Hobbies as Income

A few weeks ago, my mother and I were chatting about how hard my father has worked and how he’s never really known anything other than that. As he heads into retirement in the next year, it’s going to be a considerable adjustment for him. A large part of his identity comes from being a working man, and this could be a very tough change.

As we chatted, I realized I have never known anything but work, either. The more I thought about it, any downtime hobby I’ve ever tried to establish ended up turning into another source of income. What does that say about me? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

It began when I was a teenager interested in computers. I ended up being offered a job as my high school’s computer technologist. Then, my love of rowing turning into becoming a coach and teaching other people to love rowing, too.

There is, of course, my handmade businesses. It started from a pure interest in making things, taking vintage buttons, reclaimed chandelier crystals, and harvested computer parts and turning them into quirky jewelry pieces I gave away to family and friends – until the orders and offers of payment started coming in. Photography blossomed, too, going from an enjoyment of photographing the sunset to being a fine art photographer (not many sunset photos these days!), selling my prints online and at markets.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how this keeps happening. In the end, I believe it comes down to internally placing a value on my time and skills, and a love for the challenge and growth that comes with the pressure of charging money for something. When you’re doing something as a hobby, it’s easy to let small flaws slip by, but when you’re charging money for something, it’s a matter of customer service to catch flaws before they head out the door.

Upgrading hobbies to careers is the entrepreneurial spirit at play. There have been times in my life when I’ve stared at what I could see of my future and it made me anxious. Finishing up my undergraduate in archaeology, I was looking down the barrel of a barren job market in my field, and without the comfort of being able to call myself a student anymore, the world looked scary.

But my hobbies provided the security of knowing I would always land on my feet. It is a special kind of insurance policy.

The handmade community is a shining example of this. While the corporate world and energy sector is facing an economic downturn, handmade businesses continue to thrive. What starts out as a little money on the side, becomes a substantial source of secondary income, which can become a primary income. Those in the handmade community tend to support other handmade sellers, leading to a rather stable little economy.

It’s an old way of doing things, but with the creative flow of new products and ideas, it has a distinctly modern twist. And it can be your very own insurance policy.

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