Chris Koney’s column: Turning your hobby into your job

Chris Koney’s column: Turning your hobby into your job

How did you choose your profession? Did you pick a job that you thought would be easy? Or lucrative? Or glamorous? Or, did you pursue a career related to your interests and hobbies? Chances are, you didn’t base your decision on the latter—but you probably should have.

Why? Hobbies are the things you choose to do; activities that you’re probably good at and enjoy doing, and these personal expressions “will give us unedited clues as to our real desires and interests,” says Joyce K. Reynolds, an expert business coach.

She says looking for career clues in one’s choice of hobbies, interests and vocational activities will provide the most fruitful direction for highly successful career choices. “In fact, the earlier we are able to observe our personal tastes as they show up in hobbies and outside activities, the more powerful a lead these things will provide in steering us to meaningful professional and career choices.”

Career coach Phyllis Mufson agrees. “A hobby you really enjoy can be an important part of choosing a career because your hobby is a window into what you love and value and do most naturally, which are all important components of a career where you’ll flourish.”

While there can be tremendous joy in earning income from doing something that you might happily do for free, there are also practical benefits. “It can be easier to segue into a hobby-related career since you may already have many of the skills, experiences and personal connections needed for success,” says Nancy Collamer, a career coach at But you need to spend time seriously evaluating whether turning your hobby into your work is a good idea, she adds. “Sometimes it’s best to leave the two as separate and distinct parts of your life.”

Here are a few ways to monetize a hobby:

  • Teach others to do what you love. Teach piano lessons, offer cooking classes, or teach another language, if those are your passions. You can do this by teaching through a college or continuing education program, by creating your own classes, or by creating your own webinars or tele-seminar series online, Collamer says.
  • Sell/import/invent/craft a product or accessory for enthusiasts in your hobby. For example, if you are a wine enthusiast, you might import hand-blown wine glasses from a different country, or invent a unique wine refrigeration device, or develop a line of fun wine-themed T-shirts. “Hobbyists tend to be very enthusiastic, passionate and willing to spend money on items related to their hobby,” Collamer says. “Just think of what baseball enthusiasts are willing to pay for World Series tickets.”
  • Teach the business of the hobby.“I actually talk about this in my book (Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement), using an example of a man who used to work for Microsoft in marketing, but his hobby was magic, and now he teaches marketing to magicians,” Collamer says. So let’s say your background is in publishing, but you love cooking, you could specialize in teaching people in the food industry how to get their cookbooks published. “I have another example in my book of a woman who teaches people how to make a living importing goods from Ecuador, for people who love to travel and/or shop.”
  • Speak or write about your hobby.Hobby related how-to topics, historical perspectives, and compelling stories, are all of interest to enthusiasts, Collamer says.  And you could get paid to do it.
  • Create a tour or performance series around what you love.“The other day I met a woman who bills herself as a ‘Founding Fathers Fanatic’ and she performs at schools, in character, to teach students about the Founding Fathers,” Collamer says. “Another example of this is Tony Mula, who turned his love of pizza and Brooklyn into the highly successful ‘A Slice of Brooklyn’ pizza tours,” she adds. “I also know of a bike enthusiast who runs bike tours in California.”
  • Appraise, repair or fix items related to what you love. Most hobbies have “stuff” connected to them, and sometimes, that stuff needs to be fixed by a skilled and knowledgeable person. “You could fix computers, appraise collectibles, repair bicycles, source missing parts for highly unusual items, and so on,” Collamer says.

“The next time you find yourself confused as to how to generate income from your hobbies, search out the most successful entrepreneurs in your area of interest and study their business models and revenue streams,” Collamer suggests. “Ask yourself: Is their income coming from consulting services, videos, accessories, events, classes or product sales? What is their mix of products and services? What is their pricing strategy?” In doing this, you’ll discover proven models for monetizing your hobbies, as well as helpful information about how to price your own services and products.

Mufson, who has interests outside of career coaching, says she managed to turn a hobby into a lucrative part-time gig. “I personally turned my hobby of creating gemstone jewelry into a side-line business,” she explains. “Jewelry making is an expensive hobby and early on I decided to make it pay for itself. Since then I have developed two online stores and a relationship with a jewelry gallery that sells most of my work.”

Not everyone is going to wind up a star by following a well-loved hobby into a professional setting, Reynolds says. “We can’t all be Olympic skaters, NBA top scorers or real estate moguls. However, it can be taken as a promise that, if we follow the lines and design of our natural interests and loves, we will give ourselves the very best chance to grow into the most successful human beings we can be. It will also ensure that we have more days we love because we’re doing the things that most interest us, nourish us, and give us expression,” she concludes.

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