The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles
February 18, 2019 2:00 PM   Subscribe

“You don’t have to [start an Etsy shop],” I assured her. “You can do something you love, just because you love it.” And suddenly the sentence that both of us needed to hear came out of my mouth: “You don’t have to monetize your joy.”
posted by divabat (87 comments total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
 


How did we get to the point where free time is so full of things we have to do that there’s no room for things we get to do?
The associated problem with this, though, is that most of the people who do this or at least consider doing this are broke and undercompensated at their day jobs and unable to see a path to making their day jobs pay more, so what else are you supposed to do? I love my unstructured time, but I won't deny that during that time I am often anxiously nagging myself that what I am doing is not contributing towards the payment of my student loans. I often find myself thinking that if I had an idea for an app that would bring in any amount of money at all, maybe it'd be worth it to halve my free time in exchange for feeling less worried.

Which won't work. But I still think it.
posted by Sequence at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2019 [52 favorites]


Related video: "The Joy" by LoadingReadyRun.
posted by ODiV at 2:12 PM on February 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


I don't know on this topic. I go back and forth. I have a friend who is actually willing to run Etsy stores for us so it's a serious possibility (since running the damn business myself is part of the lack of appeal). On the one hand, what was said about not monetizing your joy, stress, etc. On the other hand, it is disheartening to have talents that the normal boring work world has no use for whatsoever, and you can never get a job using what you're actually good at. Also this: "are broke and undercompensated at their day jobs and unable to see a path to making their day jobs pay more."
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:16 PM on February 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


I ran into this myself recently and it made me stop and think. I've planted my backyard in native wildflowers to support wild pollinator populations and a neighbor called me on it. Where's the profit? he asked. I won't claim any high ideal like saving the planet, but happy bees and butterflies bring me joy. Why does every good have to reduce to rank capitalism?
posted by SPrintF at 2:29 PM on February 18, 2019 [70 favorites]


I'm a fairly talented person and almost none of my talents are monetizable.

It's kind of a relief, actually - realizing that e.g. having fun making music with your friends is very unlikely to make you a stable middle class income means that you no longer have to give a shit if anyone likes your music.

This article is the tip of a very interesting conversation.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:33 PM on February 18, 2019 [26 favorites]


My mom, bless her heart, always tells me to turn my latest passion - whatever it is - into a money-making scheme. I started asking her, “Mom, why do you always want to pimp me out?”
posted by Jode at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2019 [50 favorites]


Why does every good have to reduce to rank capitalism?

Maybe because capitalism is so rank that it taints everything else with its greasy fetid tendrils.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:36 PM on February 18, 2019 [24 favorites]


I am definitely guilty of this. I've always worked multiple jobs to stay afloat, so even now that I can survive on my one real job, I still have an eye out for side hustles. It's a survival tactic I learned that's hard to give up.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:44 PM on February 18, 2019 [10 favorites]


> Where's the profit?

This is especially weird to ask when you consider the amount of money and labor people pour into lawns
posted by idiopath at 2:46 PM on February 18, 2019 [40 favorites]


I ran into this myself recently and it made me stop and think. I've planted my backyard in native wildflowers to support wild pollinator populations and a neighbor called me on it. Where's the profit? he asked.

this is truly bizarre. it's like asking why you bothered to paint your house instead of leaving it as bare stucco, cuz nobody's paying you to do it.
posted by murphy slaw at 2:51 PM on February 18, 2019 [16 favorites]


I love cooking and make fabulous pies, but they are only for the people I love. I think I run a pretty decent game of D&D, and I commit to it weekly for my gaming comrades. I love knitting and designing patterns, and that I have monetized, but trying to turn everything I enjoy into a hustle would take all the fun out.
posted by rikschell at 2:53 PM on February 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Even just having one skill that I DO get paid well for isn't enough. I'm still not making ends meet. I WISH I had some additional joy I could throw on the monetizing fire.
posted by bleep at 2:54 PM on February 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


a neighbor called me on it. Where's the profit? he asked.

like
now i wanna know what steps he has taken to monetize his own lawn
posted by halation at 2:57 PM on February 18, 2019 [90 favorites]


like
"i planted this bed of impatiens in the shape of the YouTube logo and i get .03 cents for each passer-by who lingers to look at it, plus a 5 cent bonus if the neighbour kids take more than 2 minutes to retrieve their soccer ball from beneath my Google Play topiary"
posted by halation at 2:59 PM on February 18, 2019 [58 favorites]


This has been going on a lot in my fandom circles this month, and I go back and forth about it a lot. I am in fact preparing to re-open my Patreon for my Dreamwidth blog shortly because that's the only way I think we can budget fun stuff--being comfortable, having an odd trip to the movies and not counting the dollars and cents in case of bounced checks--in the next year without demanding that my partner give up our weekend re-charge with friends time for the foreseeable future while they're going back to school.

And on Saturday night I burst into inconsolable tears because I feel like I don't have time: there are always chores demanding my attention, or friends I haven't spoken to recently enough, things I want to do but can't, family-of-origin crap I need to do something about but haven't the energy, an ever-increasing paid work workload, grading and quizzes to make and things I want to write about but can't, time waiting for buses or driving to pick up my spouse because we just have the one car, big household reorganizations stretching forbodingly into the future...

Monetizing things I can do well--in my case, writing up a deeper set of thoughts about this, which I need to do after I wrap up my analyses for this work project, after I do--well, so many things--anyway. Monetizing things I do well, that people seem to like, is so tempting when you're run thin and stretched out and you just want to feel comfortable at the end of the day, and you like doing this thing after all, and maybe you could not feel so stretched thin if you asked people for money to do it.

Hell. I keep going back and forth. I've been procrastinating this more thoughtful discussion for two weeks now, and how these discussions also hit people who aren't sure their work has value at all; but, well, I haven't had the time to sit and do it.
posted by sciatrix at 3:06 PM on February 18, 2019 [19 favorites]


I have an art habit that is filling my house with projects. Realistically, I could sell my work for some pretty good scratch, but between 50+ hours of work & commute a week and taking care of my family, I don't have the time/energy to run a side hustle and still have the capacity to create. I could really use the money, I'm just not willing to surrender my very limited creativity time to sell. There's a dba and an etsy account and taking good photos of each piece and shopping work around to local galleries and online marketing and (insert additional unenumerated work here). It would be a whole part time job in itself.
posted by Lighthammer at 3:11 PM on February 18, 2019 [10 favorites]


I met a cousin’s boyfriend for the first time at a party and when I found out he makes soap in his spare time, I was intrigued. Do you have an Etsy page? I asked. His reply was basically this article (in fewer words). I was suitably chastened.
posted by eirias at 3:18 PM on February 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


More good thoughts on this topic from Anne Friedman and Austin Kleon
posted by PhineasGage at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I don't know how I could monetize the garden, and I wouldn't like to. But I may be forced to monetize the blog eventually if only so I could have the money to cover costs. I'm not sure how to go about that, but I certainly wouldn't be looking for a profit, just enough money to pay for WordPress and soil. Sometimes people joke about how I'd be happier running a farm and I don't know how to be polite while also conveying "fuck no".
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:25 PM on February 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


a neighbor called me on it. Where's the profit? he asked.

OK, this is a problem we need to address. These dudes need to be made to understand. There are ways to communicate the important principles he's missing. It's time..
posted by amtho at 3:38 PM on February 18, 2019


In my experience, trying to "monetize my joy" sapped all my joy for basically no money. So I am generally not a proponent.

Also, if you're doing something out of passion, you're also probably willing to do it for free -- and other people can spot that. To those people, it's like you're wearing a sign on your back that says EXPLOIT ME!

At this point, I'd rather not even think about what kind of pittance I can scrape up from doing the stuff I love, and just concentrate on doing whatever the hell I want (while making the money I need to live on at my actual job).

However, my parents are both artists and they are perpetually disappointed by their lack of money and recognition and yet also perpetually unwilling to market/sell themselves in any way. My feeling is, if you don't want to think about the market -- whether for artistic reasons or personal reasons or whatever else -- then you need to set a different standard for success, too. Like maybe you have other goals you're working toward or maybe you're just doing something for the fun of it (totally valid) BUT whatever else you do, you cannot sit there and bemoan your lack of commercial success while refusing to engage commercially. Because that's a recipe for misery.

I would LOVE IT if they actively pursued getting agents and stuff like that, because then there wouldn't be this shimmering dream tantalizing them out there in the distance. Plus, I would love it if they made it big, too! I think their work is great, and the money wouldn't hurt, etiher. But they're not going to, so.

I don't know how I could monetize the garden

Probably by cultivating (native) plants that you can harvest fruits/nuts/flowers from and then sell at a local farmers' market or something.

I had a wild hair for a while about doing that, but I live in a high rise so it's totally impossible. My thought process was that nut trees are basically money trees...like fifty years after you plant them, but still.
posted by rue72 at 3:40 PM on February 18, 2019 [8 favorites]


I tried to make money on my passions a long time ago and realized it was basically piecework of the old grinding-poverty sort. I was a working artist for quite a while, and later worked as a calligrapher. I also wrote and sold two SF/F books that actually sold moderately well. You know what? None of it paid enough to make it worthwhile, and I had to produce what sold instead of what I liked.

Of course, now I make poverty-level wages as an adjunct. Hm. Don't know where I'm going with this.
posted by Peach at 3:45 PM on February 18, 2019 [17 favorites]


Don't know where I'm going with this.
Join the club!

Now maybe if we charged an entrance fee we could monetize this sucker.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:47 PM on February 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


Probably by cultivating (native) plants that you can harvest fruits/nuts/flowers from and then sell at a local farmers' market or something.

Gonna be honest, more interested in things I can eat and things my mother with extreme dietary limitations can eat, and most if not all of those veggies are non native to California. Not to mention while I don't use pesticides to have my garden certified(tm) organic(tm) would take years and more money than I have. Also- it's not the biggest space, though it's bigger than most backyards in SF, so there generally isn't a surplus to sell, though I might have extra tomatoes this year if I'm lucky, I already promised those to the family friend who subsidized the purchase of some extra tomato pots. The garden is largely to feed my family of three- which is why it's not really something I can monetize.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:47 PM on February 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


A couple years back I stumbled on some self-help site that had a cheeseball multiple-choice quiz where you could find out which one of four "passion profiles" you fit into - what your approach was to how to work your creative passions into your life. I was bored and so I took it, and checked the answer.

The answer shook me. The profile I got was described thus:

"You, as your name implies, are all about creating a balanced, low ­stress lifestyle so that you have the freedom and energy to pursue what you love on your own time. While it’s important for you to enjoy your job and work with great people, the best part of your career is that it serves as a way to fund and support your lifestyle. You may have considered taking one of your many interests and turning it into a side business or full­time career … but honestly, that feels like it would take the fun and intrinsic joy out of it."

It went on to say that the ideal kind of career situation for me was something I can basically do easily, with a good work-life balance, so I have money coming in easily to support myself and enough brain power left over to do the things that give me joy. And the name they give to this kind of person is: "Thriver."

It was such a damn relief for someone to finally say "you know what, this is a valid option too. You don't have to turn your passion into a job if you don't want to. You are allowed to have your job just be something you do to pay the bills, and then do other stuff just for the sheer fun of it."

I'm terrifically proud of the ten years that I tried to monetize my passion for theater. But I also knew it would never be enough to support me all on its own. And I thought that that made me a failure, or too anxious about money or what have you. But it didn't; I just separate "money" from "joy" and that's absolutely valid. I want the time to travel and take photos and try out wonton making and sample tea and go to museums and all that stuff. Life is big and rich and if I am trying to do only one thing, I miss out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:47 PM on February 18, 2019 [66 favorites]


When the phrase "side hustle" or even the very word "hustle" goes back over to the dark part of the verbal reincarnation cycle I may finally get the taste of vomit out of my mouth.
posted by Pembquist at 3:47 PM on February 18, 2019 [17 favorites]


I think the presence of visible metrics in so many parts of our lives has added to the feeling that everything we do is for something because it can be measured. We said something clever but we only know we're clever if the attention-numbers are there. If there aren't any numbers, our glow fades and wonder how to tip the clever-meter next time. It's like all of life has become grade-grubbing at a time when a lot of people can't make ends meet.

And that grade-grubbing is by design so all so we will be nudged to create more data to be used by people who never asked, really, if we were okay with it and who will use it for god knows what.
posted by zenzenobia at 3:54 PM on February 18, 2019 [15 favorites]


Also, if you're doing something out of passion, you're also probably willing to do it for free -- and other people can spot that. To those people, it's like you're wearing a sign on your back that says EXPLOIT ME!

OH MY GOD THIS SO MUCH THIS. I've had this happen to me a lot, and to my artist & activist friends too (especially those whose work intersects the two). People are so willing to use up our free labour, and they claim they'll pay for it, but when it comes time to hire for a job/buy tickets/donate to a Patreon/etc suddenly CRICKETS. But because we've got enough reach and people using our stuff for free, clearly we must be doing ok.

I've had a devil of a time trying to get anyone to understand this. But I feel like people just keep passing the buck: "oh I can't afford a dollar but I'm sure SOMEONE will, just put your work out there!" How much more work do you want us to put out there damn
posted by divabat at 3:57 PM on February 18, 2019 [16 favorites]


I really needed to hear this, and I see how having an Etsy shop (or any business that seems to require you self-post about it on facebook every other minute just to keep it monetizing) can just drain the life out of my friends... and at the same time, if just a few more people would buy my book every month it would be a whole lot more impetus for me to keep writing another one... It's hard not to feel like the lack of remuneration somehow correlates to lack of value. Especially when your actual job (if you're lucky enough to have one) rarely pays enough to feel valued for the work and stress it requires.
posted by Mchelly at 4:16 PM on February 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


For a while I was cultivating a social media presence as a writer on Twitter until I realized that the thousand or so other writers I followed and who followed me were mostly posting repeated duplicates of advertisements for their self published books, huge numbers of hashtags, retweets of other people’s promotional Tweets about their books, and links to their blog posts that were meant to grab eyeballs for potential readers. And occasionally they would announce hopefully that they had managed to actually get some real writing done. I unfollowed nearly everybody the other day.

It’s a mad scam.
posted by Peach at 4:41 PM on February 18, 2019 [8 favorites]


I couldn't bring myself to do the whole thing where you continually post photos of your stuff in new configurations to get it to show up in the right hashtags, thus actually sell it. I know how to do it, but...I don't wanna. I don't want to deal with packaging and promotion and UPS and USPS all the time. Part of that's an energy-level thing and part of it's an hours-in-the-day thing, but I also suspect that I just don't care all that much, ultimately, and that's OK. Just having to ship out orders all the time would be more work than I'm willing to put in right now, and I'm not very interested in embodying the necessary persona, either. Perhaps it's my privilege not to care all that much, to have artistic talent and not immediately need to sell it, for art and music to be hobbies and lifestyle choices rather than necessary job-things. The writing and editing, I do sell, so maybe I just needed something of my particular trifecta of talent to just be mine. I like making art, but I can't stand pushing it and dealing with the mechanics of selling it. I kind of enjoy delighting people more by gifting or trading these little objects I make.

And I mean, I make awesome pins whose quality is just as good as the ones made by the people who apparently sell hundreds of them and regularly sell out of them and plan out pin drops and the whole deal. I just can't get into making it a whole side thing. I've enjoyed collecting others' art pins more than I've enjoyed trying to sell them. In the past year I've also turned back toward photography, one of my longtime favorite pursuits, and I've gotten some offers here and there to do things with it—make books, be part of a group show coming up, etc. I will probably do some of those things, 'cause I've wanted to exhibit my work and make more books and postcards. But in terms of selling it, I can't gin up a lot of enthusiasm.

I've been through a lot in the past 6 years, and that's also changed my perspective a bit. I'll almost certainly never be a minimalist, but after going through my father's stuff at least twice over now, once to get it all in storage and get his house ready to sell, and a second time to determine disposition of objects after his death, I do have a better sense of what one might actually value out of all that someday. The art and prints he made? Of course that's stuff we'll keep. I always like to think that someday, someone is going to care that I made these things, just as I care that both of my parents and both sets of grandparents were artists. Maybe someday there'll be a fourth generation of artists, and they'll carry on these traditions. I'm definitely more interested in that than getting and spending.
posted by limeonaire at 4:49 PM on February 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


Ooo oo ooo... thanks got an idea, not a "how to get rich writing a self published book about how to get rich in publishing", old school, go with "how to get rich writing a self published book about how to get off the self published book rehash cycle"!

(corporate web development must be the answer, sigh)
posted by sammyo at 4:49 PM on February 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I monetized my joy, and very quickly realized that it no longer was a joy. Now it's just a job. It's hard because financial success (or the lack of it) becomes tied to my self-worth, so that sometimes leads to some dark thoughts and doubts.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 4:53 PM on February 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Any other Harry Chapin fans immediately think of Mr Tanner?

Mister Tanner was a cleaner from a town in the Midwest / And of all the cleaning shops around he'd made his the best / But he also was a baritone who sang while hanging clothes / He practiced scales while pressing tails and sang at local shows / His friends and neighbors praised the voice that poured out from his throat / They said that he should use his gift instead of cleaning coats /
But music was his life, it was not his livelihood...

From song https://open.spotify.com/album/7y60YkLV5E0QG1krBPJBzu
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 5:09 PM on February 18, 2019 [4 favorites]




Huh. The poorly named sex and cash theory is coming up on 15 years old. No wonder people have forgotten it.

The idea is that if you're creative, there'll be stuff you do out of passion and stuff you do for money but the two will (almost) never overlap. In particular, if your passion project becomes your source of income, it (usually) stops being your passion project. So having (hypothetically) written a successful novel about a crime-solving echidna, I am now in the position of continuing to write an anteater-based mystery per year to keep the living expenses paid, even though I really want to write dolphin romance now.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if the new day job is better than the old one and still affords me the time and resources to work on passion projects, but I need to recognize it as such. If I'm comparing it to the previous days of writing whatever I wanted, I'll just be disappointed but if I compare it with being a 7-11 clerk, I'll be way happier.

By the same token, if I quit my $100k webdev job to write full time for $40k and much more stress, I've made the wrong choice and I'd be happier giving up the series and brushing up on my Javascript.

So anyway, it's only worth monetizing your hobby if you enjoy that aspect of it or if there's a chance it will turn into a better day job than you can get anywhere else.
posted by suetanvil at 5:11 PM on February 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


> Related video: "The Joy" by LoadingReadyRun.

Brought to mind More by Mark Osborne.
posted by CheapB at 5:30 PM on February 18, 2019


Thanks for this. I write books that few people would even want to read, with no interest in mining keyword trends for quick cash. I just want to noodle about. I really enjoy it. But it isn't fanfic, so I don't know what to do with it except bury it in a drawer.

So I sell it for a few dollars, without any promotion effort, in case anyone else might like it too. Putting it up for free just invites people to vacuum it down without reading the description and then yell at me that they hate it, so that couple of bucks is a minor hurdle to make the audience self-select.

This all sounds defensive, doesn't it. If it were 1999 I'd put them on ~a homepage~ and hope someone signed the guestbook to say they liked them. That's not a thing I know how to do anymore.

Crafts, though, I don't make to spec anymore. Too many demanding, underpaying commissionees. Don't need that in my life.
posted by cage and aquarium at 5:31 PM on February 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


I knew someone who was a video game tester for a living, and people would be like "that must be so cool, because you love video games!"

She said it ruined both recreational video games and getting stoned.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:59 PM on February 18, 2019 [18 favorites]


When the phrase "side hustle" or even the very word "hustle" goes back over to the dark part of the verbal reincarnation cycle I may finally get the taste of vomit out of my mouth.

A friend of mine plays in a band called "The Side Hustle" in his spare time and I suppose it's the only acceptable use of the term.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:02 PM on February 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm one of those people who's wildly opposed to monetizing my hobbies. One anecdote/life experience encapsulates it neatly for me:

When I was little, like four or five or six years old, I used to tell people I wanted to be a baker. When I was in kindergarten in Germany, we went on a field trip to a bakery, and little me was very impressed and excited, and I thought I'd love to do that. But, whenever I told adults I wanted to be a baker, they'd all say, "oh no, but you're so smart! You can do anything! You can do better than baker! How about you just bake for fun, and because a doctor/lawyer/professor instead!" So I set that career aside, and as a kid and teenager and adult, I just baked for fun, for myself and my family.

Well, fast forward fifteen to twenty years, and I'm making some pretty tasty pies and cakes and cookies for friends and family. I enjoy it; I like baking, I like giving people food, I like eating my own baked goods. I don't make anything particularly pretty. The works of art on shows like the Great British Bakeoff are well beyond me. But I make reliably delicious baked goods. And now people tell me, both jokingly and seriously, that I can make a living off my baking! Ahahaha, oh really? You say that now, after I got an expensive degree from prestigious public university to work at a white/pink collar job? You're suggesting I make a career change? Maybe start a small business? Turn my fun, low pressure hobby into my own personal baking competition where my livelihood depends on it? I guarantee, if I did such a thing and found myself crashing and burning, literally everyone would say I'd been dumb and reckless to do it at all.

Monetizing your hobbies seems like a lose-lose proposition to me. The above example is just one reason why. I also like to write fan fiction, and there's another hobby that seems like it could turn into a side hustle. If I can churn out tens of thousands of words for nothing but fun and the validation of kudos and comments, well surely I can churn out tens of thousands of words of original fiction to self-pub and throw up on Amazon, or to shop around to publishers! No thanks. I contemplate it, every so often, but the moment I start thinking about marketing and writing what sells, I realize it would turn a fun hobby into a slog, another thing to feel guilty and stressed about. Right now, I write for holiday exchanges and I write what I want to see, so basically always for an audience of one or two, the writing equivalent of baking a batch of cookies to share. When more people like it, that's a pleasant bonus. But I'm not setting out to do anything but make something nice for a few people and myself.

Let hobbies be hobbies. I know it's a position or privilege to be able to say that, I know not everyone can afford it. But god, I wish we could all just keep work and fun separate. It's okay for them to be separate, those boundaries are valuable.
posted by yasaman at 6:08 PM on February 18, 2019 [32 favorites]


Also, if you're doing something out of passion, you're also probably willing to do it for free -- and other people can spot that. To those people, it's like you're wearing a sign on your back that says EXPLOIT ME!

Yep yep yep yep yep. Surely the worst outcome is to turn your passion into a job that earns money...for someone else. Yet that seems to be the most likely outcome.
posted by praemunire at 6:24 PM on February 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


Recently I worked out my labour cost at minimum wage for a blanket I am crocheting. It came out at well over $1000.

So I just laugh when anyone tells me I could sell the things I make.
posted by sarahw at 6:24 PM on February 18, 2019 [30 favorites]


Hah yes, people love to undervalue the work of creatives. "But it's not really WORK right, because you like doing it." "Hey, if I give you like 20$ can you design me a logo/redo my branding?"

My mother seems to think that because I own jewelcrafting tools and have the technical capability of making jewelry, I can just churn her out cheap jewelry. In reality, it's probably cheaper to just buy your jewelry in the store, by the time I buy all the components for it I'm probably already more expensive, and that hasn't even counted any time spent actually putting it together. Crochet is the same, the amount of time spent on an afghan, you just can't charge an amount that will give you any kind of good hourly salary and STILL sell enough volume to make a living. At least not in North America with the cost of living here.

I do get a lot of the "but you can put it in your portfolio, doing this for me for free will help you out in the future!" type things. Or now I get the "I'll post about it on my instagram as payment" type thing too, that's a lot of fun, since it really pays my bills and makes me feel like my work has real value!
posted by Hazelsmrf at 6:49 PM on February 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


I've been thinking for a while about how evil the word "monetize" is. It is propaganda to make commerce sound passive and easy, as if you just give your website/hobby/art/talent a good squeeze and money just pours out. What could be easier?

I say stop using the word monetize and instead use the real word: sell. You can sell your website/hobby/art/talent if you want. But of course if you sell it, then it is no longer yours.
posted by medusa at 7:08 PM on February 18, 2019 [22 favorites]


I do actually make and sell jewelry at a scale that-- if I'm doing the math right -- earned me about $15k in gross sales last year. It started as a hobby, but jewelry making is one of those things where, if you do enough of it, you kind of have to find some outlet for what you're making, if only to make space and pay for new materials. It's still not my main job, but it's a significant portion of my income.

I still enjoy making jewelry, and part of the fun for me is figuring out what I can make that will appeal to people enough that they'll buy it. Another part is that I almost never make pieces that take more than a day to finish, so I don't have time to get tired of working on them. I still do a lot of experimenting with new styles and designs and techniques. I know that if I just settled into making the same saleable thing over and over I'd get bored quickly. I'm really lucky that I haven't had to.

There are other things I do, and love doing, that just won't ever work the same way. I can't embroider or make cloth dolls fast enough to sell them at a practical price point -- I've tried -- so those are things I make for myself or for gifts. I write fanfic because I enjoy writing and being part of a fannish community, but the things I'd need to do to make money as a writer would lessen my enjoyment of writing all out of proportion to any financial gain.

(also, re: jewelry, it helps that most of my supplies are scavenged, thrifted, or repurposed vintage bits that I accumulate as a side effect of my main gig, so my materials costs are probably a lot lower than most folks. probably it would help more if I stopped buying fancy beads. 'make stuff faster than you acquire supplies for making stuff' is much harder than it sounds.)
posted by nonasuch at 7:13 PM on February 18, 2019 [8 favorites]


I distinctly remember as a kid having the following realization: you can be an artist and not have a regular job that was boring and hateful. But then you have to depend on other people, who DO have regular jobs, to support you. So you are no better than they are. The kid version of "no ethical consumption under capitalism," I guess.

What it took me much longer to realize is that we could, if we wanted to, fix this jacked up system so nobody had to do jobs they hated.

Anyway I never had a monetizable artistic talent, so I knew early on it was regular jobs for me. That did free me a bit to find jobs on the less hateful end of the spectrum, but I've seen many people who never stop pining for a way to do their art full-time.
posted by emjaybee at 7:18 PM on February 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I ran into this myself recently and it made me stop and think. I've planted my backyard in native wildflowers to support wild pollinator populations and a neighbor called me on it. Where's the profit? he asked. I won't claim any high ideal like saving the planet, but happy bees and butterflies bring me joy. Why does every good have to reduce to rank capitalism?

Pollinators are a pretty important part of nature; let's check in with Adam Smith about the economic importance of nature:
In agriculture too nature labours along with man; and though her labour costs no expence, its produce has its value, as well as that of the most expensive workmen ... The capital employed in agriculture, therefore, not only puts into motion a greater quantity of productive labour than any equal capital employed in manufactures, but in proportion too to the quantity of productive labour which it employs, it adds a much greater value to the annual produce of the land and labour of the country, to the real wealth and revenue of its inhabitants. Of all the ways in which a capital can be employed, it is by far the most advantageous to the society.
That's from The Wealth of Nations. Next time your neighbor gives you grief, ask him how his yard makes humanity wealthier. And then just for kicks tell him Thomas Paine said you could take his shit.
posted by compartment at 7:29 PM on February 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


Actually wait. Is it cool if I talk a little about how the practicalities of 'doing what you love' are working for me, right now, as a person who just opened a vintage store this past September?

Because we're actually doing pretty well, all things considered: I'm close to breaking even already and have every reason to expect sales will get better as we leave the retail dead zone of February. But I'm also at the shop six days a week, have no IRL social life, and part of the reason I've been making so much jewelry is that it's what I do when I have no customers and no vintage inventory with me to work on. I perpetually feel like I'm falling behind on all the self-promotion parts of the small-business hustle -- I recently started paying a local high-schooler (in store credit, bless her) to post to the shop Instagram for me. The only reason I'm moderately neglecting Etsy, rather than totally neglecting it, is that due to a Tumblr post that went viral a year ago, I have enough eyeballs on my social media that it's actually kind of worth the time to put things up on Etsy.

(oh hey, there's another thing: how much 'doing what you love' discourse talks about the way you can shout into the void for years on end, have one unrelated post go randomly viral, and suddenly find yourself with an audience for all the shit you've been trying and failing to monetize? but it's completely unpredictable and unplannable-for and still isn't likely to result in paying-the-rent level money.)

I also have no student debt and family who can bail me out if things go south, which is a HUGE HUGE THING that IMMENSELY impacts my ability to do this at all.

In conclusion, small business ownership is a land of contrasts, and I am Tired.
posted by nonasuch at 7:52 PM on February 18, 2019 [17 favorites]


Speaking of monetizing hobbies, the huge thing now is teenagers aspiring to be a Twitch streamer who just plays games 8 hours a day for money. So many teenagers are hooked on Fortnite or Minecraft streamers and trying to replicate the success of streaming superstars like Ninja who earned $10 million in 2018. There are people who actually quit school to go into gaming full time as an e-sports athelete, like Sumail, who took home over a million dollars prize money at age 16.

I've had to try tell more than one person that this is a really bad idea, but hey, I'm the guy whose only consideration of career choice was "what makes me the most money with the minimum effort" so don't listen to me...
posted by xdvesper at 7:59 PM on February 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


If there aren't any numbers, our glow fades and wonder how to tip the clever-meter next time.

This past weekend I
  • invited another couple over to have dinner with my wife and me, and I spent an hour or two cooking this (I was told) "very yummy" citrus salmon dinner with various sides. I don't know anything about salmon, I just thought it sounded like a fancy thing to cook. Some other guy smarter than me figured out how to make the sauce, you know? I just follow directions.
  • ran around in the winter apocalypse with my (very cute) toddler in his (very cute) snow suit with a (very cool and vintage looking) wooden toboggan that is older than I am
And I didn't take any pictures. It was a bit weird to know that I could have taken a few extra minutes to plate the fish all fancy and take a picture, or to grab some action shots of snow flying around my son and caption with something slick about his first winter, and then rack up dozens of 👍 and ♥️ and ⭐. But I decided that I was gonna spend the weekend having fun for fun's sake.

It's still in the back of my head that I missed out, and to be fair I do want a picture on the wall of my son half buried in snow, but mostly I realized that maybe I can trick the clever meter into motivating me invite more people over for dinner. I'm young enough that it's entirely possible I never learned that skill.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:06 PM on February 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


Also, if you're doing something out of passion, you're also probably willing to do it for free -- and other people can spot that. To those people, it's like you're wearing a sign on your back that says EXPLOIT ME!

OH MY GOD THIS SO MUCH THIS. I've had this happen to me a lot, and to my artist & activist friends too (especially those whose work intersects the two). People are so willing to use up our free labour, and they claim they'll pay for it, but when it comes time to hire for a job/buy tickets/donate to a Patreon/etc suddenly CRICKETS. But because we've got enough reach and people using our stuff for free, clearly we must be doing ok.


Heh, my CMO-turned-b-school professor once used a business case to illustrate how exploration is a *great* business idea. In the case, a struggling community theatre needed to stay alive. One of his ideas? Artists are willing to work for shit wages because it's a "labor of love" and their "passion," so cut labor costs by paying artists shit wages. He said the same goes for teachers, etc.

He got fired, for other reasons. Good riddance.

Know your value as an artist and respect yourself. Don't sell yourself short, because others can and will exploit that.
posted by hexaflexagon at 8:09 PM on February 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


My hobby is board games. And I've spent a lot of time and storage space hitting thrift stores and buying games. I resell a lot of them, in the past because finances were tight, and money I made selling games, let me buy new games. As finances are not so tough, my "collection" is more like a burden of. My passion has become a problem.

And lately, overall, gaming has become all about attracting attention to KickStarter projects, and monetizing one's reviews to get free review copies and more subscribers you your awesome YouTube channel.

Ugh.
posted by Windopaene at 9:01 PM on February 18, 2019


Beyond playing in bands for peanuts in college, I did music professionally once. Just one track, for a major automotive manufacturer. The experience was so miserable that I vowed I'd never do it again, because it would ruin the experience of making music for me. Never regretted that decision, and I remain free to make terrible music that amuses me and nobody else. So I do.
posted by davejay at 9:45 PM on February 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Why does every good have to reduce to rank capitalism?

People have been trained this way, someone is trying to sell you the tools.
Tech culture is a lot of people selling shovels and saying "you could get rich digging for gold!".
posted by bongo_x at 1:29 AM on February 19, 2019 [11 favorites]


People really into knitting face this trap early and quickly get over it. When I tell people I knit socks and show them what they look like they’re like “oooh you should open up a shop and sell those” and I inform them that the yarn alone is $20 and the number of hours I spent in it means I should price them at least $50. The reactions are usually worth it.
posted by like_neon at 5:19 AM on February 19, 2019 [13 favorites]


I'm an electronic musician. I make ambient, dark, droney, spooky and weird stuff. It's my passion, but not my career.

I released five solo albums last year on Bandcamp and on streaming services (and one more this year). No real promotion, just posting about them in a few places where I hang out (mostly among other musicians). It brought in $126.

The music is good, IMHO, but as a side hustle it sucks. So I just set all my albums to "pay what you want" and it feels better. There's enough hustle in my day job.
posted by Foosnark at 5:27 AM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


Another thing that I think people who say "why don't you do this as your job?" don't think of:

Making the thing is only PART of having something as your job. They never consider all the other stuff that goes with it, that maybe the creative person is NOT good at. Like: amateur bakers might get told "oh your cupcakes are so good, you should sell them!" Okay: but selling cupcakes professionally means that someone needs to not just be good at cupcakes, but also good at:

* business management
* having a certified-professionally-sterile kitchen
* sales
* marketing
* customer service
* probably other things I'm not thinking of

Those are the skills that are actually making the money if you sell cupcakes professionally.

I actually first thought I was going to be an actress when I was younger, and that's actually what I went to college to study. But I quickly learned that I should not follow that path; mainly because I realized i wasn't good enough for it (and that I was better at being a stage manager, something I discovered in college, and I liked it better after all), but I also realized that I'd also have to do way more of the business management and marketing of myself than I thought, and I knew I wasn't good at any of those things. Whereas for stage management, I was good enough that some word-of-mouth buzz took over and that's actually how I got all but one of my SM gigs, so I could just do what I was doing and people magically gave me money for it.

Maybe that's the comeback for someone telling you "you should do [x] professionally" - "Are you offering to be my agent/business manager for that? Great. Because I can't do that part, and I need someone to do that, so if you can do that angle of things we've got a deal. Also I can't pay you, at least at first." Then when they say "uh....." then you can say "exactly. Okay, I guess I'll stick to this."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:58 AM on February 19, 2019 [13 favorites]


Why does every good have to reduce to rank capitalism?

If money is the root of all evil, then this is like a divide by zero error.

When the phrase "side hustle" or even the very word "hustle" goes back over to the dark part of the verbal reincarnation cycle I may finally get the taste of vomit out of my mouth.

Have you thought about monetizing that bile?
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:16 AM on February 19, 2019


Making the thing is only PART of having something as your job. They never consider all the other stuff that goes with it, that maybe the creative person is NOT good at.

Including art directing and writing the perfect social media post to promote it, regularly, because otherwise you fall out of peoples' minds.

And meanwhile, there's a real social cost. Because social media done well actually works, and can be cost effective, you need to constantly promote there -- but when you're starting or struggling, that means recruiting your friends to amplify you. It seems like the new easiest way to alienate a friend is to post about your business / hustle / creations and ask them to actually care. I have that friend (many of them, mostly selling Rodan and Fields) and I in no way ever want to be that friend.
posted by Mchelly at 6:22 AM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


I think we're looking at a combination of factors, the biggest being simply that people are desperate and simply meeting the cost of necessities is beyond many working people's means.

Remember, on average a person would have to work 2.5 full time jobs at minimum wage just to afford a single bedroom apartment. Obviously that depends on geography, it's worse in NYC and easier in Plainview TX. But overall when you factor in transport, food, housing, clothing, and medical insurance/expenses, a huge number of Americans just aren't making enough money to pay for it all. So they skimp.

As a result we're vulnerable to anything that promises them a way to get more money, thus the rise of MLM's. And since they always need more money, monetizing everything they do starts to look attractive. Doing anything but making more money seems like a waste of time since there's always, always, something that needs more money.

Plus of course the "American Dream" and all that crap telling us that we should be entrepreneurs and if you just work hard you'll be a bazillionaire and never have to worry about money again, but if you're working for a living then you're a sucker and your poverty is all your fault.
posted by sotonohito at 6:26 AM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


Back to lawn care. Unfortunately, it is definitely monetized. Pretty landscaping and gardening following accepted trends makes your property value go up, and your neighbors' too. If lots of people on the street fall in line then the higher sale prices help everyone be able to sell higher, get better loans, etc.

That said, some of us would rather live on a street with wildflowers and butterflies, so win-win?

Sometimes there can be a sweet spot for creative joy via support from others, like when you visit the small used bookstore with interesting collections. If day-jobs are only allowed to be drudgery, then a lot of beauty or at least pleasantness would never happen. As usual the solution is *easy* to describe: just find the perfect balance of everything! (read in sarcastic voice)
posted by TreeRooster at 6:33 AM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


To nonasuch's point, though (and good luck, that sounds really interesting!): I am all for people who want to monetize their joy, build their side hustle, whatever. I think they should be able to. I just don't think they should have to, nor that money is the only reason to do anything. It's a reason, not the only reason.

Some people feel like punching a clock is a terrible fate, and will do anything to avoid it. I feel like making writing not-fun-for-me is a terrible fate, and I'll gladly punch a clock to keep my joy mostly in the joy zone and my money mostly in the money zone. (or, you know, fully automated gay space communism is also a-ok)

Some would prefer to mix them, or to them, making money is joy. That's okay, just don't start preaching that everyone has to do what you're doing.

When I dipped a toe in the self-pub community I saw a lot of "everyone needs to do the same as me, in order to justify my life decisions," and that's just not necessary.
posted by cage and aquarium at 6:34 AM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Let me tell you about my not-entirely-legal underground bacon and sausage of the month club...

I have definitely fallen into a trap of not earning enough at my full time position to need a side gig, and, well, bacon. Sausage. Old customers of my failed restaurant reached out (some of them even MeFites!) and showed interest in purchasing illicit meats. And that’s how I stay afloat. It’s most definitely a grind, and it’s not remotely something that pays a ton, but it covers its costs and provides enough after that it’s kept us afloat. I definitely don’t enjoy doing is as much as I used to, when I had a job that paid well enough that I could have a hobby as bizzare as sausage making, but hey, I had a moment of inspiration* and decided to take the spice mix from the Cuban roast pork for cubano sandwiches and turn it into a bacon cure. Or as I call it, CUBACON.

And that’s all well and good, but all this does feel like I’m in a cliched scifi story where only one person realizes the world has changed, and things aren’t supposed to be like this. The side hustle is so ubiquitous, and we’ve seemingly just accepted that full-time work either doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t expect to be able to make a living off of it. It’s like some switch was flipped, and this is our world now. And any moment now, someone will come along to chide me for my foolishness and naivety.

*the shower is the only time I have these days where I don’t have any task I’m focusing on. It truly is a moment for all of the ideas to jump out and say “hey there”
posted by Ghidorah at 6:40 AM on February 19, 2019 [16 favorites]


Let me tell you about my not-entirely-legal underground bacon and sausage of the month club...

OH. MY. GOD.

Many, many years ago when I lived in San Francisco I lamented the paucity of quality breakfast sausages available at the various and sundry dining establishments around town. Mostly they were either anemic links or the dreaded Chicken Apple Sausage, which IMHO is no sausage at all. Then I came across a diner in Noe Valley that had amazing, plump, juicy sausages of the highest caliber. I came to find out that they were Saag's Breakfast Sausages. Sadly, upon calling Saag's to enquire about purchasing some for myself, I learned that they were only available to those with a wholesaler's license. So strong was my love for Saag's Breakfast Sausages that I fantasized about running an underground sausage distribution network to get those tasty meats to the underserved sausage-loving SF populace. It never did come to fruition, though, because I lacked the funds and the wherewithal to make it happen. I also had some reservations about enabling sausage addiction.

Ghidorah, you have done what I only dreamed of - and you make the sausages yourself! That is some next-level #$%@. My hat is off to you.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:26 AM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


To me, the allure of the "side hustle" isn't really about "monetizing your joy." Nobody is going to pay me to do the things I really love to do, which mostly just includes sipping tea and reading. Having a non-day-job income is about avoiding the monopsony trap, where even well-paying full-time work like my day job is tenuous in the sense that, in the legal poetry of our time, I can be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason. It's just not good strategy to build my life around a single purchaser of my labor, so I try (unsuccessfully, so far) to build little software or IT service businesses that make *some* money.

This tenuousness, combined with months-long hiring cycles for any kind of full-time work in my industry (IT -- the tech labor shortage is a myth, BTW. In a truly sellers' market for labor, it wouldn't take 3 months between 1st interview and starting date.), means that at any time I can be totally without means to support myself and no recourse at all. Savings is a big part of feeling less tenuous, but you would have to have a truly stupendous pile of money in order not to be bothered at all by months- or years-long unemployment. In fact, you'd basically need so much that you could retire already.

So I work my side-hustles, hoping that some of them become sustainable businesses that I can manage to run while staying on the good side of my day-job boss and avoiding corporate layoffs. There's no fantasy scenario where I quit my day job to work on my own things. The fantasy is just that I can continue to survive long enough to die of old age, and perhaps squeeze in a couple years of retirement first, where I'll be able to sip tea, read, and chat with my wife.

If this seems paranoid, I don't think I'm alone: there are a LOT of millenials that entered the workforce around the GFC, and saw the suffering of loved ones around us who had built lives dependent on stable full-time work which was then ripped out from under them. We will probably NEVER feel stable in a full-time job, mostly NEVER expect a defined-benefit pension (including social security) to actually pay out, and in general want to make every scrap of money we can while our bodies still function and our labor is still worth something, not out of greed, but because cash money in your bank account (or under your mattress) is the only type of security we are allowed to have in late capitalism, every other social contract having been completely shattered or overmortgaged since some time before we were born.

To put it bluntly: the only thing between me and dying penniless on the street of a preventable disease is a cushion of money, so any moment of my life not spent maximizing return on my main asset (time) has to be weighed against the risk of that happening.
posted by LiteOpera at 7:26 AM on February 19, 2019 [14 favorites]


It’s most definitely a grind,

I feel like this is the one side hustle where you really should have expected that, Ghidorah.
posted by Sequence at 7:28 AM on February 19, 2019 [23 favorites]


I’ve been got. Sequence, I owe you the beverage of your choice if we ever end up at the same meetup.

In my defense, that was somehow utterly unintentional.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:31 AM on February 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


I follow bunch of paper botanical artists on Instagram. You didn't know it was a thing, did you? But it is!

And one of my absolute favorites is an artist who specializes in weird, unusual items, like torch lilies, night-blooming cereus, mushrooms, that kinda thing. I found her because she's a solid, work-a-day artist who put in her time doing tutorials for daffodils and peonies at the click-powered content mills like Design Sponge and The House That Lars Built and Lia Griffith, slowly working her way up the so-called ranks. It's clearly a job for her. She sells the flowers she makes. She does tutorials for other websites. She teaches classes at West Elms. She has a book coming out this fall, and this morning, she posted a lovely picture this morning of one of her signatures, fritillaries, artfully arranged on a botanical print background ...

... with a long, heartfelt caption about actually BEING IN A MALL with her young daughter while there was an ACTIVE SHOOTER situation and HIDING UNDER A TABLE and nobody was hurt, but the caption ended with this deeply, deeply sad thing about how her kid assumed that our government had adequate measures to keep bad actors from getting guns. And these are the tags she added in the comments:

#rsblooms #bhgflowers #petalsandprops
#imsomartha #marthastewartcrafts #dsfloral #inspiredbynature #floralstories #dailydoseofcolor #floralfix #allthingsbotanical #botanicaldaydreams #flowersandotherstories #botanicalpickmeup #astilllifestyle #inspiredbypetals #moodforfloral #getpropped #fineartflowers #botanicaetcetera #igers_seattle #colortherapy #everytown

I don't blame her at all, because algorithms are a hard, awful master, and she has a book coming out, and she's still a small fish in a medium-size pond, and those tags may drive people to see her work and read her message.

But still.

Shit is fucked up.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:31 AM on February 19, 2019 [13 favorites]


Metafilter: so rank that it taints everything else with its greasy fetid tendrils.
posted by Amor Bellator at 7:32 AM on February 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


About 15 years ago I thought I could sell some really beautiful hats I made. I lost so much money and had so many people telling me that they could get something similar for less at Walmart that I quit in massive disgust. Now, I build lots of Hallowe'en props for the joy of it and when I'm done using them, I sell them. I get my joy and they end up going to a good home. Very satisfying.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:34 AM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


joyceanmachine, that is a hell of a thing. Shit is, as you say, fucked up.

I clicked over to her Instagram, and noticed another thing-- she has 30k followers. From what I can tell, 5-10k is the tipping point where the time you put into social media actually starts to... earn out, I guess? So she's well into 'comfortably sustaining a following' territory and she still has to hustle like that.

Her work is gorgeous, too.
posted by nonasuch at 7:51 AM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


> Not to mention while I don't use pesticides to have my garden certified(tm) organic(tm) would take years and more money than I have. Also- it's not the biggest space, though it's bigger than most backyards in SF, so there generally isn't a surplus to sell, though I might have extra tomatoes this year if I'm lucky, I already promised those to the family friend who subsidized the purchase of some extra tomato pots. The garden is largely to feed my family of three- which is why it's not really something I can monetize

Hey, I have a sister backyard garden to yours, over here in Philadelphia. Luckily for my sanity, most of my friends are familiar enough with farmers' markets that they know that that's a ridiculous suggestion. I can't reliably produce the volume needed, even if I just stuck to herbs, and FFS since when do I want to wake up early in the morning for any reason?

Instead, I have an overflowing bowl of cherry tomatoes on my counter all summer, I send friends home with any kind of herbs they want, I haven't had to buy chamomile tea in years, and whoever agrees to babysit my garden when I'm on vacation Labor Day week gets a bonanza of veggies. (There is a point every year when I am momentarily tempted to sell off some of my mad surplus of lacinato kale, given what it goes for in the market. But instead, I just blanch it and freeze it in 4-6 oz portions for use throughout the winter. Why yes, that last sentence DOES sound self-satisfied.)

I love that my friends contact me randomly with their produce emergency questions, often CSA-related. "What the hell does one do with celeriac?" "I got a ton of spinach/chard/kale and we can only eat it sauteed so many nights in a row, what else can I do with it?" I've thought idly that I could probably write up the advice I've already given, trickle it out on a blog seasonally, and make a little spending money from it with very little extra effort, but eh...there's so much of that out there already.
posted by desuetude at 8:41 AM on February 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


METAFILTER: it ruined both recreational video games and getting stoned
posted by philip-random at 9:01 AM on February 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


Putting it up for free just invites people to vacuum it down without reading the description and then yell at me that they hate it, so that couple of bucks is a minor hurdle to make the audience self-select.

So, MetaFilter but for publishing.

I'm at the point where I'd be happy if my hobby website even got any traffic, let alone trying to monetize it. I've had a handful of people do the "oh, you should do prints/postcards/etc" thing and it's hard to get across the point that no, there are millions of photos of birds out there - the market is probably pretty saturated and most of them are better than mine even if I wanted to put in that labor. I can roast up a pretty nice pork shoulder - am currently doing so, actually - or break down a whole loin into coconut-breaded cutlets and butterflied & stuffed roasts, and I'm happy to share it but it doesn't mean I'm willing to (or even have the skills to) open up a restaurant.
posted by sysinfo at 10:47 AM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've thought idly that I could probably write up the advice I've already given, trickle it out on a blog seasonally, and make a little spending money from it with very little extra effort, but eh...there's so much of that out there already.

Something like this is probably the only way I would consider monetizing my blog thing. The equivalent of a little tip jar - "wait, you wanna give me a couple bucks? That's nice of you! If you want to do that, drop it here. If not, I totally feel that, it's all good." Nothing I can count on to live on, but if I get a few extra bucks here and there, that's better than a kick in the head.

That or studying up on a tour guide license and coming up with very occasional walking tours that are tip-based only. Nothing I could live on, only something for fun. I've still gotten outside and walked if I don't get anything so it's good, and if all I get is enough for a latte, well, then, I'll get a latte and there we go.

I think that kind of casual low-impact monetizing is about as far as I can take things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:48 AM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


And now people tell me, both jokingly and seriously, that I can make a living off my baking! Ahahaha, oh really? You say that now, after I got an expensive degree from prestigious public university to work at a white/pink collar job? You're suggesting I make a career change? Maybe start a small business?

Ugh, these are people who buy into the well meaning advice to figure out what you like to do and then start a business doing that thing! You'll never have to work a day in your life 'cause you're doing what you love!

If the thing you like to do is "running a small business, specifically a bakery" then yeah, that's the path for you. But if you just like to bake? Then you should get a job as a baker.

If you're starting a small business, then your job is "managing a small business" no matter what that business actually does. On top of that, if you're also the only employee, then you need to do all the other jobs that the business requires so now you have two (or more!) jobs.

Similarly, a job selling things on Etsy is just that, a sales job, you might also be the one who MAKES the products being sold but that's just your other job. Your real job is in sales and if you want to be successful selling things on Etsy then you need to be good at selling things on Etsy and that's likely going to be a very different skill set than making the things to sell.

I had been playing around with the idea of being a twitch streamer. Watching twitch streams doesn't make much sense to me but I like playing games and if people want to watch me at my hobby and I can make some money at it, why not right? Then I realized that what makes a successful twitch streamer doesn't have much to do with my gaming talent and has a LOT more to do with being a good self-promoter and while I understand those skills I REALLY don't enjoy using them.
posted by VTX at 11:40 AM on February 19, 2019 [11 favorites]


If you're starting a small business, then your job is "managing a small business" no matter what that business actually does.

I wish "run a business for someone who's creative" was an actual job thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:22 PM on February 19, 2019 [10 favorites]


I write poetry in part because of the absolute guarantee I will never, ever make any money from it.
posted by maxsparber at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


I wish "run a business for someone who's creative" was an actual job thing.

It sort of is, but you might not like how it works in reality.

The problem is that most startup businesses can't afford a full-time employee until they're already past the make-or-break stage, where either the founder has basically figured out how to bootstrap a business or burned through their savings and gone bankrupt.

Businesses that seem likely to be profitable can get around this by selling off chunks of the company in advance of profitability. You see this sometimes in the restaurant business: there are often partnerships where one person is clearly the creative engine and the other person is the businessperson / manager. The de facto trade is management in exchange for half the business. (And the whole West Coast tech industry is arguably built around a formalization of this model, using venture capital: typically one of the first people that gets brought in once you take VC money is someone with experience running a company, at least if the company is founded by technical/creative people. Obviously it's easier to get VC money if you already have someone like that, since then that's one less person to immediately hire.)

The ugliness tends to happen as soon as there's a difference of opinion between the "someone who's creative" and the person hired to run the business. It's almost a cliche. But that only makes obvious the struggle that would otherwise happen internally if one person were trying to do both jobs.

A while back I was talking to someone who had built a fairly successful small business out of their former passion-hobby of making craft soda. They were lamenting that they had to spend all their time dealing with OSHA compliance and employee issues and the logistics of suppliers and distributors. And in the back of my head I was sorta "no shit, Sherlock—you don't make soda anymore. Your employees make soda. You run a soda factory." But somehow they frog-boiled themselves into thinking they were just doing the same thing at bigger scale, when in fact there's very little overlap between running a company with a few dozen employees operating an industrial kitchen and bottling line, and making funny flavor syrups for your SodaStream.

Last I heard, they had sold the business to a big national company (who closed the factory—it was probably laughably inefficient by their standards), making back most of the retirement funds that they'd sunk into the thing but probably less than they would have made if they'd just kept the money in the S&P 500, and gone back to making weird flavor syrups in their kitchen. I wonder a bit if they'd partnered with someone who found the idea of "running a soda factory" more interesting if they would have lasted longer. I suspect the employees might have preferred that outcome.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2019 [10 favorites]


Hah, yes. I was just grumbling internally about this today. "You know what that thing you like doing needs? Deadlines and a boss."
posted by lucidium at 3:54 PM on February 19, 2019 [11 favorites]


f you're starting a small business, then your job is "managing a small business" no matter what that business actually does.

This is gospel truth. My own attempt at restauranting was a good lesson in this, one that Mrs. Ghidorah and I took to pretty well, with Mrs. Ghidorah having been much better at parts of it than I was.

My current situation has been a giant ball of stress for the last two years, as the company I’ve been working for is run by guys who’ve managed to get their passion beer project up and running, and have done a great job of getting all of their shops to do the beer things the sane, uniform way, but by their own admission, they aren’t “restaurant people” which means that the kitchens where nearly half their employees (including me) work are utterly different, with no standard practices among them, each run by a different manager with utterly different styles. I’ve been telling them basically since I started that as they grow larger, it’s only going to get worse, and unless one of them is willing to step away from the beer side of things and devote their time to the restaurants that built their fan base that allowed them to do beer, they absolutely need to hire someone to run it for them. As it is, anyone who come in and takes over will have a war, with three different restaurants, with three restaurant managers and their own kitchen managers all with their own ideas that they might not be willing to change. The larger they get, the bigger the war is going to be, but they don’t see this as a priority, which is why the exit door seems so appealing.

Mind you, if they did actually hire someone, I’m pretty set in my ways, and I might be looking at the door if and when, too. They’re literally damned either way, and I hope they figure it out before it ends up becoming a more serious problem than it already is.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:39 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


There terrible knock on the push to monetize hobbies is that it inevitably makes hobbies more expensive for the people who were already in the hobby.

These fuckers have gentrified my south african succulent growing hobby.
posted by srboisvert at 5:39 PM on February 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


The wonderful thing about fanfiction as a hobby is that it's literally illegal to monetize it at scale if you want it to stay about the characters and world you actually wrote it about. And because of that, all the culture that's grown up around fanfiction is gift economy culture. Sure, some people do ko-fi or patreon or use fic to build audiences for their original fiction, but there's very little pressure to do it. As someone who has a hard time resisting the "if nobody pays you for your work it must be pretty worthless" mentality it's great to hobby within a culture where that's just not a mindset anyone would espouse.
posted by potrzebie at 6:00 PM on February 19, 2019 [7 favorites]


Buddy of mine asked me "Why didn't you go to school for Culinary instead of XXX (the thing I chose)."

My answer:

Because I LIKE COOKING and I'd hate to ruin that too.
posted by some loser at 6:04 PM on February 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


"Do what you love, and you'll never work a day" = turning your passion into a stressful grind and compromising your art

"Don't monetize your joy" = having a day job that's stressful, demanding, and consumes all your time/attention/energy away from your creative pursuits and passions

It's almost like leaning all the way to one side or the other ends up being a nice-sounding definitive stance that ignores the subtle and insidious ways capitalism has us all proper fucked no matter what we choose.
posted by naju at 9:44 PM on February 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


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