Should you Turn Your PASSION PROJECT Into a Business?
The classic book, Positive Addiction by William Glasser, M.D., turned me into a runner. The book gives very clear do’s and don’ts for building a running lifestyle. The goal is to create an intrinsically-satisfying running habit—emphasis on INTRINSIC.
Intrinsic satisfaction means doing something because it’s personally rewarding to you. Extrinsic satisfaction means you are doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment.
To keep one’s running habit from being extrinsically motivated, the author creates certain prohibitions. Competing is one of them. Out are any 5K races, 10K races, and of course, marathons. Once someone allows his running to be subjected to external measurements, the shift from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation subtlety emerges—and the entire process is jeopardized.
In that spirit, over the years, I have resisted the temptation to talk about “times” with other runners and have never entered a race. My running was just for me—my health, my creative processing, my frustration reliever, my “me” time. It was because Dr. Glasser so clearly spelled out for my always-needing-to-understand brain the difference between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Satisfaction that I knew how to keep my exercise activity positioned for a lifetime of results. That book made me a consistent runner/walker for a lifetime and I will be forever grateful.
Having been in the company of Olympic and professional athletes, I can personally verify that this is NOT their mindset.
“All they do is eat, sleep, and practice,” was a comment from a coach talking about his training-for-the-Olympics runners.
Admittedly on a continuum, there is a whole lot of space between my running and an Olympic runner’s. And there can be a whole lot of space between your hobby and turning it into a profession or a business.
On one side, once something becomes a profession, your passion will be subjected to many “external” constraints, demands, and expectations. On the other hand, the trade-off for bringing your love of an activity out into the world is that it could support you financially; you could find others who also love what you do; and you could fill your hours with an activity that you truly enjoy.
Here are four considerations you need to ask yourself before you take that leap:
1.Do you consider exchanging your gifts with others in exchange for money a noble pursuit?
James was a creative, idea person. He and I were simpatico when it came to brainstorming. When I spend an afternoon sightseeing with him, his wife and son, James and I would often be lagging behind the group immersed in vigorous, intense conversation…well, really, it wasn’t conversation as much as it was joyful brainstorming sessions. Since we were both idea people, we had lots of fun in our informal back and forth mind-meld sessions. We both loved it and an idea from one of us would generate ten ideas from the other.
His wife, who was supportive and willing to fund her artist husband’s ideas to get his art out into the world, would provide practical steps as we shared our new ideas over a meal later in the day. This was a typical pattern of interaction for all of us for years when we would get together.
But gradually, I saw a different side of James. He would complain bitterly about how his part-time day job “sucked his soul.” In spite of numerous opportunities to bring his gift to the world, no implementation steps were ever taken. Any suggestions for making his work more marketable were met with protests of “selling out.” I learned a lot from James. I gradually saw that when ideas turned into work, the fun was over. I saw that making something work for an audience, a business, or a client was “beneath” him. I have since run into many “James” and have started to recognize the mindset and language of someone who needs to stay a hobbyist vs. an entrepreneur. These people often see the monetization of their passion as binary: it’s “Pure” or it’s the “Purse”.
Turning your passion into a profitable business can be a noble pursuit and one that blesses many people. If that is your perspective, you may be ready to launch.
2.Do you clearly understand that in the transition of passion to profit, something is lost and something is gained?
Your art, hobby, etc. will not exist in its “pure” form. Pure intrinsic satisfaction will be replaced with a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic satisfaction.
I recently heard someone say, “Sometimes turning your passion into a business can ruin it.”
From years of speaking to people about this choice, I knew exactly what she meant. Having something purely as a hobby means you get to do it your way. In psych speak, it’s 100% intrinsic satisfaction.
Granted, you will lose some of your intrinsically-satisfying interest when customers ask you for a product or need help on a project that doesn’t totally enamor you. When it’s a hobby, if it doesn’t interest you, you don’t do it.
I often think of touring bands who have to play their hits at e-v-e-r-y concert. The thrill of singing the “hit” after years must be replaced with the challenge of making it fresh for each new audience. If it’s a hobby, if you get tired of doing it, you don’t do it.
In the process of this loss-gain transition, your measuring stick must change. Are you willing to trade your measuring stick of enjoyment, relaxation, fun, interest, and passion to also include measurements such as customer satisfaction, return on investment, or profit?
If the obvious analogy hasn’t already occurred to you, it’s much like the difference in romance and marriage. Romancing your hobby allows it to exist as just something you can do when you want, how you want, and why you want. Entrepreneurship is marrying your passion. It is about building for the long-term and serving the needs of a customer as much as your own.
3. Do you recognize that creating a business and mastering a passion-skill are two entirely separate and distinct proficiencies?
Loving to cook is not the same as owning a restaurant. Loving to write is not the same as publishing a book. Loving to teach is not the same as creating successful online profitable courses.
Gabriel was a very talented woodworker who considered going from hobbyist to entrepreneur, but who eventually retreated back into hobbyist because, as he reported to me, “I hate to sell and that’s all it is!”
Gabriel’s complaint was lodged several years ago, but today more than ever, Gabriel could have made it. Today selling is teaching and it’s never been easier to teach/sell a subject you love through blogging, video, and all the other numerous available avenues.
You have probably spent a long time learning your craft and being good at it. But if you want to make the transition from hobbyist to entrepreneur, you will also have to learn the language and skills of efficient processes, return on investment, multiple technology tools, bookkeeping, taxes, customer satisfaction, good communication, and maybe even management and team-building if you grow big enough.
4. Can you make a clear distinction between who you are and what you do?
Do you identify so closely with the expression of your hobby or passion that you take it personally if someone doesn’t like your work or love it as much as you do? Most friends and family will be lovingly supportive and encouraging of your hobby projects. And many will encourage you to turn it into a business “because it’s so good.” “You should do this full time!” they say. Take it in the spirit with which it is offered, but do not always trust their hobby-to-market judgment.
No one is immune to the sting of criticism but taking your hobby “public” puts it on display behind a glass window. To stay sane, you must put some psychological distance between your work and who you are as a person.
This actually applies to both hobbyists and entrepreneurs, but is especially important during the transition. Since most entrepreneurs are heavily invested in their businesses, it’s not unusual to hear them talk about their businesses as their babies. This is especially true when they are the Product—which is the case in most creative or solopreneur fields such as writing, speaking, and consulting.
Thinking in terms of a “good fit” or “not a good fit” is the model “Bank Your Knowledge” promotes. Instead of sulking and retreating, put your Objective Thinking to work and keep processing, analyzing, tweaking, experimenting, adapting, and adjusting to find a good fit. If something is not a good fit, don’t take it personally. Move on. A good fit exists.
Turning your hobby/passion into a profitable, sustainable business is 100% doable, but make sure these four considerations are addressed before you take that leap.