You’re an esports gamer pulling in three-figure donations every day on Twitch. Maybe you’re wowing TikTok viewers with your makeup tutorials. Perhaps you’re baking luscious layer cakes or making really cool 3D art to share on your Instagram page.
We’ve talked about how hobbies can help inspire you to pursue a certain career path, even one you hadn’t thought of before.
But can your hobby be your career? Can you turn a favorite pastime, activity, or sport into a job you’ll get paid to do for the rest of your life?
You sure can! But you have to know some things about yourself first. If the idea of turning your hobby into a career is something you’re considering, here are 5 questions to think about:
You may really love whipping up batches of whimsical cupcakes every day after school for your friends and family. But do you have what it takes to become a professional pastry chef, which, besides baking, also involves menu planning, keeping budgets, organizing kitchens, and getting to work at 4 am?
Here’s where you really need to do some self-reflection. Start by researching your end goal and writing everything to get there, including potential challenges. Now check back in with yourself—do you have the “will” to get there? Is your pastime something you can wake up and do for at least eight hours a day, five days a week? For lots of people, hobbies are a way to reduce stress—they shouldn’t be the source. Ask yourself if you’ll still love your hobby when you’re doing it all the time, under pressure and deadlines.
Some people are amazingly talented at things, but there isn’t enough demand for their product or service. Here’s an example: your grandfather taught you some really cool woodworking skills, and you’ve learned to make these intricate wooden clocks, even selling some to your parents’ friends. You really love making these clocks and have given some serious thought about doing this for a living. The problem is, even though these clocks are special and beautiful, people don’t buy clocks that often anymore. But you could take your love of woodworking and turn it into a career by becoming a furniture designer, bench carpenter, or restoration expert. And as you become a more experienced woodworker, you may one day end up making high demand items to sell as part of your own business.
This is a question for teens wondering if their hobby could lead to a career in the elite world of professional sports, acting, the music industry, etc. If your favorite activity fits into this territory, here’s where you will need to get real with yourself. You may love, love doing your hobby and could do it all day, every day… but is your talent level within reach of being a professional? Secondly, there are lots of talented people competing for the same limited roles in Hollywood movies, running back positions in the NFL, and country singer record deals. So do you have the dedication required to compete and keep going even when you hear a lot of “nos”?
An example here is our son Dom and his friend. They both love playing soccer. They would do it all day, everyday if allowed. Dom plays on his soccer club’s top competitive team. His friend plays on a recreation team. Both have dreams of playing college soccer. The odds of even elite college players getting to play professional soccer are very slim—only 0.8 percent end up playing professionally in the U.S. For Dom, his talent is within reach, but his dedication may not be enough. For his friend, his talent is not at the same level as others’ competing for spots on the college teams…but Dom’s friend’s dedication is rock solid and his perseverance is insane. Unfortunately, the people who win these available open spots on college teams have it all — the talent, dedication, and perseverance. So, realistically for these boys, their love of soccer is not career worthy.
At one point, Dom had visions of playing soccer professionally until he became more exposed to the competition outside of his “bubble” and realized just how hard it would be. Is he a skilled player? Yes! And he has a good chance of playing soccer in college—but he’s not talented and dedicated enough to play professionally. Sounds kinda harsh coming from his mother, huh? This isn’t about bursting dreams, but about being realistic. If you have your sights set on big dreams, that’s outstanding! Just be sure you’re asking yourself all the tough questions: can you out-work everyone around you? Are you willing to get better? Do you have the strong mental and physical discipline it takes to compete at the top level in these sectors? Can you handle rejection?
Most people rely on their jobs to pay the bills, so it’s important to know if your hobby will translate into a legit paycheck. For example, you could love making your own hair accessories but not be ready to make a living as a clothing designer. In the meantime, you could work as a styling assistant at a clothing retailer while you learn the business. You may make a name for yourself as a Call of Duty gamer on Twitch, but still be years away from being a professional esports gamer. Depending upon your other skills, you could translate some of your gaming talents into work as a designer, programmer, writer, artist, audio programmer, or game tester.
Don’t put your dreams on the back burner because your hobby doesn’t immediately translate into something that pays the rent. Consider ramping up rather than going full speed ahead by pursuing your hobby part-time. What does that look like? If you’ve always wanted to write a mystery novel, maybe you take a full-time position as a copywriter, but on nights and weekends you’re enrolled in a free creative writing class via Coursera and working on your first thriller. Taking a more measured approach versus a deep dive can be a smart move—you may realize you like keeping your “side” work right where it is.
As with all things career-path related, the decisions are unique to YOU. Your job (now!) is to think about making a career choice that best reflects who you are so you don’t fall into a job that ends up defining you. And your favorite pastimes, activities, and sports can be a great source of inspiration for such a career. The bottom line here: leverage your talents, be flexible, and think creatively!
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