If you’re good at something, never do it for free. Sure, that’s a Joker line from The Dark Knight, but don’t let the homicidal nature of the speaker detract from the reason of the message. How many of your favorite musicians or artists work — or worked — entirely for free? Not many, I assume (and it seems a safe assumption).
It’s true that people often pursue their passions simply because they’re driven to, and that they sometimes want to keep money out of the equation because they fear that it’ll sully their enthusiasm. But it doesn’t have to. You can look to get something in return for your efforts without radically changing how you view your favorite hobby.
Diversification of Revenue is Vital
If you’re looking for impetus to give it a try, just consider the state of the world in 2020. If you’ve been able to keep your job following the COVID-19 outbreak, you’ve been very fortunate, but stability is still far from guaranteed. Do you really want to rely on conventional employment as your sole source of income? Diversification of revenue is vital for safety.
And given how much free time people have had due to the absence of commuting and the inability to engage in conventional social activities, the past months have seen the cultivation of many new passions and the resurgence of many more. You’ve probably put a fair amount of time into some kind of hobby — and if it can be monetized, then it might as well be.
In this article, then, we’re going to look at six core tips for monetizing your passion in the midst of all this worldwide drama. Get it right and you can carry on pursuing your hobby while also bringing in some convenient cash (and protecting your finances in the process). Let’s begin:
#1. Cultivate a Brand that Deserves Support
Culvate a brand? Do you really need such a thing if you’re merely considering seeking financial support for your hobby? The answer is… immaterial. Whether you need or even want a brand, you’ll have one. It’ll be the collection of thoughts and opinions people form about you, if only as an online personality. If you have online followers, then you already have a personal brand.
Online business these days can’t often be reduced to simple exchanges of comparable value. Having a great product that people consider worthwhile probably won’t be enough to convince them. You’ll also need to persuade them that you’re worth supporting. That the money they put towards your brand is not just warranted but also deserved.
Think about how easily a brand can be involved in a social media scandal at this point. It can be the biggest company in its niche, with the best products and the best prices, yet still suffer mightily at the hands of social condemnation. On the other side of a coin, someone new to the online business world can pick up a lot of recommendations through being laudable and carrying out excellent social media marketing work.
#2. Equip Your Blog with Monetization Options
You don’t need to stop at monetizing products or services: you can also monetize value you’re offering through your blog content. Assuming you maintain a high-quality blog (and you certainly should), you can take the direct route of asking your readers for financial support. There are two solid approaches to try, and which one you should go for will depend on your situation:
Encourage One-off Donations.
There are various plugins out there that can add donation buttons to blog posts (ThemeIsle has a good guide to implementing the PayPal Donations plugin for WordPress). Throw in some suggested amounts to allow people to easily decade how much they want to contribute — and if you can come up with something to offer the bigger contributors, mention it as an incentive.
Promote a Patreon Account
Getting Patreon support means having a secondary monthly income that’s mostly reliable (you’ll gain and lose supporters over time, but as long as the number stays fairly stable, you’ll have a certain amount coming in each month). Having a worthwhile Patreon account is tough, though, so only take this route if you’re confident that you can keep offering enough to make a subscription worthwhile.
Include Affiliate Links
In addition to taking donations, you can also make money from your blog posts by including affiliate marketing links. Affiliate marketing allows you to make money from people clicking on monetized links in your content, and you only need one plugin to implement it: a plugin called VigLink. Here’s a guide to getting it up and running.
There may be plenty of ways to make money from a hobby, but in the end you’ll be surprised by how many people will be willing to offer you money for nothing specific in return (provided you’re able to earn their support through your brand and personality, naturally).
#3. Start Selling Branded Merchandise
Another way for your followers to show support is to buy and wear branded merchandise. Don’t have any? Well, that’s easy enough to change. The online world is full of viable print-on-demand services that will produce and ship custom items of clothing and other pieces of merchandise: you don’t need to stock or package anything, just set up the store and let it run.
The only part you need to put thought into is the branding, but that can be as simple as putting your logo on some hats and T-shirts. If you don’t have much digital editing expertise, well, you don’t need it: alongside some Photoshop templates, the Shopify blog has links to various print-on-demand services with drag-and-drop mockup creators.
You can pick your preferred service, set up a store (doesn’t need to be Shopify in particular, they’ll all work with most mainstream platforms), showcase some custom designs, and see how your followers receive them. Even if a handful of people buy hats from you, that’s additional income, and wearing those hats around will help your brand grow.
#4. Offer Instructional Online Courses
In addition to being enthusiastic about your passion, you’re probably also knowledgeable. You might not be a foremost expert in the industry, sure, but you’ll surely know a huge amount more than beginners — and you can take advantage of that knowledge to make some money. Consider that the best tutors out there aren’t necessarily the most well-read: they’re often the people who are the best at making the material accessible.
If you’re so inclined, you can create and release some instructional online courses, taking people through what they need to do if they want to learn more about your hobby. LearnWorlds has a comprehensive guide to creating such a course. People like to hear from their peers, and there’s something nice about being steered through a new hobby by a fellow enthusiast — particularly if they come across as affable and helpful.
What format should your courses take? Well, while you could (and perhaps should) write some comprehensive guides, the most economical way to proceed is to record instructional videos. That way, you can prepare all the scripts, record the instructional videos quickly, bundle the videos into series on particular topics, and sell access to those series.
#5. Get Comfortable with Being Proactive
Everything we’ve looked at so far can be approached in a very passive way: simply setting up the monetization routes and leaving them there so people can consider them at their leisure. If you’re going to bother with it, though, you should make a real effort to be proactive in pushing people to buy whatever you’re selling and/or donate to your blog (blogging itself takes a lot of hard work, so you should be familiar with the basics).
You might not be very comfortable with that part, and that’s understandable. Trying to actively sell something can feel manipulative or even seedy somehow. But if you’re offering real value for whatever money you’re requesting — solid products, informative courses, and/or blog posts that entertain and educate — then you shouldn’t feel awkward being promotional.
The more proactive you can be, the more you can build your brand, and the more business relationships you can form. If you can find some other blogs that don’t compete with yours but have similar audiences, you can ask them to mention your blog (and mention theirs in return). It’s one of the most basic win-wins in online marketing.
#6. View the Monetary Reward as a Bonus
Lastly, however much money you think you could make from monetizing your passion, the best way to proceed is to view the money as a bonus instead of a primary goal. There’s every chance that you won’t get that much interest for whatever you offer in return for money, and if you focus on the money then you might end up losing your enthusiasm for your hobby.
If you view the money as a bonus, then you can put monetization options in place and return to doing what you were doing before you even thought of it (outside of the aforementioned marketing work). If people go for what you’re selling, you’ll make some money. If they don’t, you can just continue as normal, and your passion will remain undimmed.
There’s a chance that people will be so interested in your monetization that you’ll make a strong profit very quickly. If that happens, you’ll have the option of trying to make it your primary business, though that move could significantly reduce your overall enjoyment of it (and you’d need to carefully avoid trying to grow too quickly). If you find zero interest, well, you can either ramp up your efforts or abandon them. That will depend on how important the extra income is to you, and how confident you are that there’s potential.
Monetizing Your Passion – Wrapping Up
Monetizing a hobby about which you’re extremely passionate can work very well, but it certainly isn’t easy. Use these tips to figure out what approach you want to take and how far you intend to take your fledgling side business.
Do you have a passion or hobby that you’d like to monetize? Or are you already monetizing your passion? Tell us about in the comments.