Do you like to play video games? Do you create geeky art in your spare time? Do you make crafts that appeal to your favorite fandoms?
Of course you do. Most of us have at least one “nerdy” hobby that makes us happy and keeps us busy when we’re away from our full-time jobs. But most people don’t realize that it’s possible to turn almost any hobby into a revenue stream — if you know what you’re doing.
This may sound impossible at first, but once you learn the basics, you’ll understand how almost anything you’re passionate about can eventually make you money.
Establish a Revenue Model
First, you’ll need to decide how your hobby is going to make you money. There are two general categories of monetization you can follow:
- Direct sales. The direct sales route is the most straightforward, and it’s ideal if your craft involves making tangible products. Here, you’ll produce something or give something of value (like a service) in exchange for money. For example, you might craft blankets with nerdy themes and sell them to fans of specific franchises. You could also sell your services, such as interior designing, or offer detailed books and guides in exchange for money.
- Indirect revenue. Alternatively, you can make money indirectly—as long as you have a sufficient audience. In this path, once you’ve generated a recurring audience of active users (usually in the thousands per month, at least), you can start making money through things like advertisements and affiliate links. Your goal here will be to entertain, inform, or otherwise provide value to your users, and collect on the residual value that they provide by visiting you.
Once you decide on your approach, you can start tailoring your hobby to make it better suited for profitability. Of course, keep in mind that if you end up making more than $600 in a year, you’ll owe taxes on your revenue—so plan accordingly.
Find a Niche
If you want to make money, you first need to stand out and appeal to a specific target audience. For example, let’s say your hobby is video games and you want to make money from ads by building an audience that watches you play. There are 155 million gamers in the United States, so if your playing is indistinguishable from theirs, nobody is going to be interested in you. Instead, you need to find a niche audience and target them with some specific type of playing; for example, you may offer humorous commentary, or specialize in reviewing one particular type of game. The more specific you are, the more relevant you’ll be, so do some research and find an available niche.
Research the Competition
Next, you’ll need to look at the competition; odds are, someone else is already doing this. Take a look at the strategies they use to promote themselves, and analyze why they’re so popular. You may also examine their price points so you can figure out your own.
The key here is to do one of two things: either do what they do, but better (such as offering a lower price point, or offering a more valuable product or service), or find a way to distinguish yourself from them entirely (such as targeting a different niche). This way, you’ll either outcompete them, or remove yourself from the competition entirely.
Build a Web Presence and Personal Brand
Next, no matter what your monetization strategy is, you’ll need to start building a web presence and a personal brand, as more traffic means more money (for the majority of hobbies). Start by building a website, which you can do for free or for cheap, and detailing exactly who you are and what you do. Develop your personal brand—a combination of your personal and professional identity—and foster strong connections with followers on social media. Your website and social channels will form the foundation of your online empire.
Grow Your Following
After that, you’ll need to start growing your following. Maintain excellent customer service and high-quality products (whether that’s in the form of tangible products or onsite content), and listen to feedback so you can get even better. Produce content consistently, and promote it through your social channels, and engage your target demographics through social media and community pages. The more communicative and visible you are, the better.
As long as you have something that people want to buy, read, or engage with, you can make money off your hobby. You may not become a millionaire or an overnight success, but you can certainly make a few extra bucks doing something you love. All it takes is a bit of business savvy, and enough dedication to build the foundation for success.