Life & Work Skills

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Turning Your Hobby Into a Side Hustle

written by EMMA GINSBERG
Source: Miriam Alonso | Pexels
Source: Miriam Alonso | Pexels

When was the last time you did something for fun? And by doing something for fun, I don’t mean going out for dinner and drinks or binge-watching your favorite show. I mean doing something that has no end goal besides being a source of joy or peace in your life. Maybe you love baking but haven’t found time recently to whip up your favorite treat. Maybe you’ve been meaning to finish knitting that scarf you started months ago for weeks now. Or maybe you have a blog but haven’t written anything for ages. For many of us, myself included, it’s been a horrifyingly long time since a beloved hobby was just a hobby. In high school, my dance classes and lacrosse practices became fodder for my college applications; in college, my passion for reading and writing funneled neatly into my major and my career. Suddenly, as an adult, I have come to a startling realization: By monetizing all of my hobbies and giving each of my pursuits a distinct end goal, I accidentally forgot how to have fun for fun.

No matter what stage of life or career you are in, chances are that at some point, you’ve taken the “work hard, play hard” mindset and blended the working and playing part together. Whether you’ve chosen to pursue a career path that strikes all of your main personal interests (go you!) or you’ve opted to turn something you love to do for fun into a side hustle, it can be easy to assume that the best way to make the most of an activity that brings you joy is to turn it into something that also makes you money. However, there’s something to be said for doing things purely for the delight of doing them, without monetizing the activity. How do you really know when your hobby should stay a hobby? Here are four expert-backed questions to ask yourself before you start turning something you love into a job or side hustle.

1. How much passion and interest do you have in this hobby?

Turning a hobby into a side hustle requires time and energy, meaning that chances are, you’re going to have to love it a lot in order to still find joy in the process once you’ve monetized the activity. According to Registered Clinical Counselor Niloufar Esmaeilpour, reflecting on whether you want to do something for the sake of making money as opposed to the enjoyment of the process will better position you to make a thoughtful decision on monetizing that hobby. “If you genuinely love what you’re doing, monetizing that hobby might enhance your enjoyment,” Esmaeilpour said. “However, if the pursuit becomes solely about making money, you may risk losing the intrinsic motivation that makes the hobby enjoyable in the first place.”

If you’re starting to get an inkling that you might want to turn an activity that you do for fun into a job or a side hustle, weigh your level of passion and interest with the hobby itself. Is this something that you will still be able to love when it becomes a source of income? Can your passion for this activity withstand the pressure of deadlines and goals? If the answer is yes, you might just have a candidate for a hobby that you can turn into a little extra cash.

2. Will you be able to maintain a healthy life balance if you’re turning your hobby into a side hustle?

One of the great things about a hobby is that if you miss a day or drop the ball, it’s no big deal—you can easily pick back up where you left off without facing any penalties. On the flip side, when you’re doing something that you love as a moneymaking enterprise, there are expectations that you have to meet to be successful. Esmaeilpour recommends considering whether monetizing a hobby will significantly disrupt your work-life balance, especially if you’re planning to turn it into a side hustle. “Maintaining a balance between your hobby and other responsibilities is crucial. Consider whether the demands of monetizing the hobby will disrupt your work-life balance or lead to burnout,” Esmaeilpour says.

Sometimes, hobbies themselves are stress relievers, which is why it can be valuable to keep money out of the picture. For example, if you’re a talented painter or love to bake and know that other people are impressed by the things you make, consider whether you’ll be able to still make time for adequate stress-relieving activities if you start making money from your creations. After all, your health and overall well-being should come first, so making sure that you can keep those things up is essential.

3. What is your skill level with this hobby, really?

This can be one of the toughest questions to ask yourself when it comes to turning something you love into a job or side hustle, mostly because it means being brutally honest with yourself about your talent and whether or not you want to put the pressure of moneymaking on that talent. Regardless of what your hobby is—whether it manifests in a physical product, or is a skill in itself like teaching a type of class—consider whether your skill level with this hobby has actual market value before launching it into a business or side hustle.

If this hobby is something that you really want to turn into a moneymaker, that might mean investing time and money in training and development of the skill. “Monetizing a hobby may require a higher level of expertise and professionalism,” Esmaeilpour says. “Consider whether you are ready to invest in further education or training to improve your skills.” While we are all certainly capable of doing something that we love in order to make money, it’s crucial to examine the background work that goes into turning something into a marketable skill, and whether we want to do that background work in the first place.

4. What is your end goal of monetizing this hobby?

While there’s nothing wrong with monetizing something that you love to do for fun, ultimately, you have to know where you want the activity itself to go in your life once you’re doing it for more than fun. Do you want to turn this into a full-on career, or are you only looking to have a side hustle? Are you trying to cover the expenses of the hobby itself simply by turning it into something that makes money? According to Esmaeilpour, getting honest with yourself about your goals and expectations will ensure that you still experience the joy of the hobby, even if you do end up making some extra cash off of it.

Making money from something that you love to do can be incredibly rewarding—but maintaining things that you love to do outside of the pressures of financial gain is crucial for our overall happiness. After all, a true “work hard, play hard” mentality will involve a division between the two, so that you can have both sources of work and play at the same time. As for me, I’m beyond excited to pick up a book for fun for the first time in many, many years—and not tell anyone what I think about the book when I’m done reading.