Americans spend more time on the job than they do with anything else, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So the fact that so many of us hate our jobs is depressing. If what you do outside of work – your hobbies – it may be time to learn how to turn your hobby into a business.
How I earn thousands a month with my hobby
Four years ago, I was a college graduate with no job and no prospects. When I eventually found a job as a bank teller, the work was painfully boring, and the pay was low. As a business finance major, it was not how I expected my first year out of college to turn out.
Around the same time that I found the teller job, I came across this personal finance blog. I was impressed to see that someone could manage to earn a living – and a good one at that – through blogging.
Without an immediate path to a better job, I decided to try my hand at blogging. After all, I’d been eating, breathing, and sleeping personal finance since I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover in college. And I’d always enjoyed writing.
When I started my blog in August 2013, I had no idea what I was doing. My blog was hideous, and I cringe when I go back and read some of those early posts. But a month later, a local news outlet asked me to write about money for a family-focused website they owned. I earned a measly $10 per post, but it was better than the $9.75/hour I was earning at the bank.
A couple of months after that, I gained another client and then another. I was earning a few hundred dollars a month and loving it. A year later, I attended a personal finance blogger conference and met even more clients.
Over the next couple years, my hobby died a little. In January 2015, I applied for a job as a staff writer at a NerdWallet and got it. The company didn’t allow me to freelance about personal finance on the side, and I gave up my blog too.
But just last month, I moved to a different company and started freelancing again in earnest. With my experience at NerdWallet writing about credit cards, I found several outlets that were interested.
The results: Last month, I invoiced over $5,000 for my new clients, and this month, I’ll earn even more.
How to turn your hobby into a business
We all have hobbies, things we enjoy doing even if we’re not good at them. Of course, not everyone wants to turn their hobby into a business, and that’s cool. But if you are, here are five tips to live by.
1. Pick your hobby
I’m not a fan of articles that give you suggestions on what you should do for your side business. Sure, there are a lot of lucrative opportunities out there – freelance writing about money being one of them. But you shouldn’t force yourself into something you won’t enjoy just for the money. You’ll either burn out or resent it.
Instead, take a step back and think about what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing. Once you have that nailed down, do an internet search for that topic in the context of making money. For example, “earn money writing” or “make money cooking.”
Regardless of your hobby, there’s likely a rabbit hole on the internet that you can go down to learn how to make money doing it.
2. Don’t wait until you’re an expert
There were a lot of things I didn’t know about personal finance when I started blogging. There are a lot of things I still don’t know. And let’s not get started on my writing skills back then.
Whatever it is you do, you may or may not already be an expert. If you’re not, it’ll likely take years for you to become one. And guess what it takes to get there: Practice! As I started freelancing, I got a lot of feedback from editors. Some pointed out some major issues with my writing, giving me a chance to improve.
I’m never going to win a Pulitzer, but my writing has improved enough that I can make a good living doing it.
3. Find a community
The chances are that several people are making money doing exactly what you do in your spare time for fun. And depending on your field, they can be extremely helpful as you get started.
The personal finance blogging community is tight-knit. There are hundreds of us, and everyone knows what it’s like when you’re starting out. I’ve had many conversations with men and women who are much better at this than I am. They’ve always been happy to give me guidance and, more importantly, understanding.
4. Invest in yourself
To build a business, you have to spend money. This can be hard, especially if you’re as short on cash as I was. But if you go halfway, people can tell. In the blogging world, that meant paying for a domain and hosting rather than using a free Blogspot or WordPress account.
If you’re married, make sure your spouse is on board with your spending. You may not see returns immediately – it took me a few months to see them – but if you persevere, you’ll see them.
5. Differentiate yourself
As I mentioned before, there are hundreds of personal finance bloggers. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t read a lot of personal finance blog posts and articles anymore because it all feels the same.
To set yourself apart from the rest, give it a personal touch. Maybe you’ve had experiences that can shine through your products or services that no one else can offer. Or maybe you can find a niche that few people, if any, have targeted (like a money blog for Mormons).
Whatever you do, don’t be boring, and don’t try to do things the way others have done it. Be you and people will love what you produce.
Learning how to turn your hobby into a business is just the first step in this process, and it shouldn’t last very long. Once you’ve learned enough to start, start. Some things you can only learn by doing and you’ll learn more and more along the way.
As I look back over the last few years, I’m amazed to see how my life has changed for the better because of my decision to start a blog. We had little income and were living with my in-laws, so the startup costs were daunting. But I knew that I’d figure out a way to make it work, and fortunately, it did.
The longer you wait, the harder it will be to start. And if it never happens, you’ll regret it. Get the vision then execute. Git-R-Done!
What hobby do you want to turn into a business? Share in the comments!