end of my full time freelancing tenure was like $27 when I compared my operating expenses to the amount that I actually made writing for clients. 

So, I'm very glad (laughter) very glad that freelancing is no longer my sole source of income. That's not for me. But I was in a position where learning that lesson was relatively safe. You know, I had a decent amount of money in my savings, and I was still young, like, if the absolute worst possible scenario would have occurred. I know that I could have up and move back to my parents house and gone to their basement and gotten back on my feet. 

So, when I learned that lesson the hard way it was in a relatively safe position. But if you take the internet's word for it. There are a lot of people that they– they meaning these nebulous voices on the internet– a lot of people that they advise to drop what they're doing and start their own business. When that could be a really, really bad move for some people. 

So, I would really like to challenge you to, if you start to have this inclination of "hey, I'm having fun with this hobby, maybe I should look for ways to monetize it," ask yourself if what you're feeling is actually the desire to be successful in your field. 

And if you're defining success as making money, because I think that there's a lot of room here to redefine success in a way that is much more rewarding than just success, equals profit. You know, when you think about what it means to be successful. I would say rather than striving for being profitable, strive for being balanced. And I know that is such a like New Age hippie thing to say, but in all sincerity, that is going to be so much better for you in the long run than, you know, putting all of your energy and emotional energy and your willpower into trying to start up a business and then hating what you're doing.

When I talk about balance, I'm not talking about some type of cosmic, or metaphysical state of being. Though, I suppose it could include that. Instead, when we're talking about balance, what I'm talking about is living your life in a way that you are aligned with your values and being considerate of the totality of your being, which, again, I know that that is like such New Age language. But you are so much more than the money that you make. You have a physical body, you have emotions, you have social instincts and social needs, you have romantic and sexual needs. You have so much more to you than your ability to make money. 

When you're balanced, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are excelling in everything and at the absolute you know peak and Pinnacle in every single area of your life. 

Instead, it means that you are being thoughtful and considerate about how you're spending time,, making sure that your body is physically stimulated, and that you're rested, and you're well fed, and you have meaningful relationships with others in a variety of forms you know friends, family, romantic partners. 

It means that you're caring for yourself, spiritually, which, if you're a religious person that might mean you know being involved in your particular religion. If you're not particularly religious then, you know, you probably define spirituality, a little bit differently. I would say you know it's being in touch with your higher self, and it's engaging in those activities that make you feel like you're part of something much bigger. 

I often think about Willa Cather's novel My Ántonia, which is without debate the single greatest novel ever created. That is not up for argument. Do not come for me in the comments. But, In the early chapters of My Ántonia, Cather writes, "that was happiness- to be dissolved in something complete and great." 

I might have gotten that quotation slightly wrong, but I'm 98% sure that that's what she says. But, you know, for me, when I am among the mountains, and I'm disengaged from electronics and social media, I feel like I can sense my place in the universe. And as crazy as that sounds, I have such a sense of peace when I can see mountains, and just be present in that moment, and enjoy what I'm seeing. For me, that is a spiritual activity. It stimulates me creatively, it helps me think about how I relate to others in a more meaningful way. It makes me think more empathetically about how I relate to others. 

And so, you know, exploring all of these aspects of your life, and giving them intentionality, and energy so that you're not just doing one thing you know you're not just at work you're not just in the gym, you're not just a couch potato who sitting there in your underwear, eating pizza rolls and playing video games (speaking from my own experience). 

You know it's a state of being all of those things at once, and positioning them in a way so that they aren't overpowering and taking away from each other. And instead, are enhancing each other. They aren't in conflict with each other they're in harmony that that is balance. And when you're operating from a state of balance. You're going to care for yourself better, physically, emotionally and mentally, you're going to have a better mental space to perform in all of these areas of your life. And I think that with our hobbies, especially the ones that we really enjoy and want to consider monetizing, one of the absolute best things we can do is give ourselves room to experiment and grow and explore. 

And, you know, pardon my language but being willing to fuck up is so magical, it's so rewarding to give no fucks about the outcome because you enjoy the process. When you're approaching your hobbies from a state of balance and understanding, excuse me, understanding that what you're doing is a long term element of growing and developing and getting more harmony with these areas of your life like when you're doing that, it's okay to fuck up, it's okay to make mistakes, it's okay to play. And that is so, so rewarding and it feels great. 

You know, I, I haven't really written fiction, in a long time. It's been a hot minute. And for a while I would try and look at some of the fiction projects that I started and dip my toes back into them, and just kind of feel like, eh, I don't know. I don't know if I want to get back into this. This is so much work. This is so much energy. But within the last couple of weeks I've been thinking more and more about this idea of just playing and being willing to fuck up, and recognizing that what I'm doing doesn't have to be like, ready to go to market and, you know, I don't have to create while thinking about pitching to agents and editors and publishing houses and all of that shit. 

Over the last couple of weeks I've started this new fiction project. And I'm only like 10 pages into it, I suppose. I'm having so much fun. And it's absurd– like I recognize that some of the stuff that I'm writing is absurd, and some of it stilted, some of its dry. But, I don't care. I'm just having fun with it. I'm just playing. I'm just experimenting to see what I can do, and how I can do it in different ways with language. And it has been so amazing. 

I actually put off recording this and editing the transcript for this because I wanted to write– because I wanted to put my energy into that fiction project, which is currently in my Google Docs just under the name "fiction project."  

It's the first time in a long time that I felt myself in a state of flow. And that's something I talked about quite a bit in Big Picture Living. When you're in a state of flow, that's a pretty strong signal that you're on the right track for something that is rewarding for you, and aligned with your core values and your core purpose. 

So, with all of that being said, Let me wrap this up by issuing you a challenge. And that challenge is, when you're reading this content that says monetize monetize monetize profit, and you're thinking about whether or not you want to convert your hobbies into a stream of revenue. 

Take a step back, Take some time to do some reflective journaling and ask yourself if what you really want is to feel like you are a success in that area of your life. And if that is in fact true– if what you want is success rather than you know having a need for money– ask yourself how you're defining success. Success Excuse me. 

How could you redefine success? Are you operating from a position of balance, or a position of want? 

So, that's my challenge for you tonight. I hope that having this audio episode has been a refreshing change of pace. And again, this is part announcement, and part practice for me, for our upcoming podcasts, title TBD. But stay tuned for more updates on the podcast, and as always, thank you so much for checking out our content. 


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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