Why Your Hobby Doesn’t Need to Become a Side Hustle

Not monetizing your hobby can help you get the most pleasure out of it.

In our productivity-obsessed culture, you might feel pressure to turn your hobby into a side project or hustle. But what happens when we monetize the things we love? New York–based writer Nichole Perkins, host of the podcast This Is Good for You, which explores people’s passions, shares how she found a hobby that’s just for her.

(Related: The Life Changing Power of Hobbies)

“I’m a pop-culture writer, so I’m always watching television or streaming services, reading romance novels and listening to music—all things I love. But I realized I was constantly thinking, Can I make this into an article? Is this something I could pitch? Everything I enjoy doing had become work. Last spring, in lockdown, I remembered an old hobby my mom taught me when I was little: cross-stitching. So I’ve gotten back into it. The process is soothing for me: I’ll put on a murder mystery show in the background, but I’m focused on counting out the stitches and following the pattern. Doing this repetitive hand motion helps clear my mind. And I know it’s not something I’ll try to sell; I do it for myself on my own time and at my own pace, to decorate my apartment or to gift as little love tokens for my family and friends—if I even get to a point where I finish something and it looks good enough to share with others, but I don’t feel obligated to.

One of the reasons I started This Is Good for You is I want people to sit in their pleasure, whatever that may be. We’ve gotten to this point in mental health awareness where we say it’s okay not to be okay and you can sit with your sadness, but I think you can also sit with your happiness. Get a hobby so you can learn to feel good and stay feeling good, because there’s so much going on. We don’t need to constantly be grinding—it’s leading to so much anxiety and burnout. You can have a job and earn your living, and you can also have this really fun thing you just do for yourself.”

Still thinking about it? Some things to consider before monetizing your hobby.

(Related: How to Find a Hobby as an Adult)

It might change your feelings about it

Leisure expert Colleen Deyell Hood notes that turning a hobby into a money-maker can shift the feelings you have about it from freedom to obligation. “There is research that suggests adding an external reward like money to an internally motivated activity may dilute the pleasure,” she says.

Think about your bandwidth

If you’re considering turning the hobby you pick up a couple times a week into a side hustle, make sure you have the capacity, especially on top of a full-time job. “Examine your lifestyle to see if you have time for it to escalate into something bigger and handle things like customer service and keeping up with orders,” says Perkins.

You can stop at any point

If you try it and it’s not working, there’s no harm in making it strictly for yourself again. Ultimately, the enjoyment and pleasure you get from your hobby should be your top priority.

Next, this is why vacation doesn’t solve employee burnout. 

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