Inside: Are you considering turning a hobby into a side hustle? Think again. Don’t make your hobby your job because it just might kill your passion.
Sometimes I feel guilty about spending so much time writing, but not making any money from it. I fear I might be wasting precious God-given time, falsely equating productivity with money.
Online gurus say that “successful” bloggers can make $10,000 a month blogging, which must make me unsuccessful.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with monetizing a blog or other creative endeavor. But choosing to monetize our favorite hobby might rob us of its inherent joy. So before you turn your passion into profit, be sure to read on.
Why Is It Important to Have a Hobby?
Amidst our busy modern lifestyles, it’s important to maintain time and energy for therapeutic hobbies. Hobbies help us to slow down and disconnect from the challenges of daily life.
They improve mental health and well-being, acting as a buffer against everyday stress. In fact, the more stress and day-to-day overwhelm we feel, the more we’ll find therapeutic value in a simple hobby.
(Read how you can use a creative hobby to decrease screen time.)
Engaging in a hobby is enjoyable in and of itself because we are working on something that is meaningful to us or satisfying to complete. Whereas TV, Netflix, and social media give us momentary distraction, hobbies—especially creative ones—allow us to enter an active flow state.
A term first coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the flow state occurs when we get lost in an activity where time seems to fly. It’s associated with increased happiness, greater creativity, and better emotional regulation. It’s also correlated with higher levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, and reward.
Interestingly enough, the flow state even helps us cope with self-critical thoughts by shutting down negative inner dialogue. Research shows that people in the state of flow had a decrease in “self-referential thinking,” or thinking about themselves, their performance, or how others might see them.
When it comes to our careers, having a hobby outside of work is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
Studies show that having a creative hobby helped people recover faster from stressful work environments. It also helped people perform better in terms of creative problem-solving. Outside hobbies can even increase fulfillment at work.
The Pressure to Monetize Hobbies
We live in an unprecedented moment in history, however. We get ads on our phones promising to teach us how to escape our 9 to 5 day jobs, turn our passions into side hustles, side hustles into 6-figure incomes, and 6-figure incomes into passive income streams so that we can travel the world.
Popular career advice now says, “Follow your passion.” We’re assured, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” But when we’re supposedly working our dream jobs, we’re then promised, “The 5 secret steps to never work again.”
Perhaps we have come to place too much expectation in our careers and side hustles to solve our problems.
In our modern world, the list of things that we could—and should—be doing with our hobbies is endless.
In the blogging world, for example, there’s constant pressure to optimize and monetize blogs while increasing social media followers on several different social media channels.
To further grow their platform, bloggers can also start a podcast or YouTube channel, grow a membership community, sell a masterclass, or write a book on Amazon—as we didn’t already have full-time jobs and families to take care of.
The 9-to-5 rat race has merely turned into a self-employed rat race.
Hustle Culture Meets Gig Economy
The pressure to monetize our hobbies isn’t surprising given our culture of busyness. In the past, it was considered a status symbol to have lots of free time for leisure and vacations. Nowadays, busyness and overwork are perceived as positive status symbols in the U.S., contributing to the so-called hustle culture.
(Interestingly, this isn’t the case in European cultures, where leisure time is more highly regarded.)
In one study, researchers studied the social perceptions of busy individuals in the U.S. The studies showed that people regarded busier individuals as being more important on both social media and in real life.
Overworked individuals with little leisure time rated higher on scales of competence and ambition. They were perceived as being scarcer and in demand—and, thus, higher on the social ladder.
The nature of the workplace is changing dramatically as well. A recent study showed that more than 57 million Americans used freelance work and side hustles to supplement their income. This is the equivalent of about 35 percent of the total workforce.
Compared to the past generations who stayed at the same company for 40 years, we have astonishing freedom and choice to get paid to “do what we love.”
Mix a hustle culture with a gig economy, and it’s easy to understand the pressure to justify every waking hour with productivity. All our hobbies become potential streams of income (of which we should all have multiple). And everyone could benefit from having a side hustle, just for the added income.
But just because we can make a few more bucks, should we?
Don’t Make Your Hobby Your Job
Once we try to monetize a passion, we risk losing the benefits of enjoying it as a hobby. Voice actor Jeff Bennett once said, “Sometimes when you turn a hobby into a job, it becomes work.”
A job is something that we have to do, and a hobby is something that we get to do. Even if we love what we do, a job or business is still comprised of responsibilities that we are obliged to do, whether we feel like it or not.
For those who feel burned out and overwhelmed as it is, the last thing we need is another job. Turning a cherished hobby into a job throws off our work-life balance even further.
In addition, forcing ourselves to focus on the day-in-day-out aspects of monetizing can lead to the burnout of our passion. We might love a craft but dislike the marketing or business-building side of it. Or we start to focus overly on meeting client demands, rather than the aspects of the craft that we loved in the first place.
For some people, the obligation and responsibility lead them to hate the very thing they once loved, causing them to lose their creativity altogether.
In exchanging our craft for money, we jump on a new kind of hamster wheel, running under pressure to produce and perform. If you’re already juggling many plates of responsibility, adding a money-making side hustle means one more spinning plate to balance.
A Different View of Christian Hobbies
So don’t make your hobby your job, not unless you truly want to. Give yourself permission to simply enjoy your hobbies.
If you’re wondering whether to monetize one of your hobbies, take some time to ask God today.
I want to reiterate that there’s nothing wrong with monetizing a hobby. The question at hand is whether God has blessed us with a hobby for our refreshment or to provide for us monetarily (or both).
Let’s be discerning and reject any greed or worldly pressure to monetize every gift or ability that God has given us.
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (NIV). Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Let’s find simple joy and contentment in our God-given hobbies, whether it be gardening, photography, decorating, crocheting, baking, writing, or playing an instrument.
In 1 Timothy 6:17, the apostle Paul reminds us that we have a God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Hobbies serve as therapeutic refreshment to help us cope with daily stress, a place of refuge to enjoy with no outside pressure. God knows our need for rest from our everyday labor, and hobbies are one way for us to receive that much-needed refreshment.
How We Glorify God Through Our Hobbies
Just as we give thanks for good food and friends, we can do the same for the hobbies that God provides us, delighting in Him as the Giver of these good gifts.
When we enjoy our hobbies with simple joy and thanksgiving, they become a way for us to worship and glorify Him. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Author Allen Arnold says that hobbies are a way for us to spend time in God’s presence. He writes, “What do you hunger for most in your creativity? There is no guarantee of sales, popularity, contracts, or fans. But God does guarantee His presence in all you do…if you seek it above all else.”
In addition, the humble act of creating is in itself a way of glorifying God. Genesis 1-2 describes God’s process of creating the heavens, earth, animals, and man. He’s the ultimate Creator. And because God created man in the image of God, we reflect God’s image whenever we create out of created things.
Finally, God will sometimes lead us to bless our neighbors through our creative abilities. Perhaps you could cook your new favorite dish for your neighbor who just gave birth, or make a piece of clothing for her new baby boy. Whether we monetize or not, we can use our abilities to provide for and encourage others.
Not Every Hobby is Meant to Be a Side Hustle
God may have given us a hobby for personal enjoyment, to serve others, to make money, or a combination. Discerning these purposes is key to determining our expectations towards our hobbies—and preventing burnout.
When deciding between hobby or hustle, make sure your decision won’t kill your passion. Ask God today how He wants to use your hobbies. It’s the best way to protect your passion.
What do you enjoy most about your favorite hobby? What role does that hobby play in your life? If you don’t have a hobby, ask God to bless you with one.
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