Everyone needs time to unwind, but not every hobby has to be expensive. Many hobbies are virtually free, and some can even pay you money.
Whether you’ve already thought about monetizing a hobby or the idea is brand-new to you, it can be a fun, low-stress way to inject some extra income into your household budget. Here are 31 hobbies that can put money back into your pocket, rather than taking it away from you.
Hobby Ideas to Make Money From
Do you enjoy knitting, sewing, jewelry making, or otherwise creating things? If what you love making is something useful, chances are someone out there would love to use it.
Check out Etsy, the giant online marketplace for largely homemade crafts, clothes, jewelry, and other personal items. With nearly 2 million active sellers and 36 million active buyers, it’s an enormous market. Here’s what you need to know to start an online crafts business on Etsy and turn your crafting hobby into a revenue-generating business.
2. Adventure Tour-Guiding
If you love whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, or any other type of adventure trips, you know how expensive they can be – unless, of course, you’re the one hosting them.
Experienced adventurers who serve as tour guides get their adventure travel for free and get paid to do what they love. And you don’t have to be a pro to do it; you can inquire among adventure companies about entry-level opportunities. You might at least get your trip for free by helping with meal preparation, logistics, or other support.
There are also plenty of full-time adventure jobs out there if the idea of one more day in a cubicle is too much for you to bear. Try CoolWorks and AdventureIndustryPro as starting points.
3. Personal Shopping
A shopping habit can cost you dearly. Fortunately, for some people, shopping is less about walking away with goods in hand than it is about the experience. If you love the process of shopping, consider becoming a personal shopper for clients with plenty of money but little free time.
Start by getting your foot in the door however you can. One option is working underneath an established personal shopper for a spell. You can research personal shoppers in your area on Thumbtack.
Alternatively, you could intern or work for industry magazines or websites such as Cosmopolitan or InStyle to differentiate yourself from other enthusiastic-but-inexperienced amateurs.
4. Mystery Shopping
Retail companies need objective feedback about how clean their stores are, how friendly and professional their staff is, and how the shopping experience is from start to finish. In other words, they need undercover shoppers. If you love shopping but don’t want to jump through all the hoops to become a personal shopper, mystery shopping can be a fun, more relaxed alternative.
Be careful, though, as there are plenty of mystery shopper scams out there. Watch for any alleged opportunities that require you to pay to join or see a list of gigs. When you look for mystery shopping jobs, make sure the organization is a member of the MSPA.
5. Coaching, Refereeing, or Umpiring
Leagues ranging from tiny tykes’ tee-ball all the way to professional sports need referees, umpires, and coaches. As the level of professionalism and pressure mount, so does the pay. At the college and pro levels, referees can earn a full-time living. Some high-school coaches earn full-time wages as well.
Ask around local schools’ athletic organizations to get started. With no experience, expect to begin at the more junior levels. If you don’t love kids, adult club leagues need referees too. You won’t earn big bucks, but it’s a chance to be around a sport you love while getting paid for it.
6. Art Instruction
From painting to pottery, poetry to performance theater, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in the local arts community and make a little extra money. You can teach private lessons or participate in a larger organization, such as a local art school or studio that offers classes to the public.
You may need to start by volunteering to gain more experience and connections in your local arts community. The more people you know in this circle, the more likely you’ll be to succeed in monetizing the arts as a hobby.
7. Teaching Music
Music lessons pay well on an hourly basis and give you the freedom to set your own schedule. You can also pick and choose clients and only work with the age group you like. That includes adults if you don’t love the idea of working with children.
Start networking with full-time music teachers at schools, who can serve as excellent referral sources. You can also advertise on local classifieds websites and in local newspapers. Your first few clients will be the most difficult to obtain, but as you establish a client base, word of mouth will help you grow with less effort.
As with many other ideas on this list, if you intend to create a side business, make sure you create a comprehensive business plan.
8. Performing Music
Not everyone who loves music loves teaching. If you love simply playing or performing, you have plenty of options. You can become a studio musician to earn some extra cash on the side. You can perform at bars, weddings, and other public venues. You can even perform on the sidewalk as a street musician; you’ll get to play music, be outside, and bring in a few bucks to boot.
Just because you won’t become the next Bono, that doesn’t mean you can’t play music and get paid for it.
9. Teaching Wine Appreciation
For some people, wine isn’t just something they enjoy, but a true hobby. I’m one of those people. A few years back, I became certified by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), more for fun than anything else. I enjoyed taking the course, and I routinely attend paid wine tastings to try different wines and hear an expert talk about them.
In other words, people pay to learn about wine. That means there’s an opportunity for someone to pay you to share your knowledge about wine. Accruing a certification or two can help establish your expertise, but it’s not strictly necessary.
If you have experience with marketing or event planning, then putting together wine tastings for the public can be a fun way to make a little extra money while getting to talk about – and drink – wine.
You can also work part-time with a local winery, wine shop, wine distributor, or promoter. My sister worked for a local winery for fun and some extra spending money, and she received the added perk of a deep discount when buying their wines.
10. Brewing Beer & Mead
Before I moved to Abu Dhabi, where fermenting alcohol is illegal, I enjoyed brewing beer and mead. It never made me a profit, but it was a fun hobby that saved me a little cash I otherwise would have spent on buying pricey craft beers. It was also a fun social activity for me, as several friends of mine were also into brewing beer. Instead of going out on a Saturday and spending money, we brewed beer in the backyard.
Most microbreweries start this way – a few friends brewing as a hobby. If people love drinking your beer, it can evolve into a fun small business. But even if you never open a microbrewery, you can still earn some cash. I knew a guy who made beer for weddings. The bride and groom would tell him their favorite styles of beer, any modifications they wanted, and he would brew custom batches for them. He never got rich doing this, but he sure had fun with it. I’ve also seen people sell homemade mead at farmers’ markets or barter it for other homemade products.
Speaking of farmers’ markets, many people are willing to pay a premium for local honey. I have friends who keep bees, and they have a great time with it. There are some startup costs to buy equipment and a hive, but there’s nothing like the taste of honey you produced yourself.
12. Growing Your Own Food
Have a large backyard? Start a vegetable garden, raise chickens, or plant some fruit trees. If you don’t have much land, you can get involved with community gardens and share plots with neighbors who have similarly green thumbs.
You can simply eat the food yourself and save money on groceries, or sell it at a local farmers’ market to bring in some extra cash. If you produce more than you can eat but don’t want to set up a stand at a farmers’ market, you can barter it for other privately grown food or pass it along to someone with a farmers’ market stand for a share of the proceeds.
13. Gardening & Landscaping
Some people love being out in the sun working in a garden or landscaping. If you’re one of them, and you can’t get enough of it even after your yard is perfect, you can offer your services to neighbors and strangers for a profit.
The arrangement can be as formal or informal as you like. From doing a little extra for your neighbors in exchange for a thank-you gift to starting a landscaping and gardening side business, you can set your own terms.
14. Teaching Cooking Classes
Do you know your way around the kitchen? You may be surprised by how many people don’t. You don’t have to be an expert chef to teach cooking; all you have to know is more than your students do.
Cooking classes are a fun, informal way to bring people together, do some hands-on cooking, and maybe have a glass of wine or two. You could even teach people how to pair wine with food. If you’re comfortable with online marketing, you could also teach online classes, whether that’s a one-time live event or a full course.
A simple way to start is by organizing a class for your friends and acquaintances and inviting them to bring anyone they know who’s interested in cooking. As you scale up, you can experiment with local Facebook ads and marketing channels such as bulletin boards and circulars.
15. Preparing Meals for Others
If teaching isn’t your speed, and you’d rather cook by yourself, you can earn money by cooking prepared meals for others.
My ex-girlfriend loved cooking. We broke up on mostly amicable terms, and I moved in with two guy friends. At the time, none of us knew how to cook, and food around the house consisted mostly of frozen Qdoba burritos. So we negotiated a deal with my ex. Every Monday night, she showed up with bags of Tupperware, each crammed with food for the week. We got to eat real, homemade food, and she got to earn money doing something she loved.
You don’t need a hungry ex-boyfriend to make this work. You can advertise on local bulletin boards and classifieds, such as offering healthy prepared meals on the bulletin boards at local gyms. You can also ask around among all the single people you know and all the people they know.
Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only food sold at farmers’ markets. Many shoppers skip the veggies and gravitate straight to the baked goods.
Also, many mom-and-pop coffee shops sell baked goods. They can buy them from some anonymous corporate bakery, but selling locally baked, organic, homemade baked goods often fits their image better. In the funky neighborhood of Fells Point where I lived in Baltimore for many years, my favorite coffee shop was owned by a woman who loved to bake. She found that she loved baking more than she loved running a coffee shop, so she sold the shop and continued to bake for the new owner.
Even bakeries sometimes supplement their stock with niche goods. For example, if a bakery makes excellent muffins and bagels but doesn’t make scones, they may be open to selling yours.
These days, it’s easier than ever to take stunning photos. While that means there’s more competition from other aspiring photographers, it also means that anyone can sell their photos online.
If you’re taking beautiful photos for fun, why not offer them for sale online? There are dozens of stock photography websites, such as Shutterstock and iStock, that will pay you a royalty when someone buys your photos. All you have to do is load the photos into their databases. Just be sure to copyright your digital property, tag each photo extensively, and, of course, make sure your photos have commercial appeal.
Selling photos online isn’t your only option to make money as a photographer; wedding photographers earn good money, and real estate agents often need help with professional photographs of their properties. There are a dozen other niches in the photography world, including portrait photography, glamour and boudoir photography, and engagement photography.
18. Pet-Sitting & Walking
If you love pets – whether you have your own or not – why not take care of other people’s pets for money? Many of your neighbors may want their dogs walked while they’re at work. If you have to walk your dog anyway, or you’d be happy for the excuse to get some exercise, you can offer to take their dogs out for a small fee.
Similarly, many pet owners don’t like the idea of leaving their pets in a kennel while they’re traveling. Many will pay you to take in their pets while they’re out of town or to stay in their house with their pets. You can even travel for free this way!
Check out TrustedHousesitters and House Sitters America to browse listings for places you can stay for free in exchange for watching a homeowner’s house and pets. To board pets in your own home, visit Rover and Care.com.
19. Being a Party Magician
Who doesn’t love a good magic trick?
If you’ve always enjoyed performing sleight of hand, do your tricks in front of an audience. You can show up for kids’ birthday parties for an hour, do some tricks, tell a few family-friendly jokes, and then skedaddle with cash in hand. And no, you don’t need to dress as a clown.
For the magicians who don’t love kids, there are bar shows and restaurants that may allow you to go from table to table entertaining guests. These gigs tend to earn you a drink or meal on the house as an extra perk.
20. Business Writing
Many aspiring freelance writers jump to the idea of blogging, but businesses need more than just articles and blog entries. They need sales copy, marketing communications, white papers, email funnels, and a dozen other types of writing. Many businesses need technical or scientific writers.
As a writer, you can typically work on your own schedule from anywhere in the world. I spend 10 months out of the year overseas.
Start by browsing freelance writing boards like BloggingPro, Freelance Writing Jobs, or the freelance section of boards like MediaBistro.
21. Starting a Blog, Vlog, or Podcast
There’s an audience for every hobby. If you’re into upside-down hula-hooping, there are other passionate upside-down hula-hoopers out there who love nothing more than reading about the latest techniques. Whatever your passion, you may be able to make some money by sharing it with the world on a blog.
There are many ways to monetize a blog, from affiliate links to advertising to selling products and services. But it begins with painstakingly creating an audience, which in turn begins with putting your ideas in writing and sharing them with the world. Blogging takes consistency and dedication. It also takes honesty; the more of yourself you share, the more people will relate.
Bear in mind that you don’t have to use writing as your medium. If you’d rather speak than write, you can start a podcast or vlog (video blog) instead.
22. Video Production
Just as businesses need plenty of written copy, they increasingly need video content. This could be in the form of advertisements, educational or marketing videos, or attempts at viral videos. If you know how to create videos efficiently and effectively, then you can offer your services on a project basis to employers.
It will likely take some effort to get your first few freelance clients. But as your client base and body of work grow, you’ll find yourself doing less marketing-related work and more of what you love: producing great videos.
To get started, check out the job board at ProductionHUB or freelance websites like Freelancer, Upwork, and Fiverr.
23. Video Editing
Not everyone is a wizard with a camera. If you know how to edit videos, you can do a brisk business for indie filmmakers, companies, advertising agencies, and anyone else who needs quick, professional video editing. Online marketplaces such as Fiverr and Upwork make this kind of freelance and project work easier than ever.
24. Antiquing & Garage Sale Flipping
If you know your antiques and vintage goods, this can be a lucrative side hustle. People have been successfully selling “old stuff” on eBay for 20 years by scouring garage sales and estate sales on the weekends and looking for hidden gems. Most people have no sense for which vintage items are valuable and which are junk, so they sell them for pennies, sometimes literally.
With that said, this can be a grind. Even with a big markup, most items don’t sell for large sums, so it’s a volume-based business for most amateurs. I had a college friend who flipped garage sale items, and she typically bought an item for a few dollars and sold it on eBay for $10 to $30. Occasionally, she had a big score, but it was mostly a volume grind. However, she was able to pay her bills this way, and trust me when I say it was more fun than the student jobs I was working.
25. Furniture Making & Restoration
If you have an interest in furniture making or restoring antique furniture, it can be among the most lucrative hobby businesses on this list.
One of my closest friends, Dan, took a woodworking class a few years back and fell in love with it. He was positioned perfectly to capitalize on his new hobby; his neighbor made furniture, which sold for astronomical sums. Sadly, Dan never pursued an apprenticeship. His neighbor, however, earned far more on an hourly basis with his furniture business than he did with his full-time job.
26. Fixing Cars
Do you love working on vehicles? Every car needs regular maintenance and repairs over the course of its lifespan. Without a lift and a full garage, you won’t be able to make some of the more involved repairs, but regular maintenance and minor repairs are well within a hobby mechanic’s wheelhouse.
You can start small by offering maintenance and minor repairs to your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers, then expand by offering your services on local bulletin boards and classifieds. You could also restore and flip cars for a profit if you have the patience for more long-term projects.
If you love working around the house, one way to save money on housing costs is to do a live-in flip. You buy a home that needs updating, move in, and over the course of months or even years, you modernize and improve it. Then, you sell it for a hefty profit.
Live-in flipping is not without its downsides. You end up living in a house continually undergoing repairs. If you’re married, your spouse may not appreciate living in a work zone with the constant buzz of drills and saws. There’s also the matter of having to move frequently to realize your profits. Still, it can be a fun way to make money doing what you love while covering your housing costs and then some.
If your spouse draws a line in the sand, you can still work on your own house, just not the one you live in. Go out and flip houses on the side of your full-time job to earn some extra cash.
28. Working on Others’ Homes
You can offer your home repair and renovation services to friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues, members of your clubs and organizations, and even strangers online. Don’t be afraid to specialize if your skills lie in kitchen renovations, bathroom renovations, or something else entirely.
29. Social Media Marketing
If you can’t spend enough time on social media, then you might as well get paid for all those hours online. Take your skills to the marketplace. Most businesses are still floundering with social media marketing nearly two decades after social media platforms first emerged, and they’ll pay you to take over these efforts.
Alternatively, you can teach companies how to improve their social media marketing. A friend of mine in Baltimore worked with local businesses under the name “The Social Media Doctor.” She would show up at her clients’ offices wearing a white physician’s coat and stethoscope, walk her clients through a “diagnosis,” and then show them how to improve their “prognosis” and results.
If you only know one social media platform, don’t sweat it. There’s nothing wrong with specializing.
30. Participating in Mock Jury Trials
Attorneys sometimes want a “trial” run at delivering their cases to gauge jurors’ responses, and they’re willing to pay for it.
Like many of the other ideas on this list, don’t expect to get rich doing this. Mock jurors typically earn $10 to $60 per mock trial. That said, if you love John Grisham novels or “Law & Order,” you can make a little extra money by providing feedback on real-life criminal cases before they go to court.
There are plenty of websites available for mock jurors; start by checking out OnlineVerdict, JuryTest, and Resolution Research. As with any remote work opportunities, just be wary of scams, such as websites asking you to submit your credit card information to access listings of attorneys who use mock jurors.
31. Trading Stocks
Some people just can’t peel their eyes away from financial markets. If you’re fascinated by stocks, and in particular the daily or weekly fluctuations in the stock market, you can try your hand at day trading through a platform like Zacks Trade.
Be warned, though: Because you pay commissions both when you buy and when you sell, day trading is more than just predicting whether a stock will rise or fall. Not only must you be right to make money, but you must be right enough to make money after paying those commissions.
Before investing any real money, test your skills with stock trading simulators such as NinjaTrader or MarketWatch’s Virtual Stock Exchange. These allow you to bet with fake money to see how accurate your predictions are without risking any real losses.
And “bet” is the right word; many people consider day trading a form of gambling. As with horse racing, there is an element of research involved, and you can review past performances to guess at future results. But ultimately, you have no control over the outcomes, and you have to know when to cut your losses or cash out.
Whatever your passion, there’s probably a way to earn money doing what you love. The trick is to get creative to find ways to monetize your hobby without it becoming tedious and no longer fun.
Start small. Take baby steps to monetize, and see how you like it. Eventually, you might discover that you’ve created a side business lucrative enough for you to quit your full-time job and spend the rest of your days doing what you love most.
What hobbies might you convert to income streams?