• Sarah Margaret Henry

How to Love What You Do When You Do What You Love Professionally

Ever since I was little, I've been monetizing my hobbies.

I had difficulty understanding that I was allowed to do something fun just for the sake of it being fun. Everything needed to have a purpose, a function, and contribute to a larger goal.

In fourth grade, I figured out that I really loved making custom bookmarks. So I decided that I was going to sell my little creations for a quarter a pop and donate all my earnings to an animal shelter. It was called Bookmarks for Barks, and I got about four or five friends involved to bump up production when we were low on product due to high demand.

I've always had an entrepreneurial streak, and even though it's come in handy as a skill, it's also a curse.

Everything I love, I try turning into a business.

I fell in love with photography, and a month later I started Still Poetry Photography. I enjoyed making videos, so I started building a YouTube channel with the hopes of someday getting enough subscribers to monetize. I started painting recently as a way to relax, and what do you know, I started an Etsy shop.

I think a part of it - beyond my consistent, unending need to feel productive - is that I want to contribute to my family as much as I can. My fiance works as an engineer, and I don't need to tell you that he makes significantly more than I do as an artist with a dual degree in the humanities. I want to do what I love, and I want to make enough that I can justify doing what I love, so everything becomes a business.

If you're a part-time side-hustler or full-time businessperson like me, you may have discovered that making your passion a business can prove extremely exhausting rather quickly. Here are some tips that I've come up with to help me stay sane.

1. Beat Your Burnout

Creativity - for me at least - is not a faucet you can turn on and off. It's more like a stream; it relies on rain. Sometimes after a shower, you've got flow and can write/paint/sing/choreograph/compose smoothly.

But sometimes there's drought. And you have no idea when it will end.

When your work relies on your creativity, it's hard to put in a 9-5 everyday. You can't just expect your muse to wake up in the morning with you and clock out when you leave the office.

Sometimes you have to force yourself to create. Even if it's garbage. Getting the garbage out makes room for the cogs in your brain to start churning.

But sometimes there's no use in ramming your head against the wall trying to dislodge the right side of your brain when the problem isn't a lack of inspiration.

When you've hit burnout, you need to take a break.

What revives your soul? Naps? Tea? Bob's Burgers? Snuggling with your cat?

You waste less time by deliberately wasting time than you would by pushing yourself for hours to ultimately accomplish nothing.

When you can, ride the stream.

During the thunderstorm, paddle fast to make the most of the overflow. Work until 3am if you can't put the pen or paintbrush down.

When you've got enough water flowing, keep going down the river. Work a full day and go to bed at a reasonable time.

When you've hit a drought, get out of the boat, snuggle up in your sleeping bag and gaze at the stars. It'll rain again soon.

2. Shut Off Your Phone

I get it. I get it because I'm guilty.

I responded to a message on Thumbtack in four minutes yesterday. At 11:37pm. I'm guilty as hell.

When you have an online store or contact information for clients to reach out to you, you want to get back ASAP because if you don't respond in 15 minutes, they could find another photographer/band/writer who can do the job instead.

But sometimes you just have to risk losing a lead in order to unplug. If you're out on date night, put the phone on do not disturb. If you're having you-time bathtime, grab a book and leave the phone in the other room.

It's so difficult to disconnect when your office is in your back pocket. But you've got to leave the office on mute every once in a while.

3. Find Your People

When you don't work in an office or in a conventional 9-5, you don't get that built-in network. You have to build one for yourself.

As an artist, I absolutely love talking with other creators. As a writer, I adore getting to chat with others about their thoughts on one of my trouble paragraphs.

And I love venting to other freelancers about crappy clients.

I don't recommend complaining constantly. But sometimes it just has to happen. When you're the creator, CEO, client relations, HR, complaints department, shipping crew, and marketer all in one, you have to deal with every ugly client interaction. So indulge yourself and complain a little bit with someone who gets it.

Otherwise you might lash out at the client, and that's never good for business.

Most Importantly? Don't Lose the Love

At the end of the day, you put up with all the parts of your business you don't like (*cough, cough*, accounting) because you can't imagine spending your day doing anything other than what you love.

If you think that your business is becoming more of a burden than a labor of love, maybe stop a reevaluate whether monetizing your passion is the right move for you. Sometimes it's best to do the 9-5 and come home to do the thing you love without restrictions or pressure.

And whatever you choose to do, support other small businesses who are trying to make it out there just like you. You know firsthand the sense of pride that comes with making a sale. Do you think Target or WalMart does a happy dance when you buy something from them? Probably not.

But I do.

Any other entrepreneurs in the house? Tell me some of your tactics to fight burnout!

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