Friday, May 23, 2008

Making Money From Hobbies

I talk a lot about taking a hobby and viewing it as a business. Life is just too short to spend it doing something that you don’t actually like. Why should we spend our entire lives working at something that makes us miserable, only to do our actual *living* at the end of our time? What happens if we get hit by a bus the day after we retire? Isn’t that a waste?

However, it often isn’t realistic to give up your job as a merchant banker and expect to make the same amount of money as a professional stamp collector. The key is to start small and start looking at, and treating your hobby as a source of money which you enjoy earning. It can be a revelation to realise that you don’t have to be guilty about doing things you love, and that if you are good at it, often people will pay you for it!

For me, the thing that I love to do more than anything is making music. I love impromptu music and music made with friends, just for the love of it. I adore the sound of my voice rising from a group in harmony and the feeling of strings under my fingers. The bits that I don’t like *quite* so much are the bits that involve promoting myself and phoning around for gigs. which is where busking comes in. I sat down and looked at what I liked and didn’t like about making music:


  • Singing, particularly harmony
  • Making people smile
  • Improvisation
  • Playing with friends
  • Being to stop and start whenever I want
  • Laughing
  • Being able to swap between instruments and voices


  • Hostile audiences (the “go on, entertain me then!” attitude)
  • Phoning around for gigs
  • Schmoozing before and after gigs
  • Gigging when I feel ill, depressed or simply not in the mood
  • Having to find babysitters constantly
  • Losing weekend evenings.

When I looked at my hobby like this, I realised that busking was a way of bringing in money that I would really enjoy. It took advantage of all the things that I loved, but minimised all the things that I didn’t.

Why not look at your hobbies/existing job in the same way? Look at the things that you love and the things that you don’t, and start to work on maximising the first whilst minimising the second. It isn’t always going to be possible to make your fortune straight away with a hobby, but the way I look at extra earning is this: if I do something I enjoy, I don’t begrudge the time spent. If I earn a small amount of money, I ask myself whether, if I found that amount of money lying in the street, would I bother to pick it up and then consider myself lucky? If the answer is “yes”, then it’s been time well spent. And with busking (as with almost all other hobby businesses) every time I go out, I learn something different that allows me to make a little more money. Last time I went out, my partner and I tried a different position. It worked brilliantly, and earned us more money. Every time is an improvement, and enables us to work more efficiently and earn more effectively.

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