The Best Job You’ll Ever Have: How to Make Money from a Hobby
It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and you take a break from your favorite hobby to see what time it is. Much to your surprise, several hours have passed. Yet it seems like only minutes.
Time never passes this fast at work, you think. If I could figure out how to do this for a living, I’d never work another day in my life.
It’s a nice thought, but while making money from your favorite recreational activity can be a lot of fun, it also requires a lot of hard work. However, there are plenty of success stories out there to motivate you, so it doesn't have to be just a passing thought. Careful consideration, planning, and dedication could enable you to turn your enjoyable pastime into a viable revenue stream.
Here are seven tips to get you started, or at least thinking about, monetizing your hobby:
1. Make Sure You Really Love It, Even Under a Deadline
Let’s say you find designing and making one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces enjoyable and relaxing. Well, having to make X pieces of jewelry by Y date to sell at an arts-and-crafts fair or on Etsy is a whole different animal. Your once-calming favorite activity can suddenly become pressure-packed and stressful. And if it was your primary way of de-stressing, it isn’t likely to be anymore.
Before attempting to turn your relaxing pastime into a source of income, be sure you’re willing to give it up as your way to unwind. If you are, then ask yourself if you’re passionate enough about the activity to do it regularly and intensely enough to meet customer demand—assuming there is demand, which leads directly into Tip #2.
2. Determine if There’s a Market/Audience
You may spend hours of free time perfecting your hobby skills, but that doesn’t mean there’s anyone out there actually willing to pay you for it. Before trying to monetize what you love doing, do some research to see if there are other companies out there already providing that service or product. If there are none, it may be because no market exists.
If the market is being served, ask yourself how you plan to differentiate your service/product from the rest of the competition out there. If you can’t answer that question, it might be better to keep your amateur status rather than diving into an oversaturated market as a professional.
3. Decide How to Best Monetize Your Hobby
Actually doing your hobby for money isn’t the only way to earn income from it; teaching or offering your services as a consultant are two other possibilities. So is writing a book or creating a blog or website devoted/related to your interest. If your blog or website becomes popular enough, it could eventually attract sponsors, or you might be able to charge a subscription fee or ask for donations.
Know that alternative ideas require hard work and involve risk as well. Still, it may be far less risky to, say, write and sell a book about knitting or start a knitting-related website than to open a knitting-supply store or try to make a living selling your knitted creations. Especially given over half of all startup small businesses fail in the first four years.
4. Develop a Thorough Business Plan
Benjamin Franklin—a savvy entrepreneur with many hobbies of his own—once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” These words apply to most business ventures but are especially pertinent to turning a hobby into a business. It’s only natural to think, Hobbies are fun; business plans are not…think I’ll skip that part.
Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be a painful process and, yes, it can even be “fun,” the same way exercise can be fun even though there may be some pain involved. At the very least, developing a good business plan will get you asking the right questions. And if you intend to seek outside financing, it’s a must-have item before any potential investors (at least reputable ones) will take you seriously.
5. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
You’ve undoubtedly heard this advice before—maybe on one of those TV talent shows where judges critique sub-par singers or dancers—but it applies to folks who are good at what they do as well. Having a steady source of income while trying to get another business up and running can go a long way toward providing peace of mind and lowering stress levels. It may also enable you to get a line of credit you can dedicate to business expenses.
If you don’t plan on your hobby ever becoming your full-time gig, there’s really no reason to leave a perfectly good job so long as you have the time and energy to do both. Just be sure to check out your full-time employer’s policies regarding having a second job, as some companies don’t allow this practice.
Devoting more and more time to your hobby/side business to the point it starts interfering with your duties at work may be an indication it’s time to make it a full-time vocation. However, if the reason you’re logging so many hours to turn your favorite pastime into a business is because it’s not succeeding, you may want to reevaluate whether you should continue trying to make it work before you jeopardize your full-time job and risk losing your primary source of income.
6. Make Marketing Your New Favorite Activity
If you hope to sell your services and/or products, you’re going to have to market them and get the word out through some or all of the following ways:
Word of Mouth: One of the oldest, most reliable methods for spreading news about a new business. If customers like what you’re selling, they’ll let others know about it. They’ll let them know if they don’t like it too, so make sure they’re happy.
Social Media: This allows you to get the word out yourself and gives others multiple platforms to spread information about your product or service on a much broader basis.
A Website: This hardly needs explaining in the 21st century. If you don’t have one and want a way to tell others about your business, it’s a must-have.
Collateral: This industry term means printed marketing materials like brochures, flyers, etc. It’s more old-fashioned than the other methods but still effective, particularly if you can hand it out personally, say, at an arts-and-crafts fair.
7. Treat Your Hobby Like a J-O-B (Because Now It Is One)
This tip may be the most important of all because it pervades all of the previous ones. Hobbies are mostly fun, but turning yours into a revenue stream is going to involve hard work. And, as the saying goes, it’s called work for a reason.
You can dabble in your favorite pastime, but if you want it to succeed as a business, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and put in work. If you’re expecting it to be all fun, like it was as your favorite free-time activity, it’s probably best not to attempt to monetize it.
But if you’re ready to take the next step, the good news is much of your labor will involve doing something you’d otherwise do for free, so it won’t feel so much like working—at least not as much as doing something you’re less passionate about. And passion is an asset every new business venture desperately needs.