As a thought leader, you may be great at telling stories through a presentation deck,…
Taking Your Work from a Hobby to a Profession
There comes a time that every author or thought leader has to ask themselves if their work and their passion is a hobby or is it a profession. There are no right answers to this question. In some instances it’s a progression from one to the other; a passion becomes a hobby and you’ve found a way to market it and serve your clients. In other cases you’ve assumed that it can be a profession, but it’s not happening fast enough. It may be a struggle to make a living at it – the content might not be positioned properly or you lack the skills needed to successfully bring it to the market.
Let’s look at a few scenarios: In the first case you’ve got a career that is humming along (which may or may not be related to your IP) but your content is your true calling or your passion. You dabble with it when you can, writing an article on occasion, maybe you’ve self published a book and maintain a blog. You may even have a few clients that you work with when you can. You love doing the work, seeing it resonate with those that are exposed to it, solving clients’ problems with your unique model, process or methodology.
In a perfect world you’d figure out a way to use your content to make a living, but you need to be logical and practical. Mortgages, responsibilities and reality keep you where you are. What will it take to be able to do what you love and be able to support yourself doing it? It’s a scary question and the path is by no means an easy one, but if you are aware of your personal strengths (and weaknesses) and get the help you’ll need along the way it is possible. The happiest and most satisfied people I know are thought leaders doing what they love and typically making a great living doing it.
The other scenario starts at the opposite end of the spectrum. What if you’ve made the investment of your time, your energy and your resources to build a practice or a business based on your content and you are not where you want or need to be? How long has it taken? Is there real momentum and traction that can be measured?
I’ve worked with several clients that are in this exact predicament and the next steps in the journey lead them to one of two possible conclusions. One conclusion is that it’s a hobby. As much as they love the work and have the passion, for whatever reason, it’s not a viable business and they need to treat it as a hobby. The other is that they need to very closely examine what they have been doing, what’s working, what’s not working, what the market for their solutions is and what will it take to grab a large enough slice of that market to make it worthwhile.
These are very difficult questions and I’ve yet to meet anyone that can truly answer them without getting some outside help or guidance. The single biggest factor that I see is that gurus are experts at something very specific – perhaps masters at it and in many cases maybe even absolutely best in class. Most are lacking the skills or experience to develop and execute a sound business strategy that will give them a roadmap, with clear expectations so that the journey will be one that isn’t so uncertain or unclear.
I’m inherently an optimist but one grounded in reality. If you have clarity around the potential markets you can serve, a content roadmap and a long term plan as well as drive, passion and commitment, you absolutely can be doing what you love and making a great living along the way. If your work is the greatest content ever developed but you are not able to productize, go to market and ultimately get paying clients then you are not doing yourself or your work justice by continuing to struggle in vain.
Hobby’s are great – they give us a way to express or creativity, gain expertise and experience joy and satisfaction. Being able to monetize your content means you need to be professional, to have a solid strategy, the necessary resources and the tools that you will need to master your craft in the marketplace. Don’t confuse one for the other and don’t fool yourself that they are interchangeable…they’re not.
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This is fascinating stuff and many of us struggle with this as a concept and in our daily reality of trying to meet our needs. Times are hard too for many. This year I made some money editing and writing plus put an add on my a blog and made referrals to the ad person. My blog ad is for higher ed which I strongly believe in. Education saved my life – literally and figuratively. This year I fell back on my social work skills a little too. Still like you point out – everything I made altogether would not be sufficient to support me.
Hi Peter! I’m a little late in discovering your work (better late than never!) and thank you for a number of really excellent posts/videos! Re this particular topic, I would add one more: the ‘letting go’ moment in life. As one who has been ‘at this’ for almost 30 years, I am looking to step back from my creations and watch them root themselves, in a meaningful way, in a world that is challenged on many, many fronts. As an individual, I am looking to engage new and different things in my life (just turned 65) AND I am mindful that others have become very adept at what was once my sole domain. Although I am choosing to ‘let go’ of many aspects of what this work has been for me, I am mindful that the work has taken on a life of its own. I am allowing new paths to emerge along this same journey; fading more into the background (as a person) as the ideas/experiences pixelate more fully in the care of others. This post, in particular, has helped me to find a modicum of peace in doing just that. So… thanks for that! 🙂