Getting Paid to Do What you Love: A Close Look at Marketable Hobbies

There was a really positive response to the ‘marketable hobby’ concept in my post about shifting the perception of what retirement is and should be, so I thought it would be great to explore it a little further with everyone and give it a post of its own. What exactly is this ‘marketable hobby’ thing?

Marketable Hobby: A definition

Let’s first start off with the hobby part of the definition. Wikipedia defines a hobby as:

“An activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, often in one’s spare time.”

I think that sums it up just about right. Doing something that we choose to do because we are interested in it, it makes us feel good, and it adds to our life satisfaction. Sounds great!

But not just any hobby will do.

The 3 Types of Hobbies

A line needs to be drawn here. You can really lump hobbies into three different categories when considering whether or not one can make an income doing them.

1. Hobbies that everyone loves that nobody is willing to pay for: Sorry if you love these things (I do to), but couch surfing, eating, long showers, walks on the beach, and reading books might just fall into this category. It’s the kind of stuff that most of us love doing and wish we could do more of. Since you’re gaining all the benefit from the activity, you’re going to have a hard time convincing others that they should pay you for it.

2. Hobbies that top professionals get paid for: This is the stuff that a lot of us really like doing that a few elite performers do actually get paid for doing. Professional sports, musicians, actors, comedians, and other specialized professionals can make a good living from these things. But since everyone kind of secretly wishes they could fall into this category, you have to be REALLY good to make a respectable income in one of these areas.

Unless you are extremely naturally gifted, you must invest a huge about of time in order to compete for the few paying spots that are available. You have to make it your only hobby. Because of that, time and the opportunity cost of lost income from investing that time to get that good at it is a huge barrier of entry in this group. You usually have to have someone else supporting or sponsoring you, and even then there are no guarantees. You’ll also notice that those who rise to prominence typically have a hard time staying there.

3. Hobbies that a lot of people can get paid for, because there is a huge demand for – the marketable hobbies, if you will: This is the stuff that a lot of you alluded to in my retire now post. Just think of all the possibilities out there! I’ll list a few that you brought up in that last post and a few of my own ideas:

  • getting paid to do what you loveAuto: Everyone who owns a vehicle needs maintenance at some point. There are a lot of people out there who absolutely love working on mechanical things. There’s also a lot of people out there who feel a need or desire to ‘baby’ their cars. Hence, the auto detailing industry. And there’s also a group that Tuan mentioned, that love customizing vehicles.
  • Cooking: I have a friend who made a decent income from being a ‘personal chef’. He basically was hired to come in and do holiday parties, cocktail parties, dinner parties, and even in-home meal preparation. On the latter, there is definitely a market of wealthy people out there willing to spend good money for you to make them some home cooked meals that they can heat up over the week.
  • getting paid to writeWriting: From blogging to freelance writing and even publishing your own book, writing is always going to be a marketable hobby that a lot of good and even average writers can get paid for. A lot of businesses need help producing content, and if you enjoy writing, you can make a decent income at it.
  • Financial Planning: Many of us have money to manage but little knowledge about how to do so. Financial planning is an entire industry built around this need.
  • Photography: Just about any special event – from press events, to weddings, to sporting events needs a photographer. Someone is going to get paid to do it, and if you’re honed your craft and enjoy doing it, why not you? This hobby can also result in passive income if you license your photos for sale online or elsewhere.

We’ll stop there, but I think you can see where I’m going with this… There’s a lot of opportunities out there based on the needs of individuals and businesses. The key, I believe, is that you have to save someone else the time and trouble of learning how to do it and then actually do it on their own.

Think About Work Hobbies – Or at Least Tasks you Like Doing

Work hobbies? Yep. The stuff at your 9-to-5 that you gravitated towards because you really enjoyed doing it. The stuff that you lost yourself in and made the time fly by. Maybe you just loved typing, talking to customers, working on the company’s web design, or playing with numbers.

Even if you absolutely hate your day job, I’m sure that there is something about your job that you really don’t mind doing, and actually kind of look forward to. Well, if you’re getting paid to do it already, why not make more of your day that activity and get paid to do it on your own? If your company has a need for it, odds are that others will to. Find enough of them, contract with those companies, and do the activity you like for as much time as you want on your own.

The Catch (Hint: It’s in the ‘Marketable’ Part)

That’s right, there is a catch to all of this. And it’s the part that really does separate the dreamers from the doers. It’s the marketing part of ‘marketable’. Yes, there is a lot of really cool work out there that you can get paid for, even with average skill, but unless you know how to market yourself, you’re going to have a hard time finding it and winning it.

You’re going to have to fight for the right to paaa… kidding…. to close the deal. And it’s the part that a lot of people get tripped up on. Your writing isn’t going to sell itself when you’re first starting out. You have to get out there and sell it. You have to network, you have to have an online presence, you have to find out where the opportunity is. That’s an entirely different topic that we’ll touch on in an upcoming post, but I wanted to get the point across.

If you want to follow your dreams, you’re going to have to sell your product/service and sell yourself. There’s nothing sleazy in that, and in fact, the sales process can be highly rewarding, but you’re going to have to be open to it.

Marketable Hobby Discussion:

  • Have you turned hobbies into your main source of income? Tell us how!
  • What ideas do you have for ‘marketable hobbies’ that others are willing to pay for?
  • Have you ever actually been paid to do any of these things?
  • What kind of things have you paid others to do that you could have done for yourself?

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