Why You Should Think Twice Before You Monetize Hobbies

UPDATED: May 15, 2024
PUBLISHED: May 18, 2024
Woman working on a woodshopping hobby

People don’t necessarily set out to monetize hobbies. Sometimes a hobby becomes costly, and earning some cash is a way to offset the expense. In other cases, we’re approached by people who wish to purchase the fruits of our free-time labor. Often, getting paid for your hobby feels like a low-barrier route to making more money while combating the rising cost of living. A path to profit materializes, and before we know it, the hobby that used to help us unwind has become work.

Clinical psychologist Marianne Trent, DClinPsy, says we must consider hobbies’ original function. “The pursuits that give us pleasure… allow us to decompress… take a breath, [and] be more mindful…. [They help us] regulate the damaging effects of our stress hormones on our body.”

The risk of losing passion when you monetize hobbies 

Cake designer Nina Kamal spent her free time baking beautiful cakes as a hobby. “The more you do something by hand, the more you want to do it better the next time, and it just turned into an obsession of mine…. Then people said… ‘You should actually do this as a business. It looks like you could make money out of it.’  It was also getting expensive to do it as a hobby, [so it made sense].”

However, the more successful Kamal became, the more the baking-related stress increased too. “You lose the passion, and that’s when it becomes just a task that you’re doing [for] external motivation. It started becoming more about [achieving]… sales targets rather than about… baking and craft.”

Jason Yee, an accountant, used to love photography and initially shot with film before moving on to digital photography. After the recession hit, he saw the opportunity to monetize this hobby and dreamed of becoming a fashion photographer. “I thought that… [it was] going to be glamorous [doing fashion shoots] and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he says. When that didn’t take off the way he had hoped it would, he opened a photography accessory shop and studio and moved to Los Angeles. “Almost immediately, it stopped being fun,” he says.

Preserve your downtime to avoid burnout

Running a business requires organization and time management, as opposed to a hobby’s free-flowing nature. Scheduling your downtime could diminish the sense of fun and add a work-like dimension.

Trent backs the importance of preserving downtime. “[These hobbies become] evening work and weekend work, but… [non-working time is] really, really important…. To stay the best [for others], we need to often have time for ourselves as well. Often, [when monetizing hobbies], the [first] thing that gets squeezed [out] is the time for oursel[ves]. So that [makes us] more stressed out and more burned out as a result.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that leisure activities promote positive mental health, so it makes sense that turning leisure time into work could compromise well-being. Trent says it’s important to keep an eye out for early warning signs of burnout: “a sense of apathy [or] disconnection, [the feeling that you’re running] on autopilot… feel[ing] like your thoughts are racing [and] that you aren’t able to… feel excited about the tasks [you have] ahead of you.”

She also notes that looking for things that numb “feeling states” could be a cause for concern—such as an increased level of dependence on nicotine, caffeine, alcohol or cannabis.

If you’re experiencing these feelings after monetizing a hobby, it’s vital not to ignore the signs. “Talk about them, give [those feelings] space [and] speak to a therapist or trusted colleague or friend about what you’re experiencing,” Trent says.

For Yee, the mounting pressure grew to be too much. Eventually, Amazon priced him out of the accessory market. Additionally, area developments led to rent doubling, which made Yee unable to afford his photography studio space, despite hiring it out to the likes of Snoop Dogg and Queens of the Stone Age.

These days, Yee works as an accountant, and his photography hobby manifests as he runs a Facebook group to stay in touch with local photographers and works as a second shooter or photography assistant once a year or so. He’s managed to hold onto some of his love of photography by directing his efforts to street photography, though not as a business.

Stop monetizing your hobby if it negatively impacts your life

Taking a step back from a hobby you’ve monetized can be tough, but it’s an important choice to make when it’s clear that the negative consequences are impacting your life. “[It’s fine to say], ‘It worked for me for a time, I’m very thankful… but I’m choosing now to focus my life in a different direction,’” Trent says.

Unfortunately, pivoting away from something you’re talented at often evokes well-meaning commentary from others who will try to convince you to stay. “We are the main players in our own lives,” Trent explains. “We can’t keep making decisions just because they make other people happy. You’re allowed to drive your own bus and decide how you want your life to look. And if it stops serving you, it’s okay to step back from that.”

Enlist others’ help so you can focus solely on your hobby

Kamal was able to preserve her love for baking, despite burnout. “The only thing that kept me going was just my commitments to those couples… how personal it is and how I connect with people [and hear their stories],” she says. “[I’d worked too] hard on this… to let [it all] go… [so I] pitch[ed] the idea to investors… [for] financial support…. We got investors and my husband joined [the business], and from then, things started to change.” Delegation was key to retaining her passion. “Now I am on that path where I can… focus more on the things that I enjoy, [leaving others to handle sales targets] and all of those things.”

Now Kamal is more protective when it comes to her other hobbies. She loves spending her downtime reading up on psychology. “[Just] last week, [I was] looking into postgraduate [psychology] courses… [but I] know where that leads. I know. I’ve been there.”

Know when to stop trying to monetize hobbies

There is nothing wrong with monetizing a hobby, provided the activity remains enjoyable and it doesn’t contribute to burnout and elevated stress. Once the passion starts to die and your mental health takes a hit, it may be time to let it go or do things differently—or risk losing your initial love for your hobby.

Photo by Davor Geber/Shutterstock.com

Tayla Blaire

Tayla Blaire is a South African freelance journalist and copy/content writer for business and lifestyle brands. She enjoys helping new writers find their feet in the world of freelancing, thanks to her background in education. Find her atwww.taylablaire.com