Making Money from a Hobby

by Krishna on July 6, 2007

Sometime back, I discussed how doing a hobby project can help one learn many new things regarding a particular subject. When a hobby becomes a passion, you quickly become an expert at it and it is possible to turn the hobby into something that can help you earn money on the side. For example, if you are interested in photography, you could actually try to sell some of your photographs to somebody who is interested.

Doing your hobby as a day job may not be possible, as the amount of money you can make may not replace your regular salary. Although some people are able to make a hobby their full-time occupation, realistically, most people can mostly hope only to augment their income. Doing this is a good thing. Additional income will help you justify the time you spend on the hobby as well as buy or do useful or entertaining things.

There are many hobbies that you can make money off, especially if you are in the technology field. Creating programs or content on the web and using advertisements to gain revenue. Teaching people about computers or programming languages. Giving speeches and taking seminars. Trouble-shooting problems for people. I used to do some of these activities in the past.

Doing a hobby for money does bring a few challenges:

  1. There is a direct relationship between how hard you work and how much money you earn. Well almost — the more you work, the greater the possibility of earning more money (not necessarily actually earning). So it is difficult to avoid spending a lot of time on the particular activity and becoming a workaholic. Soon, a hobby can become pretty consuming. Even holidays and weekends can get filled with activities.
  2. The focus changes from you to your customers or consumers. A non-commercialized hobby can be pursued without consideration for what other people think. When you are trying to earn money, your preferences may not match the people who are contributing to your income. So you will have to adapt or perish. The hobby becomes more work than a relaxing pastime.
  3. At some point, you will hit a plateau where more work doesn’t result in more revenue. You may need to start looking at advertising or marketing or even change various attributes of your products. Thus the actual creativity work becomes less, and more time is spent on selling. In fact, the more successful you are, the less you would actually spend on the core of your hobby and more on publicizing and monetizing it.
  4. The ups and downs of income can create additional pressure and stress. When you have a bad day or week where you have less income, you can feel dejected and frustrated, even though the factors that contributed to this may be totally outside your control. It may take time to understand and realize that this is all part of a typical business.

I don’t mean to mention these challenges as a way of discouraging someone from commercializing their hobby. In fact, realizing that you could have earned (and didn’t try to earn) a significant amount of money from something you were just doing for fun can make you feel stupid and foolish. By all means, use your full potential to earn as much money as you can.

But do understand that the process of making money can change the dynamics, make it less fun and create more work and tension. Once you learn to accept this, then it becomes much smoother as you can be better prepared.

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