Flynn Buckingham

@flynnbuckingham

The dangers of selling your hobby

Sometimes I feel like I’ve sold my soul at the expense of my own profitability.

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve tainted something that I used to do for free, something that has started to boil down more towards the bottom line than the amount of satisfaction I get from actually doing said thing.

Professionally, many of us tend to attribute our successes to our skills and experiences leading up to them. It enables us feel like we are in control of our success, even if that feeling is marginal. And magnifying and promoting those feelings is how we increase our own value in the markets we endeavor in.

I’m confident in saying that the majority of professionals have experienced failure, and in various degrees. Many of the freelancing and entrepreneurial stories that tend to reverberate are the typical “I quit my job and immediately started my business doing X, never looked back since.” (likely just as plentiful as those “10 ways to increase your success” articles).

To each their own I suppose…

Many people describe dropping out of college as the best decision they ever made. Yet the next 12 months following could only be described as perhaps one of the most testing times of my life.

True-to-life representation of what losing control of one’s life can look like

I lost all my consecutive jobs as a factory laborer, lost the heart of the person I loved (and was living with), lost the respect of the family that raised me for 12 years, and became homeless for nearly 2 whole months.

It was after losing my third job due to health reasons that I realized I needed to convert my hobby into something I could profit from. And it was in the heart of the storm that I started to embrace the fact that, perhaps this part-time hobby I’ve enjoyed for 8 years was my only scapegoat left.

I created an opportunity out of my own demise, profit out of my own desperation; potentially one of the most inspiring, yet disheartening things I’ve ever done.

Where many of my friends and colleagues saw determination and an unrelenting force to make something good out of the shitstorm, I could only see the shitstorm, and how perfectly it suited me.

It was then that I discovered a flaw in my own character (and perhaps human nature). In the eye of the shitstorm, I realized how badly I wanted something when there was no realistic way to achieve it. For me, this was the only viable catalyst for my own success; the shitstorm was the reason for me to push myself out of the shit and towards the gold.

But when you are desperate, it’s hard to accept the existence of fools’ gold.

Post-shitstorm and the persistent dangers of working as a hobby

As of time of writing, I make a modest wage working for an organisation that I love, and have travelled to places I never thought I’d be able to see in my lifetime. And yet, I still feel this sense of loathing within me.

Even now, I am faced with the artist’s dilemma. Despite how skilled I am, or how well my work is received and perceived by others, or how my friends and colleagues complement how far I’ve come; it will never be enough to mask the feelings about my own value.

That being said, being able to separate oneself from the ever taunting imposters syndrome is what defines a hobbiest from a professional, which for many (myself included) can prove to be challenging on many fronts. This is one of the dangers of transitioning from a long-term hobby directly to a career.

Despite one’s passion in, or the willingness to improve one’s craft for the sake of doing so: it never seems to weigh well against someone who labels themself as expert or skilled professional.” The label of hobbyist will always, at least for me, carry that weight of almost there but not quite.

Despite having nearly 10 year experience in JavaScript (the programming language I specialize in as my career), the transition from hobbyist left me with this irrational fear of never weighing up against colleagues or grad students, who may have more realistic expectations of their own value and what they are able to offer.

And most of all, it almost never has anything to do directly with skill, and more to do with perceived value, which is neither directly quantifiable or completely understood on a personal, or even professional level.

Experience and certifications, unfortunately, do not directly equate to one’s ability to function in a given capacity. Thats where value proposition comes in, and as a hobbyist (or ex-hobbyist) it’s not always easy to weigh that sort of worth.

This can lead to often lead to a under-evaluation of one’s value, as well as a unwillingness (and perpetual fear) to increase that given value following additional experiences and ventures.

Selling your hobby, or transitioning into a part or full time capacity in your trade of choice can lead you, as it did for me, to introspect parts of your own abilities and character. If uninterrupted, this can and typically will lead to a potential under-evaluation of what you can actually offer your clients and employers.

Understanding your own way of thinking and your own abilities is the most essential combatant in preventing yourself from underselling, and risk never increasing your ability to reach new opportunities.

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