Mhis mom started crocheting a few years ago. Retirement, coupled with the arrival of her first grandchildren, forced her to pick up the hooks, and soon she was churning out more blankets than she knew what to do with. My siblings and I urged her to sell them online. “We are going to install you on Instagram! We can call the account ‘Sewn by Sue’. Our mother, folding her latest creation, scoffed at the idea. “Why would I ruin a perfectly good activity by turning it into a business? »
Maybe it’s my age (31, millennial), or the ever-increasing cost of living, or the ever-present role of social media in my life, but the past decade has often felt like a never-ending pursuit to monetize each of my waking hours. Have you come across a new interest? You can bet I thought about how to charge for this. And I’m not alone – a 2021 report from ING found that 48% of Australians surveyed have started or plan to start a side hustle.
My mom’s protectiveness of her hobby was a stark contrast to my money-at-all-costs mindset, and it occurred to me that (besides clothing rental platforms) most of my side hustles had cannibalized once-beloved pastimes.
Example: I got my civil officiant license six years ago while working full-time at a fashion magazine. I offered my services to my friends and family as a gift. I loved working with soon to be married friends and cousins on their ceremonies. Almost immediately, the references arrived. Excited by the prospect of extra income, I turned my hobby into a real hustler. I met clients on weekends, wrote ceremonies after hours, performed weddings on Fridays and Saturdays, and kissed my social life goodbye. The money was good but I was exhausted and wanted some at work.
“As soon as something is commodified, we can see it in more transactional terms,” says Tamara Cavenett, president of the Australian Psychological Society. It can “erode the strong, positive emotional attachment we once had.”
“It really changes the ‘why’ that underpins the hobby, and may mean it now incorporates deadlines, production and the need to meet customers’ wishes, rather than creativity or enjoyment.”
Sydney-based hospitality veteran Cam Fairbairn loved to make canned goods in his spare time as gifts. After a friend suggested she start charging for her products, Fairbairn approached a newly opened cafe and sold her first order of Cam’s Jams. Resellers grew, but time, cost, and inconsistent revenue took their toll. “There really isn’t a lot of money in the condiment business unless you’re stocked in supermarkets and can pump more than a small batch,” he says. “I definitely wasn’t making enough money to justify running the business.”
Fairbairn ceased production after 18 months. “My level of enjoyment of making jam and condiments dropped when it went from a fun hobby, playing with flavors, to being demanding with deadlines and a need to maintain consistency,” he says. . “I haven’t eaten jam since.”
Mollymook-based Jodie Esler experienced a similar loss of enthusiasm for quilting, a hobby she started in 1990. “I was undergoing IVF and infertility treatments, and [quilting] helped take my mind off things at the time,” she says. The meditative nature of the craft and the portability of its materials quickly ingrained quilting into Esler’s daily life. “I would go to bed and think about ideas and wake up doing the same thing,” she says. It even helped kick her smoking habit “because I had something to do with my hands.”
After several years, Esler decided to monetize his passion by teaching classes at a local store, working nights and weekends, in addition to his part-time job and raising his son. But the demands of the lateral agitation were relentless. Her hours without work drastically decreased and she was not earning enough income to justify her production. Esler hasn’t quilted since.
As with Fairbairn, the “why” has changed. “Monetized hobbies can become an extension of your existing professional life,” says Cavenett. “It may defeat the very purpose of doing something different…in the first place.”
Carys Chan, a research fellow at Griffith University’s Center for Work, Organization and Wellbeing, spends her days examining how our work and personal lives intersect, “including family, community, study and socialization”.
The perfect work-life balance is subjective, but Chan says replenishing your body’s resources is key to avoiding burnout and resentment. She frequently encounters the struggle for balance among students. “We ask them if they’re planning for the week ahead, to factor in rest and recovery, where they’re doing something they really enjoy,” she says. A good hobby should recharge “our energy levels, our time, our attention, our concentration”.
“If it’s exhausting, it’s bad. If it helps with rest and recovery, I always say a hobby would be good.
Cavenett echoes the sentiment. “A record number of one in three psychologists in Australia have been unable to see new clients since the pandemic, showing that the mental health of Australians has suffered significantly. While we know that financial insecurity can contribute to this, it’s also important to protect the activities that lift our spirits and give us pleasure.
Encouragingly, not all leisure activities that have become businesses are condemned to the graveyard of lost hobbies. Monetizing your passion project can undermine its appeal, but “if the gap between your passion and what you’re actually good at is small, or they’re aligned, that can obviously be a great outcome,” Chan says. The key to success, in addition to planned rest and recovery, is to manage growth expectations (“set small, incremental goals”) and, where possible, accept support from friends and of your family.
London home chef Natalie Chassay never considered a career in the kitchen. But in 2020, she managed to turn her passion for cooking into a growing business. Chassay, then a spin instructor and event producer, came up with the idea of creating a dedicated food account on Instagram. When Covid hit, she took the leap, sharing recipes with her now 12.3K following.
It began offering private virtual cooking classes for businesses, before expanding classes to the public. “My pleasure is higher than ever,” says Chassay. “I love presenting and hosting these classes and honestly it made me realize that I really wanted to be on TV too, which is a big dream that I really want to follow.”
The high interest meant Chassay could justify quitting his two day jobs. She is in the process of launching a subscription platform for her recipe videos. She says it’s “the first time in my life, at 35, I feel like I’m actually on something that feels organic to me, and just me.”
As for my own stampede? I quit my full-time job when the pandemic hit, and after a period of adjustment, I managed to integrate my marriage job into my new freelance life.
When it comes to my free time, I follow Chan’s advice and look for activities that replenish my resources, not my bank account. Lately this has included running. Judging by my icy gait, I’m confident that this particular hobby poses no immediate risk of commodification.