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What’s better than having a hobby you love? Making money from it!
The route to profit is obvious for some hobbies. For example, I’d been making walking sticks for years when my wife and I started a flea market business, so I sold them alongside our other products. I never made much, but I had fun and sold a couple hundred sticks in the course of a summer.
Some hobbies are difficult to monetize, but there’s always a way. My hobby of playing around with metaphors became a website about “metaphorology.” It only made a few hundred dollars, but then I only spent a few days creating it, and who would have thought I could make anything while having fun with an obscure hobby like that?
Okay, extra cash is nice, but can you turn a pastime into something big? Oh yeah. There are many entrepreneurs who turned their hobbies into million-dollar businesses. And two of my hobby-based websites made over $100,000 (more on that in a moment).
The following five ways to cash in start with the obvious; sell something. That may not always work, but the other four strategies can applied to absolutely any hobby.
1. Sell a Related Product or Service
Nick Palmisciano put humorous slogans on t-shirts and gave them away as gifts. People told him he should try to sell them, so he started a t-shirt business as a hobby.
At the time Palmisciano was working as a manager at John Deere, and on the eve of a big job promotion, he decided to quit and take his hobby to the next level. The result was Ranger Up, a $20 million apparel company that’s also getting into the movie business.
But what if your hobby doesn’t involve making anything? What kind of hobby-based product could you sell? It does depend on your pastime, of course, but there are many possibilities.
For example, I play chess. If I wanted to make money from that I might sell chess sets or books to other players. Also, after seeing everyone struggle to figure out their chess clocks for years, I could design a better one and sell that.
Most hobbies involve products that have to bought by participants, at least to start. And if you’re deeply into a hobby you know something about those products. That puts you in a position to sell the best of them, or to invent and sell better ones.
Of course, for any hobby you can sell your knowledge, which brings us to our next way to make money…
2. Teach What You Know
When we lived in Florida my wife was paid $20 per hour to teach in a local adult education program. She taught Spanish. Other teachers had classes that easily could have started out as hobbies. Subjects included pottery, bird watching, photography, dancing, writing, and dozens more.
To locate programs near you Google “adult education,” “non-credit courses,” “continuing education,” and related phrases, plus the name of your community.
If there aren’t any adult education programs near you, consider tutoring. Online platforms like Wyzant save you the trouble of looking for clients — which is well worth giving them a cut. Academic tutoring is the most common, but if your hobby isn’t algebra, don’t give up too quickly. People hire tutors to teach them piano, chess, singing and more.
Tutoring has it’s limits, of course, the primary one being time; you can only earn money while you’re with a student. But there is another way to teach…
Udemy let’s you create and upload courses for people to subscribe to. Although some of them used to be expensive, most appear to be selling for $10 now. Still, since many of the classes offered have had thousands of subscribers, the potential for a big profit is clear.
And yes, many hobbies can be turned into a Udemy class. Current courses include subjects like harvesting wild medicinal plants, attracting butterflies to a garden, scrapbooking, making cat toys, and the list goes on.
Udemy provides free tools to help you create your course. Let them take just 3% of each course fee if you want to do the marketing yourself, or let them keep 50% and they’ll do the marketing for you.
3. Create a Website or Blog About Your Hobby
When I first learned about making money online, I started to use all of my hobbies as the basis for websites. With my wife’s help (I’m not patient with the tech side) I built sites on meditation, hiking, real estate investing, and how to have creative ideas, to name a few.
Not all of them made a lot of money, and that’s okay. For example, I love to go treasure hunting, so I created a treasure-hunt and built a website that led participants to clues all over Colorado. It was fun to travel, hike, and place clues, but the site made only a few hundred dollars.
On the other hand, my hobby of ultralight backpacking resulted in a website that made $53,000 over the years. My site on increasing brainpower (yes, I have a lot of hobbies) made more than double that.
So how do you make money with websites or blogs? There are many ways to monetize a website. Here are a few of them.
Promote Affiliate Products
As an affiliate you promote and link to a product and get a commission when someone clicks through and buys it. For example, when visitors to my backpacking website bought a backpack or tent I recommended, I made 5% to 10% on each sale. On my meditation website I got $30 for each set of meditation CDs my visitors bought.
One thing you may like about affiliate sales is that you can promote only products you actually like. You can find individual programs offered by manufacturers or sign up with affiliate networks. Doing the latter makes it easier to promote products from many different vendors. Here are two of the most common affiliate networks that Frugal For Less uses:
Sell Your Own Products
If your hobby is making something, a website provides a great platform for selling your creations. It’s also a place to sell related products. For example, if you make jewelry you could offer do-it-yourself tutorials and then sell the materials.
This is an option for any website that has enough traffic. But it’s also a lot of work, and maybe, like myself, you don’t care to be a salesperson (although I have made some decent money from selling ads directly).
This is my favorite way to make money from a website because it’s so simple. I have Google ads on pages I haven’t looked at in years that still generate money every time a visitor clicks on them. Copy the code, paste it into your pages, and forget about it.
You get two-thirds of what Google collects from advertisers. For example, if an advertiser pays 30 cents for a click you get 20 cents of that. It adds up. I make less than $300 monthly from my sites now, but I used to make thousands per month, and I once made $700 in one day — while I was out backpacking.
By the way, AdSense is how I made money from my little website about metaphors. What would I sell, after all, and who would place ads on a low-traffic site? But advertisers using Google pay when visitors click, and yes, I got clicks.
You can start a website for free, but I recommend against it. Pay one of the inexpensive domain registrars $10 for a name so you’ll have a website you control. Website hosting can be found for as little as $3 per month, and you can find plenty of decent free WordPress themes for building your website or blog.
4. Write Articles Based on Your Hobby
As a freelance writer I’ve covered many topics, but I didn’t enjoy it when I wrote about building wine cellars or how businesses can save on workman’s compensation insurance. So I stopped doing those kinds of articles.
By “those kinds” I mean articles that don’t tie into my hobbies and interests in some way. I love finding new ways to make or save money, so I always write about those subjects.
Fortunately there are buyers for all kinds of articles, so if you can put a sentence together you might be able to write and sell articles based on your hobbies. Accept any pay you can get at first, so you can build a portfolio and link to your previous work. Then focus only on websites that pay $50 or more for articles.
There are also print magazines that pay $500 or more per article. If you’ve subscribed for years to a magazine because of your hobby, why not write for it? Of course, when you submit your idea, tell the editor you’re a long-time subscriber.
5. Write a Book Based on Your Hobby
I made thousands of dollars selling Kindle ebooks. I no longer sell any, but it was a fun way to cash in on my hobbies. Subjects included backpacking, mind power experiments, and finding odd ways to make money.
Figuring out the formatting for your book can take a while, but it costs nothing to open an account with Amazon Kindle, and nothing to upload it and list it for sale. Price it between $2.99 and $9.99, because if it’s in that range you get about 70% of each sale.
You can self-publish in print too. With a service like CreateSpace, you can invest as little as $30 by the time the first few books arrive at your door (my wife has done it). You do have to spend a fair amount of time figuring out how to properly format the book so it prints properly, and you may choose to pay for help with a cover.
Getting traditionally published is another possibility. My pastime of researching and reporting on odd ways to make money got me a contract with Wiley and Sons. They paid me a $10,000 advance to write 101 Weird Ways to Make Money.
Here’s a tip if you want a publisher to seriously consider your book about knitting, archery, ghost hunting, or whatever your hobby is: Build an audience first. Wiley came to me because I had a website and an email newsletter with thousands of subscribers. In other words they essentially had a guarantee of some sales.
Do All of the Above
The strategies here can be combined synergistically. For example, let’s say your hobby is kayaking…
Sell Something: Find a wholesale supplier of kayaking equipment you can sell to other people who share your passion.
Teach: You can make money giving kayaking lessons and your students would also be a perfect market for your products.
Build a Website: You can make money from advertising revenue on the site while promoting your products and your lessons.
Write Articles: You might get paid for articles about kayaking.. Even if you have to do it for free it still helps establish you as an expert and the articles can be used to direct people to your website.
Write a Book: As an author you’re an expert. That helps you sell products and services, and you might even sell a few books.
If you make money from your hobby, tells us about it below, and keep on frugaling!