Updated on 03.09.16

How to Turn Your Passion Into an Income Stream

Trent Hamm

No matter what you're passionate about, you can turn that interest into income. Here's how.

Today, I’m going to talk about professional wrestling. In truth, professional wrestling is just a substitute for anything a person might be passionate about, but I’m using it as a specific example for a specific reason.

One of my old friends is incredibly passionate about professional wrestling. He’s been a fan of it since we were children. He’s attended more live events than I can count and seems to never miss a pay per view. Through him, I’m at least vaguely aware of what’s going on in professional wrestling and I watch the occasional match or clip that he sends to me, but his passion and excitement for it blows any interest I may have out of the water.

Over the years, he’s lamented to me that he’s spent a lot of money on the hobby. He’s received a lot of enjoyment from it, don’t get me wrong, and I don’t believe he regrets it overall, but I think he’s taken aback at the money he’s spent on event tickets, pay per views, online streaming, video games, and so on.

My friend, the rest of this article is for you – in fact, this article started as an email to you that I realized may have value to others. What follows is a recipe for how my friend could turn his passion for professional wrestling into something that could earn at least enough money to pay for his expenses.

The thing is, although I’m using professional wrestling as an example here for my friend, the advice here could apply to almost any interest a person might have. You can follow this recipe if you’re passionate about football or about vintage trains or about beer. Whatever your passion is, this recipe will work.

What You Need

You don’t have to be a professional wrestler to make money from professional wrestling. Similarly, you don’t have to be a brewer to make money from beer, or a board game manufacturer or designer to make money from board games.

All you really need are two things to earn some money from your passion: a willingness to share your knowledge and your viewpoints in a public way (and, ideally, in an entertaining and/or approachable way) and a small amount of technical skill and equipment to create content with.

Those two factors alone eliminate a lot of people for a lot of reasons.

Some people don’t have the self-confidence or personal desire to share their knowledge and viewpoints in a public way, even if it’s largely anonymous. It takes courage to put yourself out there, even if you do it in a way that’s very protective of your identity. You’re still putting your thoughts and your creative impulses out there for all to see.

Many others can’t stomach the criticism that inevitably comes from this. If you share something on the Internet, someone will criticize it. Usually, that criticism is anonymous and vicious. There are times when it can really hurt you personally. You have to have a thick skin and/or the ability to ignore that stuff. Some people can do it. Some can’t. (Trust me, what an anonymous person writes about you on the Internet says much more about that anonymous person than it does about you.)

Others find the technical skills to be a hurdle, even though the threshold is fairly low. Creating content and finding a place for it online does require at least some technical skill and that can scare some people off.

Still others simply don’t want to invest any time in doing it. It takes time to do this, time that many people simply don’t have any desire to invest. Sometimes, people don’t have the time to invest, though this is rarer than most people think.

Even more people are eliminated when you consider those who can’t focus over a longer period of time. These people might start off like gangbusters, but they’re unwilling (or unable) to stick with this through the long haul — and the long haul is where the magic happens.

When you eliminate all of those people, you’re left with a fairly small group. That group is capable of turning their passion into something from which they can make a solid side income and even a full living wage. Sometimes, it can even be more than that; you can build significant personal wealth making goofy content about professional wrestling. I know people who have made significant personal wealth making goofy content about many other things, so doing the same with professional wrestling isn’t even the slightest stretch of the imagination. You can substitute almost any topic with even the slightest bit of mass appeal into that sentence and it still holds true.

So, how do you get started? How do you turn those two key elements – a willingness to share your knowledge and your viewpoints in a public way (and, ideally, in an entertaining and/or approachable way) and a small amount of technical skill and equipment to create content with – into something of value that can actually put money in your pocket?

Here’s how.

Create Something

The best way to start – in fact the only way to start – is to make something.

Write an article. Write a draft of a book. Record a podcast episode. Record a video. Write an app for the App Store.

Here’s the catch, though. As soon as people create one single thing, they immediately want to share it. “I wrote one article! It’s time to start a blog!” “I wrote one first draft! Time to publish it on the Kindle Store!” “I made one video! Time to start a YouTube channel!” All of those things are mistakes, and here’s why.

First, your first attempts and first drafts usually aren’t very good. The first time you write something, particularly when it’s your first time writing an article on a topic, it’s probably not going to be very good. The same is true with making a video, writing a book draft, and so on. It’s not going to be a shining example of what you can produce.

The solution? Revise. Be critical. You may eventually get to a point where your first drafts are pretty good, but you’re not going to be there at the start. Step back, look at what you created, and look for what’s wrong with it and what could make it better. Have others look at it, too, and ask them to name both good and bad things about it. Then revise. Remake it. Do it again. Try to accentuate the positives and eliminate or at least minimize the negatives.

Second, it is far better to launch with lots of content than with one piece, because people who like your stuff will want to discover more of it. Sure, it’s tempting to share your first good creation with the world, but if you do that and there’s nothing else for them to see, the interaction stops there. The more things you have to show a person who is checking out what you have to offer, the more likely they are to stick around, to remember you, and to come back for more at a later date.

The solution? Shoot for having multiple pieces of content when you start sharing. I’d suggest having at least two finished e-books if you’re going that route. For shorter things, like blog articles or videos, try to have at least five and perhaps even 10 of them. That way, if someone likes what they see, they’ll be able to quickly find more.

Third, it is very, very useful to have a “routine” in place before launching. In other words, understanding the process that you go through in creating a piece of content, from finding the germ of an idea to the finished product that’s ready to share, and being able to replicate that process as efficiently as possible. This is actually trickier than it sounds.

The solution? Go through the routine of making pieces of content, whatever they might be, and focus on improving your skill at the various steps. At the same time, come up with something of a standard procedure for creating those pieces of content. Yes, this feels like “work,” but the purpose of this is to do it up front so that you’re much more efficient at producing things and thus there’s less “work” later on.

Work through each step that you have to take to produce content and make those steps as efficient as possible. That way, you have a pipeline in place for making more content, and you can spend more time on the fun part, which is actually coming up with ideas and executing them.

Need Content? Make ‘How-To’ Guides, Reviews, Commentaries, and Lists

For some, coming up with ideas for new articles or videos or even short books related to their topic is easy. For others… generating ideas for articles can be tough.

If you’re finding it difficult to come up with a topic, I strongly suggest falling back on one of four types of content. It’s easy to think up ideas related to these four areas.

The first type is “how-to” guides. A how-to guide explains to someone in detail how to do something related to your main topic of interest. For example, a pro wrestling fan might create a video on “how to find a particular match on the WWE Network” or “how to find inexpensive wrestling memorabilia.” If you’re creating material about cooking, you might want to create “how-tos” related to specific cooking techniques, for example, like how to sautee onions just right for any recipe. Almost every area of interest involves doing something as a participant or as a fan, and a “how-to” guide explains the basics for pulling that off.

The second type is the review. Take some item related to your hobby and give a detailed review of it. Sticking with the pro wrestling example, you might want to create a review of a classic wrestling event, walking through the matches and the storylines, or of a trading card series. If you’re into board games, like I am, you might create a review of a new board game, describing the ins and outs of the physical materials and the gameplay. Again, any area of interest that has physical objects you can use or pieces of entertainment that you can enjoy is ripe for reviewing.

The third type is the commentary. This is somewhat similar to a review, but instead of giving the ins and outs of a particular item on a whole, you instead actually share some of that content while giving your thoughts on it. For example, you might create a video of one of your favorite matches, stopping the video to offer comments and humorous anecdotes at key moments. If you’re into Starcraft, for example, you might make a video of a well-known match and offer up some of your thoughts on the key moments, perhaps from an instructional standpoint on how to play better or perhaps just from an entertainment perspective.

The final type is the sometimes-derided list. The old standby of the “top 10 list” can be very entertaining if done well and can also provide a way for others who are interested in the topic to discover new elements of that area of interest, plus such lists always generate discussion. Again, a professional wrestling content creator might make a list of their top 10 matches of all time, top 10 wrestling shows of all time, or top 10 gimmicks of all time. A movie fan might make a top 10 films of all time list, or a top 10 twist endings list, or even a top 10 actors list. The possibilities here are endless.

Each of these areas can provide an endless source of ideas for new content for your websites, books, videos, podcasts, and so forth.

Be a Part of the Community

While you’re making these things, whether it’s videos or written material or podcasts or anything else, it’s worth your while to become a more active part of online communities related to that area of interest.

There are lots and lots of online communities out there related to almost any topic or passion you can imagine. Seek them out. Get involved.

You can start with the usual social media sites. On Facebook, look for groups on there related to your topic of interest by simply searching for them, then joining those groups and participating. On Twitter, simply search for terms related to your area of interest and start following and talking to active users who comment on things related to your interest. You can take a similar approach on Instagram. You might also want to look at reddit and find specific sub-reddits related to your topic.

Once you’ve found these conversations, join in. Offer your input (but do it politely, or at least at a politeness level that’s relative to the tone you use in the content you’re making). Ask questions. Offer help in response to simple questions. Over time, you’ll make a bit of a name for yourself.

Why do this? There are two big reasons.

One, a community like this in which you are a member is a great place to share and promote your content. People welcome this when you’re a member of a group and have a positive reputation, but they’re very hard on it when you’re not a member and are just spamming your stuff. Get involved with the group now and people will be excited to see whatever it is that you create later on.

Two, such communities offer endless ideas for new content. From the questions that people ask to the interesting ideas that they share that might be something you can replicate, an online community is an endless source of great material that you can use to create your own great material.

Your job, for now, is to find communities related to your topic of interest and get involved in those communities. Make yourself known. Answer questions. Be helpful. Learn some things. Share some resources. Join in the conversation. Later on, you’ll have a great resource for showing the things you’re working on and for creative ideas to expand upon.

Share Your Stuff

So, you’ve got several things you’ve created connected to a topic you’re passionate about and you’re ready to share them with the world. You’ve also made yourself a part of a community related to that topic.

Now what?

Now it’s time to launch something. How exactly you do this depends on what kind of content you have. If you’ve made some videos, for example, YouTube is probably the place to go. If you’ve written some articles, you may be looking at one of these options. If you’ve written some books, you’re probably going to want to look at the Kindle Store. For podcasts, you’re going to want to check out one of these podcast hosting services. For photography, Flickr and Instagram are good places to start.

Since there are so many different ways you might have chosen to share your thoughts and insights about the areas you’re passionate about, I can’t possibly address all of them. Suffice it to say that there’s a solution out there no matter what you choose to be doing.

Once you have several pieces of content out there for the world to see, now’s the time to head back to those forums and communities where you’ve been involved for a while and have a positive presence. If you share what you’ve been working on in those places, you’re going to get some very positive feedback and little resistance, provided you don’t flood the place with your stuff.

I have one really powerful suggestion that’s worked well for me in the past. If you’re on social media or on a messageboard and you see someone asking a question that inspires you to make some piece of content (a video, an article, even a short book), go back to that person after you publish and share the content you made with that person specifically. You’ll almost always gain a loyal follower.

Worry About Revenue Later – It Will Come

Many people immediately start worrying about revenue as soon as they start creating content. The truth is that you should wait before worrying about revenue. Spending a lot of time worrying about revenue when you don’t have a big audience is a lot like spending a lot of time washing Ziploc bags – it’s not a very productive use of your time. Revenue decisions matter much more after you’ve built an audience, so focus on creating good stuff and getting it out there for people to see/hear/read it before you worry about revenue.

Having said that, some avenues make this easier than others. For example, YouTube allows you to have ads on your videos from day one, which means that even when you’re first getting started with videos, you’ll have at least a tiny trickle of income (and I do mean a tiny trickle at first). Selling Kindle books is also another obvious way to directly earn money. Other things are a little less obvious and require adding advertisements to websites you create or other creative angles, but they’re out there. Anything with an audience can earn some money for the creator.

Don’t worry about revenue until you have an audience large enough that it would be difficult to have one-on-one conversations with all of them. That’s my rough rule of thumb. When you have an audience that’s bigger than you can personally handle one on one, you’re likely in a situation where word of mouth is taking hold and growing your audience for you (in part, at least), so you should start thinking about making money. Until then, don’t sweat it.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the start of this article, this isn’t a path for everyone to follow. For many, many people, there are reasons why this avenue won’t work for them.

However, if you’re passionate about something and are willing to put yourself up there and be hit with a lot of anonymous criticism along the way, creating content about your passion is a fantastic way to stay deeply in touch with that thing you’re so passionate about while also earning some income.

I’ve done this very thing myself, and you’re actually reading the result of it. The Simple Dollar followed almost this exact recipe and it grew to the point where the income from the site sustained my family for several years and continues to provide employment for me. I’ve helped at least two friends launch things related to their interests that are each thriving and are each earning a pretty nice side income – in fact, one of them is considering doing it full time.

Whatever you choose to do, good luck.

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