How to Make Your Hobby Pay You More Than Your Job

Okay Steppers! This post is about using the Shoestring Steps and turning your hobby into something that pays YOU -instead of the other way around. It’s my Ultimate Guide “1.0” on how to do this. I’m open to updating it, especially  addressing what I learn from YOU in the comments section. Hint, hint.

So, is it really possible to create a “Bizness” — a business focused around what fascinates YOU— and turn it into a source of income that can exceed or replace your job?

Well, it better be. Because that’s what Shoestring101 is all about. 😉

Shoestring101: Cheap to Start, Simple to Run, Immediately Profitable

It’s simpler than most folks realize to start a business based on your interests, and to have it be immediately profitable. I’ve actually done this a number of times, starting in my teens and continuing to this day.

At 18 years of age, I started a Kempo Karate studio that eventually became the Freedom School of Martial Arts. (It’s still running today, 27 years later) This was my first hobby-based “Bizness”.

At 19, I helped some college friends of mine to have high-paying part time work (+$30/hour… in the 1980’s) with a lawn aeration business.

By my 20’s I had built up to a 3,000 square foot martial arts studio with piles of full-length mirrors and huge picture windows facing the parking lot. It was so expensive to maintain that I ended up buying the gear to clean my own windows… then ended up founding a window cleaning company. WHY not?

That window cleaning company provided employment for a good friend after he lost his highfalutin’ communications technology job due to ‘restructuring’. Saved his house too.

In my 30’s I lost a lot of money investing in the stock market. Vowing never to let that happen again, I ended up developing a way to have great upside potential with single-digit risk. Most folks don’t know you can buy ‘stock insurance’ to stay out of trouble; I learned how to do that… reduce risk but still retain high-performance returns.

A few years ago I began sharing my stock investing method with others on a blog… and ended up self-publishing a book and offering related subscriptions. Sales are over $1M now. Not shabby for a part time endeavor.

Most recently, I’ve been sharing things like how to do 100 pushups, get free web traffic, create awesome consumable content, make viral videos, and other things for fun and profit.

But, Kurt! How Do I Make MY Hobby, Interest, or Passion Pay ME?

Because most folks aren’t thinking about business when they think about the other things that fascinate them, they overlook some pretty big possibilities.

Money probably doesn’t come to mind when yer surfin’ a boss breaker.

You probably aren’t preoccupied with earnings potential when ya got shrimp on the barbie.

I doubt you’re contemplating market share and demographics while skateboarding, playing video games, making things out of papier mache, or cooking with wine.

 But..! I guaran-dang-tee you that if you are passionate about something… ANYthing… others probably are too. And that pass-ion can help you CASH-in. 😉

Can MY Hobby REALLY Make Me a Living?

I don’t know for sure, because I just don’t know what you’re particularly passionate about. But I’ll just betcha your hobby or interest can make you piles of cash on the side, maybe even replace the income from your full-time job.

Let’s find out! Say your hobby is Underwater Basket Weaving… Quick Quiz:

  • Are there good, better, and best places to buy Underwater Basket Weaving supplies?
  • Is there such a thing as an Underwater Basket Weaving kit?
  • Have you ever attended a class on Underwater Basket Weaving techniques and tips?
  • Ever go to an Underwater Basket Weaver’s national conference?
  • D’ja ever buy a book or instructional DVD on Underwater Basket Weaving?
  • Do you belong to the UBWA – Underwater Basket Weaver Association?
  • Is there a “Dummies” book for beginning Underwater Basket Weaving?

In short… are there any products, services, memberships, communities that currently revolve around your hobby, or should there be? Have YOU paid good money in one or more ways to pursue your interest?

Ya do know that a living, breathing human that loves what you love was on the other side of that transaction, right? 😉

If the answer is yes to ANY of these questions… you can bet that there’s opportunity for a part time or full time income with your interest, hobby, or passion.

How to Start Making Money with Your Hobby Based Business

First off! DON’T spend a lot of money. Hang out a shingle and learn as you go. Believe it or not… you’re probably already doing one or more of the things you’ll need to do to make your hobby pay you instead of the other way around.

Many of the Steps to a successful “Bizness” are things you already do naturally while pursuing your interests and hobbies. You just need a little guidance on how to do these things better. And more importantly, start doing them on purpose, and with a monetization goal in mind… further down the line.

The first thing you’ll want to do is this:

Make Connections and Relationships with Others in Your Space

At your next Underwater Basket Weaver’s meeting, get around and talk to as many peoples as possible.

And get their names and contact info. You’ll want to sort these peeps into three categories: 1) folks that can help me, 2) folks that I can help, and 3) folks that are just cool to know right now but might fit into category #1 or #2 later.

Some of the people that are doing what you love will be able to help you do it better. That’s why these groups exist! Now it’s time for you to become and establish yourself as an expert. Or someone that can connect others to an expert.

You want to have a relationship with as many people as possible in your space. some will become your customers, others will become mentors or suppliers.

You already have overcome the first social hurdle: common ground. Talk with them about their two favorite subjects… THEMSELVES 🙂 and Underwater Basket Weaving.

This can be done in a live, person-to-person setting like a cocktail party. I suggest browsing or Craigslist to find local gatherings. If it’s appropriate to your personality and what you’re interested in, nothing substitutes for a face-to-face meeting with people that are as passionate as you are about a particular thang. Go have fun! But don’t forget to pass out your bizness cards like snowflakes, and get contact info in return.

Connecting with people in your space can also be done through social media. If you’re more comfortable staying home, don’t despair. My wife is a bit shy in person but has an immense following on Facebook for her furniture refinishing bizness. She’s established relationships for mentoring, gotten and given tips, even sold thousands of dollars worth of furniture.

Facebook, Facebook groups, Twitter and Triberr are some faves of mine for this kind of networking.

The most valuable resource you will ever have in ‘Bizness” is the relationships you build and maintain. Once you’ve established and identified who you may help and who can help you,  the next step is:

Brainstorm Ways to Solve Common Problems

Most great products that I see pitched on Shark Tank were come up with not by inventors… but enthusiasts and hobbyists. They were trying to solve a problem for themselves and ended up sharing that solution with others.

That’s what I did with my stock trading system. That’s what you’ll do when you share the solutions to particular problems facing Underwater Basket Weavers from all walks of life.

One thing it’s important to establish is that YOU don’t necessarily have to be the one to come up with all the solutions. You can simply share what it is that you’ve learned from your contact with others in your space.  But DO give credit where it’s deserved. It’s just goo d juju.

To learn to create value , simply talk with people in your space about what problems they face, what things they’ve done in the past to solve those problems, and brainstorm about what else could be explored. Write down everything you learn and everyone you speak to, both on the ‘problem’ side and the ‘solution’ side.

Choose a Platform to Communicate Solutions

You may not even need to come up with a new invention here… just find out what is not known by many, but should be. Your next step is to share the solutions with others that share your interests. But how?

I happen to write a blog ’cause I like writing… and because it’s FREE to me (on a Shoestring, anyone?)

It’s said that content is king… and it is. But there is more than one way to peel an apple:

  • In Person. I use and Facebook Events to meet with, or establish meeting for, specific interest groups.

Once I posted a ladies’ self defense class as a Facebook Event and invited some ladies’ groups to it.

Cost: FREE.

Return: $315 immediately from the class, plus thousands later as some of the ladies put their children into ongoing programs at my martial arts studio.

  • On A Blog. These are free or low-cost to start. I’ve spent a couple hundred to have custom stuff designed, and could probably have done it for less but I don’t miss the money– the return on investment has been huge. Make sure to include a ‘bribe’ to get folks to subscribe to further content from you as well.
  • In a PDF. Not only do you want to share your info with others you’ve touched… you want them to share with others that you haven’t ‘met’ yet. A PDF with genuinely useful information can really go places, especially if you provide permission and encouragement for your audience to post, share, ‘like’ it.
  • Via email. Your list of contacts  would love to hear the solutions to problems you’ve been solving for yourself and others. Two pieces of advice: Stick to ONE topic per email, and keep every promise you make to your list. Aweber costs $1 to try, MailChimp is free. Get started immediately if not sooner.
  • In a Podcast. Get a good microphone and rant a bit. Or interview an expert. Or both. I like for a free starting solution. See my buddy Joey Kissimmee’s site for a great low-cost podcasting theme.
  • On YouTube. Again, gotta love free. I’ve had hundreds of thousands of views on videos I’ve made, particularly in the space where I teach people to  protect their stock market investments. Here’s a couple good ones:
  • In A Webinar. It’s $99 per month to use my fave, <== But you can get the first month free! Get one of your expert contacts and interview him or her live, with an audience
  • Slideshare. This is an under-explored medium as yet, but a great idea. In essence, you upload a PowerPoint presentation that shares your solution, one idea per slide. Users click one slide at a time at their own pace.
  • My Favorite: Content Webbing. “Content Webbing” is using a combination of several platforms to refer the consumer of your content to other places where your solutions are being shared. It encourages folks to share with each other too.

I’ll talk about “Content Webbing” in another post, but essentially it means taking a useful, problem-solving piece of content that you’ve produced… making it easy to share across multiple platforms… and making lots of links to it and from it… all designed to capture leads and increase traffic more than any one single method can. Watch for that post!

Okay, back to the topic at hand:

When to Monetize Your Hobby or Interest

To get the widest share and become well-known and trusted quickly for your content, share as much as you can for free. At one point or another, however, you’ll want to monetize. So the big question is when to start charging for the solutions that you present.

Your FOLLOWERS will probably DEMAND that you monetize at one point or another… no joke… if you keep providing great content. So I’d wait for that tipping point where folks on your list start bugging you with questions that are more involved than what you can put in an single article, podcast, or vid. Or if they ask you if you’ve written a book, produced a DVD, or if you have an Underwater Basket Weaver’s Kit for sale. That’s when to announce your big product or affiliate launch.

Feel Guilty Making Money From Your Passionate Pursuit?

BTW, if you have the idea that it would be weird to accept money for doing something that you’d do for free… well, you’ll get past that soon 🙂 . Think about it… you don’t probably miss the money that YOU’ve spent so far furthering your expertise.

Early in my career as a professional martial arts instructor I faced the self-imposed ‘starving artist’ syndrome. Because I needed to generate some cash, I asked advice from a successful business owner.

He asked how much someone would have to pay me to hang up my black belt and never practice martial arts again. I said I wouldn’t do it for ten million dollars. He then said, “Then why do you have a problem charging way lower than what your skills are worth to you?”

Good question, hmmm?

Okay Steppers! Finally for the ‘Secret Sauce’, the final tip to start you on the path making more money from your hobby than from your job…

Get it Done FAST

Don’t feel that your presentation has to be super-professional and totally buttoned-up. Just imagine sitting in your living room with that one person you like… that shares your love of Underwater Basket Weaving. Then talk about what you’ve been learning.

Don’t like to write? Fine. Just jot down a rough outline and talk into a microphone for at least fifteen minutes. Go on and have someone transcribe it for you. Then edit.

Try my “Content Webbing” technique referred to earlier in this post, and which I’ll describe in greater detail later.  Take one piece of content and repurpose, repurpose, repurpose it across several different media. Link ’em to each other, and each one to your email  Again, can be an excellent resource for you to outsource some of the work.

Doing this FAST will make the biggest splash and get you the most return for the effort you put in. You’ll generate more traffic. You’ll appear to be everywhere. You’ll find what platform(s) work best for you and for your audience. You’ll also find out how to engage them better and make more and better connections… which leads to more problems and solutions… which leads to more expert content.

Last name-drop in this post, I promise… Alicia Dunams has a program called “Bestseller in a Weekend” and that’s exactly what she walks you through: how to QUICKLY produce a written work… even if you don’t know how (or even LIKE) to write… and become a bestselling author in your niche.

Can you imagine how easy it would be to market products and services to hobbyists in YOUR field if you were a bestselling author?

Follow this gal’s steps if you want to get it done quickly and get it done right.

Aw righty, Steppers! Wrapping this one up.

I’d love to hear from you as you learn to make your hobby pay you more than your job. Recent research shows that only really good-looking people post comments on this blog 😉

Keep Stepping,



  1. Thanks for the shout out! In appreciation, I invite your audience to check out my FREE webinar on How to Write a Book in a Weekend:

    • kurtf

      Don’t mention it Alicia. Been a fan of yours since the CreateLive seminar where Lewis Howes took you under wing.
      I’ve used your techniques (plus Steve Scott’s tips… you guys should talk) to write a successful Kindle book my first time out.
      Would love to connect sometime and brainstorm.

      I will plug this webinar on Twitter. Have a great day Alicia, and

      Keep Stepping!

      kurtf recently posted…How I Leveraged 64 Postage Stamps into a Six Figure BusinessMy Profile

  2. Hi Kurt,

    I definitely agree that an online business starts off with a passionate idea.

    Like all things in life, that idea evolves and changes. The trick to being an online entrepreneur (or any self-made business owner) is to pay attention to what is working/not working, be patient, and have the willingness to change your idea(s) as more information and feedback become available. All businesses are trial and error, with the most successful entrepreneurs understanding that to get anywhere you need to be willing to make a few mistakes along the way.

    Trial and error, rinse and repeat, and persistence are all great ways to turn your hobby into a money-making career.
    Liz Hancock recently posted…Whiteflash Review – ODBA Reader Saves $12KMy Profile

    • kurtf

      Right you are, Liz! Hey, have you seen my post regarding perfectionism, procrastination, and getting off top dead center? I think you might appreciate it. It’s right ‘cheer: 3 Ways to Kill Procrastination and Actually Get SOMEthing Done!

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…How to Make Your Hobby Pay You More Than Your JobMy Profile

    • kurtf

      Liz! Somehow I missed your comment and a slew of others. In catch-up mode right now, beggin yer forgiveness 🙂

      How long have you been in the business of teaching others to buy diamonds correctly?

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget Part TWOMy Profile

      • Hey Kurt,
        I think you did reply back in July, but just to answer your question, I’ve been helping people choose loose diamonds online for the past 18 months or so. I love helping people choose such a sentimental gift. It is also doubly rewarding when you know you are helping them find value for money in these tough economic times. There are a lot of scams out there, but for those savvy readers that do their homework, they CAN get a gorgeous engagement ring without breaking the bank. Thanks for asking! 🙂
        Liz Hancock recently posted…ODBA Reader From North Carolina – $5K Budget For Engagement RingMy Profile

        • kurtf

          Well yours certainly is a specialized niche, and one that’s truly needed. While vacationing in Puerto Vallarta I was approached by a man wishing to sell me jewelry. I did not have any intent on buying, and as I refused he immediately HALVED his price and even kept trying to drop his price from there to achieve a quick sale.

          It made me distrustful, not only of him but of the whole industry. What were his goods REALLY worth? Who can tell? Would I be a savvy shopper or some kind of clown… a fool and his money soon parted. Ish.

          Thanks for what you do. How did you arrive at your current level of expertise, and how are you now marketing this specialized knowledge of yours? I might have some ideas for you if you’d appreciate brainstorming a bit.

          Keep Stepping,

          kurtf recently posted…Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget Part TWOMy Profile

          • Yes, unfortunately those stories are all too common. It is the classic case of someone taking advantage of the uninformed.

            I sold diamonds in a retail setting many many moons ago and have a D.G.A. from London’s Gemmological Association of Great Britain. I’m American but live in the UK.

            I also have one-on-one relationships with some of the best diamond vendors and cutting houses in the world. 🙂 If you want to keep in touch, please feel free to pm me at: I’d love to chat with you and hear some of your ideas!

          • kurtf


            Next fella (or fellerette) that I know is buying a diamond, I’m sending to you. I’ll be writing about the Ph.D. principle in an upcoming post… it looks like you have followed it to become a very important source of good info for those you serve.

            Keep Stepping!

            kurtf recently posted…Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget: Part THREEMy Profile

  3. Great tips, Kurt. I want to throw in one more from experience. Many wait until they can write their seminal all-about something ebook only to discover that most their buyers were interested in one specific chapter. You can make more money faster by writing and selling individual chapters as smaller ebooks instead.
    Gail Gardner recently posted…Blogging Collaborations and Best PracticesMy Profile

    • Great tips! I can’t wait to try some of your advice! I’ve been flailing for quite awhile now and it’s time to get serious and jump! 🙂

    • kurtf

      Ya know? I probably oughtta take this wisdom you just dropped on my page and do something with it. Rather than tweaking and polishing my coming book, maybe release a chapter at a time. Maybe see what peoples would like enough to pay for.

      Mmmmkay. I’m gonna have to ask you to go ahead and… post some more smartnitude! Taking this one seriously, watch for short eBook soon.

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…Another Case Study: Five Steps to Five FiguresMy Profile

  4. Amazing post Kurt! I have always advocated the same thoughts to a lot of people. Do what you are passionate about. The money will automatically roll in when you are adding value to your customers.
    Sanjay Shenoy recently posted…11 ways email hacks that can increase your productivity dramatically.My Profile

  5. That’s a lot of hustling while “growing up”, Kurt…

    I do agree that it’s possible to turn anything into a business; the problem is:

    1. most folks won’t pass the idea or the startup and we’ll never know what to do from there;

    2. most niche ideas are just too limited. You’d have to run several of them to make it profitable and that’s where the problem lies.
    Ana Hoffman recently posted…Top 10 Domain Name Suggestion Tools: Create a Catchy Domain Name with EaseMy Profile

    • kurtf

      Thanks Ana! Kudos to YOU for growing up in communist Russia, then becoming a voice for freedom and entrepreneurship here in the US of A.

      RE: Your niche comment #2: “most niche ideas are just too limited”. AGREED. That’s why it takes a bit of panning through the dirt to get to the gold dust.

      I recommend that budding entrepreneurs experiment with teeny tiny niches at first because the smaller the niche, the less profit potential, BUT..! The greater the probability and ease with which you can dominate that niche.

      Learning to dominate a teeny tiny niche with low cost comes first; taking those skills you learned to dominate a teeny tiny niche… and then applying them to dominate a more PROFITABLE niche follows.

      Nothing wrong with practicing on something small first, then scaling up your efforts from there. The key is to not deplete your capital, or more importantly, your ENTHUSIASM while searching for the right niche.

      THANK YOU for droppin’ the wisdom Ana! You are always a welcome guest here at SS101.

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…We Need YOU to Ignite Your Passion!My Profile

  6. Great tips! This can be especially helpful for those in between jobs, and those looking to make a major change in their lives. Also, welcome to the Commentluv family! 🙂
    Kristi Hines recently posted…3 Free Online Tools for Customer Insights + Win a Copy of Youtility [GIVEAWAY]My Profile

    • kurtf

      Thanks Kristi. You are right; one of my martial arts Students lost his high-falutin’ Project Manager job at a well known communications firm. He used my Shoestring101 principles to take that big step and start his own Bizness. He began with window cleaning because it was fast cash, but then leveraged and shifted later on into headhunting. Not shabby.

      Major change in your life CAN equal major opportunity… depends on how ya look at it and react to it.

      Thanks again for your thoughts Kristi! Let me buy you a cup o’ Joe… Starbucks card on its way to you at gmail. Best wishes on your hubby’s Kickstarter project BTW!

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…How to Make Your Hobby Pay You More Than Your JobMy Profile

    • kurtf

      Thanky thanky Kristi. I am DIGGIN’ Commentluv. I think it’s your fault, or Ana’s… Anyway, thanks for coming round and commenting. It seems that this blog is finally starting to get legs and it’s largely due to learning blog post promotion from your Ultimate Guide.

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget Part TWOMy Profile

  7. Hi Kurt,

    Its kind of funny because I was at work thinking “Man, how can I get my passive incomes to pay me more than my job” when I got a notification about this post. Looked like a sign to me!

    This is some great advice. Being only 25 I must say what you did when you where my age is quite inspiring. I’m constantly trying to “break free” and a lot of things you said ensures to me that I’m on the right track despite the advice that you gave that I’m yet to take. I will have to bookmark this and visit your site more often.

    Keep up the great work!

    • kurtf

      Music to a blogger’s ears: “I will have to bookmark this and visit your site more often” 😉
      Thanks Bernard. I feel like part of two tribes; the excited entrepreneurs with all that’s available with social media, etc. and at the same time the old fogies that figured out how to market back before ANYone had a cell phone.

      Can you imagine?

      Anyway, I gots a kinship with you young guys because I was a young guy making it happen back in the day. Never, EVER work for anyone else unless it’s part of a bigger plan. For example, go work in a coffee shop if you want to open a coffee shop.

      Thanks for coming to the site Bernard. Any questions you have about starting or growing a Bizness on a Shoestring, I’m your guy. Love to hear from you more.

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…How to Make Your Hobby Pay You More Than Your JobMy Profile

  8. kurtf

    Thanks Ana!
    kurtf recently posted…How to Make Your Hobby Pay You More Than Your JobMy Profile


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