All of us started sewing because we fell in love with it one way or another. We felt creative and inspired. We found something that both energized and relaxed us in the midst of our crazy schedules. In time, some of us even made the decision to take our hobby to the next level -- starting a blog, writing a book, designing fabric, writing patterns, opening a fabric shop, teaching classes. It was fun and exciting to see those doors open, and we were thrilled to have even more chances to do what we loved.
But one day you wake up, and something's different. It's not that you don't still love what you're doing, because you do. It's just that now this isn't something you get to do for fun whenever you feel like it. There are expectations, deadlines, maybe even financial obligations tied to this thing that you used to do when you were trying to escape all of those responsibilities.
What do you do when your hobby becomes your job?
I've seen enough on blogs and social media to know that I'm not the only one who's faced this reality shift, so I thought it was a topic worth discussing. Here are a few things I've learned in my own journey...
1. Find a way to play. The truth is that when your hobby becomes your job, you're left without a hobby. Either something else needs to take its place, or you have to find a way to divide things up so that some tasks are for work and some are for play. Are you running a fabric shop? Be sure to give yourself time to not just cut fabric, but to actually sew with it. Are you writing patterns? Take a break from pattern testing once in a while to make something just for fun. If you can't find that balance, try picking up something else that helps you be creative in a more relaxing way: drawing, painting, knitting, photography, crochet, music, sports, reading, etc. You may even discover another talent that you didn't know you had.
2. Don't take yourself too seriously. When you start a new adventure like this, it's a big deal. You should commit to it, celebrate it, and give it your all. At the same time, though, it's important to keep things in perspective. When I got my book contract, I was totally consumed by the project for months on end, trying to get every last detail just right. Some of the best advice I received was from my family. "Heidi, it's an amazing thing that you got to write this book," my mom told me, "and you'll always be able to look back and be glad that you got to do it. But don't ever forget that the book is just something you did. It isn't who you are." As my husband put it, "It doesn't have to be the best book ever written, sweetheart, just the best book you can write." Cut yourself some slack. You're not going to be perfect in any area of your life, including this one...and that's okay. Do your best and let the rest go.
3. Be honest with yourself. I'm the poster girl for overcommitment, and every few months it catches up with me. It's easy to feel that, because this is something you love to do, it's okay to load yourself up with more obligations in a week than any reasonable person could achieve in a month. It's also tempting to commit to some projects for free that cost you a lot in time and materials because you want to get your name out there. I personally feel that there's no hard and fast rule on these issues. There are times when you're going to have to work your tail off, and times when you desperately need to pull back and reevaluate your commitments. There are moments where you're going to put in a lot of work for less compensation than you probably deserve, and other moments when you need to hold out for a better offer. Deep down, we usually know which is which if we're brutally honest with ourselves. Take time each week to refocus and prioritize so that you can stay clear headed and know that you're making the best decisions for your situation.
4. Be willing to count the cost. I think sometimes we feel that a hobby-turned-job is in a different category than an ordinary, run-of-the-mill job...but it really shouldn't be. There's a line between our dreams and our reality, and it's important to know where that line is. Working on my book for almost two years has been a fabulous experience in so many ways, yet it has definitely come with a cost. Thankfully my family was able to make the sacrifices necessary for it to happen, but if this had come a few years earlier, we could never have managed it. If you're struggling or unsure of your situation, ask yourself a few questions, such as...
- Am I making ends meet? Can I sustain this financially?
- Would I be willing to do this for any other typical 9-5 job?
- Is this working with my family situation? Are the sacrifices that they're making (or I'm making) worth it? Will it be easier if I wait a year before doing this? Three years? Five years?
- Is this is an offer that I just can't turn down or is there another way to make this happen that works better with my situation? Have I weighed all my options?
I'd love to hear from those of you who are dealing with these issues in your own lives. What's your advice?