Yesterday I shared the most important money tip: to gain wealth, you must spend less than you earn. Get Rich Slowly has covered many ways to reduce the spending side of the equation. But how can a person increase the earning side?
Consider an entrepreneurial endeavor. Start a small business based around one of your hobbies. It's not difficult to earn a couple thousand dollars each year doing something you love in your free time. The key is to not let the hobby-as-business overwhelm you. Keep it fun. Don't let it become a chore.
With that in mind, here are some real-life examples of hobbies I've seen people turn into side-businesses. I know people who:
- Repair computers. Are you a tech geek? Start a business providing computer advice for family and friends. Help people set up new computers, add peripherals, remove viruses and spyware, and maintain home networks. Consider offering hour-long training sessions in programs you know well.
- Make photographs. Sell your photos! Take a community college class to enhance your skills. Enter photo contests. Display your photos at the county fair. If you make a good image, you can sell it repeatedly for $50, $100, $200. I recently met a woman who now makes her living by selling images through iStockPhoto.
- Garden. If you have a huge garden, consider selling produce or flowers. In rural areas, you can run a small road-side stand on weekends selling fresh roses, blueberries, tomatoes, whatever. If you live in the city, let your neighbors know you have fresh produce for sale (or trade).
- Make music. Can you play an instrument? Hire yourself out to play at weddings or dinner parties. Start a small group. Play at holiday events (especially Christmas). Get creative: play at street fairs and farmers markets.
- Write. Do you write well? Offer your services to friends and family. Edit important letters. Proof papers. Compose pieces on commission. Start a weblog about one of your passions!
- Build things. If you have a shop and some skills, teach yourself to build tables or bookshelves or cabinets or chairs. Sell these items on craigslist or to people you know.
- Knit. If you've been bit by the knitting bug, put that yarn habit to work. Create simple, beautiful hats and scarves. Take commissioned projects. My wife is learning to knit adorable little stuffed animals; she could sell them for $20 a pop.
- Repair cars. Offer to perform simple car repairs for friends and family. It's a win-win situation: you make some extra cash, and they save money. (Just be sure not to get in over your head.)
- Cook. Do people rave about your food? Offer to cater events. Provide food for a picnic, for a cocktail party, for a sit-down dinner. Sell cookies and cakes.
- Haul things. If you have a van or a large pickup, offer your services for transporting couches and dressers, etc. Hire yourself out to haul barkdust and mulch. Help people move. In March, I met a fellow who advertises on craigslist. Several times a week, as he drives home from work, he hauls something from one part of the city to another for $25. It takes little him little extra time and generates a couple hundred dollars a month. It's his “mad money”.
The possibilities are endless. The key is to examine your passions and talents to find something for which people would pay you. You won't get rich quickly through these side businesses (though there's nothing that says you can't), but you will boost the earning side of your wealth accumulation.
Everyone has something that they can do well. Discover what it is you can do, and then market your abilities. The best part is: you'll be making money while simultaneously improving your skills so that you can make even more money in the future!
Addendum: Via e-mail, Melissa A. reminded me of another great use for hobbies: “Hobbies are a good way to make gifts for people cheaper than it costs to buy them too.” This helps with the “spend less” side of the basic equation. My wife has given knitted items as gifts. I sometimes give photographs. One of my favorite birthday gifts ever was a batch of chocolate chip cookies.