When should a hobby become a business?

It may not always be a good idea to turn your hobby into a full-time job, but it might work nicely as a side business.

Tony Avelar / Staff / File
Martha Platosh prepares her sewing machine while learning how to sew during a sewing class in San Francisco in this 2008 file photo. Guest blogger Trent Hamm offers some advice on whether to turn a hobby into a business.

One constant theme of The Simple Dollar is my encouragement of people to try to find ways to turn their passions and hobbies into a stream of income. This is a path I followed in my own life, as I turned my hobby of writing into a major revenue stream.

While that may have been a powerful experience for me, it’s not always a good idea to turn your hobby into a full-time job. I’ll give you an example.

Over the last year, I’ve been trying to turn my other main passion – gaming – into a side business.

I’ve tried several models for this. I’ve made some gaming videos. I designed a website. I wrote a bunch of articles. I created plans, revised them, created them again. Of course, I also played a lot of games along the way.

What I found was that the idea of producing (and managing) this type of content on a regular basis seemed a lot less fun than simply playing the games. I enjoy writing, sure, but I’d rather fill an evening playing a few games with my wife or with my children than squeezing in a game and then writing an article about it. I found the video creation enjoyable, but I couldn’t see what I was doing that was much different than what, say, Tom Vasel was doing.

I finally came to the realization that, for now, gaming should just remain a hobby for me. It’s something that reduces my stress and makes me think. It’s something that gives me many opportunities to socialize as well as compete in a friendly way.

(That’s not to say I won’t make a video series at some point, because that was actually quite fun, but it’s not on the table for the time being.)

So, you have a hobby. Should you try turning it into a side business?

Simply put, I do recommend trying it, but start it as a side business. Do not talk yourself into trying it when it’s expected to be your main source of income, because there is some likelihood that you’ll end up intensely disliking the other activities, perhaps enough to cause you to begin to dislike that hobby that you love.

The key is to dip your feet deep enough in the water to see if there is potential for significant money making and to make sure that you’re fine with turning one of your passions into a profit making venture. Some people who knit, for example, do it purely for fun and find it less fun if they’re knitting for customers, while others thrive on the concept of creating projects for others that also puts money in their pocket. Some people write for themselves, while others write for an audience. Some people can happily spend day after day in their woodship making Andironack chairs, while others just enjoy making one once in a while for friends.

You won’t know until you try. If it does click for you and you do find a profit-making path, you’re likely on the early steps of a journey that will change your life. If it doesn’t click or you can’t find a way to earn anything from it, it’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.

Never let the fear of failure keep you from trying, though. There is no way to succeed without trying, and not trying at all has the same exact result as utter failure except that you had a valuable learning experience along the way.

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