Stop Trying to Monetize Your Hobby

For years, I thought a proprietary product was the key to success. Now, in the age of NFT’s, I’ve learned the purpose of art is for it to be given away.

Stop Trying to Monetize Your Hobby
Photo by micheile henderson / Unsplash

For years, I thought a proprietary product was the key to success. Now, in the age of NFT’s, I’ve learned the purpose of art is for it to be given away.

From an early age, I’ve always wanted to be known for my work. Dreams of accepting accolades and awards for something I’ve created were something I chased for years.

My initial career path in engineering certainly exhasorbated the problem. I was never a very good artist. I didn’t discover my love (or self-professed knack) for photography until much later, and I couldn’t draw (physically or digitally) to save my life. The one thing I was good at, however, was building.

In High School, I discovered a love for coding. The idea of creating something useful from nothing more than an idea in the brain made me feel like a diety. I would spend hours of my time thinking up ideas & projects, and trying to see how I could make them work. Admittedly, my hyperactive brain combined with a rather short attention span left many of these projects stranded by the wayside.

Entering University, my Biomedical Engineering degree pursuits taught me how to build products for the real world. After graduating, I plunged headfirst into a startup culture where I could let my creativity and passion for improving humanity run wild.

But, very quickly, this full-time career grew distasteful. Don’t get me wrong, watching something you’ve dreamed up from scratch come to life is exhilarating. But when you try to apply business to a passion, it doesn’t make sense.

It took me years to come to this realization. In my 4-year degree, I had been taught how to build. I, however, had not been taught what to build. And knowing what to build is more important than how to build it.

We are living in a society where art is becoming commoditized. NFT’s circulate the web, auctioning for millions. In the era of the “Great Resignation” we have a culture that is desperate to be their own boss by whatever means necessary. Not having a side hustle in 2022 is akin to ordering DVD’s by mail.

To be clear, the concept of an NFT is truly exciting. In addition to paving the future of our internet, I do believe that making the once unattainable goal of producing multi-million dollar art from one’s bedroom has and will drive us to create the extraordinary.

It is in this unique situation that imposter syndrome begins to grow within. Your creations don’t get sold, thus they are not worth selling, and as such, you perceive them to have no value. I truly believe this is why we see a large number of CEO’s go “down with their ship”. Perhaps the wool is not over everyone else’s eyes, but their own. Taking a product in a life-saving direction would be creative suicide to the puritan founder.

I digress…

Faced with this problem of hating my art in 2022, I decided to do something countercultural, I decided to give it away. For the first time in 10 years, I decided to open up the photographic archives and begin uploading my images to unsplash. I’m still in the process of doing this but I already feel better about my work.

If you’re not familiar with Unsplash, its a repository of high-resolution images with a practically unlimited license. Users & guests alike can browse & download images uploaded by photographers, and are free to do with them as they wish (even use them for commercial purposes).

Admittedly, this path isn’t for everyone. Professional artists, photographers and tradesman who have honed a skill deserve to be compensated commensurate with today’s cost of living. But, if your financial needs are elsewhere met, I’d challenge you to give this a go.

Give your work away…and watch yourself fall in love with it all the more.