How to monetize your hobby

SkillsCategory
17 min read
Erik Deckers

There’s nearly always a way to make money from hobbies because there's always someone willing to pay for the things you make or the skills you have. You might not be able to earn a full-time living by monetizing your hobby, but you can certainly make some extra cash doing what you love.

For some people, that’s writing, drawing or music. For others, it's cosplaying their favorite sci-fi or fantasy characters. Or they like to cook, bake, or make their own beer. And for still others, it's something more quiet like knitting, genealogy, or just reading books.

Whether you simply want to make a little extra cash on the side to cover your hobby’s costs or hope to turn your passion into a full-time paying job, this guide will help you get started.

Guide to monetizing your hobby

Why now is a good time to monetize your hobby

I suppose there's never a bad time to monetize your hobby, but now is a good time to do it for a number of reasons:

  1. If the economy is going to dip, this is a good way to make some extra money.
  2. You can pay for hobby-related raw materials, tools, training or education.
  3. Those payments can also become a tax write-off.
  4. You can grow your personal brand. If you're interested, you can establish your expertise and authority among your hobby-peers. This can help you sell your hobby to others.
  5. You can network with other people in the same field, which can help you advance as well as find new customers.

Related: Domains — Hobby or business?

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How to monetize your hobby

So how do you make money from hobbies? How do you get people to buy your product or pay for your service? What are some of the ways to generate income, whether directly or indirectly, from what you love to do?

There are three basic categories of monetizing your hobby: Do something, offer support, and teach.

You can do the thing you love, you can work in a supporting role, or you can teach other people how to do it.

Do something to monetize your hobby

The most straightforward way to make money from hobbies is by selling your product or service.

Make something other people want, but can't do themselves.

For example, you could write books. People want them, but they either can't write themselves, or they can't write quickly enough. There are people who have adopted the “pulp fiction” model of book writing — so named after the pulp novels that were published in the 1940s and 1950s. That's where writers will put out a book every month or two, sometimes just 10,000 words. They'll create entire series of stories with six, seven or eight novellas. Some of these authors make over six figures per year, just by selling them as ebooks online.

Make something other people don't want to take the time to make.

Pick a product that's extra niche-y within your hobby. Years ago, when personal 3D printing first took off, there was a woman who 3D-printed small furniture for doll houses. She quit her job to make money solely from her hobby. My daughter is big into dollmaking and has begun creating replacement eyes with UV-cured resin. She often gets asked for commissions to do special eyes for other dollmakers.

Attend conferences, shows and festivals that allow sales.

Art festivals throughout the country are filled with people selling their work. Writers and publishers get booths at comic and gaming conventions — most conventions have an artist's section in their marketplace — to sell their books during the two- or three-day event.

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Offer support to monetize your hobby

When exploring how to sell hobbies, don’t overlook the support path. There’s money to be made by leveraging your expertise in your niche.

Become an influencer.

Whether it's on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or YouTube, influencers receive sponsorship dollars just for promoting a company's products or services. If nothing else, the company will send products just so the influencers will talk about them on their channel. For instance, Cristiana Felgueiras of Portugal hosts one of my favorite woodworking channels, Get Hands Dirty. She regularly receives tools and supplies from different companies both in Europe and the U.S. to demonstrate on her channel.

Offer subscription and donation options.

Another of my favorite makers is a designer in Germany. Laura Kampf has her own YouTube channel and supports herself through commissioned design projects, but also through Patreon supporters who provide monthly donations to keep her working and creating videos.

Get paid to speak.

You can land speaking gigs at conferences, but depending on their size, those might not be paying options. I often speak at writing seminars about certain writing topics, and some of those are paid, some are not. At the very least, most conferences will let speakers attend for free.

Get a job in that field.

Let's say your hobby is playing guitar. You're pretty good, so you get paid to play gigs and you might even find a job teaching others to play guitar. But, those two roles don't make a lot of money. So what if you went to work for a music store or even a guitar manufacturer like Fender or Gibson? You could work in sales, traveling around a territory and calling on music stores in your area. You're making money, maybe not directly from doing or teaching, but you're still playing in the field that you love.

Related: Get paid as part of the GoDaddy GoInfluencer program

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Teach to monetize your hobby

You also can make money from hobbies by sharing your passion through teaching. You can do this in a few different ways.

Create a YouTube channel.

YouTube makes their money through advertising, and their creators can make a little money by running ads on their channels.

The more views you have on a YouTube channel, the more money you can make from ad views.

There are people who have turned their hobbies into full-time work because they have millions of views each month, and will often earn six figures or more just from ad revenue.

Make a playbook/guidebook and sell it.

Write and sell a how-to guide. You don't need to create a comprehensive guide — just focus on one aspect of your hobby. If it goes well, write another book about another aspect.

I knew a former children's gymnastics coach who wrote a book on the 10 important basic moves a child gymnast should know. It talked about cartwheels, somersaults, flips, and so on. He offered it as an ebook and sold thousands of copies. Then he broke out each chapter and expanded them into individual books, and sold those one at a time, selling thousands more of each of them.

Teach on Skillshare or via webinars/seminars.

You also can showcase your skills on a website like Skillshare.com or through webinars and seminars. Unlike speaking at annual conferences, you can do webinars and seminars at any time. You usually have to travel to all the different conferences available, but webinars and Skillshare let you work via your computer from your home.

Related: How to start a YouTube channel

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How to sell hobbies

Ultimately, you're going to make money from your hobby by selling things. You'll sell a product or a service to people who want what you have. What you sell is based on what your customers want.

What to sell

You want to make sure the thing you sell provides value. That doesn't mean it’s an investment or helps someone earn more money. It means it's something valuable to the recipient.

Provide value by informing or entertaining.

A book author provides value by entertaining readers, giving them an escape into another world. An artist provides value by giving people something beautiful to look at.

Provide value by selling an item another hobbyist wants.

A doll maker can provide value by selling commissions or producing resin eyes or dollhouse furniture. A beer can collector can provide value by selling their hard-to-find commemorative can of Olde Frothingslosh from the Pittsburgh Brewing Company.

Provide value by teaching other people about your hobby.

This might include selling your books, video lessons, webinars, or speaking services.

The great thing about monetizing your hobby via teaching and writing is that these activities are scalable.

You can create something that more and more people will buy, but that you only have to produce once. You can only produce a small number of items or give a small number of speeches, but you can sell books and webinars again and again.

How to sell

Now that you understand the importance of providing value when exploring how to monetize your hobby, it’s time to hone in on the process of turning that hobby into a money-maker.

Find your niche

To start, figure out what you want to sell and/or how you want to make money from hobbies.

Pick a hobby-related product or service that you're good at, but that not a lot of people are doing.

For example, making jewelry was big a decade ago when everyone would string different colors and styles of beads together. (It was so big that comedy sketch show Portlandia even did a kicky little song about it.) While you could probably make a go of monetizing your jewelry-making hobby, you would be competing on price and spending a lot more time marketing the product than actually making it.

But the person who was 3D printing dollhouse furniture had a specialized niche by reproducing different design styles of furniture — and almost no one else was doing it. Now that's a specialized niche within a specialized niche! Try to find that level of specialty. The audience might be small, but the field of competition is even smaller.

Perfect your skills

Focus a significant amount of time on getting really good at it. If you want to write a book, put on a seminar, or give speeches, write your material and hone it until it's nearly perfect. Practice it and share it with friends to get their honest feedback.

For example, if you have a 3D printer, you could create action figures of real people. Practice that, develop some processes, and make figures for friends until you know how to do this quickly and easily. Then you can sell custom 3D-printed action figures to cosplayers at comic conventions.

Do market research

Next, figure out where to sell your product or service and who to sell it to. Knowing that ahead of time can affect what you sell, so it's important to find an audience and determine the best sales and marketing platforms.

You might discover that no one actually wants 3D-printed replica beer cans for dollhouses, so you need to know what people don't want and who doesn't want them before you go too far down that path.

Related: How to make data-driven decisions using Google marketing tools

Where to sell

There are a few basic places you can sell your products or services, and we'll look at social media, marketplaces and conventions. We won't talk about online stores, because that's a whole book in itself.

How to sell hobbies on social media platforms

We’ve covered how to do social media for business in depth at GoDaddy, so we'll only cover the basics for hobbyists here.

The first thing to keep in mind when using social media to make money from hobbies is that it is not an advertising platform. Don't go overboard tweeting, “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!” People will quickly ignore you. They’re already tired of marketing and advertising, so don't fill your messages with ads.

Second, show the things that you love to do. Remember what I said about providing value earlier? That applies here as well.

Share updates about the things related to your hobbies: Teach, inform and educate.

  • Is a favorite speaker coming to a writing convention you're attending? Tweet it.
  • Did you see some cool cosplayers at the last comic convention? Share the photos.
  • Do you have a special woodworking technique to improve how you cut and fit joints together? Post a video.
  • Did you give a presentation or class at a conference? Post some photos and video snippets to share your special knowledge.

By creating value, you're building your name and reputation within your hobby circles.

Just mention in your bio and in an occasional message that you do this kind of thing for people. It doesn't have to be blatant. By a subtle mention in your posts that “I'm doing this one for a customer” or “A client asked me how I do X,” you tell people that “I can be hired to do this” without actually making it a commercial message.

We'll talk about how to find your customers on social media shortly.

How to sell hobbies on marketplaces

There are plenty of online marketplaces to sell your stuff, including Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Etsy. And of course, you can work with third-party fulfillment centers like Amazon.

Some hobby discussion forums even include marketplaces to post items for sale. For example, a motorcycle discussion forum might have a place where you can post tools, equipment and motorcycles for sale. But the whole forum isn't about that, just that one portion of the forum. So don't abuse it.

These marketplaces are different from regular ecommerce stores because you're only posting some photos and generating interest, but you're not worrying about search engine optimization, web interface, load times, and all the other things ecommerce sellers are concerned with.

Related: How to sell on Facebook Marketplace

How to sell hobbies at conventions

Many conventions — depending on the type and size — have merchant halls or at least vendor tables available. For example, go to any comic convention and the entire exhibit hall is filled with people selling costumes, collectables, books, DVDs, etc. If you're a fantasy or sci-fi author, that's a great place to be, because they also have a section of the hall reserved for all the authors and artists in an Artists' Alley or Authors' Alley.

[/callout]There are conventions and gatherings for nearly any hobby you can imagine.[/callout]

If you're not sure, Google it or check Meetup.com to see if you can find a gathering related to your hobby.

And if there isn't one, start it! What better way to make money and establish your expertise in a field than to start a small convention and watch it grow over the years?

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How to find customers

You can find nearly anything online — including your customers. For example, if you're a beer can collector, you can join the Brewer Collectibles Club of America. They're on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Other collectors' and hobbyists' associations are similarly on social media.

Search on social media

Go to your favorite social network and do a keyword search for people who used that term in an update or even their bio.

For instance, start to find customers who are interested in humor writing by searching for humor writers. Search for keywords like “humor writer” and “humor writing” (with the quotes) on Twitter. Anyone who has tweeted about humor writing or identifies as a humor writer will show up in the search results, and you can follow everyone who appears.

Before you do that, rewrite your own Twitter bio so it includes “humor writer.” That way, when everyone gets a notification that you just followed them, they’ll see your bio and think, “Oh, I do what she does. I should follow her back.”

Then, if you ever want to follow a new set of keywords, like “content marketing” or “woodworking,” you can always change your bio to reflect that and repeat the process.

You can also do similar searches for hashtags related to your hobby, like #dollmaker, #modeltrains, #animalhusbandry, #interpretivedance, or whatever it is you love to do. Follow everyone who uses those hashtags, because it means they love those things, too.

Create a website

Another great way to find customers interested in your hobby is to set up a website. It doesn't have to be big or include an ecommerce store. You just want a dedicated space to blog and share photos about your hobby. GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting is worth checking out.

Here are some tips to attract customers to your hobby-related site:

  • Use the most important keywords and then write about anything and everything related to your hobby.
  • Work on building your social media footprint and share your new articles with your network.
  • Write a post once a week and then share it three or four times each week.

Related: How to do keyword research to drive traffic to your website

Leverage your social networks

If you don't want to create a website, establish a presence on Instagram or YouTube. Share a lot of visual content of you talking about your hobby. Remember to provide value so people know you're an expert. Let people know you are available to do this kind of thing for money, but don't be overtly commercial. Just show people what you know and convince them that you're worth paying for it.

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Prepping for tax time

You’ll need to consider the tax implications when you make money from hobbies. You'll have to pay taxes on it, so it's important to keep track of all your revenue. A payment processing platform like Square, Stripe or PayPal can help you track all of your income. Use an expense tracking app to record all of your expenditures, and record everything into a spreadsheet or a sales app.

You want to track your expenses because you can get write-offs and deductions for money you spend in pursuit of monetizing your hobby.

Basically, if you spend money to earn money, you can get deductions.

For example, if you sell your books or cosplay costume components at sci-fi and comic conventions, you can deduct the cost of the convention table, banners and signs, printing and production costs (including raw materials), and the cost of lodging and transportation. You can also deduct the costs of educational seminars and conferences you attend, as well as any software subscriptions you might have.

Of course, how much you can deduct will depend on the IRS allowances. So consider hiring an accountant to help you with your taxes and to answer your questions.

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Final thoughts

Learning how to monetize your hobby isn’t rocket science, but it does take some strategic planning to identify what you want to sell, who you want to sell it to, and where you want to sell it.

Remember, making money from hobbies boils down to Doing the thing, Teaching the thing, or Supporting the thing.

Work the processes you create and just do what you love. Good luck!

Disclaimer: This content should not be construed as legal or financial advice. Always consult an attorney or financial advisor regarding your specific legal or financial situation.