More than a Hobby? How can you tell?
So you’ve written your novel. Or perfected your Chicken Cordon Bleu. Or invented the better mousetrap. Is your work worth anything? When does a passion become a profession?
Like many of life’s questions, the answer varies from person to person. A friend once told me when it comes to jobs, there is a quick rule of thumb: Legal, Profitable, Fun. Pick two. I would challenge people to find ways to get a decent amount of all three qualities in their working life. And it begins where you are at now. Hopefully if you are only getting two out of three, one of them is legal. So you need to work on having fun, getting more money, or both.
Have fun. I know it sounds simple, but make your mind up to enjoy what you are doing, who you are with. If you are employed full time in a normal job, you spend more time with the people you work with than you do your own family. That’s a lot of time to be miserable, and often it’s self-inflicted.
Give yourself a raise. If possible, take on extra duties. This will not assure you of extra money, but making yourself more useful, especially in a down economy, a tight job market, will translate into a higher level of job security, which has monetary value. Coupled with a better attitude, raises and bonuses will generally follow.
With lowered stress from financial burdens, and positivity, it is usually easier for you to express yourself creatively. This should improve the quality of your work, bringing us back to: How can you tell?
Ask friends and family for feedback, at first. Improve your work until you are happy with it, then go over it again. You will reach the point that you will not be able to find any faults with it. When this happens, find an impartial professional. This must be someone you do not already know, someone who will require payment. Existing friends will either go too easy on you, or the relationship could become strained if the difference in opinion of the work is too great. You must be prepared to invest in yourself, within reason. Get the professional feedback, then pay attention to it. Do not follow it blindly, or ignore it out of hand. Some changes you will want to go along with, others would damage your style and voice so as to make your work bland and unrecognizable. At this point, you may begin having serious second thoughts about your chosen hobby. Conversely, your work may be validated beyond your expectations. Rework it, keeping the professional critique in mind, re-polish it, and have it reviewed again. At this point, get more friendly reviewers to go through your work, and if they, and you, believe you are ready, start researching what it will take to market and promote your work.
The educated, validated opinion that your work is marketable is a very real first step in distinguishing amateurish floundering from profitable ventures. Where you choose to take it from there is up to you.