When your hobby is your work

Can we talk about when your hobby is your work? I’ve worked in IT, in bars, in schools as a SEN assistant, delivering papers in my teen years, as a sports coach; in short, I’ve done lots of things in the pursuit of earning a living. None were my hobby though.

But this isn’t a blog post about all the jobs that led me to be a professional photographer. This is about how you deal with doing the very thing you love as a career.

You see whilst I loved making cocktails, it wasn’t my hobby. I really enjoyed teaching swimming, but swimming isn’t the thing I love most. I’m lucky in that I get to do my hobby as a job. Photography is the thing I love most. I was a hobbyist for some time before I gave up the day job and relied on photography as my sole source of income. So what’s the problem? Well, there isn’t one as such, but when your much-loved hobby becomes your profession there leaves a gaping hole.




Recently, for the first time in years, I’ve become the guardian of a large, neglected garden. At first, the work needed to make the garden usable again was simply a necessity. I saw it as helping out a friend. But gradually, it dawned on me that this was the new hobby I’d been missing.

It actually doesn’t matter what it is. Maybe your non-earning hobby is cycling, maybe it’s painting, maybe it’s DIY, maybe it’s writing romance novels or joining a book club. It just needs to be something you love to do that has absolutely no chance of being linked to the hobby that earns you money. Why?

Zoning out

Taking a break from your earning-hobby is as important as focusing on it. Sometimes you need some distance from the thing you love to see it with fresh eyes; to be inspired.


Physical hard work

A non-earning hobby that makes your muscles ache at the end of the day, especially when you earning-hobby is more cerebral provides a balance that’s often missing in modern life. There’s great satisfaction in feeling utterly exhausted at the end of the day.



Obviously, there’s always more to learn about the way I pay the bills. Photography is ever changing given its reliance on technology. But learning something new is challenging and provides a positive form of stress. (There’s even a name for this: Eustress). And if you get others involved you find yourself peer learning in a way you might not have experienced since school. For those of us who work alone often, this is a welcome change.



Stress relieving

Doing something just for the joy of it, especially a flow task, is a stress reliever. Add in that gardening gets you outside, soaking up vitamin D and when you’re focusing on how to remove moss from a lawn you feel the stresses of everyday life fade away.


As a commercial photographer, you often take the images according to a brief and then, once edited, you send them on their way. It’s rare to see a project through from conception to seeing it in a magazine, for example. A non-earning hobby is an excellent way to own a project and enjoy the satisfaction to be gained from seeing a project through from start to finish.





Because you can’t carry on doing the same thing as a hobby. Well, you can, but it can lead to (apologies for the hipster phrasing) ‘fatigue’. If the way you earn money is also the main way you relax your leisure time becomes blurred and one dimensional. You can still enjoy the thing you do as a career as a hobby, but you need something else.

Convinced? If you’re stuck on ideas for hobbies have a think back to your childhood and the activities you did that provoked sheer joy and happiness. I won’t tell anyone if making Play Doh snakes or mud pies becomes your down time…