In Career, Discussions, Entrepreneurs, Money

Is your business or self-employment a hobby?

The only question you need to ask yourself is:

Does it make money / turn enough of a profit to live on?

If the answer is “No”, you don’t have a business, you aren’t self-employed, you are a hobbyist. The only exception made would be if you are just starting out, but if within 3 years you can’t make enough to live off your business 100% (and you’d be better off working minimum wage as an employee), it’s not a business.

It is very simple – a hobby is something you spend money or time on. You don’t make any real money off it, and it is enjoyable! You talk to people on the phone, you help them out, you can even make a bit of money off it, but not big enough to survive on.

A business? Is a real job. You go to work (at home or at the office), and at the end of the day, you invoice, and get PAID.

Remember, the last part is the most important so I’ll repeat it again:

YOU GET PAID.

If you have a ‘business’, and you invoice people but don’t follow up on the payments, what you’ve got my friend, is a hobby masquerading as a business.

If no actual money is coming in to your bank account, it is not a business.

If the money coming in won’t pay your bills enough to live on, it is not a business.

It is not enough to have business cards, a printer, a logo, a company name (registered or not), and to announce that you have a business. I’m going to side eye you because you don’t have anything. Yet.

What you really have are business cards you can’t return now, a used printer, a logo, and a name you’d like for your business.


Now if you can turn all that into a business and make a living wage off it?

You’re officially self-employed. Welcome to the club!

I have a business selling my skills (my brain as I say) that I started WITHOUT any of the above except for a registered name. I didn’t even have a cellphone of my own at the time, and I still made it work.

Of course, I have gotten less cheap over the years and now actually have a phone with a data plan, but I didn’t need any of the business fixings to start making money with my brain.

I know people who want to freelance like I do, but are getting caught up in the details and minutiae of stuff that doesn’t effing matter.

Know what a business needs?

WORK.

You need CUSTOMERS.

Without (in my case) a contract to start, I had no business to speak of.

I even knew a guy who had a contract, but felt he couldn’t start the business because he was leaving for vacation in a week for a few weeks to go back to France, and felt like he didn’t have a company name, and all these useless fixings set up.

I had to *face palm* because he had the most important, most difficult thing to get — A CUSTOMER / CONTRACT.

He could have just asked them to wait until he got back from his planned vacation (start date: 3 weeks later than planned), and in the meantime, get registered (literally takes 2 hours at the office), and had a new income and new freelancer life ready for him when he came back.

I realized in that moment – he would never become a freelancer.

He didn’t think he could do it, and so he couldn’t.

You will do whatever you think you can do.

If you think you will make it, you will.

If you think you won’t, you won’t.

Simple as that.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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8 Comments

  1. Mr. Centsible

    I think I disagree with your view on a business, or you’re just simplifying the situation that I perceive it in a way to disagree. I”m going to assume you’re only talking about sole proprietors, as there are plenty of business examples that don’t make a profit. I read your article as business = profit, and profit must be livable wage. First, what constitutes “livable” is debatable. But mainly, I believe most self-businesses cannot expect to turn a livable profit in the beginning. But I don’t think that disqualifies them as being a business. Even the IRS doesn’t expect you to make a profit off the bat.

    I think the INTENTION to make a profit is a better definition of a business. Even then, I wouldn’t define the amount of profit by livable. It may not be a sustainable business, but I would still consider it a business. If you end up never making a profit, you have a failed business, but still a business none the less.

    My 2c.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Maybe I can make it clearer:

      If you don’t make enough money to pay your rent, eat, and your basic bills and save for your future, it’s a hobby. Period.

      Livable wage is subjective to what you think is sufficient but I am not talking about yearly vacations and cars here, I am talking just about being able to pay bills without going into debt, and saving for your future (minimum 10%).

      Otherwise, you have other jobs, you have other side income and multiple streams, it’s another story if you’re saying that, in which case you have multiple businesses that all add up to a living wage.

      Reply
    2. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Let me put it another way: What’s the point of a business?

      To make money and substitute it for a job as an employee, right?

      What does it mean to “make money”?

      It means you make enough to cover your living expenses, eat, save for the future etc. I don’t really care if someone pays $5K in rent or $500 in rent because they’re house hacking so they can make this business work as a real job – the point is if they make enough to cover that rent, food, etc, then they are working a business that makes a livable wage.

      Remember – livable wage is a wage they can live on without incurring debt.

      Otherwise, what’s the point of a business? To be your own boss and pretend you have a job when you really just have a hobby that’s pushing you into debt because you can’t even make enough to pay your bills?

      In that case, I’d rather do it on the side (like this blog), and not make it my career because I can’t live off this blog (nor do I want to). It’s my hobby that happens to make money but it isn’t my business.

      Reply
      1. Mr. Centsible

        “Otherwise, you have other jobs, you have other side income and multiple streams, it’s another story if you’re saying that, in which case you have multiple businesses that all add up to a living wage.” I think you kind of see my point with that sentence. I’m saying you can have side income and it can be a business. IE someone that does stuff mainly on the weekends (if they’re working a 9-5).

        Reply
        1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          Yes I think maybe we are getting the wires crossed in communication. I am talking specifically about the situation of people who purchased a printer, business cards, and have NO INCOME AT ALL, no customers coming in to buy anything or to hire them for anything. And yet, they call it a business. They have zero income, and only expenses (debt, really). They just like to say that they’re self-employed but really.. they just have a shell company that hasn’t sold anything.

          Reply
  2. Becka

    “ their only source of income “

    Reply
  3. Becka

    What is your opinion of direct sales? Avon, Pampered Chef, Arbonne, Mary Kay, etc. They all present themselves as a business opportunity, but I have yet to meet anyone who can rely on them as there only source of income.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      They are what I would consider to be MLM or Multi-Level Marketing Schemes. Some are actually decent, like Stella and Dot (I like their jewellery), or Mary Kay or Avon which I hear have decent-ish products. Others, are complete scams that ruin people’s lives like LulaRoe (video: Lula Roe MLM Scam…. I’d consider the more reputable ones to be a MAYBE side hustle if people around you can be convinced to continually buy Stella and Dot pieces, but frankly, you’re better off just getting a straight minimum wage part-time job that’s more guaranteed.

      Reply

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