How to make money from your hobby

Ever dreamed of making money out of your creative hobby? Anna Behrmann didn’t know where to start, so she sought help from the experts


How to make money from your hobby

9 minute read

How many of us have thought about turning our hobby into a side hustle that makes a little money and may even turn into a full-time job? Soap making, crafting, baking, writing – is it possible to make these things pay? And, with a full-time job, how do you find the time?

I have been turning these things over in my mind for some time now, and watching others with the courage and determination go for it. As a full-time writer, I would like to launch a blog and podcast about faith and spirituality in the modern world. This is partly because I want to interview people and learn more about their religion – or lack of it – but also because I’d love to put my own stamp on my creative project. And, who knows, maybe it will open up new doors in my career. I have even come up with a name – The Life and Soul – but have been fretting over theoretical details and taken zero steps towards making it a reality.

I go to see Philiy Page, who runs Creative Women International, an inspiring network for women in the creative industries. As a mentor and author of the book The Business Of Creativity (Balboa Press, £11.95), she is curious about what has been holding me back from launching my enterprise.

Perfect doesn’t exist

I tell her that I’ve I felt as though I needed to spend months preparing and strategising before ‘unveiling’ my project. I’ve held back from doing even this, because I worried that it would not be to a high enough standard – that I had to produce something polished and professional, and this kept putting me off. 

Philiy tells me that I just need to get going, that I don’t need to share my blog with friends and family immediately, but I should start working on it. She also points out that my product doesn’t need to be perfect – that if I am honest with my readers and tell them I am just starting out; that these are my personal thoughts and writing, then they will forgive a little background noise in the podcast.

‘Remember to be brave and bold. Take yourself out of your comfort zone in a considered manner. Take steps forward, even if you don’t feel like you have everything in place yet.’

She sets me homework – to write three separate blog posts, as well as recording a short podcast, and to plot out a ‘content calendar’ of main topics for future weeks – for example, culture, spirituality and mindfulness and philosophy.

Movers and makers

As I finally get to work, I speak to two inspiring women with very different side hustles. One has just started selling beautifully decorated biscuits; the other has been selling her jewellery for years. I’m struck that they have, fundamentally, the same advice for me – do not worry about the details, especially if that is stopping you from getting started; just improve as you go along.

Grace Iglesias-Fernandez works full-time in content marketing but she launched her cookie side hustle, The Yum Club, last year. She makes intricately decorated biscuits from her kitchen in Surrey. She began by selling to friends and family, and she hopes to start having more stalls in local markets so that she can build up a loyal base of customers. She enjoys running this side hustle alongside her full-time job, but she also knows that if her circumstances change in the next few years – she wants to start a family – she may wish to develop it into more of a full-time business that she can run from home.

Grace has low start-up costs and does her own marketing. She is not yet taking a salary because she is investing everything she earns back into the business to rent market stalls and buy new equipment. Even at this early stage, however, the project is funding itself and she hopes to start earning more from it in the future. 

‘My advice to anyone is just try it – quickly and inexpensively. I think we all try really hard to be perfect, but it is never going to be like that. Since I launched, I’ve changed my logo three times and my website about four!’

Grace has always enjoyed baking at home, but she is completely self-taught. She learned a lot by watching YouTube and videos on Instagram. ‘I realised that I could do it,’ she says.

She feels happier and more creative. ‘I feel like I have a little more drive and purpose,’ she says. ‘I originally studied music at university and I have always been quite a creative person. With my day job, although I enjoy it and like being around people, I felt as though I was lacking a more creative aspect in my life and a project that I could really “own”.’

The beauty of balance

Grace’s job is full-time, but she works from home a few days a week, which helps if her new project needs attention. ‘It gives me flexibility. If I have a lot of orders, I wake up really early in the morning and bake cookies for two or three hours before I start normal work. Or, I will do an hour in my lunch break.’ 

In addition, Grace dedicates at least one day of the weekend and a couple of weekday evenings to the cookie business. Baking in her kitchen is the quick part – she then spends hours decorating them, as well as dealing with admin and finances. Her friends have been supportive. ‘They have helped me set up market stalls and even package cookies until two in the morning when I have needed them.’

Leah Steele set up Rogue Jewels six years ago, making sparkly unicorn earrings and other bright jewellery – pieces that she would enjoy wearing, and she hopes others will, too. This has been her first foray into anything artistic. When she started, she was working for an out-of-hours legal service, where she had to be on call for clients to ring her at home. 

If not, why not?

‘When you’re waiting, you are on edge. I was just messing around on eBay and I came across some bronze jewellery charms – they were tiny little quavers, 20 for £1, and I thought I could make some earrings for myself and sell the extras. 

‘I put the earrings together and began researching selling earrings online, and that is when I found Etsy. It was very much trial and error. I would try things out and watch YouTube videos to see what other people were doing.’

Leah was working long hours as a lawyer, and her mother was unwell, so this chance to be creative was important to her. ‘I only had one day a week where I wasn’t “Leah the lawyer” and I was beginning to feel stifled by that.’ Being able to concentrate on creating jewellery felt like a relief. ‘I would shut the door. It is like the rest of the world goes away when you’re focusing on the item that is on the bench in front of you.’

Leah has left law and now runs a mentoring service for professionals, but she kept up her jewellery side hustle because she enjoys it so much. It has also become a viable second income. In the last couple of years, she has spent time actively promoting it. ‘It has grown tenfold from the previous year, just by me giving it a bit more love and attention. It is about 20 per cent of my overall income at the moment; it pays my part of the mortgage.’

For my first blog post on The Life and Soul, I write about why I’m interested in faith and belief, and how my spirituality ebbs and flows. So many of us are grappling with existential questions, such as whether there is an afterlife, or if there is anything else out there. 

I feel like I am writing something quite private, and I do not initially promote it on social media, but a few strangers still read it. One reader wrote a thoughtful, slightly argumentative comment, which I’m really pleased about because it shows that by putting something out there that is intensely personal, I have struck a chord.

I write a couple more posts before my next session with Philiy, as well as recording a quick, unpolished podcast, and it feels like such an enormous achievement not only to get started, but to have the belief in my project to continue. When I see Philiy again, she tells me that, when I feel ready, I should take a deep breath and send a link to 20 people who might be interested – they could be my earliest champions and a community. I can take my time, she says, as long as I keep going. 

A very good place to start

So I have begun. I know I still have a lot of technical things to learn, but there are loads of online resources with advice for anyone who is starting a creative business. Most of all, though, I feel proud that I have set off with my wobbly, imperfect steps towards creating something that I really care about. I don’t yet have the right colour branding scheme, and my posts might be a little rambling, but as long as I have the faith to keep going in the same direction, I will keep learning.

Image: Getty