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How to Profit from Your Hobby by James Dillehay, Donna Poehner and Sal Maccarone

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by *GG*, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. *GG*

    *GG* senior member

    Concord, NH
    Do you ever dream that your hobby could also be your job? Some hobbies can be turned into moneymaking enterprises -- or at least generate enough revenue to fund the activities themselves.

    Helpful: Keep careful track of your hobby expenses and income if you attempt to make money from them. You might have to report your profits or losses to the IRS.

    How to profit from three popular hobbies...


    Well-made craft items often can be sold. Handmade jewelry and stained glass are in particular demand, but there also are markets for everything from quilts to pottery. Where to sell crafts...

    The auction Web site eBay features a thriving crafts market (crafts.ebay.com). Monitor auctions of crafts similar to your own to determine what your work would bring before listing it for sale. The craftspeople who do best on eBay tend to be those whose projects focus on a specific theme, such as cats, dogs or dolls. This increases the odds that they will develop a loyal customer base.

    Example: A weaver might specialize in tapestries containing cat images

    Annual crafts fairs provide opportunities to sell your items at a booth, but select your fairs carefully. Some specialize in knickknacks or
  2. *GG*

    *GG* senior member

    Concord, NH
    “country crafts”... others in artisan-quality “fine crafts.” Your work will not sell if it varies substantially from that of the other exhibitors in terms of quality or price. The Web site FestivalNet.com can help you locate your area’s crafts fairs. Visit each of the crafts fairs in your region before selecting those that are most appropriate for your work. Expect to pay around $25 to $50 for a booth at a weekend church bazaar or local fair... up to several hundred for a booth at a large-scale, high-end crafts show. You typically have to bring your own booth for outdoor events, which can be as basic as a 10' x 10' canopy/tent starting at $100 from a discount store, such as Sam’s Club, to more expensive displays that can cost as much as $2,000. You can find a list of suppliers on my Web site at www.craftmarketer.com/craft-shows-booth-covers.htm.

    What to charge: Lower prices do not necessarily result in higher sales at crafts fairs. If you try to sell your crafts for bargain prices, potential customers might be suspicious of their quality. The correct price to charge is the amount charged for similar crafts by other exhibitors.

    At each fair you participate in, ask for and record names and e-mail addresses of anyone who expresses interest in your crafts, then send out Internet newsletters about your recent projects and your upcoming schedule of fairs.

    Area gift shops also might be willing to sell your crafts on consignment.

    James Dillehay is a weaver and fiber artist (creating wearable art) based in Torreon, New Mexico . He has written several books about profiting from crafts, including Sell Your Crafts on eBay (Warm Snow). www.craftmarketer.com.


    There are several ways to make money if you are skilled at photography. How to find buyers...

    On-line stock-photo sellers, also known as “microstock sites,” are a great resource for skilled amateur photographers to make a few dollars from their hobby. These sites are happy to work with amateurs, but they do expect high-quality photos, so you will need a good digital camera and some talent.

    Customers range from art directors with large budgets to nonprofit organizations and small firms looking for art for newsletters and other projects. You must either submit lots of pictures or have each of your pictures licensed many times to make a meaningful amount of money. Sites usually do not charge a fee to photographers to offer their photos, but they usually take half of what a photo sells for. Many images sell for just $1, so the photographer usually makes 50 cents per image.

    Photos of people in the workplace and “lifestyle” photos of people enjoying themselves are in the greatest demand. Nature photos and pet photos generally are of little interest because the market is already saturated with this type of imagery.

    Leading microstock sites include iStockphoto.com... Shutterstock.com... Bigstockphoto.com... Fotolia.com... and Crestock.com. Read the sites’ technical specifications and submission requirements before sending in pictures.

    Magazine photo editors generally are not interested in working with amateurs, but publications with small budgets might be willing to do so. Mail samples of your work or e-mail digital photos to the photo editors at smaller niche publications, such as magazines for cat lovers or ballooning enthusiasts. Include a short note explaining that you have photos to sell. You might also offer to shoot pictures on a freelance basis. You might be paid $50 to several hundred dollars if a magazine runs one of your photos. You can find titles of these magazines and contact information in Bacon’s Magazine Directory, available at some libraries.

    Family and wedding photography are two more ways to make money with your camera -- if you have considerable skill and you don’t mind working directly with sometimes very demanding clients. To locate customers interested in a family portrait, post flyers in stores that cater to young parents, such as children’s clothing stores.

    To give wedding photography a try, ask local wedding photographers if they need an assistant. Be sure that the wedding photographer you work with lets his/her assistant take pictures, not just set up shots and look after gear. If you intend to become a full-fledged wedding photographer later, don’t choose a photographer who will require you to sign a contract with a noncompete clause.

    Donna Poehner, based in Cincinatti, is a fine-arts photographer and editor of the 2008 Photographer’s Market (Writer’s Digest), a guidebook to selling photographs.


    Experienced amateur woodworkers can sell their work at a profit. The most salable woodworking projects typically are items intended for the kitchen, such as cutting boards, bowls and plates.

    Examples: If you own a lathe, it is not hard to carve bowls out of blocks of wood that you have produced by gluing together wood scraps. I know a retiree who makes shaped wooden salad tongs with his band saw and sells them for $25 apiece.

    Alder, a light wood that is easy to stain, is very popular now, and walnut, cherry and mahogany never go out of style.

    Hand-carved wooden art items that have no practical use can be more difficult to sell.

    Larger woodworking projects, such as tables and sets of chairs, require a substantial up-front investment in wood -- not to mention significant skills and an investment in more types of tools -- making them financially risky to undertake unless they are made on order.

    Crafts fairs are the best place to sell woodworking. Also, consider taking examples of your woodworking to community gatherings, such as flea markets, church bazaars and mall shows. Display the pieces, and explain that you do woodworking semiprofessionally. If your work is good, you will be surprised by how often people ask to place orders.

    Local gift and housewares shops might be willing to sell your work on consignment, but between the high cost of wood and the stores’ profit margin, this is a difficult way to make money.

    Helpful: Professional woodworkers and carpenters who specialize in large, high-end projects sometimes have little use for their scrap wood. Visit pros based in your area, and ask if they would be willing to donate their scrap wood to a hobbyist.

    Sal Maccarone is a professional woodwork designer/craftsman based in Mariposa, California . He has 40 years of experience in the field

  3. pine108kell

    pine108kell Senior Member

    Good ideas. This is the kind of thing I wish I could do, but because of illness I just cannot focus on anything. This is the opposite of how I was when I was well--I could see through any project with complete focus. It is such a mental strain for me to write or make anything that I start feeling very ill--physically ill.

    Sorry for hijacking the post--I think if one is able, working on projects such as these is a key way of combatting the boredom and useless feeling one gets with this disease. It would make my life a lot better.
  4. *GG*

    *GG* senior member

    Concord, NH
    Not to worry, I doubt this thread will get much traffic/attention. I posted it for people who are on the better side, but probably not working and who could probably use a way to earn a little extra income.

  5. SilverbladeTE

    SilverbladeTE Senior Member

    Somewhere near Glasgow, Scotland
    I used to make and sell some digital art/3D stuff I made, but just not up to it any more, even stress from that (more the sales/documentation etc) messes me up, sigh.
    it is for those able, a good way to be both creative and earn a few bob :)
  6. justy

    justy Donate Advocate Demonstrate

    I keep being told that i should sell my cakes -now that im well enough to cook again. Im put off by the red tape of getting hygiene certs etc. I make kids birthday cakes and wicked chocolate Gateaux, as well as gluten and sugar free cakes and pastries. We have a local farmers market on a friday, which i could join and they have a community hygeine cert which covers anyone who sells there. But im not confidant enough yuet with going out alone. I sometimes do Reike for my friend (i used to run courses, i am a reiki master teacher) and she insists on paying me even though we do it on cushions on the floor. She says she has lots of friends who would come to see me if i had a room in town, but again the issue of getting out and about. We really need the money as we are having to try and sell our lovely home because i cant work.
    My friend though says that she will tell her family and friends about my cakes and i could make them off the record so to speak. She has ordered a dark chocolate cream cake for her sons birthday in a coupkle of weeks time. I dont think that i will make much on it though as the ingredienbts are really expensive nd you can buy cakes cheaper in Tesco's -not as nice as mine though.
    My father in law does wood turning and makes some lovely gifts for us - im always trying to convince him to sell them but i dont think he needs the money.
  7. November Girl

    November Girl Senior Member

    a little income would be great!

    I've become well enough to actually produce a salable product, but not to handle a show. I tried one last year with a friend. I'm not sure I could produce enough stock for one on my own anyway. I'm trying to get a bit of inventory made up, and I'll probably list it on ArtFire.com, which you can link to a FaceBook page, complete with photos, descriptions, and checkout. The page doesn't just show a link to ArtFire, it works directly from FaceBook. The FaceBook page would be helpful for me because my friends and family would at least look at it. And they could easily refer their friends to the page.

    There are several other sites to sell your handmade wares. Etsy is the oldest, and biggest. ShopHandmade is another one, and there are several others. eBay is rather difficult to break into these days for an artist/craftperson, because there's so much out there.

    My craft is jewelry, which is reasonably low cost to mail.
  8. November Girl

    November Girl Senior Member

    Charging what our handmade items are worth

    I know this is a big issue for craft and artisan jewelers. If your product is better than the low end pieces, don't charge like those items. Too many people think if they just get a markup over their materials cost, that's fine. But you need to include a reasonable wage for your time; and that includes the time spent buying supplies, marketing or setting up at shows, etc. Don't forget paying for the tools you use, electricity and other basic overhead. There have been several discussions on this on the Beading Daily forum. After 2 years thinking about this issue, I'm finally comfortable with charging high enough prices.
  9. Misfit Toy

    Misfit Toy Senior Member

    I am a jeweler and have a website and FB page. I have had CFS for 23 years and this is the only thing that has been a stable income in my life. Etsy is inundated with jewelry and I don't recommend it.

    I totally agree that having a hobby or a passion is the key to making it with this illness.

    My website is www.spitfire-designs.com

    I do events, selectively. I only go to the biggest ones and I have been able to hire people to set up the event for me. They do the labor.

    It's rewarding.

    When I marked my prices up, people took me more seriously. Now, I am well known in my area. You have to be careful though because the economy is killing all forms of art, but Christmas season is coming.

    I did church type events in the beginning and made nothing. Nickels and dimes. People don't want to spend there. When I got my stuff in stores is when it took off and you don't have to do as much work carting things around. I do high end artisans events and people go there to shop and find something truly original. Churches, people want earrings for no more than $5.00. What's the point?

    Much luck to you! Be careful with EBAY. People steal your ideas and then make them for less! China can be thanked for that.

    Also, I am on SSD and you can have a business. I hired a lawyer and made it work.

    One of the things that has been hard for me is that when my business really took off, I became sick. The amount of work became too much. I am constantly having to prioritize.

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