Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When Your Hobby Becomes Your Job

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?
If you're happy with your answers to these questions, that's fantastic! Pursue your opportunity in the knowledge that this is the right thing for you and your family. If you look at your situation, though, and realize that things aren't working out the way you hoped they would, there is no shame and much wisdom in changing course. It's ideal if you can weigh the sacrifices before you start a venture like this, but never be too proud to stop and refocus, even in the midst of things. It doesn't always mean that you have to quit what you're doing; sometimes it just means that you need to start doing things a little differently to make it work.

I'd love to hear from those of you who are dealing with these issues in your own lives. What's your advice?


  1. Excellent post and advice! I often remind myself that sewing is meant to be fun and if I'm not enjoying what I'm doing I always stop and do something else for a bit! I think like all things it's about getting a balance - work/life/hobby! Loving your header :)

  2. On point, to be sure! Ever since I began quilting in 1980, I've wanted to create a quilt shop like the first one I loved in McKinney, TX: old building, heart of historical downtown, etc. Life turned in a direction that made exactly that happen! But you're right- I'm so busy quilting for clients that I can't devote as much time to the shop & its events & I "never" get to play. The good part is- it beats working at the telephone co for those 30 years all to heck!

  3. Heidi, I feel like we've just had a one on one chat! I love to sew and I have been sewing only for Charity for several years now and no matter how much I donate there is always a need for more--I have run out of steam and felt like I just didn't want to sew (!). I've realized my wonderful hobby has become a repetitive job and I have not left myself any time to play! I've decided to devote my charity sewing to one group only and to go back to doing some creative, fun sewing, ahhhh, I feel better already :)
    I love your header also, it really caught my eye and I stopped to read your whole post right away and to comment!

    1. Sheila, I'm so glad! Burnout is a real thing, and it can sneak up on us so quickly. I think your decision to make your charity time more focused and leave yourself time to play was such a smart one. So glad you like the header too!! :)

  4. Very good words. Because of the demands (and benefits) of my 9-5 job outside the home, my blogging and sewing remains a hobby, but much of what you say still rings true for me. I spend more time and money on my "hobby" than most people I know, so many of the issues you speak of are ones I struggle with.

  5. for me its all about doing what is fun. When selling fabric full time quit being fun I changed course to teaching and writing as my focus. Now it's fun again!

  6. Just what I needed to hear from someone who understands! I too made the leap without making money and found that I had to temporarily "quit" to have fun sewing for the Holidays, just for a few weeks, yo fines My Joy again. The demands and deadlines are part of the deal but Sonia My heart. Fun and freedom are my top values in this Hobby-jobbing! Thanks for your post!

  7. To find not Yo fines. Sorry about the typo. Fat fingers small phone! Lol

  8. I recently(Aug.) took on a job of designing and making a jewelry pouch for someone. It was my first time designing something other than just a skirt for my daughter, a hat for my son, or a purse for me. I'm learning to be say that my time is valuable and my skill worthy of more than a couple bucks an hour. But as I was cranking out the first 3 during the design stage, it was fun...I wasn't working full time. Then I got a job(Oct), and this 'job' of making 20-25 of these became a looming project. Then I needed (unexpected)surgery (3 1/2 wks ago) and couldn't sew for 2 wks. Then (unexpected)shoulder surgery(6 days ago) and I had to hurry and make as many as I could in the 3 days between feeling well and shoulder surgery.
    I couldn't help it, but my mind kept wandering to all the things I wanted to make my kids and family for Christmas in those 3 precious days. While I do make something for a shop downtown, I do it at my leisure. I have their basket down pat, and I enjoy making them. This pouch is a challenge in many ways and there is pressure to get them done. It's a lined pouch that zips on 3 sides. Woooo. As of now, I still have about 6 wks recovery at which time I will go back to work and still have the last 15-20 pouches to make...in my 'spare time.'

    I will complete the project :)

    Lesson: its a lot of work designing for someone else esp when they don't live in the same town let alone state. It does indeed interfere with the sewing I do for family and friends.
    Would I do it again? Probably not because I went back to teaching in Oct and I don't have 7 hrs a day to devote to it. If I didn't go back to work full time, maybe ;)
    Would I do a purse or dress here or there for someone while working full time? Absolutely!!
    25 pouches? no, probably not.

  9. Fantastic post!! Even though this is a hobby for me, I over commit all the time!!

  10. Thanks Heidi - I have been hesitant to take the next step to making a business out of my hobby because I don't want it to not be fun anymore. I appreciate you sharing your experience and insight!!

  11. Did you just write this from inside my head? : ) Fantastic post and great advice here, thank you!

  12. Thank you for writing this advice. Be honest...I do hope that one day I can make 'good money' from my hobby so I can work at home. But I don't want to lose all the fun of doing it when that day comes.

  13. What a great blog post :) Totally my topic. I started patchwork in 2006. I opened a fabric online shop in 2012 and began to write patterns. It is great to earn some money with things you love. But sometimes I just miss doing something I want to and not to promote my fabrics or patterns. I have to remind myself to do what I want and not do what I think I should do for my business.

    Best wishes

  14. I know I'm approaching burnout when I clean my house instead of sewing.

  15. Great post Heidi! My sewing and quilting is still my "hobby" due to my 9-5 (err...7-5, 8-6, whatever it takes to get it done) job that I do love most of the time and it pays the bills and allows me to have this great hobby. Still that being said many of your points still ring true. There are times I don't want to sew but have made a committment, or times that I wish I had the time to do more with more blogging/QAL/Tutorials etc... but then the reality is there has to be balance. So sometimes it tips towards work, sometimes friends and family and sometimes sewing. Saying "no" is hard, accepting you can't do it all is hard. I think many struggle with that.

  16. Such a thoughtful and helpful post. I have to say Rebecca may be on to something here. I recently had the same experience when I chose to do the dishes. And there wasn't even the threat of avalanche! You are so right... When your hobby becomes your job - balance is the key.

  17. Hi Heidi, I hadn't visited your blog in a while, and found this post "When Your Hobby Becomes Your Job" very well thought out and wise. I'm looking forward to reading your book, and will pre-order several copies right after Christmas. Love, Mary


Aren't you the sweetest for leaving a comment! Due to all the ads that bombard this section, I have to moderate everything first, but look for your comment to post in a day or two. Thanks so much for writing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...