The Difficulty of Turning a Hobby into a Career
There are a lot of careers out there that can be hobbies too. Painter, Photographer, gaming, sports, blogger, and of course writer, these are all examples of careers that are also hobbies. There is nothing wrong with being a hobbyists, and you might even make a few bucks on a hobby. Some hobbyists work very hard on their hobby, and I am not saying this is a bad thing. But some of us take a hobby, and decide to make it a career. But there are a ton of stumbling blocks a long the way.
As a writer you take on being in business for yourself. You have to have the drive to work even when no one set deadlines, or when there is no boss telling you to get something done. This can be difficult for writers. We tend to be day dreamers and get distracted with ideas and fun little thoughts. We can also be distracted by a shiny new book that we just have to read. All off these things make working for yourself a challenge, which often ends in a lack of time to complete tasks.
The financials of turning a hobby into a career are another matter to consider. If you plan to publish your own books, then you have to pay for a lot of things. You’ll need a freelance editor, a cover artist, an ISBN, and order proof copies a long the way. Even if you don’t self publish, you will have the cost of marketing (don’t count on publishers to do it all). Also include travel expenses for conventions and workshops to improve your skills.
Oh, and you cannot forget the Tax man. I am not a tax professional, so I don’t have many tips on this. I can say that you should keep track of all your expenses and income related to your career. And though you may not make any money at first, your ultimate goal is to start making a profit and that means you’ll eventually be paying taxes. As a business owner, I do recommend you find a trusted tax professional and get some tips and tricks from them.
You will likely need to keep a “day job” in order to make ends meet. They truth is that starting any business, including the one that used to be a hobby, means that you need money. Not just to start-up your business venture, but you need to plan on financing your self for the next 5 years. And, you probably have a few bills of your own to deal with (or probably tons of bills). This all means that you will likely need a real job at first. You will need some way to help pay everything that needs to get paid. You may be lucky and have a spouse that can work full-time and support the whole family. Unfortunately, especially here in California, that seems to be getting rare.
The major downside to having to get a day job is that it means a significant cut into your time to focus on writing and being a writer. If you really want to make this happen, then your work hours get extended signficantly. In my case, I work 40 hours a week. So that is a big cut into my time. The sad thing is most people don’t understand either.
You will need to improve your skills and start networking with others. This means you need to attend workshops, conferences, and conventions. This is one area that I missed out on until this year. There are a lot of online ways to network. Of course there is Facebook, Twitter, and the like. But there are also online writer groups, which allow you to network and improve your skills. There is also NaNoWriMo. You can also find many other online conferences and workshops to attend.
But there also in person ways to network that you can’t miss out on. Conventions and writing conferences are held for various genres and range in size. Some are free, some will cost. There are travel expenses to consider in this. But if you want to be good at your hobby turned career you need to attend these things. You need these things to propel yourself to the next level. Even if you just want a hobby, you can’t go wrong with learning more.
But traveling to all these conference to network and market gets costly. It also gets a bit tiring. But the cost is the biggest stumbling block for me. And, as I will touch on below, family doesn’t always understand. There could be fights over the cost, or the fact that you can only afford to go by yourself. There will be some you are dying to go to (for me it in LonCon3) but you just simply can’t go. At least not without causing a divide in your personal life. But, make the best effort to go to any conference you can. Make the effort to learn. When you are not writing, editing, or marketing, you should be learning about how to get better.
Now here is where your dedication of taking this to the career level is tested. Most of your friends and family don’t understand what you are trying to do. They see the “hobby” as just that. They can’t understand that you want to make this a career and that means you have to dedicate your time to this and sacrifice a lot of other things. You work a day job, you need to work on your writing, and eventually you need to sleep. That means that you miss a lot of other things. You might not watch much TV. You might spend a lot of time locked in your office. And you might not get to the dishes that day. And, in the case of my wife, she doesn’t understand that. It is hard to make them understand that you are essentially working two jobs.
Since I enjoy writing, it only embellishes the hobby mentality. Since I am having fun, I clearly can’t be working. But that isn’t the case. There are a few parts of writing that I really love. Writing the story, developing the characters, and seeing the cover art are all things I love. Editing, marketing, and coming up with titles all stress me out. I dread that part of the job. But I also know that when it all comes down to it, it is worth it. In any case, because you love to write it can often give the appearance that you are having fun and choosing writing over your friends and family. In some cases you are, but you are also doing this for them. It is important that your family, especially your kids, see that you are trying for your goals so that they can put hard work into their own goals.
The success rate it low. That is the one major problem with turning a hobby into a career. There is a low success rate. How many aspiring authors fail? How many give up? It takes a ton of work, and there is no guarantee of making anything of it.
I don’t think people understand the amount of work that goes into this. It could be that you ran out of money. It could be that your family nagged you too much and you quit. It could be that you become impatient waiting for success. It could be that you simply ran out of time to accomplish anything. Or it could be that you just didn’t think it was worth it anymore. It is hard to work for yourself, and it is hard to make people see your own vision of your future. But you need to decide what your vision is and make a goal of it. If you can hold out for just a little bit longer, you just might make it. You just have to find people who trust that you are not just a hobbyist, and there is a career to be had. Good Luck. Now go set those goals.