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Does Your Passion Need To Be a Side Hustle?

Can you do something simply because you love doing it? Your initial reaction to that question says a lot about you and your perspective on things. Let's start this discussion with a quote from an article, the premise of which I love.

" That’s not to say there isn’t joy to be found in turning something you love into your life’s work — it’s just to say that it’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetizing a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit? "

That's a powerful quote because it flies right in the face of everything every maker, creative, and artist faces at some point: is time spent pursuing something you love wasted time? No. No it's not. As the author correctly notes not every side hustle needs to be a pursuit of more income. And just so we're all on the same page, this is not me, who turned his hobby into a side hustle, saying you shouldn't; It's me saying it's okay if you don't.

Throughout my life I've known people who have devoted countless hours toward turning their hobbies into their main source of income, mainly believing that if they could just make a dollar doing what they loved they'd be happy forever. A few have found out, sadly, that not only is that not the case, but that turning their passion into a revenue stream actually softened their passion to the point where they were no longer passionate about it. I know this all too well because, at one point I was one of these people.

Back in 2006, I joined forces with a very respected online media company to launch a site devoted to Apple products. The owner wanted to branch out to an area he hadn't before (namely Apple) since he was in a different market of mainly Microsoft devices. This was his chance to expand and I joined the team with full autonomy to run my site on his network as I saw fit. It didn't take long before I found my passion for Apple's products to be a chore. The worst part? I didn't have the internal courage to say "I don't enjoy this any more" and stop doing it. Instead, I kept plugging along, well past the point where my passion for it died, because "there's money in it."

At some point in my time as Editor, my day job got too demanding, limiting my time to spend on what was, essentially, supplemental income, and I handed the reins over to a friend of mine who kept the site going until the network folded. I was free, and I moved on, but what kept me in that job well past its due date was me thinking "I like Apple products. I'm passionate about them. I should make money for my passion." That misguided thinking drives so many people in our "hustle culture." It's implied constantly that if you enjoy something you need to create content around it. You're into knitting? Better make YouTube videos. Makeup? Tutorial videos! Like politics? How do you not have a podcast? Into fitness? How's your insta doing? Aspiring model? Better get on Snapchat or Instagram ASAP.

Every passion seems to be followed by someone telling you how to monetize it and it's not just "Hey you should do this you could make a few bucks" it's "How are you not turning this into money and what's wrong with you?"

This is the part where I point out the caveat.

Look around you. You're on the "Handmade by Vincent Ferrari" website reading a post about side hustles and passion projects and how you don't need to make every passion into a revenue stream. "Vincent," you say, "Doesn't this make you a hypocrite?" No. And here's why.

I never became a maker to make money. I had no intention of monetizing this passion of mine to create cool stuff. I thought it would be nice to step away from the digital world (where I spend way too much time, frankly) and create tangible things. In April of 2017 I got my first 3D printer, and started making fun stuff for myself. It started with fidget spinners and TV and movie props, but grew when others saw the stuff I was making. I was selling wands based on Harry Potter faster than I could make them. Little by little people found out I made stuff and wanted me to make stuff for them. Initially I charged what the supplies cost only, but then I realized I was leaving money on the table.

At that point I let word get around that I would make stuff for people and all they had to do was ask me. Later that year I took a woodworking course, built out my shop and now I can make just about anything anyone would ask me to and I have made a few good dollars making things for people. My name is spreading around, people are coming to me with things they want, and right now I'm sitting on a backlog of projects for clients while simultaneously making products for my online store.

My passion has become a side hustle, organically. I didn't become a maker to make money, but I'm not going to object to making money as a maker.

The takeaway for this piece is simple: You're not obligated to make money from your passion, and it's totally okay to just do something for the joy it brings you and those around you. You also should pursue your passion as a revenue stream if that's what you want it to be, but in the end don't let other people pressure you into becoming a business you don't want to be. That decision and its consequences lie with you and you alone and no one gets to make that decision for you.

Until next time!

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