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Distinguishing Business from Hobby

Distinguishing Business from Hobby

Is your hobby a business?

Sharlyn Lauby | HR Bartender

May 28, 2010

One of the things I do in my spare time is make jewelry. My first job out of college was a commercial artist and, after getting away from art for several years, I’m channeling my creative side into jewelry making. It’s also a relatively inexpensive way to feed my bling habit. Sweet.

But when I started making jewelry, my immediate inclination was to turn it into a side hustle. So I bought a domain, opened an Etsy shop, started taking photos, writing descriptions for everything I made, and calculating cost/pricing structures.

A few weeks ago, I closed my Etsy shop. Because I realized that jewelry making was a hobby for me, not a business.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that hobbies can’t become profitable or that business can’t be enjoyable. But I think there’s a benefit in examining the differences between hobbies and businesses. Especially when it comes to developing a personal or professional brand.

Decide what activities are business and which ones are hobbies. For example, I view my blog as a business. Blogging is a lot of fun. I enjoy writing. And, I really like all of the people I’ve met as a result of blogging (you know who you are). No different than my consulting firm. My clients are great. I work on interesting projects and appreciate the opportunities I’ve been a part of. For me, jewelry making is for fun. It’s a hobby. Don’t worry, what you decide here can change over time.

Don’t confuse having goals with being a business. I have goals for my business and blog. And professional goals for myself when it comes to writing and staying on top of what happens in the training arena. I also have goals when it comes to my hobby. The difference between my professional goals and hobby goals revolves around deadlines and project plans. Hobby goals are much more casual because it’s, well… a hobby, not a business.

Make sure people know your business focus. Sometimes individuals can send mixed messages where their businesses / hobbies are concerned and they don’t even realize it. For example, I’ve talked with people who say they’re consultants but, from what I can see, they look like they consult only when there’s absolutely nothing else to do. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears that consulting is a hobby for them. It’s not their primary business focus.

If you have more than one focus, make sure people know which one is primary. Another example is people who consult while they’re looking for a job. I totally respect and appreciate the need to make money to pay the bills between jobs. But I’ve seen many cases where the person is so focused on the consulting that the outside world forgets they’re looking for full-time employment. It’s important that people know and remember your primary focus.

Align your actions with your brand message. Stop to consider what people know you for — is it your business or your hobby? As you develop your personal brand, make sure the messages you send align with the business niche you’re trying to create for yourself.

As more people start to make decisions about how they would like to earn a living in the future (maybe by consulting, freelancing, speaking or blogging), they will also have to decide if the endeavor will be a business or a hobby. The answer is important because it sets the stage for the way they handle matters in the future. Such distinctions have made me realize, if you want people to take your business seriously, they need to know it’s a business. Not a hobby you do in your spare time. And, you need to make sure you operate it like a business.

Got any hobbies that are also a business?