Do you wish you could make money off your hobby, but believe — probably because people around you have told you so — that it’s impossible?
The truth is, it IS possible to make money as a photographer. Or a writer. Or a crafter. Or whatever you enjoy doing.
You just have to put on your entrepreneurial hat and start thinking about that hobby in a different light.
Here are five steps for moving toward making money doing something you actually enjoy:
Put on your money shades.
Try looking at your hobby in a different light.
People might not pay you for exactly what you’re creating now, but you might be able to create a similar product or use your skills in a slightly different way, one that’s more marketable.
One people will pay for.
For example, perhaps not many people will buy your beautiful flower photographs, but they might pay you to take portraits of their children or photograph their wedding.
You might not be able to earn a paycheck by writing poetry, but small businesses are probably willing to hire you to write creative copy for their website.
There’s likely some marketable angle to your hobby, you just have to recognize it.
Once you’ve identified how your hobby could actually make money, you have to be willing to practice your skill in that way.
This is not about selling out; it’s about figuring out how to make a living doing what you love.
You might have to shoot weddings once in a while — even if that’s not your ideal gig — to subsidize your true love of photographing flowers.
And while you make money shooting weddings, improving your skills and growing your network in the process, you can work toward finding or creating an audience for your flower photographs.
Just because you’re making a living from your hobby doesn’t mean you’ll love every second of the job. Be flexible and give a little, and you’ll get a lot back.
Be willing to sell.
To succeed, you’ll have to learn to sell your products… and yourself.
If you’re not willing to do that, you can give up on this dream straightaway.
Many of us don’t enjoy selling — especially those of us who consider ourselves creatives — but it’s an absolutely vital component to making a living off your hobby. No one is going to do this for you.
So buck up, and get over it.
Learn to sell yourself. And stop feeling guilty!
As long as you don’t sell in an in-your-face way, no one is going to hate you for trying to make money.
In fact, they might actually admire you for thinking a little differently.
We all have to make a living, and most people understand and respect that. Learn to shrug off the haters who don’t.
Get out there and promote.
If no one knows about you or your product, no one will pay for what you have to offer.
That means you’ll probably have to spend more time on promotion than you’d expect.
One of the most popular, new-age ways to promote yourself in a subtle, not-annoying way is by growing a blog.
Blogging lets you show your value in a way that’s helpful, so people actually want to pay you for whatever you offer, without you having to beg them.
Even better, when you provide great value online, it will spread quickly because blog posts are easy to share, and you’ll benefit from search engine traffic, too.
If you’re blogging to turn your hobby into a living, don’t make the mistake of hosting your blog on a site that’s different from where you’re selling.
Sell in the same place where you offer free information, so people who come to your blog via search or social sharing will also see your paid work and hopefully convert into buyers.
Here’s an example of just how vital promotion is: My ebooks and courses are always available on my site, but I sell far more when I put effort into promotion.
One way I subtly promote is by writing guest posts (like this one!) for other sites, offering as much free and helpful information as possible.
Readers recognize that I know what I’m talking about, and some click through to my site to discover more free information.
Some of those readers convert into members of my community and eventually — maybe immediately, maybe over time — buyers.
No matter how great you or your product are, people can’t pay you unless they know about you.
Figure out how to scale.
The trouble with a lot of hobbies is they aren’t easily scalable.
If you’re creating quilts, you’re only one person and you can only sew so much. So the challenge becomes: how can you make more money over time?
Maybe you can teach other people to do certain parts of the job, so you can complete more quilts without sacrificing quality (aka outsourcing!).
For my business, I’ve grown a team of people to help me (not employees, but loyal contractors), so I can take on more clients while continuing to deliver high-quality work.
It can be difficult initially to figure out what someone else can do for you, because when it comes to a passion project, we often want to do everything ourselves.
But if you push yourself a little, you’ll likely identify ways other great people can help, so you can grow.
If you absolutely can’t figure out how to scale, aim to charge more for your services over time.
Spending more time on promotion will help you achieve this goal, because the more you and your work are in demand, the more you can increase your prices.
So don’t tell yourself it’s impossible to make money from your hobby. It’s not unrealistic to want to love your job — you just have to be creative about how you bring in the cash.
Alexis Grant is an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist. For more straight-talk advice about making a living doing something you enjoy, sign up for Alexis’ newsletter.