Hugh MacLeod wrote a piece the other day in his blog entitled “Beware of turning hobbies into jobs“. His thesis is that everyone needs a hobby and that if you turn your hobby into a job… then you’ll need to find another hobby. This adds on to what he calls in another post the sex and cash theory. Basically you have one thing you do for fun and/or thrills and another to pay the bills and you need to be careful about mixing business and pleasure if you want to make money from your business and enjoy your pleasure. It is not often you find something that allows you to do both.
My children have a book at home (yes another children’s book review – maybe I should start a blog just reviewing children’s books) call Metaken HaHalomot (that’s “the dream mender” in English) by Uri Auerbach (who is a distant relative of mine, but that’s another story).
The story is about this guy called Alex who who fixes dreams. He is kept busy by all the people in his village who come to him to have their dreams repaired. His troubles start when he decides to turn his hobby into a business. A newcomer comes to the neighbouring town and opens a flashy dream mending service, undercuts his prices, wows his customers and leaves him with no clients. In the end he packs up and leaves town in order to go back to his simple anonymous existence.
When the village folk eventually realize that the flashy dream mending guy is not all that he’s cracked up to be and long for the personal touch of our Alex, they come back looking for him, only to find that he’s already gone. He left a note saying that in order to fix your dreams all you need is to listen and care for each other. Nice story.
This story sums up an ambivalence towards turning a hobby into a business. All of a sudden people expect value for their money, growth, consistency – and you need to translate what you are good at doing into cash flow. You no longer answer just to yourself, you are under scrutiny and you livelyhood depends on it. Can you make money and continue to enjoy what you’re doing or will you need to find a new hobby?
I think that at the end of the day the question is whether you can play and get paid for it? The answer is personal and may not just be related to markets. Maybe, the mere fact that you are getting paid will spoil the enjoyment of the game.