A few weeks ago on the subway I overheard a conversation between a mother and son. The young boy was excitedly explaining that he had figured out what he wanted to be when he grew up. A Youtuber. My jaw dropped and I laughed as I noticed fellow commuters having similar reactions.
Who could have predicted a time when sharing photos of your breakfast was part of your job? Or, when videos of your family vacation are helping you make rent. Or, when children view YouTube-ing as a viable career option. It’s no secret that social media has transformed the way we live our lives. For creatives, like myself, it’s helped alleviate the long-held, denigrating narrative of the “starving artist”. It’s generating increased opportunities for us to expose and monetize our work.
The rise of unconventional careers, stemming from hobbies, is transforming how Millennials and Gen Z approach their careers. But, is this blurring the lines between work and life, and shifting the healthy balance between the two?
Millennial side hustle culture
Social media feeds are filled with inspirational quotes, like, “Do what you love and you’ll never have a problem with Monday.” Thanks to advances in technology, the gig economy is more accessible than ever. Gallup estimates that approximately 36% of U.S. workers are involved in the gig economy. That’s about 57 million people! Digital platforms with built-in viewers give writers, artists, designers, stylists, and creatives the opportunity to showcase their work with minimal costs. For example, WattPad, a storytelling platform based in Canada, helps writers connect with an built-in audience of 80 million readers. For free.
Hobby or side hustle?
It’s hard not to be enticed by the idea of having a career built on a hobby. But, once a hobby becomes a stream of income, is it still a hobby? Or, is it now a job?
Meredith Pickering, a marketing operations manager at Toronto start-up began experimenting with make-up in her spare time. This quickly became a hobby, grew into a blog, and eventually became a full-fledged brand.
“I was getting emails from people asking if I’d come teach them my tricks, review and promote their products. I’d help out with fashion shows and assist with bridal consultations. It was honestly the first time I realized I’d developed a marketable skill that I could monetize. It was a cross-roads. If I was going to transition from amateur to professional - this was my moment. The problem was, I wasn’t doing the makeup for myself anymore. I wasn’t creating out of inspiration. Instead, I was meeting demands. I was on the clock. I was being held to other people’s standards. It stopped being fun and started being work.” says Pickering.
Today, she continues to work in marketing, and has kept make-up artistry as a strictly-for-fun hobby.
Leisure Time is Critical
A hobby is defined as an activity done in one’s leisure time for pleasure. Whether you’re working on your side hustle, you’re self-employed, or you have a 9-5, hobbies are scientifically proven to be a crucial aspect of healthy work-life balance. Having a hobby has been linked with many different measures of both physical and emotional well-being. It has been found to aid productivity, boost problem-solving skills and encourage creativity. Hobbies enable us to take our minds off of day-to-day stress, learn a new skill just for fun. Or, to just spend quality time alone or with others.
Should you monetize your hobbies if the opportunity arises?
There’s no easy answer to this one. A career based on passion is certainly enticing. Research indicates that it is also a great way to avoid burnout and boost resiliency. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that entrepreneurs who were most motivated by money or social acceptance were more likely to report feeling frustrated and drained. However, it’s equally important to ensure that you don’t get caught up in the pressure. Don’t monetize your life to oblivion.
Maybe a spot on the New York Times Bestseller’s List isn’t as important as writing just for yourself in a journal. Maybe you love helping friends pick out an outfit for a big date, but you’re not interested in dressing anyone for the Oscars. And, your family photos are perfectly fine displayed on your living room wall, not on your Instagram feed. Only you know what’s right for you. Just make sure to have some things in your life that are just for fun.
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