5 Proven Ways to Turn Hobbies into Income
With the need for extra cash, a necessity for many people in retirement, lots of people consider part-time work. But with the employment figures as they are today, that may be harder to come by in the months and years to come. According to a new report, you would be wise to consider how to translate your skills, interests, and hobbies into income.
Millions of baby boomers are working and earning online today, yet we’re only at the beginning of this trend moving into the mainstream. You don’t have to learn new skills to build a side-gig. Most of us have many numerous in-demand skills, interests, and hobbies that they may not even recognize they could monetize. Beyond online earning, people are finding ways to get paid in person, doing what they love.
Turn a Sports Passion into Income
Whether it’s getting paid to lead history tours, earning a few hours a week in a golf pro shop in exchange for pay and free golf, or anything in between, part-time gigs with a sports connection can provide fun and funds.
For example, take Bob Herb who, for five decades, has had two great passions in life: scuba diving and underwater photography. So when it came time to retire, he knew exactly what he wanted: a waterfront home on a Caribbean island where he could indulge these pastimes regularly…and maybe even get paid a little to pursue them.
Bob, 70, decided on Roatán for the phenomenal visibility of its surrounding waters. Having first visited Roatán in the 1980s, Bob was sure that he would enjoy island life. He was less convinced, however, about his ability to make money from his dual passions. He learned that his former coworker had completed his dream overseas move to Mexico and now runs a successful online consulting business from there.
“That persuaded me that I could use my background and hobbies to make a successful career anywhere I wanted to live,” recalls Bob. Not long aftermoving to Roatán in 2016, Bob called into Subway Watersports at Turquoise Bay Dive and Beach Resort and started the following Monday.
Bob was hired as a diver relations manager, responsible for communicating and diving with the resort’s local and international English speaking guests. (English is widely spoken on Roatán, a legacy of its historical links to Britain.)
“I eat breakfast with guests so we can discuss the dives. Then we head out to do what I love best, scuba dive and photograph the beauty of the ocean,” he says. “When I explain to friends what I do, I’m often told it’s the best job a person could have, and I agree.”
Getting paid to dive every day means Bob has more time and opportunity for his underwater photography. Since he’s capturing more photos than ever before, he’s started hosting an annual underwater photography competition and selling his pictures online through Fine Art America.
Looking back, Bob says the move worked out better than he could have anticipated. “Now I love meeting new people and telling my story. I love inspiring people. I ask them, ‘What is it that you love?’ And I tell them, ‘Start now. Don’t wait until you’re retired.’”
Create a Side-Hustle with Artistic Flair
Promoting and marketing artwork is easier than it has ever been, given that online platforms like Facebook and Instagram can reach a global audience these days. Lots of people with a passion for art decided in their youth to earn an income doing something else. But these days, technology can provide many more selling options and make an artistic side-gig a genuinely viable thing.
Consider Matthew Dibble. He graduated from art school in the late ‘70s and found himself in a full-time construction job. Although he worked as a professional roofer, he continued to paint whenever he could, developing his abstract art. He got married, started his own business, had a family, and painted in the off-season. “I did not sell much work, but I progressed as an artist and was able to keep the business and the artwork going for many years,” says Matthew.
Once retired, Matthew turned to painting full-time. In 2009, he posted his work on Facebook and began to attract some attention. It was there that he made his first online sale, to a collector in France. Social media gave him a global reach that he had never found before. “I had a lot more time to promote my work, found an audience outside my region, and it began to sell,” he says.
Later, he started a Pinterest and Instagram account, and there his work really started to get noticed. “I find the ‘big pitch’ to try to promote yourself doesn’t apply anymore,” he says. “People want to discover you. Keeping your sites updated with new work and projects allows the right people to see that you’re active and they’ll reach out.”
With over 18,000 Instagram followers, Matthew now has a massive base from which he can promote his work. He sells his pieces through art advisors and brick-and-mortar galleries but has had the most success with the online art market, Saatchi Art.
Despite his success, Matthew views his artwork no differently than his construction work. “I don’t feel retired; I’ve just shifted from construction to fine art. Whether putting on a roof or working on a painting, I try to do it well. I find meaning in doing things to the best of my ability.”
Crafts Can Create Cash Online
From woodworking to beading, wall décor to macramé—today it’s possible to turn almost any craft into an income. It used to be that sales options would be limited to in-person craft shows, home sales, or special arrangements with gift shops. But today, it’s possible to tap a global marketplace of buyers from around the world and turn a craft passion into a side-gig that pays.
Consider retired accountant Andrew Tarver, who found his slice of online success after discovering the eCommerce platform, Etsy, which hosts thousands of handmade craft sellers.
Despite being a wood-working enthusiast, he found little time to embrace his interest while still working full-time and raising two girls. In fact, it took him a couple of years, stealing a few hours here and there, to complete the construction of a single canoe.
“The major change after retirement was having the time to pursue my hobby properly,” he says.
However, discovering Etsy made the real difference. “I started researching it and decided I would start my Etsy shop, PopsWorkshopCo, with a couple of products and see what happened. My first product was a framed pegboard that folks can hang in their crafts room.” Despite not making sales right away, Andrew saw that people liked his work and that encouraged him to add more listings.
“The idea for my next product came from a former co-worker’s wife asking me if I could make a personalized dog bowl stand. Together we came up with a design and she bought the first one, and that became my top product for the first few months,” he says. Within six months, Andrew was already in the top 20% of sellers on Etsy. “I have yet to get a bad review because I do my best to communicate with customers and do what I say I’m going to do. I also do a lot of research trying to improve my listings so they will show up on the first page of a search. There is a lot to learn about how the algorithms work.”
Andrew admits that he gets a lot of satisfaction from the process. “I love building something from scratch and seeing the finished product. When I was working in accounting that part was missing. We closed the books every month and would start all over again the next month. I rarely had the chance to start from scratch and create a finished product.
“I told my wife today that this could end up being a full-time job. I’m not looking to grow this into something big but if that is where this leads us, we will give it a try.”
Get Paid to Travel
The internet has changed the world of travel writing. You don’t need a master’s degree in journalism to get paid to share your observations, recommendations and insights with readers. And you don’t need to work full-time, either. And you can shine a light on any small aspect of travel—whether it’s to an overseas destination or in your own hometown.
Chuck Warren, for instance, had an interest in writing since he was 13, but he didn’t really take it seriously until more than 30 years later. In fact, it was the experience of traveling that opened that door for him. He can recall the exact moment it happened. “When the last leg of a Caribbean cruise took me through the Panama Canal, everything changed,” he says. “Traveling opened the door for me to write, giving me subject matter I was passionate about and the desire to share it with others.
“I began to document my journeys, creating CDs full of photos to send along with a hard-copy report of my most recent adventures. My family kept asking for more, giving me the incentive to write for readers and not just myself. That experience also made me look at writing as an income and not a hobby.” In 2016, Chuck made up his mind to try writing professionally. Since boats had been a life-long passion, he felt it would be the best place to start. Focusing on a niche meant that he would stand out from the crowd and corner a part of the market that he was familiar with. Having lived on his own boat on Lake Michigan, he had plenty of subject matter to draw from.
“With more than 35 years of experience at the wheel of boats as big as 150 feet in length, I found just enough self-confidence to approach two of the magazines I often read myself: Lakeland Boating and Michigan BLUE.
“Still, I was very surprised to find they were willing to work with a new, unpublished writer, and my first and second submissions were both accepted. One was even the cover story for the publication, and both paid me more than I expected. “I was pretty shocked by the experience, but even more so when each of them gave me a second assignment. Nearly three years later, I’m still working with both magazines, which have published more than 25 of my articles each.” Chuck has since branched out into other physical and digital publications, but he credits his initial success to his strategy of focusing on well-read but regional magazines.
“I felt I had a better chance of getting something accepted locally than by a bigger, national publication. I have since developed strong relationships with both editors and continue to get assignments from each. Since I often write about boats and related subjects, I am asked to cover some really fun and interesting topics.
“One of my favorite assignments to date was to cover the story of the Schooner Huron Jewel, a 78-foot sailboat built completely by hand on an island off the eastern shores of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The boat was beautiful, but the people who built her were even more fascinating. And after the article was published, the boat’s owners invited me up to go sailing with them for three days in Lake Huron’s beautiful North Channel.
“That is the writer’s life I pictured in my mind when I was younger. Using the power of words to teach readers something they want to learn…often after first getting to enjoy that experience for myself.”
Turn a Passion for Food into a Retirement Side-Gig
The locavore movement—a trend toward serving and eating locally produced ingredients and foods—is global. And it’s something boomers can tap into, whether it’s producing jams for sale at a farmer’s market to dishing up the local fare to tourists eager to become more familiar with what local living is really like.
Jeff Opdyke, editor of The Savvy Retiree is an avid foodie traveler. Last year he took a trip to Beirut, Lebanon. While there, he signed up for a cooking class. “Now, I’ve taken such classes elsewhere… Costa Rica and Thailand, in particular. They were fine, if perfunctory.
“So the last time I went, I signed up through a company called Traveling Spoon that connects travelers with local hosts to learn the secrets of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine. I was paired with a woman named Tania and her retired parents (adorable mom; very funny dad). Tania took me shopping for ingredients she and her mom buy for a typical family meal, and back at her south Beirut apartment, the duo taught me to cook daily-style Lebanese.
“Better yet, they gave me utensils and ingredients and made me do some solo cooking. It was a fabulous immersion into the deep end of Lebanese cuisine. I learned the secret to the best tabbouleh I’ve ever eaten (a dash of sumac), and shared an incredible meal with a local family.
“I tell you this because Traveling Spoon is a side-hustle for Tania, and side-hustles are the 21st-century version of moonlighting: Just about everyone’s doing them, just about everywhere in the world. And because of the internet, you can work from anywhere you’re happy. Your potential customer base is essentially anyone of the billions of people with an online connection somewhere on the planet.”
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