When Mixing Passion With Hustling Can Fail

[We’ve got a great article today by my boy Zee from Work-to-Not-Work.com. He brings up something good to consider while y’all are out there looking for new side hustles!]

Most personal finance sites I read have at least 1 post (or entire sections) about having a side hustle. The reasons behind why you should do this usually falls into “diversify your income streams” or simply, “increase your income.” The two ideas go hand in hand so it really doesn’t matter which reasoning you are using because all apply.

I’ve been told that the best side hustles are doing something that you are passionate about. If you enjoy graphic design, creating websites on the side might be a good idea. If you like to find bargains at flea markets, then maybe you should open a shop on eBay or Amazon with what you find. If it’s something that you enjoy, then you get to enjoy the experience along with making a side income – a win-win scenario.

I have always been reluctant to find a side hustle. Personally, I view my free time as valuable so whatever hustle I do has to either moderately pay me back, or have the potential to really pay me back. It would be great to have a hustle that I really enjoy and happens to make me money, but if I have to repeatedly do it over and over again then it will probably turn something I enjoy into “work” pretty quickly. And I’m not really trying to ruin my hobbies.

I also think that the only things that I would enjoy doing are not really things that other people would actually pay me for. Sure it would be great to get paid to watch NetFlix but honestly, I pay to do that, no one is going to pay me. (Though maybe I should look into the Nielson company and see if I can get paid to watch regular TV? That would be worth my time!)

Anyways, a few weeks ago my friend who happens to be an artist had a painting party for her birthday. Since I used to be really into collecting art (an expensive habit I might add), I was excited to be the one painting something for once. I don’t consider myself to be very artistic, especially in comparison to those painters I would regularly go see at galleries, but it sounded fun. Since I knew the actual quality of my painting would not be very good, I decided to make a painting that was funny, that way people might still enjoy it even if it looks like something a 7 year old painted in school.

Before the actual party my friend told us to send her a picture of what we wanted to paint and she would sketch it on the canvas for us as a guide to paint over. To make a long story short, I think my painting turned out pretty well. It’s funny and the actual “painting” part of it is not too bad:

bronies before hoenies

Since I enjoyed painting it so much, I decided that I wanted to hang it up on my walls. Which in turn, made me decide to frame it. This required me to paint the frame because honestly the color of frame that I was looking for would not be readily available. I did a first coat on the frame in a neon pink, then once that dried I put over a crackled layer of green so you could still see the pink through it.

It took a few extra days to do all of this and learn how to frame something on canvas, but I had a lot of fun creating something and learning new skills. Here’s a picture of it after framing:

bronies before hoenies framed

As more people have seen it, a few have suggested that I could sell it. Since I followed the art scene I know where I could do this probably pretty easily, and if all else failed I could always try Etsy or eBay.

But here’s my problem: I like it too much to want to sell it!

I realize that I did not originally set out to make this a side hustle, so maybe it’s not a total fail, but I could easily see myself trying to make a fun activity into income. Some people at work have even said they would buy paintings from me when I joked about making a zombie hello kitty painting. [Editor’s Note: I know I would! Haha… I love this type of painting style!]

The problem is, I’m too attached to what I create. Their personal worth to me is much greater than a dollar amount I could reasonably stand to receive. And this is why I’m terrible at the whole side hustle business that other bloggers are always talking about. I think it’s a great idea for some people, but for me it just doesn’t seem to work because doing things for passion means I’d want to keep what I produce, not sell it.

Are there any artists out there that have this same issue? Is it possible I started doing something I’m too passionate about? We will see what the future holds, but for now I am enjoying the spot near my desk at work where it’s currently hanging.

Zee is a personal finance blogger in San Francisco. You can find more of his writing at Work To Not Work where he writes about his journey to reach financial independence and escape the corporate workplace. He is not a Brony.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I think Zee brings up a REALLY good point. And I’m willing to bet a ton of others have this same problem too – at least in the art scene. As I mentioned to Zee, I wonder if this would change if you got paid *ahead* of the process of the artwork? Like, would it reduce temptation since you’re making it or someone else right off the start? AND you already have the money in your hands so now you’ *have to* hand it over? It’s interesting to think about for sure.

Luckily, however, there are a ton of OTHER great ways to rock a side hustle too. Particularly by offering *services*. So don’t give up quite yet, Zee and others in the same boat! Maybe you guys can find a way to drum up some cash in a more boring way? ;)

[Neon passion sign by Anthony Easton]

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  1. Mr. Minsc April 17, 2014 at 7:22 AM

    The thing I foresee with hobbies where you create physical objects, sooner or later clutter will start to build. While there’ll be certain pieces one won’t want to part with the same attachment won’t apply to all. As you said about blogging in an earlier comment, Zee will never know where the future will lead if he keeps painting. ;)

    As for taking payment beforehand, depends on the person I guess. Sometimes that can add enough extra pressure to produce something it kills your creative spark. I’m sure many will agree, we are most creative when inspiration randomly strikes.

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      Well, I think you’re right about the clutter part of things. Since I used to collect art I’m already out of wall space for new stuff. I’m glad that I ran out of wall space, it kind of forced me to stop collecting more (expensive) art. But I think that because I created that new painting myself I’m a lot more attached to it, so something else on my walls must go to make room for it. You’re probably onto something though, If I create a lot of new stuff then I’m sure I’d be willing to let some of it go.

      I’m also not completely sure about taking payment beforehand, while I think that situation would make it easier to hand over a painting in the end, I don’t think I would feel inspired to paint as much.

      1. J. Money April 18, 2014 at 9:01 PM

        Great points y’all. Guess we’ll only find out what the answer is if Zee moves forward with this skills ;)

  2. Catina Mount April 17, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    I blog my passion and it costs me…does that count? When I think about REALLY working it into a side income I freeze because then it feels like the passion is being robbed from my soul. Maybe I am looking at it all wrong?!? Maybe I need an additional blog…hhhhmmmm….this got me thinking!

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 10:39 AM

      I really think that blogging should be for fun and if it turns into side income then that’s a bonus! If you’re writing only for money then I think you’ll lose all (or at least some) of the passion that you once had. I know that’s not always the case, but for most people I think the goal should be to have fun with it and not focus on the money aspect of it.

      1. Catina April 17, 2014 at 5:40 PM

        I think you are right…well, the thought was fun while it lasted. :-)
        Random side note, I have a boss, Zelma, we call her Zee.

        1. J. Money April 18, 2014 at 9:04 PM

          It def. gets tricky when your blog (hobby) starts making some actual money (now a business). You can tell fairly quick when bloggers start trying to ramp up the money side as it def. changes the way you write and think overall. Which makes sense if you’re treating it as a business vs hobby. I consider budgetsaresexy half business and half pleasure – though 6 years ago it was 100% pleasure :)

          I say keep blogging your heart out and if the money part comes, then even better!

          1. Zee April 19, 2014 at 5:20 PM

            Couldn’t have said it better J$

            If it interests you, don’t stop. If it makes some money too, that’s awesome!

  3. Dave @ The New York Budget April 17, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    That is definitely an interesting dilemma. I guess I am lucky that my side hustle, playing in a band only gets MORE enjoyable for me when I share it with as many people as possible.

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      That’s a perfect side hustle for sharing! The whole idea behind music is to share it with as many people as possible, I need to find something like that!

  4. jp April 17, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    If you like the zombie art, check out 1000 Zombie Project by Byron Rempel. You send in a photo and he turns you into a zombie – I sent in my husband and dog, had it printed onto a metal sheet and it’s amazing!! http://www.idrawzombies.com

    1. J. Money April 18, 2014 at 9:05 PM

      HAH! That’s awesome!!

  5. a terrible husband... April 17, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    From what I understand it’s a big problem with artists. What about keeping this original and making shirts, mugs, etc., with the same image?

    1. Brian@ Debt Discipline April 17, 2014 at 8:37 AM

      Great idea. My daughter’s who love o draw has the same issue parting with any work she does.

    2. Zee April 17, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      That’s a possibility. If I were to put the image on other items though I would probably have to use a computer generated image so it was “cleaner” on whatever it was printed on. I’m just not the greatest when it comes to photoshop, though I’m pretty good at stick figures!

  6. John @ Sprout Wealth April 17, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    This is definitely an interesting dilemma. My wife has faced a bit of this herself over the years as she is a professional writer. That’s what our business is but she also enjoys creative writing and has been told she could make a little money through it but she really just does it to express feelings, write on something she normally doesn’t, etc. and does it really because she enjoys it. For the time being, we’ve decided to not pursue her making money from it because it’s just an outlet for her that she enjoys and instead we focus on other services we can offer that we’re not attached to and make money that way.

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      It’s funny how the relationship between making money and passion or inspiration work. Doing something because of a paycheck changes the whole feel of the activity at hand, yet doing something for passion and getting rewarded for it is a great feeling. I think it’s great that your wife writes for an outlet and because she loves it. If you share that writing anyways then I think it would be a great goal to find a way to get a little side income from it but don’t make the side income the focus. As soon as the money becomes the focus the work/passion relationship tips in the other direction. I like to think of side income as a happy side effect!

  7. Becky @ RunFunDone April 17, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    I sew, and sometimes people tell me that I should sell the items I sew…but it’s so much work, I only want to sew for myself!

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      I feel you Becky! I spent a lot of time on that painting, well, not a TON, but enough that I have an attachment to it!

  8. Mortgage Free Mike April 17, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    I would not consider this a fail at all.
    I bet if you created a piece of art that moved someone emotionally– and you saw their reaction to it– you’d want to sell it to them.
    Maybe you’ll want to share your gift once you have no more wall space left? :-)

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      Being that I put up this piece at work I have gotten to see a lot of people’s reactions to it and they were all positive. (I assume that if someone didn’t appreciate it they just didn’t say anything, ha!) So far most reactions result in high-fives or laughter, but no one has really “emotionally” connected to this one in particular and that’s not exactly something I would expect. Then again, I don’t think I’ve run into someone that was a huge My Little Pony fan yet so it’s possible I might be swayed in letting them have it.

      And I’m already out of wall space, but at least I know I will take something else down to make room for this!

  9. Kurt @ Money Counselor April 17, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    I’ve always wondered how artists and crafts people part with something they’ve put so much time and effort into. I’m not an artist, but my Dad does watercolors. He has sold a few, but he’s given far more away to family members where he can still seem them when he visits. Maybe if you make a quality digital image of a painting for your files, would be easier to part with it.

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Hey Kurt, I think that I would actually be more willing to give this painting to a friend than sell it to a stranger for the exact reason you mentioned. I would want to see my work on occasion and I think that knowing the person who has it would just make me feel better.

      I imagine that whenever I finally do decide to part with it, I’ll probably just give it to someone I know that really appreciates it.

    2. J. Money April 18, 2014 at 9:07 PM

      Hah! That’s a pretty interesting idea actually – being able to see your art around other people’s (who you care about) homes. I like that!

  10. Quinn @ Wealth Out West April 17, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Zee, this post made me laugh! Very enjoyable read!

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Glad you enjoyed it Quinn!

  11. Even Steven April 17, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    I fall into this category of not wanting to sell things from time to time. I buy and sell gently used and new clothing on ebay, sometimes I just keep the shirt, maybe it’s a Polo that I know would sell for $40, it can be a tough call, but in the end I eventually end up selling the item eventually, because I end up saying I’d rather have $40. I think you can do the same with your paintings. Even better sometimes I will put a “Make Me Sell This Shirt” price, like $80 and if it sells I definetly don’t have a problem giving it up.

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 12:42 PM

      I like the way that you only sell things that you would want to buy, that means even you agree with the value of what you have.

      I’ll have to consider the “Make me sell this” price, I’m sure that almost everything has some sort of price tag except maybe children, pets, and other things of that nature.

      How often do your “Make me sell this shirt” prices get purchased? I’m curious as to what the conversion rate might be.

      1. Even Steven April 17, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        I’ve never really kept track of the conversion rate. I would say it’s about 50% of the time, usually if I list it on eBay it’s going to sell, sooner or later. So maybe it means I’m wearing that Polo for 3 months, well that’s good enough for me. I bet if you list or attempt to sell that painintg for idk $500 for 3 or 4 months and it ends up selling you would be happy you were able to enjoy it for that time and still make money. At least that’s my thought process.

        1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 4:26 PM

          Wow, if you sell things 50% of the time that you put up a “Make me sell this price” that’s pretty good! For now I’m going to just enjoy it. Maybe in 6 months or a year I’ll re-evaluate how much I value it. Chances are, I will probably give it to a friend if I do end up parting ways with it, that way I still get to see it on occasion. Once it’s gone, it really is gone for good, that’s the biggest consideration I have right now. It would be different if I was more of a regular artist, but I really only get the “creative itch” like this once or so a year.

  12. Kathy J April 17, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Make more than one of the same painting (maybe change it a bit so each will still be “An Original”).

    That can possibly solve your dilema.


    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      Hey Kathy, when I originally wrote this post I went into how in the past I had purchased a painting from an artist who had painted almost identical painting of the one I had purchased. This was also an artist that was not known for doing that type of thing and his paintings generally ranged in the thousands of dollars so they were not cheap to begin with. When I had discovered that there was a duplicate painting of mine I was very disappointed in the artist and even other people in some art discussion boards felt that it was not appropriate for him to do such a thing. Granted there were slight differences so they were both original, but you really had to look for them to tell the difference.

      Anyways, because of that experience I personally would never paint the same image slightly different just so I could keep one. I know that lots of artists do that with prints, they customize each one personally and it’s known that they are doing that, but it’s honestly just one of those things that doesn’t interest me in pursuing.

      1. J. Money April 18, 2014 at 9:09 PM

        Yeah, I guess it kinda waters it down a bit, huh? Hadn’t ever thought of that before…

  13. Crystal April 17, 2014 at 12:47 PM

    I stink at art, so I’d sell my stuff cheap. But I can totally understand loving something you created enough not to want to sell. My artist friends say that they only sell so they have room to keep doing what they do, but even they keep the works that speak to them the most.

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      Hey Crystal, even if you’re not good at art, you seem to be good at writing. At least that’s a medium that is meant to be shared as widely as possible!

  14. Mr. Minsc April 17, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    I do like the idea of giving things away. Since I”m not in super dire straights I have little desire to sell off my extra stuff. For example, there’s my old fencing gear. I haven’t gone to the club for a couple years and have little desire to return at this point on my life. While I could sell the gear I think I’ll donate it to the club instead. It can be easy to forget that monetary value isn’t the only type of value out there.

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 2:07 PM

      Very true. I’m sure that a lot of things depend on where we are in life. Back in college I was a lot more likely to sell things off of eBay or Craigslist because I had very little income and a lot more time. Now a days I have higher income from my day job and a lot less time so donating becomes a more fulfilling option. If I had made this painting back when I was in college, the money I could get for it would probably be a lot more tempting.

  15. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog April 17, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    I have actually done this with web design. I have designed a site for someone that I liked better than my own sites, then of course, I wanted to use it for me, but I had to let it go.

    Since most of what I create is digital, it’s probably not as bad as a physical attachment, but I see where you are coming from!

    1. Zee April 17, 2014 at 4:33 PM

      Interesting, I know that you obviously can’t completely copy someone else’s site. Things like content and graphics might not make sense on all sites equally, but couldn’t you use the similar elements? Like rollover effects or hover elements?

      I never considered web design as such a personal item that you wouldn’t want to give it up.

      1. J. Money April 18, 2014 at 9:11 PM

        Yeah! You can totally implement bits and pieces into your own site, or future ones! Even those with exact designs always look different due to tweaks and the content/pics/colors people use…

  16. Dave April 17, 2014 at 7:55 PM

    I had a photography instructor tell us that when we prepare to take a photo, imagine it’s going to hang in your house or a friend’s house. Instead of thinking about the art we usually see, consider what we’re about to do being as worthy to display and maybe even fetch a good price for.

    1. J. Money April 18, 2014 at 9:11 PM

      I like that idea :) Makes you really focus and try and do good $hit all the time!

  17. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen April 18, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    I’m horribly about side hustling also. I work in a creative field and I love what I do, but not all the time of course. There are still times when it’s downright painful!

    I like to pursue other interests in my personal time to keep myself going and to help stay creative. I’ve got a ton of hobbies I pursue, including blogging, and it’s all for fun only. My main focus for income is my one full-time job to do well and increase my money flow that way!

    1. Zee April 19, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      Keep working on that side hustle Christine! I’m sure one of your creative outlets will start paying back.

  18. Kemkem April 18, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    I know how you feel. I used to make jewelry, unique pieces for special occasions. I sold a few, but l found myself giving more away to family so l could keep seeing them. I started to lose money as the beads etc cost a lot. I gave it up, a lot of,work for no returns. I like your painting !

    1. Zee April 19, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      Thanks for the compliment Kemkem. It seems like the general consensus is that people prefer to give away their creations to people close to them. Did you find that you made jewelry with specific people in mind?

  19. Nick Loper April 21, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    You’re right — your free time IS valuable. And that means you have to spend it in a way that makes you happy. If that’s hustling for more dollars, great. If it’s watching Netflix, great. If it’s creating art, great.

    I’m all about the hustle but if you’re just spinning your wheels on something you don’t enjoy, I’m with you — what’s the point?

    1. J. Money April 21, 2014 at 8:05 PM

      I spend my free time trying to be more like Nick Loper :)

  20. Lisa April 30, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    I’ve been making quilts for about 15 years. The thing about a quilt is that you can easily sink $200-300 and 50-100 hours into a full size quilt. Making quilts to sell, for me, just isn’t worth it at all.

    However, in recent years, I have given away and once or twice even sold a quilt project or two. What I have been finding is that initially I have a strong attachment, but as time goes by, I am more ready to part with the quilts I’ve made. Some things that I’ve made, usually smaller projects, that didn’t come out as well as I had hoped, I can’t wait to get rid of them. Thankfully, those are the exception. For pieces that I am especially attached to, if I can give them or sell them to a friend, that helps me feel so much better about parting with them.

    With quilting, I always tell myself, I don’t quilt so much for the end product, because that may take years, but for the means, the creative process that I enjoy so much. So following that line of thought, eventually, when I do finally finish something, I always want to start something else so that I can continue that creative process. A few pieces I will maybe keep forever, but most, I will pass along. There is no hurry either way.

    1. J. Money May 5, 2014 at 12:53 PM

      I love that :) And I think you’re def. doing things the right way, Lisa. Quilt on!

  21. Elaine May 8, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    I got this same feeling when people started to ask to buy my handknit items. I tried to make 10 hats for one store to carry, but I just got frustrated that I had to work on a timeline and produce a product of a certain quality. I love knitting, I use it to relax. And when I make a “mistake”, to me or my friends it’s a “design element”, but to a retailer, it’s a flawed item.

    I stopped enjoying it when money got involved, so I quit selling my items. Now I handknit whatever I feel like making, and I give them away to make people happy. The joy comes from enjoying my hobby and being able to give someone a true gift. That joy isn’t worth trading for dollars to me.

    1. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 5:04 PM

      It’s hard sometimes to mix business and pleasure :( But cool that they loved your items so much they wanted to sell them in their store! That’s gotta feel good! :)


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