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, 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 and 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.
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.
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.