Have you ever experienced the following dialogue?
‘What have you done this weekend?’
‘Oh, poor you! What did you have to do?’
‘I have painted [replace with anything you like to do, like ‘written a blog, arranged flowers, done charity work, etc.’]
‘Ah, so you’ve only worked on your personal project’ *gracious smile*
If I have this conversation with someone I have to admit I often lose my temper, reminding the person that I don’t do it for free. But then, would it make a difference if I did it for free?
There is a certain idea about so-called ‘work’ in people’s heads: it is a means of earning money (preferably enough to make a living), and more often than not an activity, which they don’t like doing, but have to, for some reason.
From hobby to work, from work to hobby?
Let’s face it, the above case is a simple misconception. Just because people enjoy what they do, it remains work and deserves nobody’s contempt. Those who love their jobs have to get up early, finish their tasks on time and account for their results just as much as those who hate it.
The luky ones who enjoy their work come from 2 groups. One way to love your job is to start working at a certain profession, then grow to love it so much that it becomes a hobby. The other way is to have a hobby, which you do more and more professionally, until it becomes your job.
There are many ways you can differentiate a job from a hobby, but earning money is not necessarily one of them. Obviously, once you quit your day-job and start making a living out of your hobby, the whole world thinks of it as work, but the other way round is different: if you do anything that is unpaid, it remains a hobby in people’s heads. Quite wrongly.
A good example is Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, pray love, who worked as a waitress at the beginning of her career, but kept writing during the evenings. Publishers declined her work for years, yet she didn’t degrade her work to a mere hobby. Not to mention, she called herself a ‘writer’ instead of a ‘waitress with a passion for writing’.
The difference between work and hobby
Okay, so just because you earn money with it, a hobby doesn’t become work. So what makes it work? Even though I still need a day-job to cover my expenses beside my illustration business, I already have some experience in differentiating between ‘work’ and ‘hobby’. The most important question is how you yourself look at the project. This seems very simple, but if you look at your activity from a professional angle, then you have goals with deadlines attached to them, you account for your results and you have a clearly defined a strategy to reach your goals.
People do their work even if they do not feel like it, when they are not motivated or inspired. My hobby is dancing ballet, which I currently cannot find time to do, but can always get back to in a few months time.
So I think work can be defined through your approach. Work is something you do to a deadline, and something you do even if you feel uninspired.
What happens when it really becomes your work?
Deep down everybody dreams of a life where work and hobby are one and the same thing, but this is actually more difficult than you think – and this time I’m not thinking about the legal matters that come with running a business.
In fact, you take great weight on your shoulders by putting your hobby on sale: you need to stick with it in all circumstances. This means also when you don’t feel like it, when you are uninspired, when you haven’t got time for it, your living depends on the activity that used to be just a hobby. It is possible that in the process of coping with all the difficulties you grow to hate the whole thing and lose passion for an activity that used to give you a lot of joy.
So before deciding to quit your job, ask yourself the following questions!
1. Will you like it even when you’re struggling with deadlines?
For me the most difficult part of illustration is when I need to finish something on time. I would often prefer to go to bed at 10pm, instead of painting well into the night, but missing deadlines is not professional. I am not a fan of sacrificing my weekends either, but I often have to, meaning I sometimes struggle with fatigue. Would you be able to stick with your hobby-turned-into-work in these circumstances?
2. Are you able to do it when you don’t feel like it?
According to James Clear the difference between professionals and amateurs is that professionals set a schedule and stick to it, while amateurs wait until they feel inspired or motivated. Somerset Maugham also had a word on the subject:
I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.
Yes, if you turn your hobby into work, you will have to do it even when you don’t feel motivated. Can you do this without starting to hate the activity?
3. Can you look at it from a business point of view?
It’s great when they pay you for what you love doing but this also involves some business aspects you need to consider. If you start your own brand you need to think of finances as well as marketing and who knows how many other issues depending on the business you are in. You will have to learn a great many new things not strictly related to your hobby – or you need to spend money on hiring the professionals.
4. Can you accept it when your clients’ wishes clash with yours?
A ‘personal project’ is fulfilling your creative path. You have an idea, you execute it to your best knowledge, you work as long and hard as it takes to become perfect in your eyes. Obviously this seems an attractive journey, but what if your client has different ideas? If you plan to work with clients, there will inevitably come that situation when your client’s requirements will clash with your taste and you will feel that you as a person are not present in this project anymore, all you do is executing someone else’s ideas.
If you considered all these questions and you are still ready to go through with turning your hobby into work, then this is your path, get on with it! Doing the thing you love doing most, day after day, is a wonderful thing, and to say that your work is your hobby makes you one of the privileged few.
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