Are you a hobby artist that’s wondering the difference between hobby vs business? Before I dive into it, let me first say that in the beginning, there is a very fine line between hobby and business. The more I teach creative business owners, the more I realize just how many art “CEO’s” are out there treating their business like a hobby. My ultimate goal with this post and other posts on here is to help strengthen that CEO muscle and the skills it takes to really build a successful art business. Yes, it’s possible! And yes, it’s possible for you!! First we need to talk about the differences between drawing and painting for fun and actually running a business.
How to know if your art hobby is more than just a hobby
1. Show vs. Sell
Let me kick this off by saying, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong with just wanting an art hobby. Having hobbies outside of your occupation is so crucial. It’s helpful for our mental health, increases motor skills, and develops our imagination. Kudos to those of you reading who are pursuing art for art’s sake.
But for those of us who are tryin’ to make money out of this thing, the first sign that you’ve shifted into business is that you’re no longer just showing your art, but you are starting to show to sell your art. I know that might sound pretty obvious, but if you’re currently in that position and also wondering when to register your business, get that official website, etc…the answer is, you’re really, really close. Especially if you’re wanting to play by the rules (I highly recommend!) and not fall into trouble with the IRS.
2. Are you making a profit?
In the beginning, just a heads up, you’re gonna take some losses. While you’re building your business, you may be unsure of what to charge, how much to calculate for materials and shipping costs, and labor. Chances are they didn’t teach you this stuff in school so more often than not, most businesses in the start-up phase don’t turn a profit. Crossing over that line of finally making a profit is a pretty good indicator that you are officially in the business club and should be operating and treating it as such for tax purposes and also to grow and become more reputable in your industry.
Even still though, that line between hobby and business can be a bit blurry and confusing. Here are a few other factors to consider before taking that full plunge into CEO!:
- You intend/show intentions for making a profit and turning your hobby into a business
- You no longer depend on other sources of income to support your hobby/start-up (although this isn’t a complete determining factor)
- You’re putting in effort to increase operations and systems to make the business more “official” (i.e. investing in programs/software like Adobe, Asana, Calendly, email service provider, etc.)
Related: How to Start a Creative Business
While the factors above are helpful in determining whether you should start operating as and treating your hobby as a business, there’s one more point to this that I really want to underscore:
Don’t treat your business like a hobby!
Getting the official documents and procedures dialed, an official website and such up is not only a good idea for following “rules,” but it will help you shift your mindset into “CEO”. Nothing is easier to sniff out than an artist who doesn’t believe in their work, or feel worthy of charging for their work. Stop treating your business like a hobby. If your goal is to make money off of your creativity, OWN THAT! That might sound simple, but it’s a huge shift in energy that will then create a cascade of effects that either attract or repel income, profits, jobs, etc. in the future.