Whether you're saving for an exotic vacation or to buy your first house, you're not alone in keeping a tight rein on your finances. More people are scaling back today than they did five years ago, and frankly, some just aren't able to have as much fun because of their penny pinching. If this sounds like you, hopefully you're filling up your new-found free time with an inexpensive hobby that you're passionate about, but never had a spare moment for before. And now it's time to start turning that hobby into a money-making machine.
Ok, money-making machine might be a stretch. But many hobbies really can pay off if you're good at them -- and know how to market yourself. There are so many fun ways to earn some extra cash, and we've compiled 10 of the most lucrative. Still not sure how your new-found love of knitting can make you cash? Keep reading.
Who doesn't like to shop? Online, at the mall and even in airport gift shops, shopping is just downright thrilling wherever the location and whatever the purchase. But whoever thought shopping could be considered a hobby, especially because if you're good at it, it requires inordinately large amounts of cash? If you've maxed out one too many credit cards, maybe it's time to start spending someone else's money. Personal shopping is a great source for extra cash, because clients pay you to do their shopping. Duties could include finding a client that perfect dress for a fancy gala, or simply picking up medicine from the pharmacy or groceries from the supermarket. Print up business cards to hand out every time someone compliments your outfit, or offer your services to busy moms or senior citizens in your neighborhood. A part-time or beginner personal shopper might charge anywhere from $15 to $20 an hour, or 10 to 15 percent of the total purchase [source: PayScale.com]. However you bill your customers, you're certain to make enough to indulge in a few purchases of your own.
Has a grandparent ever told you about the joys of having grandchildren? It usually sounds something like this: "You get to spoil them to death, and then give them back to their parents when they start acting up." Well, the same goes for dog walking. If you love dogs, but haven't taken the plunge of owning your own, dog walking is for you. Did you know people will actually pay you to play with and walk their pets? So instead of spending money on getting your own, you could be making money taking care of other people's. Most dog walkers charge between $10 and $18 per walk, depending on location and number of dogs, and overnight dog sitting can cost even more [source: Rochelle]. It's best to start your services with people you know -- and who trust you -- because it is a big responsibility to take care of someone's pets, so offer to sit for your friends and coworkers. Once you've established a small roster of clients, ask them to recommend your services to their friends and coworkers. If things go well, you might even be tempted to make this your full-time gig.
Baking is a talent and a science many people envy. If you're lucky enough to have the skills to excel at -- and even enjoy -- baking, you might want to take advantage and make some money at it. The majority of people who can't cook are usually willing to pay big bucks for bakers to provide their services. Start out by offering your baked goods at small art fairs or nonprofit events for free, and pass out your business card and ask for recommendations. If you're lucky, you might catch the attention of a local writer covering the event. Selling your baked goods as a catering service at events does require licensing and insurance, as well as a good bit of research. But there are easier options: Sell your goods on the weekends at local farmers' markets. As long as you're selling baked goods that don't spoil (like cream pies, etc.) you don't need a license to sell at most farmers' markets, although some do require you meet their standards and guidelines to be accepted [source: mt.gov]. If you stick to one or two items and do them well -- breads and muffins, for example -- invest in a creative logo and packaging, and set up a plate of samples, your products should sell themselves.
"I would pay someone to just come in here and get me organized!" Who hasn't muttered these exact words while searching for a receipt to complete their taxes or while standing in their closet trying to select an outfit for the day? If you're good at and enjoy organizing things, you're one lucky duck. So share your talent with the rest of us hopelessly unorganized souls -- for a small fee, of course. Put up ads on community boards, offer your services to friends of friends and have business cards made that you can hand out. You can also market your skills to local real estate agents as an unpacking and organization resource to new homeowners. And ask your clients to recommend you to their friends -- word of mouth marketing is free and can be lucrative, especially if your work speaks for itself.
If your thin wallet has prevented you from going out on Saturday night, put your guitar playing talent to good use as an evening entertainer. In addition to nightly fees and tips (which vary by city), most restaurants and bars will pick up your food and bar tab for the evening [source: Stroud]. If the bar scene isn't for you, you could teach guitar lessons. Look into teaching after-school group classes or private lessons at your home. Put up flyers in local music stores, bars, restaurants and on community boards at schools, and make your rates competitive. You don't want to price yourself out of the market.
If you're big into sports, you can make a little money off your athleticism by coaching. There are numerous opportunities to coach throughout the year, because you can work in one or multiple sports if you're qualified. If you choose to focus on just one team sport, you can search public and private school systems for positions. School job requirements and obligations will vary by county and state, of course, and may entail more than you're able to commit. But club sports, like off-season volleyball and soccer, hire coaches as well. If you're not up to speed on the club sports in your area, check with your local YMCA, which can point you in the right direction. A club sports coaching job will still require much of your free time, but it generally pays well. Pay can vary, but Virginia's Volleyball 4 Youth pays its coaches an average of $100 per player with a team cap of $5,000 per season [source: VB4Y]. Your knowledge of and experience coaching volleyball would obviously determine your exact salary. If you can't decide on a sport, you may want to offer personal training services. Training doesn't have to take place at the gym. You could work on a one-on-one basis teaching soccer or volleyball skills, or as a running or swimming coach. Whatever you choose, charge competitive rates for your services and set a schedule for the season or training period.
Some people are blessed with the gift of craftiness. No matter what they try their hand at, their homemade creations are treasured by friends and loved ones who receive them as gifts. If you are one of these crafty few, check out etsy.com. It's a surefire way to make money selling your goods. The site specializes in homemade and vintage items, and shoppers know this and seek out the site when they are looking for original creations. Etsy.com even lets you create a business name, which becomes part of your URL. But don't stop there. You can also sell your creations at local festivals and farmers' markets, and pass out business cards with your personalized etsy.com URL. Create a Facebook page for your business and ask friends to suggest the page to their friends. Before you know it, your homemade creations, whatever they may be, could be the latest Internet craze.
Writing and Editing
If writing is your passion, there are several ways you can use this skill to make money. First, you can throw your hat in the ring as a freelance writer. Web sites, magazines and newspapers pay freelance writers for articles, and compensate either with a flat rate or by the word, although a flat rate is most common. Some Web sites also pay based on page views or advertising clicks. Another way to use your writing online is to start a blog, where you can earn money by selling ads on your site. If you're a great marketer, you can keep earning money from your advertisements long after your initial effort to write the article or blog. If this kind of writing isn't for you, try selling your skills to various businesses and corporations. It's common for them to outsource proposals, brochures, and even speech writing to contract or freelance writers. Set up interviews with local businesses and take writing samples with you. You may even consider marketing your skills to local graphic designers, who can recommend you to their current clients.
Photography is a great way to make some extra cash doing something you love. You could try selling pieces at local arts fairs or even to local boutiques if you have sellable artwork. If you're short on the cash to front the cost of printing and framing, you could always sell your work online. Be sure to brush up on copyrights to make sure you're not giving your hard work away. Another lucrative way to use photography is as a freelance wedding or portrait photographer. Although the upfront equipment and marketing costs might be higher, the payoff can be more for this type of work. For example, with a great portfolio and marketing strategy, you could charge an average of $2,700 or more for a wedding, depending on the package you offer [source: Zack].
Don't we all envy the lucky few who understand Web design? It's tricky and complex, and therefore expensive. If you have a knack for Web design, you can make extra cash selling your services and talent to a variety of customers. After all, there is little to no overhead; any money you spend up front is for the software and computer (which you probably already have) and for marketing and promotional materials. If you need to establish an online portfolio, start with your own site, then move on to your friends, non-profits or a small local retail store, and offer to build a few for free if necessary. Ask them to provide you with a stellar review that you can include on your own site. Pass out business cards, network at events, and advertise on your Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Again, your work speaks for itself in Web design, so word-of-mouth marketing is the key to your success.
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