We’ve all got our hobbies—pastimes that we dedicate some of our spare hours to because we find them fun or fulfilling.
But some of these activities, if we’re willing to take them seriously, can be turned into a stream of income. Depending on how you direct your talents and interests, you can get anything from free stuff to extra spending money to a full-fledged business or platform for marketing your own or others’ products—all by doing something you might've done anyway.
Here are 8 common hobbies that you can potentially monetize, whether it's through freelancing, becoming an affiliate, building an audience, or simply starting a business.
Writing and publishing online has the potential to offer you a lot of practical value outside of being a mere hobby. You can use it to further your career and establish yourself as an expert on a topic. You can build a platform for sharing your ideas. Or you can rent out your skills.
The most obvious way to make money writing is to sell it as a service—freelancing on sites like Upwork or Fiverr, or reaching out directly to blogs for paid gigs. Good content writers with niche expertise are usually in demand.
However, if you have the discipline and know how to write a good blog post, then you can create your own blog-based business by picking a niche and building an audience over time.
Whether you care about tech or travel or cooking, our guide to starting a blog that you can turn into a business will walk you through what you need to know.
For more inspiration, check out how:
- Best Self Co. used blogging to sell their productivity tools
- Wait But Why built a business around Tim Urban's humorous and insightful content.
Like writing, illustration and design are skills that you can offer as a freelancer. Fiverr in particular is where a lot of newer artists with a variety of illustration styles find clients in need of their skills, whether it's for marketing projects or custom portraits.
But if you’d like to maintain control, you can put your own art on things, from t-shirts to posters to canvases and sell those instead. It’s important to understand that in order to turn your art into a product, you’ll need to cater to a specific market or build a unique brand. The former is usually easier.
Hate Copy is a good example of a business that was started by an artist putting their art onto things that people can buy.
And you don't need to front the money for inventory either. Print-on-demand services offer a low-risk way to monetize your art by selling apparel and home decor. You just need to create mockups of your products to list online. Once you make sales and know what designs and creative get the most demand, you can consider investing in your own inventory.
To learn more, check out the following resources:
Are you good at making people laugh? Do you know what the hottest memes are right now?
Why not take that sense of humor and use it to build an audience on the internet?
You can probably think of several Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter accounts that have amassed large audiences simply by curating memes and viral videos, or tapping into a niche of humor that no one else is serving.
Once you have an audience, you can partner with brands to do sponsored posts or turn your best running jokes into t-shirts and other products.
Examples of this include:
Food has become an art form worthy of taking elaborate pictures and the time to perfect as a craft. It's not only amateur chefs who are involved, but people with adventurous palettes looking to explore new tastes.
It's a hobby you can share with the world in a variety of different ways, from starting a blog, YouTube channel, or Instagram account dedicated to recipes, to diving head-first into a business by creating your own food or cooking products. Some even hit the road with a food truck business.
According to Google, 59% of 25 to 34 year-olds take their mobile devices into the kitchen, using resources on the internet to find and practice new recipes, so there's definitely a market of do-it-yourself chefs looking for content (as well as products) you can create to serve them.
For inspiration, check out:
- Try the World, which offers a subscription box of recipes and ingredients from a new corner of the world every month
- Bees Knees Honey, which created and sold their own condiment.
- How to Start an Online Food Business (guide)
If you find yourself gripped by wanderlust, a list of countries to visit dominating your bucket list, then here's a good excuse for you to engage in more frequent flying.
According to Sarah Owen, senior editor of digital media & marketing at trend forecasting firm WGSN, traveling the world as a lifestyle choice is on the come-up, and so influencers are increasingly sharing content that represents a well-travelled life, rather than just the clothes in their closet in the saturated fashion niche.
In a more indirect way, pursuing a "digital nomad" lifestyle can help you fuel your own wanderlust as you travel the world. Not only can you make connections and bring your products to new markets, an online business can be run from anywhere you can get a Wi-Fi connection.
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If you own a nice camera and know how to use it, you’ve got a few different ways you can make some money on the side.
While you can become a freelance photographer, you’re usually restricted to local events and gigs that you can physically attend.
For a more scalable side hustle, you can sell your shots on stock photography sites or as prints. Or, you can use your photography skills to grow a massive Instagram following and monetize it. You just need to pick a niche to serve or a “lifestyle” you want to capture in your photos.
Fun fact: Professional photography accounts are the 2nd most lucrative on Instagram in terms of how much brands are willing to pay for a sponsored post. And you don't need hundreds of thousands of followers either.
Check out our guide on how to sell photos online for a more detailed look at how to monetize your photography.
You might be skeptical about the notion of making money playing your favorite games, but if there’s a pattern developing in this list, it’s that if you can get people to pay attention to you, then you can probably get paid to do it.
In this case, it’s the rise of the “Let’s Play” video format that has enabled us to make money via gaming, in particular live-streaming on Twitch. Just like YouTube, you can make money by sharing ad revenue. But there's also the potential to get one-time and subscription donations from a large community of viewers. This means the amount you earn through live streaming will vary greatly, but that it's relatively easy to at least start making residual income.
While the amount of commitment you need to make a significant income might turn gaming into work for you, you can still have fun with it if you choose to stream a game you love and are good at and bring your personality to the table.
Gaming is a fast-growing industry with a lot of passion in it. If you’re an avid gamer who understands the needs of the market, you already have an advantage as an entrepreneur in this space.
You can consider building a business of your own to cater to the needs and interests of gamers, like how:
- PC Gaming Race speaks to the superiority of PC gamers.
- Corey Ferreira sold gaming glasses inspired by his own gaming needs.
8. DIY Crafts
“Handmade” communicates a certain quality, care, and uniqueness that department store alternatives often don’t. You can test the market for your products by selling them on a smaller scale to friends, family, or on Etsy, and think about scaling into a full-fledged business as you rack up customers.
Here are just a few DIY businesses you can start and resources to show you how it can be done:
Monetizing Your Hobbies
I enjoy writing so I started a side hustle as a freelance writer for extra cash in school. I also like to dabble in dance, so I started a Shopify store dropshipping LED shoes for dancers.
In many cases, when it comes to our side hustles and what we start, it's the things that we tend to do for free and for fun that hint at the kinds of businesses or projects that we can pursue using our own passion and interest as fuel.
So, if you have the urge to start something but don't know where to start, ask yourself what it is you're good at or knowledgeable about?
What do you already do in your spare time that you could turn into something more?
Banner image of photographer via Burst