The Reality of Turning a Hobby into a Living

The other day, I tripped over another one of those articles that talks about real-life people who left their button-down, very corporate sorts of jobs to live the dream; that is, to be able to make hobbies and avocations about which they feel particularly passionate more than hobbies and avocations, and actually turn them into primary sources of income.  You’ve probably seen articles like that from time to time, and this one is easy on the eyes – lots of pictures, with brief write-ups about each of the principals mentioned.  You can find it at the online home of Outside magazine, which I happen to enjoy very much.  Here’s the link to it:

These kinds of articles are fun to read, and can even be rather inspiring for some, but the important takeaway  that people too often miss is that those who are duplicating the success they had in their previous lines of work are doing so by continuing to bust their asses in their new ones.  At a core level, hard work remains hard work, regardless of whether your minute-to-minute or hour-to-hour tasks are more enjoyable than those normally encountered throughout corporate America.

In my circle, I not infrequently come across the person who tried to turn his laid-back hobby into a profession but failed because he was ultimately incapable of divorcing his hobbyist outlook from the reality that what he’s now doing has to be able to pay that pesky mortgage.  While reading the article referenced above, there were two things that noticeably stuck out to me from the write-up on Cliff Hodges, the electrical engineer-turned-adventure outfitter: he has 20 employees, and he’s still working 12-hour days.      

I sometimes say that those who fell out from the conversion process bought into the myth of trading Sunday for Monday.  Yes, you can make a living as an adventure guide, a mountain bike coach, or a surfing instructor; however, prosecuting those interests as businesses on Monday is not the same thing as enjoying them recreationally on Sunday.     

What the subjects of the success stories noted in the Outside article “get” that not everyone else does is that there are certain immutable realities of being a viable, performing business that apply whether you’re spending a significant portion of your day behind a desk or on a surfboard.  Those that do see it are the ones who end up making it work, and my hat is off to them.

One thought on “The Reality of Turning a Hobby into a Living

  1. I fully understand your reauctlnce to go the self-hosting route. I share the same concern about priorities. This is an ongoing problem for me too. I much prefer to focus on interaction supported by online tools. I too try to stay away from tinkering with the tools more than I have in the past, though occasionally I do succumb and encounter something truly useful and not just a solution in search of a problem.


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