We’ve all got our hobbies—pastimes we dedicate some of our spare hours to because we find them fun or fulfilling.
While we don’t typically get into hobbies to make money, some of them can become a stream of income if you take it seriously enough. Depending on how you direct your talents and interests, you can get anything from free stuff to extra spending money to a full-fledged business where you sell things online—all by doing something you might’ve done anyway.
Here’s a list of 12 common lucrative hobbies that make money, whether it’s through freelancing, becoming an affiliate, building an audience, or starting a business.
12 profitable hobbies that make money
Writing and publishing online has the potential to offer you a lot of practical value outside of being a mere hobby. You can use it to further your career and establish yourself as an expert on a topic. You can build a platform for sharing your ideas. Or you can rent out your skills.
The most obvious way to make money writing is to sell it as a service—freelancing on sites like Upwork or Fiverr or reaching out directly to blogs for paid gigs. Good content writers with niche expertise are usually in demand.
However, if you have the discipline and know how to write a good blog post, you can create your own blog-based business by picking a niche and building an audience over time.
Whether you care about tech or travel or cooking, our guide to starting a blog that you can turn into a business will walk you through what you need to know.
For more inspiration, check out how:
- Best Self Co. used blogging to sell its productivity tools.
- Wait But Why built a business around Tim Urban’s humorous and insightful content.
2. Illustration and design
Like writing, illustration and design are creative money-making hobbies you can do at home on a freelance contract basis. Fiverr, in particular, features many newer artists with a variety of illustration styles. Clients post projects for which they need to hire these skills, whether it’s marketing projects or custom portraits or anything in between.
If you want more control, you can put your art on items—from t-shirts to posters to canvases—and sell those instead. It’s important to understand that to turn your art into a product, you’ll need to cater to a specific market or build a unique brand. The former is usually easier.
Hatecopy is an excellent example of a business that was started by an artist putting their work onto things people can buy.
And you don’t need to front the money for inventory either. Print-on-demand services offer a low-risk way to take advantage of your creative hobbies. You’ll just need to create mockups of your products to list online. Once you make sales and know what designs and creative have the most demand, you can consider investing in your own inventory.
To learn more, check out the following resources:
- How to Start a T-Shirt Business: Everything You Need to Know
- How to Sell Art Online: The Ultimate Guide
For starters, there’s the traditional approach to making and selling music—recording your own songs or albums and selling them on your website or hosting them on a platform like SoundCloud.
You can also create different types of sounds that aren’t full-fledged songs or albums, things like beats or samples. Beats are short hooks composed from different sounds and meant to be a background for a musician, while samples are a portion of a sound recording to reuse elsewhere.
You can list beats on third-party sites that work similarly to stock photo sites. Essentially, people purchase your music to use in their own content. These are typically shorter in length and rely more on instrumentals and less on lyrics. There are a variety of sites where you can list your beats, like Airbit and BeatStars. Airbit paid out $32 million in 2019 to its artists, while BeatStars sellers made an estimated $40 million—double what they earned in 2018.
Samples by Vanity sells samples that artists can remix and splice together to create their own music.
You can make your audio exclusive or non-exclusive. There’s more money to be made when you sell exclusive rights, but you need to produce high-quality work, like SoundOracle. His excellent work has earned him quite the reputation—and his sounds have been featured in more than 20 Grammy Award–winning songs. He sells his beats with both exclusive and non-exclusive rights.
Food has become an art form worthy of taking elaborate pictures and spending the time to perfect the craft. It’s not only amateur chefs who are involved, but people with adventurous palettes looking to explore new tastes.
Cooking is one of the hobbies that make money that you also can share with the world in a variety of ways, from starting a blog, YouTube channel, or Instagram account dedicated to recipes to diving head first into a business by creating your own food or cooking products. Some even hit the road with a food truck business.
According to Google, 59% of 25-to-34-year-olds take their mobile devices into the kitchen, using resources on the internet to find and practice new recipes. There’s definitely a market of DIY chefs looking for content (as well as products) you can create to serve them.
For inspiration, check out:
- Spice Girls: From Hobby to Family Food Business
- The Secret Ingredients to Building a 7-Figure Meal Service Business
- Overdraft: Will His Family’s Food Business Turn into a Recipe for Success?
- How to Start an Online Food Business (guide)
Gardening has seen a spike in popularity as people spend more time at home. It’s a hobby that can make you happier, healthier, and perhaps even richer. Millennials spent $13 billion on plants in a single year.
Leaf & Clay sells succulents, either for a one-time purchase or on a subscription basis.
You can also sell products to help your customers indulge in their own gardening hobbies. Technology seller ēdn introduced an indoor garden to their product line.
If you own a nice camera and know how to use it, you’ve got a few ways to turn photography into one of your hobbies that make money on the side.
While you can become a freelance photographer, this can restrict you to shooting local events and gigs. And when there are no events, there are fewer photography gigs.
For a more scalable side hustle, sell your shots as stock photos or prints. You can also use your photography skills to grow a massive Instagram following and monetize it. You need to pick a niche to serve or a “lifestyle” you want to capture in your photos.
Fun fact: Professional photography accounts are the second-most lucrative on Instagram in terms of how much brands are willing to pay for a sponsored post. And you don’t need hundreds of thousands of followers either.
Check out our guide on how to sell photos online for a more detailed look at how to monetize your photography.
7. DIY crafts
Crafting is another on our list of profitable hobbies that make money. If you enjoy working with your hands, there are plenty of things to make and sell: candles, bath bombs, jewelry, soap, and more. This is a $40-billion industry waiting for your next idea.
“Handmade” communicates a certain quality, care, and uniqueness that department store alternatives often don’t offer. You can test the market for your products by selling them on a smaller scale to friends, family, or on Etsy, and think about scaling into a full-fledged business as you rack up customers.
If the idea of crafting the goods yourself isn’t striking a chord, you can also sell products that allow customers to flex their own maker muscles at home. Create DIY kits for fun projects, like FlowerMoxie’s DIY bridal bouquets. Or, tap into the home improvement industry—between 2018 and 2019, home improvement spending increased 17%.
Here are a few more inspiring stories about DIY businesses and resources to show you how it can be done:
- Growing a Handmade Brand: One Family’s Journey from Etsy to Shopify
- Etsy and Shopify: How Three Makers Used Both to Grow Their Businesses
- Why JM&Sons Launched Their Furniture Business Out of a Shipping Container
- Etsy Alternatives: 8 Online Marketplaces and Website Builders for Makers
- Craft Your Own Future: 10 DIY Business Ideas You Can Start From Home
Are you good at making people laugh? Do you know what the hottest memes are right now? Why not take that sense of humor and use it to build an audience on the internet? Comedy is one of the more creative ways to make money on this list.
You can probably think of several Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter accounts that amassed large audiences simply by curating memes and viral videos or tapping into a niche of humor that no one else was serving. Who knew all those hours scrolling your social feeds would be one of the hobbies that make money?
Once you have an audience, you can partner with brands to do sponsored posts or turn your best running jokes into t-shirts and other products.
Examples of this include:
Selling coffee online is a great way to turn a common hobby into a business idea. Globally, people drink more than 400 billion cups of coffee every year, fueling an industry worth $60 billion annually. And as coffee drinkers have become accustomed to brewing their caffeine fix at home, it’s a prime time to capitalize on this opportunity. If coffee is one of your own passions, it could be next on your list of lucrative hobbies.
Whether you enjoy the hunt for the perfect bean, creating a perfectly frothed cappuccino, or just sitting down to your morning cup with a book, coffee drinkers can take this business idea in a number of directions.
Globe-trotting creatives Jeff Campagna and Tania LaCaria found that coffee mixed well with one of their other passions: motorcycle travel. They opened up their own bike garage, Steeltown Garage Co., complete with coffee shop and merch for sale, and they’re cultivating a whole community through their hobby-based business.
Check these out for more inspiration for your coffee biz:
- How a Coffee Obsession Became a Business That’s Doubling in Growth Every Year
- They’re Making Fair Trade Coffee a Bit Fairer
- Overdraft: How This Army Vet Fought His Way out of a Financial Ambush
Memberships are a great business model because they set you up for recurring revenue—often automatically withdrawn from your customers’ chosen method of payment. These businesses work by charging customers a recurring fee in exchange for products and/or services.
Here’s where the hobby aspect comes into play: memberships can be based on almost anything, in almost any niche. Gardeners might look to the California Native Plant Society for inspiration. Its memberships grant buyers access to educational content, events, and discounts with partnering businesses.
Danielle Spurge turned her crafting hobby into a full-blown business. Now, her company, The Merriweather Council, sells memberships to help entrepreneurial makers leverage their talents to create sustainable craft-based businesses of their own.
The possibilities are quite literally endless here—you just need a hobby and some imagination to get the ideas rolling for your own membership-based business.
11. Brewing beer
Homebrewing, or making your own beer at home, is next on our list of money-making home-based hobbies. More than a million Americans have brewed their own beer at home, and it’s trending upward. In 2018 alone, the global homebrew market was worth an estimated $12 million.
If you love sampling or making craft brews, there could be a viable business opportunity there. Brooklyn Brew Shop sells homebrew kits and accessories so its customers can enjoy the hobby themselves.
If you want to go this route, make sure you brush up on the legal requirements in your local jurisdiction. Alcohol products come with extra restrictions and regulations—and not being privy to that can end up costing you big time.
You might be skeptical about the notion of gaming being one of the hobbies you can make money with from home. But if there’s a pattern in this list, it’s that if you can get people to pay attention to you, you can potentially turn it into a profit.
In this case, it’s the rise of the “Let’s Play” video format that has enabled us to make money online via gaming, in particular live-streaming on Twitch. Just like learning how to make money on YouTube, you can monetize gaming by sharing ad revenue. But there’s also the potential to get one-time and subscription donations from a large community of viewers. This means the amount you earn through live streaming will vary greatly, but that it’s relatively easy to start at least making residual income.
While the amount of commitment you need to make a significant income might turn gaming into work for you, you can still have fun with it if you choose to stream a game you love, are good at it, and bring your personality to the table.
Gaming is a fast-growing industry with a lot of passion behind it. If you’re an avid gamer who understands the needs of the market, you already have an advantage as an entrepreneur in this space.
You can consider building a business of your own to cater to the needs and interests of gamers, like how:
- PC Gaming Race speaks to the superiority of PC gamers.
- Corey Ferreira sold gaming glasses inspired by his own gaming needs.
How to make money from a hobby
To start a business based off your hobby, you’ll need to take the following steps:
- Validate your business idea: Do some market research to make sure there’s demand for your offering.
- Find a business name: Give your business a unique identity.
- Make a plan: A business plan will keep you on track to meet your goals.
- Understand business finances: Set up business accounts, funding sources, and other money matters.
- Develop your product or service: This is where you turn your hobby-inspired offering into something customers are willing to pay for.
- Pick a business structure: Legitimize your business and protect your personal assets.
- Research licenses and regulations: Ensure you’re conducting business lawfully.
- Select your software systems: Build your website, set up accounting software, and get the rest of your tech stack up and running.
- Find a business location: Determine where you can operate your business, whether it be from home or somewhere else.
- Plan workload and team size: Bootstrap or hire help, depending on your plans.
- Launch your business: Let the world know!
When you make money from a hobby
When you start making sales, you’ll need to keep track of the cash coming in and the money going out. This makes tax time easier, simplifies the process in case of an audit, and protects your personal assets. Additionally, it helps you ensure your business stays profitable. It’s a good idea to get set up with an accounting software to manage your books.
Make money from your paid hobbies
I enjoy writing, so I started a side hustle as a freelance writer to earn extra cash in school. I also like to dabble in dance, so I started a Shopify store dropshipping LED shoes for dancers.
In many cases, when it comes to our side hustles, it’s the things we tend to do for free and for fun that hint at the kinds of businesses we can pursue using our own passion and interest as fuel.
So if you have the urge to start something but don’t know where to start, ask yourself what you’re good at or already know about.
What do you already do in your spare time that could turn into something more?
Header image via Getty Images