smart spending

5 hobbies that can make you money

Looking for extra cash to keep your household afloat in this storm-tossed economy? Maybe it's time to turn your hobby into a business.

Whether you wade in part-time or dive in full-time, there are several advantages to launching your hobby as a business. For starters, you already enjoy it. You also have the knowledge base and skill set upon which to build, and may have a network of fellow enthusiasts to help get you started.

It's likely that you also have a sense for pricing and market dynamics surrounding your hobby.

Finding the time and space to create a new business can be challenging, especially if you're working another job as well. But with a few simple marketing moves and the help of a willing mentor or two, you can turn your pastime into cash time in no time.

"Your hobby has to translate into a product or service for which there is an identifiable market," says Barbara Brabec, author of "Handmade for Profit" and a 25-year veteran of the arts and crafts world. "You may love the product you make, but the bottom line is, will anyone actually buy it?"

Brabec says the biggest fear for most hobbyists is ... well, fear itself.

"Everybody is scared because they're stepping outside their comfort zone. The only way you can get past this is with some experience and doing it more than once," she says. "You have to be able to take some rejection. It's not rejection against you personally; it's the product or service you're offering. It's not you that's being judged."

Ready to take the plunge? Here are six lucrative hobbies you can start from home today.

5 hobby businesses
  1. Professional organizer
  2. Arts and crafts
  3. Exotic birds
  4. Personal shopper
  5. Day lilies

Professional organizer

Seven years ago, M. Colleen Klimczak was a Chicago-area health care recruiter when she stumbled upon the National Association of Professional Organizers, or NAPO, Web site.

"I was looking for an organizer to help with a giant garage sale," says the mother of three. "When I found that Web site, I said, 'I don't want to hire one, I want to be one.'"

Through NAPO, Klimczak found a mentor who helped her set a fee. She charges $50 per hour, average for her suburban Chicago location, although she admits professional organizers command three times that in San Francisco. She recently earned the "Certified Professional Organizer" designation and may raise her fee slightly.

Set-up costs were minimal.

"Out the door, if you have a computer and the know-how, it's not hard to just start up," she says.

She deals mostly with residential and home offices. To supplement her professional organizer business, she also works as a virtual assistant and occasional project manager. Her events-planning background and sense for organization and work flow serve her well.

Do you have to be organized to become a professional organizer?

Professional organizer business
  • Skills: organization, work flow, creative problem solving.
  • Market: home businesses, busy executives, harried stay-at-home moms.
  • Opportunities for growth: business consulting, virtual assistant.

"Yes, but it doesn't work the other way though -- just because you're an organized person does not mean you can be a professional organizer," she explains. "I can be as organized as I want, but I can't impose what works in my house onto somebody else's house. Just because my closets are really, really tidy doesn't mean I can do this as a business and translate that to other people. It doesn't work that way."


Klimczak says she stresses education, a bit of a double-edged sword because once her clients are organized, she knows she'll lose them. Still, there are plenty more where they came from.

"I have a client who says she would rather pay me than a therapist because at least her house looks better when I leave," she says.

          Connect with us

Connect with us