Hobby: The Dirty Word

by | Jan 14, 2016

There is nothing dirtier, or more insulting, to a designer or artist that does their craft for a living than to call them a “hobbyist.” Full stop. No really. There are many things you could call them that may or may not be true, but calling them a hobbyist dilutes all their education and experience into a flavorless goulash of mediocrity. Let’s be honest here for a moment. Not everyone can be an artist in the sense of a financially successful one. Yes, everyone can be an artist in one aspect or another. But your child’s crayon drawings are not the next Picasso or Banksy. Sorry parents. Even if they wish really, REALLY, hard they won’t make it to that level without a butt-load of work and dedication.

Hobby vs. Career

There’s an old saying that goes “Make your hobby your career and never work another day again.” It’s a nice sentiment to give someone who is stuck in a dead-end job some glimmer of hope that there is something better just beyond the horizon. But how many people actually seriously attempt to make what they love their everyday job? I’ll tell you, a hell of a lot less than you’d think. Because the big reveal is there’s even more work to do when you attempt to make what you love into a real money earning endeavor. It’s a lot more work trying to convince other people to buy what you’re selling, and still love to do it even when no one is buying.

A hobby is something a person does for leisure. That seems much more relaxing than searching for new clients, producing your own work when projects are slow, or attending all the seminars and events to keep up with networking. Even if you put a lot of time to ascend your skill level to the max, it’s still something you do for an escape from the everyday. Moving that into the career realm, and there’s a lot less relaxing involved. Making projects for yourself might give a much needed break to client work, but only a handful can live off their personal projects.

They can because they are the best and people want their work. Did they start as hobbyists and work their way up into careers? Possibly, but they didn’t start at the middle ground and take the short climb to the top. What they might not show is all the rejected work they sent out in the early years. Even in the face of constant adversity, they kept pushing and pushing hard. Eventually, after years or even decades later, they make it. Anyone doing this as a hobby would eventually give up pushing it that hard and go back doing it for fun. Or be so turned off by the backlash that they shake off the craft completely. Rejection weeds out the weak.

Being Taken Seriously

I have no ill towards people that do art in any form as a hobby. I hope they enjoy it and progress their skill as far as they want to pursue it. However, the creatives that have chosen to take the professional route should be held on a higher ground. It’s not being an elitist to expect to be held to a higher standard as we take what we do more seriously. This is our living. Most months, it’s hand-to-mouth in regards to money and projects. I will politely correct anyone that labels me as a hobbyist and not what I actually am: a freelance graphic artist.

I’ve spent over a decade perfecting, and still evolving, my skill set to produce the best work I can for clients. I’ve been drawing since I was two years old and still crave to keep drawing everyday. And I have spent the last few years learning how to better run and maintain my business because I don’t want to work in a sea of cubicles anymore. This is the most stressful and time consuming hobby if there ever was one. Calling all this work just a “hobby” doesn’t do my efforts justice. It undermines the time, money, blood, sweat, tears, and hair-pulling into an easy to dismiss lark that anyone with basic motor skills can do. If anyone can do this, why aren’t they?

To put it in simple terms, not everyone has the courage to. That’s not a jab at people that have chosen not to make their hobbies their careers. Some people prefer to keep their hobbies just that, which is OK. Others can’t handle the idea of extra work or the risks of rejection and failure. That takes the fun out of it. Hobbies are meant to be fun. I do have fun with my work, but I won’t lie and say I’m grinning like a cheshire cat when modifying a logo for the fiftieth time. It’s a different mental presence that is required to dig deep and keep working even when you’re mentally spent.

All About Passion

Hobbies and careers have the same base to their souls: passion. Whatever gives you joy and pleasure stems from the drive to do it in the first place. Keep building your cabinets, blowing your glass, molding your clay, drawing your sketch, sewing your quilt, or whatever your heart wants to do. But please, don’t call creative professionals hobbyists. We only play hobbyists on television.