my way part 1: from hobby to job

Turning your hobby into a job sound like music to peoples ears. I had the opportunity to take that chance and get to work in an industry I considered to be my hobby. Not many get that chance and I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I like most.

I think Corey Haines made one of the best remaks about this; “Get paid to do things you enjoy”, “We have the greatest job in the world. Except maybe fighter pilots”.

Turning the hobby into a job sounds easier then it is. Look at how much work musicians and other artists need to put into their work before they can taste the fruits of their labor. And remember that not all artists make good money, but they are happy with what they are doing!

My story

So, let’s begin at the beginning. It all started when I was young. I started drawing out ideas for about everything; cars, houses, theme parks, under-water bases, race tracks, landscapes and many other things. I also figured out very quickly that I did not have the skill to actually create it. I’m just a bit clumsy I think. My solution was to have ideas and let other execute it for me. This worked fine until I was like 5-6 but I had to do more and more myself as adults would not help me anymore.

At about that age I also got into contact with my first computer and we soon had one of these new devices in our living room (remember, that’s around 1990). I started drawing like I used to. Taking MS paint from Windows 3.11 I was able to create anything I wanted… on paper. Then I discovered games where I could build things. Games like Stunts 3d and transport tycoon assisted me in creating my own worlds. I had a game called GP2 by Microprose and I had an editor for the levels. I actually created updates to the cars from 1993 to 1999. I wanted more.

I figured out a way to get even more out of the computer. Changing code was becoming my new interest, a lot of hacking skills came from trying to get things to work or finding a way to get things done. I still like to adjust code a lot and I get to do it on a day to day basis… and their paying me to do it!

As I said before I’m an idea man. I wanted to create things… and what is easier to do then to create a website! So I started creating site for everyone… my goldfish had a website at some point I think. Rolling into the pre-web 2.0 era as kid allowed me to grow with the standards as it is today. But again I wanted more. I took my hacking skills and applied them to website code and it worked fine for some time. I started programming things at school and together with arts as one of my classes I had everything I wanted covered.

During my stay at the university I continued to work in the direction of arts and IT. More IT then arts but I still tried to pick classes and projects that would require both. Although it was not the best education it set me up to become a programmer. I did attend a Master program that was called Media Technology but it was better suited for art majors to get in touch with technology. I quit after 6 months but learned a lot about myself and about what I really liked. All those years I took the right path.

Now I’m a web developer and designer. I get to code, do artwork and create new ideas. I got what I wished for!

how to achieve it yourself

Reading this I can only tell you one obvious fact… If you didn’t start already you will probably be too late. I know that not everyone has the luxury or luck to figure out early on what one would like in the future. When I was 4 I had the idea I wanted to be a barman in my own cafe. Not something I would dream of a few years later. It is something that grows, something that builds over time where it will be vague at first and become clearer as you come closer to the end.

I’m not saying I have THE answer (we all know that is 42). But I can share some insights I had over the year figuring out my path.

Be honest

Especially to yourself! You probably know already what your good at and what makes you happy. A lot of the time someone just needs to admit and be honest that one would be happier being a kindergarden teacher than be highly paid lawyer. Everyone has their thing, be honest to yourself and stick with your truth. Even if you are already there, think about what you really like to do and check if it’s the thing you picked. There is always still a chance to change.

We get influences a lot by our parents. The father of a friend of my owns a trucking company. His father also ran the company and now my friend is also forced into the company. Does that really make him happy? Does that do anything with his potential? Maybe it is the right thing to do for him, maybe not. In any case it shows that our environment also needs to let us make that decision on our own. And yes, sometimes you will need to fight for it!

Keep your eyes open

As you are on your journey on becoming that image you want to. Don’t put on blinders to be able to reach your goal. Yes, you might go off the original course and you might end up in a different direction. But as said before, you are taking a journey and there is not one way to get there and there is not just one end station.

To do this, start yourself out broad. I started by looking at arts, technology, natural sciences and human sciences. I ended up taking all these parts with me in what I do as a web specialist. They are not waisted parts of my education because they had nothing to do with the original subject. I know how stars and atomic power works. It does not apply to what I do in design but it helps me understand certain other aspects as why we like certain colors, shapes and textures. Allow yourself to broaden instead of only narrowing down.

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” – Dr Carl Sagan

Keep you eye on the prize

In life we see many things as prize. But what is the real prize when doing a job? Is it the payment we get from our employers? Is it the recognition we get for what we have done? Is it the status we get from having that specific position?

I think none of those reasons is true. Not completely anyways. Yes, money, recognition and status are important as they provide you with the fuel to life and do your job. I think the reason why we wake up in the morning is that we actually like what we are doing. They joy the work can bring to us. I actually like refactoring code and solving bugs. Yes, I curse at the code when it is not doing what I want but I get satisfaction out of the fact that it now is better then it was before and I solved the puzzle. We almost always forget the hidden satisfactions in our jobs and overlook the joy they can bring.

There is no good without bad

This I learned in high school. I did an extracurricular activity that involved the in-school theater we had. I was part of the group that dit al the technique, the light, sound and decor were all part of our responsibility. Next to parties, musical shows and theatrical performances we also needed to help with parent evenings and other “boring” gatherings.

This is where I learned that I had to do the boring things to enjoy the good thing even better. Some of the group only did the “cool stuff” and found themselves becoming bored with it after a while. I kept enjoying the “cool stuff” as I knew what labor needed to be done to get there. I did the “boring stuff” and it allowed me to do even cooler stuff during the parties, theatrical performances and other events.

Take the good with the bad to appreciate the good even more.

There are exceptions

Following a passion can be a dream for many and can be hell for another. Following a passion takes a lot of time and effort and will not always pay enough to keep yourself afloat. I’ve seen artists try soo hard and still not making it after years of hard work.

Sometimes it doesn’t work and sometimes it is just not something for you. It might be that you switch a lot in what you want. It might be there is no money to be made in what you like to do. It might be you cannot find what you really want. Like I said, it is rare for one to be able to really follow their passion. I do think that one should still always try!


  1. #1 by Gerardo on 2013/04/27 - 17:29

    Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo
    News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thank you

    • #2 by Joost Elfering on 2013/04/28 - 14:03

      I don’t do anything specific to get on any news. I just make sure my SEO is right, I write well formed articles and I create some referrals via twitter, facebook, linkedin and reddit.

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