Use Your Hobbies to Bring You Wealth

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.

More about...Side Hustles

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Marco - Stock Trading
Marco - Stock Trading
14 years ago

Reality Check with regards to photography: You make it sound so simple. The fact of the matter is that digital cameras are a dime a dozen. Stock photography was competitive when film cameras were ‘in’. Imagine how fierce the competition is now in the digital age…

Good ideas though… but all of these ventures are highly competitive since the barriers to entry are so low.

Melissa A.
Melissa A.
14 years ago

Those are great tips. One thing to keep in mind with knitting, is that unless you get permission from the pattern creator, you can’t sell items you knit from patterns. So either design your own knitwear, get permission. Though most knitters probably know this already, knitting can take up a lot of time as well, and it’s often not worth it in the end. I think if you can find quick items to make, then it can work out, because you can set the price low enough so that people will buy it, and it won’t take up hours and… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.
14 years ago

@Marco I don’t mean to make photography sound like a quick path to riches. Like anything else, it takes time and effort to get good at it. However, a serious hobbyist, one who knows her stuff, can easily supplement her income with photography. I’ve taken five or six photography classes now, and in each there are students who make money by doing portraits for friends, by doing little league shots, by selling their best scenics, etc. I also know a fellow who sells prints on the web. He doesn’t sell a lot of them, but he sells a couple each… Read more »

nolandda
nolandda
14 years ago

Concerning writing: If you can mannage calligraphy there is a huge demand for hand addressed invitations (especially for weddings). I am aware of several homemakers who make spare cash this way durring their children’s naptime.

pril
pril
14 years ago

Outside of urban areas, people don’t want to pay for musicians- at their venue, at their wedding, at their party. If you can justify the expense to travel elsewhere, if it balances out with what that out-of-town gig is going to cost to get there and have a place to sleep, you could break even on one. At things like street fairs, it’s tips only unless you’ve actually been booked, and still then it’s barely worth it if you’re in it for the money. Still i play anyway. It’s really frustrating sometimes.

Just a heads up on that.

sean
sean
14 years ago

“Are you a tech geek? Start a business providing computer advice for family and friends.”

All I can say is, if you enjoy your sanity, don’t do this… You cannot charge enough money to ever cover the aggravation that a geek will get from dealing with PC problems from the your less tech savvy friends and relatives!

Bobo
Bobo
14 years ago

Is it just me, or are there a lot of conditioned monkeys commenting on this topic?

http://www.thewychefamily.com/beliefs/risktaking.html

mrs darling
mrs darling
14 years ago

Pril, I’m not sure what you mean when you say people dont want to pay for musicians at their functions. I have catered over 500 weddings and most of those have had musicians there. My daughter is getting married next month and she is paying $1500.00 for a live band at her wedding. And speaking of turning hobbies into money my neighbor got laid off from his job last year. He has always loved working on ATV’s and dirt bikes. He did this out of his garage for friends. So when he got laid off it wasnt hard for him… Read more »

Roger
Roger
14 years ago

I think the key here is realizing that this is “side income” and not a way to make a living. $5,000 a year making garden furniture is a joke as a job, but is nice “mad money!”

I know people who do woodworking not as a job but because they enjoy it…the extra money is what they use to buy new tools or upgrade equipment.

J.D.
J.D.
14 years ago

Roger nails it. Earning money from a hobby is a way of getting paid for something you’d be doing, anyhow. My brother builds speakers and works with audio equipment as a hobby. He makes some money at it. (“Spending money,” he says.) He notes that: “It’s not hard to make money from a hobby. What’s difficult is trying to turn it into an actual business. Moving from a hobby to a business is a pain-in-the-ass.” That’s a great point. Often when you try to ramp your hobby up to something else, the joy goes out of it, and suddenly the… Read more »

pril
pril
14 years ago

MRs Darling, it’s just been my experience. I’ve been doing that for a while. You are in/near an urban area- people are willing to pay. I am not and have not been for 10 years. Getting even $500 out of someone is difficult outside a city. Venue owners will bite off their own foot rather than pay a band. It’s usually drinks (but not too many!), dinner (but not too expensive!), and a percentage of the till (10 to 20, and if it goes over a certain amount, a higher percentage). As i said, though, i still do it. I… Read more »

Nico
Nico
12 years ago

Awesome advice here, especially distinguishing between making money off a hobby as opposed to turning a hobby into a business. I’m a musician with a home-studio and want to free-lance a little bit just to improve my skills and make some money on the side. Via craigslist, it can be easy to get some quick jobs!

Cheers,
-Nico

collector
collector
12 years ago

You could also make your hobby available online (create your hobby site), and put some kind of online advertising on it (like Getrichslowly does).

michelle
michelle
12 years ago

What about the tax implications of making money off your hobby?

Violette
Violette
12 years ago

You need to pay taxes on hobby income if the $$ you receive for it exceeds its cost. If you start making a lot of money from your hobby, you might want to convert it to a business. Filing a Schedule C as a sole proprietor opens the door to a lot more potential business deductions and it really isn’t that difficult to manage, especially with the tax software out there (I like TaxCut). A simple spreadsheet or two is often enough to track your income and expenses. As a sole proprietor, you can write off the cost of new… Read more »

pam munro
pam munro
12 years ago

My experience with being paid for music is up & down – sometimes I am – sometimes not – I try not to play for free, tho, unless there is some perk or connection. I do do a lot of church music – and I have fond that if you hone your act you can get paid for themed faires – but themed, specialized material helps! (i.e. maritime music, Ren music, Xmas music, Xmas carols, etc.) It has gotten much more corporate than when I started and now I have to have electronic samples to send off, etc. But my… Read more »

Jim
Jim
8 years ago

I think that everyone has something that they like to do as a hobby. Some might make money and some forget it… I would start with selling items on craigslist or at a local fair to get a feel for whether your hobby can generate any money.

So much depends on your expertise and level of skill.

If you start to see that you are raking it in with your hobby, make it a business. If you just get average profits, keep it a hobby and make a little money on the side with it.

Alex
Alex
8 years ago

I like these tips, and they can be achieved by anyone I believe, if you are willing to think outside the box. I used to earn around 100 USD on a website around language learning I used to own, but it took me 6 or so years to get there. Still, it was paying for my domain and hosting fees. In my opinion it is still important to focus on the hobby, and not the money making. I found that as soon as I started seeing my site as a business and tried to build it from there, the fun… Read more »

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