Should a Hobby Stay a Hobby or Become Your Career?

Things to ConsiderDo what you love and the money will follow…

This is a pretty common expression in the hunt to find your ideal career — especially when it comes to working from home.

But is it true? Will building a business around something you love equal success and fulfillment? Will turning a beloved hobby into a home-based business ensure your happiness?

Doing Something Because You Want To

A hobby is something you do because you want to. Nobody is forcing you into a hobby (That is, unless, your significant other is making you learn ball-room dancing or golf so you can spend more time together).

When you choose a hobby, it’s because it calls to you in some way. You take up painting or candle making because you want to express yourself. You jump into a sport because you want to get in shape and it seems like fun. Often it’s relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. It’s only natural to want that feeling as part of your work.

Be Careful What You Wish For, And All That…

There are lots of things to consider when exploring the idea of making a hobby your business. Can you make a living at it, is the first thing.

But some other important (and often overlooked) questions to ask are:

1. Will it still be enjoyable if it’s your work?

Some things are fine in small doses, but become much less fun when you’re doing it 10+ hours a day. Before you leap into making a hobby your new home-based business, spend some time really thinking about how much you can do it. Is it something you can do for hours on end? How about for many years to come?

Consider why you took up the hobby in the first place, and make sure those reasons will still be there if you’re doing it for a living. Like…

2. How does the hobby fit into your business?

If you love tennis, then a tennis-based career makes sense, right? Well, how much of your business will be tennis? If you’re an instructor, you’re actually teaching tennis. Of course some of that will be playing, but is that enough to make it fulfilling? If you open an online store selling tennis equipment, you’re a retailer and internet marketer. Is there enough of the “tennis ingredient” to keep you interested? Knowing how you’re going to make your hobby a business is important. It may be the central theme, but there will be a lot of non-hobby related work, so…

3. Will the love of the hobby sustain you through all the work related to running a home-based business?

One harsh reality of working for yourself and running a small business is, the bulk of the work is not the main product or service you’re providing. Most of your time will be spent with sales, marketing, and administrative stuff — particularly when you’re starting out. The love of your hobby has to be strong enough to make all the crappy administrative work worthwhile. Marketing, in particular, needs to be a natural extension of your work, which brings us to…

4. Are you really passionate about it?

In the beginning, the passion keeps you working like crazy when you’re getting nothing in return. Something that many new solo entrepreneurs find is that marketing their passion is much easier than they imagined. If you love doing it, marketing actually comes pretty easy.

When you’re exploring home business options, hobbies are a great place to start. The key is making sure it never becomes something you have to do. There’s already a word for that.

It’s called a job…


  1. This is so true! I always loved programming (still do actually), so I decided to start a (homebased) business in webdevelopment.
    Now I’m doing PHP about 12 hours a day in another company (that I’ve started with 2 partners), and although it’s great to work here and I love the *result* of what I do, I don’t actually like coding no more. That is: I do like it, I just don’t like the fact it’s all “same old stuff”, I want to move on to new stuff.
    And that’s the difference between a hobby and a business: if this was a hobby, I would probably stop this project and start working on something new. Or rewrite the whole project from scratch, in another language. Or take another approach. Or something like that…
    But it isn’t a hobby, it’s a business; we have to “ship” sometime.
    So yes, I agree: think it through, and when you are 100% sure .. Think about it again.
    Maybe you like doing it, because you feel relaxed doing it. But will you be relaxed when there’s people deping on it/you? When you know you’ve got to finish those two articles tonight? A lot to think about in my opinion….

  2. The sticky part for me would be the benefits I would lose by leaving my day job. How successful do you need to be to recoup a medical/dental plan, 401(k), stock options, vacation time, sick time, and plain old job security?

    It would take an awful lot in my book, and I know my wife would be the first to point that out. 🙂

  3. It’s all about priorities, Jesse. If you care about money – no, let me rephrase that: if you ONLY care about money, you’ve got a valid point.

    I know I could get more money with less work, if I would give up my homebased business and started working in some company. But, as Tony has said many times I think, it’s about passion. You don’t do it for the money, because if you do, you’ll probably don’t succeed anyway.

    I like money too, and so do the companies that send me bills for .. Well, about everything (phone, internet etc.). But it’s not the reason I’m doing this. And I guess that’s what you have to keep in mind all the time: it’s about passion, not about money.

    Little sidenote: I’m single nowadays. Seems to make a big difference somehow… 😉

  4. Martijn – Great point. Moving on to another hobby is something that can’t easily be done with a business. You have to stick with it in most cases, even if in your heart and your head you’ve moved on.

    Jesse – That’s a tough one for a lot of folks. You have to trust your gut. If it’s right, you’ll know it. You may be scared to death, but you’ll still know when it’s right. Starting on the side and transitioning is how most of the successful entrepreneurs I know did it. If the passion’s there, you’ll find a way.

  5. It has to be one of the great fallacies of our time: *Do what you love and the money will follow…* Thanks for challenging it with some well-thought-out questions! Yes, one does have to love one’s work in order to survive the stresses of self-employment, and turn out the kind of top-knotch work that brings rewards… but there’s much to be said for keeping a hobby as just that. Otherwise, the job becomes a 24/7 gig by default.

  6. I think you hit on some great points with regards to turning a hobby into a job. It’s a tough choice and many folks never anticipate the amount of effort necessary to run a business. What seemed like a relaxing and enjoyable activity can quickly become a source of stress. It can be done but its not without its challenges. I’ll keep this article in mind next time someone asks me about this matter.

  7. I have lots of little hobbies that, over the years, kept me very happy during times of creative frustration. I’m not an artist but I do like to create things, especially in my home. I resent the idea that a creative outlet such as a hobby should be immediately considered a business, as if to say, this hobby is worthless unless it is making money. So many times when I made things for friends for Christmas or redesigned a room in my house, I get the “you should start a business” compliment and it really makes me sick. Why would I want to turn something that is pleasing and fun for me into “work”??!!? That is the piece that is not mentioned until the end of this article but is the most significant point. For those of you who are in jobs that you dislike, but it has good benefits, then consider yourself lucky compared to everyone who is out of work or doesn’t have those benefits and work more hours than you do for less money. In the meantime, enjoy your hobby or hobbies as much as you like, remember its not “work”.

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