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Should You Turn a Fun Activity Into a Business?

For three years I have written about Finance for fun on this site.  Over those 3 years I’ve had many opportunities to invest further into the business of blogging, and yet I have minimized that investment.    That begs the question, what is holding me back.    The question more generally stated, should you take that fun activity and make it a business.

Fun Activity or Business Is Different Than Not For Profit

Early on in the writing of this site I had a post on business or hobby.    If you were to go back and read that post from so very long ago you would notice something.  The focus was on the tax and insurance ramifications of officially classifying an activity as a business over a hobby.   Essentially that post was about whether I expected this site to turn a profit.

Goal to Make a Small Profit While Enjoying Myself

Those that are long-time readers, or that simply follow the link above, will note in that post I came firmly down on the side of business.    In general, I have always intended to make a small profit on Full Time Finance.  The goal has always been to write off conferences and other events against the revenue before that small profit.  How big is a small profit?  Well, the goal for 2019 was to pay for FinCon and buy a round of beers separate from the event.    Mission accomplished, though we used credit card points for part of the event (a post for another day).  In other years that same profit went into my pocket for a few cases of beer.  Anyway, you get the drift.

Enjoyment, an Activity for Fun, Not a Business

But that post on business or hobby also had an important comment.  “..I only monetize the site enough to make a small profit, so in some ways, this is a pleasure enterprise.”    Simply put I started and run this blog because I enjoy talking about finance.  My family doesn’t enjoy the subject so this is my outlet.   I would still do it if I didn’t make a dime.  The small profit is just icing on the cake to the enjoyment it brings me.  In other words, one of my goals is to make a profit, but this site is not driven by a profit motive.  

Profit is somewhere around the 6th of 6 goals of this site.  In fact, I don’t stress one bit about the profit from this site from year to year.  It either comes or it doesn’t.    The goal is merely there to remind me to occasional drop an affiliate link or pay attention to SEO.  That’s it.

FinCon Attendance was to Increase Readership and Meet Friends

Which brings me back to FinCon actually.  The conference focuses heavily on how to grow your blogging, podcasting, or financial coaching business.  My goal for attending was first to meet people I have been working with for years.  But I also wanted to get ideas for improvement that might increase our readership.    More readership means more people talking.  Notice I didn’t say increase our revenue.

FinCon Presented Opportunities To Significantly Invest in Full Time Finance

Anyway, during Fincon I was presented with multiple opportunities to increase our revenue that would require me to invest financially in this site.  Now first let’s define invest here.   We are not talking buy a major site money.  But we are talking more than the site revenue since the beginning invested into the site.  

I turned Down Those Large Investment Opportunities

Some of these opportunities likely have the Return on Investment (ROI) to make them worthwhile.   Most of them have a most likely outcome of a step-wise increase in the traffic.  That would likely also mean significantly more revenue of this site.   And yet I said no to investing further financially in this site.

Does that mean like so many others recently I plan to shutter or sell the blog?  No.    Does that mean I would turn down a large profit for this site should it ever come?  Also, no.    But it does go back to why I do this.  Blogging about personal finance is my hobby.  My break from the stress that drives my every day life.  

This Site is One of the Few Activities I Do Solely for Fun

Let’s face it.  I’d have to hit the big time for this little site to make a real dent in our finances. Also, we’re already financially independent.    I don’t need the money even if it is nice to have.    But I have such few activities I do for fun.   Everyone needs those activities that make them happy.   That’s blogging for me today.  

Going From Fun Activity to a Business Can Remove the Fun: Stress About ROI

You see the problem with investing significantly in your hobby or fun past time is what happens psychologically.  It can become no longer about fun.  There can often suddenly be this intense psychological pressure to continue to make a profit.  Or even to make a bigger profit commensurate with what you are investing.  I have no doubt that I could achieve such profit, but at what cost?  If it were to become just one more stress point in my life it’s probably not worth it.

Now it is theoretically possible one could invest in your site and keep something a fun activity.  I just know for me it’s not.  The same drive that elevates my career also means the minute I spent the money I’d be on the stress ride to paying it back.  Which means this piece of advice really comes with a bit of advice to know yourself.    If you have a fun activity it may not be the best move to make it a business.   

Being More Than a Fun Activity Means More Pressure to Do Tasks I Dislike

Honestly, the problems go deeper for me than just the stress point.    There are certain parts of blogging I don’t enjoy.  Doing them would likely make this site more successful financially.  Things like taking a sponsored post for instance.  Given I don’t enjoy them and I don’t need the money, I just don’t do them.   There are no negative ramifications to that decision because it’s more focused on fun.  

However, like pursuing your passion for your career, when you make something a business you can’t just ignore aspects because they don’t suit you.  At least not if you want to be successful in business.  Crossing that line from fun to business with a sizable investment would mean I could no longer ignore these things.  At least not if I want to make my investment back.  Again, less enjoyment but more money.  

Marginal Utility of More Money Is Less Than Blogging Enjoyment

More money has declining marginal utility.  Each additional dollar I make has less value than the last.  The simple reality is any excess profit has a lower utility than the loss of an enjoyable hobby.  So here we are.  I invest my time to continually improve the site, because I enjoy that.  But my investment in the site will continue to stay at the marginal level it always has been.

Have you ever turned a fun activity into a business and regretted it?  If you were to invest significant money into a hobby for the purpose of increasing profit, would it ruin the fun for you?

8 Comments

  1. Joe
    Joe September 16, 2019

    You might see it differently if you’re not working anymore. Investing in a business is more fun when you have time to work on the challenges. If you’re already busy, it will just be more stress. For now, I think it’s a good idea to minimize additional work/stress. Once you retire, you can ramp it up more, right?

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance September 17, 2019

      Very true though at present I’m planning retirement at 55, 17 years from now. The pressures on my time come from all directions.

  2. Financial Samurai
    Financial Samurai September 16, 2019

    It’s an interesting balance. I’ve focused 90% on fun for past 10 years on FS, and 10% business. I plan to do 70% fun and 30% business.

    Go for monetization!

    Sam

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance September 17, 2019

      Sam
      You have a heck of a business with your site even with your 90-10. You’d probably be closer to my aspirational target.

  3. Xrayvsn
    Xrayvsn September 17, 2019

    I totally get your perspective FTF as it is something that also is on my my mind with my site.

    I personally think if you are purely in it for the money it is a different approach and you are more interested in search engine optimization, click bait titles, and material that appeals to the masses. Personally that is not my goal as, like you, this is not a financial make or break for me.

    I do however feel that a balance can be achieved and you can monetize the site to some extent, still provide a good user experience, and not feel like you sold out and maintain your brand integrity.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance September 17, 2019

      I feel like I’m close to that balance currently. I have a few more actions to take but in general I’m realizing I’m happy with things the way they are. Thanks for the comment.

  4. I am currently reading the war of art and I read a chapter that talks about when people make money off their art it’s because they are so passionate that they work on it a lot & naturally turn a profit! Something to think about…

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance September 17, 2019

      Great point. I’m certainly not above making a profit if the site naturally gravitates that way. It’s more a question of whether I’m willing to drop a few thousand in investment into it. Not so much.

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