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Monetizing your Passion

It should be the ideal way to earn a living: identify what you like to do the most, then find a way of getting paid to do it.

Ideal… but hardly easy.

In fact, considering the small number of people who can honestly say that their job is their hobby, it looks more like a dream than a realistic way of building a career.

But it doesn’t have to be. With a little thought and quite a bit of preparation, it is possible to get paid to do the sort of thing that you’d otherwise pay to do. Here are some of them:

1. Turn your Passion into a Job
The most obvious method is probably the worst: to turn what you enjoy doing into a salary-paying, 9-5 job. That’s actually what everyone hopes to do when they choose a career — they try to pick something they like and won’t mind doing until it’s time to stop doing it and start collecting a pension instead.

So people who like playing around with film become video editors. Computer geeks become programmers, and arty types get jobs designing graphics.

The problem with this method is that in practice only a small fraction of what you’re doing every day will actually be made up of the tasks you like to do. You might enjoy playing around with Photoshop, but deleting red-eye from dating site pictures is no one’s idea of a hobby.

And besides, there’s a world of difference between doing something because you want to do it and doing something because your boss tells you to do it.

In general, although it’s a good idea to work in a field you like, it’s always much easier to find a way to enjoy your job than to find a job made up entirely of what you enjoy.

And even if you succeed, there’s always the risk that doing your hobby every day will soon beat the pleasure out of it.

2. Go Freelance
A better option then might be to keep your passion for your spare time and use it to bring in extra income. So people who like writing can work on their novel — or more likely, their blog. Programmers can work on the killer app that will give them independence, and photography enthusiasts can attend art fairs or sell on stock sites rather than market to wedding couples and aspiring actors.

The advantage of this method is that there are no risks and only benefits. If you don’t make money, you’ll have had a good time trying. And if you do, you’ll have a better understanding of what it takes to earn from your passion so that you can decide whether it really is something you want to do full-time.

Best of all though, because you’re not dependent on the income to pay the mortgage, you can turn down the sort of jobs that can make you regret ever picking up a camera, a paintbrush or a laptop.

3. Go Teach
Both working a regular job and freelancing mean getting paid to produce the goods. But people who are passionate about an activity usually want to share their enthusiasm.

You can get paid for that too… by spreading your knowledge to other people who want to learn about your hobby.

While sticking up notices might bring you in a few students, a better method is to talk to a local adult education center. These places tend to be subsidized by the local authority and often lack teachers. If you can come up with a good idea for a course — whether it’s on vegetarian cooking for beginners or how to program a video game — you should find that you can pick up a class.

And once you have a class, you should also find that you have a room full of potential buyers for any guides or products you create.

4. Enjoy the Marketing… or Outsource It
However you decide to monetize your hobby, there are always going to be aspects of the activity you like less. Taking pictures is fun; archiving them not so much. The key to keeping the passion alive then is to find ways to turn even the tedious stuff into something to treasure.

So the sort of work that dulls the brain can be an opportunity to put on some music or listen to one of the podcasts filling up your hard drive.

Bringing in buyers for an eBay auction might not be your idea of fun, but if you can think of it as a chance to chat with other people who like your sort of work, you might find yourself enjoying it.

And if you don’t, try finding someone whose passion is marketing and team up.

You’d have the beginnings of a business… and you’d both be doing what you love.

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