The Difference Between a Hobby and a Business

A hobby is about you, a business is about your customers.

That’s it. That’s the whole post. Ya’ll can go home now.

Seriously! This is a simple (obvious?) truth, but one that’s hard to swallow. I only recently got hit in the face with it accepted it. The whole follow-your-bliss-make-your-passion-your-business narrative is dangerous.


Because it puts the focus on you. It’s about your passion, your wants, your identity.

That’s all well and good when we’re talking about hobbies. When it’s a hobby, it’s fine to have creative expression driving the bus. But when it’s a business, your customers better be driving and your ego best be, well, not in the vehicle.

It’s only a business if you have paying customers. Which means you need to a) know who your customers are b) understand their problems c) have a solution to said problems.

No one cares about you. They care about how you can help them.

So. I repeat.

The difference between a hobby and a business is that a business isn’t about you.

I enjoy taking photos. Like, really enjoy it. Walking around a new place with a camera around my neck is one of my greatest joys. On my most recent trip to Scandinavia I thought to myself—travel photographer! Wouldn’t it be so cool to get paid to travel around and take pictures!!

But here’s the thing. I only like taking photos when I like taking photos. When I see the thing and get ~*inSpirEd*~. If some hotel gave me an itemized list of “OK, here’s all the aspects of the hotel you need to feature, GO!” I’d hate it. It would suck the joy out. My photography is about me—my taste, my creative expression—and that’s why it’s a hobby and you don’t see me trying to sell prints or services or whatever else.

Why is it so Damn Hard to Find Canadian Tech Marketing Salaries?

You know what would be delightful.

Some transparency around marketing salaries in tech. Specifically in Canada. Specifically for women.

(Don’t even get me started on the black hole that is equity…)

Have you ever applied for a marketing role at a startup? Here’s what happens:

  • You wade through a pile of content/growth hacking positions. The content roles are clearly written for women. The growth hacking roles are clearly written for men. Neither offers specifics around responsibilities/performance expectations, but it’s enough to confirm your suspicion that they’re unrealistic.
  • There’s no salary or equity range listed.
  • You look at other postings from that company. Yup, all the engineering roles have salary ranges listed. Excellent.
  • You Google salaries at that company. Yup! You find a handful of front-end dev salaries, one back-end, maybe a customer success rep or two. No marketing salaries.
  • WHY?! Because there’s only one person in each marketing role. So you can be damn sure that Monica the Content Manager isn’t posting her salary on Glassdoor because that doesn’t tell the world/her co-workers what a Content Manager at Company X makes, it tells the world what Monica makes.
  • You Google comps and end up with marketing salary ranges for marketing roles at hundred-year-old telecommunications companies. OK, not helpful.
  • You Google comps and end up with ranges for the Valley, or somewhere else in the US that doesn’t particularly help you because you live in Toronto. Or Ottawa. Or Winnipeg and you work remotely.
  • You look at comps at the big, established Canadian tech companies like Shopify. But they’re way further down the line than the newish company you’re thinking of joining. So that doesn’t help you, either.
  • In frustration, you start DMing near-strangers on Twitter asking them to share ranges.
  • You find out you were wildly underpaid at a previous role. Or should have gotten equity but didn’t. Or could have negotiated compensation but didn’t. Or could have negotiated your entire role but didn’t. Or that a man applying for that role would come into a negotiation with a number 20K higher than yours.
  • OK. Now you’re real frustrated. Real frustrated and STILL LOST.

/end rant.

Seriously though! This is a big problem. There’s not enough education and resources around it, and I believe that the lack of transparency is stopping talented women from applying to marketing roles (or making the switch to tech in the first place…).

And I’m not even touching the actual application, negotiation, or onboarding process. This is just one slice of the funnel. Lucky for you my battery is at 6% and I left my charger at work, so I’m going to have to put a pin in things here 😉

All this to say—it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now (studies like this get me mad) so I better not just stew and rant. I better do something about it.

Are there any good databases for Canadian tech marketing salaries? Please Tweet them to me.

If not, what if I made one? I could start by sending out a quick, anonymous survey that I compile the answers to in a webpage or something…

OKOK. 3%. Gotta go. But let me know what would be helpful KTHANKS 🙂

Finding Your Productivity Domino

This whole… being a better human thing is hard.

We’ve all got a laundry list of things we know make us feel like healthy, fulfilled, productive members of this dumpster fire of a society.

The problem, of course, is that the things that make us feel better in the long term are a pain in the ass to do in the short term.

Working out is hard. Eating well is hard. Remember to take your vitamins is hard. Making time to write, or read, or hike, or paint, or whatever-it-is that helps you grow into a better version of yourself is… holy heck it’s HARD.

Here’s a hack I’ve found.

Look at your self-betterment laundry list. What’s the one thing you do that makes all of the other stuff come a little easier?

For me, it’s working out. When I work out I naturally start eating better. I start sleeping better, my mind feels more clear, I’m sharper at work, I’m more present at home, I’m less anxious, and I’ve got the energy to pick up my knitting after dinner. I am, in short, pretty damn close to this mythical “best self”.

Now it’s not a magic bullet. And knocking over that first domino isn’t easy. In fact, it’s brutal. It doesn’t matter how great I know it is for me (I mean look at that list of benefits—infomercial worthy!) it’s still a battle.

Buuuuut it’s easier to fight one battle than ten.

So! Next time you’re feeling out of whack, don’t try to start 30 things at once. Don’t nominate this as the Monday you start sleeping 8 hours, eating clean, meditating 20 minutes a day, and growing your own lettuce.

Just find your domino. Knock it over. Repeat.

The rest will come.

Tell me this isn’t the most fitting photo for this post. The gears! I mean come on! Taken at the K.A. Almgren Silk Weaving Mill Stockholm aka my personal heaven on earth.

How to Get Unstuck

It’s not about you.

File that under: Things I Wish I Learned Sooner and Still Have to Remind Myself of Daily.*

Whenever I’ve been stuck—like really, truly, existential-level stuck—it’s because I was thinking about myself.

What am I?

What’s my passion?

What should I do with my life?

How do I get people to understand me?

These journaling prompts didn’t lead me to clarity. They didn’t help me “get unstuck and find my life’s work”. They just dug me deeper into self-doubt and inaction.

It’s only when I flipped it around—when I started thinking about others first—that I got traction.

How can I be helpful?

Where can I make a difference?

How can I help others feel understood?

That’s where the answers are, folks.

Focus less on being seen, and more on helping others feel seen.

Your work isn’t about you. It’s about who you’re helping.

Any that gets way easier when you take your ego out of it.

SOS! Taken in Malmo, Sweden.

*Anyone have a label maker I can fit that on?

When You Don’t Have an Audience

The best thing about posting when you don’t have an audience: nobody’s watching.

The worst thing about posting when you don’t have an audience: nobody’s watching.

It’s funny, eh? We’re always nervous to start something. Hitting Publish is hard.

What will they say? It’s not good enough. I’m good enough. Oh heck this is how everyone finds out I’m crazy and ~not~ in a cute way. This is how I get voted off the island that is the Internet. 

Then it’s live aaaaaaaaand


More often than not, no one cares because no one’s watching.

Then! Then we get mad.

I put in all this work and for what! Got like 3.5 impressions on Twitter and no clicks. What the heck dude? I was joking when I said I was terrible. This is good the people need to see it and tell me I’m brilliant! TELL ME I’M BRILLIANT, SUSAN.


Point is: when we start, the stakes are low.

A heck of a lot lower than your brain (*cough* Resistance *cough*) is leading you to believe.

And we should take advantage of that while we can.

Taken at the Leslieville street festival in Toronto summer. 

The Gap Between Amateur and Professional

It’s easy to write about fear.

Have you ever noticed that?

Whenever I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging [Narrator: she was always taking a hiatus from blogging] the easiest way for me to get back into it is to write about a) how hard it is to get started and b) the importance of starting. Of starting right now, with what you have, and where you are.

I do this whole… motivational-platitude-soapbox thing. It feels good. It feels good to ship something even if it wasn’t one of the hundreds of half-baked posts sitting (OK, rotting) in my Dynalist.

I pat myself on the back because I feel like things have changed. I’ve changed.

I’m now going to be a Blogger. Or a YouTuber. Or a Captial-Something. I’m convinced, in those moments after clicking “Publish”, that I’ve conquered Resistance once and for all.

It’s going to be so much easier to show up the next time. Right!? Right? …You Guys?

[Narrator: Wrong.]

As it turns out, the devil isn’t in starting. The devil is in continuously showing up.

Anyone can show up once. Continuing to show up when you say you will?

Therein lies the tricky bit.

Therein lies the gap between amateur and professional.

Taken just outside of Moderna Museet on my trip Stockholm last Spring. Nothing like a good get back on the bike/in the saddle metaphor for September, yes?

Creative in Work vs Creative in Business

What the hell does it mean to be “a creative”?

Let’s just start there.

Creative small business owner. Creative entrepreneur…

We throw these terms around a lot, but something about it has never sat right with me. Honestly, I’ve always found the term creative entrepreneur a little cringy.

I think I’ve finally figured out why.

Being creative in your work and creative in your business are two totally different things, and one doesn’t imply the other.

Creativity, to me, means you’re doing something that might not work. It’s not proven. There’s no guarantee. You’re doing something in a way that it hasn’t been done before.

So you can be creative in your work—you can be a photographer or a web designer or a ceramic artist—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re creative in your approach to business. Your Instagram feed could be mistaken for another wedding photographers, or you could be mirroring someone else’s marketing, pricing, or social media tactics. You’re using a proven model that you’ve seen elsewhere. You’re following the rules.

On the flip, you could have what’s not considered a creative profession—you could be an accountant or a lawyer or a financial planner—but be creative in your approach to business. You don’t look and sound and feel like every other accountant. You’re using social media in an unexpected way, or you’ve created a new business model. You’re not doing what people expect someone with your job title to do. You’re changing the game.

When we look at creativity in this way, we can see that it’s a lot broader than painter=creative.

Creativity is an approach. It’s a posture. One you can apply to your work, your business, and of course, your life.

This is why being creative can feel so lonely. Because we look around and don’t see examples of the thing we want to build. There’s no one building the business, or life, or career that we want for ourselves. No roadmap we can follow. There’s no blog post we can read, podcast we can listen to, or course we can buy that will tell us exactly what we need to do.

They can help! Sure. But ultimately, it’s on us. Only we’ve got those answers. That’s what makes being creative equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Here’s the thing though…

We’re all building something different, but our problems aren’t unique.

One more time for the people in the back—we’re all building something different, but our problems aren’t unique.

We all have to deal with the stuff that circles around building a creative life and business—the money, sales, health, systems, planning, and boundaries stuff. Our solutions to these problems are different, but our problems are shared.

So, in that way, we really aren’t alone.

There’s solidarity in the process.

We just have to get better at talking about it.

P.S. I recorded a 5-minute video chatting this through before writing it down. So if that’s more your style, you can watch the video here.

Photo taken on my trip to Prince Edward County earlier this month.

Currently #9: Books to change your relationship with money, introducing yourself, and my favourite productivity app

You didn’t ask, I answered.


Worry Free Money by Shannon Lee Simmons


I recently finished Worry Free Money, and yes, it’s just as good as everyone’s saying it is. It’s got me thinking about changes I want to make to my cash flow and how (or more importantly, why) I spend money.

I also love Shannon’s approach to financial planning, and found reading this inspiring for my own work.

“It’s never about what I think people can do, it’s about what they can do, And more importantly, what they will do.”

Yes! Thank you, Shannon.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

You guys. This is such a powerful read.

You know when someone puts words to something you’ve been wrestling with for years, and then all of a sudden you feel free? That’s this book for me. It’s the solidarity I’ve been searching for.

And, of course, it’s left me rethinking my own consumption and spending.

“Who are you buying this for: the person you are, or the person you want to be?”

Yup. It’s good.

I’M watching…

The Perfect Intro, a talk by Clay Hebert

I can’t think a worse nightmare than walking into a room full of people ready to ask, “So, what do you do?”

Kidding. (Sort of…)

I’ve always been terrible at explaining what I do. Even amongst my own family it’s a question I dread. When you’re a freelancer with multiple projects and types of work on the go, how do you explain it all without sounding scattered? How do you wrap it all up neatly in a bow?

Well, my problem probably lied in the fact that I felt like I had to explain it all. You don’t. Clay has some awesome tips on this.

I’M listening to…

Um, did you know that The Wall Street Journal produces seriously good podcasts?

I’ve been listening to Secrets of Wealthy Women and The Future of Everything. My favourite episodes have been Dottie Herman: The Secret to Real Estate Risk-Taking and The Rise of Experiential Retail.

I love how each episode of The Future of Everything podcast will tackle one topic but interview multiple people on it (similar in style to Freakonomics Radio), providing multiple different contexts. That retail episode is really, seriously interesting.

I’M loving…

Dynalist! Oh my goodness, Dynalist.

The last 3 months or so has been a serious experiment in planning, scheduling, and timing. I’ve been testing out routines and systems to figure out what helps me be most effective and present, and this little app has been a game changer.

It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a list making, to-do type app. Clean, simple, easy. It’s replaced Todoist and now between Dynalist, Google Calendar, and Evernote I’ve got a system I’m in love with.

Yes, it’s love.

oh, that’s good…

Learning is Never Cumulative

The head coach at my crossfit gym has been covering the walls in quotes and man, I love this one.

Also, try slacking off on a WOD when Bruce Lee is staring back at you ;).

What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Articles, interviews, a really great ad… Comment or Tweet me!



Hey! That was my idea

“I thought of that years ago.”

“I was going to do that.”

Have you ever noticed how possessive we can be of our ideas? How we’ll feel robbed when someone else acts on them?

Why the heck are we like this?!

I guess it has to do with the fact that we call them our ideas. As though they belong to us and no one else could have thought of them.

However we probably came up with the idea for the thing (product, business, song, painting, book, etc…) because we felt the world needed it—a solution to a problem or something to fill a need people have—and if that’s the case shouldn’t we be happy that it’s out there improving people’s lives, even if we weren’t the ones to make it happen? Shouldn’t we take it as a signal that the market’s ready for more of whatever the thing is?

Why instead do we feel all kinds of resentful and jealous?

I mean, we can’t do it all. We can’t act on every idea we get. We have to intentionally choose which thing we’re going to work on right now. That means letting some of our ideas go and that’s OK. Someone else will have the idea and run with it (because no, our ideas aren’t unique), maybe even doing a better job with it than we could’ve. Or maybe we’ll come back to it down the line…

Who knows!

Point is, we need to let go of some ideas (and not feel so damn guilty about it) so we can put all our energy towards the ones that matter the most to us right now.

The whole, “you can do anything once you stop trying to do everything” platitude.

A little New-Year-newfound-desire-to-do-all-the-things thought for you…

Why yes this little riff was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s take on ideas in Big Magic.

Photo taken at The Met this past fall in during a day of gallery wandering in Manhattan. Because museums and galleries are a breeding ground for, “Hey! That was my idea.”

Currently #8: Becoming a CFP(?), Freakonomics Radio, & reclaiming my time

You didn’t ask, I answered.


Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau

Despite my deep aversion to the word hustle (especially when preceded by the word side) here I am, reading Side Hustle. I just finished The $100 Startup by him and I’m reading these books not so much for my own projects, but because I’m always interested in what marketing/business/financial advice small business owners are finding useful.

How are we talking about this stuff? What’s resonating? What’s not? That’s what I’m interested in.

I’M watching…

Not much of anything, actually. I canceled my Netflix subscription and I haven’t been watching much on YouTube recently.

Sacrilege, I know. But, *points to image below* I’m reclaiming my time and I’m much happier for it.

I’M listening to…

These Shoes Are Killing Me on Freakonomics Radio

Who the heck knew I’d find genuine joy in listening to a podcast about feet? Not I, that’s for sure.

Around the 10 minute mark they talk about how men are seen as rational and practical and how that’s reflected in their shoes (plain, sensible) and how women are seen as irrational and frivolous and how that’s reflected in theirs (heels, decorative, impractical, etc.)

They talk about how sneakers—which many people think of as casual and cheap—started out as an object of luxury. Tennis shoes represented privilege and wealth because having them meant A) you could afford more than one pair of shoes and B) you had the time to spend on leisurely things like a game of tennis.

And then they get into “how fascism democratized the sneaker”…

I know. So interesting.

The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money was a great episode, too, if you haven’t heard it yet. They interviewed Barry Ritholtz about investment fees and as you’d imagine, he leaves you with lots to think about.

oh, that’s good…

Reclaiming My Time

A particularly timely (see what I did there!) desk sign I saw at Bulletin when I was in New York City last month.

The last quarter of 2017 I’ve been experimenting with planning and scheduling so that I spend more time on the things that matter to me (see above: canceling Netflix). I want to be more effective with my time. Not productive, effective. 

And so far, so good.

I’m becoming a financial planner… ?

After a weekend spent with some of my favourite humans (who happen to be financial planners) talking about the change we’d like to see in the finance industry, I’m seriously thinking about completing my CFP and working as a planner.

I realized I had some weird and wrong ideas about what it would mean to be a planner and that I was letting fear get the better of me. I don’t see myself working as a financial planner full-time, but I’d like to layer that into the other work I enjoy doing with small businesses and entrepreneurs. (That’s one of the wrong assumptions I had—that if I was a planner I wouldn’t be able to pursue the other work I’m interested in.)

I have my FPSC Level 1 so next up it’s the Capstone, doing some paraplanning work, and a few specialized courses.

More on that as it unfolds… I’m excited about 2018!

What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Articles, interviews, a really great ad… Comment or Tweet me!