Sidestep the Side Hustle: Keeping Content Creation Fun

In the golden era of the side hustle, we often feel pressured to monetize our hobbies and profit from content creation. Learn why I think it’s crucial to prioritize keeping hobbies fun instead.

We are living in what could arguably be thought of as the golden era of the side hustle. Advice is more or less the same everywhere you look. “Have something you’re passionate about? Turn it into a profitable side gig, and maybe you’ll be able to quit your day job someday!” Given growing dissatisfaction with traditional 9-5 work and stunning influencer success stories, this trend is no surprise. It is important to realize, however, that side hustle culture has a dark side. In this post, I’ll discuss why it’s crucial for you (and your followers) to keep content creation fun, whether you plan to profit from it on the side or not.

“Hustle” is the Key Word in “Side Hustle”

If you ask the average person what a “side hustle” is, they’ll probably tell you something like “it’s a way to make a little bit of money on the side.” Sounds pretty straightforward and innocuous, right? Always keep this in mind, though: “hustle” is the key word in “side hustle.”

hustle (intransitive verb, transitive verb)

1. To make strenuous efforts to obtain especially money or business.
2. To sell or promote energetically and aggressively.

Source: Merriam-Webster

Content creation is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Making money through content creation is harder still. When you watch videos of successful content creators engaging in your favourite hobbies, what you aren’t seeing is all their hard work behind the scenes. You’re not seeing their hours and days of research, their endless takes and re-takes, their long overall creation process. You’re also not seeing their privacy and safety concerns, their worries about doxxing or cyberstalking, their frustration when dealing with trolls in comments sections.

The Dark Side of Side Hustle Culture

Content creation can be frustrating.
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

The idea that we could and indeed must monetize our hobbies is something that, I’d argue, somewhat defeats the purpose of even having hobbies. The pressure to monetize can turn something that was once fun into something that is decidedly not fun.

Quantity over Quality

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You find a YouTuber with interesting content and a relatively small following. You subscribe to them and enjoy their content, even though they may release it on an infrequent or unreliable schedule. If YouTube’s recommendation algorithm then does its thing, this creator may find themselves suddenly inundated with views and subscriptions. YouTube’s algorithm likes to be fed, of course, and it likes to be fed a lot.

To satisfy the algorithm, your favourite YouTuber might feel pressured to churn out more videos just like the one that drew in all of their new subscribers. They may start releasing videos more frequently and eventually qualify for the YouTube Partner Program. Once the ad money starts trickling in, your favourite YouTuber might begin researching ways to increase their earnings and turn their hobby into a full-blown side hustle that will allow them to quit their day job.

Before you know it, their channel is full of exaggerated thumbnails featuring “YouTube face,” they’re badgering you to like and subscribe every other sentence, they’re uploading increasingly rushed and thin content every day, and you start wondering why you’re still subscribed to them in the first place. This is what unfortunately tends to happen when the pressure to monetize at all costs takes over. It’s what happens when quantity is prioritized over quality, as is so often the case with content creation side hustles.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, very few content creators out there churn out large amounts of content while retaining high standards of quality. I can personally think of a handful, at best.

Losing Your Passion for the Hobby You Love

When your hobby becomes “just a job,” you also run the risk of it becoming a chore. For me, playing guitar is a joy. It’s something I do to relax and tune out the real world. The absolute last thing I want to think about when I’m playing guitar is “what’s my CTR percentage looking like?”

The idea of turning your passion into a career is certainly not new. It makes a certain amount of sense in the abstract. Indeed, if you’re going to spend your time off from your day job hustling for a few more dollars, why not spend that time doing something you love?

The thing is, when all you ever do is work, it’s easy to fall out of love with your hobbies. We all need down time. We all need things to do that simply bring us joy. It’s not just important for our own psyches, though: it’s important for the content we create, too. Viewers and readers can always tell when you’re just going through the motions for your monthly AdSense payout.

“It’s Better to Burn Out than to Fade Away”

Neil Young may have written the above about the music business, but it applies to side hustle culture as well. Remember when I said that the key word in “side hustle” is “hustle”? The idea that you have to be productive during your down time to make as much money as possible can have a serious impact on one’s mental health.

Plenty of big name YouTubers have spoken out about burnout. As I alluded to earlier, content creation isn’t easy. Some videos take days to produce. If you’re producing videos constantly to feed YouTube’s always hungry algorithm, that can mean working for sixteen hours straight — or even longer. If your livelihood depends upon it, it’s not difficult to see how pulling those kinds of hours day in and day out can begin to take a toll over time.

I am personally no stranger to burnout in my line of work. I’m a health care worker, though. The stressors I deal with are mitigated by my hobbies, not exacerbated by them. It’s distressing to see so many people out there experiencing burnout over something that’s supposed to be fun.

Can a Side Hustle Ever be “Fun”?

By its very definition, a “side hustle” puts fun at risk for all of the reasons outlined above. If you exert “strenuous effort” to make money on the side and “aggressively” promote your content, enjoying the process is far from a guarantee — especially if your hard work ultimately yields little monetary reward.

That is not to say side hustles can’t be fun, though. I’m sure they can be, so long as you go into them with realistic expectations, open eyes, and a willingness to let go if things don’t work out. That willingness to let go is especially important, as few people are able to earn a significant wage with content creation, even when they “do everything right.”

It’s OK to Not Turn Your Hobbies into a Side Hustle

It's OK to enjoy your hobbies without monetizing them.
Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s absolutely fine to try to translate your hobbies into a lucrative side gig, if that’s what you want to do. All I’m suggesting here is that it’s also fine to do what you love without words like “monetization” or “affiliate marketing” ever entering your head.

I know some of you might be reading the above and thinking “well, obviously.” I feel I really need to emphasize that point, however, because side hustle influencers often rely on fear of missing out (FOMO) to drive impressions and clicks. Think about it: those who peddle heavily in giving out information about side hustles are often hustling you for money with their advice.

If an influencer tries to convince you that you’re leaving money on the table by not monetizing your passions, always remember this: your hobbies have intrinsic value that is separate from monetary value. Sharing your hobbies with others can help you learn new skills that you can apply in your current or future day job. It can give you a sense of purpose. It can help relieve stress or build confidence. The list goes on and on.

I personally have not made one cent from my videos (or my blog, for that matter). I’ve been uploading content to YouTube for over sixteen years now, and I have six times the number of subscribers required to qualify for the YouTube Partner Program. Have I ever thought about monetizing my videos or starting a Patreon subscription service? Sure, I have.

One thing always held me back, though: I never want my hobbies to feel mundane. I want to take breaks from them when I need to, and I want to keep them feeling fun. If my hobbies simply turn into jobs, those things become a lot harder to do.

Conclusion

Thanks to countless articles and videos about how to profit from your hobbies on the side, we’re living at a time when monetizing what you love is increasingly seen as an expectation, not just an option. While profiting from hobbies can indeed be something worth pursuing, try to remember why you enjoy your hobbies in the first place. Remember, too, that creating content for the fun of it is a valid goal in and of itself.


Questions?

Do you have a question about the subject matter of this blog post that I didn’t answer above? Feel free to leave a public comment on my YouTube channel by clicking on the button below, and I’ll get back to you there as soon as I can.

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