Corie Miller is a writer for BUILT BY GIRLS, which prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step into their power and break into their careers. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a 1:1 matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country. For more information and to sign up check out builtbygirls.com.
Extracurriculars, hobbies, passions: the activities we love so much that we choose to spend our precious free time doing them. Whether it’s playing an instrument, writing poetry, painting, pottery, dance, or songwriting, you love these activities for what they are, how they make you feel, and what you can accomplish. They enrich your life, bring you joy, and have something magical about them that keeps you hooked.
At some point, you may start to wonder if it’s time to upgrade your hobby into a full blown career. How do you know when a hobby is just a hobby — or something you can make a career out of?
Maintain balance in your life
There’s a reason so many employees and companies are focused on a healthy work-life balance. Time to recharge, play, and explore helps you come back to work energized and ready to focus. Hobbies are a great way to unwind and learn in a pressure-free space.
So, if you’re considering monetizing your hobby or turning it into your career, consider how this change will affect the amount of joy you get out of the activity. If your livelihood now depends on your ability to do your fun hobby, you’re suddenly adding a ton of pressure. This can make the activity more stressful than fun, and have an adverse effect on how much you genuinely enjoy it.
On the other hand, you can be passionate about your job while having completely unrelated interests outside of work. This balanced approach allows you to cultivate several different aspects of your personality. You’re also giving yourself space to dive into new areas purely for play and fun — not to be productive or to make money. You do plenty of that already at your job.
Follow your passions both inside and outside of work
What is it about your favorite hobby that you absolutely love? Do you fall into a flow state and the world around you melts away? Or maybe there’s just something about that rush you get when you construct something new out of nothing? Perhaps it's something else entirely.
Whatever that general aspect may be, you can try to identify those sorts of tasks or responsibilities at work that give you the same feeling.
For example, if you crave that flow state you get when practicing an instrument, you might find that writing code also brings you to that same focused flow. Thinking like this about the hobbies you already love can help you identify projects or aspects of your job that might engage you in a way that’s similar to your favorite hobby — without requiring a major career pivot.
Keep an open mind
Both inside and outside of work, stay open to trying new things. Lots of careers have aspects to them you may not be able to see from the outside, and with an open mind, you never know what you might stumble upon.
Similarly, outside of work, keeping a learner’s mindset and approaching hobbies with a sense of playfulness can allow you discover things you love or talents you have that you never realized before. It’s important to keep some space open for yourself to explore without the pressures of productivity or the fear of failure.
It’s okay to not know yet
If you follow your passions both inside and outside of work, you’re setting yourself up for success no matter what. If you love your hobby because it’s a zero-pressure way to play, release steam, and explore, then maybe turning it into a career doesn’t make sense right now.
But maybe down the line — after you’ve started selling your watercolor prints on Etsy, have gained a devoted following, and are making some serious revenue — you might feel comfortable focusing even more energy on your budding hobby-career hybrid.
Most importantly, it’s okay to keep your hobby a hobby, and keep doing it purely for the joy and personal growth you get.
Read more information and tips in our Advice section