Not Everything Needs to Be Monetized

Not Everything Needs to Be Monetized

My wife makes costumes like this: - Chemise a la Reine

And this: - Wood Elf

And even this: - Badass Elf

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She does art like this: - King Thror and Carc

And this: - Gloin Locket

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When people see what she does, the first words that often leave their mouths?

“You should do this for money!”

Monetize It!

The Internet is a wonderful thing. My wife and I think it’s so cool that there are people making livings by creating and selling things online. Some make supplemental income; some make more from home than people starting up large companies with their MBAs.

It’s all great, but…the obsession with monetizing everything can get very old, very fast. There often comes with the attitude that everything should be monetized a sense that someone shouldn’t do something solely for the love of creating

Why not make money doing that thing you love, right? [Putting aside that people are allowed to do what they want to do for their own reasons] because…some people believe there is no better reason to make something than simply because one enjoys creating. For many, there’s more pleasure in the act of just making things than making things and then spending all that extra time turning it into a business.

Not everything that can make money has to make money.

The Downside of Monetizing Things

I blog, podcast, and do other things online. I sometimes attend tech groups and speak at tech groups about making things. The meetups that seem to draw the most attendees are those promising to show others how to monetize what they are doing. I’ll go as far as saying there is a strange obsession with monetizing things online. I’ve seen well-known bloggers come out and say:

“I’m about to embark on the project that means more to me than anything I’ve ever done…this is from my heart!”

Two months later, when it’s not making money, they bail on this thing they claim meant more to them than anything ever before. Maybe I’m wired differently, but if you have a project that means more to you than anything else in your heart — ever — you work on that project whether it makes money or not!

If you don’t, all I can assume is that your whole, “It means more than anything to me!” was a marketing ploy, and you’ve destroyed all trust I had in you and the things you make.

An [Often] Fast Path to Mediocre

I’ve seen great content become soured in a race for more ad revenue or a larger audience. As a podcaster, I often see people talk about how some shows they do get more listens than many of the shows they love doing. Because the thought of money is the driving force behind what’s being done, good shows about topics most dear to the hearts of the creators become like so many other shows that do little more than aggregate content.

Suddenly, we have another run-of-the-mill tech or entertainment podcast with little to no original content. Blogs are written whether there’s something good to write about or not because it’s a numbers game in hope of ad clicks. Over time, what started out as good content often becomes mediocre (at best) because content is created out of a panic to keep money coming in.

Worse than all that, sometimes the people behind the sites can’t get through the line at a grocery store or stand beside you at a urinal in a bathroom without giving you their pitch.

Desperation, frequency, and volume are not endearing traits.

Back to my Wife (and Why She Does Art Only for Herself These Days)

My wife understands that in its own way, “You should do this for money!” is a compliment — people see what she does and they feel it’s worthy of being paid for. It’s strange, though, because the compliments often come with a tone that my wife has never considered making money with her art.

She has…

I won’t go into great detail, but I know many artists whose art jobs become this:

  1. They end up on a contract for something they don’t really want to draw or paint.
  2. They work through the contract, getting approval for all stages of work.
  3. Near the end, someone higher up says, “I want something totally different!”
  4. The artist says, “Pay out on this contract, and I’ll write up a new contract for what your big boss wanted all along, but never mentioned to you.”
  5. Big boss gets wind of this and shouts: “I’m not paying for something I don’t want to use!”
  6. The original contract is either paid out and the work never used or now the artist is spending more time and money trying to collect what’s owed to them than they are creating art.

I know this is not the case for every artist. I have friends who are artists who do their own thing and make very strong livings doing what they love. But for every artist like that, there are more artists I know trying to collect on past due accounts or illustrating licensed content and other things they don’t enjoy creating, solely for the paycheck.

It’s Sew Easy

It’s not unheard of that my wife gets email from strangers asking her to sew them something. My wife passes by on offers to sew things for others, and some people find that perplexing. But why would someone who loves sewing their own things, on their own schedule, drop that to sew 40 of the same bonnets on an in-house assembly line when that is not what they find any pleasure in doing? (Or may not have room to do without turning several rooms into workspaces and be constantly reminded that they are not sewing what they want?)

Just like we have artist friends who live a life of nightmares collecting on accounts, seamstress friends of my wife have been ridiculed when they quote a price for something that’s deemed too high in the mind of the requester who doesn’t understand that the cost of material alone is twice what they are willing to pay — never mind the 60+ hours of labor! If fabric runs $250 for a gown and you’re putting over a week into the project, the last thing you want is to deal with an angry person online, screaming that you wouldn’t do it for $75!

It can be great making a living doing what you love, but it’s not always easy. Worse, it can make the pleasure of something you once loved a thing of the past.

You’re Crazy!

There are things I will only do for myself, solely for the joy it brings me. I once juggled for money, but…never again. I’ve written magazine and newspaper articles that made more in one piece than almost all fiction I’ve written combined. I won’t rule out certain articles in the future, because I’ve enjoyed the pieces I’ve written, but when it comes down to limited time and making guaranteed money with another article or writing another chapter of a novel that may never see publication, I choose the novel. And not just any novel: I write what I want to write, regardless of what happens when it’s done.

A handful of years ago, a friend in a position to pass along my second novel to the kinds of people who can make publication a reality offered to pass along anything I wanted that suited the genre. The book, the first in a series, is something I had fun writing, but there are other things I want to write even more. When some people heard I passed on that offer, the replies were a resounding:

You’re crazy!

I disagree; to have accepted this generous offer would have meant not writing the book I wanted to write more than anything I’d written at that point in my life. (The novel-in-progress now holds that title.) Part of the reason I write is to push myself to write things I wasn’t 100% sure I could pull off. These are the kinds of books that take a longer time to write. The novel I didn’t have passed on to publishers was written over a period of months, mostly during lunch breaks at my day job at the time.

I have different goals than some as a writer.

All This Said, I Understand Monetizing Things

To some, it may sound like I’m against monetizing things.

I’m not!

I have friends who make a living from the things they love online (and offline). These are people who did the thing they love and figured out a way to make that thing work. There was no polling the audience to see what worked best and leaning heavily on those things…they built loyal followings doing their thing and monetized their content.

I think that’s wonderful! I will never shake my head at someone monetizing the thing that’s wholly theirs…that they love making. If I could make a living writing the fiction I love writing, I would. I won’t change to something I don’t want to write as much, just to make a living writing fiction, but my goal has always been to make money with the writing I love doing. But just as there’s nothing wrong with monetizing something you love, there is nothing wrong with not monetizing something you love.

Many people don’t seem to get that…


  1. Yeah, I’ve been there and hated it. Nearly destroyed a hobby I dearly loved too (art), and I’m so slow with sewing (and I still cut corners since I’m self-taught, so I would not feel comfortable letting anyone else wear something I’ve made like that). Never again, if I can help it!

    I’ll admit, I don’t mind if someone walks up to me and just talks to me about it. Asks me if I do this as a hobby or a job, when I say no, politely asks why. It’s when it’s stated in a way making me feel like I could never have thought of it on my own that it gets to me a bit. And sometimes it also feels like it’s an introduction to start discussing money and well, I’m more interested in original and interesting content. Sure, I’ll use some tricks to get things seen, I don’t shun it completely after all.

    The things you said about people making it sound like New Thing! is so dear to their heart, yet when it doesn’t make enough/do well enough, they drop it quickly also makes me feel the same way.

    Another thing too about the subject of rebranding… I guess a few people I follow on Twitter must have changed their names. I have suddenly been seeing names I don’t recognize and have almost unfollowed them, wondering if something happened to my account. Pick something and try to stay with it, I say! Even if you announce “hey, I’m changing from this to that” not everyone will see it. And even then, someone follows you for one thing, you can’t blame them for not sticking around when you change… if I follow someone because I love The Hobbit or 18th century costuming, and then suddenly I’m seeing things not having to do about The Hobbit or 18th century costuming… I’m gonna wander elsewhere. 🙂

    But yes… this is an excellent blog entry. And gee… you really seem to like this CFGriffith gal or something. 😉

  2. Christopher Gronlund says

    Yeah, I’ve been with that CFGriffith gal for almost 22 years. Why not another 22 and then some 😉

    There’s definitely a big difference between, “Wow, that’s great work! Do you make money doing this,” and, “You should make money at this.” As you point out, there comes with it a sense of, “Well golly-gee…I never thought about that. Thank you for putting the thought in my tiny head.” Like you, I’m far more interested in talking about making things than making money…even though I’m not-at-all against people making money by making the things they love. I think, for me, is so many times, people in the tech/SEO community lead with money. And, more times than not, it shows in carbon copy content because many people like that are just emulating the wealthy people they look up to in the hope of replicating their success. So, instead of a genuine video introducing who you are in surroundings that reflect your character, you see people trying to make their home office look like a wealthy CEO’s office. And it often comes off looking more like a desperate infomercial done by someone selling a realty plan or debt removal plan at 3 in the morning.

    I suppose what gets me most is it all sounds the same and that there often comes with it a lack of honesty and credibility. If you love something, you don’t bail on it. I know people who moved on to new things they loved, but to dump a project you’re crazy about because it’s not making enough money or bringing in the audience one’s pie-in-the-sky dreams figured would come their way inside a month or two is like dropping a spouse or family member because you want something “better.”

    The people I know who did the thing they loved with all their heart and figured out ways to make a living doing their thing are the people who make the best content. And it often takes decades.

    As far as brands, here’s how I feel about rebranding:

  3. Saralee Etter says

    You make some very good points, Christopher! Someone said that to me just the other day — I posted some pictures of some craft projects I’d just finished and I was asked if I was going to sell them.
    And then my father asked me the very same thing when I talked to him on the phone! “Honey, you’re so creative! You should make lots of them and get paid for it!”
    But the skill that it takes to make art projects, or craft projects, is totally different from the skills needed to run a business that sells art or craft projects. And you’ve got to be sure you’re not going to get bored or fed up with the work, if you’re going to do it as a business. So I told my father this story, that I had to read for a Spanish class long ago.
    In the story, an American entrepreneur goes to Mexico to look for items he can buy cheap and sell at a profit in the US. He approaches the best potter in the village, who is selling beautiful hand-made pottery bowls for 5 pesos each.
    He tells the potter, “Hey, if you make 10 bowls just exactly like this one, I’ll pay you 6 pesos a piece! More money, and you won’t have to think up a new design, so you can make them faster!”
    The potter replies, “No. If you want me to make 10 bowls that are all the same, I’m afraid I would have to charge you 10 pesos a piece. And it will take me twice as long to make each one.”
    “Why?” asks the businessman.
    “Because I get bored, making the same thing over and over,” was the reply. “It’s not as much fun, doing it for the money. I would rather do it for the love of making something pretty.”
    And so my father laughed, and agreed.
    When you make art for sale, you have to enjoy the process. Sometimes putting a price tag on it sucks out all the joy.

  4. Christopher Gronlund says

    Thank you for the reply, Saralee! I love the potter story — it sums it up very well. I think a lot of people like to think that a job like that would make a person happy. They don’t realize they’re saying, “Streamline the thing you love into a fast, easy-to-replicate machine and crank that stuff out for cash!”

    When I did street performing, I never performed 7 ball juggling. I could get enough catches to qualify in competition (just barely), but I was never able to sustain it well enough to perform. And, in all honesty, I’m not sure I would have had I stuck with it even more. But it was worth it, just to say, “I’ve successfully juggled 7 things.” To many, that would be stupid. “If you’re not going to ever perform juggling 7 balls, why do it?”

    “Because I like it.”

    I’ve worked in enough manufacturing jobs to know that what a lot of people deem creative (making the same “creative” thing over and over) is no different than jobs I’ve had landscaping, loading trucks, or emptying garbage and cleaning offices and classrooms. I’ve seen some of the work you do, and it’s great! I can’t imagine just cranking the same thing out over and over, as fast as possible, for money. I think what you do would lose its appeal if it looked overly manufactured. And, sadly, if you DID want to turn it into a thing, few people are willing to pay what the time is worth.

    Cynthia knitted a Harry Potter scarf for me that people covet. It’s long and thick and you can tell a lot of effort went into it. You see the same kind of things done on a machine or in a rush and it’s just not what it should be. Obviously, people wanted to pay Cynthia to make the scarves, but…she’d put 40 hours into one and people wanted to pay $20. I don’t think many people would put 40 hours into their day jobs for $20. That, and Cynthia didn’t want to make the same thing over and over, even if people were offering more money.

    I have nothing against people doing what they want for money, but so many people don’t seem to get that turning certain things some people love into a job can kill any love a person has for their thing.


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  2. […] many people think about their brand before they begin; they focus on monitizing what they do before even starting things. Some of these people find their version of success, but most of them […]

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  4. […] wife is an artist, and monetizing every aspect of what she once did killed her love of art. She’s back at it after stepping away for years, now doing art only […]

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