No, Your Hobby Doesn’t Have to Become Your Side Hustle

Between baking sourdough, whipping up dalgona coffee, trying to recreate that iconic Harry Styles cardigan, and falling down any number of TikTok tutorial rabbit holes, one side effect of all the time we spend at home lately has been reconnecting with old hobbies or picking up new ones. 

It’s no surprise that now more than ever, people are turning to hobbies for comfort and entertainment. Psychology Today explains that hobbies have a huge range of health benefits — while active hobbies like yoga or cycling are obviously great forms of exercise, hobbies also help us make new social connections, cope with stress, and create structure in our days. Dietician Samantha Cassetty even suggests that picking up hobbies during quarantine is a healthy way to avoid more destructive coping methods, such as excessive drinking

However, with the explosion in popularity of websites such as Etsy over the past few years, there is an increasing trend of people monetizing their hobbies, turning their crafts into sources of income rather than simply personal sources of joy. This is amazing — being able to make money doing something you love is a plus, and these creators make their hobbies so much more popular and accessible to a wider audience. 

It’s clearly very rewarding to develop your skills to the extent that other people are willing to pay you for it, and platforms like Etsy allow so many people to become small business owners by turning their hobbies into second — and in some cases, even full-time — jobs. Whether people are just funding their own supplies to continue their crafts and hobbies, or actually developing careers out of these skills, it’s incredible the businesses people are able to build from doing something they love.

That being said, this culture of monetizing hobbies can create a lot of pressure and make it feel like the end goal of practicing or picking up any kind of skill should be to sell it and make money from it. But that’s not the case at all! 

Black and white hustle mug on table Photo by Garrhet Sampson from Unsplash

Related: When Work Becomes Your Life: Dealing With Burnout

For one thing, hobbies have, as I’ve mentioned, plenty of benefits in their own right. If something is able to help you have fun, unwind, express your creativity, and develop your mental or physical health, then it’s extremely valuable. Blog psychologist Dennis Relojo-Howell explains that “people with hobbies rarely suffer from stress, depression and low mood and so it is vital for our mental health that we find activities that will get us out, make us feel happier and more relaxed.” It doesn’t need to make you money for it to be worthwhile!

A major side effect of the increasing crossover between hobbies and hustle culture is the sense of inadequacy and competitiveness that comes from comparing your work to the “professional” stuff. There’s no shortage of talented artists selling their creations and their work is amazing! However, when you’re tempted to pick up a new hobby or skill, it can feel overwhelming and even off-putting if you’re stuck comparing yourself to other people. The thing about hobbies is that while people can get incredibly good at them through experience and practice, you don’t have to be an expert to do them. You don’t even have to be good! Just enjoying them is enough to make them worth your time. 

Since quarantine started, I’ve personally taken up both crochet and watercolor painting. I’m not great at the former, and honestly just bad at the latter, but I don’t care! Throwing on a lo-fi beats playlist or a few episodes of Schitt’s Creek and taking the time to just sit with my crafts and have fun learning a new skill has been one of my favorite ways to destress and ground myself, especially when days feel overwhelming or my mood is low. 

Thanks to the masses of talented and generous creators out there, there’s no shortage of blogs and YouTube videos offering tutorials and tips to help you explore pretty much any new skill you can think of. And hey, if you want to turn your hobbies into a business, then great! Making money from doing something you love is a win-win. But remember that financial gain isn’t the be-all, end-all of having a hobby, and doing something because it’s fun and makes you happy is as valuable a reason as anything else.