Here’s an interesting tweet:
Could these apply to you?
Maybe you’ve bought a course on how to do X, hoping to make money from X, only to then not like X
Maybe you thought about being known for X, because your friends/family/coworkers thought you’d be good at X, and it turns out you were good at X, and now you hate X
Maybe you tried something, got some momentum, tried it again, made some money, and then kept going at it, because you kind of thought everyone else is doing that?
If I’m looking at all 3 of those, I’m more closely related to 3.
I made a (semi-) conscious decision at the beginning of this year to invest more in this newsletter because I wanted to write about writing or creativity or culture.
I wanted to write more about because I like it, not because of money (even though people make money from those topics).
I had made some promising strides(?)— let’s put it that way— in building an SEO following.
I’ve sold more than $12k of this SEO/content marketing course, people ask me for advice on LinkedIn; sometimes they even pay me to give them advice.
That’s not a lot, but it isn’t nothing. It’s not a living (in the U.S!)
When I Was Between Jobs
Back in January, I was in between jobs (again! startups!) and had a very frank conversation with someone about taking my side hustle (consulting) full-time.
This person started as a 1-person shop for 3 years and now has a team of 6 to 8 people.
He told me that I absolutely had the skills to consult/freelance/start a content agency on my own….
…but that it would be a huge grind.
60 hours per week type stuff.
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The downsides were too much for me:
Running a legit small business, where you know how to do the thing you’re selling, but you also have to do all the things you don’t know how to do as well (bookkeeping, business setup, payroll, proposals) all the non-fun stuff.
Potentially take projects I didn’t want to take.
Work or people I didn’t want to pay the bills.
Similar tradeoffs could be made with full-time jobs, but I’d only to make that decision one time though.
With a full-time job, the floor is often higher, but the ceiling is lower.
On your own, there’s more variance.
With that said, I didn’t want to do it. Even though I had the “audience” for it.
Don’t Want to “Hustle” All The Time
I also don’t want to “hustle” for an audience I don’t necessarily want all the time. I like marketing and SEO sure, but I don’t always have a brand-new insight or hack or boolean operator tip.
I’d rather write this, or read to my kids, or go to the park, or read my book, or hang out with my wife, or watch a movie, or stay up late watching the NBA playoffs.
That said, I could’ve kept going building one type of audience instead of deliberately building something I enjoyed.
I’ll keep the SEO freelance consulting as a side thing.
I didn’t want to make (that!) side hustle my work even though it was closely related to what I was doing.
However, if you want to like your audience, and like your work, but not necessarily make all of your money from it, there’s a different way forward.
What’s the way out? Leisure Hustles
What if you wanted to have some fun, perhaps build an audience, and get better at something?
Enter Leisure Hustles instead of side hustles.
With a leisure hustle, you make a dedicated effort to get better at a hobby or skill. You work at it. You may share your process with others.
You may sell parts of your hobby, but not thinking or planning how to go full-time or make it your only thing. (Once what was celebrated has turned bad!)
Here are some rules for leisure hustles:
With a leisure hustle, the first rule is that you enjoy it. You don’t have to be good at it. It’s just something you like doing.
You want to get better at it
Can you commit? Ted Gioia recently shared his lifetime reading plan and strategy. This no doubt made him better at his job. It also made him a more interesting person. That’s worthy even if it’s not all about the money.
The hobby comes first, not the money
This isn’t Gary Vee making people go to garage sales to flip stuff for extra cash. Or driving Ubers. Unless you enjoy that! Or it’s your job! A leisure hustle is not another word for a part-time job. Side hustle is not another word for part-time job either; it has some distinct entrepreneurial vibes to it.
You like to share
A leisure hustle has an element of audience building to it. What makes a leisure hustle different than a hobby is that you (probably) want some attention for it. You like sharing ideas and interacting with people. If you don’t want to share or let people know what you’re up to, then that’s fine! It just may not be a leisure hustle.
What do you think about this leisure hustle concept? Let me know.
A Note on (Not) Liking Your Audience: Writing What You Want vs Writing What Works
The wild seduction of the past few years is that you can fake liking your audience.
How? By creating a brand around yourself, saying that you like or support something without actually doing so.
Crazy stuff, right?
If you happened to luck into a certain skill that others found valuable, you could overestimate your interest in that topic, create helpful content and make a few quick bucks.
Doing that may mean you take a path where you lose interest quickly.
Can you write something that is popular but also something that you like? I used to think this was impossible.
But of course, it’s possible.
I couldn’t fathom that people actually liked popular things. Things that would sell. Or make money. Yes, that’s very conceited and condescending.
This came to me recently when I was reading this profile on Emily Henry, the popular writer who pivoted from more YA/Sci-Fi stuff into romance. It’s tailor made for Target. Good for her; she’s made a career as a novelist. Does she like romance? I honestly couldn’t tell from this profile — but she tolerates it at least, which is good enough for a few million bucks.
It’s not even that I don’t like popular things, I don’t even like popular story structures. I did my thesis on experimental literature and weird formats. Sometimes they were hard to decipher and to figure out.
This makes me more suited to be a critic rather than a creator (I guess).
You have to either write about a popular topic, or write in a popular (familiar) style or better yet, do both of those things.
You are doomed to fail (like me!) if you try to write about weird topics in a weird way.
You may get an audience, kind of, but not like a popular audience or not even a plurality.
Just “pursuing your passion” doesn’t mean there is financial gains to be had, especially if no one likes your passion.
Related: Guidelines to Creative Freedom
“The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.” – Unknown
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I googled this term as I was writing and found this post that coined something similar. Their take is related, but slightly different.
A worthwhile read, much to contemplate.
Although the title is a tad click baited, misleading.
Spilker do you know why I can’t listen to the nice robot lady read yr articles via the Substack app’s “listen to the article be read to you by the robot lady” functionality?