Updated on 09.17.14

10 Ways To Earn Additional Income From Your Passion

Trent Hamm

Most people have a thing or two in their lives that they’re deeply passionate about. Perhaps it’s volunteer work or local politics, or maybe it’s making soap or writing. If you have a true passion for something, it’s well worth your time to try to dip your toes deeply into that passion and see if you can turn that passion and talent into some additional income – or perhaps a new career.

Here are ten things you can do in your spare time to funnel that passion into something that can earn some additional income. Not all of these will apply to any given idea you might have, but three or four should apply to pretty much any concept you can think up.

The first step, though, is to get started. The day you make a commitment to follow something you’re passionate about is the first day of the rest of your life.

Blogging offers a lot of advantages for a person who’s passionate about a specific topic. The time you need to work on it is flexible, plus you can easily do it at home with just a computer, for starters, and by placing a few ads on it, you can earn some extra dollars while exploring areas you’re passionate about. You can write about pretty much any topic you can imagine. Plus, it’s pretty easy to get started, with sites like WordPress and Blogger ready-made to help you with the beginning steps.

While it’s easy to start with blogging, it takes a lot of work and skill to make it successful. Successful blogging takes skill with the written word (at the very least, solid grammar and the ability to write something that follows a logical progression), the ability to market yourself (to a degree), the ability to connect well with others (especially those with similar interests), and the focus and determination to keep at it even when things aren’t going so well.

The real fuel behind blogging comes from two things: are you truly passionate about something and are you willing and able to write about that passionate topic every day? If so, you might be able to translate a passion into a successful blog.

Teaching / tutoring
Teaching and tutoring work well if you have a particular skill that can be taught to others and you have patience. If you have an aptitude for a musical instrument, for example, teaching can be a very good way to expand on that passion and share it with others while earning a bit of money. Another possibility is to look for community art centers where you may be able to earn a small fee by teaching a particular artistic skill to a group of people.

When I was in college, I spent some of my spare time working as a math tutor for people in the lower-level mathematics classes. I’m a fairly patient person and I intuitively understand most mathematical concepts, so I was able to really make this take off. I wound up tutoring several people through two semesters of trigonometry and almost talked myself into becoming a high school math teacher.

If you have an skill that others admire and sometimes attempt to learn and you have a good deal of patience, teaching or tutoring can be a great way to explore it.

Providing services
There’s an individual on our block who loves cold weather. He loves bundling himself up, heading out in the cold, and moving snow around – can you even imagine someone who sings when running their snowblower? This guy has realized that most people don’t want to do this and thus he’ll go around and blow off other people’s driveways and sidewalks for $5 or $10 (or whatever) in cash. After a nice snowstorm, he can easily make $100 in profit just by handling the houses near him – it takes him a couple of hours and he really enjoys it.

Are there any tasks that you really enjoy that others find mundane, like mowing or fixing computers? You probably have an opportunity right there to provide a service to them, one that will put cash in your pocket for doing something you naturally enjoy. With some basic equipment and some reliability, you can easily transform a task you enjoy doing into some cash just by asking around and seeing what’s available.

I couldn’t help but think of my oldest nephew when I was writing this. He’s one of those kids who just can’t sit still, so when he comes to visit, he’s always jumping around like a jackrabbit. I told him that he should channel that into doing something useful and convinced him to mow my lawn, which I paid him for. This opened up a whole new can of worms for him and now he seems to be building a small mowing business.

Creating videos
If you have a digital camera capable of taking videos, you can likely turn your passion into some money online by making videos and uploading them to a revenue-sharing video site. MetaCafe, for example, has a Producer Rewards program that pays $5 for every 1,000 times your video is viewed.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re a gymnast. You could make videos of your neatest-looking routines out in the yard and upload them, or show how anyone can do some basic techniques, like an instructional video on how to do a cartwheel (I’d watch). You can follow similar logic for almost any passion you might have. The best part is, once a video is done and uploaded, all you have left to do is market it a bit by pointing people to it. Make sure you title it well. Send the link around to friends you might have, asking for comments. Send the video link to bloggers who may be interested in your topic.

If you have the basic video equipment and something interesting to show off, this can be a great way to earn some side money, and it can earn some very good money if your content is compelling enough to get others to watch. Since you can make videos in your spare time and there’s little additional effort once the video is uploaded, this can be a great way to sit back and earn a few bucks.

Selling at farmers markets
If you’re passionate about making things or growing them, farmers markets are a great place to sell them directly to others. You can sell almost anything at a farmers market – handmade soaps, homemade bread, vegetables and fruits, and so on. If you make the price reasonable, you can often sell quite a bit of it.

As a regular attendee of one local farmers market, I can attest to the truth of this. There’s one elderly lady there each week selling her freshly-baked homemade bread. Every hour she’s there, she drops the price on everything a little bit, so if you want the best stuff, you buy early and pay a premium. At the end, she’ll often trade the bread to others for produce. In other words, because she enjoys baking bread in her spare time, she can translate that directly into some cash and some fresh produce.

Do you like gardening, baking, or making things like soap? The local farmers market might be the perfect place to translate that into some pocket cash.

Writing freelance articles / books
Another option (besides blogging) if you have any skill with the written word is to write freelance articles (and perhaps books as well) on whatever topic fills you with passion. Passionate writing is the best kind of writing, especially if the author has even a sliver of talent – the enthusiasm and love just comes right through the page.

The only problem is that it’s often difficult to break into writing at first. Your best approach is to look for local independent publications and see whether you can work out an arrangement, even for no pay, to help you get some stuff into print. Then, you can use those printed publications as leverage to fuel you on to bigger things – and bigger pay.

Freelance writing like this is a great spare time activity, especially if the time you have to commit to it isn’t highly regular. While the threshold for entry can be difficult, once you’re in, it’s a great way to use a few spare hours and your own creativity to produce something of value.

Developing a connected project through work
Many workplace environments offer some latitude for self-motivated and creative employees to suggest ideas for new workplace initiatives. This can be a great area to fuel your passions and give yourself some real-world experience in that area.

For example, one person I know who worked for a large company wanted very much to get involved with social work. She talked up a workplace outreach project at work as a way for the company to show community involvement and charity and was eventually chosen to head up this initiative. After a while, she was able to transform at least part of her job into following her passions for social work and, eventually, was able to leap into that area as a career change.

Many people also use this kind of opportunity to drum up business for their side passions. One of my supervisors was able to shoehorn his love for woodworking into a contract to build some desks and tables for the workplace. He was able to spend his weekend – and some work time – putting this into place, and he was able to make a very nice profit from the effort.

See what initiatives might be available in your workplace to combine something you’re passionate about with the work you already do. You might be surprised at the doors that open up for you – the connections you make and the knowledge you gain can be incredibly valuable.

Taking classes / starting over
Another possibility is to simply start over with a new career, starting off with taking classes. While this won’t earn you money from your passion in the short run, it could easily lead to a new career in a field that fills your belly with passion, fire, and drive.

I am reminded of another friend of mine who spent his Saturdays attending classes to earn an MBA, simply because he knew he was an effective team leader (and he relished leadership) but he also knew that without the degree there were some glass ceilings he would never break through. Once he completed the MBA, he switched jobs, joining another organization and quickly moving up through the ranks. He earned a lot of extra income for himself by taking classes on the side.

When you really discover your passion, it’s usually the right choice to follow it, even if that road initially has costs. Taking classes is certainly a cost, but if it puts you in the right place to really chase after your dreams, the cost isn’t really that great after all.

Volunteering / working at low end jobs
If there’s an area you’re passionate about but you don’t have any idea how to break in, volunteer – or take a very low-end job. Go to the person that you hope to learn from (a potential mentor) and tell them that you’re willing to work for peanuts for a while in order to learn the tricks of the trade. Devote your Saturdays or your weeknights to this and you’ll learn a great deal about what it takes to succeed.

If you’re in college, this is a great way to experience areas of interest. Look for minimum wage or volunteer work for professors on campus who are in areas that might be of interest to you. You might be cleaning lab equipment or photocopying things at the library, but if you do your work diligently, ask intelligent questions, and pay attention, you’ll get far more out of it than that minimum wage income. You’ll likely discover how the field works and how deep your passion goes for the area.

I am very passionate about cooking and if I were at a different place in life, I might do much the same thing at one of the best restaurants in town. In other words, I’d gladly offer to work there for low wage in exchange for some real opportunities to learn.

Remember, what you’re earning here is not money, but knowledge and connections. These can prove far more valuable than an extra dollar or two an hour over the long haul.

Arranging sales through another local business
This works hand-in-hand with the farmers market idea above, but takes it in a slightly different direction. Quite often, at local small retail shops, they’ll be happy to work out an arrangement with you to put your product on display and sell it in exchange for some portion of the proceeds from it. Local gift shops are particularly good in this way and offer a great opportunity for you to sell homemade crafts and soaps and candles that you might make in your spare time.

One advantage of this approach is that it requires even less of your time than the farmers market does. You just make more product, take it to the place where it is sold, and collect the money. There is some startup time, but that mostly revolves around building the relationships needed to get your product in place. The big disadvantage is that there are often limits on what you can sell with this approach. You’ll likely be restricted by the type of product and the packaging and labeling that it requires.

Still, it’s an easy way to earn a few extra dollars from doing something that you’re passionate about whenever you have the spare time to do it, and that’s a godsend for people who enjoy making items like these.

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  1. I have always been a firm believer that once you discover your passion, you will be able to make money at it.
    I would encourage anyone starting out to go right to videos instead of blogging using the written word. Video is the future and takes less time to produce – as soon as you figure out how to edit it correctly.
    Great post – I am sure many folks will start to monetize thier passions now!

  2. Thanks for a great … and important … post, SD!

    While none of these ideas will make LOTS of money any of them could make at least SOME money and they all CAN help you accelerate your savings/investment plans IF you put aside at least 50% of any of the additional income they spin off.

  3. Starting over can be intimidating but is also one of the most rewarding things a person can do. You don’t have to quit your job and jump in all the way either, you can do it nice and slowly, responsibly, without adversely affecting your finances.

  4. Lisa says:

    Doing something that I have a passion for, AND getting paid for it, has been always been a dream of mine. I chose the safe, get a job at a big company and have security route, though. While I enjoy my job, it doesn’t spark that excitement.

    Of late, I have seem to have developed a passion for blogging. I’ve not used HTML code or website programs before, so I have a lot to learn! I love the little puzzles that develop as I try to get a logo positioned just right, or put a picture on my site, etc etc. Today I just bought Elizabeth Castro’s HTML sixth addition and am dying for the weekend so I can get into it. I have become a blog geek for sure! Perhaps I have found my passion.


  5. InvestEveryMonth.com says:

    I was a firm believer in following my passions, but after years of trying to make money while following my passions, I am discouraged.

    The simple fact is my passion is not considered “valuable” in the eyes of the market. I have tried numerous ways to make money with my passion (blogging, books, organizations, products, etc…) but there just isn’t a whole lot of money in trying to make the world a better place.

    I now try to make money on more “valuable” topics such as investing and travel in order to support my passions, but now I am spending all of my time trying to make money on these topics with little or no time available to follow my passions.

    I sometimes feel I should have just kept my old job and worked on my passions at night, but somewhere deep down inside I feel like I am doing the right thing even though the money is hard to come by.

  6. Wonderful post! Following one’s passion takes a whole heck of a lot of time and energy to see any positive outcome. One must sacrifice constantly to make it happen and, frankly, a lot of people would much rather take the easy, quick road in life instead. I’m doing a combination of your suggestions and, even though I’m dead tired most days and haven’t had a day off in a month, I know that one day, all the pieces will fit into place and make the struggles well worth it.

  7. Kathryn says:

    Great tips on a really important topic! I would’ve thought of a few of these – like writing/blogging – but I definitely wouldn’t have come up with all of them on my own.

    Another idea that kind of goes along with this is bartering. You don’t specifically make money through the bartering of services and products but you do get something that you need without having to pay for it. Saving money in that way is kind of a way of making money with your time – or with products that you already have. I know that major cities have some great barter options through sites like Craigslist. I imagine smaller communities could use a word-of-mouth system effectively.

  8. Sara says:

    I think the most important thing about starting a side business is to be as frugal with your business expenses as you are with your home expenses.

    Can you buy equipment used instead of new? Do you even need to buy equipment at first, or can you make due until your side business earns some capital that you can reinvest?

    There are lots of resources for used items for your businesses. You can buy used video and camera equipment on ebay or Craigslist. Our town even has three or four places that RENT high quality video and camera equipment at reasonable prices.

    For retail ventures, I have seen several places that sell used store fixtures if you need something to display your product. You can also find places that discard cardboard or pallet board and, if you are crafty, you can transform it into unique displays.

    It is very easy to lose money on a side business if you decide you just HAVE TO have the newest flashiest gizmo/business space/display/advertising.

  9. !wanda says:

    @Tyler: Ugh. I can read faster than I can watch a video. I can think better, and my ears are free. Videos are the best way to learn kinetic skills, but if you’re just going to talk at me and show me pretty pictures, just write it down on a webpage. (I also see that you don’t take your own advice…)

    I sometimes worry that if everyone follows this advice, there won’t be enough people to do tasks that no one is passionate about. Then I remember that that’s what we have robots and computer programs for, and there are certainly people who are passionate about creating those.

  10. Chris says:

    Trent–you are right that when you discover something you are passionate about, you can make money of it. I am passionate about teaching and I have made some money, unfortunately it’s not much…You just gave me an idea for my next blog…I will blog about how I manage to keep my family afloat with my teacher salary.


  11. I’m trying to build up a base with my personal finance blog. It’s been slow going but I can see steady gains in viewership. I’ve decided to remove the ad sense for now, until readership is up to where the additional income offsets the unappealing look of a bunch of ads on my site.

    Ben @ Trees Full of Money

  12. I agree 100% with Trent. I just started my first website with inspiration from The Simple Dollar. Blogging is a great way to organize your own thoughts and document your interests. Serving ads would be a bonus, but its a great hobby to keep the mind sharp.

    I’ve made money in the past serving content online and providing personal financial services. A great supplement to a traditional job. I’m also creating a simple worksheet for teachers to use when setting up their retirement plans.

  13. Sara says:

    When you sell processed goods like bread, jelly, or jams do you need to have any sort of health inspection license or conform to any codes? Even if you are selling at the farmer’s markets?

    I don’t believe there are any restrictions on raw goods such as fruits and veggies but that might be something to look out for if you want to sell cooked items.

  14. FIRE Finance says:

    Trent has proved you wrong. He blogs full time and makes a good amount of money. So if we follow our hearts these ideas can make enough money to sustain us.
    Video blogging and podcasting have still not yet taken off in full force. But hopefully some time in future it will take off. So long as Google indexes web pages based on text based algorithms blogging will rule the roost.

    Great post by Trent. Perhaps we should also add web design and blog development studios to the list. Chris at pearsonified.com has shown how we can take off with web design if we love it.

    FIRE Finance

  15. reulte says:

    Trent – in regards to your comment about working in a high-end restaurant, I’d highly recommend the book “Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany” by Bill Buford.

  16. julie renner says:

    An opportunity to combine both articles today..a person that’s good with a video camera can sell their services for people who want to do an in-home inventory! Would the videographer need any kind of insurance?

  17. Christine says:

    I love this post! On the same token, I would also like to mention a site called Etsy (http://www.etsy.com) where individuals can create little online shops to sell their homemade goods. Arts & crafts is a hobby of many but few realize their can turn their creative talent into income.

  18. Kate says:

    Just within the last year or so have I found that I can indeed make *some* money by following my passion for food. I now teach a few cooking/baking classes and also sell breads to friends and family. I trained professionally as a chef many years ago, so it’s not like I didn’t have the credentials until recently. I just didn’t think it was feasible to make money this way.

    This summer I’m going to try making a little bit of money off my other passion – gardening. I’m planning a much bigger garden and I hope to sell both vegetables and flowers. We’ll see how it works out.

    Obviously, I won’t be making a living off these very small amounts. But it’s a start.

  19. AnKa says:

    What an inspiring article. My husband has successfully done the project through work thing. He recognized a need in his organization and decided to step up and provide the solution. While no immediate financial reward was given, even now, 10 years later, he is often recognized as ‘the guy who made X’ in his rather large workplace. I am sure his successful initiative has had a lot to do with his raises and promotions over the years!

    For those of us in engineering type work situations, it is sometimes fun and financially rewarding to write up a patent application on something we have done through our work. It’s good for your resume, you feel cool about officially being an ‘inventor’ and most companies have a premium that they reward inventors with. Of course in this situation, the company typically owns the patent. If you have a truly non-work-related idea and can patent it, even better!

  20. RP says:

    Great post! A lot of people don’t feel that the have the time for these sorts of activities. About five years ago in my spare time I started building websites. Last year I had almost $3 million in affiliate sales, and made over $100k. This year is shaping up to be about double that. And I love the work, though it’s still a part-time thing while I get great benefits at my “real” job.

  21. Jenny Blake says:

    I love this post! I think many people looking for extra income have it in them to put their passion to work as a side job – they just don’t know how.

    I actually just wrote a similar post on how to create extra income by using a highly sophisticated “Craigslist-as-Dartboard” method. :D I was feeling financially stuck last year and one of my passions is web design. I turned my passion into a tutoring job by browsing the ‘services’ section of Craigslist until I found posts that looked similar to what I wanted to do. I noted the prices people were charging and tried posting in a few different places. People replied, and I’m still doing web tutoring (and making extra income) a year later!

  22. Cat-Daddy says:

    Criticism: a number of the things you mention are high-labor, VERY low pay. Writing, for instance, is hard and highly competitive (and I’ve made all of $9.34 blogging so far. :) Video, a field I work in, is hard, requires equipment, and a reasonable day rate is $100-150 bucks for an inexperienced videographer. Metacafe’s rewards program is kind of insulting.

    I think the best advice here– other than farmers’ markets, just ’cause I like ’em– is arranging sales with an established business. Or even taking it further, working with them to increase their sales. A good way to make money now is to piggyback an already-running business. You can use that to supplement your passion, b/c the passions often don’t pay well.

  23. Andy says:

    I think the best part of having a passion and regularly devoting your time to it is the money you save by not doing other things. For example, I could care less if I never made a penny off of blogging, but the time I spend blogging has completely replaced the time I would spend watching TV and I was able to cancel my cable.

    I stay at home more and don’t go out drinking all the time saving me TONS of money and gas, etc etc, etc. When we devote ourselves to something and don’t spend that time on worthless activities that cost a lot, we are, in a sense, getting paid for our passions. I say, Who cares about directly making money? If it truely is your passion, maybe that shouldn’t be your concern.

    Great post, Trent.

  24. blogrdoc says:

    Wow. I *just* blogged yesterday about my ‘muse’. Year-to-date results: ~$476. I call it “Starbucks Tech Support”

  25. Cheryl says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for proving that money is not everything. My husband has just quit his full time office job to pursue becoming a famous musician. I couldn’t be happier about helping to support him while he does this. Even if he doesn’t become rich and famous, what does he have to lose? Follow your passion!
    I’ll be chronicling our journey through this experience on my blog if you want to check it out. I’d love to know how you get ad sponsors!

  26. Hameed says:

    Earning extra income is like a pay rise. And everybody deserves some extra income- esp. during these tough times. But its not that easy though. To be successful making money online you need to have some proper guidance. Good luck!!!

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