Don’t turn your hobby into a side hustle


During a celebratory dinner, the host suggested that we each share an important moment of the year. As one woman recounted how her pottery class allowed her to explore her creative side, another cheekily said, “Oh, you could totally open an Etsy shop and sell your work.” Before she even finished her sentence, I exclaimed, “No! Don’t monetize your hobby!

This is advice that perhaps seems heretical in this time of high inflation. After all, it took $107 in November 2022 to buy what $100 bought in November 2021, according to the US Department of Labor. Between 2019 and 2020, the increase was only $1.17. But despite rising prices, it’s important to keep the secondary restlessness under control.

A hobby, by definition, is meant to be something you pursue outside of your job to relax. Of course, you can have hobbies that are mentally or physically challenging, like chess or hiking. However, a hobby is no longer a hobby once you add a price tag and start selling your wares to consumers. It’s a work.

Grind culture has faced a modest toll in recent years, with some going so far as to call it toxic. There is certainly a dark underside to pushing people to relentlessly consider profitability. As a recovering member of the constantly jostled community, I can say with confidence that respecting the sanctity of at least one or two hobbies for growth does wonders for mental health.

The fact that I even write financial opinion pieces stems from what used to be a hobby. A small blog where I shared my thoughts and experiences with personal finance eventually grew into opportunities for speaking engagements, freelance writing, and even book offerings. As it became my full-time career, the work, while aligned with my areas of interest and skills, lost the fun factor that initially motivated me.

It also changed the way my brain evaluated my other hobbies. Every area of ​​interest turned into a potential source of income – or I avoided potential hobbies due to perceived time constraints, low energy consumption, and upfront costs for something that wouldn’t pay off. no profit.

The pandemic slowed my work for a while, which forced me to consider the fact that I otherwise had little time to occupy my time outside of reading or watching TV. As much as I find these activities relaxing, I needed more creativity and stimulation from a hobby. Over the past two years, I’ve learned to crochet on my own and started taking tap dancing lessons at a local community center.

These are two hobbies that cost me money rather than bring me income. But both have generated significant non-financial returns. There is a reconnection with my creative self, a sense of accomplishment from learning a new skill, the benefit of challenging my mind and body to learn new ways to move, and access to a new community. intergenerational. Yes, crochet is a skill set that I could easily monetize, but the profit margins would be non-existent if you did the math on the cost of supplies and labor hours for a piece. Instead, I donate my creations or give them away for birthdays and holidays.

There’s a concession I’m going to make about monetizing a hobby. For those whose interests translate into physical creations — like woodworking, painting, producing pottery or making jewelry — this can lead to clutter. Nice clutter, but a lot, which you may not need in your home. In that case, yes, it may indeed be a good idea to sell your wares and perhaps use that money to reinvest in your hobby. But selling a surplus is very different from creating a side hustle.

As someone who has had multiple sources of income all of their adult life, I understand that there is an advantage to having more than one way to earn money. But some hobbies should just be hobbies. We are allowed to create and learn for our personal enrichment, even if it costs us money — and yields nothing.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• Holiday shoppers, avoid store credit cards: Alexis Leondis

• The best gift you can give your kids is in a boring envelope: Stuart Trow

• Should you trust TikTok, YouTube Finfluencers? : Erin Lowry

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Erin Lowry is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering personal finance. She is the author of the three-part “Broke Millennial” series.

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