Colin has been a long time gardening hobbyist; he has dabbled in potted plants, sells the odd apple (and when I say odd, I mean odd strange, not odd occasional), designs all manner of green houses which sit in a Tesco bag under his bed and over the years has built a useful income for himself selling a disparate variety of plants, fruit and vegetables all from the comfort of his ramshackle garden shed. It’s been a labour of love for him and has been a hobby which has eaten up most of his time and not a small part of his income. If he were to do a cost benefit analysis he would probably demonstrate to himself that he was losing money hand over fist by the day, but that’s not important: he loves it, and it loves him and every one in the garden is happy.
Unhappily though, Colin has been persuaded that his hobby could become a significant business opportunity. Someone’s whispered in his ears too many times that if he could write a business plan, that if he should have an accountant, that he would then be driving a company car – all on the proceeds from the activity in his garden shed. He’s now staring at that run down shed and wishing it were more than it is: thinking it could do with a coat of paint, that it needs a receptionist and thinking, isn’t it about time he got serious with a brass plaque just under the window so that others down the allotment knew that he’s now a bona fide horticulturalist?
Colin unfortunately is so woven into his hobby that no amount of business cards, plans or acumen is going to convert this activity from a much loved hobby to a rational, calculated business. He loves it too much: he knows so much about the intricacies of his potted plants, their soil demands and how the sun shines at a particular angle on a Tuesday afternoon that he’s unable to distance himself from the nitty gritty of his garden and recognise that whilst some of the plot has business potential – much of it doesn’t. Some of the shed needs knocking down and rebuilding on the roadside; some of the ground needs concreting over, rather than left as an unending sprawl of wild flowers, interesting herbs and strange tendrils that no-one knows what they’re called, where they come from and where they’re going (aka weeds to the rest of us).
Colin’s hobby is just that – a beautiful, varied and delightful way of passing the time of day and bathing in the sunshine. It’s not – and won’t be with Colin in charge – a business. And neither should it be. The difficulty for Colin is to recognise this, step back from dressing up in suits and put back his garden gloves and continue to love what he does, has done, and will do for the rest of his days.
Loving your hobby is one thing: but you can love it too much for it to become your business.