Blogging: the Side Hustle vs Leisure Time

Since arriving home late last Saturday night, all I can do is smile and say “I have no more deadlines!” While deadlines force me to get things done, and I love the feeling that comes with accomplishing big things, it’s nice to know there’s nothing pressing in the near future. My talks went well, I met a lot of nice people in Kansas City, and I sold copies of my planners and printed copies of my homeschool audit workbook, all of which you can find in my Shop if you’re so inclined. I’ve also uploaded a recording of my keynote if you’d like to hear me talk about ‘Finding Joy Amongst the Chaos of Catholic Family Life’.

We wrapped up school and while I know summer will bring it’s own fresh brand of crazy, I’m trying to figure out how to order our days now that I don’t need to carve out every free minute for book writing or conference preparation. While I know I will lose some free time once both boys are home from school, I still want to be more proactive in planning my time lest I lose it to mindless social media scrolling, so part of intentionally planning my day means leaving time for leisure.

I think most homeschooling/ special needs/ stay at home/ work from home/ working moms initially scoff at the idea of leisure time. We don’t have any extra time to sit around and do nothing! But it is in carving out even small chunks of our day and dedicating them to relaxing or stimulating activities done simply for enjoyment’s sake that make all the difference in how well prepared we are to approach our work (a.k.a. vocation) each day.

Our culture, which seems to glorify busy-ness and planned activities for every hour of the day, no longer views leisure time as the worthwhile end to a hard day’s work. Instead, it is the full schedule which is valued, for all members of the family, regardless of the stress or exhaustion it creates.

We can no longer do things for ourselves, simply for pleasure. Sports must be organized and competitive. Music must be performed in coffee shops and concert halls. Handmade goods or crafts must be sold, or admired in a gallery. If your child shows talent shooting hoops in his driveway, he should try out for the traveling team. If your daughter’s singing in church attracts attention, someone will quickly suggest a competition choir to join. Anyone who wears a handmade sweater, or earrings, will be told to open an Etsy shop.

In my own life, and what I see across the blog-o-spere, is the trend from blogging (or writing) as a leisure activity (something done simply for enjoyment in the free moments a little person is not draped around your neck) to a business. I think it is very hard to write online anymore and not be told all the millions of things you should be doing with that talent to earn money. Write an e-book! Create a course! Start a podcast! Sell printables! Talk at a conference! Work with a publisher to create a best seller! Work with companies as an influencer!

As I sat in Kansas City chatting with lots of lovely parents, many asking me, how I got where I was as a speaker and writer, I realized that I had taken the small amount of leisure time I had, and used it to try to build a business. And over the last few months, as all those deadlines and obligations approached, I saw that I was working many jobs, with no relief. My few moments of free time were spent working on writing and speaking, rather than relaxing or doing anything to replenish my depleted reserves (like simply writing for fun). And up until the beginning of May, I too frequently sought relaxation in the form of mindless social media scrolling.

But sitting down for just a bit to check Facebook often become longer stretches of time that leave me feeling annoyed, frustrated, or anxious. It was upon reading ‘Digital Minimalism’ that I was forced to admit to myself that for all the good things about social media, the negatives outweighed the positives for me personally. Social media distracts me from my real work as a mom and homeschooler, and it quietly eats up time that could be spent on more meaningful leisure activities.

For better or worse, I have chosen blogging, and all it’s side avenues (speaking, books, etc) as my leisure activity of choice. But because I’ve allowed myself to get sucked into the “build your brand!” mentality, even blogging, what started as a fun, light-hearted way to record my days and share a laugh with readers across the globe, has become a job. One that I love in many ways, but when added to all my other jobs, it’s become too much. Especially when that build your brand lifestyle requires constant social media interaction.

For those who’ve started a blog with the intent to make money, or who write with the intent to supplement your family’s income, you’re probably also strapped for time, but at least you identified early on that your writing/ blogging was a job and the point was to make money vs. getting sucked into the idea that something you’re doing for fun, and happen to be good at, needs to produce money to be worthwhile.

I’m not going to stop blogging. I’m also going to finish edits on my book, and attempt to go on a book tour where I speak in various cities and sign copies. I know that promoting my book will require a social media presence, but I’m done with doing anything I don’t enjoy just to “boost followers”. (Goodbye Instagram Stories.) I’m going to write posts because I want to, not because I think it will go viral, bring in more readers, or boost my email list. I still have lots of ideas for things I’d like to create and do, but I’m going to complete them at a much slower pace as I take some of the time I was stressing about growing my brand, and instead investing it into writing more fun posts, or other leisure activities like decor projects around my house, craft projects, learning Spanish, or simply reading more books again.

I’m fortunate because I don’t need to make money at blogging. I can enjoy it simply as a medium for expression. If you are blogging for fun, but feel like you should be making money at it, ask yourself why? Does your family need the additional income? Then find a way to make money; maybe you’ll want to do it through blogging, but then you’ll need to find another way to unwind. Or you could keep blogging for fun, and find a different (and probably more reliable) way to generate income.

If you’ve got a “side hustle” make sure it’s because you want or need to be hustling your words, talents and limited time, and not because you mistakenly believe your work doesn’t have value outside what someone will pay for it. How often do we create things, get a compliment like “Oh, you should sell that!”, try to sell it, and then become unhappy when after lots of work and effort, that item doesn’t sell? Or when after all that work and effort, we come to hate doing something that once brought us joy? You don’t need to turn your passion into profit. You can be passionate about something, and spend your leisure time doing it to help you unwind from raising kids, buying groceries, or providing for your family. That in and of it self is valuable.

I’m a driven person. If I do something, I want to rise through the ranks and get recognition. It’s hard to relax and do something just for fun. I couldn’t just stay a blogger for blogging’s sake. I needed to be well known. But the struggle to gain notoriety meant I killed my love of writing as a means to tell a story or record a memory. About two or three years ago, blogging stopped being fun, and until recently, I couldn’t put my finger on why. These recent deadlines and release from them helped me see where I’d strayed from what brought me joy in this space in the first place. Writing was the escape I needed, and reading my funny stories made me happy on days when everything seemed a mess. Now, I want to escape from my blog, to enjoy my days offline, away from the need to gain followers, master an algorithm, or live stream my daily minutia. And until recently, I didn’t even think I could. I believed blogging, my hobby, needed to take up all this time because it had to grow and make money.

I want to go back to when blogging was fun for me, with zero stress or expectations, and so that is my goal going forward. If I need to make money, it will not be through here, and if I create another book or product, it will be because I wanted to do it for fun rather than a need to profit. And if I get asked to speak, I will have to seriously consider whether it’s a good fit for my schedule rather than excitedly jumping at every opportunity. Blogging for fun is a meaningful leisure activity that energizes me. Blogging as a side hustle is stressful and draining, and I’m letting it go.

Setting the boundary that ‘blogging is a leisure activity’ means I can view every opportunity through that lens and make better choices; for example previewing books? Yes! I love to read and share books; I’d put that in the leisure category. Spending all of Prime Day sharing links on Facebook? No. The affiliate income is nice (I’ll still insert links when sharing books), but I don’t need to stress out and plan to overshare everything that catches my eye. It’s not a good use of the limited leisure time I have for blogging.

Why did you start blogging? Why do you keep blogging? And readers, your two cents on blogging are appreciated as well. Leave a comment or link up your posts below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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7 comments

  • Emily Hess has written:

    I blog for fun. I’d like to bring in some income with it eventually, but we’ll see.

    For right now, I really enjoy the process (I’m actually surprised at how much it ‘recharges’ me), and I’m trying to get better as a writer. Everything else is a bonus.

  • Ally | The Speckled Goat Blog has written:

    Oh thank goodness.

    I’ve been in an extended blog break since having my babies because, well, first, babies suck the mental energy riiiiight out of me … but mostly because I couldn’t figure out how my new mama vocation could jive with working on and linking and being constantly available through social media for my blog all the time. I have enough trouble folding laundry before everyone is out of clean socks.

    Thank you for putting your finger on exactly where my discontent was coming from when it came to my blog. I’m so looking forward to making it a hobby again!

  • Jenny @ Unremarkable Files has written:

    Now that you mention it, I HAVE noticed a distinct lack of ridiculous selfies on your blog lately. I hope to see a comeback of those if that’s what you love to do.

    I can empathize with your every word here. I love my blog and while it was never a strictly hobby blog (I always did want to promote it and maybe write a book one day with my vast following of loyal and adoring readers,) I definitely didn’t start out with the intention spending as much time promoting it via social media as I do. Like you mentioned, it’s literally never ending. I could probably hire two VAs and still identify more to do! It’s hard to blog and not feel the desire to “legitimize” the time I’m spending by making money.

    Thanks for the perspective.

  • Laura has written:

    This is such a good point, and what a freeing thing to realize! It’s made me sad how much of blogging-land has changed and moved away from the casual sharing into polished sites optimized for income. It can be a perfectly legit job, but I appreciate people who do it just for the heck of it and share their lives and create community online. Those are the blogs I’ll keep following! I’m finishing up Digital Minimalism right now, and it is making me re-think a LOT. This makes me want to get back into blogging myself – it’s been way too long.

  • JoAnna has written:

    Thank you so much for writing this. As a blog reader, I yearn for the days when blogging was just blogging. While it’s great that it’s created opportunities to branch out into other business activities, it’s been so frustrating to see so many of my favorite bloggers go off and start radio shows, book projects, etc., because inevitably it means they go on a really long hiatus or stop blogging entirely except to advertise their new endeavor. Not to say some of these new ventures aren’t good, but if I like to follow someone for their writing, I’m going to stop paying attention if they aren’t writing. And inevitably these other things lead to writing less.

  • jen has written:

    I’ve been blogging for almost 20 years and I do it because it’s who I am. Every time I take a break for Lent, I always feel the need to blog my thoughts… despite not being able to do it.

  • Mary Ann has written:

    I so appreciate this post! There are so many blogs that I used to read but lost interest in when they felt more like a business than sharing an idea, experience or good laugh.

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