I heard the same story over and over when I worked at GameStop a few years back. Well, two stories. The first always started with someone asking for a job application, then when I asked why they wanted to work for GameStop, they’d inevitably mention that they wanted to play videogames at work…
Oh, to be young and naive. No videogames to be played; just lots of inventory control, organizing, and trying to convince customers to open lines of credit and PowerUp Pro accounts.
The other story always followed a similar thread too. A kid would come in with a parent, and somewhere in the midst of the conversation, it would come to light that the kid wanted to develop videogames when they grew up; though a modern equivalent would probably be to become a YouTuber or Twitch Partner. Blogging isn’t much different, as I’ve witnessed many people who are seemingly dead-set that they want to work for an online publication, reviewing products they receive for free, writing or creating videos on opinions they have, or going over the latest goings-on in whatever industry they’re covering.
That’s all fine and good. It’s good to have aspirations, but it may be worth considering that whatever you’re passionate about is better off as a hobby.
“It’s not for everyone”
I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom. After all, there are many people out there that are successful in content creation, but consider Twitter user @uziprincess89 who highlights a group of people that are commonly underrepresented online:
The people that tried, and realized it wasn’t for them.
The responses to her revelation alternated between declarations of support for her decision, and verdicts that she just didn’t have what it takes, or she simply just needed to stick it out.
The truth is that there isn’t room for everyone to be a content creator star…
And that’s perfectly okay.
“Going full-time” is a common goal I’ve heard from folks online in reference to streaming, YouTube, or blogging. Granted, it’s perfectly feasible to expect that you can build a resume and sign on with a publication or YouTube channel, or even just work with a larger blogging community.
I don’t have any personal experience with going full-time (evidenced by me still having a job), but the idea is simple enough. Going out on your own is a lot like starting a business. You first need a market, which in this case would be your audience. Second, you either need capital up-front, or a guaranteed steady stream of income. Then you have to spend the majority of your time actually working on content.
There are a lot of unknowns getting into working for yourself in general, which is what @Uziprincess89 was alluding to. She isn’t the outlier, or just someone who wasn’t devoted enough. I’d wager that she is the norm for this area of our society. To quote a very wise man, “It is possible to commit no mistakes, and still lose. That is no weakness. That is life.” You can have the audience, the knowledge, and the drive, yet still not succeed. Swinging for the fences works for some people, but that isn’t a guarantee; anyone can step up to the plate and swing as hard as they can, and still strike out.
Going Full-Time, For Realz
As many of you know, creating anything is tough to do. Creating something that people actually will read or watch is much more difficult. One step further is doing all of that, but on a regular basis. Part of what makes that difficult is trying to do all that while still holding down a regular job, getting an education, taking care of a family, or some combination of those three things.
Still, for some reason, there are tons of people out there that think they need to be the next big star. That their passion for whatever they want to make content about will be enough to get them where they need to be to do it for a living, but it won’t in most cases. Even moreso, there seems to be a common misconception that being a successful content creator full time is a healthy lifestyle, because in many cases, it isn’t. I’ve lost count how many extremely (even moderately) successful YouTubers have admitted to burning out in their work, because they work all the time. The thing is, when you’re passionate about something and you work for yourself, you don’t have someone sending you home at 5:00pm or telling you to take breaks.
Couple all of that with the question of how you plan on getting paid.
Do you show ads? Are you getting enough traffic? What about people using ad blockers? Are you stable enough to deal with adpocalypse-esqe events?
Do you accept donations? Do enough people want to pay you for what you do? Are you prepared for a dry spell or a loss in funding? The people sending you money don’t owe it to you, and they could be experiencing financial hardships, after all.
Do you sell merchandise? Do you have a large enough community that would purchase your merchandise? Is it high quality, so as to not harm your reputation?
Do you do sponsored content? Are you prepared to accept audience attrition for advertising something that ends up disappointing your audience? Is it something you actually want to associate your brand with?
I’m looking at you, CDKeys. Stop sending me emails asking if I want you as my sponsor.
You’re Awfully Negative…
Well I sound very negative, don’t I? Well, here’s where I turn things around a bit.
Sometimes the thing you’re passionate about is better off as a hobby. That certainly turned out to be the case for me, as I’m of a temperament where I find it very difficult to motivate myself to post on here, or make videos, even intermittently. That in and of itself is a major handicap on my ability to gain traction in the online popularity contest.
But really, I’m perfectly okay with that now. There was a time (not too long ago) when I was entertaining the idea that I’d be a famous blogger and/or video creator, who’d be talking about videogames and tech, full-time. Over time, that faded as I started noticing I didn’t have the chops to draw in larger and larger audiences, or in the case of my videos, an audience at all. Eventually I decided that this was just a hobby, and a wave of relief washed over me.
I’m not trying to churn out posts on my lunch breaks at work like I was, or struggling to come up with post ideas in my free time. I spend my weekends on things I really want to do, and play games for fun again instead of trying to tick off checkboxes to facilitate writing about them. I still have my weird little projects that I have an inclination to pour myself into, but I have my fun with it. I stopped feeling like I need to be on the bleeding edge of games, trying to get things as early as possible so I could review them in the hopes of getting some of that sweet SEO goodness.
Now I just spend my time hurling words onto a page, or ranting about Best Buy trying to sell me an overpriced amalgamation of computer parts.
The key to my happiness with choosing writing and video creation as a hobby again, instead of trying to build up a resume, is that I don’t feel so stressed out when I don’t write a post for a while. Granted, that has a lot to do with me shutting down Falcon Game Reviews’ Patreon page, but still.
I’m happy with my job as a programmer analyst (I have difficulty explaining what that actually means when people ask), even though it isn’t something I’m extremely passionate about. I can’t say that writing SQL queries is something that I romanticized as a child, thinking “When I grow up, I want to sit at a desk and write code all day!” However, I think we’d all do better to remember that the line that kids are fed in school, that if you “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” is a load of BS. Sure, that may work for some, but you’re just as prone to overwork yourself and drive yourself into destitution doing something you’re passionate about than just making a living, and doing what you love on the side.
My path here wasn’t easy, and Jennifer and I spent a significant portion of our marriage scraping by, taking gambles on our finances by quitting our jobs in management early on in the hope that we’d make it up someday. We borrowed against the car I had just paid off in two years to afford tuition, because our college didn’t agree that I deserved any financial aid, despite us barely having the money to stay afloat. Then we moved to a larger city while I finished school, followed by me scrambling to find an employer that would take a chance on me.
I say this, because for me, having a stable job, health insurance, a retirement plan, and going home to my family is very rewarding. Compare that to trying to make ends meet, all while borrowing emotional capital from myself to create content in the hopes that someday I’ll be successful enough in what I love to make a living doing it.
I guess my advice is to avoid assuming that just because you’re passionate about something, doesn’t mean that you need to make it your career. Find something you can do to make a living, then do what you want to do on the side. If your hobby happens to make you money, that’s an added bonus. If you’re content with going all-in on it someday, ensure that it’s not going to leave you in financial ruin when you do so.
Try to not fall into the trap of thinking that if you go full-time doing whatever you want to do, that it’ll definitely work out in the end. It may for some folks, but you probably won’t be one of those folks. Remember that becoming a Twitch Partner doesn’t come with healthcare, YouTube ad revenue doesn’t have your taxes taken out. Patreon donations don’t contribute to a 401k, and your audience won’t grant you vacation or sick days.
As an aside, if you’re working a job you hate, work out why you hate it so much and try to make a change. Don’t assume that everything would be better if you just went full-time making videos or writing posts. If you aren’t making enough money in your line of work, there’s an entire field of employment that anyone can get into. Chances are, if you know how to use a computer, you’re already well on your way to becoming a programmer, and most of what you need to learn is completely free. Hell, if I can get a job in the tech industry, so can you.
But conversely, also remember that most passionate people struggled for a long time before they ever saw the fruits of their labor in their pursuit of a dream. Just because you aren’t a mega-success online right now, doesn’t mean that you’ll never be. It’s possible that someday you’ll find yourself chasing that dream, and actually attaining it. Just pace yourself, and examine the steps you need to take to get there. Contemplate the reasons why you want to do it, then develop a plan of action.
Or just jump in head-first with no backup plan or funds. Whatever works for you.
In light of that, I’m leaving you with something created by the YouTuber, exurb1a:
Thank you for reading, and keep an eye out for something else coming soon. I have a new project I’m working on in my free time, and I’m excited to share it with you all.
What is your motivation for creating? What are your thoughts on full-time content creation? I look forward to your thoughts on the matter.