Many of us toil away at 9-to-5 jobs while harboring a deep, abiding passion for a field that may be completely different than our vocational industry. Think of the archetypes: the aspiring actor waiting tables until his big break, the big-time CEO who dreams of moving to a country retreat and writing her long-gestated novel.
Here are 10 ideas for turning your hobby into a viable career or at least reimagining it.
With some creative thinking, it’s possible to calibrate your present profession to your hobby. A 2012 Forbes article references the advice of career coach Nancy Collamer, who relates the story of a business specialist with a penchant for magic who ended up teaching marketing to magicians. (1). There are other possibilities, too. A businessperson with a love for music, say, could take the bold step of managing musicians or working for a concert venue.
2. Teach Your Hobby
You may be a skilled cartoonist or poet who nonetheless is having trouble directly selling your work. Perhaps a more fruitful route would be to train others in your avocation. Advertise guitar lessons online or around town.
Contact your local community center to find out whether they need a tennis instructor or a shop teacher.
Sometimes a little initiative can really pay off. If you’re interesting in turning your hobby into a money-making proposition, maybe you can try directly incorporating it into your current employment picture.
If you work at a company and love to write, perhaps you can speak with your higher-ups to explore the possibility of shifting positions in the workplace or incorporating writing tasks, such as P.R. efforts or white-paper composition, into your job description.
Sometimes this is a dead-end road, but it’s certainly worth a shot. If nothing else, your employer will probably admire your ambition.
Of course, an age-old strategy for monetizing your avocation is selling your products. Whether you’re a knitting addict or a weekend furniture-maker, you can always try hawking your wares.
These days, the opportunities for finding customers extend far beyond the local neighborhood: Use the Internet to your advantage and try to stake out a niche for your creations.
Speaking of the virtual world, creating a website, blog, or multifaceted social-media presence advertising your interests and abilities is always a good idea. This doesn’t just mean commercially marketing products, either.
You might simply start chronicling your effort to make a career from your hobby, trying to build interest and an audience. You could pursue advertising to generate income, or use the online soapbox to connect with investors, publishers, agents, etc.
6. Invest in Training & Networking
Too many hobbyists make the error of assuming the quality of their abilities alone will someday attract enough attention to forge a lucrative career. Most of the time, you really need to put yourself out there to better position yourself.
This might mean an upfront investment of time and money to further your education. Taking night classes in G.I.S. or some other widely useful technology or skill might cram your schedule, but the accreditation you end up with could really heighten your profile.
Networking, too, can be enormously beneficial. Actively seek out and attend seminars and conferences related to your interest. You never know when or how the connections you make at such events might pay off down the road.
Another pitfall for anyone staging a career change is inadequate planning. Capitalizing on raw passion is great, but you also want to make sure you’re covering your bases. As Becky Striepe notes in a “HowStuffWorks” piece, harnessing your entrepreneurial ambitions means crafting a solid business plan (2).
Crunch the numbers to find out how much money you’ll need for initial costs, living expenses, retirement savings all those cold, hard realities you’ve never had to saddle your beloved hobby with.
8. Pick the Brains of Those With Your Dream Job
A simple strategy for exploring your hobby-to-career options that’s often overlooked is talking to somebody who has your dream job. Always nurtured a deep love of animals? Touch base with an area zookeeper, veterinarian, or wildlife biologist: Learn about the roadmap they followed and solicit their advice.
It may be prohibitively difficult or downright impossible to completely transform your hobby into a full-fledged career, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come close. Consider a position in the same general field as your passion: Maybe being a doctor is out of your reach, but you might be able to land an assistant or managerial role at a doctor’s office. Stay open-minded.
10. Caveat: Keeping Your Hobby a Hobby
This final tip is meant as a little food for thought more than anything else. Before investing a lot of effort into switching your career to pursue a lifelong avocation, consider whether keeping your hobby a hobby might not be the more fulfilling choice.
Sometimes turning your passion into a business kills it: Instead of blissfully doing something for your own enjoyment, now you’re involving money and all that goes with it.
Remember: If you paint, you’re a painter even if you don’t make any income from it. Whether you choose to try to make money from your hobby or not, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is preserving that hobby whether it’s flying a plane or writing screenplays as something you love and are energized by. A pursuit that gives you joy and engages your heart and mind is invaluable, no matter the paycheck (or lack thereof) that comes from it.