6 Ways to Profit From Your Passions
Generate extra income by turning an interest or hobby into a moneymaker.
Especially as we're just starting out, many of us are seeking extra income to make ends meet, pay down debt, build an emergency fund, save for a really cool vacation and more. But if you're already plugging away at a full-time job, finding time to make more money can seem nearly impossible.
To do it, try turning an existing hobby or activity into a moneymaker. It's probably the easiest (and most fun) way to pick up some extra cash without feeling like your life is all work and no play. And it could help you get a new career off the ground.
Here are six moneymaking ideas well suited to Starting Outers:
Freelance editorial work
Many magazines and Web sites look to freelance writers and artists to help fill their pages (sorry—Kiplinger relies on its in-house talent), and many companies and organizations need creative help with their marketing materials. Before making a pitch for an assignment, understand the publication's voice and audience, and flesh out fresh concepts that would enhance its content.
Resources such as MediaBistro, Morning Coffee and Freelance Writing Gigs can make finding work easier for writers. Similar platforms exist for a wide range of creative types. Krop is a useful site for developers and designers; Freelance Photo Jobs consolidates listings for photographers; and DoNanza provides information on jobs for artists and other creators.
Be your own publisher, via a blog, YouTube channel or e-book. In addition to making money through advertising or direct consumer sales, your efforts can also serve to promote your skills and expertise to prospective clients and employers.
Start by picking a topic you're passionate about—the more specific, the better (for example, "fly fishing in Montana" instead of "fly fishing"). Sign up for a blog template, such as Wordpress, Blogger or Tumblr, and start posting regularly. Schedule a week's worth of posts on a free day if you don't have time to write every day. Above all, be original, says Jessica Quirk, blogger at WhatIWore.Tumblr.com. "You really have no hook without original content," she says.
Or make a series of videos, each of which can run a little longer than three minutes. Try highlighting a specific skill or theme—say, cooking or standup comedy. Your videos will drive traffic to one another while you perfect your craft and earn "subscribers."
Reach out to media outlets and bloggers with links to your content, and use social media to attract a community and keep them engaged. Track your traffic and increase the type of posts that reel in the most visits, comments or re-posts. As your audience grows, post advertising. You can earn cash with YouTube advertisements, which can run about $2 per 1,000 views. Google's Adsense, a free program that lets you embed ads on your blog, gives you a cut of the profits.
Another interesting and potentially lucrative site for on-the-side artists, musicians, writers or video bloggers is Patreon.com. The network pairs you with "patrons," who agree to donate a specific amount of money—about $8, on average—each time you post a new piece. As a creator, you get paid monthly by PayPal, check or direct deposit. Not only will you finally get paid for your passion by working with Patreon, you'll also get the opportunity to develop and engage your audience.
Create and sell crafts
If crafting is more your speed, try Etsy, a popular site for handmade creations and vintage apparel. With more than 30 million members and 60 million unique visitors to the site each month, Etsy has solidified itself as a go-to site for creative entrepreneurs. The company charges 20 cents to list an item for four months and takes a 3.5% cut of each sale. Because you can set your own prices and determine how often to list items, you'll quickly be able to tell whether or not the site's setup is a profitable option for you.
Even if your interest doesn't manifest itself into a physical product, you can still find a way to profit from it. For example, Jeff Orlick, a 32-year-old freelance television producer, took his love of food, culture and people—topics he'd been writing about for years—and became a guide who markets his tours via Vayable.com. For about $60 per person, Orlick takes visitors through an eating experience in Queens and profits while sharing his expertise and indulging his taste buds. Most other U.S. tours promoted on Vayable—such as a San Francisco street-art tour or a Washington, D.C., White House tour led by a member of the White House press corps—range in price from around $25 per person to $200 per person, though more-upscale experiences are priced even higher.
Vayable takes a 15% cut of whatever you choose to charge travelers. But it's a small price to pay for Orlick, who says he owes his newfound success, both in tours and related consulting work, to the site. "It gave me a name," he says. "People didn't know about me before this. It opened up a whole new world." Vayable also provides online tools to manage reservations, accept credit-card payments and securely message with customers.
As you probably learned from your teenage adventures in babysitting, providing child care is a great moneymaker if you love kids and can spare a few hours. Sites such as Care.com, Urbansitter and Sittercity make finding babysitting gigs easier than ever. You set up an online profile, detailing why you'd make a great sitter, including your work experience, any training you've had and your general affability. The sites may also conduct recorded interviews or a full background check to be shared with potential clients. Then, you just wait for the offers to roll in—or you can be more proactive and search the job boards.
If kids aren't your thing, consider pet sitting. DogVacay and, again, Care.com connect pet owners looking for an alternative to kennels with animal lovers willing to open their homes for a specified period of time. Like with the babysitting sites, you set up an online profile with a detailed description of your capabilities and qualifications, plus photos of your home, yard and any areas where dogs could feasibly play.
Your rates are up to you, but in general, on DogVacay, hosts charge a minimum of $30 per dog per night, and in-demand, top-rated hosts can hit the $100 mark. That means even if you're up for canine guests only on weekends, you stand to make anywhere between $250 and $800 per month. No special skill set is required to be a host, says DogVacay founder Aaron Hirschhorn. "The people who do the best are the ones who enjoy it. They love dogs."
Mo' Money, Mo' Taxes
Your extra income will mean additional work—and a bigger bill—at tax time.
Keeping good records is key to saving money and time. "People who don't keep good records tend to leave money on the table," says Bob Hampton, a certified public accountant at Fort Worth–based Impart Financial. Make sure you hold on to documentation of all expenses and invoices associated with your extra earnings. (See Tax Breaks for the Self-Employed.)
Making quarterly estimated tax payments throughout the year will lessen your risk of being hit with an overwhelming tax bill—and underpayment penalties by the IRS—next spring. Expect to pay about 35% to 40% of the income from your side job to Uncle Sam, says Hampton. (For more tax tips, see Tax Planning for Working at Home.)